The Neighbors

They weren’t just stupid. They were also careless. They left their tools on the grass in the backyard next to the tree they’d slaughtered that afternoon just before the rain. For no reason, they’d cut it down. In their primitive fashion, they had torn at it with a machete after sawing it down with a chainsaw.

They’d left the chainsaw on the grass as well.

It had started raining, so they rushed inside. God forbid the elements of nature touch them. Which was why they were destroying the only beautiful thing on their property. A maple. Full grown and green and lush. Now in segments on the grass.

It was the chainsaw that caught my eye.

As darkness came upon the place, I saw the chainsaw still there.

Once it was fully dark, I dressed in my black pants, shirt, black gloves, and a hooded sweatshirt. I was a ninja now, all in black. I went out and made a beeline to where I’d seen the chainsaw lying. It was still there. I picked it up and moved towards their house. The flickering television, a massive 50” piece of work, held their attention. There were five. The older man, the owner of the place, his wife, their daughter from out of state with her husband and her own five-year-old daughter. They sat, entranced by American Idol. Who would be selected tonight? Whose voice was sweetest? Who did the cleverest thing of all on that stage?

I went back to my own place, chainsaw in hand, to wait for the flickering light to go black. I set the chainsaw down by the back door.

In the walk-in closet, I found my father’s shotgun and a half-empty box of shells on the shelf nearby. I loaded two bullets and waited.

Around midnight, I went back to their house. No moon in the sky was a great help. In their house, all was silent. All was dark.

I threw a pebble at the window of what I determined to be the master bedroom in the back of the house; the room where the owner and his wife slept. I threw another. And another. A light went on. The man came to the window to peer out, saw nothing. The light went out.

I threw another pebble. This time slightly larger.

I went to the back porch door and waited.

I saw a flashlight’s bouncing light move down the stairs and turn the corner toward the backyard. I stood, braced by the side of back door. The hall light went on, shedding light onto the porch. He opened the inner door. I held my breath. There was a screen door as well. The chainsaw had a push button starter and as the man opened the screen door, I pounded the button and the chainsaw roared to life.

I raised the chainsaw to the level of the man’s neck and sawed easily through, right to left. The head rolled forward off the neck, down the chest, and hit the back porch deck with the thud of a large cabbage. The body staggered a single step and fell. The legs twitched. I sawed off the arms and legs just as they’d done to first my trees and then their own.

Seconds later, I reached for the shotgun. The screen door opened as I trained my sight between the son-in-law’s eyes, just above his gaping mouth. I knew the blast would shatter a foot-wide hole through his head and whatever was behind him, so I wasn’t too particular about my aim. I was about to squeeze the trigger when the owner’s wife and daughter appeared behind the son-in-law. Their timing was more than perfect. They stood in the hallway screaming for me to stop.

I squeezed and all three were done. Night was silent again.

The last living creature in the house was the granddaughter of the owner and I had no bone to pick with her. Plus, she had stayed fast asleep through all the chaos.

I set about sawing off the arms, legs, and heads of the other three and left them there on the porch in splendid disarray. I took the chainsaw to my house, hosed it off, and washed off myself as well. I put the chainsaw into a plastic shopping bag and then into a large, hard plastic suitcase. I stashed the suitcase in the trunk of my car.

And then, I went to bed.


Blue Jay Comes To

Blue Jay comes to the big feeder and bosses everybody around.

But he is afraid of Woodpecker.Blue Jay


How do I know?

He’s more jittery around the black and white striped fellow. And it takes more bluster to get Woodpecker off the big feeder, whereas, the little guys frighten easily at the least flutter or squawk. In an attempt to get Woodpecker to shove off, Blue Jay flaps and caws. The feeder swings crazily like boat on a stormy sea.

From my desk, I call at him, “Stop that. Go away!” Three times I admonish.

Blue Jay flies to a nearby branch to spy on his enemy. And to try to shut me down, he tilts his head and directs his left eye at me, the source of rebuke. I speak more kindly to him now, from my seat inside by the window. I remind him of the other, smaller feeder. Tell him he doesn’t have to share. Tell him he can have his very own feeder.

He flies deeper into hiding in the tree’s leafy middle where I am unable to see him.

I imagine he is feeling chastised, and so, irritated with me. I figure he thinks I just didn’t understand his importance and why he, not Woodpecker, should have the feeder Woodpecker was hogging. By rights, shouldn’t Blue Jay have the bigger feeder?

Tufted Titmouse suddenly lands on the roof of the second, smaller feeder, now unafraid of Blue Jay hanging back in the tree. And then Squirrel takes small squirrel-sized leaps in slow, careful, motion. He looks around nervously after each jump, as he heads to the base of the feeder where a carpet of sunflower seeds awaits. Evidence of many feeder squabbles. Seed spillage is the day’s main course for many visitors.

And then comes Blue Jay. Which I like to imagine is because I told him so.

He flies to the smaller feeder and I feel gratified.

Woodpecker continues tapping at a spot on the big feeder, heedless of nearby activity.

And suddenly a whoosh, another whoosh, and three of Blue Jay’s relatives join him at the smaller feeder. All goes well. And before too long, those in attendance disband.

Minutes later, Blue Jay alights on the east side of the larger feeder. It rocks gently and Woodpecker, already there, stops pecking. Focused and unmoving, he eyes Blue Jay briefly. Woodpecker then turns back to his work to extract seeds from the feeder.

The two are on either side of the large feeder but Blue Jay doesn’t make his usual, noisy squawk. Rather, he sits there silently glaring at his black and white striped nemesis. Woodpecker stops now and returns the glare with indifferent curiosity.

They are still for thirteen, then fifteen, seconds.
And then sudden movement when they both begin tapping their beaks into the feeder with vigor. There seems to be some kind of resolution. An unspoken agreement to disagree. Maybe.