A lot of these aren’t exactly cheerful, are they? They just keep turning out like that.
Then again, this one is pretty old, so maybe I was always like this?
[Leave something to remember him by]
“I was walking down St.Michael’s Street today.” Jonathon said. He waited for a reaction, but there was none. His wife, stalwartly silent, continued to watch the television with the same sense of rapt attention. It was as if he hadn’t spoken at all. Regardless, he continued.
“That coffee shop that used to be there has gone. You remember the one; the place we used to go to for drinks when we first started going out.” He said, eyeing his wife carefully for a reaction of any kind. There was none, though this time she did respond:
“Ginger’s Coffee House?” She said, idly; her eyes never leaving the screen.
“That’s the one.”
“That’s been closed for a while now.”
“Has it?” Jonathon asked, shocked.
“Yes; better part of a year, in fact.”
“Why did no-one tell me?”
“You didn’t need to know.”
“Oh. I suppose that’s true.”
His wife turned to him, finally.
“What were you doing walking down St.Michael’s Street anyway? You were working today, I thought.” She asked.
“I was. I went for a walk during lunch.” Jonathon said.
“I felt like it.”
“If you say so.” His wife said, turning her attention back to the television.
“What was that?” His wife snapped.
“Just breathing.” Jonathon shrugged.
“Do you have to do it so loudly?”
Silence, ruined only by the burbling of the television.
“Do we have to watch this?” Jonathon ventured.
“I like this program; you don’t have to watch if you don’t want to.”
Jonathon stood up.
“Where are you going?” His wife asked, head snapping up to him.
“Somewhere else.” Jonathon shrugged.
“I thought you were watching this with me.” His wife said.
“I thought you said I didn’t have to watch if I didn’t want to?” He asked, in riposte.
“Okay then.” She said, head snapping back to its original position. Jonathon stifled another sigh and left the room as quietly as he could.
He headed upstairs.
The sound of the television receded, replaced with the equally inane burble coming from his son’s room. The burble from his son’s room was almost continuous, as when he wasn’t listening to something horrendous he was playing something equally horrendous on the television he had in his own room. That had been his mother’s idea; largely to keep him from using the main set in the living room.
It had worked.
Standing in the doorframe – refraining from leaning – Jonathon spared a moment to watch his son at play. His method of interaction contrasted sharply with the notion of ‘play’ that Jonathon had in mind. His son, body rigid and face blank, was sat on his bed facing the television. His hand – the only means by which the game was controlled, it seemed – twitched spasmodically and guided the frenetic, bewildering action on-screen.
“Hello, son.” Jonathon said.
His son grunted in response.
“See you’re playing something there.”
“No controllers, I see.”
“I remember when that sort of thing first started coming into fashion.”
“I always preferred buttons, myself.”
“I’ll leave you to it.”
Jonathon trudged down the upstairs corridor to the bathroom. The corridor was in darkness, as no-one had bothered to turn on the light switch. Jonathon did not care.
Pulling the light on in the bathroom Jonathon stood in front of the mirror and looked at himself, briefly.
He found this far too depressing and swiftly made his way into the bedroom, lying down fully clothed on top of the covers on his side of the bed and staring at the ceiling. The sounds from the rest of the house, muffled by the door, still reached his ears and blended together to form a noise more meaningless than the sum of its parts.
Jonathon stared up at the blackened ceiling and wondered what exactly was wrong and where exactly it had gone wrong. He had a wife, a son, a job, a house and numerous possessions and yet every night seemed to end with him staring upwards, too afraid of the next day to want to go to sleep.
Life, he realised, seemed pointless. A long, dreary march towards an uncertain and ignominious end. He really had no idea why he even bothered getting up in the mornings. As the darkness weighed heavily upon him, Jonathon considered the implications his death might have on those around him. They might experience a sudden difficulty in paying for things, but beyond that he couldn’t see any negative way his lack of life would affect his nearest and dearest.
His morbid train of thought was interrupted, however, by a burst of inspiration.
He needed to make something. Something that would outlast him, and show the world that he had existed at all. Something that people could look at for years after his death and know that it was him, Jonathon, who had made it.
What’s more, he knew exactly what he had to make; a throne. He didn’t know why, he just knew it had to be a throne. A wooden throne.
Gripped by fierce purpose Jonathon – still lying – ran through the fundamentals in his head: the summerhouse at the bottom of the garden would double as an excellent workshop; it was certainly large enough. His late father had left behind numerous tools upon his death and Jonathon was sure that among them would be those necessary for shaping wood. That he lacked any carpentry or other relevant knowledge didn’t bother him the slightest; doing it competently wasn’t the point – it was doing it at all that was the point.
Later his wife appeared and climbed into bed without comment. Jonathon barely noticed, so engrossed was he in his planning. The coming day was a Saturday and therefore a perfect day to start work.
