Pages from the Past: A Useful Item

Sadly the Pages of the Past event (where authors read of a story they’d written as children/teens) that should have been tonight, has been canceled. But, I don’t want you to miss out on the fun, so we’ll have our very own event right here!

Tonight I am sharing “A Useful Item”, a story I wrote in the summer of 1997 (when I was 17). My brother and I had just moved to Mt. Pleasant Iowa, and since we didn’t know anyone and had no TV, our main entertainment was walking (and walking, and walking, and…). One day, while walking, I found a blue and yellow hammer laying in the road. Being a hoarder, I snagged it. Later, sitting over my word processor, I wondered what might have happened had someone else found it…


By Joleene Robin Harris


Miranda sat on the wide front porch swinging her legs back and forth and listening to the sound of her heels hitting the wood.  She stared into the firey red sun setting behind the darkened house across the street.  The rain soaked grass glowed golden‑orange and the iridescent butterflies looked like flames dancing in the evening air.

It was only seven but it would be dark soon.  Miranda kicked her black clad feet into the porch and smiled to herself.  When darkness came she’d be ready for it, ready to explore it, encompass it, evaporate into it.  She loved the night.

In the distance a train whistle wailed and she felt disappointed that she couldn’t see the tracks from the lonely brick house she’d chosen to sit at.  Looking once more at the butterflies she hopped down and strode quickly across the grass, looking both ways before crossing the street like mama’d always told her to.

A lone pickup zoomed past leaving a trail of heavy rock music behind it.  Miranda skipped across the street and down the smooth gray sidewalk.  This town was big, very big.  Not that she’d ever been there before but she could sense it.

She could also sense something else on the air that most others couldn’t: Blood.  Blood waiting to pour from open wounds and pool in dark sticky puddles.  Blood waiting to soak into beige carpets and splatter on creme colored walls.  Gallons and gallons of hot oozing blood trapped inside of mortal bodies, running through confining, restricting veins.   Blood that needed released.

Miranda reached the train tracks and hopped down them one board at a time.  Hop, hop, hop, hop ‑ then something off to the side of the tracks  caught her eye.  It was a hammer abandoned in the rocky ditch.  Hmmmmm, a hammer…

Miranda stopped and picked it up, enjoying it’s weight in her hand, she could use this hammer.  Miranda was a natural opportunist, she saw an opportunity in everything.  Instead of waiting for it to knock on her door she went looking for it and always found it.

This hammer would have to be disposed of later if it didn’t fit in her backpack.  Of course there was probably something in it she could throw out.  But then again everything in life was useful in one way or another.  Especially her doll.  It was hers because she’d stolen it from another girl her age, taken it right out of the little red‑head’s hands, watching the tears run down the little freckled face.  That had been a delicious moment and even more delicious had been when the child had stopped breathing and lay perfectly still.  Ah, what a wonderful feeling, the power, the joy, the, the…

But she couldn’t think of anything else and she didn’t really want to.  She just wanted the night to swallow up the sun and make her invisible so that she became merely a shadow behind peoples’ footsteps.  Merely a figment of their paranoia.

Miranda swung the hammer against her legs hoping off the track and taking a dusky sidewalk instead.  There were several couples walking together, hands clasped in silent affection.  Miranda skipped past them and they paid no more attention to her then if she were a barn swallow.  Each pair was wrapped in their own non‑inclusive world.

She stopped at the darkened school park and, standing very still, watched the street lights come on one by one.  She stood so still that she wasn’t even sure she was breathing anymore.  She’d always been best at the statue game.

And so she pretended she was a statue standing in the school park, watching the swings move back and forth in the breeze, the ghosts of children out to recess.  Then she tired of it.

Miranda climbed up a large oak tree and nestled herself in its branches, safe from view.  Someone was coming, she could smell the salt of their sweat and the sweetness of their blood.  It would be the night’s first kill.

She waited patiently and soon she saw them, a girl and a boy.  They were teenagers and what they were doing there she couldn’t be sure.

The girl was tall and fair, and barefoot, her shoes were in her hands and she wore a smile that was dazzling.  The boy was shorter than the blonde, but he was her twin otherwise.  They were obviously a brother and sister, and tonight they would die.

Miranda waited until they’d seated themselves on the cold metal monkey bars, their backs to the tree.  She slowly slithered down the rough trunk, hanging on tightly to the hammer ‑ a very useful item.

Her feet touched the damp grass and she crept across it silently.  The girl was laughing and had dropped down to the ground.  She turned around, her pretty face registering shock when she saw Miranda.

But Miranda didn’t give her time to react.  One moment she was near the monkey bars and the next she was swinging the hammer at the girl’s pretty porcelain face.

A scream escaped her lips and then she lay motionless, a broken doll with a shattered head.

The brother leapt to the ground but soon lay beside his sister, his brains and blood splattered across the grainy dirt for the children to find the next day.

Miranda lay the hammer down and bathed her hands in the crimson fluid that had been their lives.  She soaked it in, smiling wickedly and digesting their energy, their essence.

When she’d fully enjoyed her kill she scooped up her hammer and plodded out of the park and down the street in no particular direction, looking for the next victim. As she walked, she hummed, happy that she’d been right. That hammer was a very useful item, and it was going to get a lot of use!


Why did she kill them? What is she, exactly? No idea, but I’m sure the story would be interesting.

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1 Comment

  1. Hoarder inspired hammer murder… Hmmm… That’s rather disturbing!!! LOL


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