Timber: a Halloween story

By Craig J. Clark


Tim looked up from his dinner. His roommate Paul was standing in the doorway, holding an axe. He was also dressed as a lumberjack and it was Halloween, so Tim thought nothing of this.

“Nice costume, Paul. Where’d you get the fake axe?”

Paul swung the axe and embedded it in the center of the kitchen table, sending wood fragments flying.

“FAKE?” he shrieked.

Tim calmly picked the splinters out of his mashed potatoes, which had received the brunt of the blast, while Paul worked at extracting the axe from the tabletop.

“Was that really necessary?” Tim asked. “You could have just told me it was real.”

Paul grunted. “Wouldn’t have…” Grunt. “…had the…” He paused to catch his breath. “Woo, this is wedged in there real good.”

“Wouldn’t have had the what?”

“The same impact.” Paul resumed his struggle with the axe handle.

“Well, that’s for sure. If it was rubber, it would have bounced off harmlessly.”

“And if it was plastic?”

“I don’t know. Depends how hard you swung it.” Tim tried a forkful of the potatoes. They appeared to be no lumpier than usual.

“Well…” Grunt. “…I’d say I…” Grunt. “…swung it pretty…”

“Erg. Hard.” Tim picked a wood chip that he had missed out of his mouth. He looked at it for a moment and flicked it off his finger. “You need any help with that?”

“Yeah, I…” Grunt. “…probably do.”

Tim rose and circled the table, taking hold of the axe handle. Paul rubbed his hands.

“I can see now I should have worn gloves. I wouldn’t be surprised if I got some blisters.”

“Well, that’ll teach you.” Working the axe head from side to side, Tim managed to loosen it enough to remove it from the table. He whistled as he leaned forward to examine the damage. “You really did a number on this.”

Paul took the axe from Tim and stepped back. “Yeah, I guess I don’t know my own strength.”

He hefted the axe, gripping it with both hands and holding it over his head. At that moment he was distracted by the realization that their kitchen had a very high ceiling.

“Really, what would possess you to bring a real axe into the house?”

Tim turned just in time to see Paul start his backswing.

“Funny you should mention possession.”

Tim barely had time to lumber out of the way.

* * *

Tim Burr first met Paul Banion when they were in college. They seemed to gravitate to each other, their unusual names providing the attraction. They had a shared history of woodcutting jokes. What they didn’t share was the knowledge that periodically Paul was possessed by the spirit of Paul Bunyan and that he had to be kept away from axes and saws when this happened.

* * *

“Hey, careful with that axe, Eugene!”

“Who are you talking to?” Swing. “My name is Paul, not Eugene.”

“You’re the one swinging an axe in here, so I guess it must be you.”

“Then why…” Swing. “…did you call me Eugene? Stand still.”

“Seemed like the only time I could work it into a conversation, so I went for it.”

“You have strange priorities.” Swing.

“No argument here. So what’s going on?”

“Childhood malady.” Swing. “Comes on unexpectedly.” Swing. “Not responsible for my actions.” Swing. “Have to ride it out.”

“You mean there’s no way of-- Whoa, that one was close.”

“That is the idea.” Swing.

“There’s no way of stopping you?”

“There’s only one thing…” Swing. “…that can stop me when I get like this.”

“And what’s that?”

“Brawny Paper Towels.”

Paul momentarily let up to catch his breath. Tim was incredulous.


Paul raised the axe again, threateningly. “Don’t ask. Just get them!”

Tim ran to the cabinets, frantically opening them in turn.

Paul gestured with the axe. “They’re under the sink.”

“Oh.” Tim checked. “We don’t have any Brawny. Will the store brand do?”

Paul raised the axe over his head to show he meant business. “No, it won’t! Either you get Brawny or you get an axe in your skull!”

“I’ll be right back!” Tim cried as he ran out the front door. As he heard the car start up and peel out of the driveway, Paul relaxed and sank down into a chair.

“I hate it when he buys the cheap stuff.”


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A warm and funny tale for this holiday season! I especially liked the names of the characters and had a good time imagining the moment they met. I hope they met in a "student union," because I have always liked the idea of a "student union." My first college only started constructing one during my last semester there.

It also pleased me, how Tim was so calm about the initial axe-strike upon the table. I could SO never be like that! Axes make me totally nervous.

What puzzles me is why I feel that Paul was right to do what he did. I guess paper-towel quality is more important to me than I thought.

Very good, as usual. I particularly liked the Eugene bit.

Are Brawny brand paper towels really as good as this story leads one to believe? The Viva* towels I get at my local retailer, which in this case happens to be Target, seem to soak up even the toughest spills. Yes, those Viva brand towels bring so much joy to my everyday cleaning that I've begun to use Viva towels to wash and dry my body at shower time. Viva towels are durable and they smell fresh, like a newly harvested cord of old-growth lumber.

*Doug Viva, humble and prudent overseer of the Viva family of fine paper products, would never, I mean never, pay someone like me to endorse his excellent product, nor would he offer compensation of any variety to someone willing to subtly subvert the community's confidence in Brawny brand products, which, by the way, tend to cause fires and autism.

Craig: I feel your pain, man. I once roomed with a guy who thought he was Johnny Appleseed. At least that was the excuse he kept giving for chucking apple cores out the window instead of throwing them away like a decent human being.

Come to think of it, why hasn't Paul Bunyan gotten an endorsement deal with Axe Body Spray?

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This page contains a single entry by Craig J. Clark published on October 30, 2007 5:14 PM.

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