Dino is halfway up the tree. Kidd stands near Tess’s truck in the driveway, Tess sitting in the driver’s seat with his coffee and newspaper. Kitty, Cecilia and Gabriel stand near the front door, watching Dino, Kitty hoping their presence might help with his obvious anxiety. He has moved up at a very slow pace, tentatively pulling out the spike of each climbing spur and pushing in only inches higher, then tentatively moving the climbing belt up the same small incremental distance. He yells down to Kidd, “This belt is frayed. It looks weak. Every time I move it up I can see strands of material breaking. I think I should come down and get a new one.”
“There is no other one, and you should feel lucky I even gave you a belt. Now come on, we don’t have all day.”
“I’m going as fast as I can. It’s tough with this gear.” Hanging from Dino’s shoulders are the chainsaw on a shoulder strap and a very large bundle of climbing rope.
Dino finally reaches the branch. It’s a massive thing, forming its own satellite canopy. From the trunk it grows almost straight out before turning up, maintaining a solid two foot diameter from the base to the elbow of the turn. The elbow is about eight feet out from the trunk and it looms above Dino, who clings to the tree beneath the branch.
“I’m not doing this,” he yells; “there’s no way.” He looks down at Kidd from about thirty feet up, who squints at him, hands on his hips. Tess leans out of the driver’s seat window and looks up at him too.
“That crazy looking elbow in the branch is going to come right at me, I can tell; the canopy is leaning all its weight over it. When the cut is made it will swing right at me like a pendulum...” Dino looks more fixedly at the elbow, “I think there’s a face in it. In the bark. It looks like the devil.”
Kidd starts laughing, laughing and looking back at Tess, who starts laughing with him. “Trust me. I checked this out. Don’t worry about the branch; don’t even look at it. Take the climbing rope off your shoulder and throw it around the branch. Oh man, ‘devil in the wood’, you’ve got an imagination alright. Now throw that rope, but keep one hand holding the slack. You drop that thing and you’ll have to climb all the way back down here; either that or you’ll just have to deal with that branch yourself. Don’t look at it, just throw the rope on three: one, two, three. Okay good, keep feeding it around the branch. There’s lots. You could go around that branch three or four times with that pile of rope. Ha—ha, that’s my rope. I always keep good rope in my truck. See, Tess takes care of all the hedge trimmers and lawnmowers, but I’ve got the tree gear. Just keep feeding that rope; let the end pile up on the ground. Okay good, try to throw the loop down the branch, away from where I told you to cut. You see, you see what’s going on here? This isn’t my first tree, not my biggest, definitely not the hardest. I don’t even need my really good rope for this tree. I haven’t even shown you that rope.”
Kidd ties the ends of the rope to a spot beneath the front end of the truck, slaps the hood, then walks his hand along the slack rope, while Tess, newspaper still sprawled in his lap, coffee still in his hand, hears Kidd slap on the hood, turns the ignition, shifts into reverse, and lets the truck idle backwards. Eventually the loop around the branch makes it to the elbow and the rope goes taut with enough strength to hold the truck from idling back. The truck is now poised to jump backward as soon as Dino finishes the cut, pulling the branch away from the tree and Dino.
Kidd says, “Now remember what I said, cut a wedge in the branch on your side, then finish the cut on the truck side. And start that chainsaw the way I showed you.” Dino pulls the choke then cranks on the chainsaw’s pull-string. The engine turns then stops with a puff of black smoke. He smacks the choke back in then cranks on the pull-string again. This time the engine roars on. Dino presses the trigger a few times spinning the teeth into a blur. He looks down at Kidd. Kidd looks up at him, waves him on, then turns and walks towards the truck.
Leaning back on the strap, his spurs wedged into either side of the tree, Dino revves the engine and moves the blur of teeth towards the branch above him. As they cut into the wood a loud, penetrating squeal sounds out and a shower of saw dust pours down on Dino. Kidd walks underneath and inspects the wedge cut out of the side of the branch. He signales Tess to give the truck a little gas, thus increasing the tension on the rope, and its pull on the elbow of the branch, then he signales Dino with a slicing motion. Dino steals one more glance at the satellite canopy the branch opens up into, the maze of twigs bursting out of the Black Oak’s massive arm.
Crack! The sound of wood splitting. The crack is deafening. The branch has split right down its centre. The split begins where Dino cut the wedge. It runs all the way to the elbow, and even up for a few feet, where the split finally ends at the side of the branch facing the truck. This leaves that side still attached to the tree, but the side that Dino has cut through—the side that still includes the entire canopy above the split—completely severed from the tree, save for whatever strands of wood remained attached between the split halves.
Dino drops the chainsaw, but it’s halted by the shoulder strap. Then, staring in horror at the split branch, he drops a couple feet down the trunk, barely controlling the climbing spurs.
The next sound is something between crackling, fiber ripping and Velcro. It’s the remaining strands of wood peeling away from their respective halves. The branch is separating like a pair of scissors. Dino looks at Kidd below. Kidd is screaming and signaling ‘step on the gas’ at Tess, but the rope is powerless to pull the dislodged-half of the branch and canopy away while the remaining attached-half blocks the efforts of the truck. While the end that Dino has released with his chainsaw scissors upward, the elbow sinks beneath the weight of the canopy. The separation forces the rope to the centre of the x-shaped halves. The engine in the chainsaw stalls. The wood strands are all ripped. The pendulum canopy and devil faced elbow swings towards Dino quickly, yet silently, through the air.
Thud, “Oof”, snap are the sounds of the elbow making contact with Dino’s gut, winding him and breaking the harness (though not his back, most likely because the frayed, weakened harness strap snaps first).
The chainsawed end of the scissored branch slides through the loop of the climbing rope, still pointlessly held taut by the truck. Dino and the branch free-fall. His body forms a V at the base of the V that is the branch, with his feet pointing towards the canopy, his head towards the opposite end, and his torso beneath the elbow. The Blinds close their eyes and hold their breath just before the elbow drives his torso into the ground, the canopy exploding into splinters above him.