It took the couple several years to have him, and he was the apple of both their eyes. One tragic day on the way home from Charlie’s middle school woodcutting competition, they hit a pot hole, the tire blew, and the car went swerving violently into the only other lane on the two lane road. Charlie died on impact. Charlie’s mother was thrown from the car and went into a coma. The man, although he wished he hadn’t, survived without injury.
The man visited his wife every day at the hospital for the next two months. Constantly begging for forgiveness. He blamed himself for the incident, since he was driving. He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t eat. He didn’t think he could go on.
Just when he felt like he couldn’t take it any longer, his wife woke up. He felt a mixture of emotions he had never experienced before. Joy. Because the love of his life was alive and well. Dread. Because he would have to be the one to tell her about Charlie. Relief. Because he no longer had to carry this burden alone. And fear. Because of what his wife might think of him. Would she blame him as he had blamed himself?
He told his wife that their son had died in the crash, and she was devastated, of course, but she did not blame him. They began to rely on each other, growing closer through the pain they shared. The man knew he would never get over what happened, but having his wife made him think it just might be bearable.
Just when he was starting to come to terms with his knew life and approaching something close to normalcy, the unthinkable happened. Apparently his wife had not been adjusting to their new situation with the same optimism as he had, because during the night one night, she killed herself.
“This is it.” The man thought. “This is all I can bear.” He went to the barn behind their small country home and retrieved a rope. He then went into Charlie’s room and sobbed for hours. He tied the one end of the rope around the rafters (Charlie’s room used to be the attic, and the rafters were still exposed.) and the other around his neck as he stood on his beloved son’s bed. He summoned all the courage he could to end his life, but just before he jumped, his eye caught all of Charlie’s woodcutting projects. Upon seeing this he had a horrible, yet intensely motivational thought, “Once I’m gone there will be little to no memory of Charlie.” He removed the rope from his neck and stepped down from the bed.
For the next year he learned wood carving. It became the entire reason for his being. He had a talent for it too, because, though he would never know, by the end of the year, he was one of the greatest wood carvers there has ever been. After mastering the art, he spent the next year building what would be his monument to Charlie, a wooden puppet made in his likeness. He worked and worked and worked, and by the end of that second year, it was complete. He loved it. It was the first time since Charlie’s death that he could remember loving so passionately and powerfully. And this love truly was powerful because, as soon as he put the finishing touches on the puppet, it sprang to life. It startled him at first, but he soon realized that in addition to looking exactly like Charlie, it talked and acted just like him as well. And in that moment, it seemed to him that fate had given him a second chance in being a father.
He decided to name the puppet Chuck. He originally wanted to name him Charlie but decided there was only ever going to be one Charlie. His and Chuck’s love for one another grew daily. They did everything together except for one thing. The man always went by himself to chop wood because he was afraid for Chuck to be around wood cutting equipment for obvious reasons. One day the man didn’t come back and Chuck immediately began to worry. He went to the place he knew his creator/father chopped the wood and started calling for him. Chuck heard him call back, which was a relief, but his voice sounded muffled. He tracked the voice to a well, and upon looking in he saw the man sitting at the bottom. He explained to Chuck that he had tripped while carrying wood and fallen into the well. As he fell his leg was cut open on a jagged rock and he had lost a lot of blood. Chuck threw the old rope down into the well, but before hardly any weight was put on it, it snapped due to dry rot. The situation was turning grim. It was dark in the well, but Chuck could see how pale his loving paternal figure had become. He looked around, frantically trying to figure out a way to save him. Then it came to him. There was an enormous pile of wood that the man had cut to make his carvings with. Chuck began heaving them into the well.
At first the man was alarmed, but then realized what his created son was doing. As pieces were thrown into the well he could step on top of them bringing him closer to the opening at the top. It was difficult to do with his injured leg, but this new promise of survival, and more importantly being able to spend more time with his son, gave him the strength he needed.
After almost an entire hour of constantly hurling wood into the well, Chuck died from exhaustion. Unfortunately the 262 pieces of wood that Chuck threw into the well, only allowed the man to reach just a few feet below the opening and he died of blood loss. But, with that, the old question was answered, “How much wood would a wood Chuck chuck if a wood Chuck could chuck wood?” 262 pieces exactly.