My neighbor loves his chain saw. Every day during the summer and fall months at precisely 1:40, he fires it up and goes to town on his acre lot filled with trees. It’s like the rising and setting of the sun – you can set your watch to it. For the next couple of hours, he works his forest with short, sporadic, Turrets-like bursts.

Damn you, tree.

Damn you to hell, branch.

Eat shit and die, oh siskin of the lofty pine.

The fact that there are any trees left at all on his lot is a miracle in and of itself. I don’t know if it speaks more to the persistence of the forest or a sacrifice of function over form, but he has a ways to go. I have seen him at work, though, smoothly following through with his undercuts and back cuts. His technique is impressive. The remaining forest will not last long.

If the zombie apocalypse comes, he will be well equipped to deal with the impending doom. Zombies move slowly so he can afford to take his time with the short, sporadic burst method he has perfected so well. Also, if he slips up with his timing and accidentally gets bitten or infected by one and becomes a zombie himself, he has a chainsaw. With his well-honed plunge cut skills, he could quickly advance in the zombie ranks. He could be a zombie king.

But I’ll have trees.


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ERIKA RAE is the author of Devangelical, a humor memoir about growing up Evangelical (Emergency Press, December, 2012). She is editor-in-chief at Scree Magazine and nonfiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. Erika earned her MA in Lit­er­a­ture and Lin­guis­tics from the Uni­ver­sity of Hong Kong and to this day can ask where the bath­room is in Can­tonese, although it is likely that she will not under­stand the answer. In her dream world, she fan­cies her­self a kung fu mas­ter clev­erly dis­guised as a gen­tle moun­tain dweller, eagerly antic­i­pat­ing dan­ger at the bot­tom of every latte. When she is not whipping one of her 3 children and denying them bread with their broth, she runs an ISP with her husband from their home in the Colorado Rockies.

48 responses to “Zombie Chainsaw Apocalypse”

  1. Becky Palapala says:

    But have you tried a chainsaw?

    I find it difficult to believe that you are a mountain-dwelling archer and haven’t, but anything’s possible. And generally speaking, once a person has successfully wielded one s/he understands it’s intoxicating appeal.

    It’s mostly a dude thing, though. Give a man even a machete, say “hold this,” and walk away. Suddenly you find him hacking through the wooded back corner of the lot with his sock tie around his head, reciting lines from Rambo. When questioned, though, he will maintain his behavior is strictly utilitarian.

    • I’ve always been weirdly drawn to machetes, even moreso than chainsaws. Maybe it’s because I’m not strong enough to operate a chainsaw. I don’t know. Machete’s are very, very cool… And of course I’m talking for a gardening/farming standpoint, not a criminal sort of thing.

      I guess if it came down to the inevitable zombie apocalypse I would probably opt for a chainsaw on account of the fact that machetes get stuck in stuff, like heads. It would be hard to kill more than one of them. I have a feeling, though, that even zombies fear the dreaded chainsaw. It’s noisy, it splatters and it’s never going to just leave a wound. It’s all or nothing.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        Ew. Typed my response from the couch, from my phone. Typos.

        I swear I know the difference between “it’s” and “its.” :-/


        I got to use machetes a lot in my former work as a land surveyor, which is how I know about them. Honestly, they get stuck in stuff less than you’d think if you know what you’re doing, and there’s a slick, quick technique to get them out if they do get stuck that falls quite nicely into a rhythmic hacking motion, but then again, I’m talking about dealing with branches and saplings. I have no idea what the situation might be like with bone.

        Though one has to wonder if zombie bones, being undead, presumably no longer producing blood cells (???) and that kind of thing, are even comparable to living bones. Maybe they’re super brittle and would just shatter. Also, the rest of the zombie appears to be rotting, so presumably tendons and other connective tissues are too? Maybe it’s not about cutting so much as the force of the blow, and that’s why zombies heads and limbs are always falling off.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Okay. Have no excuse for failing to apostrophize the possessive “zombies'” at the end there.

          Or maybe I do.

          It’s only 6 am, after all.

        • Erika Rae says:

          You have a point. At the rate limbs fall off zombies in the movies, I’m not even sure a machete is necessary. A wiffle ball bat might be just the trick.

