The tree I paid for twice

I refinanced the house to make some changes – paint the main room, add new gutters and heat tape and drop a few trees. Always with the dropping of trees.

I called a contractor I had used before. There’s one big tree touching the top of the power pole and it’s bad news from a fire standpoint. It’s bad because that power pole is about 20 feet from the house.

He came and checked over the situation and scoped out the 8-foot wide area where the tree could fall and not hit the house, power lines, wood shed or fence. He flirted a little and said early the next day, he’d bring his son and the son’s wife and they’d help drag slash and stack up the downed wood. Yep, they’d be there early, early. They showed up around 10 a.m.

When they arrived, you could cut the tension with a chainsaw.

The Chainsaw Son moped around the trees and eyed them suspiciously. Sullen Wife sat in the truck and glared with the same exasperated boredom of a spoiled child.

Dad went on and on about having to take care of his lady customers. He’s a short, wiry man decked out in full lumberjack regalia and looks like his philosophy is why eat when you can smoke.

On first glance, Chainsaw Son is a fragile recovering alcoholic and Sullen Wife believes Target clothing is haute couture.

Dad looked over the outside of my house with approval. “This is real nice place, real nice,” he said. “Just needs a little fixin’ up and I do that kind of work all the time.” He glanced around again and said quietly. “Yes, indeedy, I could really help you out with this place. He gave me a look. “Yes, indeedy.”

Chainsaw Son rolled his eyes. “Dad, we gotta get started if we’re going to get to the job this afternoon.”

I didn’t know anything about the second job. “Are you going to be able to do this in the time we discussed?”

They assure me their expertise and professionalism in this world is cutting down trees. We had plenty of time.

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The Problem Tree by the pole was surrounded by several smaller problem trees. Those had to go down before Problem Tree could come down. Dad attacked the trees with gusto and Chainsaw Son cut and dragged slash to the road. The more dad cut down the more Chainsaw Son got pissed. Drag and stack, drag and stack.

“What about those trees over there? We could take them down today,” Dad said as he pointed at a group of thin dead trees. “I’ll give you a good price.”

It was in line with mountain prices: about $75 a tree, stack, slash and all.

Chainsaw Son and Sullen Wife had unspoken conversations with their eye rolls and head shakes. Sullen Wife got out of the truck and brought him an energy drink. They both looked at Dad and shook their heads at each other.

The moment of truth came when it was Problem Tree’s turn to face the saw. Father and Son paired up to cut, digging deep into the 15″ round tree. Remember that 8-foot wide space where the tree could fall and do no damage? Problem Tree decided to make a bee-line for the house in the other direction.

Lots of yelling, pushing, praying and sheer will kept that tree from landing on my house. I still can’t look at the video I took.

I needed a break; they kept working.

“Looks like he’s sobering up,” Sullen Wife said without looking around.

“Nah, he’s got whiskey in his thermos,” Chainsaw Son said.

“I thought you poured that out?”

“I did, but he refilled it,” Chainsaw Son said.

Little did they know I was standing right behind.

“He’s drunk?” I asked.

“He’s ALWAYS drunk,” said Sullen Wife with a look of disgust on her face. “He started at 7 a.m. this morning and hadn’t sobered up from last night.”

Chainsaw Son walked away to spit out his wad of chaw.

Sullen Wife wasn’t done with Dad yet.

“He’s the worst kind of alcoholic,” she said. “He had a wife but beat her until she left. His girlfriend just left and he got kicked out of his house for not paying rent. He’s got nowhere to live and has to moved to Texas to live with some relative.” She took a breath. “He drinks himself until he blacks out every night.” She looked at him with undisguised disgust. “He calls me a bitch to my face whenever we’re alone. That’s the first thing he said to me this morning when he came over.”

Dad either didn’t hear or didn’t care about the conversation. He kept cutting trees and headed down towards the dead trees in the Slightly Unenchanted Forest.

Chainsaw Son came back down and took another swig of his tepid energy drink and took another dip from a can of Skoal. “That asshole is leaving me to do all the slash,” he complained to his wife, his tongue trying to corral the chew in his lip and making him sound like he had a lisp. “He keeps cutting down trees and won’t help. I’m sick of this shit.”

“He called me a bitch this morning,” Sullen Wife said above the chainsaw din.

“That fucker!” Chainsaw Son said, bits of chaw spraying like confetti on his dirty, blue-plaid shirt.

“He’s jealous that you’re not an alcoholic anymore,” Sullen Wife said. “You beat it, he can’t.”

“I never drank as much as he did and I never hit you, like he hit mom,” he said.

“You hit me once at that party at Jim’s,” she reminded him.

“You deserved it for flirting with that guy and waving your tits in his face,” he said.

Suddenly they remember I was standing there. Both of them looked at me. I only knew one way out of this uncomfortable situation.

“Wendy’s anyone?” I asked. “I’ll pay.”

Sullen Wife took my money and our orders, a Wendy’s single, a Spicy Chicken Sandwich, a Baconator, fries and Coke, Coke and Coke.

Dad didn’t want anything.

She climbed back in the big dually Ford and expertly turned it around in the small driveway and sprayed gravel at Dad as she went.

Two and half hours later, she returned with a bag full of cold double cheeseburgers, cold, greasy fries and watered down Cokes.

“I got lost,” she hiccuped. “I couldn’t find this damn place.”

She was wearing a different shirt and shoes. She smelled vaguely of sweat and pot.

She looked down in the Slightly Unenchanted Forest.

“Isn’t he done with this shit yet?”

Chainsaw Son gave her a disgusted look. “He cut down trees we didn’t talk about. I’m doing all the hard work and he’ll take more than half the money.” He looked at me. “You should make out the check to me and not him so I can get what I’m owed.”

I took a sip off my flat Coke.

“What the fuck is his problem? Is he helping drag the slash?” Sullen Wife said.

“No, that fucker is making me do all of this,” he said. “I’m tired of this shit.”

The job was supposed to take three hours.

By 4 p.m. I suggested that maybe they could come back the next day and cut the one remaining dead tree down and pull the slash up to the road?

Chainsaw Son brightened a little. “He’s leaving for Texas tomorrow and isn’t coming back but we’ll come back and finish this, I promise.”

I wrote the check for $1,000 for 14 trees minus one.

“I’m so glad that stupid asshole will finally be out of our lives,” said Sullen Wife, relief in her voice.

Sullen Wife gave me their phone number. “Burn Dad’s number, you won’t be needing it.”

They packed up their chainsaws, rakes and threw the uneaten, rock-hard double cheeseburgers in the trash.

“You take care now,” Dad said with a twinkle in his swimmy blue eyes. “Wish I was sticking around, you’re a fine lady and I’d like to get to know you better.”

I just looked at him.

“Can I have a kiss goodbye?”

Oh, hell no.

They drove away and the tension melted. I wondered what my chances were that they’d come back the next day or that Dad would change his plans and stick around to get to know me better.

Turns out zero.

Phone number was a non-working number. Professional Chainsaw Family from Hell skipped out. Stale cheeseburger odor wafted from the trash. Dead tree still stood.

It stood dead and tall for 6 months until a reputable company came and took it down along and a few others that blew over in a windstorm. That dead tree stood in defiance of the professionalism of Dad, Chainsaw Son and Sullen Wife and a 60 mph gust of wind that left it standing but blew over the healthy tree next to it.

The tree I paid for twice.

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