THE CUT DOWN
By Dalton Bryan Monk
Duane Bryan Monk has no idea I’ve written this, and I intend to keep it that way.
I wasn’t told that I had to embark on my dad’s tedious vocations, but I knew it was my duty as his son to support him and endure the work with him. Unfortunately, it was so hot it felt like I was standing on a grate set on top of a cauldron boiling water. It was July in West Virginia.
My dad grew up on a farm lamenting the rules his father implemented upon him; those rules contained one that really shattered his pride and felicity as a growing boy: no baseball, because baseball gets in the way of farm work. My dad’s father, my papa, was a war veteran that had been to several countries and somehow dodged the doomed D-Day (I know because he told me), thus, because of his military background, it can be assumed that he treated his five boys like cadets. However, there’s no need to assume anything because my dad has told me several times that his father was a mean man. It seems like just about everyone has a mean dad.
The garage, after his room, had just been painted an eggshell white that hardly looked different from the white color it had been before. There, in the front yard on the bend of the hill, stood a dead maple tree that served us a short life; my dad had decided the tree needed to be cut down, for the lifeless state it was in was a “sore sight.”
My dad acts as though his father never cared about him, as if he produced him only with the purpose to be a human farming machine. In my head, I see my papa talking to a futuristic doctor check marking certain qualities that would determine my dad’s build, endurance, speed, agility. All the while my papa is explaining the excess amount of work my dad would be doing while saying with those oblivious eyes, “Save the emotions, if possible.”
We went to the garage to acquire my dad’s far too old chainsaw, which had a rustic color to prove its lifespan. After forty minutes of configuring the dry rotted primer, my dad went to cutting the deceased. I was there to collect the remnants.
The ten year, twice-engaged relationship my dad was in had just ended; she was the breaker in this case. I don’t know if you have divorced parents, but it’s a strange life growing up with parents that have a dating life. It seems like their days of getting broken up with should be over. But, they’re just kids in aged skin. No one ever really knows what they’re doing, they just get older and try to pretend that they do. They sure do try.
My dad is a tough and (sometimes) emotional man, so he naturally coped by staying busy with “manly” chores. The reason my dad had all the time to do this was because he was just laid off from his job. My dad and I were in Washington, D.C. when he found out. We were trying to find our hotel, and I tried to use my dad’s GPS on his phone, but I was abruptly stopped by my dad’s voice. “I don’t want you looking at my phone right now!” It felt like I was back to being 6 years old and 2 feet shorter than the big, hairy, bad breathed man that was my dad. I thought my dad had a woman sending him texts he didn’t want me to see, but, after a few minutes of letting his face return to its normal color, he told me he was being “let go” from his job. He had choice words for Andres, his former boss.
The cutting of the limbs was a tedious job, just like it is for the devil as he slowly kills us. When I think of a tree having to be cut down, I think of a cut from the trunk that allows the weight of the upper half, provided that gravity is still prevalent with its injurious motives, to topple. Though, it’s much more practical than that. The tree is cut not all at once but one limb at a time.
I wish I could say my dad and I spoke to each other like some regular guys on a hot day yearning for the sound of ice cubes jingling against the inside of a glass filled with water, but we didn’t. The conversation, if any, was limited to the most necessary words. We did have one conversation, though.
“You could hurt yourself, Dalton!” My dad always griped in situations like these.
“Dad, I’m 19. Let me cut with the chainsaw for a bit.”
“You’ve never used a chainsaw before! You want this to end in a trip to the hospital?”
“How am I supposed to learn how to use one if you won’t let me try it?”
The conversation continued until my dad gave in. I was given the chance to cut down the tree for no longer than 15 minutes. It wasn’t my tree to cut down, anyway. The rest of the sentences that were muttered involved the words “hot,” “humid,” and “tired.” I said all of which.
I’ve always felt an immense pressure to be there for my parents because I’m an only child. My mom and dad both love to spend time with me, so, my whole life, I’ve felt the jealousy between the two; no one likes to share their favorite toy. It consisted of phone calls that would turn into hour-long yelling competitions, snarky responses to different styles of parenting, complaining to me about the other parent, and such. Don’t feel like I didn’t enjoy my childhood, though. It used to hurt, but, just like every other annoying thing people have to deal with, I dealt with it and got used to it.
The tree began to fall and collapse while I would pile it into a wheelbarrow to stack in a pile behind our house into the mouth of the woods. My dad would curse under his breath with sweat temporarily staining his forehead and clothes.
If I had a brother or sister like I was supposed to I could’ve looked at them and smirked and joked with them later. But I was left alone to laugh with myself and feel sorry for my dad. I was supposed to have a twin, but my twin died in the womb early on. I wonder what they would’ve said about our dad cutting down a tree on possibly the hottest day of the year. “Why..?” Something like that I bet.
I could see the frustration consuming my dad; the way he looked cutting the tree was something I had never seen prior to that moment. I’ve seen my dad contemptuously dealing with several things I’ve done: changing the oil (or trying to, at least), not wanting to practice baseball, wanting to hang out with my friends instead of him, accidentally hitting the car with a basketball, not watching where his ball went when we were golfing, and, especially, not picking up my feet while hunting through the woods. However, I had never seen that look on his face until then. It was the type of face that was able to contaminate anyone who looked at it with the emotions that produced it. All the while, his shadow splashed the ground only delineating a man cutting down a tree.
The tree was nothing but a five-foot stump after two hours. My dad’s chainsaw was throwing up a white flag, as the chain began to unravel and the gas was running thin. There was about an eight inch cut into the width of the bottom of the stump at the end of our vocation. There is where the chainsaw had its last cut.
The stump still stands two years later. A job left unfinished, which is very unlike the man that raised me. My dad has a new job and a new girlfriend. My papa died, and my dad misses him more than he thought he would. I still struggle with having no one to share my humorous and poignant childhood memories of living at two different homes, but I’m still able to somehow sling it off like the sweat burning your eyes on a hot day. I guess it all just depends on how resilient we are.
The tree isn’t as dead as we thought; there is a stem that has started growing.
About the Author:
Dalton Monk is a senior at Marshall University pursuing an English and Marketing degree. He grew up in West Virginia, and he loves reading, hiking, playing sports, and watching movies. He aspires to become an editor, writer, or publisher.