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Showcasing creative writing by university students around the world.

Illustration by Anya Glazer

Published Thursday, July 17th, 2014

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Alone among his workgang, Josh Kowalski had taken a few weeks of college before dropping out. Among the other lumberjacks in the great forests of Montana - most of whom were a few checks short of the full shirt – this made him a prodigy.

Alone among his workgang, Josh Kowalski had taken a few weeks of college before dropping out. Among the other lumberjacks in the great forests of Montana – most of whom were a few checks short of the full shirt – this made him a prodigy. Even though he’d never gone to any of his classes. Josh was a quiet guy, and it wasn’t his way to make a fuss about things, but in this case he didn’t see how he could stay quiet any longer. So as the third spruce pine of the morning went toppling over with an almighty crash, he laid down his chainsaw and waited for the dust to settle.
‘Hey Bobby,’ he shouted. ‘Bobby!’
Bobby Dickinson, the overseer, hurried over. Beneath his hard yellow hat his chin was softening and his face was growing flabby, Josh noted critically. Too much time spent wielding a clipboard, and not a chainsaw. He wore square, Gulf-War glasses, and a blob of shaving foam was lodged behind his ear.
‘I need a word, Bobby. About the new guy,’ Josh began.
‘I know what you’re going to say, Josh. It’s irregular, I know. But he was hanging around the camp the other night, and do you know, I can’t say why, but I liked him on sight. We’d had a few steaks from the barbecue, and a couple of brewskis, and I offered him the job then and there. You can’t say he isn’t pulling his weight.’
‘No, I can’t say that’s the problem. What did he tell you his name was?’
Bobby laughed. ‘Oh hell, I can’t pronounce it. Something long and gravelly and East European. Polish, I think. I said “How about we call you Loppy?” and he seemed happy enough with that.’
‘Loppy, eh?’ said Josh, and a half-smile crossed his rugged features. ‘Well, I’m not working with him, Bobby. And that’s that.’
‘Come on, Josh! Give the guy a chance. He’s fresh off the boats, doesn’t speak much English, needs a pay packet and a chance to make it in the new world. You’ve got a Polish name yourself, haven’t you? How many years since your granddad was in the same situation?’
‘He’s not Polish,’ Josh said quietly. ‘He’s a bear.’
‘You mean he’s Russian?’
‘I mean he’s a goddamn bear, Bobby!’
Bobby’s mouth opened and closed a couple of times. ‘He can’t be. I mean, I’d had a few shots of bourbon and all that, but he was definitely standing up when I gave him the job.’
‘They can do that, Bobby.’
‘Well, I never. I shook his hand, too. Never suspected a thing.’ Bobby shook his head in honest wonderment. ‘How did you cotton onto it, Josh?’
‘Well, there was the hair, and the lack of English and the way he goes around on all fours when he thinks no-one’s looking. But mostly – well, have you seen his technique?’
Josh pointed over to a far corner of the glade, where the newest and most suspiciously ursine member of the work gang was plying his trade. The chainsaw was almost a delicate instrument in his massive paws as he made the approved wedge-shaped incision in the tree trunk. Then he laid down the chainsaw, took a dozen steps back, and ran at the tree on all fours, full tilt. At the last moment he leapt upwards, angling to hit the trunk full length. There was a solid thwack as he collided with it. The tree shivered, its topmost branches swaying out past the point of no return, and with a creaking scream of tortured timber the spruce pine swept down to the forest floor, unstoppable as death’s own scythe. From the back of the trunk came a long, throaty roar of triumph and happiness.
Bobby had gone pale, and began to stroke the back of his neck. ‘Well, he’s hardworking,’ he said, ‘and enthusiastic, and I think he’s coming to be a valuable part of the team. We have a chance here, I think, to make a stand against racism…’
‘Speciesism, and show we can be the better men.’
Josh sighed. ‘You’re just too scared to go over there and tell Loppy he’s fired, aren’t you?’
‘Yes. Yes, I am. And can you blame me?’
Josh watched as Loppy picked up his chainsaw and ambled off into the forest in search of the next tree to demolish. ‘Can’t say I do at that, Bobby. But if we’re keeping him on, he’s going to need a separate tent. Loppy snores.’
Bobby raised an eyebrow. ‘Really? Does he snore that badly?’
‘How do you think he snores, Bobby? Like a bear with a goddamn chainsaw!’

Illustration by Anya Glazer

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