It was not an old key.
Being several years old by this time, it was not a new key, but neither would it have been characterized as old by a casual observer. It still retained a shine about it. Those qualities so often associated with old keys in the popular imagination – dirt down in the grooves, finish worn off by the rubbing of fingers, a bit of rust here and there, perhaps – were wholly lacking.
The key owed its youthful appearance to a happy accident: It was rarely used. Most frequently, I entered my home not through the front door (which would have required use of the key in question) but rather through my garage (which did not).
Therefore, previous use of the key was limited to those occasions when I approached my home on foot.
I believe the key had a fault.
The key entered the keyhole without incident. I felt the pins clicking into place, sure, but in general this is not a part of my story upon which I must dwell. I fear I have said too much about it already.
It was when it came down to the actual turning of the key in the lock that everything went awry.
I should probably take a moment here to explain that I do not have unusually powerful fingers. I am not an arm wrestler. I see no reason why my finger strength would exceed that of, say, the average American.
But I believe the key had a fault. I turned it to the left at a reasonable speed but at just the right angle. Or perhaps at just the wrong angle. I was left standing there holding what is commonly called the “bow” of the key and part of the “shoulder”.
This left me without the “cuts” and the tip which, as I now realize, are truly the most important parts of any key. This experience taught me that. Yet those critical portions were still within the lock, having parted ways with the fragment between my fingers.
The reality of my predicament was slow to sink in.
I contemplated homelessness.
“Well, I suppose I live on this front stoop now,” I said aloud.