Just as sunlight began shining through the curtains Jonathon – still in his suit from the previous day’s work – leapt out of bed and headed downstairs. Going into the garage he took immediate stock of his tool supplies – more adequate that he had dared to imagine – and spent the better part of an hour ferrying anything he thought might be useful into the summerhouse.
Once that was out of the way Jonathon – having discarded his jacket and rolled his shirt-sleeves up – went outside to select a tree. There were a number of marvellous candidates at the bottom of their garden and once again Jonathon was unwilling to let his ignorance affect his course of action. After comparing and contrast his options Jonathon selected the tree that struck him as best, revved up his father’s chainsaw and inelegantly cut it down.
The tree, poorly cut, crashed down into their back-garden, the top-most branches splashing down into their pond. Jonathon cared not and continued slicing away until he had a large log that fitted his needs. With strength he didn’t know he had he dragged the log into the summerhouse; carving a great gouge from the otherwise meticulously kept lawn.
After much heaving he managed to get the log upright inside the summerhouse and allowed himself a few minutes to get his breath back while he marvelled at the log and considered the work ahead.
It was at this point his wife appeared; clad in a fashionable dressing gown and plainly apoplectic with rage.
“What the hell are you doing?!” She screeched.
Normally Jonathon might have felt anger, fear or any other emotion at being confronted so. Instead, he found himself subsumed in contentment; smiling warmly as he replied:
“Making a throne.”
“A what?!” His wife snapped, clearly finding this subject of conversation far too much for that early in the morning.
“A throne, dear. I am making one.” Jonathon said calmly, pointing to the upright log. His wife looked at it with angry, bleary eyes.
“You’ve ruined the lawn, cut down a tree and covered the floor of the summerhouse in mud so you can make a throne?” His wife asked.
“Yes.” Jonathon said, still smiling benignly. His wife, not expecting any kind of reaction – let alone such a serene one – was momentarily put off balance.
“I am going to have some coffee, and then I am going to come back out here and kick your arse.” His wife said, stalking off. Jonathon watched her leave with complete detachment before turning back to the log. Stepping closer he ran his hands over it and could have sworn he felt the lines and shape of the throne-to-be reaching out to him through the wood.
“Soon.” He said to the log.
Having nothing more than a vague idea of the shape he wanted without even the hint of how to achieve it, Jonathon merrily seized up the bulkiest saw he could find and began hacking away.
Results were slow, ugly and to Jonathon overwhelming positive. He continued hacking, pausing only to refine the hacking process and make some slightly more delicate incisions with the various chisels and less readily recognisable tools he had laid about the place. That he was blatantly misusing most of them provided him with the most overwhelming pleasure, and by the time his wife returned his benign smile had widened considerably.
“So yes, let’s resume.” His wife said, and from her tone it was clear that the wild sledgehammer-fury of before had been turned into a diamond hard, razor-edged scalpel of pure rage. Jonathon was uncaring, and continued chipping away merrily at the log.
“Yes, let’s.” He said, his tone dreamy.
“Look at me when I’m talking to you.” His wife said, clearly struggling to keep her voice level.
“I’d rather not; I’m busy.” Jonathon said.
“Busy?!” His wife spat.
“Yes, busy. I’m making a throne.” Jonathon said, still smiling.
“This is a throne?” His wife said, scorn pouring from her lips.
“Not yet.” Jonathon said, patting the log.
“Why are you making a throne?”
“Because I have to.”
“I just do.” Jonathon said. His tone never shifted, changed or gave any indication about his feelings whatsoever.
“You can’t just hack apart the back garden whenever you want!”
“Yes I can. I did.”
“I did.” Jonathon pointed out.
“You’re like a child!”
“In many ways.”
His wife made an incomprehensible noise of rage and stormed off. Jonathon continued hacking and sawing, picturing the next steps inside his head.
Over the course of Saturday Jonathon managed to remove a large chunk from the log, leaving the majority of its core sitting to one side. He grinned, pleased at his progress. As he began whittling away at what would be the armrests he failed to notice how dark it was getting outside.
He passed the whole of the night away completely oblivious to the passage of time. All that mattered was getting the wood just right. Only when the first light of Sunday came shining in on him through the open door of the summerhouse did he realise how lost he had become. He laughed and promptly exited the summerhouse to urinate into the pond before returning and thoughtfully considering what to do next.
Clearly, his throne would require substantial adornment of one kind or another and in Jonathon’s mind the foremost kind was evident; carving. Or scrimshaw. Or whatever it was called. Jonathon didn’t know the specifics, but he knew what he wanted. He also knew his continuing ignorance and so, in practise, he set about the block of wood he had extracted with abandon. His end goal was the perfection – or at least training – of techniques he would use on the throne proper.
Rolling the discarded chunk of wood over on the floor to expose the somewhat smoother interior he took a firm grasp on what seemed the best tool for the job – some small, sharp metallic object of mysterious purpose that would serve perfectly – and began to delicately tap away at the wood. This immediately produced negligible results, barely making an impression.
