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    Grumpy Bear
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Arctic Roots - 13. The Axeman

Axel and Adam sat in the truck as the Dawson Ferry carried them across the Yukon River so they could begin the next leg of their voyage. When they had checked out of the Westminster Hotel, the clerk at the front desk inquired if they had any trouble with the infamous 3rd floor ghost.

“The ghost’s name is Samuel,” Axel replied. “He and I had a few words last night. I don’t think he’ll be giving you any more trouble, but if he starts up again, give me a call and I’ll have another talk with him.”

The clerk stood looking at Axel with his jaw hanging open.

“The poor guy was a male prostitute, attempted murderer, and gold thief who got mauled by a bear in that room back in 1899,” Adam explained. “You can’t blame him for being a little disruptive now and then.”

Now, as they were ferried across the river with Dawson City in their rear-view, it was time to focus on the task at hand.

“We should be able to make it to Fairbanks easily tonight, which means another night in a hotel, you spoiled Cub,” Axel said, looking at the map on the dashboard GPS. “From there, we head north on the Dalton Highway, following the Alaska Pipeline to Coldfoot. That will be a good place to start asking around if any of the locals have seen a hermit named Matti.”

“The name of the town is ‘Coldfoot’?” Adam asked. “That doesn’t sound like a very hospitable place.”

“It’s not a town, Cub,” Axel replied, “It’s more of an oversized truck stop. It’s about halfway between Fairbanks and the northern end of the highway. There’s food and gas and rooms of a sort for the night if we don’t want to start camping.”

“What do you mean by ‘rooms of a sort’?” Adam asked skeptically.

“Well, there’s a bunch of old trailers, all connected together, that were originally used to house the workers on the Alaska Pipeline. Once the pipeline was done, they turned it into a hotel. Sort of. It’s very… rustic. Very Alaskan.”

“And you think somebody there may have seen Grand-Papa?” Adam asked.

“Well, I know that they run a variety of excursions into the North Slope area of Alaska out of Coldfoot, so if the Old Man has allowed himself to be seen in the last few years, chances are, somebody there has seen him.”

“And if not,” Adam replied, “What’s the next step?”

“Next step is that we keep going north, until we get to the end of the road in Deadhorse.”

Deadhorse!” Adam exclaimed, “Who thinks up the names of the towns around here?”

Axel chuckled, and as the ferry reached the far bank of the river, he shifted the truck into drive and continued their journey.

It wasn’t long before they reached the US-Canadian border into Alaska and Axel handed their Canadian passports over to the border patrol agent. That was another perk of being affiliated with the North American Lycan Council. They had far superior resources available to produce new identities, paperwork, and IDs than your average lycan could do on their own. He would have to make sure that all bears understood when it was time to move on and change identities that the Council is ready and available to assist.

They continued on their way along the Top of the World Highway, and Adam turned to look at his Papa.

“So, tell me about your days as a professional wrestler,” Adam prompted, breaking the silence inside the truck.

“It was the perfect life for an overgrown, broken-hearted freak like me,” Axel replied. “I had a new name and new identity. The Carnival fabricated a backstory for me. I was Axel, ‘The Axeman’. I’d prowl the Carnival grounds during the day in my wrestling tights with a big lumberjack’s axe slung over my shoulder and growl menacingly at the crowds while the barker would tell them to come to the Athletic Show in the big tent to see me wrestle for their amusement.

“They started putting the tattoos on me right after I joined. Back then, the only people with tattoos were sailors and criminals, so by covering me with ink they added to my ‘bad-guy’ image…”

****

“Willie!” Axel complained to the barker. “Why is it that every time I get a new costume, it keeps getting smaller and smaller?”

“If we’re going to take the time and effort to cover you with tattoos, we aren’t going to hide them under a bunch of clothing, are we?” Willie replied, matter-of-factly.

“These small trunks leave little to the imagination,” Axel said, pulling at the tight-fitting crotch.

“The official reason is that when you’re wrestling, there’s less material for your opponent to grab onto and get you into a hold.” Willie said.

“And the unofficial reason?” Axel growled.

“Well, I mean look at you,” Willie said with a grin. “When you walk around the midway, showing off your bare skin and tattoos, and that giant tallywhacker of yours bulging out the front of your trunks, all the ladies soak their bloomers just thinking about what you must be like in bed. Probably a good number of the men, too.”

“I’m not a prostitute,” Axel said sternly, “The last man who tried to turn me into a prostitute did not live long enough to reap the rewards of his treachery.”

“Whoa, there, big man,” Willie said, patting Axel on the chest, “Nobody is calling you a prostitute. We’re just using the sex-appeal of the bad-boy villain to entice the suckers to come and watch the show.”

