A Christmas Carol?

(In March?!?)

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ILLUSTRATIONS BY MARILYNNE ROACH
Mike McGrath trademark attribution

The first spirit to appear had a skirt so wide it had to leave the room to change its mind. “I remember you,” I said. “You’re the ‘Christmas tree’ I cleverly planned out many Christmaseseseses ago! You were the top of a giant spruce that was a month shy of growing into the power lines, and I convinced the electric company’s tree-cutting guy to take the top eight feet off and drop it down as gently as possible so we could use it as our Christmas tree that year!”

The tree spoke. “Remember when you brought me into the house?”

“Yes! You big dummy! You were so wide your branches were knocking things off the countertops in other rooms!”

“Get your wife a Christmas tree, you old Scrooge!Goodbye!”

“I was, admittedly {cough}, a little…eh, “husky.” Really sorry about your wife’s 1950 Tinkerbell statue from Germany, by the way. Did you ever get…”

“…the wings glued back on? Nooooo; thank you very much, Butterbranches! And you weren’t “husky,” you were eight by eight! You weren’t a ‘tree’! You were a square-shaped giant green box of doom!”

“You should be thanking me. Your counters were so cluttered back then you would have been featured on an episode of “Hoarders” by Easter. And YOU’RE the one who brought me into the house without measuring me first. Were you ever able to…”

“…fix that door frame? Noooo; thank you very much, Mr. Prunus Maximus!”

“Oh right, forgot about the door. I was thinking about the water cooler. But those giant glass bottles were getting too heavy for you to lift anyway. And I’m Picea, not Prunus. You are SO botanically ignorant! You couldn’t find your Ranunculus with both hands in a brightly lit room…“

“I bet I can find my bow saw with both hands in a dimly lit shed, Widus ridus—”

“Now, now; no need to get nasty. Besides, you can’t saw me! I’m a spirit—the first of three who will visit you this night…”

“Only three? I remember one night back in college where…”

“Shush! You want me to rattle my chains and wake up your wife? That’s why I’m here—because you’ve turned into a big old grouch and you’re being mean to her! Christmas is a week away, her children are grown and out of the house, you decorate less and less each year…”

“Not true! Look out by the mailbox; it’s Macy‘s window out there!”

“Macy’s in May, maybe. You call THAT a holiday display? Three plastic yard-sale candles with light bulbs inside their flames and six LED stars that are still out there from last Christmas?”

“I turned them off after the Epiphany.”

“Sigh. I am SO glad I’m not the only one who gets to wake you up tonight!”

“Oh, I generally get up anyway right around now, especially tonight, since a friend brought over a growler of really hoppy beer for dinner.”

“You mean with dinner…”

“Yeah, sure. Anyway…”

“Get back in bed! GetyourwifeaChristmastreeyouoldScroogeGoodbye!” {POOF}

My Sainted Wife awakes. “Honey? Who were you talking to? And why does it smell like a pine tree in here?”

“You’re dreaming. And I farted.”

“I AM NOT A PINE!”

“OK—now what was that?”

“I farted again?”

An hour later…

“Remember ME?”

“Yeah—you were the really live tree; the one we bought balled and burlapped our first year in the house—before we realized what a root ball weighed!”

“Oh, stop complaining; you had three friends to help you get me in the ground. Sorry about that one guy’s fingers…”

“What? It was hard work, but nobody got hurt.”

“Then what was that blood-curdling scream when you finally dropped my root ball into the hole?”

“Ha! That was Steve Heacock. He spilled his beer.”

“Yes, the first tree told me you have a drinking problem…”

“I do not. And you’re lucky I already recycled dinner or I’d boil you in your own Christmas pudding like the first tree!”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“I know. But Ebenezer Scrooge said it, and I want to, too.”

“Speaking of that, you’re getting away with murder already—a story about Christmas trees in the Spring issue? I mean, really! Have you no shame?”

“No. But that’s Pat’s problem, not yours. Now—are you here to critique my Christmas lights, too?”

“No—although one of the candles IS out.”

“If it’s the one in the middle, it’s a design element. It’s, you know, evoking the ‘sense’ of a third candle…”

“Oh, stop. Now: Your wife loves Christmas, and you didn’t have a tree in the house last year…”

“I had a complete tear of my rotator cuff last November! I couldn’t lift a tree! I could barely lift…a…a…”

“You were going to say a ‘drinking glass,’ weren’t you?”

“Look, I recently learned the magical secret to getting you cursed conifers to vanish, so…”

“Get her a tree, Scrooge!”

{POOF}

The third spirit to appear could not speak. It just dropped needles all over the floor and glared at me. Then I realized! “You’re the tree with the really fat trunk that I trimmed all the bark off of to fit into our stand! Man, that must have been 30 years ago and we still step on your needles…”

“Mmmrrrfff!”

“Yeah, sorry. Hey—wait a minute. This is how you’re going to convince me to get a tree this year? Merry memories triggered by visitations from the Failures Three? The only bad thing that hasn’t happened to us yet at this time of year is a Christmas tree house fire! You want me to go for the Hat Trick?”

“Mmmrrrfff!” {POOF}

But I knew they were right; it wasn’t very Christmasey in the house without a tree—again. But my shoulder still hurt. And I wasn’t supposed to lift anything heavy until at least next June. But Kathy loves Christmas, and…and…

Oh, no—they did it! I been Scrooged! Oh, bitter day…

So I go down to my friend’s garden center, which is now cluttered with ornaments, lights, giant inflatable Homer Simpson Santas—and trees. Maybe I can find a small tree and get them to cut it in half. I could probably handle the top couple of feet (as long as my surgeons didn’t see me; then I’d be the one to get handled). It would look pretty cool up on the island in the kitchen…

…and then I am stopped cold in my tracks. There in the middle are the typical cut trees leaning against those wooden pyramids that you only see at Christmas time, but all the way in the back are six pigmy trees, each hanging down from a beam on a rope, their cut wooden butts swaying in the wind. My friend, Tom, who owns the place, sees me and walks over.

I’m as close to speechless as it gets for me, but I am finally able to point to the trussed-up Tannenbaums. “Were they bad?”

“Ha! No,” he says. “Those are our ‘table-top’ trees. Every year, more and more people ask us for small trees that they can put on a counter or table. So this year, we took the ones with the best tops, cut them in half, and pruned back the sides so they’d be compact all around. We use the bottom parts to make wreaths. You want one?”

“Yes—this perfect one right here.”

He yells to his helper: “Hey Charlie! Cut ‘er down! Hey—wait a minute,” he says, suddenly eyeing me. “Are you allowed to be lugging trees around?”

“Er, yes,” I lied. Then I remembered that I had to hire Tom that Spring to set up a batch of half-whiskey barrels on my patio (to replace my previous containers, which got accidentally back-hoed to the snow dump during the Polar Vortex) while I pretended to smile. He knew; he had seen me in full-blown, just-after-surgery, right arm (and other body parts) in-a-sling mode, back when a cough felt like a car accident. “I’m good,” I lied again.

So he drove it home for me and we (he) cut off the bottom branches to make it the PERFECT size—and to provide me with greens to decorate those half-barrels. Heck, I even replaced the light bulb in the one candle. Take THAT, Dickens!

Kathy came home from work later that day, dragging as we can only drag the drag of those who are already exhausted and it’s only the week before Christmas…and she smelled it before she saw it.

Then she saw it. Then she cried.

Good job, trees.


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