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Timejacker #2-A
© 2023 James LaFond
SEP/16/23
Selek, Washington, January 21, 2023
Jamie LaFranc was old and knew it when he looked in the mirror of his host’s well-appointed bathroom. He was not quite as tall as his former five foot and eight inches. There was no muscle left on the chest. The Popeye forearms were still there. But the skin was thinner, all the veins could be seen. The gut was gone, that dad body curse from high stress middle management in middle age, that had been cured by homelessness. In its place was not the washboard anvil of his youth, that lean bread basket that had taken power shots from better fighters during his brief dream of ringmanship. Now there hung a wrinkled curtain of saggy skin.
‘You are truly a husk of your former self. Maybe you could model for the next Megadeath album cover.’
The man making coffee patiently out in the kitchen was a kind benefactor to him, and he did not want to let him down. Four cedars and a Douglas Fir had fallen in the few acre plot next to the house that this stud had built with his own hands. The neighbors simply called him Major, former officer at Fort Lewis. So he was perhaps an Army Ranger upon a time. The Major had picked him up in October from a homeless camp being dispersed by high winds back in Cody, Wyoming, a brief attempt by some losers to be decent non-trash-scattering hobos that had been destroyed by Fate’s furious hand.
Jamie looked in the mirror as he heard, “Chow’s on, Cody,” which was his assigned name here. Jamie pressed in and felt the two inguinal hernias bulging just above his groin, felt his testicles alternately swell and recede, knowing that any lift, any strain, could send his guts bursting down into his old, unused and long un-loved nut sack.
‘Suck it up, Old Man,’ he excoriated with his inner voice, projecting the narrow beam of his remaining Will at the weakling in the mirror.
‘You have to be of use, or I take you to die in a cold lonely wood. How I hate you for your weakness, for your failure, for your gutless plight earned on the back end of a craven life.’
He slipped into a small jock strap and cinched it, having to re-arrange the right nut, which was hurting like hell. Then he pulled on a medium jock strap, making sure the straps were high under the line that would have once marked his gluteal muscle, now just a wrinkle of empty skin. He stepped into a set of small compression shorts and pulled them up high, then slid each leg up higher, surprised that there was still enough muscle on that thigh to obstruct it, and wondering, offhandedly, ‘Could there have ever been a shred of Odysseus in you?’
‘To it, twerp, Achilles is waiting on a lesser man with coffee!’
A medium pair of compression shorts were slid up tight, only to flop forward with the roll of the old saggy skin below his navel.
The truss was a velcro belt with two pouches above the nuts that were filled with rubber pads of a rounded triangular shape. They would slide up without the straps that velcroed down through the legs. But, if he cinched his belt tight above them, with the carpenter pants that were only one size too big, he could dispense with the ball-crushing straps.
Long underwear top, fleece lined knit hat and water resistant jacket came on over top, and a pair of gloves, all donated to his pathetic cause by ‘The Captain.’ The Captain was a man his age who lived down the driveway, where he would lay his weary bones tonight, once again hoping not to wake, if he avoided ripping his guts out today. The generosity of these folks was humbling. He had proved a good ditcher, despite his injuries, and would now turn his old hand to logging—a little.
He booted up over wool socks and headed to the kitchen, just around the corner, where a man who might have been a viking in another time stood surrounded by two dogs, each as large as Jamie. They were a German shepherd border collie mix: Izzy, who looked all shepherd, and her brother Amos, who looked like a bear.
The kitchen was squared away. If this man dirtied a dish he washed it, everything in its place. “Coffee, Cody,” said the broad-shouldered, long-armed man who towered over him, five years his senior.
“Thank you, Sir, but no. It takes me five minutes to piss with this stuff on. I’ll drink up when we’re done.”
“Understood. Old age gets us all. Let’s get at her before the rain turns our picnic into a battle.”
Proud, like some approval yearning little slave, that he knew where the tools were, he went down to the barn for the camp ax, maw, sledge, splitting spikes and rake and placed them in a wheel barrow. They had scouted the cedar stand. There were four cedar and one big Douglas Fir down. This wood would feed the Major’s wood stove for the entire next winter after being seasoned and split this spring and summer.
The real tool was the chainsaw, what did the work. The Captain had shown him how to use it. But the hernia’s prevented him even pull starting it, let alone wielding the heavy thing. He had no core left, was weaker than most women and found himself out here in God’s weeping country trying to be useful to better men, men he could have never contended with in his youth. It would be his job to make woodchuck paths into the tangle of rocky soil made by the rotting of many a fallen tree that had not been cleared like this.
The Major had a bad knee, he had heard it pop when they were booting up yesterday. He was tall too, in his mid 60s. Jamie assigned himself the task of making sure The Major did not turn an ankle or trip and fall. The rake pulled aside willowy cedar branches, rotten vine maple and choked out alder saplings, along with blackberry briers and ferns. Three ragged paths he raked as the man readied his machine.
Jamie stood back as a snagged tree was cut free. As the Major, a lifelong logger, who put his way through officer candidate school cutting trees as a logger, cut away branches from the trunk, Jamie dragged them away.
By the time the brush pile in the woods was built, the screaming saw had turned that 60 foot trunk into 16.5 inch long log rounds which The Major measured with his open hand, a hand span from pinkie to thumb that measured twice Jamie’s arthritic hand. Jamie’s hands already ached and he counted himself lucky for having ruined his back and shoulders stocking shelves on supermarket night crews before he developed the punching power he had, as a teen, been capable of, according to a good pro coach.
‘Imagine how bad the hands would be if I could have really cracked!’
And so the loser of the race barely begun comforted his miserable shade as unforgiving Time closed in.
Then the rain came, a hard driving rain, mixed with large snow flakes, pouring down in sheets beyond the cover of the forest, making him glad he was under the canopy.
“Wood,” yelled The Major, and log rounds as thick as his thighs began flying from some fifty yards away, tossed like dice by the big man, close enough that Jamie felt a swell of pride, that this old war dog judged him capable of dodging the rounds and getting them stacked.
Jamie LaFranc, having felt long dead inside, came alive and rediscovered that he had some remaining drive.
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