Not Quite A Chainsaw Massacre
Whilst developing a flawed hero character for my next book, I began putting him through his paces in a ‘near accident’ scene. The following short piece contains the embryo of the star you will meet at the start of the novel. Like all great heroes, he has to start somewhere and I want you to believe that great change is possible in all people. Most heroes become so by circumstance and rarely, if ever, by choice. I hope that you find it amusing.
I look out of the window and the dullest of light forces me to squint. I close my eyes and hold my head with both hands for fear it may explode with unnecessary movement. There’s no doubt in my alcohol-addled brain that rain will descend in buckets at any moment. I promised Laura I would saw some logs for the fire. The thought of her coming home to a cold house, and letting me know how much my inertia irks her, sends shivers through me – not of the pleasant sort. If I found a job then we could put on the electric fire apparently. Hasn’t she heard, there’s a recession.
Thankfully I’m still fully dressed from the night before, except for shoes that is. No shoes allowed in bed, of course. Rules, rules and more bloody rules. If she moans about me labouring in my interview clothes, I’ll leave her for sure – well maybe not for sure, but probably – we’ll see. There’s only so much a man can take. I check my watch. It is two-twenty, forty minutes before she’ll be bursting in with bags of shopping, moaning to me how much everything costs and how she can’t keep us both in food forever. Blah bloody blah. Still, better get those logs sorted before I have to shoot out to the off licence for another bottle of cheap scotch just to get me through the evening. I bet she doesn’t even know how high-pitched her voice is. It must pick up a note with every added complaint. By the time the last one’s stacked on, she’s practically nagging in soprano.
I put on tatty old trainers and head for the garage. The fresh air feels good but it’s heavy with moisture and the clouds look angry. They should try my life. Tugging at the garage door makes my head complain. I was supposed to have sorted it when I wasn’t so busy drinking. The door finally acquiesces. I kick it for not surrendering sooner, but it just creaks, laughing in my face like the rest of them. Ridiculed by a door, when will it end? I see the orange outer of my trusty Husqvarna professional chainsaw. My mood lifts a little. If the tremors and the headache disappear, this might even be fun. Those Swedes know how to make a good chainsaw and even better pornography. What a race. What can we Brits do well? I can’t think of anything but chips, and I remember that I haven’t eaten yet. My stomach growls a loud and long complaint. Join the queue, I tell it.
I fill the saw with petrol and oil. I slide the plastic protector from the blade and check the sharpness of the chain. It’s not great, but I can press harder if needs be. I rub down the saw with a cloth until it gleams. It soothes me. Better press on.
I remove the black plastic sheeting covering the pile of olive tree branches. Various sizes of prospective logs stare at me, begging me to saw their neighbour and not to choose them for firewood. I am merciless and ignore their cries. I am in charge of this game. Once I have a pile big enough to satisfy Laura’s overreaching expectations of me, I pick up the saw. You’re supposed to put these things on the ground to start them, but my dad always said that was for weeds. I might be out of work, drink a little too much, even be difficult at times, but I’m no weed. I grab the saw handle with my right hand, pull on the choke and switch on the ignition. Taking hold of the starter grip with my left hand, I push down with my right and pull up with my left in one smooth motion until the length of the starter cord prevents further movement. I repeat the motion over and over until sweat, smelling remarkably like whisky, drips down my face. Having not been started in many months, the saw is reluctant to burst into life. Who can blame it?
I sit for a while and imagine the saw dancing in the air and cutting the wood by itself, like a scene from Mary Poppins Goes Lumberjacking. I glance at my watch. Twenty-five minutes until all hell breaks loose. I jump up, grab the saw once more and pull the starter handle rapidly, again and again. As the engine fires into life with a high-pitched, two-stroke whine, a drip of seventy percent proof sweat runs into one eye. It stings like a bastard, and my hand releases the saw and shoots to the offended location. A rubbing hand and plenty of tears quickly spread the pain and loss of sight to the other eye. I am temporarily blind.
I am reminded of the live saw as pain and strong vibrations travel up my legs. The revs are high enough to circumvent the clutch. Whether I can see the saw or not, the vicious-toothed chain will be spinning. I am acutely aware that with one false move, both my feet are gone. My heart will have pumped my body empty long before I can crawl to the house. At least there will be a trail to follow. I’ll be found, face down in the gravel, outside the back door, a severed foot in each pocket – you can’t carry your feet and drag yourself along the ground! How they’ll laugh. I knew the drink would kill me in the end, but who could have foreseen this scenario? I suppose Laura will reach straight for the insurance documents. I’m worth far more dead than alive – in so many ways. I guess I always was, I just didn’t care. I command my eyelids to open but the more I try, the more they scratch and weep, insisting on remaining tightly shut. How far does the blade have to cut through my flesh before my mind can override my eyes’ protection mechanisms? Why won’t they just bloody well open?
The pain’s intensity increases, one ankle is aware of hot steel against its tender skin. It is the beginning of the amputations, I’m sure of it. I bend my knees carefully so I can reach for the chainsaw. Even without sight, perhaps I can hear and feel my way to safety. The strain on my leg muscles sends my DTs into overdrive. I teeter for a second. Shit, that was close. I can no longer feel my feet. Shit, shit, shit. Stay calm. Is that why I almost stumbled? Perhaps the alcohol has numbed me. My feet are gone and my calves will follow until I am just a head staring at a spinning, greedy blade, sat in a pile of my own sawn mush. Damn those fucking Swedes and their fantastic engineering. I should have stuck to watching their pornography and left the heavy work to Laura. Where are the safety features on such a monster of a saw anyway? I can feel a letter coming on. How crazy is that?
I can take it no more. My body is numb from the neck down, however much of a body that might be. Perhaps it is better that I can’t see. All I can hear is the mocking whine of the engine. “I’ve got your feet, you loser,” it sings, ironically not in Swedish. I don’t know if I’m even capable of jumping, but I refuse to die a helpless coward. Left, jump left, I tell myself. But what if I jump against the chain’s blades and speed my demise? Right is probably better, or maybe forwards. Just jump, man. I can’t do it. I am going to die a coward, a useless drunken, good for nothing, unemployed coward. A narrow sliver of light appears through one eye. A sliver of hope, perhaps? The tears are dry, the pain is gone.
I open my eyes to see the chainsaw juddering about my feet, blade spinning fast. I remember now, I was supposed to check the timing of the engine. The things I forget these days. I suppose Laura will blame the drink. I will argue that it can’t be responsible for everything I do wrong. Metal teeth begin to gnaw through the rubber end of one of my trainers. I am not too late and vision is here to help. I pull my foot away to see my toes sticking out the end. They wiggle gratefully, happy to end up in the larger section of the dissected footwear.
I take a deep breath and consider my options. I’ve just got time to get to the shops before Laura gets home. She need never know. A few swigs of nerve duller, and I can numb Laura’s high-pitched lecture and keep my limbs into the bargain – double whammy! Now where to bury this bloody saw.
I’d love to know what you think. Please leave me a comment!