Jim slid out of the truck and closed the door gently with the inside of his knee, Billy over by the wood shed pulling the leather gloves from his hands, the sound of the truck coming down the way toward camp and Billy knew there would be no harm in taking a break. Most of the wood was split and stacked and already drying for next winter and his cotton shirt was wet with sweat under his jacket while he worked in the sun. It was cool out with some wind but bright with sun, and he worked up a sweat moving all that wood into his grandfather’s shed beside the cabin.
Billy stopped short of the truck. His father closed the driver side door and rested his elbows in the dust caked on the hood. “So?” Billy’s eyes fell on the white gauze wrapped around Jim’s hand and then Jim’s foot, then on the strange place where an ear used to be that was now just red and black and dripping a liquid Jim kept wiping away from his neck with a rag. Jim shrugged.
“It’s all good,” he said staring at the wood shed, and turning reached into the bed of the truck to remove a crutch that he leaned against the door he had just closed. “Could have been worse.” He reached back into the bed of the truck with both hands and grabbed the handle of his splitting axe with his good hand and cradled the heavy metal head in the crook of the elbow of his right arm. He turned around slowly balancing on his left foot and as Billy reached for the axe Jim looked at the ground, a pebble in the dust near the toe of his one boot. He felt Billy lift the weight of the axe from his arms.
“Is there anything to eat?” Jim asked.
“I can probably drum something up,” said Billy.
Billy took the axe and walked it back to the chopping block. He laid it down on the block beside his own axe that was plunged into the wood, Jim watching him the whole time leaning on his crutch with a pain in his right foot with the toes taken off.
“I’ll go in and have a look. I’m sure there’s something.” Jim started to limp to the cabin door.
“Ya, for sure there’s something in there.” Billy waited by the chopping block for the sound of the cabin door swinging shut on the hinge. “There’ll be something,” Billy said to himself.
Billy’s dad came over to the wood pile and stood a log up on end. He sat down and watched his son slide his leather gloves onto his hands, watched him move over to the stacked wood and rearrange the pile, watched him walk over to a stray uncut log and throw it back toward the chopping block. His son’s back to him the whole time, the boy kicking dirt, looking at the trees, kicking more dirt, shuffling through the dust and wood chips.
“Hey.” said Billy’s dad. Billy stopped moving facing the forest. “Hey. Look at me.”
Billy turned around, his swollen eyes up high following a gray jay through the trees.
“It’s going to be okay.” said Billy’s dad, and Billy lowered his eyes to his father and saw the tears on his cheeks, saw his father’s swollen eyes meeting his own. And Billy wiped his face with his gloves and nodded and didn’t say a word. The gray jay flew back through the shadows of the trees and lighted on the roof of the cabin.