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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Bouncebackability (06/05/14)

TITLE: A Positive Chain Reaction
By Noel Mitaxa


Bluey had hoped to drop a quiet line and drown some bait for a while. He did not need to catch any fish; he just needed time to think—before thinking might be all he ever got to do.

A hazy blue backdrop of mountain ridges towered above this idyllic stretch of the river, where he sat screened by the willows that stooped into the water.

Dragonflies skittering across the surface were alert to the trout that might see any airborne meal approaching.

The whole scenario echoed his regular joke to city-slicker friends: “You have to feel for us up here gentlemen, because we suffer from such a serious shortage of stress!”

But now the joke was falling flat. The hydro-electric power station was downsizing, and Bluey’s job would soon disappear—along with most of his friends. The company was the major employer in the town, and any chance of new work was slim to nothing.

No lack of stress now. What could he do? He loved living where his kids were safe and hardly anybody bothered to lock their doors. And he loved how his work took him along the power lines that stretched along deforested lines to distant substations where their high-voltage power was broken down to safe levels for use in households and shopping malls.

Bluey was an expert with chainsaws, with legendary skill in keeping tree branches away from power lines. He could not recall the last short-circuit or fire being caused by overgrown or broken branches snagging the cables, but his work was going to be contracted out to a private company who required their workers to move to the suburbs. Not good news for Bluey, for chainsaws was all he knew, and he did not want to move.

Suddenly he heard voices. Unwelcome voices. And they were getting louder. Oh no, it was Snowy and Fatso; the local misery twins. These nicknames all came from Aussies’ love of reverse logic in nomenclature. Bluey had vivid red hair, while Snowy’s had stayed dark with no promise of silver threads or any receding at all. Fatso? Well, he was so thin that people wondered if he would have to run around under the shower to get wet…

“Heyyyy, Bluey!” Snowy yelled as they saw him trying to retreat against the tree. “What brings you out here?”

“I just wanted some peace and quiet,” muttered Bluey.

“Great,” replied Fatso. “How about we share our quiet with you?”

Not what I had in mind, thought Bluey, but he didn’t want to be rude to these guys—who were also looking down the barrel of long-term unemployment or having to move away.

“Things look bleak for us, old mate,” said Snowy. “But it’s not so bad for you.”

“What do you mean?” asked Bluey. Was this misery twin setting him up?

“You’re an expert with chainsaws, but we’ve got no special skills at all,” Fatso chimed in.

“Yes, but I can’t just go around cutting down trees around the streets, or giving my neighbours any unwelcome surprises,” countered Bluey. “And nobody’s going to deliver me any trees that they need to be cut down,” he added with no small touch of irony.

Snowy was not about to let go. “True,” he replied, “but you have seen some terrible accidents with chainsaws, and you could teach people how to drop any dangerous or decayed branches, or how to get rid of trees that have outgrown the shrubs that people thought they were planting.”

Bluey got excited in spite of himself and of these guys’ reputation. Maybe they were on to something…

Author’s note. This true story continues, for Bluey contacted the regional adult education centre and asked if it ran courses in using chainsaws safely. On learning that there was no such course, he created and filled the vacancy.

Still based in the town he loves, he has since run many tree-lopping seminars and classes that have helped many do-it-yourself chainsaw owners and farmers to use their equipment safely and with complete confidence.

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This article has been read 412 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Beth LaBuff 06/13/14
This was quite a fascinating read. I was lulled into the tranquility of the setting despite that nagging lay-off buzzing over Bluey's head. "Chainsaw season" is one of my favorites here (when we cut firewood) and I've heard the horror stories too. Bluey's resourcefulness is admirable in filling that niche that society needed. The names of your characters (which I'm sure were changed) were quite entertaining!
C D Swanson 06/16/14
Being a city girl, this really fascinated me. It held my attention and pulled me in.

Well done!

God bless~
lynn gipson 06/19/14
Congrats on your well deserved HC! Great writing, as usual..blessings
C D Swanson 06/19/14
Congratulations Noel!

"Do you know any of the judges?"

LOL...kidding of course!

Great job with this terrific entry.

God Bless~
Joe Moreland06/19/14
Great job Noel...I mean that literally - teaching safe chainsaw operation sounds like a great job! :)

Seriously, congratulations on your EC finish. This was thoughtful, well written and very engaging with authentic characters and dialogue.

Very nicely done!
Ellen Carr 06/21/14
Congratulations, Noel. This was a great, true-blue, Aussie story that rang very true. The privatisation of the electricity companies, the down-sizing, the typical Aussie nicknames - all familiar. And what a great bounce-back, reinvention of himself, while not having to move. Great writing!
Gregory Kane06/24/14
Loved the author's note.
BTW was the only pun the one in the title?