The Sayings Series: Part 2
Bill’s breathing was heavy, labored. Sweat poured down his brow, hair sticking to his forehead. His goggles fogged, and he realized he had to stop a moment. He pressed the switch and his chainsaw obediently died, the blade stopping on a dime, the persistent rumbling of the gas engine cutting off suddenly, leaving Bill’s breathing as the only audible sound in the forest. He carefully placed his tool down in a pile of fresh wood chips, slowly standing into a stretch, hands on his hips as he raked his back into an arch, trying to push its dull barking out of his mind.
He stood alone amongst the quiet pines, his polo shirt stained with sweat around the neck and pits. He wiped his forehead with his forearm, replacing the sweat on his brow with flakes of dead tree. He felt alive, invigorated. Some people relaxed by reading, by exercising, eating, drinking, sex, drugs, games, knitting, whatever. For Bill, it was chainsawing, ripping dead and dying trees to shreds, clearing trails on his family’s island. Nobody ever really walked most of the trails, but keeping them clean and free kept Bill feeling free too. He reached for a water bottle and took a long drink, letting the water run down his chin, cooling his chest. He was halfway into his bend to pick the chainsaw up before he heard the voice.
It froze him in place. There were only three other people on the island, and none of them anywhere remotely in earshot. He would have heard if another ATV had approached, wouldn’t he? He shook it off, bent back for the chainsaw.
“Yeah, you! Fuck you!”
That one was definitely not his imagination. He stood, looking around for the offending party. He slowly removed his earplugs, listening carefully for whatever birdsong he was somehow mistaking for obscenities. But all he heard was the rustling of the trees and a distant sparrow who did not seem to speak English. Somebody must be screwing with him. Perhaps his son? Despite himself, Bill called out into the woods.
“Hello?” Bill’s own query sounded stupid to him, as if he was trying to strike up a conversation with some unseen squirrel. “Someone say something?”
“You heard me! Fuck! You!” the response was clear, unmistakeable, somewhere nearby. The voice sounded old and roughened, not like Bill’s son’s, or anyone else’s he could think of for that matter. He spun around, trying not to look terrified but quickly becoming more and more confused.
“Who’s there?” Bill called out in no particular direction.
“‘who’s there?’ you got some fucking nerve, buddy!” his unseen tormentor replied, mocking.
“Sean?” Bill asked, knowing it wasn’t but unable to conceive of another guess.
“No, it’s not your jackass kid, you prick!”
Bill didn’t care for this at all. “Hey! Knock it off, alright? I’m not in the mood for games, okay?”
“Oh, boo fuck hoo.”
“Now that’s enough!” Bill bent over and picked his chainsaw up. He felt a strong instinct building that he ought to be prepared to defend himself. He stepped forward a bit, holding his weapon, head on a swivel looking for whoever was screwing up his relaxing chainsawing. “Show yourself, damn it!”
“That’s it, one more step…”
Bill heard a long slow creek, like the world’s longest floorboard settling into the world’s oldest house. He stepped forward again, eyes narrowing behind his protective goggles.
The unseen insulter laughed a quiet, slow, rumble of a laugh, a sound that built louder and louder, crescendoing in a thunderclap.
Bill turned to look at where he thought the sound came from just in time to see a huge, seemingly healthy pine tree careening towards him, had just enough time to lift a single hand in pathetic defiance before the mighty forty-foot pine drove him straight into the dirt, a fleshy nail under an all-natural hammer.
“Boom, bitch!” cried the tree, a sound nobody that nobody heard.