An Axe for Peaches Part I
“If you want to open a can of peaches, just use the axe. Talk to anybody around here about it. There’s a couple of moves you can do. Probably best to do it in private, first time. They took the can openers away, then the utensils. Left us with just the deadly objects to do routine things. I use the axes for sweeping as well, and for trimming the fat. We have to kill our meals here, have to look the little things right in the eye. And as far as the peaches go, you have to sort of prepare yourself for a messier life now. But that’s why they give you the fancy aprons! And the axe!
“Look, at this, apron. You’d think it was bulletproof, though those don’t exist no more. It’s definitely not axe proof. Ask 147, no - better not to ask 147 as a matter of fact. 147 lost an arm. This was called the apron test as sort of a common joke during long night of drinking, until the test became the day 147 had exactly half as many limbs above his waist as he did prior to the test. Sometimes, if it’s whispered, people call it the Tom Test (that’s 1-4-7’s birth name) but you didn’t hear it from me.
“As you can see, we live in these round sort of clay and grass huts here. Couple of reasons for it: as the committees made their selections about what tools came and went, they sort of made it a game - like first, no tools just hands, show us what you’ve got. So we fell some trees, but what were we to do, eat our way through? So, without a nice table saw, you can’t cut the wood blocks into nice building materials like we used to.
That’s one, and two, yes, that rumor is true, we’re a candlelight village, if you catch my drift, so even if we had a bleeding table saw, couldn’t see the damn things from the clay huts. They’re dark on all days, long ones, short ones. And it rains like hell here, so good luck with wood outside anyway, and where’s the forest to begin with, right? I used to think if we did have a table saw, we’d probably need to make the blade manual, which I imagine would be like them stationary bicycles that people used to bring to events at the turn of the second millenium: when you peddled a blender turned fruit into smoothies, but somebody would have to reinvent bikes. I never understood how them chains worked.
“I’d like you to hold this a moment, it’s your can afterall. What did you say your name was? I’m kidding. You’re two-hundred-twenty-seven. Remember that spelled out. Did they tell you already? They like for you to spell it out when they do the bunk check after curfew. They also like to play games about this. For instance, if you can find a monosyllabic stepping stone inside your number, take for instance, T. W. O. - (always say the dash) H. U. N. DRED - you use it! You say, “dred” right in the middle of the letter call. But, you don’t get to use this shortcut twice, so seven still gets spelled and called out all the way? Got it?
“It’s fun here, you’ll see. This is your coveralls. See, two-two-seven! Remember you say hundred. Maybe throw them on after your first can though, might have a mess on your hands.”
103 tosses the coveralls at 227, which is also the first time he’s stopped talking since the two of them started walking towards what appears to be 227’s new clay hut. 227 leans into the coveralls to catch them with her head, since the axe in her left hand is heavy and she doesn’t want to drop the peaches. She slides the coveralls to her shoulder. 103 raises his thumb, smiles, nods.
103 smells like tree-bark, shit, and peaches. His blonde beard is like steel wool. 227 can remember steel wool. She can remember all sorts of household cleaners that were kept under a sink in another life. She pictures removing a thin blade of the wool from under her thumb. She thinks about what a bar soap would do for the caked mud on 103’s bicep, which is nearest her face as they walk. He is a massive specimen, she cannot help but admire the pure size of the man at her side.
“So, you gonna open them?” She can feel the liquid bob in the can. She hasn’t had anything to drink since she was taken. She rests the can gently against a short stone wall outside the hut, brings the lower axe tip, it’s sharp corner, to the edge of the can.
“Very good,” 103 interrupts from over her shoulder. She lines the axe tip against the inner edge of the can, lifts both the can and the axe together, the can in her left hand and the axe in her right, and brings them both down with a cautious force against the rock. She pulls her hand off the can, keeping her right hand steady around the axe. She lifts the axe, hears a satisfying crisp release of the tip from the hole in the can’s top. 227 turns to 103 and smiles at the brute, lifting the can to her lips and takes a long satisfying chug from it. The peach juice is just as she’d hoped, sweet, watery, she takes the whole can in several quick gulps.
“Well done,” the man erupts so anyone else in this mud village can hear. “Fantastic. You’ll do right well here.” He smiles wide and places his large hand on her round shoulder. “But one thing 227, the peaches are where we get all our water.” 103 pats her back with his square fingers. “So it’s super important to remember - just a can a day. That’s the ration. Welcome to the world.”