An older story. It’s my blog, I’ll repeat if I want to, repeat if I want to…you’d repeat to if nothing happened to you.

Standing as instructed, I said, “Two of them came and got me, it wasn’t too hard so they ought not think they did something great, tough…whatever…I was just sitting there watching the TV and they showed up saying I was under arrest. Vera went screaming to them that morning, I don’t know why…she can’t make it without me, but she’s always been a spoiled bitch anyway…” The inmates surrounding me in a semi-circle of group therapy chuckled.
“We don’t talk that way Ernest.” The therapist lady said.
“I do, and it’s my story. Ain’t you always saying to be honest? Well, honestly, she’s a spoiled bitch. I didn’t hit her though, she just lied on me to keep me in line…to make sure I didn’t go out and do what I want to do to make sure I don’t end up doing something that’ll embarrass her family. They just white trash like her, the lot of them. None of them worth a shit…constantly drinking and bitching and smoking and getting knocked up and acting like assholes.”
“Ernest!” the therapist lady said.
“You need to make up your mind. You want us to be honest or be nice and all in front of one another, like none of us ever cussed…like you don’t cuss. Probably about us, or people like us. How come folks like you can’t make up your minds? Be honest, you say, but then get pissed if someone is honest…”

She started in on how bad language reflects more about the one cussing than the one being cussed about. How when we use hurtful words it is us, we, whatever, that is hurting. She called it transference or something like that. I was blocking her out while she talked the blah, blah, blah the government told her to say to people like me. It was a game. I was wondering if she liked being tied up or not when she said my name loud enough to pull me out. Bet she’d take a spankin’ no problem. Bend over quick for old Ernest.
“Ernest! I said do you understand why you have anger issues?”
“I don’t have an issue with anger. Not mine. I don’t like other people’s anger, but mine and I get along fine.”
More chuckles from the inmates. They were locked up for serious long times, but they didn’t know it yet. We all were awaiting trial and I guess some goodie-goodie thought a little therapy might help us adjust to the standards of what they called decent society. It was a bitch session for violent, crazy bastards. One guy was up in there awaiting trial for rape. Not regular rape. He used a knife to rape this girl. We were a whining group of abused children all growed up and beating the hell out of their own family. I got roped in because of Vera’s spoiled bitching. I told the cops she fell, at work, got a worker’s comp claim to prove it as they shackled my hands.
They said “She said she doesn’t even have a job Ernest.” Lying bitch. She’s got them all fooled. Always taking the woman’s side. How equal is that? The chuckles died from my group as the therapist lady moved on to someone more cooperative at this time. I’ll cooperate with her soon as she comes one Friday night with a 12 pack and a hankering for trailer park playtime.

Some guy was talking low, then loud. He begins to cry like a sad sack bastard who’s Daddy hurt him. I’m here for a short time, awaiting trial. Cry baby over there is heading up river for a long time. They say he hit his wife so hard she can’t speak anymore. Catatonic or something like that. Or was it catacomb? Whatever. He’s balling his eyes talking about Jesus and God and church and the Holy word and some preacher and the fiery temptation of Satan’s rage. Satan’s rage? I got it suddenly while looking out the window wanting to jump through it crash down and run with a broken leg to the nearest liquor store. I got it suddenly. He’s blaming the devil for his crimes. Good sad sack, I got to admit. Lots of folks blame God or society or Mom, but nobody blames Satan anymore. That’s a classic.

Therapist lady turned in a report that said I needed some individual treatment.
“She likes me…I’m cute, like a bear.” I told the guard when he told me about it.
“Piss off, Ernest. A lady like that and a dog humping bastard like you? ”
I got my looks from my Daddy. I got his eyes, his crooked smile, even got this scar from him. He laughed. I laughed. Everyone likes to laugh at good old Ernest.

