When he wrapped the jacket across his shoulders, Jeremy felt warmth, and only at that moment did he feel free.
The jacket was heavy, tight across the chest. He zipped it all the way up, and he buttoned all the buttons. The store seemed to shrink around him. Customers nearby gave him an odd stare, as if he’d just passed gas and was holding up a sign to claim the scent. They were not comfortable around him.
And he liked it.
He strolled to the counter to pay for his new jacket, his new protective coat. Sure to wander up and down each aisle, Jeremy pretended not to notice the stares, the looks of confused patrons.
Jealous? Of course they’re jealous. They don’t feel what I feel. They don’t have the suit of armor that I am wearing, the ultimate survival coat.
The store felt somehow larger, more open to the world outside. The wood walls and beams holding up the roof seemed to stretch for miles above. The faint smell of the pine trees in the surrounding forest crowded Jeremy’s nostrils. He felt one with nature, suddenly and completely.
Having come to the cabin the last four years, Jeremy was skeptical of the “romantic getaway” that Jane had claimed would save their marriage. “It’s like a vacation from reality,” she would proclaim as they loaded up the car. Right, thought Jeremy, every time she said it, because a vacation from my world involves my wife. Perfect.
He had always hated nature. He hated the crickets and the nighttime croaks from various animals, endless alarm clocks that you couldn’t just press a button to turn off. He hated the smell of dirt, the feeling that no matter how many times you’ve washed your hands, the mud will always remain stuck to your fingertips.
He hated that the cabin they rented did not have running water or a plug in the wall, and thus he couldn’t watch his football games in peace.
But this jacket suddenly gave Jeremy a new outlook. As he reached the counter, he rubbed his hands over the fabric, his fingers cutting through the red and black flannel, the pattern constantly interrupted and blasting through his hands. He touched the faux sheep lining poking out at the collar, a comfort fur, his wife would say. He smelled the air again, the smell of freshly cut wood. Maybe tomorrow he would cut down a tree.
“Anything else?” The woman behind the counter, a burly older woman who could easily be mistaken for a man, stared lazily back at Jeremy. He almost gave a sarcastic retort, but thought better of it. His thoughts were halted by the vision behind this man-woman; the shining instrument hanging on the wall behind her.
“Just that,” he pointed to the axe. The He/She turned and pulled the Ax off the wall.
“Got a chopping block?” she asked, making idle conversation.
“Yes. I think so. It’s in the yard.” She looked at him strangely.
“Are you alright, sir?”
Jeremy rubbed his forehead, already feeling like he would explode if this woman didn’t hurry the transaction. He felt a thick layer of sweat, and realized that the store was at least 70, if not 80 degrees inside, to counter against the frigid regional temperature. Jeremy wasn’t particularly fond of the “service industry,” and his patience was known around the office as thinner than tissue paper.
Taking a deep breath, Jeremy pulled out his wallet and handed Burly a hundred dollar bill. Then another. She pulled out his change, the bell of the old-fashioned register clanging through Jeremy’s ears like the wail of a baby.
He lifted the Ax, cradling it, the blade close to his cheek. “Careful with that thing,” said the Burly Woman who looked like a Man.
“Thanks for the tip.” Jeremy pocketed his change, and walked out into the wall of cold that felt like sweet relief. He climbed into the Range Rover and set the Ax on the passenger seat, it’s rightful place.
Starting the car was always simple, as it was brand new and somehow ran much better in the cold. Jeremy drove out of the parking lot, and it wasn’t until he was on the twisting dirt road that he looked down and noticed that he was gripping the Ax across his lap, driving with his left hand.
An image suddenly struck, that of his Range Rover overturned in a ditch on the side of the road, nearly chopped in half by a random pine tree, the Ax sliced halfway through Jeremy’s thigh and blood squirting through the air in a beautiful crimson arc. This image stuck with Jeremy, frozen in his head, as he pulled up the private road that led him to their cabin.
He’d told his wife that he’d meet her at the cabin this year. That was two days ago. He didn’t care much about being so late, and knew that she hated surprises, but thought, maybe tonight I can give her a scare. After all, when she was frightened, and anxious, she was horny. And when your wife is horny, you jump on that moment like it’s your first time all over again.
Jeremy softly shut the driver side door, transferring the Ax from hand to hand with ease. He stumbled through the snow, nearly tripping over the wood stump in the backyard.
He raised the Ax, feeling the awesome power within the tool. He slammed the blade into the stump. The next five minutes was an eternity as he struggled to remove the blade from the frozen wood, not realizing that one must compensate for use of force with an equal and opposite pull.
When he finally pulled it free, Jeremy reached up and pulled the furry collar tighter around his neck, just under his chin. He smiled, and could feel the fur rub up and down his cheek in hard brushstrokes, reassuring him that the jacket would allow no harm.
He entered the cabin, embracing the warmth from the fireplace.
“Honey?” Her voice, tired and ready for bed, but she’d waited up for him, as the faithful wife will always do. “Is that you?”
Instead of answering, he raised the Ax. He watched her shadow creep around the bedroom door, and suddenly felt a rush, a wave of righteous, powerful energy, a lightning bolt of satisfaction that stayed with him through the rest of the weekend, and started to fizzle out only when he returned to their two car garage that would from now on only house his own car.
He only needed to button up his new jacket and clutch his Ax, and the feeling would return again.