The Branding

The way Jody decorated for Christmas is she took a couple of horseshoes and hung them over the doors. She arranged them to suit her moods and tastes, which usually changed a couple of times in the four or five days between their first placement and their removal.

On this particular day in late December, she came in from the forge with five pachyderm sized iron U’s. One of them was still steaming from the quench. She was feeling on the bright side of joyful at that particular moment, and so hung, from the horse shoe nail over the back door, the still steaming U-shaped iron. She hung it U up, of course, so the luck and hope did not escape. This was the door Eric always came through and went out of. This was the special door, and she had spent special time shaping and fitting this rhino sized iron shoe to hold all the luck and hope she had for Eric. Which was a lot. A very much a lot.

That U was still steaming in the light drift of snow that was beginning to fall when she finished fitting the other four elephantine chunks of iron over the utility room door, the front door and, over the front door, two U’s tipped together like cups toasting a joyous Christmas. It was all as tastefully done as could be expected of U-shaped chunks of iron. Which in Jody’s mind was very tastefully. She was extremely joyous with the art of her work and the subtlety of her arrangements.

You would think that the kitchen door is the one that Eric would be coming through, since besides the bedroom, the kitchen is where he spent the majority of his time in Jody’s house. There were three things Jody knew she was good at, two of them were cooking and smithing. Eric appreciated two of the things she was good at. The one he didn’t pay much attention to was smithing. Usually he walked right through the smithy—in one door, a pat on the fanny, and “What’s cookin’ sweetheart,” as he exited the other smithy door on the way to the back door of Jody’s house. It might be noted he never said much about the arrangement of the massive Christmas Decorations, which hurt a little.

A few days after Jody had spent her hours preparing and installing her iron decorations to suit her mood, Eric, on his way to the kitchen from the bedroom, yelled back at the joyous post-coital Jody, “Why ain’cha decoratin’ for Chrismas.”

This was not a polite thing for Eric to say. In fact it was a bit on the scroogey side of impolite. But as you can imagine, Eric was not all that knowledgeable in the fine arts of love, nor did he appreciate the fine art of hanging Christmas decorations from the perspective of a master Smith.

So, as you can imagine, in an instant Jody went from placidly joyous to steaming fury. This is not a difficult thing for an offended lover to do. And Jody was offended—to put it on the hot side of mild. Since the Fourth of July when Jody shoed Eric’s dad’s horses, she had been completely and deeply sure that Eric loved her for who she was. Why else would he ignore her talent with iron and steel, and walk right through the smithy to the back door. And here he was, not even seeing the subtlety of her appreciation of the season hanging over the doors right before his eyes. She was unquenched, her bellows were blowing fire.

So, while Eric was in the kitchen shouting, “Where’s the mustard” and “is this ham still good?” she hauled her ladder from the smithy, hauled it to the back door, climbed up and rearranged the elephantine U hanging over the door. She did all this, by the way, without getting dressed. She was that steamed. In fact, it might be assumed that if she had put her jeans on, they probably would have turned to ash right then and there. She came down from the ladder, leaned it against the wall, out of the way. Then she yelled, “Hey, Rick, I got something for ya.” The horseshoe over the door, quivered. It was white hot, and smoking.

“Huh,” Eric said.

He walked through the house, chomping on a six-inch sandwitch. He peeked into the bedroom, then heard his woman shout from outside the back door. She shouted, “Hey, asshole.” Which was puzzling to Eric; he thought he had played his role as amoretti pretty well. He did not think he was an asshole and could not imagine why placid ole Jody would be saying that. So he walked through the backdoor to see who she was calling “asshole.”

The last thing he remembers—before he remembers waking up in the hospital—is seeing a naked woman, practically burning with fury, standing hands on hips, calling him a lot more things than “asshole.”

When he woke up in the hospital, he hurt a lot. No bones were broken, but the searing iron U had fallen from its horseshoe nail over the door and left a huge knot on his noggin and, across his rump, a third degree burn the size of a dinosaur hoof, the U turned down, of course.

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