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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Tree (10/09/08)

TITLE: When Firs Fly


Waving goodbye to family, I imagine the emptiness awaiting Manny and me in the house.

He says, “Tess, you have mud on your loafer.”

I brush the sole of my shoe along the bristles of a fake porcupine—a Lillian Vernon find of Manny’s.

In the kitchen—which is a conglomeration of breakfast dishes from this morning and Thanksgiving paraphernalia from the last three days—I butter a biscuit while visions of Christmas boxes loom over my head.

“I was thinking,” Manny says. “Let’s downsize decorating this year.”

“Hey, you’ve read my mind.” I hand him a piece of bacon. “I’m not looking forward to a Christmas without kids.”

“Let’s not even get a tree.” Hmmm. The tree is a sticking point. For thirty years I’ve wanted a white pine. I love the way the long needles feather and that fresh woodsy scent reminds me of the winter I spent in Vermont with my Aunt Sally on my first alone trip.

But every year Manny treks to the tree farm and searches out the stiffest Colorado blue spruce he can find. Needle retention, he declares is the most important factor for reducing debris. He forgets our children had to wear protective armor when decorating.

“Okay,” I agree. “No tree.”

It’s getting late as I’m driving home the day after our “tree-tise,” when I notice the Boy Scouts have set up their tree-selling enterprise. A white pine graces the center of the lot. I believe in scouting. One year my brother was a Webelo. A purchase is made.

I stop at our neighbor’s house and ask Porter if he can help me unload a Christmas tree. In less than thirty seconds, he’s zipping across our yard. Oh, to be sixteen. A quick peek into the garage tells me Manny’s beaten me home. I opt for boldness.

“Porter, I’m going in to get the stand while you unload the tree, okay?”

“Sure, Mrs. Ferguson.”

I enter the side door, hoping Manny’s in his office. Nope—he’s in the family room setting up a Colorado spruce.

“What! I thought we weren’t getting a tree?”

“You seemed ambivalent.”

“I was not.”

“Well, you seemed it.”

“You’re crazy.”

A knock on the screen door: “Mrs. Ferguson? Should I bring it in?”

“Bring what in?” asks Manny.

“Come on in, Porter.”

He squeezes the fragrant evergreen through the doorframe, needles spraying. When he gets to the center of the kitchen, he stops and looks from Manny to me.

“Son,” says Manny, taking off his work gloves. “You can take that right back outside and if your family hasn’t bought a tree yet, you’re welcome to it.”

“And then, Porter,” I add. “Come back and get this other one. You can take it to the nursing home.”
That poor boy pivots himself and the tree one hundred eighty degrees and exits.

“Fine,” says Manny. “No tree.”

“Exactly—no tree.”

But the next day, I donate another twenty-five dollars to the Boy Scouts, and they tie the evidence of my rebellion onto the top of my car. Porter looks at me dubiously when I again request his assistance. This time I’m ahead of Manny, who comes home minutes later with his own second endeavor to break our agreement.

On the third day, I pick Porter up before procuring tree number three—I think the scouts are beginning to talk.

“But Mrs. Ferguson, you guys keep saying no trees—I don’t get it.”

“Don’t judge us, Porter—not till you’ve been married thirty years.”

“You guys just seemed like one of the few, good, sane couples.”

“Sanity is overrated.” I sound so cavalier.

Manny’s Toyota is parked in the driveway. I hand Porter my driving gloves and head to the door. There’s a scattering of long pine needles on the threshold and I follow them through the kitchen to the end of the family room where a frothy white pine stands over a huge moat-like structure. Manny jumps out from behind it all and surprises me with the softest, messiest kiss I can remember in years.

A knock on the screen door.

Come in,” we call.

Porter shoves the spruce through the door, mumbling at the needles poking him. He sees the pine and drops his shoulders. “Marriage. . . insane . . . hear the rec center needs a tree.” He and the fir about-face without waiting for a response.

“It’s just you and me,” Manny says.

“Kiss me, again,” I say--anticipation alive once more.

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This article has been read 981 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Holly Westefeld10/16/08
ROFL! Is this what I have to look forward to in five years? Loved the humor, and the ending!
Glynis Becker10/17/08
Wonderful! Full of fun and emotion. Great job!
Hannah Hunter10/18/08
This is such a fun story. I love it.
Sharlyn Guthrie10/19/08
Oh, this is so funny! I really like the ending, with the couple swapping tree purchases and making up.
Yvonne Blake 10/20/08
ha, ha ! I love it! Have you been listening to my husband and me? Poor Manny...he'll understand someday.
I like the word “tree-tise,” It describes our house most years. (I'm hoping to get a soft pine this year too! ..but don't tell my hubby!)
Ellen Dodson10/20/08
So funny!!! The humor is in the very loving manipulation going on here. Love the "needle retention" as I've never thought of a tree being uptight. The firs fly, but romantic sparks do too, combating that empty nest syndrome. Very witty and entertaining. I'm rooting for this one!
Deborah Engle 10/20/08
Nice job on this. I like the twost with the wife gand husband both giving in at the end.
Celeste Ammirata10/20/08
I thoroughly enjoyed this heartwarming story about love and compromise. There is a nice flow and you kept my attention from word one. Very nice!
Scott Sheets10/21/08
I thoroughly enjoyed this delightful take on the topic. I could picture the couple bantering back and forth like only a couple of 30 years marriage could. Great job!
Laury Hubrich 10/22/08
Love this! How funny but so sad, too. Can't imagine a Christmas without kids around. Very good job!
Joy Faire Stewart10/22/08
The interactions of the characters are hilarious and the dialogue draws the reader into the scenes. Excellent writing!
Dee Yoder 10/22/08
Perfect! And that title...very clever! This is top-notch writing and characterization and besides all that, just plain fun to read! This will be a wonderful story to share at Christmas. ( :
Leah Nichols 10/22/08
I loved this one! Excellent writing....really captures the moment. Nice work. :)
Beth LaBuff 10/22/08
I remember the Lillian Vernon catalog of so many fun things. :) What a fun, wonderful story…. One I totally understand… we've been married 30 years. LOL This is great!!
Karlene Jacobsen10/22/08
I LOVE IT! (LOL) This sounds something like me and my husband, though we've only been married 18 yrs.
Very creative.
Marlene Austin10/22/08
So much information about this family you have packed into the 750 word limit. Action flows, detail is complete. Felt sorry for Porter - he got quite a workout! :)
Angela M. Baker-Bridge10/22/08
Excellent plot, characters, and dialogue. Just loved everything about this entry. Angel
Carole Robishaw 10/22/08
This is perfect. I suspect an EC is coming your way tomorrow.
Chely Roach10/22/08
"Sanity is overrated." Priceless. This gave me a big fat grin. Cheers!
Sheri Gordon10/23/08
Congratulations on your EC. The voice of this is really cute...and I kept picturing her showing up at the Scout's lot.
Tim Pickl10/25/08
Congratulations on 3rd Place!
Sherri Ward10/26/08
LOL! This is too good, congrats on the win!
Sharon Kane11/18/08
This has to be among the wittiest entries I have read yet on FW. You have great talent in being able to combine humour with 'making a moral point'.