When the Key Breaks


When a key breaks off in your door, the universe closes its ears and forgives the torrent of vulgarities that vomit forth. It’s the same when you are confronted by a dangerous animal and when you spill anything hot in your crotch.

I only hope that my neighbors were as understanding yesterday when Burke informed me that she had broken a key in the downstairs lock. The word du moment was shit with a deluge of other phraseology whose creativity and complexity actually sort of developed a narrative of vulgarity.

I knelt down to look at the little teeth in the lock, and I moaned. I consulted Google and went for needle-nosed pliers, and then a pair of tweezers. I found that pushing my key into the other side of the lock made the chunk of the broken key jump forth a little. So I pushed my key in and then grappled with the little bit of metal, all the while reviewing the little speech in Czech that I would give any of my neighbors who happened to come by. It was 6 o’clock, people would still be coming in from work.

Even though the key was moving a drop, I wasn’t able to get any traction on it and therefore I made a series of frantic trips between my flat and the door. Bobby pin, needles, a drawing compass, a box cutter, a barrette. Ultimately nothing was working. My vulgarities subsided as I worked, though, and I was at least pleased that my brain had settled me down to deal with the task at hand. It seemed that I was equal parts my parents, my dad who despairs in the face of unexpected difficulty and my mom who’s evicted four children from her uterus and for whom unexpected difficulty is all expected.

Still, there were complicating matters. It was now 6:30 pm, which meant that, besides having to explain in Czech what the hell I was doing, my landlord would also have to make an afterhours call to a locksmith, a tradesman who made 1000Kc ($50) by simply showing up at your house drunk, in his underwear, and eating a cheese log. Second, I was leaving for the U.S. the following day so this meant that I was going to spend my last night dealing with this and that made me sad, since it had been a perfect and busy day before this.

I had spent the day cleaning my flat, running errands, buying and carrying massive bags of sand for my cat to poop in, watching bad British sitcoms, and sweating. I had bought cupcakes for Burke and I, and dinner was going to be cheeseburgers. I had foreseen a night of bad American sitcoms, meat, and packing. As I diddled with the lock I wailed in the loss of my perfect last evening in Prague. And even though I didn’t have time to reflect on it just yet, I knew this situation was a lesson in perspective, living in the present, and dealing with conflict. I promised to give it its due consideration if only the god of broken keys would shine upon me now and let that key pop out a little.

Of course that is exactly what happened. Well, I’m not sure about the god thing, but the key popped out. I sprinted to my flat, grabbed the tweezers again, gripped that metal hunk of teeth and slipped it out slowly as I’ve always seen those who defuse bombs do in movies.

I came back to the flat and dropped the key chunk on the table as if it was the head of a hyena who’d been terrorizing the village. My mood lightened, I apologized for my language (to Burke and all humanity), I began to build cheeseburgers. It wasn’t lost on me that such a minor event would have such a drastic effect on my mood. But for now it was over and I promised to think about it later, while sitting in a bar watching a Phillies game.

I was not thinking about it later when, at about 11:15 pm, the hornet flew into my living room and flew aggressively around the room, emitting the deep throated buzz like that of a weed whacker.

Nope. Then I hoped that universe closed its ears and forgave the torrent of vulgarities that vomited forth.

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