The nightly shows followed a very precise script. The carnival would stay in each town for five nights. There were ten wrestlers in the troupe, five “heroes” and five “villains”. To keep things original for each night of the carnival’s stay in the town, each hero would be paired with a different villain each night, and the two would perform the choreographed routine that was written just for the two of them. In almost every case, the hero would win their match, with the exception of Axel, “The Axeman’s” matches. The fight in which Axel was pitted against a hero, was always the next-to-last of the night. The crowds would get used to seeing the hero win the first three fights, and then The Axeman villain would win match number four, causing an outrage from the crowd. The barker would then call for any big, strong, men in the crowd to take on The Axeman for a mere $10 entry fee, with the chance of winning $100 if they could take the villain down and pin him to the mat for a count of three.

Axel’s job was that of the “shooter,” short for “straight-shooter” in carnival slang, meaning that his match against the challenger from the crowd was the only “real” wrestling match of the night without a pre-scripted ending.

Even though Axel’s matches against the challengers from the crowd were not scripted, they all still had the same ending. No human man was capable of besting a seven-foot werebear. Axel was taught enough wrestling moves to put on a good show and make the match with the challenger last long enough to be entertaining, but eventually he simply needed to throw the man onto his back on the mat and pin his shoulders down with his knuckles to end it.

If Axel found the challenger too cocky, or too attractive, he would end the match by pinning the man’s shoulders with his knees instead, his bulging crotch covered in a thin layer of fabric hovering mere inches from the man’s face.

Axel had his own circus wagon within the carnival’s caravan in which he lived, painted gaudily with his wrestling nickname and a full-body portrait that advertised his musculature. Each night after the carnival closed, there would be a young lady knocking at his wagon’s door, begging the big man to sleep with them. Axel would turn them all away, along with a scolding reprimand that ladies shouldn’t offer themselves so easily to rough and dangerous men.

Occasionally, and never more often than a few times a year, Axel would answer the knock at his door at night to find a nervous and timid man, meekly begging the big wrestler to sleep with him for the night. On these occasions, Axel would first confirm the man’s age, sending any youths he deemed to be underage home with a scold and a swat on the ass. Men that Axel determined were of the appropriate age and experience-level were invited inside his wagon for a vodka and some small talk before he threw them face-down on the bed and gave them the fucking of their life. Axel would do this methodically and joylessly, only enjoying the primal orgasmic release that accompanied the act, and then would send the man on his way. On the few occasions when the man tried to offer him money afterwards, they quickly fled the wagon, fearing for their very lives.

The nice thing about working for a carnival is that they didn’t ask their employees any unnecessary questions. By the time of the Great Depression, Axel had been doing this wrestling routine for over thirty years, and no one questioned why he was still as physically fit and youthful as the day he started. It was simply taken for granted that Axel, The Axeman, was the undisputed star of the show and their biggest draw.

With his rough demeanor and tattooed body, he was still considered one of the wrestling show’s villains, but he was the villain that the crowd loved to cheer for. The carnival’s Anti-Hero. During the day, he continued to prowl the midway dressed in his wrestling boots and his tight trunks with an enormous axe slung over his shoulder. He would growl at the children until they squealed and laughed and hid behind their mother’s skirts. He would openly flirt with young women in front of their boyfriends, causing the young men to rankle and throw nervous empty threats back at the giant man. Axel would laugh and tell them all to come to the wrestling show that night where they would have the opportunity to challenge him in the ring like a man.

If you’re a real man!” Axel would always finish with a laugh, leaving the embarrassed man to stew in front of his amused and breathless girlfriend. Needless to say, they would always be sitting in the audience later that night.

One day, during the height of the Depression, the carnival was stopped at a pleasant little Midwestern town. Axel didn’t know the town’s name, as all the pleasant little towns tended to blend together over the years. As he strolled down the Midway with his axe, causing the usual scene along the way, Axel encountered a group of young farmhands trying to ring the bell on the High Striker game. Time after time, they swung the mallet with all their might, only to see the puck travel a mere two-thirds of the way up the twenty-foot column.

“It’s rigged!” one of the young farmhands yelled out angrily, “You Carnies are all the same, trying to steal a man’s money. If I can’t do it, there’s no way any man can ring that bell.”

“I assure you, young man,” the carny replied, “It’s all in the physics of how you swing the hammer. Even a little girl could do it if she swung it the right way!”

“Prove it.” the farmhand said, angrily. “You call any of your carny friends over here right now and get them to ring that bell, or I’m going to the Sherriff and having your whole crooked operation shut down!”