Later, she and I are alone, with a mirrored wall on the left when I heard her ask me.
“Why do you think you have problems controlling your anger?” she asked.
“I don’t.” I said.
“Then why are you here?” she raised her eyebrow when she said that.
“Because I’m cute like a bear, Vera’s a spoiled bitch and most everybody in this county wants to do me in…” I smiled wide.
“So you feel that everyone is after you.” she kept up a serious sound to her voice.
“Sure, can I go home now teacher?” I stood up as if to leave.
“I’m here to help you Ernest.” she lied. I lied.
Everyone likes to lie to good old Ernest.
“You’re here because you couldn’t get a real fucking job and the state had to hire a woman to make their quota. Lie to me all you want lady, but be honest with yourself.”
I wondered how far to the ground if I jumped out the window.
“You aren’t honest with yourself. Vera had two black eyes and a sprain wrist.”
The therapist lady is reading out of a file when I tuned her out. I heard her say something about Vera’s statement–He came at me like he was on fire. Spoiled bitch. Yeah, I admit it, now, that sometimes I got mad, angry, whatever you want to call it. But never did I feel like I was on fire. The kind of anger I got, it feels cold, like I’m down in black, murky water and the only way out is to start swinging. I’m thrashing against the water as my bones freeze up. It’s not fiery; it’s not hot or anything remotely warm. My anger is deep down, where it’s cold.
“Are you even listening to me Ernest?”
“Yes, yeah, sure…I heard every word…continue…”
“What did I just say?”
“Are you even listening to me Ernest?” I chuckle, wishing for moment I was back in group.
“I was saying that I want to teach you some stress relieving techniques, some positive constructive ways of dealing with your anger. It’s normal to get angry at times. But you have been taught to deal with anger in an abnormal or negative manner. I’m interested in helping you learn a better way…” she looked me in the eye as she spoke.

My old man used to hit us, sure. Everybody’s old man hit them. It was the sixties. Everybody I knew got whipped for disrespect, bad grades, or breaking things. Everybody got spanked for not finishing the grass. Everybody got beat up by their old man for leaving the door open when the heat was on. Everybody I knew got punched in the face for asking their old man to quit wailing on Mom. Everybody.

“Do you understand Ernest? What are you going to do next time you get angry?” she raised a sexy eyebrow at me.
“I’m going to stop, count to ten or a hundred. I’m going to ask myself why I’m letting this situation, this person, this incident to create anger in me. I’m going to stop, reflect and deflect my violent tendencies.” I lied…well.
“You were listening.” the therapist lady seemed awful pleased with herself.
“Yes. I was. I understand now.” I lied…again.

I figured the best way out of that shit hole of stupidity was to act as stupid as the top shit heads. If I took their bait, swallowed the hook and let them reel me in maybe I’d get a fine and get home before winter hit too hard. It gets cold during November and I still had fire wood to cut. Damn kerosene is too expensive this go ’round.
I put the wood off all summer, too busy drinking and working. Vera’s spoiled bitch self wouldn’t even get up to clean the house. She’d sleep or something all day.
Crying, maybe, I don’t know.

The trial comes and I’m standing there listening to the lawyer, the judge and the therapist discuss me. I’m forty-three years old, own my car and all twelve acres free and clear and I’m standing here listening to these uppity types talk about me like I’m not in the damn room. Bastards. Vera is somewhere in the back, crying. That’s all that woman does is cry. And bitch. Jesus. In her craziness a month or so ago, Vera never actually said I hit her or anything like that. The state attorney had nothing to go on as evidence. No witnesses, no real statements, nothing. I repeated my story about Vera falling at work. She backed it up smiling through her tear stained face. I’m hearing the gavel echo as I’m walking out of the courthouse. I need to get home and cut some wood. Vera hugs me tight. I heard me whisper, ‘spoiled bitch’…she nodded in agreement.

The next morning I went out with a chainsaw in my hand. The biggest part would be to find the right trees first, I guess. This is the first winter I’m cutting wood. It’s gonna be colder than everyone thinks for Vera this winter. No one else is going to help the spoiled bitch and I guess I owe it to her. I hear her say from behind a cup of weak coffee, standing on the porch.
“Why are you going to cut wood?”
“We need to save money. Besides its part of my therapy. Every time I get angry I’m supposed to do something constructive.”
“Cutting down a tree seems destructive to me.”
Shit Jesus, I thought. With one swing-whack-wail-boom her dumbass would end up in the kitchen, covered in coffee, crying. Spoiled bitch.
“You’re right dear, but I’m only cutting down the dead ones. I love you Vera.”
“What? You never say that…always ignore me when I say it…what happened to you in there…?”
Then she’d stand up crying at me about what a dick I was, how I hated her, how her mother was right in saying I was a no good, redneck loser that would die drunk in a gutter. She’d throw something at me: a toaster, an ashtray, a dish towel. Whatever was handy and between she and I. I’d stand at the door, breathing like a bull.
“Useless fucker!” She’d yell.
“Spoiled bitch!” I’d yell.

