An hour later, Linda sat in front of an imposing steel desk. Behind it, sat one Wilson Wormonger, county road manager, dressed crisply in a bright blue suit and brown tennis shoes with white soles, (the latest dumb American men’s fashion). His Apple Watch was black and his hair styled like all the new hot shot NFL coaches. He was fresh out of engineering grad school and full of fresh ideas how to better manipulate nature to serve human needs. He was the very flower of enlightened bureaucracy tasked with ruining the planet.
Wilson Wormonger didn’t hail from Oregon. He grew up in some dreary Midwestern state no one ever dreams of moving to, only leaving. He scored this new job because he was the only one who applied. No one with above average professional aspirations as a road engineer moves to the Southern Oregon Coast to begin a career. One only goes there to end a career and end up fulminating against liberals and displaying the flag every national holiday (except Labor Day) and calling it patriotism.
No, it wasn’t really about civil engineering with Wilson Wormonger. He was no mere pedestrian road man. He had chosen this locale because it was a Congressional district with the least amount of registered voters and highest percentage of Republicans. He’d looked it up on the internet and made his plans to relocate forthwith. Five years of road improvements and endless fawning press releases in the newspapers and congratulatory blasts on social media meant he’d waltz into a seat in the Oregon Senate. One term there of delivering the juicy pork paid by Portlandia and adopting a retarded kid with his trophy evangelical wife (she’d had two abortions in college) and he’d become a member of the US House of Representatives, serve six years, win election to the US Senate, and then start cutting off the funding to impoverished rural areas in America except for wolf eradication and building more prisons.
And his illustrious career would all began with smoother roads in the middle of nowhere that taxpayers from somewhere else would pay for.
Linda stared at Wilson Wormonger’s suit. She was wearing a poncho. It almost felt like High Noon, time for a shootout, and Linda sort of resembled an older Grace Kelly and Wilson Wormonger sort of resembled a younger Gary Cooper.
She presented her case to save the grove. He’d never heard of it. Linda said the county could reroute the improvements ever so slightly and preserve a sacred spot. She could show him on the ground. Wilson Wormonger texted from his Apple Watch as she talked. She never saw his eyes, but smelled his aftershave that was redolent of a spruce forest before a clearcut.
Wilson Wormonger was curt. He didn’t have time to visit the site. It was too late anyway. The contract was awarded. The materials and heavy equipment were soon to be in position. In fact, they were already enroute. This was progress!
Linda offered to buy the land from the county. He informed her it wasn’t for sale and even if it was, that process took years.
He texted a few more messages and ratcheted up his demeanor of boredom.
The construction was starting in a few days. He was sorry he couldn’t help her but a straight road is a safe road.
Linda got up to leave. Wilson Wormonger didn’t stand up. She felt weak in the knees and that she might start crying. She left his office and walked out into a sleet. The sleet slapped her around and stung her hard. In the distance, a cacophony of chainsaws roared, the sound of legal murder in Oregon.
This mean war! But Linda didn’t know how to fight it. It was no use appealing to the road manager’s boss, the hick and hack board of commissioners. There was no time to mount a major protest campaign, either in person or online. Wilson Wormonger had beaten her. She might have had a fighting chance if he’d mailed out the letter months ago like he was legally required. That might have bought her some precious stalling time and created an opportunity to win. But he was a party politician first and a public servant second and that’s the way they played the game. It’s called democracy in America.
What I am going to do?
Linda searched her mind for an idea, any idea. Maybe a stunt of some kind. Perhaps she could rally the fans of the grove for a hand-holding encirclement out of Whoville or get some hippie chick to live in a tree. But Wilson Wormonger would wait that out patiently with no controversy and then build his road some months later and take credit for busting the tree huggers’ will.
She got in her car and started driving home. The sleet was turning to a sloshing snow. Linda turned on the radio and “Happy Xmas (The War is Over)” by John Lennon came on.
It was over. John Lennon was always right, except for that line about instant karma’s gonna get you. Men like Wilson Wormonger never received appropriate instant karma.