Big John Miller loved Sundays.
That was when young John Miller junior would come over and hang out in the shed with Ol' Grandad. The girls, his wife of fifty-three years, Margaret and his daughter Phillipa would be inside getting Sunday dinner ready. They would be chopping and preparing vegetables and cakes for dessert. They would be talking about whatever girls talked about when they chopped and prepared, and he would get to hang out with John Junior for the day.
His thoughts turned to Margaret's sweet lemon meringue pie. The lemon so tart it would turn your belly button inside out and the meringue so sweet you'd think it was a Disney movie. His mouth watered and his tummy let out an involuntary rumble, much to Junior’s amusement
Big John looked down at the eager eyes of his grandson. The ripple of intelligence and curiosity sat deep inside the of a seven-year old’s inky pupils. The boy stood upon a foot stall so that he could see over the workbench
"Now m'lad, what's the first thing we need to do before we start to saw?"
The young boy thought for a while.
"G-clamp. You must clamp it down."
Big John beamed.
"Almost." He roughed the boy's hair, "almost. The first thing is to finish your cup of tea."
He held his finger in the air as if to pause his eager companion and drained the still warm drink.
"Mmmm," he turned to his grandson once again, "so why is it important to finish your cuppa?"
He put the cup to one side, out of harm's way, so that it wouldn't get knocked when they started to saw.
"Um," the boy fidgeted and twisted side to side. Then the smile broke through his concentration. "To calm the nerves and to keep the hand steady. "
"That's right." Big John replied, "because with a steady hand comes a ..."
"Steady cut." The boy finished.
Yup, Big John loved his grandson, that was for sure. Now it was time to pass on some knowledge, just like his own grandfather had passed on to him. And one day junior would do the same, of that he was sure.
He reached up to the saws hanging on the wall. Each one had its own, carefully drawn stencil so that they could be returned after use. His hand hesitated at the choice.
"What one d'ya reckon? The rip or the crosscut?"
Once again the eager face of John Junior screwed up in thought. He looked at what they were going to cut.
"Crosscut? Cos it cuts on both the push and the pull?"
Big John clapped his hands together and rubbed them vigorously.
"Bingo. Ok. Now it's time to make sure it's clamped nice and tight. We don't want the bugger to move while we're cuttin' now, do we?”
Junior pulled the vice handle as hard as he could.
"Ok. We're good to go." His young voice squeaked with excitement.
Big John handed the crosscut saw down. The teeth had a wicked gleam as each dagger-point glinted in the setting sun which filtered through the window.
"So, make you're holding it correctly," Big John adjusted the boy's grip, "that's better, now place the blade down and make the first strike, it's easier if you pull back. That's it. Towards you".
The boy took great care. He placed the blade down and set his hand the distance he'd been shown. The pride flowed through Big John’s heart. Then the boy pulled the saw back towards him.
"Hold on tight, mate, she'll get away from you and you'll cut your finger." He said as the boy pulled a second time. The saw glided through with little effort. Then juddered as the woman started to wake up.
"Right, she's starting to come to, quick, what do we do?" Big John asked. His enthusiasm was contagious. The boy squealed with excitement.
"The hammer. The hammer.” The lad jumped up and down.
"S'right. The hammer," Big John said.
There was a quiet whimper, then the woman came round. She started to scream through the rags stuffed into her mouth. She strained at the bonds holding her down. The rope bit down into her wrists. She pulled at the vice holding her partially cut leg. The wound gushed and spurted. She slipped from the vice's grip, the blood acting as a lubricant. She pulled her leg free, blood splattered across the boy’s face. He blinked and took an involuntary step back.
Big John held the hammer out for the boy to take. He knew the lad didn't have the strength in him to knock her out, but the lads gotta learn. He had a second hammer ready to finish the job.
"Ok. Remember, mate. Right between the eyes is where you-"
The boy brought the hammer down and laughed as the woman’s right eye caved into its socket. She screamed again through the rags. The veins on her neck bulged. For a brief instant big John thought about slitting them, it would be quicker. But the boy had to learn.
"Try again,” he encouraged.
This time, the hammer struck true, and the girl stopped wriggling. She slumped and her head fell backwards. The vacant hole that was once an eye stared at John. He couldn't work out where it had gone. Then he chuckled. The gelatinous ball was stuck to the claw portion of the hammer where junior had struck with the wrong side.
The pair both stood back. The young boy admired his handiwork while Big John admired his grandson. There was a click and the back door to the work shed opened. Margaret popped her head through the door.
"How we going, boys?"
"Good," Jnr replied.
"We'll be there soon, my love." Big John smiled at his sweetheart, he wiped his brow, painting a smear of red behind.
"Ok. The veggies are nearly ready to cook, love"
"Jolly good.” He took the saw from John junior’s hand, “I’ll take it now."
The boy started to protest, but the stern looked settled him pretty quick.
"We'll be five minutes, Hun." The saw blade slid through the flesh with ease, he turned his attention back to his wife.
"Did you want a leg or a breast?"
"Whatever you fancy, Hun. It's all nice when it's fresh.”