      • Erika Rae says:

        David, Scott thinks a crowbar would be more appropriate than a machete in the case of ZA. Thoughts?

        • Oh man, I missed a lot of comments here…

          In response to Becky, I have actually used machetes a lot. I used to work on a farm and carried one in my back pocket at all times. I never really got stuck in anything… but then again it was only relatively brittle or thin objects that I used it to cut. I feel that if I slammed it into someone’s head – and I just don’t buy the idea of zombies being even remotely brittle – it would get stuck.

          Scott seems to have come upon a good idea. Blunt objects can be used to destroy the head without the risk of becoming stuck – unless you really have a good swing and manage to get it lodged. If you’re going to go down that route, a golf club would work well… but it would need to have a pretty strong shaft. A baseball bat would also work nicely.

          In any case, this is redundant for me. I live in a land with 1.5 billion potential zombies, and my front door is so flimsy that it’s liable to fall inwards at the slightest provocation – say, for example, if a fat man tripped in the hallway. In a zombie apocalypse I’d sadly be among the first to go.

    • SAA says:

      Oh man, I love chainsaws, and my boyfriend and I have his and hers machetes.

    • Gloria says:

      I once hacksawed a holly tree down for hours before my neighbor came over and offered his chainsaw. In about ten minutes, he’d finished taking this horrific tree down to a stump. And even though I was irritated that he’d watched me sawing away at branch after branch, wiping sweat off of my face, and wearing long sleeves in 88 degree weather all day before he offered help, I was even more irritated that he didn’t let me hold the chainsaw. I really wanted to.

      When questioned, though, he will maintain his behavior is strictly utilitarian. hahahahahahaha yes.

    • Erika Rae says:

      Oh yes indeed, I have chainsawed. It is, as you say, intoxicating. I love the balance of it … the buzz…and oh yes, the power. Vastly superior to, say, a Sawzall. It’s just that…seriously? Every frickin’ day? And I haven’t even started in to how that’s during my son’s naptime. (I want to murderdeathkill anyone who deigns to encroach on my children’s naptime. You’ll get this soon, my friend.) And then there’s the call to all pine beetles that a chainsaw in summer brings. And then there is the fact that he’s got, I don’t know, TEN??? cords of wood over there. And if you think I’m exaggerating, I’m not. One of his piles is nearly 12 ft tall. He has to throw wood high above his head to land it there. I can not tell you how many wild cats I’ve counted over there, crooning and yowling as they vie for a monopoly over the sheer masses of mice. And don’t get me started on the fire danger. Most of that wood is so dried out it would act like flash paper if you struck a flint anywhere within 5 ft of it. Come to think of it, that could be a good thing. It would go up so fast it wouldn’t even start an actual fire. Just WHOOSH and it would be gone. I’m gettin’ ideas now.

      • Tawni Freeland says:

        “I want to murderdeathkill anyone who deigns to encroach on my children’s naptime.”

        YES. You will not take my precious few moments of napping child peace away from me, Loud World. I’m lookin’ at YOU revving Harley neighbors, at YOU hypersensitive car alarm neighbors, and at YOU, neighbors with constantly yipping backyard chihuahuas.

        Burn it, Erika. Burn it all!

        • Erika Rae says:

          YOU know what I’m talking about. Anxiety slash desire to murder levels run high with this offense.

          I think, perhaps, it is good we are separated by a couple of states. On the same team, you and I would start tribal wars.

  2. Irene Zion says:

    Erika Rae,

    Come the zombie apocalypse, a machete may be more practical a weapon than a chain saw, given the trickiness of finding fuel over the long term for the chain saw. A chain saw with no fuel is a cumbersome weapon, whereas the machete is quite elegant in comparison.

    (@Becky, my iphone simply refuses to let you write “its” without the apostrophe under any circumstance. It thinks it knows better. I have to override the spellcheck to force its hand. You probably wrote the correct form but your phone decided you were wrong. Cheeky phones!)

    • Erika Rae says:

      While I agree with you in practice, I think I have to disagree in theory. There is simply nothing elegant about a zombie apocalypse, so why should the weaponry be any different? I’m thinking cumbersome…I’m thinking blunt…I’m thinking garage weapons at their gnarliest. So the chainsaw runs out of fuel. So what? That’s when the wielder starts swinging it above their heads at the end of a chain. Are you catching my vision?

