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Split
Author:J.B. Salsbury

He might be a proud man, but I’m just as proud. I’ll need time to save money, figure out my options, and the second I do I’m out of there. Yeah, this is my best option.

I’m meant for big things. This is simply a speed bump.





TWO



LUCAS


“Yo, dreamboy!”

I jerk my head up from my tape measure to see Stilts struggling to secure a rafter to a tie beam.

“Mind helping me out?”

A quick nod and I climb up the ladder, taking two rungs at a time, the red on the middle-aged man’s cheeks getting redder like an alarm that’s about to blare. “Got it.” I hold the beam steady on my end while he levels and secures it into place.

Sweat drips off the tip of his bulbous nose. “Thanks, kid.”

Kid. The word grates along my spine. I’ve lived through more in my twenty-five years than most guys twice my age. Not that he’ll ever know that.

“No problem.” I jump down and head back to working on the partition wall that will eventually be a kitchen. This type of work has always come easy to me. Cuts, angles, levels, everything in construction is a math equation with only one right answer.

Easy, predictable, and safe. At least, safe for me.

Carving is what I love most. Taking a salvaged piece of wood and turning it into something new and beautiful, giving it a new purpose. A different life.

My mind works through the project before me, my hands securing lumber with every pop of a nail gun, but in my head I’m somewhere else. Creating, always imagining. The wood’s grain patterns twist and swirl, inspiring intricate pictures that I try to remember so I can sketch them later. It seems stupid, but even the simplest inanimate objects hold fascination when I look at them long enough. Maybe it’s a vivid imagination or maybe my brain doesn’t work like most.

“Looks good.”

I peer up at Chris, my foreman, who’s checking my levels. “Thank you, sir.”

He regards me with very little concern, the same passive nonchalance he always does. “Nash is looking for you.” He tilts his head toward what will eventually be the garage of this home, then turns away.

That’s the other nice thing about working construction—there’s not a lot of idle chitchat among men. They communicate in basics, need-to-know only, even eliminating words completely with the occasional grunt. I’m able to keep my head down, get lost in the project and earn a paycheck with little to no problems at all.

I rip my baseball hat from my head and give it a good shake, then do my best to smack the sawdust and wood shavings from my T-shirt and jeans as I head out to find Nash.

Seeing him at the far end of the garage, I’m reminded why the man commands the respect of not only his employees, but also from the entire town, far as I can tell. The guy stands over six feet tall, his silver and black hair a little too long to be considered clean cut and a little too short to be considered long. His eyebrows are dropped low in concentration that makes him appear to be cursing the hell out of whatever he’s looking at.

“Lucas.”

He doesn’t even look up, but the firm way he says my name quickens my pace until I’m right up to him. “Sir?”

He doesn’t take his eyes off the blueprints rolled out on a makeshift table constructed of two sawhorses and a sheet of plywood. “Clients called. Interested in a specialty piece for the fireplace.” His thick, calloused finger runs along a line on the blueprint. “Here. Told ’em we got a guy who does some pretty good work. You interested?”

“Is that . . .” I squint at the blueprint, figuring out the numbers. “Eight feet? Roughly?”

He sets his steely gaze to mine and I fight to hold his stare. The color is so light blue they’re almost white and, set against skin that’s been exposed to the sun and the elements for what I’d guess to be close to sixty years, gives him an eerie and intimidating look. “Seven and a quarter.”

I fidget, tugging my hat down to my eyebrows. “I can do that.”

“I’ll need a mock-up for approval.”

My hands go into my pockets as nerves and excitement war in my chest. “Did they want something specific?”

He rubs the back of his neck, still studying the blueprints. “I showed ’em your last piece. They want something along those lines.”

The last one I did was an outdoor scene, a river flowing with deer drinking and a family of black bears grabbing fish from it. It was inspired by the view outside my front door, so coming up with another one should be easy enough.

“Same wood, sir?”

He shakes his head and exhales heavily. “Been here for two months now. You can call me Nash. Local pine will work.” He makes a frustrated growling noise, then shifts his gaze to a few men unloading supplies from his truck. “Cody!”

His son snaps to attention at the booming of his father’s voice. “What’s up?” He takes in his dad and gives me a chin lift that I return.