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The Ax-Head

We were all mindlessly picking at the endless field of boulders. This wasn’t any quarry; however, this was our fate. We all worked for something. Some of us worked for petty theft. Some of us worked for disturbing the peace. Some of us worked for arson. It was the boy beside me whom I worked for. I didn’t even know his name. None of us had names here. To each other we were boys. I noticed him, tears slipping down his already wet cheeks, wrestling with the pick-ax beneath him. He was originally white as a silk bed sheet, but evidence of a accumulating unwelcome tan was become more noticeable. He wore a think mop of jet-black hair, and big green eyes soaked with pain. I examined the figure inching up close behind him. It was the foreman. He was known to the state as the foreman, but his only purpose to us was a slave driver. He was a sadistic old buzzard with a pepper beard stained yellow from the tobacco leaves he’d chew frequently. He wore tattered cornflower blue overalls, a straw hat, and brandished a Springfield Model 1903 rifle. It was a relic, but it still harnessed the ability to fire a few shots every now and again to alarm us. I knew if the he saw the boy that he’d be done for. Vying for success, the boy took both hands and frantically gripped the midsection, pulled and grunted, and sighed deeply as the ax didn’t budge. The foreman caught his eye upon the struggling boy.

“Come on boy, you can do better than that! Pick up that ax and get back to work.” the foreman yelled as he made his pass though our section of the field. He spat a juicy wad of tobacco leaf onto the ground, mashing it with his boot, and moved on to the next group of workers.

The boy quivered and the ax’s handle slumped down to the ground. I could tell the sheer stentorian voice of the seventy-year old man pressed a sharp feeling of anxiety in him, down to the very core of his soul. He began to lick his lips nervously, and quickly tugged at the jammed ax with his dry, cracked hands. It was sad to see such soft hands go to waste in a place like this. An upbringing here meant blisters and calluses that you suffered with the rest of your days. I immediately felt a strong sense of grief for the boy. He had only been on the farm for a few days, and the foreman had already broken his spirit. It didn’t take long for the rest of us, but for this one, it happened way too fast. He knew that hell was here, and was going to stay.

The boy finally hoisted the ax out of the rock, and threw it up onto his shoulder. His face was immediately plastered in pain, and he struggled to smash the ax head into the solid rock. He gave another three stout strikes against the rock and then fumbled the ax to the earth once again. The foreman, making another unexpected pass by us, saw the troubled boy and bolted over to him. I turned away and continued to cut into my boulder while eavesdropping.

“Boy! I said pick up that ax and start hittin’ that rock.“ he roared to the boy.

“But bossman, I can’t tug this ax anymore. I is tired sir, real tired.” The boy began to cry, but frantically tried to hold back the tears.

“I DON’T WANT ANY LIP FROM YOU BOY!” the old man screamed. Suddenly, the whole field fell silent. Nothing could be heard but the screeching echo of the foreman’s voice. All of the other workers, including myself, turned to the foreman, who now set his wide furious eyes directly in front of the crying boy.

“But sir, I jez want to rest for a spell.” the boy pleaded with a heavy heart.

“Boy, I reckon I gonna make a man out of you quick like!“ the foreman said.

The foreman grabbed the barrel of his rifle with both hands and swung the butt directly into the boys right knee like a bat. A booming, popping noise followed afterward, and the boy fell to the ground like a rock. He began to shriek with pain, and it only made his crying worse. The boy’s knee suffered a gash and began to gush blood rapidly, all the while the foreman only stood above him with a grin on his face.

“Now you see here! I want all of yuz to see what happens when you get tired!” he yelled.

My head buzzed with the popping sound, which was more than likely the boy’s knee shattering. I felt like I needed to do something, but what was I to do? The man carried a gun, and was much larger than myself. I knew that I wasn’t going to suffer at the hands of the foreman unless I deserved it. I nodded to myself, and continued to pick at the rock, which seemed now almost a pile of loose rubble.

“Come on boy, stand yourself up and pick up that ax.” the foreman snickered, kicking in the direction of the crying boy.

The boy crawled over to his ax and used it to pull himself up. He glared at the foreman with a horrific look on his face. His eyes were glazed in agony, but he persevered, and managed to strike the ax into the rock a few more times. I just wanted to yell out to him, “Stay down.”, but I knew we’d both catch hell for it.

“Now then, that’s more like it. I knew I likes you for some reason boy.” the foreman said. He chuckled uncontrollably for a few moments, and then proceeded to tread away from the boy.

The wounded boy gave the rock a few more thumps with the ax, and then once again dropped it to the ground. He began to sob once again. I could tell the state he was in. I had been there not too long ago. Hopeless, nothing more you can do but accept the fact that the foreman wins, and you lose. With the sound of sobbing in the air, the foreman halted dead in his tracks. He turned to the boy, gleaming his hellfire eyes at him. The foreman raised his wrinkled hand to his chin, and scratched it as if in deep thought. This was hard for me to believe, however, because the foreman was not the brightest of candles.

