I returned to my house after seeing a reading in Seattle. The readers were enjoyable. Seattle was being replaced. Many of the city blocks looked like Berlin after World War II. A billboard said that a transit station would be in operation in seven years time, in 2016. In Seattle, there were long range plans a foot.
I have seen my neighbor three times since I moved into my house six years ago. By 2016, I’ll have seen her three or four more times. She suffers from depression or some kind of malady that turns her into a shuffling, grey, affectless human being. The first time I saw her, the sky was overcast. She peaked her head over the fence to watch me mow the lawn. She said the last people who owned my house had kept the yard in perfect shape. They kept it in really good order, she said. And then, she disappeared behind the fence.
This time, in the 101 degree heat, she was euphoric. She was still wrinkled and wearing sweat pants. She was emptying the cat box into her trash can. When she saw me she waved, an over the head jocular wave. She shuffled toward me and asked about the tree in my yard.
I had a pear tree that was maybe ten years old. A couple of weeks ago, rot in the center of the tree split the tree. The topmost branches fell, and now they lay in my yard where they had fallen. The leaves were all brown and winkled. I had nothing about the tree. I don’t own a chainsaw.
“The inside split because it is a fruit tree,” I said. “They just don’t live for very long. All kinds of things can happen to them.”
“We had a cherry tree, and it did the same thing,” she said. She nodded her head. “I cut it down,” she said. “The neighbors asked me why I cut down such a beautiful tree. They kept asking me.”
“Yeah,” I said. “It was a fruit tree.”
“We replaced with a Japanese plum, the same thing happened,” she said.
“Well, it was another fruit tree.”
“No it wasn’t,” she said. “We never got any plums from that tree.”
“But it was a plum tree.”
“No. There weren’t any plums from that tree,” she said. “And then it just fell apart.”
I nodded. “Well, as soon as I get a chainsaw,” I said, “I’m going to cut that tree and remove the stuff from my yard.”
“Oh I’ve got chainsaws,” she said. “I have three chainsaws. Two gas and one electric. The electric one is this big.” She gestured with her hands to show me how big the chainsaw was. It was as long as the bumper of a truck.
“Electric chainsaws don’t seem good to me,” I said. I pictured the chainsaw, with the length of electric cable behind it and something happening to the person cutting. It just didn’t seem as though it would have enough cutting power.
“Oh I love my electric chainsaw,” she said. She mimed having the chainsaw on her hand. “It makes me feel the power.”