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“It’s so coincidentally weird sometimes, how life imitates art. I started writing the following story a few weeks ago as a submission to Haggard & Halloo, until I realized the story was much too long and would mostly likely be appreciated by the editor(s), but not published as a result of its length. I also stopped writing it just before the news about the California Wildfires, and before I recently heard that the fires may have been set intentionally. While I doubt that the alleged arsonists are obsessive compulsive allergy sufferers, I do want to offer a disclaimer that my protagonist (or antihero) Marta is not based on actual events or a person, but she is a symbol of hope in the fight against the dreaded juniper, or mountain cedar tree. I’d also like to mention that this tree is not indigenous to Central Texas where the story takes place. These trees remain a scourge on the landscape of Central Texas, and must be controlled (if not eliminated). I’d also like to mention that ragweed, oak, and elm trees are also a scourge on the land. I’m not condoning the use of combustible materials to destroy the pollen producing plants and trees, but if it happened without a threat to life or property, it might be a good idea.” – Danna Marrón Williams
O.C.D. Tree Killer (Part One)
by Danna Marrón Williams
Friday 11:32 pm cst February 29, 2008
When the fire started with a tiny flicker at the base of the first bonsai-like Juniper tree, Marta Reed cackled with the glee of a witch who has cast a prodigious spell on Halloween. But her moment of triumph was short lived.
A sudden wind caused a furious cloud of pollen smoke and fanned her flicker to a flame at the base of the tree she calculated to be the nearest to the middle of the acre lot. She was exhausted from her nights’ work, but summoned the rest of her energy to collect some of her gasoline cans and the bag containing boxes of matches she had saved over three years.
To avoid suspicion, she purchased the gasoline used to set the fire every night while filling up her Volvo station wagon, secretly filling an old fashioned red metal container with the word “Gasoline” etched in goldenrod yellow. Or was it corn? She changed her mind about the shade every night since plotting the demise of juniper trees near her otherwise perfect suburban paradise.
She had exactly 4,840 gas cans stored in her garage and attic, which was really a 1000 square foot crawl space, one can for every square foot of the acre lot that had caused her grief, and 360 boxes of matches for the past 360 days over three years of suffering at the hands of the male juniper tree (also known as the male mountain cedar tree).
Because it was a small neighborhood and almost everyone knew everyone else, and Marta Reed was already known as the “tidy lady” in her neighborhood, who reported her independent findings of violations to her neighborhood association, and she was infamously known to call code enforcement at city hall in Cedar Park three times a week – Monday, Wednesday, and Friday – to report everything she suspected was a flaw on the grid of her life plans. But the one flaw she could never report was the bothersome proliferation of trees that caused the dreaded cedar fever that afflicted many people in her Sunnybrook subdivision.
Although she preferred to remain indoors in the sterile comfort of home, she was not agoraphobic. Marta took pride in her immaculate lawn and backyard, and managed to find some comfort in the hearty rose garden surrounding all four sides of her home in symmetrical fashion. She hired a landscape specialist who assured her, with photographic proof, that by aerial and even satellite view that her rosebush hedges formed a perfect square perimeter around her home.
The cost to keep her home in a near perfect state of utopia was expensive, but her lucrative work from home as a C.P.A. (after a 20 year career and early retirement from the I.R.S.), and low to medium-risk investments allowed her some luxuries, like HEPA air purifiers, one in every room and closet in her home. Unfortunately, it did not completely relieve her of the plague of pollen, nor did her three showers per day. Her already sensitive nature to allergens made her despise the mountain cedar tree lot across from her subdivision even more.
Marta had become an immaculate prisoner in her immaculate home.