December 9, 2015KR OnlineFiction

The Devil’s New Red Axe; The Savannah

The Devil’s New Red Axe

One day the devil appeared to a simple woodcutter and offered him a new red axe. The woodcutter, dazzled, accepted the axe, which was lighter and sharper than any he had ever seen. That morning, he chopped and stacked over a week’s worth of wood; that afternoon he chopped and stacked even more.

At the tiniest motion of his wrist, the axe lashed out. A few minutes and the thickest trunk crashed to earth. The man shouted with joy.

Behind him, the devil was turning the man’s wife into a poplar, and the man’s sons—his three beautiful sons—into pines.

The Savannah

Do you remember? You were there, and I was there, and the others. We groomed each other’s fur. All the time I was scared, of those noises in the dark, of the wide sky. I touched my face with my hand.

Someone ran screeching through the valley, galloping on feet and fists. Then we laughed. I had fleas, constantly—constantly. They swarmed over me.

Do you remember how it was? My memories keep shifting. Today, though, when I was sitting at the bus stop and you drove by in your baby blue Mustang with the top down, I recognized you, I think. Am I getting this right? I was the one who tossed twig after twig into the river where they floated away? And you were the smaller one who banged together the round stones?

David Rutschman is a Soto Zen priest and a hospice grief counselor. His work has appeared most recently in the Sun, Waxwing, and Witness. "The Baby" is from his first collection, forthcoming from Forklift Books. He lives in California with his wife and two young children.