“Is there a problem here, Cecil?” Axel asked, walking up to the group.

“No problem at all, now that you’re here, Axel,” Cecil replied. “Gentlemen, this is Axel, The Axeman, and star of our wrestling show tonight. He’s going to show you how the bell is rung.”

“Make him do it with one hand, Carny,” the farmhand said.

“Now, now, Gentlemen,” Cecil replied, “Let’s be fair…”

“No, it’s okay, Cecil,” Axel said. “If the… gentleman wants to see me ring the bell with one hand, I’ll ring the bell with one hand.”

Axel turned to one of the angry farmhand’s friends, a big, muscular, corn-fed man who shyly looked away when Axel turned to face him.

“Hold my axe, would you, boy?” Axel asked, and the man bashfully nodded and held out his hands, not making eye contact with the giant wrestler.

“Now, sir,” Axel said, turning back to the angry customer and grabbing the mallet with his right hand, “This is how it’s done. Watch carefully.”

Axel held the mallet by the end of the handle and swung it in the air in a circle above his head before slamming it back down on the plunger, sending the puck rocketing up the column and ringing the bell loudly enough to be heard across the entire Midway.

“See fellas?” Cecil said, “It’s all in how you swing the mallet! Come to the big tent tonight to see The Axeman take down the other wrestlers in the ring, and you’ll even get a chance to challenge him yourself! You could win $100!”

Axel turned to retrieve his axe from the big farmhand and as he took it, he noticed that the man held onto the handle and allowed his hand to brush against his own just a little longer than he should. He looked the man in the eyes, and for the first time, the man looked back at Axel. The farmhand was just about to say something when his angry friend interrupted.

“Come on Lenny! We’re not going to waste any more time or money with this shit! Let’s go!”

The big man released the axe and dropped his gaze hurrying over to join his friends.

“Jesus, Lenny, why don’t you just kiss him while you’re at it?” one of the men in the group said derisively as they walked away down the Midway.

“Thanks Axel,” Cecil said, letting out a big sigh, “You saved our ass. People these days don’t have the extra money to lose at these games like they used to, and if they think we’re rigging it on them the local Law will come and shut us down early.”

“No problem,” Axel said, still watching the big farm-boy walking down the Midway with his friends. “Anybody gives you any trouble, just give me a call. I’m up and down the Midway all day anyway.”

That evening when the crowds gathered for the wrestling exhibition, the group of farmhands was in the crowd as Axel knew they would be. He fully anticipated one of the blowhards, most likely the one giving Cecil the hard time this afternoon, to challenge him in the ring.

The crowd was a bit rowdier than usual when Axel took the ring for his scripted match against his regular opponent, and after winning, Willie the Barker, getting on in years now but still holding onto his job and keeping up the tradition, gave his standard speech inviting any challengers to the ring for the chance to pin the villainous Axel and turn their $10 into $100. Immediately the group of farmhands erupted into shouting as Axel had expected. What he did not expect was Lenny, the big muscle-bound corn-fed boy to be the one that they pushed into the ring.

“Come on Lenny,” the men said as they pulled off his shirt and tied the straps of his overalls around his waist, “We all chipped in the ten-dollar fee, now you have to use those muscles of yours for something else besides baling hay and jerking off and win us that $100!”

When they finished pushing him into the ring, Lenny looked incredibly shy and bashful standing in front of so many people shirtless. Axel felt a bit sorry for the young oaf. He couldn’t let him win, $100 was too hard to come by in this economy, but he could at least make it look close.

When the bell rang, Axel grabbed Lenny by the shoulders and began to grapple with him. He could tell that Lenny was sturdy and strong, but confused about what to do. Axel whispered suggestions into his ear discretely as they grappled, and soon they were putting on quite a show for the crowd, one minute Axel having the upper-hand and the next Lenny coming back to seemingly put Axel in an unbreakable hold. Axel was controlling everything, of course, and Lenny was happily going along for the ride, encouraged by the crowd who cheered for him anytime he seemed to get Axel onto the ropes.

After enough time for an entertaining match, Axel finally ended it by flipping Lenny onto his back and then leaping onto his chest, pinning his shoulders down with his knees. Axel looked down at the big man and gave him a wink as Willy counted to three, ending the match.

Lenny completely missed the wink. All he could see was Axel’s big bulge in tight trunks bouncing just inches above his face. As Willy started his count, Lenny lifted his head from the mat a bit, just enough to take in a big breath through his nose and sniff the aroma of the huge wrestler’s crotch.

Willy announced Axel the winner, and Axel got up off of Lenny’s chest, offering him a hand to stand back up. As Lenny stood, his farmhand friends in the crowd began shouting over top of each other again.

