It was a crisp, apple scented fall morning when Jack drove into town to find the annual Eureka lumberjack festival in full swing. People were in costume. Vincent had set up a small, gourmet barbeque stand in front of his shop. Kids were playing in the still green grass. The trees were just beginning to turn. Nathan Stark was dressed up in tight denim and flannel, swinging an axe and chopping wood.
Jack’s SUV came to a crashing halt as he gently rear-ended the blue sedan in front of him.
“Ah, shit,” he muttered to himself, getting out of the vehicle. He approached the driver’s side of the other car to see none other than Allison glaring back at him. “I’m sorry. I got distracted.”
Allison sighed. “Don’t worry about it. It’s a rental.”
“Oh, that’s right. Your car blew up in that freak meteor shower last week,” Jack said a little to blasé to even his own ears.
Allison glared at him again briefly and then slumped back in her seat in defeat. “Tell you what; I’ll have Fargo get the insurance information from you Monday morning.”
“Alright. You going to the fair?”
“No, I’m just dropping Kevin off. I have to work,” she said with a miserable, crooked smile.
“Not really enjoying the new position?”
She gave him one of those defensive looks he’d been getting ever since she started her new position. “I have to go. Fargo will contact you.”
A car honked from behind them and Allison drove off as Jack turned at the noise. “See you later then,” Jack muttered to the back of her car.
The car behind him honked again.
“Alright, alright!” Jack yelled back and hopped back in his own vehicle. He pulled it into the nearest parking spot and got out, only to see Zoe grinning at him.
“Need driving lessons, or are you just trying to get her attention any way you can?”
“I got distracted!” he said, defensively. “And no, I don’t need driving lessons.”
They walked together across the street. Jack went back to watching Nathan chop wood. He couldn’t figure out why it was so entertaining, but it captured his attention to a disturbing degree.
“So, you think anybody will go up in flames today?”
Zoe raised her eyebrows and Jack took a moment to process her question. “Oh…no. Hopefully not.”
She looked over to where he had been staring. “Wow. Nathan Stark’s really taking the not having any responsibility thing to heart, isn’t he?”
“Kind of bizarre.”
“Well, it is a lumberjack festival.” Zoe smiled. “For some reason it’s reminding me a little of the Village People.”
They looked at each other and snickered. Jack started to whistle the music to “Macho, Macho Man.”
“That’s good Nathan,” Henry’s voice drifted into hearing distance as they got closer, “we should have enough firewood for tonight.”
Stark rested the axe on his shoulder. “You say that every year, and then I somehow find myself chopping more about two hours after sunset.”
Henry threw up his hands. “Chop away to your heart’s content.” He looked over to Jack and Zoe walking up towards them. “You certainly seem to be entertaining some people around here.”
“What are you smiling at?” Nathan asked in a gruff voice, with just a small smile upon his lips.
“Nothing,” Jack teased, “Simply appreciating good old fashioned hard work.”
Nathan smiled and held out his arms. “What’s not to appreciate?”
Jack chuckled, walked over to the wood pile to get another log for Nathan to chop in half and put it down on the stump. “Swing away.”
Nathan swung the axe down hard, splitting the wood in half. “Go on,” he motioned with his free hand as Henry carried off the chopped wood, “fetch me another.”
Jack shook his head, grinning, and picked up another while Nathan watched. Henry laughed and Jack looked over to where he stood next to Zoe to see her looking at them with an expression of shock.
“Do they do this a lot?” she asked Henry.
“What?” Jack asked.
“All the time,” Henry replied to Zoe, both of them ignoring Jack.
“Do they know what they’re doing?”
“I think Nathan does honey,” Henry responded, “but your father’s clueless.”
“What?” Jack asked again. He turned to Nathan. “What are we doing?”
“Chopping wood,” Nathan replied before swinging his axe again. Jack couldn’t help but notice that he was a little red in the face.
Zoe made a choking sound. “And on that note, I’m going to go wonder around out of hearing range.”
Jack picked up another piece of wood for Nathan to split. “You’re going to tell me what they’re talking about, right?”
Nathan looked at him with his head tilted and a twinkle in his eyes before swinging his axe again. “Someday.”