I took my Allen Key, Henry. I took it and I tried my best. Did you see the mess things were in by the time I got to it? The way the catalogue arrived, tossed like so much detritus on the driveway you’d just paved, the way its crisp petroleum-laced pages were dog-eared to excess, the way your jeep had swept over and over it all those days as you rushed to work and back, to the hardware store for your innovative hinges, your every articulating things, the way I and the children (oh, the children!) trod upon it like it had no value, like it was inconsequential. Like we had no goddam respect. You never really love IKEA until it’s just out of reach, I’ve heard that. In that catalogue, mangled and illegible — are all the things you’ll need for your frugal new life, the Tromsö bunk beds, the Billy shelves, the jolly Kustruta bedding, that almost-hip Fado lamp. You probably don’t know about my toolkit, the one I’ve hidden in the bottom drawer of my heart, the one with a Phillips and a Robertson, a top-of-the-line air compressor, all manner of screws, nails, bolts, and dowelling. I’ve been saving, hoarding. And there under the coil of waxed rope and the chisel set, I found the Allen Key, rusted but with a little 3-in-One (I think my dad taught me this trick) instantly rejuvenated. I found the instructions on the Internet, Henry. Did you think to look there? You can find everything there, honestly. And a Google search was my first angle of attack. No one looks for lock points on a catalogue, but they are there, tucked in the margins, embedded in the glued binding, sometimes so well hidden I had to flip the pages back and forth many times before I spotted one. I worked that thing for weeks but I couldn’t figure out how to repair it. I failed here, I know. I tried so hard, for weeks until the weeks grew to years, until the years turned to decades. It’s important to me that you know I tried by best.
Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer is the bestselling author of the novels All The Broken Things, Perfecting, and The Nettle Spinner, as well as, the short story collection, Way Up. Her short fiction has appeared in Granta Magazine, the Walrus Magazine, Storyville and others. She is a PhD candidate in the English department at the University of Toronto, where she researches in theories of creativity. Kathryn is Associate Faculty with the University of Guelph MFA in Creative Writing.