“Boy, I want you to walk over to that field, or better yet, run over to the center of that field.” he asked graciously. His voice was sheer sin, unlike any tone that had ever been uttered out of his stinking mouth.

“What fer, bossman?” the boy questioned. “I don’t know if I can sir, my knee’s awful lame.”

“Don’t give me any lip, boy, just do as yer told.” the foreman stated quietly.

The boy looked puzzled, but followed the man’s orders. He began to limp over toward the center of the field, hopping far away from the rest of the boys. He seemed to squeak with pain every time he bent his still bleeding knee.

“Keep going, that’s it, keep treading on boy!” the cackling foreman hollered.

As the boy neared the treeline of the forest near the end of the field, he yelled, “Dis far enough bossman?”

The foreman quickly raised the barrel of his gun toward the boy and took a quick shot at him. The figure in the distance dropped quickly and didn‘t raise up. I closed my eyes in disbelief, and the boy‘s eyes were engraved in my memory. I could see, and almost feel the bullet of the Model 1903 pass through the boy’s frail body. A sharp pain flowed through my heart, and I reopened my eyes to see if the figure arose. No boy. No more sorrow in those vivid emerald eyes. He was gone.

The foreman turned and blankly surveyed at the rest of us. The barrel of his rifle didn’t even have the time to cease smoking before he spoke.

“No more messing around. We don’t need another ‘escapee’ do we?” he said while beginning to laugh.

He had gone too far this time. I squinted my eyes in anger. I gripped my ax and gritted my teeth so tightly that I could taste the blood squirting from my gums. I ran up to the foreman, ax in hand, and yelled out to him.

“He didn’t do anything wrong bossman! Why’d you go and do that?”

The foreman abruptly swung himself around to me, bent down and grabbed my jaw.

“Don’t you tell me my job, boy! Now the way I sees it, he was trying to ‘scape. And that the way the rest of these boys saw it too. I suppose you ain’t got any objection to that do you boy?”

My eyes burned with the foul odor coming out with every syllable the foreman spoke. I nodded hesitantly. My silent agreement with him seemed to make matters worse.
`
“YOU WANT TO JOIN HIM, BOY?” he screamed at me.

The foreman’s grip was tight against my jaw, but I managed to mumble a few words.

“No-sir”

I knew it was a lie. I’d much rather be in his place right now. No more suffering at the hands of the world, and the foreman. He yanked my face toward the ground, sending me to my knees.

“Good boy, now get your ass back to making dirt out them rocks.” he yelled.

I picked myself up, and pulled my ax to me. I wasn’t about to let this go unanswered. I darted toward the foreman, who’s back was turned pacing to the other boys, lifted my ax and swung it with great power so that it planted the tip of ax-head into the back of his knee.

“OH LORD!” he cowered. He, like the now dead boy, fell to the ground. The murder weapon followed.

I walked up to the man, bent down and stared deeply into his old, barren eyes. He was still alive, but he possessed no words to use, no malevolent sentence so that we could showcase our fear toward him. His simply laid there, cringing in pain, his mouth wide open so that his useless, rotten teeth were visible. I set my eyes on the other boys, who began to pace over toward the helpless foreman and I, with axes in hand. I stood up to face them and took in a deep breath. We all examined the foreman, who still remained silent, but looked back at us with the same eyes we all had shown him a million times before. He was petrified. I didn’t have any accumulating thoughts about what I had done, but that didn’t matter. I knew we boys shared a sort of telekinesis.

“For the boy.” I said. They nodded in unison.




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This article has 7 comments. Post your own!

~Air~This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Mar. 31, 2010 at 1:13 pm:
I really liked this! It was pretty sad, but that's one of the good things about it.
 
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elfiewrites said...
Mar. 30, 2010 at 5:07 pm:
Excellent! I love your writing style! May you please give me feedback on my story, "Try to Remember"? I would appreciate that greatly.
 
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A_Dreamer said...
Mar. 8, 2010 at 10:24 am:
Oh wow, that was sooo sad!
It was very well written, but it took me a bit to figure out what was going on.
 
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little-miss-sunshine said...
Mar. 3, 2010 at 4:32 pm:
Beautifully heartbreaking. Absolutely amazingly written and wonderful conveying of the emotions felt.
 
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Nikiblue said...
Feb. 22, 2010 at 9:39 am:
Wow, you really have a way of forming their dialogue well. You could picture everything so vividly. Great job.
 
Celair_Phoenix replied...
Feb. 22, 2010 at 11:22 pm :
o-O wow!! really good story! What happens next? I liked how you personalized the dialogue with accents. the descriptions were pretty good too.
 
PaperPlanes replied...
Feb. 23, 2010 at 6:03 pm :
Such a powerful story! I really enjoyed it. I liked how you were very descriptive of the scenery and the emotions. However, just watch out for small typos. All in all, amazing. :)
 
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