“Look at Lenny! He’s hard as a rock! Wrestling around with that huge almost-naked guy must have turned him on! What a faggot!”

Axel glanced down at Lenny’s crotch, and what the rowdy men had shouted was true. Lenny was sporting a champion-sized erection in his overalls for the whole crowd to see. Axel was about to say something to the big man to make him feel better, but as he leaned in, Lenny jerked away and ran from the tent, grabbing his shirt to hide his face as he fled.

Who called that boy a faggot?” Axel yelled at the group of farmhands. “Say it again down here in the ring! I dare you!”

The farmhands scrambled for the exit as the rest of the crowd murmured uncomfortably.

“Hey Axel,” Willie said, leaning close and whispering into his ear, “Let it go, buddy. Okay?”

Axel fumed but stomped out of the ring.

“That’s our undefeated champion, Axel, The Axeman!” Willie called out to the crowd, and they cheered his departure from the tent. “And now our final match of the night…”

Willie’s voice faded away as Axel stormed back to his wagon. He laid down on his bed and covered his arm over his eyes to block out the lights of the carnival as the calliope music of the carousel lulled him to sleep.

He woke an indeterminate time later. He could see through the window that the Midway was still illuminated by the colorful lights, but the music and the many overlapping voices had gone quiet. There was a soft tapping on his door, which must have been what had awakened him. He stood up and realized that he was still wearing his skimpy wrestling trunks and rolled his eyes. Getting rid of whatever young girl was outside knocking would be harder to do in this semi-nude state, but he stepped over and opened the door anyway.

“Yeah, who is it and what do you want?” He growled, maintaining his tough-guy persona for the fan outside his door.

“Um, sir?” A deep but timid voice responded. Axel looked down and saw Lenny, the musclebound, corn-fed farmhand who had sported the world-class wood after getting pinned in the wrestling ring.

“I was wondering if I could talk to you for a minute,” the young man continued. He tried to look up at Axel’s face but only got as far as his crotch before looking quickly back to the ground.

“Where are your buddies?” Axel asked, “The ones who like calling people nasty names.”

“I’m avoiding them right now,” Lenny replied. “I need to talk to you about what happened in the wrestling ring.”

“Sure, son,” Axel replied. “Come on in and I’ll give you a drink to calm your nerves.”

Lenny climbed into Axel’s cramped circus wagon and sat in the only chair. Axel poured two glasses of vodka and handed one to the big farmhand before sitting back down on the bed.

“Drink that down, son,” Axel instructed. “It’ll make you feel better, and it’ll put hair on your chest!”

“You must drink a lot of it then, sir,” Lenny said naively, eyeing Axel’s bare chest covered in both hair and tattoos.

Axel laughed.

“Yeah, I guess I do at that,” he replied. “Now tell me what was so important that you felt you had to sneak on over here to my wagon to tell me.”

“I just wanted to apologize,” Lenny said.

“Apologize for what?” Axel asked. “If I remember correctly, I still beat you in the match tonight!”

“I’m apologizing for… you know…” Lenny fought to get the words out, “Getting… hard while you were pinning me.”

“That’s nothing to apologize over,” Axel said with a grin. “I took it as a compliment!”

“Well, a man isn’t supposed to get hard wrestling with another man,” Lenny said, gulping down a sip of vodka and wincing.

“Who says?” Axel said, tossing back the last of his drink.

“The Reverend,” Lenny replied. “I’m always getting in trouble for getting hard when I’m around other men, and they always send me to the Reverend to try to fix me.”

“From what I could see, there’s nothing broken that needs fixing, son,” Axel said. “You’ve just been living with a bunch of ignorant fools. They’re all probably just jealous of that big tool you’ve got there in your overalls.”

“Nobody’s jealous of me, sir,” Lenny said, blushing and looking down at the floor, “I’m only good for doing the heavy lifting.”

“The only way they can make themselves feel better is by putting you down, son,” Axel said walking over and kneeling next to the farmhand. “They know that you could beat them all to a pulp if you wanted to, but you don’t because you’re the best man among all of them.”

Lenny looked up at Axel and finally looked him directly in the eye.

“Why are you being so nice to me sir?” he asked.

“Let’s just say that I get hard when I’m around other handsome men too,” Axel replied. “See for yourself.”

Lenny looked back down at Axel’s crotch and could see that his cock was sticking out obscenely, straining at his tight wrestling trunks.

“Lenny,” Axel said, “Do you want to stay here with me tonight?”

“I’m afraid, sir,” Lenny replied, “The Reverend says laying with another man will damn my soul to Hell.”