  3. Erika, tell your chainsaw-wielding d-bag neighbor his long-lost twin lives in the building next to mine. If that motherfucker wakes me to the sound of his leaf-blower one more time, I won’t be responsible for my actions. Maybe you and I should practice for the zombie apocalypse on our respective neighbors: I’ll provide your alibi if you provide mine.

    • Erika Rae says:

      That’s a deal, Litsa. We should totally corroborate together on this. And that’s just it, too, the noise is a constant. It’s not a few days a month…it’s every day in the month. I’m telling you, it’s a sickness.

      • Gloria says:

        I’m not one to tell people what to do, but you and Litsa should probably go offline to firm up these plans…is all I’m saying…

      • Erika, I feel for you b/c in my case, the ridiculously loud and pointless noise is sporadic. In your case, as you say, it’s constant and predictable. Have you looked into your municipality’s ordinances? B/c depending on local law, there’s a chance your neighbor is violating it. Either way, hang in there.

        • Erika Rae says:

          I don’t know. We do live in Boulder County (militant government), but we also live way up in the forest. On the other hand, I live in Boulder County . Trees have rights here. I think one even ran for a seat on the council a couple of years ago. (He dropped out. They forced him to leave.) Hmmmm.

  4. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    You might want to ask what exactly he’s planning to do with all that wood. I bet he’s got designs to build something. Maybe he’s gathering animals two by two?

    First it’s a Jesus Pumpkin, but now I think you’ve got a Zombie Noah on your hands.

    • Erika Rae says:

      Most of that wood is so old by now it’s useless. It’s gray and brittle and all perfectly sized for your wood stove. Only it can’t really be used in your wood stove because it’s so dried out it would burn for mere seconds before finally landing in a pile of gray ash. And that’s not even addressing the problem that it’s likely mice pee soaked. The wood can’t possibly smell like wood any more.

  5. Well, okay, so all this sawing might indicate the guy is just being a chainsaw loving, flannel-shirt wearing, steak-eating man. But he might need help. The 1:40 thing might indicate that he’s beyond help, a Dexter kind-of-guy who gets off on trees, not serial killers, but still, he might need help. If he’s home that much, he might be out of work and symbolically cutting himself to pieces. Help! If he has children, they might need help! If he has a wife, you should check if she’s still around. She might need help to get out of the freezer/washer/basement dungeon. Help!

  6. jmblaine says:

    Ok wait, I know
    you have a MFA
    so what is
    chainsaw a
    metaphor for?
    Or is it a simile?
    I get those terms mixed up.


    • Erika Rae says:

      Not exactly an MFA. A Masters in Postcolonial Literature and Linguistics. Crucial difference there. One has a prayer of being employed. I’ll leave you to figure that out.

      And leave it to you to realize I wasn’t talking about a chainsaw at all. Hell, I don’t even have a neighbor. This is actually about the Obama administration.

  7. dwoz says:

    you could go the eco-terrorist route, and spike his trees. 16 penny nails. galvanized.

    Make sure the guy wears eye protection and kevlar chaps if you do. Don’t want blood on your hands, (or his), just broken chains and bent bars.

    What’s funny about this is that 1:40 p.m. was the exact moment today that I STOPPED running my chainsaw.

    What else is funny is that at that moment, I decided that of all the power tools I own, the Husqvarna 365 with 24″ bar and Oregon chain is only bested by my Fender Precision Bass in all categories that you can evaluate power tools. No downtime, ever. Even when I have done things that a sane person would characterize as attempting to kill it.

    That’s part of it’s appeal. It just works. Also, swinging a 16 lb tool around through a tank of gas really helps carve down the waistline.

    • Erika Rae says:

      In an unexpected turn of events, Erika Rae finds out that her neighbor has a doppleganger, one “dwoz”, who appears to be living in an equal but opposite reality as her neighbor…


      • dwoz says:

        Well….I’ve got 48 acres of NH wilderness that I decided wouldn’t be entirely disadvantaged if I actually cleared about 2 or 5 acres of, which, is. er.


        I don’t feel a deep Gaia Hurt cutting trees that are younger than my own whelps. But I do tend to respect any skyward column of wood that is my peer, age-wise. I don’t feel ENTITLED to cut a tree that is my own age.

