Search This Blog

Thursday, December 12, 2013

What Does the Tree Say?

"Dad, what about that one?" asked Jerry.

Doug wiped the accumulated snow from his glasses. "Too young, son." A live Christmas tree, she wanted. The artificial tree had sufficed for years. Why her sudden desire for a live one? It only added more work to an overburdened to-do list.

His boots crunched the new fallen snow as they weaved through the trees. The crisp smell of freezing air prompted him to tighten his hood while he cradled an ax in his elbow against his body. Jerry, his five-year-old son, dashed ahead of him.

Doug recalled Joan's words, "I want a live tree. Not the farm-raise trees they sell in the lots. I like my Christmas tree wild and fresh!"

What had gotten into that woman? It was a tree. Not a fish. But she had her heart set on one, so he was traipsing through a forest in knee-deep snow, trying to find a wild Christmas tree.

"Dad, Dad! I found one. Come and see!" Jerry's young voice pierced the still air.

A full moon lit the sky, highlighting his path. Doug rounded a large, snow-laden fur. He froze.

The perfect Christmas tree glowed, casting shadows from surrounding trees. Its light wasn't a reflection of the moon, but radiated from within. Doug sucked in a deep breath.

"See, Dad. Isn't it perfect?"

Doug let the ax handle slide through his glove until he gripped the end. "She wants wild? This should fit the bill." He picked a clear shot to the trunk and waved his left hand. "Stand back, son. Don't want to hurt you."

Jerry hopped, clapping his hands. "Yippe!" He moved backward five leaps.

Doug placed the ax head against the trunk to line up the swing. "Let's get this over with." He pulled the ax back until it lined up with his shoulder, then swung down with all his might. The blade connected with the wood.

A bright light flashed, blinding Doug. A force shoved him off his feet, burying him into the snow on his back.

Doug blinked a few times. His eyes focused on the night stars from within his icy-walled canyon. The tree-tops reached into the night sky.

What had happened? Doug wiggled his fingers and toes. Didn't feel like he'd broken anything. He pushed himself up with his elbows. "Jerry, you okay?"

A growl echoed through the cold air. The face of a fox sat inches away from Doug's.

Doug gulped. "Nice foxie."

"Who gave you authority to cut down the tree?" The fox's nose flared.

Doug's jaw dropped.

"Come on human scum. Who?"

"You're . . . you're talking!"

"And you're stalling." The fox bared his fangs. "Confess! By who's authority?"

Doug shook his head. Had he hit his head on a rock? He felt the back of his skull for a wound but found none. Why was a fox asking him this question, even if it could talk.

Doug rubbed his forehead. "My wife, Joan."

The fox cocked his head. "Don't know any Joan." He turned his head behind him. "Clive, you take over. I'm not getting anywhere."

A fluttering noise broke through the night air. An owl's face peered into Doug's ice canyon. "My, my, my! What have we here? I should think one would consider the repercussions when considering random acts of violence against trees."

Doug rubbed his eyes. An owl with a British accent? Now he knew he was hallucinating. "You don't have any lips. How can you talk?"

Clive flapped his wings. "Sir, I don't consider offending me a plus to your case. If you'd be so good as to answer our questions, we'll be done with it and on our way."

Doug breathed deep. Nothing to do but play along with this bizarre story line. "Mind if I sit up?"

"See," the fox said. "The hairless pup is worthless."

Clive's head rotated behind him. "That's quite enough, Mr. Furball." He pivoted his eyes back to Doug. "If you'll answer our questions, please proceed."

Doug pushed himself into a sitting position. Clive perched on a branch protruding from the snow drift. Mr. Furball sat on his haunches by a tree a few feet away. The glowing tree radiated beside them. A hole in the snow in the shape of an ax marked the location of his tool.

But no sign of his son. "Did you see a little boy?"

Clive ruffled his feathers. "Enough! You'll answer our question first."

Doug sighed. "What question was that?"

Clive let out an owl hoot. "Who!"

Doug smiled. Now the owl was making a pun. He might need a shrink after this. Or at least a drink. Maybe a drink with a shrink.

Doug scratched his whiskered chin. "You mean on who's authority? I told you already. If that isn't good enough, I don't know what you're looking for."

"Unless you're name is Joan, and you don't fancy that name at all, that is no answer."

They probably had some city hall run by a mayor badger that issued permits. There's no way he could guess. "I don't have anyone's authority. All I wanted to do is get a Christmas tree. Is that a crime?"

Clive glanced at Mr. Furball. "So you do have authority to cut down the tree?"

Doug stared at Clive. "I do?"

"You just said it. Who?"

Authority? "Uh, the Doctor?"

Clive folded his wings over his head.

Mr. Furball dashed toward them, sliding to a stop, snow falling into Doug's lap. "What does the tree say?"

Doug fixed his eyes on the tree, its tip pointing into the vast array of stars. He raised his eyebrows. "Christmas tree. Christ. Jesus Christ."

Darkness swallowed Doug. His eyes flickered open. Paramedics swarmed around him as he lay in the snow.

"He's responding."

Jerry's face popped into view. "Dad! You'll be all right."

A paramedic pulled plates from his chest. "Mr. Stilwell, your son saved your life. He used your cell phone to call 911. You had gone into cardiac arrest. Luckily we were in the area."

Doug frowned. He had been hallucinating. Yet it had felt so real. He glanced toward the tree. It lay on the ground, the trunk cut cleanly in two. Only the moonlight glistened against the snow stuck to its leaves.

In the distance, an owl cried out, "Who?"

Doug yelled back, "Who!"

Jerry smiled. "The tree points to Him. That's why you're alive."

Doug grinned. It took his son, a fox, an owl, and a tree to drive home the truth. Christmas isn't about a list of whats, but a who. Who the tree points to.

No comments:

Post a Comment