By Edele Winnie
“These are good quality snippers.” Mark commented. He was a tool guy, so he knew what he was talking about.
They were pruners, the long handled kind, well used, probably fifty years old.
“They don’t make things with this kind of quality anymore.” Mark continued, handing them back to Sheila, his pretty, petite brunette wife.
She accepted them carefully. The pruner blades were shiny and extremely sharp. Someone had taken very good care of them over the years. Even though her hands were small the pruners seemed to fit her perfectly.
Mark and Sheila had liked the house the first time they saw it. It was small, but they were not planning children. The house was in good repair and the surrounding garden was impressive. It was not fancy but rather well maintained and lovingly cared for. Sheila imagined that the pruner had been used to trim the lilacs and dogwoods.
They had no idea who had lived there before. The house had been vacant when they’d viewed it the previous winter for the first time. Everything had been cleaned out. The only thing they had found was the pruners.
Mark was spectacularly uninterested in gardening. He liked lawnmowers better than lawns, shovels more than gardens and wood working tools better than anything or anyone. He worked in a stuffy office but he was passionate about shaping wood, sanding it and building items of beauty and utility. Most of his evenings were spent converting the basement into his wood shop dream.
Sheila accepted the role of gardener and yard person. She ‘d never done it before but she loved being outside and she liked flowers. The yard was small so she didn’t’ expect much toil- it wasn’t until she’d begun, after they’d bought the house, that she began to understand the constant struggle against nature that was called gardening. She was determined though, and her palms calloused from frequent pruner use. The yard was not as wondrous as it had likely been under the previous owner, but it was still quite nice and she was proud of her work.
Mark had bought a variety of tools for her: shovel, spade, hoe and other things; but the pruners that had come with the house were her favourite. She liked to walk through the yard holding them, looking for the healed scars of previous prunings. The snippers were so sharp they moved through branches like the wood was wet tissue paper. Instead of disposing of the cut branches she snipped them into small pieces and used them as mulch. She fastened a carrying sling for the snippers so she could carry them with her outside and still have her hands free.
When she came in one night from the garden Mark was waiting, sitting at the kitchen table. It vexed her. If he wanted supper he should have made it himself.
“What is it?” He said, his face dark and serious.
“What is what?” She asked, confused.
“Is there someone else?”
It tumbled out of him then. “You’re never around- always hiding in the garden. We don’t spend any time together anymore. If you don’t want to be married to me just say it.”
She was taken aback. Yes, she knew they were spending less time together, but she hadn’t decided that it meant anything. “You’re always in the basement with your tools.”
‘That’s because you’re always outside in the garden. You even brought those snippers in with you.”
She whipped the clippers out and held the snipping blades towards him, like a weapon.
Shock splattered across his face.
She quickly lowered them.
“I’m sorry.” She shuddered. “I don’t know how that happened.”
He just nodded at her, too stunned to say anything. She sat the snippers by the back door. He cooked some pasta and they had a quiet meal with the TV on. She fell asleep reading a book- a romance novel that seemed so ridiculous she couldn’t focus on it. Since when had candid love become funny to her?
The screaming woke her. At first she didn’t know where she was or who was screaming. She realized suddenly- she was in her own bedroom beside the bed and Mark was screaming. She had the pruning snippers in her hands and there was blood everywhere. She threw the tool down and rushed to Mark’s side. He began to throw things at her- anything he could find- pillow, books, a drinking glass that shattered against the wall, a lamp. All the while his wailing continued.
“I’m trying to help you!” She screamed into his incoherent howling.
It was then she saw the foot sitting on the bedroom carpet. She had cut off his foot. She ran from the room, fell down the stairs and raced outside into the night. Somehow the clippers were in her hands. She must have picked them up on the way out. She heard a siren, panicked and ran down the street- quite the sight in her bloody clothes, barefoot, with a pair of pruning snippers. The park at the end of the street seemed to call to her, the trees and shrubs welcoming her, asking to be pruned and trimmed. She danced amongst the greenery snipping and shaping until she finally settled under some bushes and slept.
