Wednesday 23 August 2023

And the Wood Whispers by Steve Gerson, black coffee with a hint of chicory

"What you got planned for today, Hon?" BethAnn asked, her fingers knuckle deep in sourdough. She raised one hand to swat away a loose strand of golden hair from her brow, leaving behind a swipe of flour dust on her cheek. 

 Bill looked up at her from his breakfast of black coffee and pancakes, licked a thumb sweet with sorghum, and thought, "Damn, that flour on her cheek is like a trail of angel clouds on a clear morning," and his heart burst with love, she the sun on his gray days. "Well, here's what's on my 'agenda,'" he laughed, using a word that fit his life about as well as her size 5 shoes would have fit his size 12 feet. "I harvested a cartload of lumber yesterday that I think will make some damn good tables and chairs." Then he caught himself, too late, seeing her stern look. "I know, I know. You don't want me cursing, but hey, Babe. At least I didn't use the Lord's name, right? I get some credit there, huh?" he teased.

BethAnn smiled, shook her head, and said, "You don't get no credit for bad stuff, never," and continued kneading her dough. "Now, tell me about your woodwork," pride swelling in her like her apron, she six months and counting. 

 “Well, Sweetie, what I want is wood as hardy as the generations who settled the desert before me, like Grandpa and Grandma, people whose faces wore lines etched as if by a scribe,” he said with honor. “But,” he said, peering at a splinter throbbing on his thumb, “this wood sure ‘nough is hard to work with sometimes.” 

"Hey Hon," she said, pausing her kitchen work, noticing a welt on his right hand. "You want me to put some salve on that there red spot? Looks awful poorly," she added, feeling his pain. "Sometimes I wonder why you put yourself through it. Wouldn't working with store-bought pine make your life easier, plus do your hands a good deed, " she added, smiling that smile worth more to him than rainbows. 

"No mam. Gotta do what I gotta do," and she knew it too. Knew he wore his family's pioneer past like a faded chambray shirt, frayed at the elbows but still solid stitched. 

 “I’ll beat my knuckles raw, hammer my thumbs, curse when splinters punctured my skin,” though I won’t curse anywhere near BethAnn, he promised himself. “Sweetie, I’m off to the shed. I’ve got work to do. Can’t tell you yet what’s up,” he winked. Then off he set to plane and polish his found wood, to shine, awl-carve and turn, so the woods' wending bends could showcase their depth, color, and courage. 

The mesquite he'd picked out had spiral grain where the wood had kinked, fighting hard against the desert's spring gusts, winding in on itself to protect against the winter's freeze. It was red and gray and black and tan and straight and bent and rose and fell and sang to him of life. He took the wood, clamped it, and stood back a pace to find his design within its shape. Then he cut, chiseled, and sanded, making sure to highlight the wood's imperfections rather than tame them. And his image of the wood's gift emerged. He ripped the wood into planks, sanded some more, and sawed dovetails to join the planks. The dovetails, time consuming to cut, created a lasting lock and allowed the colors of our wood to contrast, like the land’s shadows against the constant sun. Then he sanded one more time, lacquered with clear coat, and checked his work. 

“That’s it,” Dub said, and beamed. He had created one shelf of a planned three-shelf bookcase, live-edged, burled and knotholed, ready for a collection of baby books, to be placed next to the rocker he’d make soon, so BethAnn could snuggle their child to be born in Spring, and croon words of love. “I can see it,” he said. “The wood I’ve wrought will whisper lullabies.” 


About the author  


Steve Gerson writes poetry and flash about life's dissonance. He has published in CafeLit, Panoplyzine, Crack the Spine, Vermilion, In Parentheses, and more, plus his chapbooks Once Planed Straight; Viral; and the soon to be published The 13th Floor: Step into Anxiety from Spartan Press. 


Did you enjoy the story? Would you like to shout us a coffee? Half of what you pay goes to the writers and half towards supporting the project (web site maintenance, preparing the next Best of book etc.)

No comments:

Post a Comment