Friday Night Story


I didn't feel I was in any particular hurry. It was nearing midnight, and no man near his right mind needs an ax in a hurry at that hour.

The woman in front of me was obese, blonde, wearing blue-jean overalls that ended in shorts, baring legs from mid-thigh that had no business being shown. Her friend was a brunette, simply overweight, dressed conservatively, with her hair pulled back. The brunette seemed to have other things on her mind, and dashed from one aisle to the next, staring at magazine racks. I wondered if perhaps they were merely acquaintances, and not shopping together.

The blonde's cart was filled with everything a person cannot possibly need at midnight, every heart-crippling food, every belly-thickening beverage, every braincell genociding pill and smokable her tender sausage fingers found. I smirked at a magazine cover that showed two grossly obese women beside photos taken after each shed a hundred and fifty pounds, sensationally accomplished "without diet or surgery."

When enough of the blonde's spoils had been calculated, I laid the ax on the conveyor belt, with a divider separating my simple purchase from her smorgasbord. It had a simple, wood-grain handle, and a plastic guard over the red cutting edge. Synthetic handles were supposed to last longer and provide for a softer cutting experience. But chopping is masculine, and should be felt in the bones as much as the palms.

Finally, the clerk turned and smiled and said, "I bet I'll have to card you." My eyebrow went up, but I shrugged, and produced identification. I had prepared my deflection in case she asked why I needed an ax at this hour: "It's for my ex-girlfriend;" but she never asked. The machine beeped when she scanned it. "Yep."

I slid my license across the counter, and she stared at it as if it were something dead. I expected her to enter my birthdate, as occurred with liquor purchases, but instead she explained: "They do it so kids can't get dangerous items. You know, knives, spray paint. I've had kids come in and try to buy the paint that says right on the can that you have to be sixteen. And you just know that they aren't going to paint their cars with it."I noted that she seemed more concerned about damage to her home's topcoat than some middle-schooler getting knifed at recess, and tried to smile weakly.

The machine spat out my receipt, and she handed it to me, along with the ax. It was the first time she noticed I was wearing black, leather gloves, and her smile snagged. But she must have reasoned it was cold enough, and forced it back to form, and turned to her next customer.

The obese blond had not even made it out of the store, shuffling her weight from one leg to the next. I peeled the plastic safety cap off the tip, and dropped it into a receptacle on my way out. When the cold, night air hit her she slowed, and I thought I could feel her breathing, low, guttural, from the base of my spine.

I raised the ax above my head, and when it reached the peak it started to fall on its own. It struck to the side of her head, glancing along the skull, peeling the flesh from her temple to her shoulder. The ax stuck in her shoulder at an angle, along the shoulder blade. She fell, striking her head against the cart handle; the cart rolled into an old Mercedes, and its alarm went off.

The car's horn was the only noise in the parking lot. If anyone had noticed the woman fall, they refused to intervene. I walked slowly to my car, and started it; I would have to buy my ax another day.

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