20 to 42 Day 3: Zeke Smith Splits the Atom

[I like the idea of tall tales. I think I'd been listening to Johnny Cash's Legend of John Henry's Hammer when I came up with this story. It's a nice bit of inanity. --L]

[Liam]His axe is really sharp. (tall tale or pure inanity)[/Liam]

Zeke Smith had an axe. It wasn’t a big axe, or heavy, and Zeke himself didn’t have huge arms. But he knew how to swing that axe. He could swing it in just the right way, and hit the wood so perfect, it would split just right, every time.

Zeke was a big one for choppin’. He’d up early in the morning, and he’d be choppin’ til the sun went down, with hardly a break for food.

Zeke never took too big a shine to people. All he ever wanted was to chop. All he ever wanted was his axe and his two good arms and a tree or forty to fell.

One time, Zeke took to sharpenin’ his axe. It wasn’t no weekend sharpenin’, that. He sharpened it with purpose, with all the gusto he could muster, and with that same keen eye that saw every stroke fall true.

Yessir, for four days and four nights, Zeke Smith sat by a fire, and he sharpened that axe. Nobody ever saw an axe head take to a sharpening like that, and nobody ever saw a better, keener edge than what Zeke put on it.

It was said that Zeke could cut paper with that axe, make two sheets where there was once only one. But he could do more. Because once Zeke had his axe that sharp, why he just took back to it and sharpened it some more, four more days, and four more nights, because he knew that, even though his axe was as sharp as any axe had ever been, it wasn’t as sharp as it could be, or as he needed it to be.

At the end of that four days and nights, it’s said that Zeke could shave a hair off a half-second, and that he could cut such a fine bit off a coin that a banker wouldn’t even notice. And he saw that, and he saw that his stone still had some work in it, and he saw that he could still make his axe sharper. So he went back at it, for four more days, and four more nights.

At the end of twelve days and twelve nights of sharpening, Zeke finally decided that his axe was sharp enough. He could split a finer hair than a politician. He could filet spider silk. And what’s more, he could do what he set out to do.

Because Zeke Smith wasn’t put on this earth to cut wood. Zeke Smith wasn’t out to prepare logs for the fire. Zeke Smith was put on the Earth for one reason, and one reason alone. Zeke Smith was meant to split the atom.

He roped an atom, a Hydrogen atom, since they were the smallest -- just a baby Hydrogen atom, the real runt of the litter. He roped up that atom and set it on his chopping block. He wound up his axe, reared back and let go.

I was there the day that Zeke Smith stole the magic from the world. The power unleashed in that sundering, the sheer, colossal spike of what entered the world on that day, drove the magic out of the world, and since then, it’s been technology, steam, smoke, and pure creation through destruction.

I don’t doubt that Zeke Smith had his reasons. I suspect that maybe he saved us all that day. But I will never forgive him.