Jonathon wasn’t going to let this get him down, however; the thought hadn’t even occurred to him. Instead, he reached out felt around amongst his gathered tools for anything he could use to add a little more heft to his efforts. As luck would have it his fingers happened across a hammer, and with the proper application of this he found his progress far more to his liking.
While amateurish and crude, his initial carvings were very much his own and over the next few hours Jonathon managed to very much acquire his own style. He found that what he liked most was an angular, distinct form of carving; which wasn’t to say there wasn’t place for delicacy. He was open to anything, and relished the prospect of further practise. There was still a lot of wood to flex his muscles on, and so much time to do it in.
Time. Jonathon looked up. It was getting dim, or was it getting light? Only time would tell, really. Either way it didn’t matter much to him. His stomach growled. That, however, did matter. A quick visit to the pond produced a fish which Jonathon idly chewed upon while considering where next to take his carving technique. The fish hadn’t presented that much of a problem in catching it, thankfully, as it had had the good grace to have been floating on the surface when Jonathon had gone in search of sustenance. Jonathon had never been that big of a fish fan before, but he was willing to try new things in order to avoid going back into his house.
Washing down the fish was gulps of rather queer tasting pond water Jonathon returned to work as quickly as possible. Seizing a large piece of sandpaper from his collection of tools, Jonathon began to cack-handedly smooth the interior of the throne; the portion on which he would sit. Visions of a well-worn seat danced through his head, and warmed his heart even as his hands began to throb with agony due to the ineffective nature of his woodworking technique.
“Dad? What are you doing?” His son asked. Jonathon hadn’t heard him arrive, but his arrival didn’t stop him working.
“Making a throne son. Might take a while.”
“Mum’s been crying.”
“I’m sure she has. She does that.”
“Shouldn’t you…do something?”
“I am doing something. I’m making a throne.”
“I meant about mum.”
“Oh she’ll be fine. She never really needed me much before anyway. I’m sure you can keep her company.”
There was silence. From the corner of his eye Jonathon could see his son inspecting his tools.
“What are all these things?”
“My tools, son. Or my father’s tools. Mine now, I suppose. Yours one day, too.”
“What’s the rope for?”
“Pulling things, lifting things, dangling things. Haven’t needed it yet.”
More silence. Awkward, painful silence. For Jonathon’s son, at least; Jonathon was beyond awkwardness and pain.
His son left. Jonathon continued sanding. He sanded for a long time.
Eventually, his hands raw and red, Jonathon felt that he had sanded enough and took a step back. The interior of the throne was gloriously smooth; a result achieved more through sheer bloody determination than anything else. It didn’t matter, the end result was acceptable. Jonathon let the sandpaper fall from his throbbing fingers and forced the aching digits to grappling his carving tools again – it was decoration time!
Work was difficult as his hands didn’t seem to respond very well and hurt quite a bit, but he didn’t mind and continued to merrily hack and chisel away at the wood; working on a little scene he had been going over in his head. While working on a particular troublesome detail – some wings; he had the idea right but the execution was proving difficult – the chisel slipped and sliced a large gouge from his hand, causing him to recoil in surprise and drop the tools.
Jonathon looked at the damage. The wound looked quite large, or at least larger then any wound Jonathon had sustained before in his life. This didn’t faze him that much, however. Reaching out with his undamaged hand he poked at the wound and winced slightly; it was a large cut, deep into the flesh of hand between thumb and index finger. It oozed red, staining his sleeve as it ran down his arm.
He shrugged. These things happened. It certainly wouldn’t impact his work; he wouldn’t let it. Stooping, he swept his tools back up and continued, merrily laughing off the pain as the chisel was quickly made slick. His laughing continued as he worked, getting louder as it became more genuine. Soon, tears were running down his cheeks as he howled with laughter, his hands shaking. He had to take a break and leaned against a wall, recovering himself.
Still giggling every now and then he returned to his work in short order, finishing off the scene with aplomb; or at least what he thought could pass as aplomb given the increasing inability of his hands to function as he wanted them to. He examined his work, running his hands over the carved wood and leaving it smeared with blood. That didn’t matter; the workmanship was good.
He took several steps back so could look at the whole piece in context. Where once there had been a tree there was now a throne; a throne he’d be proud to sit in. Not that he would. It wasn’t for sitting. It wasn’t for anything. It simply had to exist, he had to have made something.
And now he had. By his own hand. This throne – covered in blood as it was – was a part of him that would live on past his own life. It would show that he had been here, when everything else was gone. Of course, it was temporal like everything else, but it embodied something about himself; something deeply personal and its expression would resonate. At least Jonathon thought so.
Smiling to himself he gathered up the hauling rope in his blood-slick hands and started climbing into the rafters of the summer house.