• Vol. 02
  • Chapter 08
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A Grammar of the Axe

Who is Ben? He is Ben. And he is Dan. Sam is in bed.

Ben has an axe. Can Dan use the axe? Ben says no. They ask Sam.

Sam is awake. ‘What do you want,’ he asks. ‘Dan would like to use my axe,’ says Ben. ‘So give him your axe,’ says Sam.

Later Ben wants to use the axe; it is his axe after all. Dan has the axe, and would be happy to see Ben try to take it from him. In the middle of the night, Ben and Sam take the axe. Ben and Sam punish Dan, who stole the axe, who didn’t share.

Dan leaves, but Sam is sure he’ll come back – and, sure enough, as soon as the rain returns it brings Dan with it. Ben sits with Dan, in silence at first, but after a while he talks to him. Ben tells Dan that he is sorry that he and Sam had to punish him: he took no delight in it. And he tells Dan that as he watched him limping back, he came to realise that he was jealous of him.

‘I expect,’ Dan says, ‘that you’ll explain what exactly you mean when you say that you’re jealous of me for this limp that the two of you together gave to me.’ Ben tells Dan that, first of all, although he took no pleasure in having punished him with Sam, well, he was chopping wood, and Dan wouldn’t give him the axe, which, after all, was his to begin with. And he realised, watching Dan limp back, that he was jealous of him as a man who had learned lessons the hard way and had the limp to show for it. These were tokens of the lessons Dan had learned and the sort of man he was: the limp of course, and also the dent in the back of the head which, remember, Sam had given to him with the axe handle.


A Grammar of the Axe

Wasn’t Dan more of a leader than Ben, who has little else than an axe, and certainly more of a leader than that snake, Sam, who has nothing? ‘That snake,’ says Dan, ‘that snake fucker, where is he?’ ‘He’s in bed,’ says Ben. Dan takes the axe.