“Deep in your heart, Lenny,” Axel said, “Does it feel wrong, or does it feel like the natural thing you most want to do?”

Lenny thought for a few seconds and then looked back up at Axel.

“It feels like the thing I’ve most wanted to do for my whole life, sir,” he replied.

“Then it must be right, and you won’t be damned to Hell just for doing the thing that is most natural and right. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“Yes sir!” Lenny said with excitement, and he leaned his head toward Axel.

Axel leaned in as well and kissed Lenny deeply, running his hands along the big man’s shoulders and slipping down the straps of his overalls. Lenny tipped his head back, grinning, enjoying the touch of the giant wrestler’s hands against his body. Axel began kissing Lenny on the neck, just below his ear and breathed in the farmhand’s scent.

Immediately, colored lights began flashing in Axel’s brain as Lenny’s peculiar scent hit his olfactory nerves.

Axel jerked his head back and looked at the farmhand.

“Is something wrong sir?” Lenny asked nervously. “Did I do it wrong?”

“No, son,” Axel said, kissing him again gently. “You’re doing everything right. Lenny, do you like your job on the farm?”

“No sir,” he replied. “Everybody is awful hard on me all the time, and after what happened here with you today, they’re going to be even worse. I wish there was some way I could just run away and never go back.”

Axel pondered what the man had just said. He knew from the description of the kindred scent that his Old Man had given him years ago that he had just found another kindred human who could be turned into a werebear, but he wasn’t sure that he was be ready to be an Old Man and have a Bearcub of his own. He knew in his heart that although he liked Lenny very much, he didn’t love him. At least not yet. But, as he had also learned the hard way from his Old Man, love had nothing to do with raising a Bearcub. It was a duty, a chore, and a responsibility. Since he had found Lenny, it was his responsibility to give him the choice and then bite and breed him.

“Lenny, stay here with me tonight, and in the morning, we’ll go talk to the boss about getting you a job here with me at the carnival. How does that sound?”

“Oh, thank you sir!” Lenny cried, grabbing Axel and hugging him tightly, “I promise I won’t let you down!”

“I know you won’t, Bearcub,” Axel replied, and Lenny laughed at the nickname.

“Come and lay down on the bed with me sir,” Lenny said, pulling off his overalls. “I think this is the happiest moment of my life and being with you tonight will only make me happier!”

“As you wish, Bearcub,” Axel replied softly, dousing the lamp, and joining the kindred human in his bed.

****

“Papa,” Adam said as they drove along the mountainous roads, “I know you said that after Samuel broke your heart, you never truly loved another man till you met me… but…”

“I know what you’re thinking Cub,” Axel replied, “But Lenny’s part in my history is much more complicated. If Samuel is the man who broke my heart, Lenny is the man who broke my soul.”

“Dammit, Papa,” Adam said, “You’re planning to leave me with a cliffhanger again, waiting for you to finish telling the rest of the story about Lenny tomorrow, aren’t you?”

“See, Cub?” Axel said, with a sly grin, “We’re so attuned to each other that you already know what I’m going to do even before I do it! That’s why I love you so-o-o-o much!”

“Humph!” Adam snorted, “Fine, but we’re staying in a real hotel again tonight in Fairbanks! I’m going to make the most of it before we end up freezing our asses off in places named Coldfoot and Deadhorse.”

Axel chuckled and nodded his head, but inside he was dreading the thought of telling his Cub the next part of the story. He thought of all the men in his past who had a profound effect on him. Gregor, Igor, Matthias, Aleksandr, Samuel… each of them in their own way contributed a bit to the angry bear he had become for so long, but Lenny… sweet innocent Lenny was the one who had sent Axel’s mind into such a dark place he almost never came back.

Even though the tale of his history was finally nearing the end, Axel was not looking forward to re-living that chapter once again.

Copyright © 2021 Grumpy Bear; All Rights Reserved.
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So Axel made a name for himself at the circus and all was good to Lenny came along. Lenny sounds interesting if he was capable of breaking Axel's soul, then he must have played an important part in Axel's life.

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I have a bad feeling about the next part of Axel's story. I think Lenny didn't live through his change.

I hope I'm wrong.

Can't wait to see what happened next.

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Dang it i could cry for the man, Axel just couldn't catch a break. No wonder was so jaded for so long. I can't wait for the next chapter 🤞

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First a broken heart, and now a broken soul? I thought Alexei had it rough, but I'm finding Axel had it worse. Bad events are coming up and unfortunately, I can't wait for the next chapter! Excellent storytelling, Grumpy!

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Another excellent chapter; but I feel that Lenny's story will end in death and heartache, but I do hope that I am wrong...

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