Angus carried a blue axe

The plump-legged dining table was well suited to their faithful middle-aged marriage, Fern thought: the rich patina of aging varnish, the edges smoothed to contours, the surface polished to gleaming. She’d rubbed the top with Murphy’s Oil Soap so diligently over the years that it had become a mirror that revealed a single fingerprint. She didn’t begrudge Angus that privilege; in fact, it excited her a little to watch her husband violate it that way. But she kept a violet-edged handkerchief in her sleeve for such occasions, giving the table an affectionate rub each time she passed.

It was little solace now, that gleaming surface, because it no longer was. Angus and his axe had taken care of that about an hour earlier. Fern couldn’t look away, though she knew she ought to; the fresh wood splinters in the places the axe had met protruded at uncomfortable angles. He’d hacked the table so thoroughly that the legs could no longer support it, solid as they were. The oil lamp resting in the centre had kept on burning, meanwhile, even as he hacked, until finally it slid to the ground and ignited the carpet, the rest of the furniture, and eventually the house itself.

Fern retreated reluctantly, at the edge of the blaze, watching it all burn. ‘He’s a little eccentric, my Angus. I’ll grant you that,’ she said to a neighbour who had come to watch the house collapse into flame. ‘But he’s one hell of a good fuck.’

 

This story won the inaugural Random Highbrow competition run by the (sadly) now-defunct Grimm magazine. The editors supplied 10 words chosen at random from Grimm’s Selected Tales—table, plump, suited, faithful, well, hacked, lamp, little, handkerchief, meanwhileand asked writers to create a 250-word story around them. “Angus Carried a Blue Axe” was what those words conjured for me.