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Sandpaper

Michael brushed his fingertips over the small sample square of sandpaper mounted on the edge of the hardware store shelf. His hand shook slightly, and he closed it into a fist, nails biting into his palm. Weighted CW 100. "For curved applications and removing minor imperfections." Imperfections. If only it could remove everything that was imperfect in his life. In the end, he chose that bundle of sandpaper because it was black. Black as midnight. Black as the darkness that hid his tears. Black as the thoughts that condemned and haunted him. If the inward pain found outward expression, perhaps at least it could be somewhat alleviated. Bandaged. Controlled. His mouth twisted into a grimace. He had no more control over his life than he did over the inaccessible pins and tumblers that had kept him locked in that storage closet at the foster-parents-from-hell's house so many years ago. His stomach burned, acid rising, and Michael jerked the package of sandpaper off of the shelf with his bottom lip clenched between his teeth hard enough to make him taste blood. He turned on his heel and hurried to the cash register, eyes on his scuffed white runners.

"Find everything you were looking for?"

He nodded without looking up to attach a face to that matronly voice. His eyes were stinging, and the cashier might notice, might compare his tear-filled eyes with the package of sandpaper and know.

"That's $5.19."

Michael thrust the crumpled five on the conveyor belt, sweaty from his palm. He dug in his jeans pocket, desperate for some change. How could he have forgotten about the sales tax? The blood pounded in his ears as he came up empty-handed, finally finding his wallet on his left hip instead of his right. He tugged at the snap and coins flew, raining down with sharp ting-tings on the floor tiles like so many candies from a birthday piñata. On hands and knees he scooped them up, face burning. A quarter had rolled under the conveyor belt, and he swiped a hand out for it.

Their fingertips touched. The cashier had knelt to help him retrieve his coins, and damn if she didn't somehow look like mom. "There now. It's alright."

He stood and shook his head in mute denial, even as the tears began to roll down his cheeks. Two dusty dimes found their way on to the counter. It wasn't alright. It would never be alright again. Michael Scofield grabbed his package of sandpaper and fled.


Lincoln just wanted to get drunk, get laid, or both. Saturday nights alone had a propensity to do that to a man. But somehow tonight his kid brother was messing that all up. Michael hadn't called, hadn't been around, but Lincoln couldn't get him off of his mind. He sighed and crushed out his cigarette against the brick wall of the bar, breathing out a long stream of smoke. Maybe it'd all started when he'd fumbled with his wallet while paying for the pack of cigarettes at the gas station; Michael's creased and worn grade ten school picture had slipped out on to the floor. Lincoln shook his head to clear it and ran a callused hand over the three days of stubble on his chin. He had to get home.