She felt ill when she awoke. The sun was up and it was mid morning. There were people in the park, mothers with children, old people exercising their dogs. A policeman walking, looking around carefully. Was he looking for her? A surge of panic flushed through her and before she knew what was happening she was running towards him. He looked surprised and then wary- but she was already there and she took a snip and part of his cheek sloughed away, blood bubbling off his face. He shouted and squirmed and had his gun out suddenly but the snippers were faster and the hand holding the gun quickly lay on the ground. The policeman staggered away, clutching at his bloody spurting stump.
People in the park were screaming and running. There was even more blood on her now. She had to escape. She ran out of the park and ended up in the alley that ran behind her house. She climbed over the fence and thumped down into the garden. It hit here then, the enormity of it. The house and the neatly trimmed garden were exactly the same as the day before but her life was completely different. She had hurt her husband Mark. She had attacked a policeman. It was like she was losing her mind.
There was no one in the house. She quickly changed clothes and cleaned up. There were still splatters of dried blood in the bedroom. No sign of Mark. Or his foot. She devoured the left over pasta from the fridge.
It’s the snippers, she thought. She had to get rid of the snippers. Not only were they the murder weapon- wait- she hadn’t killed anyone- she just needed to get rid of them. I’m using them for protection, she reasoned. They’re helping me. But then she shook that away. Mark and that policeman would not have hurt her. She was the one causing the trouble. Her hands grabbed the snippers quickly and turned them towards herself, and she put the front of her neck into the opening of the two very sharp blades. What was happening? It terrified her. It was like the snippers were controlling parts of her. Her hands. Okay, she thought. I won’t get rid of the snippers. I’ll keep them forever. She forced herself to smile. She loved the snippers. Her shaking hands lowered the blades from her throat.
She found the sling she’d made for them and put them inside. Gardening, she would do some gardening. She would dig a hole, and plant some things. Maybe a tree. Yes, that was it, a new tree- a tree that would eventually have to be trimmed by the wonderful snippers.
She kept thinking about planting a tree as she dug the hole in the lawn. Fairly quickly she encountered resistance- roots or something- she grabbed at them and saw they were bones. Part of a leg, it looked like, with foot bones. The leg bone had been cut through. In a panic she started another hole. This time she found a hand and forearm. In the next hole she found two more hands, and in the final hole, a skull. She was laughing now, understanding that there was no escape for her.
She dug a new hole, not a big one, just big enough for a hand or a foot or whatever she might harvest next. There was a busy fast food restaurant nearby. Perhaps she’d do the drive through and cut off their hand when they held out the bag! She was startled by the laughter, stunned to find it was herself. She held the snippers up, saw her reflection twisted in the sharp metal blades. Smiling, she was, her eyes big, her mouth grinning.
She was surprised by the voice and spun to face it, snippers out, open and ready. It was Mark, looking pale, on crutches, his stumped leg wrapped in bandages. His brother, Vic, stood behind him.
“It was an accident.” She found herself saying.
“Put the snippers down.” Vic said.
She’d never liked Vic. He was one of those people that got on her nerves. Arrogant, chubby- with long arms and fingers and legs and a nose that needed to be snipped. She lunged forward, grim determination distorting her pretty grinning face.
Vic shot. The bullet smashed into Sheila’s left shoulder and flipped her backwards. She didn’t let go of the clippers though. She stood up again, clippers out.
“Please, Sheila.” Mark said.
She thrust the clippers forward and they left her hands, – spear like -and stabbed into Mark’s chest. He tottered on his crutches and fell as his brother shot Sheila two more times. She went down and he dropped the pistol and scrambled for his cell phone. Mark was bleeding heavily. He’d pulled the snippers out and as Vic bent over him, trying to call 911, Mark snipped off one of Vic’s hands.
When the ambulance attendants found them they were all dead. The woman had been shot to death. The man with the bandaged leg had been speared in the chest and bled out. The man with his hand snipped off had turned the snippers on himself, somehow cutting into his own throat.
The entire city was horrified, especially the bank which still owned the house. But they cleaned things up and soon it was neat and tidy with a lush green garden and a For Sale sign on the lawn. And a large pair of pruning snippers in the shed.