Murder in the Black Hole


I am not counting the days.
But it has been eight.
On a cold and gray November 13, 1975, my sister handed my parents a gift for their twentieth wedding anniversary. It was a baby Norfolk pine that was no more than a fuzzy twig with tiny arms. It was in a small pot wrapped in red Christmas foil.
Our mother always used say, "Cut it back."
And she was always referring to plants when she made this statement. There was nothing that would not grow for her and that little Norfolk pine was no exception, so of course it grew into a tree.

Somewhere around 1990 that tree was delivered to the black hole where it could continue to grow and flourish in our home since my sweet Sven had designed our house with cathedral ceilings.
Sven was elated.
I thought it should have been transported to a public building with an atrium and a fountain.
Over the years it would exceed each new limitation it was given we would have to find another spot that it could take over. About a decade ago it landed in the corner of the landing inside our front door where it has remained with it's spiky bare trunk. Around six feet in the air lush green feather like foliage of arms and legs entangled with crispy brown sharp toothed limbs begin to dangle.
An annoyingly hideous situation at best.
Last week, on the ninth of November our weather here in Wisconsin was sunny and mild, which is rare for this time of year. Sven left for the day with his golf buddies. I had plans to do my thing with Thanksgiving closing in, clean another corner of the house that has been tragically neglected.
I chose the landing inside the front door.
The best way to go about these types of projects classified as scary as shit, is to include paint.
Paint makes all the pain and suffering worth it in the end.
I stood there with my coffee looking over the situation trying to figure out where to even begin.
It was clear that I would to have to slide Mr. Norfolk Pine out of his corner to get behind there with the vacuum and some soapy water.
I stood on a step stool with a pair of long armed clippers to cut off some of the dead branches above me. That is when I realized I did not need the clippers. With just the slightest touch most of them let loose and silently floated to the ground.
By the time I got down the whole rug was full of thousands of pine needles, some attached to branches and others loose. I glanced up to see what was left of the tree. The foliage at the top was pressed into the window. The tree could no longer grow vertically and it hadn't been for a while. It would have to continue to grow horizontally before making a ninety degree angle turn once it got to the highest point of the peak of the ceiling.
And that is when it happened.
The long handled clippers, right in front of my eyes, sunk their teeth into the trunk of that tree and the top half of the Norfolk pine came crashing down.
The silence was deafening as I stood there in the midst of the mishap with the murder weapon still in my innocent hands.
Maybe a minute went by.
And then I sprang into action like some kind of a regular old serial killer.
I give credit to my next moves to Dateline, the show that wakes me up at three AM and holds me hostage.
First I found a tarp and dragged the tree and limbs off the carpet, swearing with each poke of it's spikes. Once I had the body loaded as much as I could onto it, I dragged it out the door and across the driveway to the burn pile that has not been burned in years, and dumped him in into it.
Then I dug the dolly out of the shed and coaxed an oversized pot with a chopped off five foot trunk onto it and got it out the door. When I went over the edge of the deck onto the grass I lost control and we all went down, losing some dirt and some pride. I again situated the situation onto the dolly and worked my way to the burn pile.
It was too heavy to dump and I could not pull the trunk out.
I rolled it on it's side and scooped a bunch of dirt out until finally I was able to shake it loose and free it from the pot. I rolled the pokey thing into the rest of the mess over there, put away the dolly and added the empty pot to my other empty pots on the back deck.
Next I located the leaf blower and blew out the landing as well as I could of needles and continued outside where I cleared the evidence off the grass.
I folded and returned the tarp to the garage and sat down on a step of the landing, exhausted.
But, I had to get busy. Sven would be home in a couple hours.
I vacuumed the rest of the debris from the rug and pulled the bench out of the little cove next to the hooks emptied of jackets, in order to get ready for my paint.
After washing the baseboards, I began cutting in the paint and by the time Sven returned I had almost finished the first coat.
I held my breath as he studied the disarray.
"Will you bring in the big ladder when I get to the parts I can't reach on the stairs," I said.
"Is all I have to do?" he says.
And then he turned on the golf channel.
I sent my sister Louisa a text explaining the situation of the great Norfolk pine, the one she had given our parents forty-six years ago.
"Out of sight out of mind," she wrote back.
"Right!" I said.
I had a hard time falling asleep that night. I suppose this is a common phenomenon among murderers.
Sven carried the ladder inside and set it up on the stairs the next afternoon.
I sent Louisa another text. "I might get away with this. He still hasn't noticed."
"I thought he loved that tree," she wrote back.
I finished the second coat of paint, washed the floor and vacuumed the carpet once again.
Sven came to retrieve the ladder and that is when he tripped over the leaf blower.
Just as on Dateline, I had overlooked one little detail that would take me down.
"I don't understand why this is even in here," he said.
"Things were pretty wild in the beginning," I answered.
I slid a wicker basket for hats and gloves into the wide open and empty corner.
As we sat on the couch with our backs to the landing watching the news that evening, the big story was about an eighty year old pine tree from Maryland on it's way to Rockefeller Center.
What are the odds?
"It must have been hard for them to let that tree go," says Sven.
"Yeah," I answered.
I sent my sister a text.
"Louisa, I am deleting all pine tree conversations. Please throw your phone into the lake. Thanks."
I am not counting the days.
But this is number nine.


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