Karen has an axe to grind.
Her therapist keeps telling her to find a hobby. Her husband keeps telling her not to spend so much on the house renovation. To be fair, the useless wall standing between Karen and her open floor plan wasn't telling her anything, but it was definitely mocking her.
ESTIMATED READ TIME: 10 minutes
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Part I - Karen vs Those Goddamn Fucking Walls
Find a hobby, they said.
Explore your interests. Expand your horizons. Enrich your life.
"Enrich this, assholes," Karen hissed through gritted teeth.
White knuckled grip.
An axe blade whistled through the air.
The blade lodged deep into finished drywall. It was a purely decorative wall that divided Karen’s kitchen from the dining room. It was also the the current source of Karen’s deep-seated, unfiltered, blinding hatred--this useless wall was the very thing that prohibited her from ever viewing her house as a proper home.
It was either the wall, or Karen.
The wall had to go.
Karen swiped a rogue strand of blonde hair off her face, smoothing it back against the layered undercut that still reflected her natural, brunette color. She studied the half-buried blade before giving the handle a tug.
The axe didn’t budge.
At first she hadn’t been sure if the axe would even work on the wall. Now she wasn’t sure she’d be able to get the axe out of the wall.
Karen felt like screaming.
So she did.
The rage--it was always there, wasn’t it?--boiled over, spilling out of her mouth in an ear-piercing curdle. She could feel her skin flush and she knew--thanks to awkward summers at the beach bar when the drink order wasn’t right--that the red had a way of spreading in blotchy, inky blots across her uncharacteristically un-tanned skin.
The red blotches blossomed on her chest and worked their way up her neck, almost as if the scream itself was pulling the flush upwards to her face.
As the rage mounted, Karen grabbed the rubber grip of the axe with both hands and yanked furiously. Muscles strained and veins popped against the skin of her narrow shoulders. The axe shifted, wiggled, and finally pulled free. The force of Karen’s yank sent her tumbling backwards, tripping over a rug, and falling ass-first to the ground.
Karen’s head hit the ground. A light show danced in her vision as she stared up at the axe spinning weightlessly in the air.
It took a split second for the panic to register.
The axe came crashing down, blade-first, right towards the angular features of Karen’s 32-year-old face.
Karen gasped and twisted.
The blade thunked into the wood floor, exactly where Karen’s head had been a second earlier. She blinked rapidly, the panic thumping in her chest and that rage--always rage--boiling in her belly. She grabbed the axe handle and rolled to her feet.
Another furious yank and the axe came up out of the floor. Karen squatted and inspected the splintered gash in the wood, running her fingers across the damage. The wood floors had been less than two years old--a massive upgrade from the cheap beige tile the house had come with.
There had been endless arguments about the wood floors. She and Conrad had purchased the house with the understanding that they would renovate in a piecemeal fashion, as their budget allowed. At first, Conrad had been agreeable with this, but every time they priced out a new upgrade, he insisted on pushing her to cheaper options.
Wood floors weren’t cheap.
Karen insisted that if they didn’t buy the quality stuff now, they’d just be spending more, later.
Conrad would disagree, but countered with at least postponing the floor reno.
Karen had already put the flooring on the credit card. He’d understand when it was finished.
Part II - Karen vs Her Goddamn Fucking Therapist
"My house is my hobby."
"Why do you say that?"
"Well, you haven’t seen it, but it’s definitely a fixer-upper. The only things worth saving are the walls, and--actually, never mind--"
"There’s this one wall--it’s not structural or anything--it divides the dining room and kitchen. I can’t fucking stand it. I said when we bought the house, this wall has to come down. I always wanted the open floor plan but Conrad wanted a cheap house. I said okay, I can compromise--"
"Compromise is a sign of a healthy--"
'--we can buy the cheap house if the wall comes down. Like, right away. Compromise."
"The wall never came down?"
"The wall never came down. Like a goddamn analogy for my life."
"The wall--it’s a metaphor. An analogy is more of a literal comparison--you know, never mind. Tell me about how you feel the wall represents your life?"
"How does it--it’s a wall. It keeps blocking me from the things that I want. I want my perfect home but this wall exists and instead I have a cheap, shitty house. And that’s my life. Walls are constantly blocking my way."
"Do you think that maybe these metaphorical walls are of your own construction?"
"What? Seriously, like, what? What does that even mean?"
"It means that perhaps what you see as some kind of external influence that prohibits you from achieving your goal only exists because you allowed it to exist in the first place."
"... what are you even talking about?"
"How about we put a pin in that for now--"
"--and instead you could tell me about Conrad."
"Fucking Conrad. The biggest wall in my life."
"That you married."
"Never mind. Conrad?"
"Conrad. And his goddamn puzzles."
"It was his puzzles that were blocking you?"
"You know, I’m not an idiot. I see what you’re doing here. And that’s not what I mean--you’re just--he needed an entire room dedicated to his puzzles. Storage, multiple tables, and don’t get me started on the framed puzzles he hung on the walls. I said to him--go ahead, do whatever the fuck you want, just keep it contained to the puzzle room."