“I’m trying to be better. Trying to be kinder than before. I don’t want to hurt you again, Vera.” I lied.
“You called me a spoiled bitch when I hugged you at the courthouse.”
I heard myself say, “Force of habit.”, as I left the house, heading for the woods.

She never asked why I was angry and had to cut wood. I wondered why that was as I ducked under branches. The sound of traffic near our house retreated into the distance as I talked to myself.
“Fucking trees…dammit…do something constructive…fuck this…”
A limb hit me in the face. Mother Nature’s right cross is quick and stings in the cold October air. Vera always wanted kids. A boy and a girl, preferably a red headed like her. She had names for them. Ernest Elijah Reynolds, Junior and Nicole Simpson Reynolds. Vera cried for days during that OJ murder trial. She said she understood why Nicole left and was glad she found the peace that comes with death.
Vera’s nuts, I’m telling you that now.

A cold wind whipped across me as I remembered those OJ rent-a-car commercials. Coming to a clearing I saw a tall tree. It was gray, leafless and must’ve been a hundred years old. I put my arms around it and couldn’t even come close to the middle. Huge. It’s deep in the woods, down where the earthmovers and cranes can’t reach. It’s waiting on death in its own way. I’m here now buddy. Don’t worry. I jerk the chainsaw awake and listen to the rumbling, metallic sound.
Frightening, I suppose, would be one way of saying it.
I’m hearing Vera’s voice over the chainsaw. She’s yelling. Screaming at me.
“Useless fucker! Damn your soul.” I moved the chainsaw to the tree base. Starting on the west side so the beast would fall in the direction of its lean. I yanked the chainsaw back. I heard Vera’s voice. I turned off the machine. The echo died in the woods. Nothing. The cold wind turns my face. I put the chainsaw down and leaned against the tree.

This was Dad’s land but it doesn’t matter much to me. I wondered why I never found this huge tree when I was kid. Why didn’t I see this clearing, this tree, this spot? The woods breathed in the winter air; the crisp smell of distant hickory chimneys tickled my nose. This is a good spot. The ground was cold to the point my butt feels wet, and then numbs. Touching the chainsaw blade I wonder how much damage the machine could do to a tree, to an arm, to a head, to a neck.

The woods were neglected. My family owned this land for 80 years and I never found this spot until I was forty-three. How much longer before another person would find it? How much damage to a neck could this beat up chainsaw do down in these woods. My mind is circling around those thoughts when I heard Vera huffing through the woods.
“I was calling your name, why didn’t you answer?” She said loudly, her hair stuck all over her fat head.
For a moment, she looked beautiful in the silent, deep woods. It faded when she talked.
“I was cutting wood, couldn’t really hear you…think about you, you look…” I started.
“What? I look like a spoiled bitch? Ha, Ha. Useless fucker. I don’t see any wood cut yet…” she gave me a half smile.
“I thought I heard you so I stopped, then didn’t hear anything…fuck it…what do you want?” I could feel the cold moving inside. Glaciers rising.
“What are you angry about?” she asked, looking at the chainsaw.
“What? You come down here…I’m cutting wood…what the hell?”
The angry cold rushed over me.
“No, back at the house, you said you had to cut wood as part of therapy for when you are angry…What are you angry about?” she asked, not moving.
“Having to cut wood. Just leave me alone. I was just sitting here…getting ready to cut wood…” The cold made my voice louder.
“FINE! Fuck you…useless fucker!” She turned and stomped off.
She walked back through the woods, yelling, huffing, and leaving a trail a deaf man could follow. I picked up the chainsaw and touched the blade‘s teeth.
To an arm; to a head; to a neck.
“Useless fucker!” Vera’s voice echoes through the trees. .
The cold, black anger ran through me. Waves crashing, my mind is blank, responding only to emotion. I counted to ten slowly, then quickly…then a hundred. Her voice fades, the stillness returns…slamming my hand into the tree I scream. The words make no sense. Anger–cold, empty anger burned me from the inside out.
I yelled so God and Satan and the therapist and Vera and the Tree could hear. My hand slammed into the ground. I was throwing the chainsaw against the tree when I saw blood fly. My arm was cut. The giant, gray tree covered with bloody bark. I yelled again, sensing Vera standing at the edge of the woods, shaking her head, calling her Mom, saying, “You’re right Momma. He’s useless.”
The cold boils. I thought the ground jumped up when I hit the ground, crying, bleeding. The tears came, freezing on my face. I kicked the giant tree in the clearing I never saw as a kid. I broke my toe, then my foot on the next pass. Pain warms the cold, black anger, covers it in a wool blanket. It helps the violent moment relinquish. Between my bleeding arm and maimed ankle the moment is lost.

