The Wooden Mustache

The old man’s cough stirs the sawdust on his work-bench. His green flannel shirt is faded from the fifty years of work. Rustling in the hay above, a mouse kicks a pebble through the small hole in the ceiling. Mr. Jared does not look up from his bench. His eyes drill into the hunk of cedar – sitting, waiting. He cannot wait to release the cedar’s sweet aroma. But how, what design will do this?

Ten-thirty. Moonlight seeps under the barn door. Sebastian thumps his dreaming trail against the outside wall. “I’ll bring you into the house soon,” mumbles Mr. Jared, “by midnight.”

Wooden women’s busts hang on iron hooks around the room, above dark pine legs and crooked limbs. Smooth, well-sanded feet line the dusty floor. Mr. Jared turns to his latest project – a man’s prudently chiseled face. The eyes are shut, the mouth reveals no chompers, and his chin protrudes out like a shelf that would hold a small candle. Waves in the cedar form curly rivers of hair, and a small seashell ear. Mr. Jared sits on his stool, wracking his brain for what is missing. “Facial hair? Did I miss a blemish?” The old man hunches forward, folding like a thin piece of parchment. He removes his silver rimmed glasses, caresses the woodland man’s lip. Slowly he traces the dome above the lip, back and forth as if applying make-up. “Too smooth. I remember now.”

Mr. Jared retrieves his tools, holds the chisel like cutlery, and begins shaving the wood into a petite mustache.

Sebastian begins to whimper. Still dreaming. Then he howls lowly, warning Mr. Jared.

His heart pulses pleasurably in his ears as the wood curls away aned4eec889e9eea34aa70179175630d13d falls to his black boots.

Eleven-thirty. Moonlight filters through the hole. Suddenly, red and blue join the mix. Sebastian thumps his tail louder, then runs down the field. Mr. Jared reaches for his sander, but the lights stop his heart and he hears everything.

The barn door whips wide open. A deep voice demands, “Where is Chris Knight?”