I fantasized regularly about having a good woodpile. For me, woodpiles always represented a unique combination of order and comfort. Everything in its right place. But after three days of splitting wood every part of me hurt. On the third day my neighbor joined me and after thinking about it for a minute, I said you can have the rest. And then I showered and went for a beer.
I didn’t feel old when I was doing it, only afterwards. Especially in the mornings in my arms, hands, wrists and legs. Using the log splitter I felt not only strong but superior. In minutes I could reduce a round down to pieces. I remembered a Rocky film where he split wood as part of his training, and felt like I could be a part of that same male ethos.
I blew snot rockets Euro style and spit a lot. My pants hung down. I began a compulsive pulling on my slacks where I’d hook my thumb under a loop and tug at it but only kind of tug, a compulsive tugging knowing that it wouldn’t amount to anything, that they’d just hang down again.
It didn’t rain but if it did I wouldn’t care. When the wagon tire blew I took it right to Les Schwab and handed it across the counter and then did a U-turn in traffic and sped home where I used the wheel barrow to push the rest of the wood and ran as I did so, huffing uphill.
When I came in, I stripped down in the kitchen and put my foot on the island showing the hole in my sock and said this one’s going in the trash. Charlotte said so should you.
In the shower I started warm but went full cold and groaned a low man-groan. And then I hammed it up in case Charlotte or Dawn could hear me over the fan.
In the evenings I read Cormac McCarthy and drank my mezcal neat. Each time I bent down or got up, I groaned for effect. Often I’d linger by the window to catch a glimpse of my work, the tarp by the wheel barrow and freshly stacked wood just drying out, waiting to be burned. How the soft morning light fell on it there, and filled me with pride.
But it hurt to put my sweater on, to ignite the lighter. It hurt to step out of bed or to wash myself. The only thing that didn’t hurt was drinking beer and thinking about all the work I’d done and all the wood we now had and how much of a man I was and how much I wanted to hear Springsteen.
I ate mainly meat for breakfast. I thought about it but decided that cough syrup is a dark high. I found the remains of an old Christmas tree and jammed it into the camp fire and the needles sprinkled down like snow flakes on my trousers, like angels, like falling stars.
When it was all through the trees were gone and I raked the grounds by the woodpile. There was still space for the hammock and I imagined myself swinging there, next summer. The wood, ready for autumn. Everything in its right place, just one place, the corner of the yard. The birds picking around, all that new light. My resolve, it had to be. And how petty and small I was, incapable of much more.