Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Christmas Tree (10/09/08)
TITLE: Himself At Last
By Beth Muehlhausen
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A gnarled, stunted little Douglas fir skulks in the shadows amidst his neighbors: magnificent, soft white pines and well shaped, very proper-looking Norway and blue spruce. He feels like a misfit with his bent branches and gaping holes, and yet he can’t help the fact he’s grown up crooked.
Of course little Doug holds as many high hopes as all the other trees. Each time saw-bearing shoppers at the Christmas tree farm approach his row, he holds his breath, hoping beyond hope to become someone’s special, decorated tree. Each time they walk right on by without even giving him a second glance.
The first weekend in December is busy at the farm. Family members shout across the rows: “Come see THIS ONE! Over here!” Or, “What do you think about getting a Scotch pine this year?”
Doug stands proudly, looking his very best with a fresh coat of flattering, soft snow covering his boughs. A special little topknot of snow perches high like a whimsical winter hat. Perhaps someone will notice.
A couple from the City visits the tree farm that day. The two, in their early thirties, take their time strolling the aisles as if window-shopping along a busy thoroughfare lined with shops. Finally Anna points with her fur-edged glove: “Look! Over there! That’s the tree I want!”
Who me? Doug stares back at the gleaming face. Is she pointing at me?
“You’ve got to be kidding, honey. That’s a Charlie Brown tree if I ever saw one.” Ronald chuckles his disbelief and points out Doug’s deficiencies. “Look – it’s misshapen and leans to one side and has branches missing.”
“But I like it – it has character,” Anna insists with a pout. “The rest of these all start to look the same after a while. This one is unique.”
Ronald laughs. Puffs of white breath tumble into the raw winter air. “Unique is it, then! Hand me the saw.”
Doug winces at the first nick of the blade. This is the moment he’s waited for and yet – it means dying to his old life.
Ronald pushes and pulls; flecks of Doug’s precious sawdust pelt the ground. Doug bears the pain of sacrifice well.
Finally the deed is done. Doug peers at his stump, wondering how he will ever leave. “There! Let me shake the snow off so you can see your prize, my dear.” Ronald bounces the trunk on the hard ground. With only a couple of thumps, Doug’s snow-coat falls off to expose his nakedness.
“I love it!” Anna persists. “See the adorable little pinecones? And those empty spots here and there will be perfect for my over-sized ornaments. I’m telling you, this little guy is awesome! No one else will have a tree like mine this year. He’s a one-and-only!”
Doug beams inside. He’s been chosen; he has a purpose. And although severed from his roots, he still feels very much alive. What will it really be like to assume the identity of a decorated Christmas tree; to experience the life he’s been created to live?
Ronald drags Doug by one of his stout bottom boughs to the barn. There, Doug endures the torture machine: a jerky, violent shaking to rid him of dead needles.
With Doug strapped to the top of the car, cut-end to the front, Ronald and Anna zip down the highway toward the City. Dry, wintry wind stings Doug’s wound. Bound by ropes, he drifts into a drugged stupor, preoccupied by pain and thoughts of his impending death.
Eventually the car stops. Doug peeks on either side; nothing but concrete and more cars in sight. Not a tree anywhere!
“Let’s bring it inside, honey – I want to start decorating right away!”
As soon as Ronald screws Doug into a dish full of water, his trunk eagerly drinks a cup or more. He feels refreshed and ready for whatever will come.
First, strands of twinkling white lights are stretched across his boughs. “Ha, I love this tree, he’s just right for the season…just look at him all decked in light,” Anna insists with nods of affirmation.
Elongated red glass balls emerge from a sectioned box to wear curvy metal hooks. “Drippy, blood-red and perfect,” Ronald adds. “Hang them here, there, everywhere – he’s covered!”
Doug stands as tall as he can, proud to be himself at last. His other earthly life was only preparation for this. Now he’s a symbol of Perfect Love, a shining beacon calling hearts to come Home.
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