Russell jabbed his finger onto the screen of his phone as if it would end the call faster than a normal tap. After taking a moment and looking at the after-call report, he threw the phone across the room and against the wall. He stood in the middle of his kitchen, huffing and puffing as he seethed with rage. His teeth were grinding against each other as his jaw was locked shut in anger. After a few moments of staring at the ground like this, he walked over to the closet and grabbed his boots off the floor. He sat down, laced them up, and headed outside.
The back door slammed shut behind him and the screen door slowly drifted to a close too. Russell stomped through the grassy field behind his house and scowled while looking at the acre of woods that sat behind his place. Without pausing or slowing his pace, he yanked his axe out from the stump in the corner of the yard before the woods and continued walking on through the tree line. As he stepped off the beaten path that winded it’s way around the woods and back, his boots trampled over live ivy and dead leaves scattered across the ground. He finally made it into the heart of the woods and eyed an oak tree that was going to be the perfect target for him today.
Without much planning or inspecting, he began blindly slamming his axe into the bark of the tree. Wooden shrapnel exploded out from the impact as he connected with the tree for the first time. Soon, the cuts became more and more uniform and the tree started to sway and buckle under it’s own weight. Russell backed away from the tree and glanced from the bottom of the trunk to the top leaves of the tree. She was coming down. The wind blew across the tree tops in the woods and pushed his tree just enough to have the trunk give way underneath it. With a loud snap and a satisfying crackle, the tree slammed into the earth below.
Russell then began the long and arduous process of cutting the tree into manageable chunks for him to lug home with him. After an hour or so, his arms ached and his back muscles burned. But, he was starting to feel a little better. Russell took a breath and sat down on top of the remaining tree that needed to be split up. He stared out into the woods and listened to the gentle sound of the wind bristling through the leaves all around him. His eyes widened as he zoned out and thought back to the conversation over the phone he had earlier in the house. He wished it didn’t happen over the phone. But, that was the least of his worries when it came to wishing about how things should have turned out rather than what actually happened.
Snapping back into reality, Russell got up and continued hacking away at the tree. He clenched his jaw again as he thought back to the conversation. How could she do something like that to him? After all the times he helped her, after all the times he told her that he loved her, after all the times she reciprocated that love… how? He slammed the axe into the wood again as he tried to cope with what just went down. The workout always helped clear his head. Hopefully, today wouldn’t be an exception. So, he kept slamming the axe away at the tree.
Finally, he reached a point where he could carry the individual pieces back to his yard. Hauling them one by one helped burn off even more steam. The sun was particularly brutal today. The temperature outside must have been somewhere in the nineties. Maybe even triple digits. But, that didn’t stop Russell from chopping up some fire wood. He grabbed a piece of the wood from the pile beside him and set it on the stump in front of him. He lined the axe up with the chunk and hoisted the blade up above his head. Before bringing the axe down, he hesitated for a moment.
He would never admit to anybody that could have seen him in that moment, but for a split-second he had an oddly satisfying thought. He pictured her sitting on that stump instead of the chunk of wood. Now, of course, that sounds dark to most people. But, after ripping his heart out and leaving him in the dust, oh man, how satisfying it would be to bring that axe down. Russell faltered for a second and then finally carried through with the swing. The piece exploded into two and Russell smiled as he admired his handiwork and continued to let his imagination roam free.
The next piece of wood he picked up, he pictured her on their last anniversary. She told him that she wanted them to be together forever. Funny. That’s probably what she told the other guy too. Chop.
The next piece was the first time they met each other at that one party a few years ago. Russell bet that the new guy met her spontaneously too. Chop.
The mercury in the thermometer on the side of Russell’s house did in fact creep up above 100 as the afternoon went on. The fireplace that sat inside his living room would not be active for at least another three months. But, there was no time like the present to start preparing a wood pile! Chop.
As the sun started to set and the pile of uncut wood dwindled away, Russell gently rubbed his hands together to assess the damage. He didn’t realize until now that his palms were covered in blisters. His arms throbbed from being overused and the rest of his body was just plain old exhausted. As he set the axe down, Russell smiled. Even though his body ached, his heart never felt better.