He patted his sides with his filthy hands like he was frisking himself.
“Shit!” He didn’t feel the familiar little lump against his leg. Then he remembered that he had set the damned thing on the saw horses outside the van when he was putting his cover-alls on. He snatched a rag off the floor and jumped out of the back.
The phone was on its last ring when he picked it up with the rag and pressed the talk button with the tip of his pinky finger.
“Hello,” Ted said, holding the phone safely away from his ear. God only knew what was on his face.
“Hi Teddy Bear,” his wife, Betty said.
“How is your day going?”
“Aside from missing you and the kids, just beautifully.”
“Are you terribly busy today?”
“Well honey pie, I surely am. I’d like to complain about just how busy I am, but after that last drought I am grateful that the good Lord has sent an overabundance of work my way. Maybe we can finally catch up on the bills.”
“Well, you certainly deserve the work. You’ve been painting in this town for years before that fly-by-night, Sam Watson moved in and started underbidding all your jobs. I guess people are finally starting to realize that you get what you pay for.”
“Heck, you can’t blame a man for trying. Sam was just an eager kid trying to break into the business. I don’t hold it against him.”
“Hmm…you’re a good man, my Teddy Bear. I don’t suppose you’re going to let me take you out to lunch today?”
“Wish I could, sweetheart. But I want to finish up here so I can get home to you and our sweet children as soon as possible. I almost didn’t answer my new phone because my hands are so messy and I didn’t have time to clean them up.”
“You are such a good husband and father, Ted Betters…and a hardworking man to boot. The kids and I are very lucky to have someone like you taking care of us.”
Ted blushed and shook his head.
“I love you, Betty. Kiss those kiddies for me and tell them Daddy will be home as soon as possible.”
Ted delicately pressed the “End” button with the tip of his pinky finger and set it back down on the saw horses. He briefly wiped at the mess on his hands with the rag, but they were already dry. He would have to use his special hand cleaner when he was done.
Ted looked around and climbed back into the back of the van and tried to remember just what it was he had been looking for when his phone rang. He pulled a couple of buckets off from the shelves that were back there and looked through the miscellaneous small tools that were thrown into them.
Something caught his eye in the bottom of one of the buckets and he tipped it up and spilled the contents on the floor. Then he fished out a pair of pliers and a plumber’s hack saw that was made for cutting PVC pipe.
Ted got down on his knees and straddled the man that was lying on the floor of the van bound in duct tape.
He placed the saw and the pliers on the man’s chest and ripped the piece of duct tape off of his mouth.
The man let out a scream; or what would have been a scream if he had the energy left in his body to let one. The sound came out more like the whimper of a dying rabbit.
“Sorry to keep you waiting, Sam…but that was my wife. I always put my family first, you know. Guess you wouldn’t know about that though, would you? You don’t have a wife and sweet little babies to put food on the table for. Or to carry health insurance for….you probably don’t have any health insurance on yourself, let alone business insurance.”
Ted grabbed Sam by the jaw and squeezed until his mouth opened.
“Not that that kind of insurance would do you any good now. Guess in the long run, it’s good that you didn’t waste your money on something that you’d never get the chance to use.”
He jammed the pliers in Sam’s mouth and clamped onto a top front tooth. The tooth shattered and the pliers slipped off. Sam moaned. Ted dropped the pliers and found some vice grips. He clamped them onto the nub that was left and yanked it out. Blood squirted and ran down Sam’s face. He started to pass out, but Ted slapped him to consciousness.
“Stay with me son, I’ve hardly even started with you. That shit’s got to hurt…heck, I know that it does. I’ve had a coupl’a teeth pulled in my lifetime. Even with Novocain, it ain’t no picnic.
“But this here’s really gonna ouch.” Ted dropped the vice grips and picked up the plumber’s saw.
Sam started whimpering and crying and shaking his head no.
Ted nodded his head yes and smiled.
“Oh yes. I’m going to take the hands that took food out of my babies’ mouths. And you’re gonna stay awake while I do it. Now it’s probably gonna feel like…well, here now…instead of me tryin’ to explain something that I got no idea about, you’re just gonna have to feel it for yourself.”
One hard stroke forward and the tiny teeth of the plumber’s saw sliced through skin and bone. Blood sprayed all over Ted’s cover-alls and he was only half way through the right forearm.
Sam screamed. This time it was loud and clear.
“By God, I am a hardworking man,” Ted said.
Dana C. Kabel’s stories have appeared in The Flash Fiction Offensive, Muzzleflash, Mysterical-E, Out of the Gutter, Powder Flash Burn, and Yellow Mama. Dana blogs here.