You or a close friend will be married by the end of the year.
–American addition, trad.
Against the day he took an axe to bed with him, steel bright in the moonlight, six feet of handle, smooth worn oak shaft, generational softness, pressure of palms gentling the wood. As his fathers before him. Bedded to the axe, they said. Meaningless now. Who remembers the old days, the blood spilled on the sheets, the axe between as silent witness, justifier? And so his hair, pulled back and cut in the traditional way, spotted hands delicate with tarnished shears, low voice in his ear whispering cautions. Pressure of blade on neck: artery jumps: “Remember you are mortal,” hiss of barber, snip! Bay leaf oils rubbed into scalp. Meaningless now.
He is young.
In the moonlight he takes the blade to bed with him, against the night of his marriage, lies naked beside it, young blood hot within him, restless, uneasy. Stolid presence of tradition little comfort. Dreams of faces, girls’ faces, bodies young as his own, hairless as his own, otter smooth, uncertain in the moonlight. Skin the color of money, voices the feel of honey. Wakes to find the axe nestled against him, dull, safe, warm curve of iron gentle between his thighs.