Turn of the Screw

Turn of the Screw 

By Patrick F. Cannon

(I recently found this piece, which I wrote for a magazine 30 plus years ago. I think it still says something about the human comedy.)

It is one of life’s truisms that if you go up a ladder with a screwdriver to remove, let’s say, a drapery rod, you will find – as you sway back and forth – that you have brought a regular screwdriver when, in fact, all the screws have Philips-heads.

So it’s back down the ladder and out to the kitchen to root through the tool drawer. There will be no Philips-head screwdriver, even though you own three of them. Regular screwdrivers will, of course, abound. So will various hammers, hundreds of nuts an bolts (none of which will match), odd pieces of sheet metal of no apparent utility, nails either too large or too small for any earthly use, tubes of pipe joint compound that will have disappeared by the time you need them, rusty razor blades, two cores that once held electrical tape, a full roll of masking tape that won’t come off in pieces longer than two inches, various pieces of string that might someday be tied together to wrap a package, worn out sandpaper, a wrench too small for the next pipe that bursts, three blown fuses and copious amounts of the kind of fuzz usually associated with pants pockets and cuffs.

You will ultimately discover – when it’s too late – that one of the Philips-head screwdrivers is in the backyard, hidden in the grass, waiting to be chewed up by the lawnmower. Another is in the glove compartment of the car. The third is in the pocket of your son’s winter coat, now hanging in the cloakroom at school. He will not recall why he put it there.

Muttering, you will go back up the ladder with the wrong screwdriver. The passage of an hour will find you sitting quietly, staring out the window. Your color will be returning, the sweat drying on your forehead. When you wife walks in the door, she will start to greet you, think better of the idea, and proceed to the liquor cabinet. You will resolve for the hundredth time to make sure that tools are returned to the drawer after each use.

You will, of course, be lying to yourself. Some things, after all, are beyond human control (and understanding, for that matter).

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Copyright 2016, Patrick F. Cannon

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