The Nail Straightener

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Religion and Spirituality  |  House: Booksie Classic
Giving meaning to Peace on Earth

Submitted: December 23, 2014

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Submitted: December 23, 2014



Six months had passed since the accident. It was that incident that had precipitated Amy's first meeting with a strange little man, a man had who haunted her imagination ever since. Now, during the holiday season in mid-December, Amy sought out the little man again. In her purse, she carried an envelope containing a dozen or so bent nails.

It all began back on a blistering hot day in June. About 10:00 in the morning, a garbage truck hastily turning a corner had knocked over a utility pole leaving the neighborhood without power. Not having air conditioning, the house soon turned into an oven. Amy sought relief by driving over to a shopping mall several miles away. She intended to pass the time by going to movies, one after another, in the multiplex until electricity was restored at her house.

Amy was the victim of poor timing. The next movie wasn't scheduled to begin for another hour, so Amy just kind of wandered through the mall aimlessly until she came upon a darkened corridor apparently slated for future renovation. She would have passed it by but for one small, brightly-lit kiosk in the middle of the aisle at the far end of the building. She was intrigued by the neon sign that read, "Nails Straightened". Wondering whatever that could mean, she walked down for a closer look.

Peering through the glass, she saw the strange little man. He was hunched over and shriveled. He looked to be 100 years old. His face was as wrinkled as a prune. The few tufts of hair on his head were snow white. His eyeglasses looked to be about a half inch thick. Amy stifled a chuckle. The man looked like the mad scientist in a B-grade, black and white, horror movie.

To Amy's utter amazement, the man was indeed straightening nails, construction nails, the things one hammers into wood. He would heat a bent nail in a small furnace until it became red hot. He would then pound it into a metal die to straighten it. After quenching the nail in water, he would sharpen the tip on a grinder, polish it on a buffing wheel and place it on one of many piles of shiny nails, each sorted by size and length.

Suddenly, the man turned around. Amy caught a fleeting glimpse of a five-digit number tattooed on his forearm as he hastily rolled down his sleeves. "May I help you?" he asked in a thick, foreign accent.

"Um, no." Amy replied. "I was just curious what …"

The man cut her short. He pointed to a sign in the window. It said: Nails Straightened - $2/lb. - $5 minimum. "I don't make a living talking." he said. "If you have no business for me, go away! I don't like people looking over my shoulder."

"Er, okay." Amy replied as she backed away.

A grey-haired lady appeared from behind the kiosk, leaning heavily on a walking cane. "You must forgive Papa." she said. "He doesn't mean to be rude. He is just impatient in his old age, and he never learned enough English to know how to be polite."

"That's okay." Amy replied. Then, as an afterthought, she said, "Surely he can't make a living just straightening nails."

"He doesn't. We bring him bent nails just to keep him busy. It's the only trade he knows from the old country. He needs to feel useful. If he couldn't at least pretend that he is supporting himself, he would die inside, a death far worse than the eventuality we all face. I hope you understand."

Now, a half year later, Amy stood at the kiosk window. The little man weighed her bent nails on a balance scale. "What, you waste my time!" he exclaimed angrily. "You don't have the minimum. Come back when you have more."

"But, I'll pay you the whole $5 just for these."

Grunting under his breath (Amy assumed he was cursing in his old country language) the strange little man made out an order ticket. He tore off the number at the bottom of the slip and thrust it into her hand. "Come back in an hour." he commanded. "Now, go away. You bother me."

An hour later, the man showed her the finished product, a handful of shiny, straight nails. She paid the five dollars. Then, before the man could open his mouth, Amy held up her hand and said, "I know, I know, I bother you. Well, I'm going away. See? Watch me. I'm walking away."

The grey-haired lady appeared from around back of the kiosk. "You are so kind. Why did you do that?" she asked.

Caught off guard, Amy blurted out the first thing that came to mind, "Er, because it was the right thing to do"?

"For this, you will be blessed." the lady said, gently patting Amy on her hand.

Aimlessly wandering the corridors of the shopping center as the strains of "Oh, Holy Night" played softly on the sound system, Amy clutched the packet of nails tightly in her fist. More precious than all the gold, frankincense and myrrh in the Middle East, a gift from the heart, especially one that has no practical use in the grand scheme of the Universe, is the essence of Peace on Earth.

Copyright © 2014 W.C. Bell; All rights reserved.

© Copyright 2019 Whiskey Charlie. All rights reserved.

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