Ax Murderers, Imagination and Great Stories

a man holds an old worn axe
Photo by Kaboompics .com on

She was sure we were going to die!  Though we’d been shoulder to shoulder a second before,  she’d slowed just enough to hide in my shadow.  Behind me, she fumbled for her phone to call 911.   I was her protector and she knew that I took my job seriously.  I hadn’t heard the shuffle of his footsteps or seen his movement in the dark shadows along the garage.  It wasn’t until he stepped toward us that I realized the source of her terror.

He leaned forward, watching us.    I called out a cheery, “Good morning!”

He mumbled a reply, got his newspaper and returned to his home just as he did everyday at about this time.  My forgetful friend and I continued on our walk just as we did every day at about this time.  I’ve always assumed that ax murders must have been much more prevalent in Montana or Southern California during her formative years than they were in Oregon during my formative years.  She was sure that every one we saw had an ax and bad intentions.  She is most suspicious of anyone on foot before dawn.

It’s been several years since our walks provided me with daily opportunities to rescue her.  I realized today that maybe it wasn’t her childhood but her reading life that made her suspicious of shady characters (or characters walking in shaded spots a.k.a. the shadows).

On Saturday I read Us Against You by Fredrik Backman.  On Sunday and Monday, I read Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann.  Though wildly different stories and storytellers, both had me thinking about crime and the way ordinary humans work through difficult times.   I’ve long been a fan of Backman’s characters.  The depth and complexity of each reveals a kernel of goodness in each, even the ones I love to hate.

This week I walked with my mom and I realized how much I missed my morning walking buddy.  While our own stories weren’t as interesting as Backman’s,  on our early morning jaunts, we  talked about everything.  After our initial check in, we tend to cycle through the same topics as we’d walk.  What did you eat?  What did you read?  What did you read about eating?  What did you eat while reading? What did you drink while reading? What did you read while drinking?  What did you think about while reading, eating or drinking?  What did the scale have to say about it?

Exercise buddies matter!



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