"It’s not unusual for people to have a room dedicated to their hobby. Or hobbies, for that matter."
"Jesus Christ, how many hobbies does a person need? Read a book and be done with it, am I right?"
"Well, I’ve found that most people might have upwards of three or four hobbies. Beyond reading a book, that is."
"Yeah, and how many of those people are into puzzles? And aren’t senior citizens? Gimme a fucking break. I said keep it contained to the one room and you know what happened?"
"It started spilling out?"
"It started spilling out. On the kitchen table. In the living room in front of the TV. He set up a fucking card table in the goddamn bedroom!"
"Do you think perhaps you resent Conrad for his hobby? Do you feel like he’s flaunting it?"
"Flaunting--of course he was flaunting it! It was all over my house!"
"What I mean by flaunting--"
"My house is my hobby. And the puzzles--like Conrad--kept getting in my way."
"Karen, the problem with treating your house as a hobby is that eventually the floors are done. The cabinets are refinished. The bathroom counters replaced. And then what are you left with? Tearing it all apart and doing it over again? A hobby should take you out of yourself. Enrich your life. Distract you from reality."
"That’s what I get from my house."
"You mentioned books earlier. What was the last book you read?"
"Who has time to read anymore?"
"Do you ever puzzle with Conrad?"
"Puzzles--not my thing. I have my own hobbies."
"You have your house."
"It’s my hobby!"
Part III - Karen vs Her Goddamn Fucking Hobbies
Karen leaned against the kitchen counter, sipping a beer stein of chilled red wine, dispensed from a large box in the refrigerator. Her jaw was starting to hurt from how much she was clenching it and she knew her blood pressure was no doubt spiking.
She stared at the wall--that goddamn decorative, non-load-bearing useless fucking wall--and it sat there, silently mocking her. It was the only thing that stood between Karen and her open floor plan.
She took another long sip.
The gash in the wall seemed unjustly insignificant.
The axe was clearly not the right tool for the job, but it was all she had. She had found it in a corner of the garage, no idea what Conrad was doing with the tool in the first place. They had moved from an apartment and the new house didn’t have any trees needing to be felled--or whatever it is you’re supposed to do with an axe.
More importantly, it had felt good to swing the blade. The heft. The heaving. The release of energy.
Enrich your life. Distract yourself from reality.
When that blade sliced through the air, a second stretched into minutes. Dopamine flooded Karen’s head. Electricity shot through her extremities.
For the briefest of moments, as the axe whistled, Karen felt as though she was outside herself, looking in at all the anger and rage that so frequently blinded her.
It was inexplicable and zen-like. The ultimate distraction.
The axe might not have been the right tool to demolish the wall, but it sure was a hell of a lot of fun to swing.
An hour later, a decent chunk of the damned wall had been hacked away and Karen sat on an overturned bucket, her newly beloved axe resting across her knees.
She had switched from wine to water as she slowly caught her breath.
"Alright, brass tacks. It’s my professional opinion that that you’re letting all of these anxieties overwhelm you--"
"Last I checked, that’s what anxieties do--"
"And if the house is a source of one of those anxieties, it probably isn’t a very good hobby."
"The house wasn’t the source of my anxiety. It was Conrad."
"Be that as it may, you need a distraction. A happy little distraction--a way to get out of your own head for a little bit. You need to find a way to balance your life so the anxieties don’t overwhelm."
"I thought that was why I was talking to you."
"How about this--what other things interest you?"
"You always--why do you always go back to that?"
"You’ve never given me a thoughtful answer."
"Wedding. Husband. House. This well doesn’t go as deep as you think it does.'
"Surely there’s more. Talk to me about your job."
"Fuck me. Aren’t we at an hour yet?"
"May I at least ask one more question?"
"Why do you keep referring to Conrad in the past tense?"
The axe had absolutely been the wrong tool for the job. But Karen also couldn’t ignore the deep satisfaction she experienced as she unleashed her rage, hacking away at the wall.
Karen was convinced that her therapist had been wrong about her house as a hobby. She had felt zero anxiety as she chopped into the wall and she felt so removed from herself--that state of flow her therapist kept talking about--that the hour had passed in a blink of an eye.
She looked past the remains of the wall and into the dining room where a large, red cooler sat in the corner.
A spark of enlightenment tickled Karen’s brain.
Shit, maybe the therapist had been right.
The wall wasn’t the key. It wasn’t the house. Everything had been an anxious, angry mess until …
… until Karen had swung the axe.
Demolishing the wall wasn’t the hobby. Swinging the axe was.
The axe had always been the common denominator in the doctor-prescribed “happy distraction” formula.
The wall. Conrad. Her therapist.
Swing the axe.
Expand your horizons.
Enrich your life.
Get out of your own head and embrace a new hobby.
A slow smile crept across Karen’s face. What a happy little distraction.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jordan Krumbine is a professional video editor, digital artist, and creative wizard currently quarantined in Kissimmee, Florida. When not producing content for the likes of Visit Orlando, Orlando Sentinel, or AAA National, Jordan is probably yelling at a stubbornly defective Macbook keyboard, tracking creative projects in Trello, and animating quirky videos with LEGO and other various toys.