BEQUEATH: Life’s Toolbox By B.A. Sarvey

Word Count 500 words
Life’s Toolbox
B.A. Sarvey
Stephen grasped the tape measure in one hand, the monkey wrench in the other. They were just old tools. He assumed all the tools went to him. Why bequeath these?
Breathing in the distinctive odor of WD-40, Stephen pictured him wiping down his tools, arranging them in size-order, each type of tool with its own drawer. Remembering the tantrums over a missing tool (usually Mom’s fault) or jumbled mess (Stephen’s fault) a smirk twitched at his lips. Stephen wouldn’t miss the tantrums. The workbench stories—“Don’t think about getting away with what I did…”; his quirky theories on LIFE; his off-the-wall advice; the occasional “don’t let your mother find out,” (like she didn’t know already)—those he suddenly craved like one more piece of lobster dripping with melted butter. He swallowed down the guilty lump of surprise. Hadn’t thought he would miss anything. Thought he had had his fill of the running commentary on everything he did that wasn’t good enough, just because it was different from what he would have done.
They had grudgingly co-existed. Because they lived in the same house. Because he was his father. Now Stephen didn’t have a father. Just a bunch of old tools, a smattering of memories. Too many tools. Not enough memories.
These particular tools had come in an old wooden box, nestled atop a clean polishing rag. Mom, smiling apologetically, had presented the box and an envelope after everyone had left. “He set this aside for you.” She had that anxious, “are you okay?” hover-y-ness. Stephen had taken the box without comment. Brusquely turned away. Shut her out. Retreated to the workshop where, for three hours, now, he had pondered the two tools, their relationship to him, his relationship to his father. The accompanying letter stared accusingly at him from the table. “What are you waiting for?” barked the voice in his head. His father’s voice, or his own? Apprehensively, Stephen picked up the envelope, slit it open with a worn pocket knife, slipped the single sheet out, and read:
“The monkey wrench is to remind you someone will throw one in just when everything seems to be going right. I can’t watch out for you anymore. So plan ahead, watch out for monkey wrenches. Use the tools I tried to give you to fix your problems.”
Stephen cleared his throat, turned his face from the paper, smeared his hand across both cheeks. After a ragged breath, he continued:
“The tape measure is because you always thought I was too hard on you. You thought you couldn’t measure up to my expectations. Sometimes you didn’t. You tried just enough to get by, not ahead. Remember, there’s always room for ‘one little funny mark’ more of effort. Son, I wasn’t very good at telling you when you did measure up. And sometimes, you did.”
He never told Stephen he loved him, and he didn’t now. But for Stephen, the bequest loosened a seized-up bolt of resentment. The grief it released was immeasurable.

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