Hammer and Nail
“Yell right now if you want to see me hammer this steel nail through my face!” demanded a slight man, shirtless and tattooed who would have been inconspicuous if it weren’t for the wooden crate he stood on and the fourteen-pound pile of glass refracting light into the shadows of SlotZilla two feet below his own bare feet.
Is it gonna hurt him, momma? Is he really gonna nail his own face?
The only way she could think to respond was to pick Blake up by the armpits so she could straddle her hip. Blake’s lower jaw fell in anticipation and her eyes grew cartoonishly large as she stared at the man still baiting the audience with promises of self-torture. It did occur to Kate that she should probably walk away, but the origins of the notion were not native to her own consciousness so she remained in the present, connected to the curiosity and terror of her child.
All right, in just a few minutes, I am going to take this three-inch-long nail and hammer it into my skull through my nose.
As he spoke, he jumped off his crate and began to inspect the audience that had formed in a circle around him. “I need someone who is brave.” He darted from one side of the circle to the other, pausing within inches of the face of the waxed muscle man in his protein shake tank top, the wheelchair bound woman with an oxygen tank and the man who pushed her while smoking a cigarette and the twenty-something in a short, low, tight, white dress. “I need someone who is trustworthy.” He stopped at Blake and Kate. He ignored Kate and looked hard into Blake’s eyes; she stared back without blinking, somewhere between fascinated and petrified. “You are certainly the most brave and trustworthy here, little one, but I am sorry. You are too small.” He smiled and bowed before darting back to the girl in white, kneeling on one knee, bowing his head and extending his hand to her. “Will you assist me? If you do everything I say, exactly how I say it, I shall not get any blood on that beautiful white dress of yours. And if I do, well, wouldn’t that be exciting.”
Blake shook her head and wriggled hard to let Kate know she wanted to be set down. She had too much energy and adrenaline pushing through her tiny body to be held. Kate bent over and whispered something to her. Blake responded with a head shake, her eyes never leaving the slight man. Screams of tourists’ zip-lining overhead faded into the distance. Her breath was shallow, her feet firmly planted, her concern and fright had melted into anticipation and excitement. Her mouth was shut tight as she listened to the entertainer speak again.
This beautiful woman has verified this nail is real steel and she has inspected the hammer, which she has proven also real. Now, beautiful lady, hand me the nail and take the hammer. When I tell you, I want you to tap this nail into my face.
He climbed back onto his crate and placed the nail in his nose, taking time to line it up so that it would surely pierce his skull. He leaned forward slightly, holding the pointy tip of the nail against his face like a teacup with only two fingers and his pinky straight up.
Go ahead, gorgeous. Hammer me.
The girl in the white dress held the hammer awkwardly with two hands, tilted it back, and spun it forward. There was an audible crack and the man reeled back off the crate with his hands over his face. He appeared to be in immense pain and staggered around; his beautiful assistant stared helplessly. Water swelled in Blake’s eyes.
Just when Kate began to wonder if this was part of the act or if she should perhaps go to the man, he stood erect with his arms held triumphantly over his head and a nail deep in his nose. He bowed and the audience clapped while he pulled it out slowly for everyone to see. A few people turned to watch the Fremont Street Experience light show.
“I’ll set it here for inspection if you are skeptical,” he smirked as he set the nail on a small table next to an open box.
Blake was still frozen, but her awareness was coming back. Kate was digging in her pockets and her hand emerged with a $10 bill. She knelt and handed Blake the money, pointing in the direction of the box. Blake walked over, deposited the money and stood staring up into the slight man’s nose.
Thank you, little one. Are those tears? Why are you crying?
“Don’t you hurt? Why don’t you bleed?”
The man bent over. “Everything hurts and I’ve bled so much I have no blood left to bleed.” He stood up and addressed the audience while presenting Blake like the prize behind door number three. “Ladies and gentleman, the bravest and most trustworthy one of you here!”
Amelia Pond is Nevada native who works and writes in downtown Las Vegas. She spends her free time exploring the Mojave and the world via bare feet and cargo ships. You can read her real-life adventures on medium.com/@ameliaraepond.