The Tree

 

Cal had Googled it and discovered the proper way to trim the tree, and, yes, he discovered it, he thought, like he was Vasco da Gama, and then he had Googled “chainsaws” and “eye protection” and “Vasco da Gama,” which led to right now, when he stood on the property line, still in his yard but looking at the Johnsons’ and holding the fresh, molded plastic of the chainsaw, and he was wearing an old pair of sunglasses, but he wasn’t wearing gloves, despite the advice of Google, because he wanted to feel the buzzing in his palms as he cut into the Johnsons’ maple, and he smelled the joyful poison of gasoline and the flatness of the autumn night, like soda water gone spunkless, which made him suspect that fall air wasn’t really crisp at all, but he would check later, and he had Googled the law months ago, and he had Googled Home Depot, and he had Googled Lowe’s, and he had MapQuested both, and he had driven the best route to the closer of the two stores, and then he had Googled flannel shirts, which were not strictly necessary but seemed appropriate, and he ended up wearing an old one, red flannel with green quilting on the inside and a hole in the elbow where a tuft of gray lining sproinged through, which he pushed back into the sleeve with an index finger, and he knew the Johnsons would be gone from 6:37, when he watched them pull down their driveway, until at least 9:42 because he had Googled and “Iron Man” was showing at 7:10, and it was 126 minutes long, and there had to be 15 minutes of previews and it would take them 11 minutes to get home from the dollar theater according to MapQuest, and because the branch was on his side of the property line, both Google and the legal system said he could amputate it, and his forearm bones were alive with vibrations as chips of wood plunked against his sunglasses, and he was hacking away at this living entity that stretched into the black leaves of night, and “what has once begun in fury must continue until all the atoms rest as one, as done,” which was from a poem he had read somewhere, and he would have to Google it later, and, just in case, he had already Googled possible angles and trajectories, and there was a way to take the whole mother down, straight into his own backyard to the right of the utility shed, and he would have to Google the forearm bones later too, but he controlled almost all possible knowledge, and the tree had to die, and he would Google things later, and he was as sure of this as he was of anything.

DANIEL A. HOYT'S first short story collection, Then We Saw the Flames, won the Juniper Prize for Fiction and was published by UMass Press. His stories are forthcoming or have appeared in The Missouri Review, The Cincinnati Review, The Iowa Review, and other literary magazines. He teaches and directs the creative writing program at Kansas State University.

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