Hewn Oak

by Daniel Scamell

“Looks like a kitchen table,” said Margot. “Aside from the obvious, of course.” The obvious, was that the kitchen table was slowly and drunkenly staggering on its wooden legs down the middle of the road outside. “Frank, come look at this table.”

Frank came to the living room “It’s a table, all right,” he said. “Not sure why it’s wandering around like that. Should I call the cops?”

“I don’t really know. It’s not a very nice table is it?”

It had been nice once. It was quite old now, built almost 100 years ago. The man who built it had hewn it by hand with simple tools. The lumber he had planed into boards and lathed into humbly ornate legs came from oaks he felled with the axe his wife later used to sever his spine. She came home from washing laundry in the river one day to find him with the brewer’s daughter bent over the tabletop. When she struck him with the blade, the force toppled the table on its side. Most of the blood from her continued chopping splattered against the underside. She was able to sell it for a fair price.

It remained in storage with a trader for a while, and recuperated from the trauma of its early existence. Eventually it found itself sanded and varnished in Grayson’s Tavern. It became a regular spot for miners who came to drink themselves into oblivion. As the clientele using the table became less presentable, it was moved farther and farther toward the rear of the establishment. Syrupy spilled liquor mixed with the sweat, vomit and drool of those who sat at the table, and soaked into its surface until Grayson could no longer justify keeping it.

At the landfill near the steel mill, it served as a shelter for rats and raccoons, protecting them from the acidic rains that pelted icily. Stripped of the thin finish Grayson had brushed on, it now soaked up the shit of the carrion birds who perched upon it daily. In some ways, this was an upgrade from the bar.

Now three-legged, having had one of its supports torn away and used to cave in the head of a man who could not pay his gambling debts, it was acquired by Raymond Jenks, recently home from Germany. He found that woodworking helped keep his mind off the pain from having lost half his jaw in the Battle of Aachen. The heroin helped too. By the time he had repaired, stripped, and refinished the table, he had learned that with enough heroin, he felt almost no pain at all. He brought the table up to his dining room where days later he would collapse onto the freshly finished wood, heart quitting after a hefty dose of medication. The table mourned Raymond. He had been kind to it.

Joanne Delaney bought the table at the estate sale. It barely fit in their kitchen, where there was barely ever had enough food. This made Joanne Delaney angry. She often screamed at her daughter, Lulu, who seemed to eat most of the food and spend most of the money Joanne was able to earn. The words that were cathartic for Joanne caused her daughter to question her own worth. Lulu pulled the table into the den, where she stood upon it to tie the crude noose to the bannister of the landing above. She stepped off the piece of furniture, and turned a few different colors before she was found by her mother. Joanne, in a mixture of grief and great relief, stood on the table to cut her dead daughter down. The girl’s body was heavy, though, and the weight sent her crashing to the oaken top of the piece, cracking her skull wide apart. The table wondered where it would wind up next as Joanne leaked down one of its legs.

It wound up in the kitchen of Joey Skaggz who used its top as a surface to cut and process the deer he shot every year. One season, the meat laid on the table was not deer meat, but the meat of Joey’s girlfriend, Brenna. She had threatened to leave him and move away, and Joey didn’t think he could handle that. If she left, it would be on his terms. As he worked at quartering the body, his table, having decided enough was enough, began to shake and shift across the floor. As he watched, it reared up on two of its legs, and clumsily scampered across the linoleum floor.

Brenna’s remains splattered to the floor as the table crashed through the picture window in Joey’s kitchen.

And so, the old, old, piece of furniture cantered down the street past Margot and Frank’s house. They did not call the police. The table made its way through the town, knowing only that it needed to take some kind of agency in its existence. It passed trees that may one day have led similar lives to its own, and its despair heightened. Its legs splintered as it crossed the rocky bank of the strong river that coursed through the center of the town. The table hurled itself into the cold currents and felt itself swept downstream. It crashed against sharp stones and soaked frigid waters into its grain. It was a new sensation, and it felt right.

Battered and breaking apart, it came to rest wedged against the trunk of a felled oak tree at a curve in the river. It stayed there, letting the current wash against it, the rain fall upon it, and the sun bleach and crack it apart. It had taken far too long, but it was now where it belonged. No one would again own the table.

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