Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Trees (12/05/05)
TITLE: The Tree Toppling
By Sue Goodreau
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It was two weeks before Christmas. My husband, three children, and I had just returned from selecting the perfect tree. We had carted it into the living room, set it up in the corner between the fireplace and picture window, and cut the netting that protected its branches. Now, as we stood back watching the boughs stretch and smelling the pine scent filling the room, I gazed at my precious family. They were all silently staring in awe at the tree-- my husband, children, dog, and cat.
“Oh, no! The cat!” I shrieked to my husband.
“So,” he said, looking at me blankly.
“I forgot about the cat! You know, cats like trees. Cats like to climb. Get the picture?”
The cat we were talking about was Jasper, our five month old kitten.
“Well, you’ll just have to keep an eye on him,” my husband said nonchalantly.
I looked at him in disbelief . What was he thinking? I had three kids under age six and a dog to keep an eye on all day. How was I going to keep track of a cat, too?
I turned to the kids. “We’ll have to keep Jasper in the basement unless you are with him. We can’t let him climb the tree.”
Now it was my turn to receive a look of disbelief. “But, he’ll be lonely,” my oldest stammered.
“He’ll be a lot lonelier if he climbs this tree and knocks it over, because then he’ll be on the outside looking in.” I stated with finality.
As we decorated the tree, the fat lips slowly disappeared. Jasper and his banishing were forgotten. But I didn’t forget . I kept darting glances at Jasper, eyeing him with “don’t even think about it” looks. When we were finished , I smiled with approval. The tree was perfect.
Despite my constant reminders to close the basement door, the kids kept forgetting. Jasper, who wasn’t at all happy about his banishment, slunk upstairs every chance he got. After two days of yelling at the children and chucking Jasper back into the basement, I knew we had to do something. I was turning into a person I didn’t like.
Later that evening, my husband wisely escorted me to our room and handed me a book to read. I listened as he hammered nails into the wall and secured the tree with ropes. When he was finished, he proudly showed me his “cat-proof tree”.
“Nathan could climb this tree, and it wouldn’t budge, “ my husband said with a grin.
I quickly turned to our two year old. “Forget you heard that!” I said.
My husband was right. Several times Jasper got upstairs and climbed the tree, and it didn’t budge. I reluctantly lifted his banishment, but not before lifting him by the scruff of the neck and warning him of the dire consequences in store for him if he so much as wiggled the tree.
The next Saturday, the kids were playing a new game called “Bat with Cat”. Jasper would reach out from the middle of the tree and bat the kids with a playful swat. The kids were having so much fun that I turned my concentration to the cookies I was decorating. I didn’t even notice when Luke, our black lab, joined in the fun
While the kids may have been able to resist the playful swatting, Luke could not. With a loud bark, Luke plunged headfirst into the tree in an attempt to grab Jasper. I heard the snap of rope breaking as I ran into the living room. I was just in time to see the back half of Luke and the front half of Jasper protruding from a slowly toppling tree.
The crash was followed by a pretty tinkling of glass.
The kids were standing by the flattened tree, looking from the carnage to me with wide eyes.
My four year old daughter began to cry. “Mommy, don’t make Jasper be on the outside looking in!” she sobbed.
Suddenly, I didn’t care about the tree. I pulled my children to me, laughing and hugging them tightly. I even hugged Luke and Jasper as I quietly thanked God for showing me that Christmas was not the perfect tree. Christmas was perfect love.
So, we have a cat. We have a broken tree. Big deal.
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