The ax hit the wood and stuck. Tommy swore a blue streak, although there wasn’t anyone to really appreciate it. He worked the ax loose, something that took some doing, his cold hands slipping off the ax handle.
This would probably have been easier if Tommy were either substantially stronger or considerably weaker. Tommy tended toward the lean, at least that was how he saw it. Everyone else would call him skinny, but he had some muscle. It was just well hidden. Very well hidden.
He was just strong enough to drive the damn act into the wood, but he didn’t have enough muscle power to actually split the wood. Which was why he had spent the last half an hour or so out in the cold and the damn snow, and had precious little to show for it.
He didn’t figure that Dani’s dad had this kind of problem. He imagined that Mister Swift could probably split the chunks of wood with one hand. He might not even need the ax. On the other hand, Tommy figured he could still beat his 5k time. So there was that.
The problem was that Mister Swift had only chopped enough wood to do through the winter, and winter was, for the most part, over. There was still plenty of wood, it was just in huge chunks that Tommy could barely carry.
Dani, of course, had almost laughed herself to the floor when he lugged one over to the house.
“What the hell is that?” she said.
“It’s wood. You asked for wood, and wood has appeared.”
“While I appreciate the time and effort it you’re putting out here, Tommy, that thing is useless.”
“Well,” she said, “the first thing is that lighting a chunk of wood that big is going to be next to impossible. If we could get it lit, it wouldn’t actually fit into the damn fireplace. So, unless you want to want to start a fire on the kitchen floor…”
“…I should chop some wood?”
“The ax is by the wood pile.”
So, he ended up chopping wood. Which he didn’t mind, except his hands were numb, his nose felt like an icicle and he didn’t seem to be making any notably progress turning big chunks of wood into little chunks of wood, which, he was fairly sure, was the sort of thing that they had banned in prison for being cruel and unusual punishment.
He managed to get the ax loose again, summoned his inner barbarian warrior and brought it down hard. This time, the chunk of wood split neatly in half. Boo yah. He added the pieces to the pile and heaved another stump into place.
He was also a little creeped out by the dark of the woods. He lived in Stonebury his whole life, and it was about as far from being the big city as it was possible to get without actually living in a cave, but he still didn’t get true dark very often. There were always pole light and houselights and all the little sources of light.