I sat on the cold floor of the clearing, leaning against the tree. The chainsaw was ten feet away. The blood on its blade looked natural. The chainsaw was made for blood.

I limped from the woods, without wood cut for winter. Vera bitched about the doctor’s bill and how we can’t afford it and how we don’t have insurance and how her mom called and how her brother works at the plant and makes plenty of money and how we don’t have the insurance and how much the doctor’s gonna cost and I’m sitting there wondering where the damn chainsaw is and how quick I could turn the machine on with a broken foot. You know, to an arm; to a head; to a neck.

Two weeks later I was sitting there on my couch watching TV.
Nothing is on worth mentioning here. I did see one funny commercial with a dog selling cars. It made me laugh. Vera yelled from the kitchen.
“What’s so funny, Honey?” She had been calling me honey. .
“Nothing dear, just a commercial.”
I wondered how hard it would be to get her in the road so a car could run her over like an animal.
“Mom called last night whiles you sleeping…” I tuned her out watching this gorgeous guy on TV kiss the gorgeous girl next to him. I suddenly remembered the chainsaw is still deep in the woods, but with the rain we’ve had, it’s probably rusted by now.
The first good idea I’ve had in forty-three years and I let it rust in the rain.
I’m so useless.
They called it a walking cast but I don’t see any need to push it. Vera’s tighten up a bit lately, getting groceries on her own, leaving the house without a chaperone. I’m thinking she’s shagging someone on the side while the gorgeous guy fights with another gorgeous guy over the gorgeous girl. No dog humping bastards on TV.
Everyone is happy, gorgeous, rich, famous and well adjusted. Just like old Ernest.
I was sleeping on the couch that last day in the trailer. The TV is off. Vera is gone. Hank, my brother, comes by unannounced carrying a box.
He stood in the door way of the living room. He never asked what happened to my leg. Never asked me how I was, or where’s Vera?
I heard him tell me in his best somber voice,

“Dad died. I thought you might want some of his stuff.”
“We had enough of his shit didn’t we?” I said.
“Ernest, don’t be like that, he’s dead and Momma’s upset.” his pursed lips and made it look like he was fighting the need to laugh.
“She should be happy.” I said.
Hank looked at me sad and confused. Hank’s never been the smart one. Of the four of us, he was the dumbest by far. Mom would say he had the biggest heart.
One time I said, “That means it’s easier to stab.” Dad heard. Whack-Blam.
Hank stayed in the doorway as he said, “Momma said since you live out here and Vera is alone a lot, you should have the guns.”
Limping over, I looked in the box and saw the blue blackness of Dad’s pistol. Hank told me its caliber. He begins to lecture me on getting it registered.
“Come on Hank…you think anybody give a damn what we do out here in run down trailer?” I looked at him hard.
I heard me ask Hank to put the box on the coffee table. He left after putting it down. There was no conversation left. He’s got to get home to Mom and make sure she knows he delivered it. He’ll tell her I said Hi and that I’m fine.
Everybody lied about good old Ernest.

I ran my hands along the barrel, feeling the cold of the weapon. Vera would be back in about two hours; plenty of time for me, plenty. The chainsaw would’ve been messy, too hard to explain anyway. This would be easy. Easy to do, easy to explain, easy to understand-I guess. I limped to the kitchen, looking for paper and pen. I found an envelope and one purple magic marker. An intruder maybe? No way to do that-not enough time. Why not just tell the truth? Why not? Who would care in the end?
“It was her or me!” I heard myself say to the living room as I returned.
I wanted to know when she got home. I limped over to the other chair so I could look out the window. She had to be here. Hopping to the desk I looked for more paper…and something more grown up to write with. I found a notebook of Vera’s. It had some diary entries. Finding a lottery pencil I began to write. Nothing sounded right. I pictured someone reading it, trying to understand. It sounded weird. No real reason given. Just words. Something about a tree, a chainsaw. I took my crutch and reached across the living room to trip the Kerosene heater off. I wanted to feel the cold.

I spent the next two hours writing as the room grew colder.
Then I heard Vera pull in. She was whistling. I looked down at the paper and read the first words aloud…

Standing as instructed, I said, “Two of them came and got me… Maybe it won‘t make sense. But I was never much for writing.
The barrel tastes cold. My breath is floating in the cold air.
The gun will click the moment Vera puts her key in the door.
I’ll be out of the cold.

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