Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Stump

1954
A storm came this year, against which all other storms were to be measured, on a Saturday in October, a balmy afternoon. Men in the woods cutting wood, children outside with thoughts lodged somewhere in the memory of summer. It came up the river valley, as did every storm in the fall, but the grey-black thunderheads were piled up high, much too high. In the stillness before it hit, men looked at each other as though a fast and wiry man had pulled a knife in a bar. They felt the trees falling before they heard the wind, and they dropped chainsaws and choker cables, scrambled to get out. 

Olin  Sanders tried to free his saw from the big fir, but it caught him barberchairing, as he tried to run it hopped after him like it was trying to find it's stump. When the wind died the men found him. They laid him across the laps of two men in the back of the truck and sent word ahead. When they got down to the road his wife was there crying, with pink curlers  in her hair. Two county sheriffs were there, drawn by the word of death. When she looked through the window of the truck and saw him broken in half, like a buckled tin can she raised her fists and began beating on the truck. When the sheriff held her back and said in a polite voice "Now, control yourself." she began beating her thighs. One of the men stepped up and punched the sheriff.

All this time the son, in whose lap the father's broken head was cradled, sat silent. He was aware of the beginning of something else, more than his father's end. His pants were wet with his father's blood.

That night the boy left the house, walked past his father's shirts hanging to dry on the line, and drove up Jumpoff Joe Road to where they had been cutting. He sidestepped downslope with the chainsaw in his hands to reach the stump of the tree (the blood congealed like dark sap on the wood) and cut off the top of the stump with the stain of his father's death on it, the saw screaming in the dim night.

No one had ever done anything like this before. The lack of any tradition in it bothered the boy. As he walked past the trees near the house he was suddenly afraid. His mother was awake, sitting in the darkened living room when he walked in, wearing the tattered quilt robe that embarrassed him when his friends were around. Behind the glow of her cigarette she asked where he had been.

The butt of the tree eventually rolled downhill after the logging was done. A family of Marten's took up residence beneath it, living as well as was possible in that country.

Olin was the only person killed, among the other dead were Cawley Beeson's dog, and two deer, quietly butchered and passed among neighbors.


20 comments:

  1. Mike, it's time to come out of retirement and write those novels you've been holding inside.

    Good writers get inside my head and my soul. They make me hungry for more - more of their words, more of their souls that their words expose.

    I want more of you, Mike, and your words. I'm waiting.

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    1. This is just a whim, but thank you for your kind words.

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  2. Fabulous writing Mike. I felt the pain.

    Get cracking as per The Crow.

    XO
    WWW

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  3. I'll third that. You obviously have a pull to write, and the talent for it.

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    1. Would you believe we had a minute or two of snow in the rain this afternoon?

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  4. Philosophy and Redneck? Redneck Philosophy? Let's hear it.

    Good words

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    1. Let's hear the "Redneck Philosophy" (a request based on reading your profile, not this specific post). The comment "Good words" was about this specific post. Sorry, I can confuse people. I can also confuse myself :)

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  5. Mike, enjoyed the read. Thanks.

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  6. I could hear the chainsaw. And the cries of lamination.

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    1. One of the most distinctive sounds I know.

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  7. What a wonderfully well told story.

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  8. You write so well. You had me hooked before the first paragraph was done.
    Really good!

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  9. Now, that's what I call serendipity.
    So glad I spontaneously decided to dropping by via Susan.
    So glad, indeed, that I thought I should at least leave a short com(pli)ment: A fine piece of writing. Chapeau!

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