        I’ve got some gum trees on my land that may indeed be ancient. Meaning that they may be as old as our country.

        Unfortunately, the King pines that fit that description are long, long gone, well before my time. But gum is a gnarly wood that isn’t particularly useful for furniture. At least not if you’ve got maple, oak, or hemlock at your disposal.

        I love trees. I have relationships with my trees. I am mindful of my place with them. They are NOT TOYS for my amusement.

        • Erika Rae says:

          I feel your intense admiration for the trees, dwoz, and I love it. And any tree that is as old as our country MUST be allowed to stay, regardless of usefulness (or in the case of your gum trees, uselessness) for furniture. That’s just impressive. You will be pleased to know that my neighbor is primarily involved in pushing back the lodge pole pines that grow like bamboo in these parts. In his mind, he is doing his part to mitigate for fire, I suppose – although I would like to point out that we live in a forest and if the place is going to burn, it’s going to burn. Anyway. He’s turned his lot into the Forest of Fangorn, dwoz. And that’s just not right.

          Behold, mine eyes sought out Saruman the Wise and I didst find him there, huddled near to the ground in a flannel of plaid and trousers of denim.

  8. Why? Why is he cutting down treeeeeees? This makes me really anxious. That said, he’ll run out of gas eventually in the zombie apocalypse and then what? Then what, mister OCD tree cutter!?

  9. Erika Rae says:

    Well, if he builds a catapult, he may just come out of this alive. The man has a serious stockpile of fireplace sized ammo.

    And I don’t know about the trees. I mean, we have a lot of them. He’s literally got a couple hundred left on his land. But, um, they’re kinda purty. I hear they’re sort of useful, too. You know, for life as we know it.

  10. Matt says:

    There’s one MASSIVE flaw here (well, aside from the obvious): your neighbor might be physically well-armed against the coming zombie apocalypse, but he fails to realize that a good thicket of forest will help hide his place from the hordes of the shambling undead, and will slow their progress when they DO find it.

    Plus, I’ve seen enough zombie movies to know that deploying the chainsaw always results in someone near & dear getting it, not the zombies. So the jokes on you, buster!

    • Matt says:

      HTML coding FAIL.

    • Erika Rae says:

      I know, Matt. You’d think he’d have thought that part out better. The zombies now have a clear path to his front – and back – door. At least with the dense forest, they would have constantly had to correct and overcorrect to get there, getting hung up and tangled on branches in the process. The trees could have done most of his work for him, knocking off zombie limbs in their tree bashing frenzy, but no. He’s sealed his fate. He’s toast. He’s a brain milkshake. Maybe it’s a good thing he’s got the weapon that turns on one’s operator. It may be his only hope.

  11. Joe Daly says:

    Man, I’m shit out of luck if the zombie apocalypse happens. All I have is an aging coyote, a golden retriever with two fake knees and a knife set from Target.

    Oh, and I’ve got a shitload of trees around. Great. Just great…

    • Erika Rae says:

      Your list of assets is more impressive than you may think, Joe. For starters, you have a COYOTE. Dude. I don’t even know how one adopts a coyote. Did you find it at the shelter? Did its family raise you deep in the forest on the edge of civilization? Did it choose you? Whatever the case, that guy right there is worth its weight in Target knife sets. DUDE. And then you’ve got your cyborg Golden. You know what I think? I think you’re holding out on us. That dog’s got a robotic arm with built in automatic weaponry and a mortar canon built into its spine. Oh, and one of those eye thingies the chick on Destiny’s Child wears. The soundtrack alone for that scene….

  12. Tawni Freeland says:

    Maybe you should buy a leaf blower, Erika? Fire with fire. Every time he chainsaws, you go outside and blow some imaginary leaves around. Smile a big, dumb smile and wave hugely when he stops hacking up trees to stare at you. Until he realizes you’re mocking him.

    • Erika Rae says:

      Niiice, Tawni. I like your thinking. I’ll just blast the forest floor with a leaf blower — pine needles and dead aspen leaves everywhere. Don’t worry. He’ll catch the ridiculousness soon enough.

  13. I’m in love with the word Siskin. I don’t require anything more than that….

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