DWC (daily word count): 1,023.
I didn’t post here yesterday because I didn’t. But I wrote about 1,3o0 words. And today I wrote 1,023 words. I’ve been averaging a little over 1,000 words per day that aren’t total shit, which is nice.
From here on I’ma post a daily word count at the top. In fact I’ll start now.
Enjoy the latest brain droppings.
They rose out of town on the highway and turned onto a Forest Service road. Soon the valley was far below and obscured by a verdant wall of spruces and pines.
“Now, they claim they built all these roads for fighting wildfires, and maybe that’s the case, but they also happen to steer our company right into some of the best timber stands. What was it you said you did before this?” He looked over at Henry with his question and managed to swerve the truck around a corkscrew bend in the road.
What a perfectly normal question that was so strange to answer. Did he want to know about days spent under the hot southern sun picking cotton? Or the countless hours of guitar picking? Professional hitchhiker? Maybe he could just tell him he walked across Colorado.
He crafted the most pertinent answer to assuage Jerry’s perception of his inexperience.
“I done a lot of crap, but most recently I was workin’ on a ranch down in Colorado.”
“Ah, got ourselves a natural born mountain boy then!”
“Hah, naw. Actually I’m from Arkansas.”
“Good god! What in the hell you doing all the way up in these lost fuckin’ mountains?”
“If I knew the answer to that then I suppose I wouldn’t be up here.” Henry replied cryptically, watching the massive conifer trunks go by. The soft, energized fiddle music on the radio began to crackle as the dropped into a thickly wooded valley.
“Whatever the hell that means. You operated a chainsaw before right?”
“Err, not really.”
“Sweet Jesus. We really are starting from square one. You know what though? That ain’t necessarily a bad thing. I see some of these guys come in who were taught by their dads Budweiser in hand. Terrible sawyers. Cocky as hell with bad habits. That’s the only way to get killed out here. That or a griz taking you for lunch. But they mostly avoid us when we got the motors going full throttle.”
“You’re lucky I’m such a nice asshole. We’ll get you trained up today. You don’t seem like a complete ‘tard so just pay fuckin’ attention and we’ll get you out on the line soon enough.” Jerry reached over and turned off the static fuzz of the radio.
After another fifteen minutes of silence they pulled up to a turnaround bulldozed into the mountain side. They both got out of the work truck and stretched out, bathing in the fresh silence of the forest. The blue sky filtered down, warming up the redolent duff and humus. A few birds gave signal to the woods of the intruder’s presence.
“Alright, let’s get this shit rollin’!” Jerry said, snapping straight up, suddenly energized. They walked around to the pickup’s bed and grabbed the two chainsaws, hardhats, and an oil-stained small duffle bag.
“Throw your canteen in here and let’s go!”
Jerry balanced the saw over his shoulder and went straight into the forest, following a hint of a trail. Henry kept up, but struggled to maintain the speed and ease of Jerry. The saw was awkward to balance on his shoulder, the motor clanking his hard hat with every step. He resorted to just holding it by the handle down by his side. Jerry kept a quick pace through the shadowed temple trees, not speaking.
After an hour of relatively flat, sweat-laden trudging, the trail began to rise. Jerry was about fifty feet ahead, careening casually over roots and rocks in stride. Henry could feel his lungs attempting to adapt to the altitude. His heart beat wildly as the pitch of the trail increased. After a few switchbacks upwards, the darkness began to lift.
They came up to the top of the ridge and were met with the wide open vista of a clear-cut logging operation. The field of stumps extended about a mile across, and stretched out about half that. He could see two dozers and one backhoe parked down at the end of the operation next to a road.
“Well, what you think?” Jerry smiled at Henry, fully composed, pulling a cigarette from his shirt pocket and lighting it.
“Is that the same road down there?” Henry said, his breath finally catching up, his hand already sore from his grip on the saw’s handle.
Jerry exhaled a large white cloud of aromatic Turkish tobacco and rubbed his bristled chin with his other hand, grinning.
“Couldn’t we have just parked down there?”
“Could have, sure.”
Henry could sense the test in front of him. He was about to complain, but shut his mouth.
This whole day was a test, as much as training.
“Better eat now, then we get to work.”
Jerry opened the greasy duffle, pulled out a wax paper wrapped bundle, and threw it towards Henry. As he ate what turned out to be a tuna salad sandwich, he looked down into the void of air below him. A glistening raven cut across the sky in front of them, cawing hoarsley at their presence. A few others stirred from the woods to do the same, but soon grew tired of their game.
The clear-cut wasn’t as ugly as he was expecting. He had only seen them from the window of a car on the highway at sixty miles per hour. Awkward bald interruptions in the continuous the green blur. Up close, he could see all the new growth shooting up between the stumps. Shurbs and forbs beginning to tangle together. Delicate white blackberry flowers interspersed the vegetation. Robins and sparrows darted in and out of the tangling vines, pecking around the base of the stumps for greasy, protein-rich insects.
“Ugly shit ain’t it?” Jerry said, interrupting the cool mountainous silence.
“Actually, I was just thinkin’ it wasn’t as bad as I was expectin’.”
Jerry looked over at Henry who was still gazing out into the expanse. He scanned his face for a split second, creating a mental note, then shot up.
“Well! Let’s get to it! Ain’t getting paid to look at birds and stumps. Actually, you ain’t gettin paid at all yet. That’s for me to determine.”