Leaves

 

Donald Conrad

Leaves

 

It all began when he bought the chainsaw.

That she had no way to defend herself seemed to matter little to him. She was in his way, so he cut her into manageable pieces and fed her into a wood chipper.

Limbs went first.

 

He had taken a job that ran on a continental shift of twelve hour days; three on—four off, and then four on—three off. In March he had the back end of the week free, including that brutal day: Friday the thirteenth. The day was cloudy and cold with a light breeze.

The chainsaw was an impulse buy. Home Depot is one of the few rare stores where guys actually take the scenic route, shopping by browsing like women do in any other store. All the newest yard-care equipment had been put on display when he visited for light bulbs. He checked out lawn tractors, weed trimmers, and power edgers. Then he came upon the selection of chain saws and a plan came to mind.

It came to him as a grand vision. He had more time on his hands and landscaping always appealed to him, particularly topiary. Sure, he mowed the lawn; but he wanted more. With warming weather soon arriving, he could begin clearing the way for his new hobby. So he bought the chainsaw, put it on his charge card. His wife paid the bills, but he wasn’t the least bit worried. He would have used it plenty by the time the bill came in.

It was an eighteen inch model; certainly enough to rid himself of her. She had been high maintenance all along and hardly worth the trouble. During the winter months she was depressing, cold, and gray. By the end of spring she was leaving her stuff all over and he was forced to clean it all up. She was always upbeat during the summer months when the sun rose high overhead; she so vibrant and colorful. He took solace in those grand times. But as the days shortened, she would begin leaving little bits of herself around in anticipation of winter’s doldrums.

He had had enough.

This was his chance for change. So he put his plan into action. On his way home he stopped at the rental center and found he could afford to rent a wood chipper. The price was actually cheaper in March because of its low demand. He giggled lightly as he drove toward home, surprised at how quickly the plan had come together.

When he pulled up out front with the wood chipper on his trailer hitch, her friends tried to warn her. There was a rustle on the air-waves. Yet none of them could act in defense. They were powerless that way, and could only watch in horror as he carried the box that spelled out its contents in red across it: Husqvarna.

Now she is spread around in the bushes and flower beds on his property. Her mortified friends conspired to retaliate the only way they knew how. They talked among themselves. They foiled his repeated attempts at order. Their actions had him talking—actually muttering—to himself. The poor man was slowly losing his grip.

“Vile, dastardly leaves,” he said again and again.

No one could say where he got such a phrase.

Her friends had been practicing. They had been slowly building on their successes. They dropped hints here and there. He had been thwarted at every turn. This was the life he had chosen when he cut her down in her prime though he couldn’t know it at the time. She was the tallest tree in the neighborhood at eighty feet; a grand large-tooth aspen. Her friends, mostly oaks and maples, had conspired. It was, after all, an anniversary coming up.

Friday the thirteenth occurred again in November. All the trees within sight of his house shuddered and quaked in remembrance. He came out of his garage on that horrible anniversary to once again do battle with the leavings of the deciduous around him.

They had plotted overnight with the only revenge they could muster. When the garage door rose, leaves poured in from a three foot drift. He stood there, backpack leaf-blower at the ready, and his jaw dropped.

The final assault her friends had waged covered his property in leaves a foot deep and drifted much higher. All of it fell overnight. They were still falling in ones and twos from the branches. His leaf blower seemed useless to battle such an onslaught. He let the straps slide from his shoulders and the leaf-blower hit the garage floor. He fell to his knees causing a sudden crunch of crushed leaves. He began sobbing and babbling incoherently. All the work that he had put into his landscaping, his topiary, and his property came to nothing. It was the final straw for him.

His mind snapped like a twig.

 

Hours later, his wife came home to find him sitting at the entrance to their garage. She couldn’t understand all the leaves still covering their yard. The front of his jacket glistened with drool. He was munching on leaves; they were in his hair and in his clothing. When he noticed his wife, he chuckled the nervous laugh of someone a little deranged and slightly caffeinated. His gaze left her and he looked into the empty branches.

“Leaves,” he said, and laughed again.

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