Snap-snap. "C'mon Brian, a Phillips screw driver — you know what that is don't you?"

Brian wanted to scream. Dad's yelling and dissing was bad enough, but the snapping fingers made him feel like an party monkey; only let loose for tricks. Brian found the screwdriver on top of a box and handed it to his father with the meanest glare he could muster. The one he got back was worse. All right, he'd try again.

"Why do they use Phillip screws in some places and slots in others?"

Dad continued fastening the pad to the bench, frowning. After a minute he said, "It's complicated — has to do with accessibility and leverage."

He doesn't know, he fricking doesn't know. So his solution is to make him, Brian, sound stupid. Why even try?

But the thing was shaping up. It was supposed to be a "Home Gym Center" and he was starting to see it now. It would take up half the basement when they finished. It was the nicest thing Dad had ever gotten him.

Snap-snap. "More screws!"

It was the only thing Dad had ever gotten him. Mom usually did all the shopping. Dad had gone out by himself and bought it for Christmas and Brian had thought it was really something special until Dad spoiled it. "Now maybe now you'll get that fat ass of yours in shape."

And here it was February and they were just getting at it. Brian knew his mother made Dad do it. He could only hear her part of the argument. "What's the chance you'll work on it when golf weather starts?" But she'd always take Dad's side against Brian.

"He's very important where he works, he's very busy," his mother would say. Really. How about all those Saturdays he went to the indoor golf range? Why couldn't Dad play golf with him sometime? Or tennis, or just play catch.

Forget it. The home gym would be a good thing. Better than going to the "Y" and having jocks laugh at him. Maybe he could get Clarence to work out with him, the only seventh-grader in worse shape than he was. He could picture Clarence whining about how cold the basement was. But he'd have a friend.

"OK, what's next?"

Brian jumped awake and fumbled with the instruction book.

Snap-snap. "C'mon. You want to get this done."

No, you do — so you don't have to waste another weekend with me. Brian reached into the box and pulled out the "Power Piston" package — it was the heart of the contraption. He opened the big plastic bag and pulled one huge piston out and did a couple of curls with it.

"That's not what that's for," said Dad.

"I know," groaned Brian and he handed his father the pistons and a bag of hardware.

"OK, this needs the socket wrench again. Five-sixteenths, find me five-sixteenths."

Brian stared at the open toolkit, with its rows of sockets, each labeled for size. One was missing and matching each part with its label was confusing.

Snap-snap. "C'mon - what's so damned hard? Five-sixteenths."

Brian picked a likely socket and breathed a sigh of relief when Dad accepted his offering. While he was mounting the pistons, Brian rummaged in the big box and found a bag of plastic parts. "What's this?" he said, holding it up for his father.

"Oh, crap. Know what we forgot to do? We forgot to safety-cap the hardware. You have to read all the instructions, Brian — not just the ones you like."

Brian leafed through the entire book — how could he have missed it? "It says to do that last of all."

"No, we'll do it now while everything is still accessible." He laughed. "Else you'll rip off your Speedo, or something worse."

Brian didn't laugh at all.

"Get me the hammer. It's hanging in the utility room"

Brian went where he was told and searched the pegboards but could only find a heavy rubber mallet. It didn't seem that it would work on the tiny caps. Inside the big toolkit was a ball-peen. That didn't seem right either.

Snap-snap. "C'mon, c'mon. Hammer. Haaa-aaa -MER!" The off-balance door had closed behind him, but Brian could still hear Dad nagging,

"Jesus. Do I have to come in there and show you what a hammer is?"

Brian felt himself burning up, eyes welling, heart pounding. Shut up shut up, was all he could think, with the heavy mallet sweating in his hand. The utility room door flew open to "C'mon, c'mon," and Brian's windmill stroke squarely met the head that poked through.

Dad's eyes rolled up into his head, then his body spiraled downward like a figure skater, and he slumped to the floor.

I've killed him, thought Brian, but he saw the body heaving breath. If not, then Dad surely will kill me. Now, he saw the claw hammer on the bench. He could finish the job right now, use the claw, crack his skull. Then his flashing heat was replaced by a chilling tremor, quaking his body with ugly visions. Blood, sirens, handcuffs and prison cells with big gangsters mauling him. And his mother shrieking with hysteria and hate.

Dad's breathing erupted into basso snorts. He was snoring! No action movie would show you that. Knock someone cold and they snore - a really cool thing to tell someone. He might get away with this one bad thing - he could, he should. His folks wouldn't put him in jail — they'd be too ashamed. But maybe there was still one good thing he could do for everyone. He pictured his father at work acting like he did at home. Snap-snap. "C'mon, c'mon."

It was funny the way his father's fingers were splayed against the wall, like he had been trying to scratch his way out. Brian put down the mallet — the ball-peen would be better. He bent over his father and took aim.

Snap, snap, snap.

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