“Can’t we leave it up just a LITTLE longer, Mom.”
“No. It’s browner than last week’s bananas.”
“No. It’s a fire hazard.”
“Chris still has his up.”
“Chris has a plastic tree.”
Mom had me there, it was true. And until this year, we’d always had a fake tree too. It took both Mom and I to talk Dad into a real tree. He was against the idea from the start. After all, we had a “perfectly good” aluminum-tree with white flocking just waiting to go, complete with all-blue ornaments and small floodlights.
“There’s nothing wrong with our tree,” Dad said.
“Ronnie, It’s time we had a real tree again.”
“Too much work.”
“Ronald,” Mom said.
“Too much money.”
“Ronald James,” Mom put her hands on her hips, and that was pretty much the end of that argument. Dad still complained about how our tree still had “plenty of good years left in it.” But all this was face-saving. We were driving to the lot, and the victory belonged to Mom and me.
She even let me pick out the tree. It was magical, and a thing of beauty. To my seven-year-old mind, the tree was the best part of Christmas. I didn’t want it to stop just because all the Christmas presents had been opened.
“Can’t we just keep it?” I begged.
“Remember our understanding?” Mom said.
I sat there, lower lip protruding, hoping for a reprieve. Mom had made me all remove the lights, ornaments, and the star. But the tinsel and pine-smell still made it feel like Christmas, even though it was well into January.
“Well,” she tapped her foot.
“No complaining this time?”
“I’m not complaining.”
“But that’s not complaining.”
“It’s irritating,” Mom said, bending down a bit to look me in the eye.
“But Mom. It’ll die outside.”
“It’s dead already, son.”
“But we’ve watered it,” I pointed to the basin at the bottom of the tree. “It’s been drinking the water.”
Mom shook her head, walked over to the bookcase and pulled volume “T” from the World Book. She flipped it open, and after a moment, pointed to a diagram of a tree, showing the roots.
“They cut it off at the roots. See?”
I looked at the diagram, unconvinced. I’d never seen roots. For all I knew, only some trees had them. Mom could be wrong. After all, our teacher broke parts off her potato plant, and it didn’t die.
“Maybe they’ll grow back.”
“They won’t.” Mom said.
“My teeth do.” I smiled broadly, showing a set of choppers in various stages of growth, decay and resurrection.
“Oh I give up,” Mom said finally. “You can keep it, but take it outside, behind the garage. Just don’t bother me with this tree business, OK?”
I said a big HURRAY, and with her help, dragged the tree outside. She returned to her work, and I planted it by the alley. It was then that I noticed that many neighbors had dumped their trees in the trash. I decided that I’d rescue those, too. I dragged them home, one by one, with my wagon. Each time I brought a tree, dug a hole, and crammed it in. Then, I packed the dirt and soaked the ground until it was nice and soft. I was working on the sixth tree when Chris dropped by and helped me.
“There’s more over on my street,” Chris said.
“We could plant them at your house.”
Chris shook his head. “No room.”
It was true. I still had plenty of room. We only had a half-dozen or so trees. But I was tired and sweaty from all the work. I wasn’t sure I was up for the job.
“I don’t know.”
“Hey, do you want them all to die?”
“No.” I hesitated, it was after all, three blocks to his house. “But it will take all day.”
“We could use my new bicycle.”
“Wow, you’d do that?” I was surprised. The bike was Chris’ biggest-ever present.
“Sure, as long as I get half the profits.”
“Yeah, when we sell all these back next year.”
“Wow…. Yeah.” Chris was a genius. I’d been thinking about saving the trees. He’d seen a way to get rich. We’d show Dad that it really was a great idea to get a real tree. “We should get going.”
“Before someone else get’s ‘em,” Chris completed my thought.
I paced off the space remaining, and figured we’d have room for zillions of trees.
“I wonder if we should charge extra for the ones that already have tinsel.” I said.
“Or flocking, do you know how much Mrs. Young paid for hers?” Chris said.
“Maybe she’s tossed it.”
“Let’s go check.”
We took off, me dragging a Red Flyer and Chris taking inventory of all the trees we were passing on the way to his house.
“We’re going to make a killing.” Chris said.
“Yeah, and Dad can’t complain about the cost.”
And sure enough, when Dad got home and saw our farm of 17 trees, he didn’t say a thing about the cost.
Robb has enjoyed writing and performing since he was a child, and many of his earliest performances earned him a special recognition-reserved seating in the principal’s office at Highland Elementary. Since then, in addition to his weekly column on A News Cafe – “Or So it Seems™” – Robb has written news and features for The Bakersfield Californian, appeared on stage as an opening stand-up act in Reno, and his writing has been published in the Funny Times. His short stories have won honorable mention national competition. His screenplay, “One Little Indian,” Was a top-ten finalist in the Writer’s Digest competition. Robb presently lives, writes and teaches in Shasta County.