Stories and photographs by Jim Hamerlinck©2009, 2010, 2011

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Mule And The Salt Lick

Doors, Mottman Building, Pioneer Square, 2009

He ran his fingers carefully through the bowl one more time, convinced that there were some uneaten pistachios hiding among the spent shells. He would find the elusive last few and finish the whole snack. Nice and tidy. Nothing wasted.

Back and forth. Back and forth. Digging and stirring. Whisking. He kept at it, but found nothing but hollow, dusty half shells.

He stopped fishing for nuts and licked the salt from his fingers. "What am I doing?" he wondered.

He craved one more unopened treasure, one more shell to break apart (the satisfying snap!), one more kernel to suck up like a vacuum cleaner. One more savory nugget to chew.

"Stop this!" he told himself, then resumed mining the bowl.

Just as he was about to give up and get on with his evening, he found one.

It was a pistachio he recalled tossing back because it was sealed shut. It had been quickly dismissed and discarded. Useless. But that was when the bowl was chock full of ripe candidates, easy openers. Then, it was simply interference, an obstacle, a tease. Now, it was his last hope.

He held it pinched between his thumb and forefinger and re-examined its potential. Perhaps he had been a bit hasty. There was some space there, not much, but something to work with, at least. He placed the pistachio between his clenched teeth--like a vise--and bit down in an effort to pry the seam apart, but the nut did not cooperate and flew from his mouth onto the table top, then down to the carpeted floor, where it lay harmlessly at his feet.

He picked up the pistachio and cleaned it with his shirt. “We've made some headway,” he supposed, optimistically. “The door is ajar, I think.”

He inserted his sharpest nail, his right thumbnail, into the suggestion of a crack and began to pry. He wedged his left thumbnail in. He pulled and pried and twisted. He persisted, but it was no use. The shell halves would not budge. The kernel remained safely ensconced in its casing.

For his futile efforts, he sustained a small but painful cut beneath his right thumbnail--no man's land. It was sore, throbbing, and the salt found its way into the wound and made the sting worse. He instinctively put his thumb into his mouth to suck the pain away. It was the last salt he would taste that night.

He dropped the pistachio into the bowl then buried it. He had laundry that needed folding.

Shell, 2009

© Jim Hamerlinck.All Rights Reserved.

  • “There's nothing to be gained from passive observance, the simple documenting of conditions, because, at its core, it sets a bad example. Every time something is observed and not fixed, or when one has a chance to give in some way and does not, there is a lie being told, the same lie we all know by heart but which needn't be reiterated.” Dave Eggers