Max Bradley flicked the switch on the side of the table. The razor sharp blade of the saw whirred to life, rotating at high speeds that were perfect for the upcoming task. Max thought that the nervous tic in his face might be going off, but it was hard to tell since his entire body was shaking violently, his heart pounding rapidly. His glasses slid down his nose, and he pushed them back to their proper place. His hands were sweaty, and he wiped them on his dirty overalls. These were hands that had created several masterpieces of modern art. Hands that had sketched, painted, and even sculpted since a very young age.
Max stared into the revolving metal of his table saw, and as he did, he thought about why he was doing this. He recalled his wasted youth, memory by memory, up to the current day…
When Max was in middle school, he took his first art class. The teacher, Mr. Decker, a plump, graying man in his near sixties, had been educating students for nearly thirty years. He was soon shocked to find out that Max already possessed many qualities of a master artist. He was more than just better than the rest; this boy had true potential to be the defining pinnacle of future art. Of course, a conference was arranged with Max’s parents, whose concern turned to delight as Mr. Decker described Max’s talent.
Max himself could still remember snatches of this conversation. The phrase, “Never seen anything like it…” as well as “You ought to enroll him in advanced classes as soon as you can…”
Art was always something that had came to Max naturally. He simply knew many cardinal points right off the bat, such as using shadows to make an object on paper appear three-dimensional.
Eileen Bradley, Max’s mother, was a pigeon-breasted woman with the soft voice of an angel whose prime ambition was always to impress her neighbors. Robert Bradley was a thin, unconfident man who was infamous among the local townsfolk for his bragging in an attempt to attract attention. It was the perfect mix. Max’s parents could only encourage him; crooning endlessly on the magnificence of his works, which had expanded from school into their home. Art adorned their refrigerator and walls of their bedroom. Every time they had company, which was fairly often, the Bradley’s would show them into their bedroom and boast of their son’s talent. Max himself was always dressed nicely and waiting in the dining room. Eventually, when the Bradley’s guest had reemerged, with Eileen and Robert on either side, he too would tell Max of what talent he had, and how he was sure to do great things. Because of this, Max grew up with the mindset that he was going to be a great artist. How could he not? Everyone who saw his works said that it was profoundly good for one of such young age. There was only one problem: Max didn’t like art.
Sure, Max loved receiving praise, but he found the act of creating pictures to be bluntly overrated and exceedingly boring. He never told anyone about this for fear of it tarnishing his reputation, he only continued on with his craft. He began to build a massive mountain of inner lies that wasn’t to be realized until several years later.
Max’s teenage years were spent in loneliness. He had no use for friends or consorting with girls, both activities were a mere misuse of his time. He found his schoolwork to be pointless as well. How was learning anything other than art a means of bringing about his triumph? His parents encouraged this behavior, agreeing with him at every turn. Neither Eileen or Robert had achieved good grades in high school, and for them, C’s and D’s were common ground.
On weekends, hours passed by with Max never coming out of his room. Inside, he painted feverishly, with an unlit cigarette clamped viciously between his teeth. He only allowed himself to smoke once the painting he was working on was complete. Sometimes it took him numerous sessions, and the butt of the cigarette was chewed away, but he kept telling himself that it was worth it. The mountain of lies grew every time Max stamped out the burning light of a hand rolled cancer stick.
After barely graduating high school, Max went off to the shabbiest college money could buy, where he was determined to obtain his degree in art. He surfaced from his dorm room victorious and immediately began painting. His works were nothing short of a huge success. Every piece of work that he sold was compensated for in thousands of dollars.
And yet Max wasn’t happy.
His life had become an endless parade of things he didn’t enjoy; sketchbooks, pencils, paper, canvas, and paintbrush. Every day he got up, ate, created art, and went back to sleep. He had a maid, Frances, who took care of his house and cleaning. The only thing he ever had to do was paint, sketch, and sculpt. He used trips to the supply and grocery store as an excuse to take the day off, making his outings far longer than they had to be. But there was the constant demand for his art, and eventually, he would always find himself back in the same place: The garage which he had converted into his workplace.
He couldn’t stop; he was pressured by everyone he had ever known. Max’s agent was always there, like a leech that has attached itself to a particularly tasty victim. He never let up in his constant attempts to force Max to work harder, faster, and better. But that wasn’t the worst of it.
Max’s mother and father, who both visited every chance they got (and left with their pockets bulging), were still crooning over his work in their old age. Max loved his parents, truly he did, but he also hated them. They hadn’t changed one bit over the years. Sure, Eileen’s skin had gone from unblemished to withered, and Robert’s hair from dark blonde to stark white, but their attitudes were constant. In the nursing home where the Bradley’s were housed, they prattled on to their neighbors at lunchtime, telling of their artist son who was quietly making millions in his mountainside home in Boone. Then, they would ask what their grandsons and granddaughters were doing with their lives, only for the pleasure of watching these said neighbors squirm.
Max closed his eyes and then opened them again, looking into the blade of the saw. There was a way to end the parade of misery his life had become, but it wasn’t going to be easy. Rather, it would be painful, and it would be the cause of many shed tears. But, it was a way out. An escape route that was desperately required. There was no other option. This offered the possibility of never having to paint another picture and, at the same time, ensured his parents couldn’t be disappointed in him.
He stuck his hand out tentatively, like a man attempting to catch a live Tiger Snake. Still, he had his doubts. "Don’t worry", he reminded himself, "You mentioned to Frances that you were going to be doing some woodwork. This’ll look just like an accident. Don’t worry."
But really, Max wasn’t worried about the authenticity with which his “accident,” would occur, but instead, the agony that was sure to come with it.
“Don’t think about it,” Max said aloud, talking to himself.
“Don’t think, Max. Don’t think, just do.”
With that, he stared down at the saw one more time, then, he closed his eyes and thrust both his hands onto the blade as hard as he could. The teeth of the cutting edge began to gnaw through Max’s flesh and fingers. The sound the motor made changed a little, going from a constant hum to a grating whine as bone was encountered. Blood began to spray in all directions, and Max stood there, eyes shut tight, with tears of anguish creeping out through his crevices. The sensation of overwhelming torment was almost unbearable. And yet Max remained steadfast, even as a cloud of his own blood began to darken his already red and puffy face. He was determined to finish this once and for all. “Don’t scream!” Max’s brain was yelling at him, “Whatever you do, don’t scream just yet! The job isn’t done!”
Then there was a release as the saw completed its grisly work. Max stumbled backwards with knees about to collapse from weakness, looking at his new hands. Hands that would never paint, draw, or sculpt again.
Six of his ten digits had been removed; the middle three on his left hand and the last three on his right. In their place, there were now six jetting stumps. All of them were straining desperately in every direction, as if trying to move their lost fingers, which lay on the table several feet away. It was an accident, a horrible accident that would render his hands almost completely useless. At least, that’s what Max’s parents and agent would hear.
“Now,” his mind seemed to say, “Now you can scream.”
And scream he did. Max screamed so loudly he thought he must’ve woken up the entire neighborhood, and he was perfectly okay with that. He wanted the world to know of his suffering. It wasn’t long before he heard the pattering of footsteps from Frances, the maid, coming down to help him over his clamor.
In the moments before Max passed out from shock and blood loss, he did something very peculiar. He closed his mouth, silencing his shriek. Then, he opened it again and began to laugh with joy.
For the first time in his life, Max had a real chance at happiness.
Written by SnakeTongue237