The Last Christmas Tree Standing

Today my co-writer Eric Mayer, or as we usually call him the silent partner, emerges from the shadows to guest blog about the terrible fate of the last Christmas tree standing…

Take it away, Eric! — Mary Reed

I remember affectionately some of the forlorn Christmas trees I’ve brought home — trees that revealed huge gaps when their limbs thawed out and came down, trees with crooked or forked trunks. Still, it seemed in the spirit of the holidays to give those poor trees a good home, to dress them up and make them the center of attention, even if they weren’t perfect.

I guess I always felt a little guilty about keeping a sacrificial tree in the house at Christmas. Maybe that’s why I was reluctant to dispose of them. Most years I’d leave them up until the second or third week of January. As long as they stood in the corner decked out in lights and ornaments, their browning needles covered with layers of tinsel and artificial icicles, it was easy to ignore the reality of the situation.

The reality became only too clear, at last, as the water in the tree holder was never consumed, needles piled around the base, limbs drooped and twisted grotesquely, spilling glass balls onto the floor.

One January I got up and saw a denuded skeletal object, frozen in rigor mortis, bowed under the weight of dangling strings of lights, a wooden corpse propped up in the living room.

Tree pick-up day had long passed. It cost extra to have trees hauled away after the first week of the year. If only the body could fit into a heavy duty trash bag…

K-Mart boasted a liberal return policy. If an item did not prove suitable it could be returned, no questions asked, so long as you had the receipt. Checking to make sure the car’s gas gauge was not too far below empty, I drove to the store and purchased the only saw they sold, a hacksaw of sorts made in Taiwan, and set to work on the tree.

An hour later I was bleeding profusely but the remains of the tree had been dismembered and hidden in a trash bag to be picked up by the unsuspecting sanitation workers.

The saw was in only slightly better shape than the tree. I took the twisted thing and the three broken spare blades back to K-Mart.

The store was good as its word. No one asked how I had managed to run over the saw with a steamroller, bury it in a landfill, dig it up, and lend it to King Kong just as Godzilla came along looking for a Taiwanese hacksaw, in less than two hours. Nor did they remark on the bloody fingerprints on the receipt. In fact, they refunded my money very quickly indeed.

It was enough to buy gas to get me home for the final end of the holidays.

Mary Reed is the co-author of the John the Lord Chamberlain mysteries set in sixth century Byzantium. The current entry is Nine for the Devil.

You can also follow Mary on Twitter.


7 Responses to The Last Christmas Tree Standing

  1. One year when all the kids were coming home, my husband decided we needed a new artificial tree. (They don’t grow the real ones in Western Kansas) When he got back from down he announced the hardward store would be delivering it. Astounded that it was so large it needed to be delivered, I asked him much it cost. He said, “I don’t know, but it’s one big sparkly son-of-a-bitch.”

    It was a massive fiber optics tree. I can’t bear to throw it away. Old Sparkly lights up Don’s memory and resurrects ghosts of Christmases past every year. I was very blessed to have a wonderful husband, and a large loving extended family..

  2. Great story, Eric, and I can relate to it as a choose-and-cut-your-own Christmas tree farmer. You are the sort of kind folk who come for the “rescue” trees. Though, since your tale did bring to mind thoughts of a film along the lines of “A Charley Brown Christmas, FARGO-style,” there may be a deeper, darker side yet to be revealed…

    Happy Holidays, E&M.

    • You actually farmed Christmas trees. That’s interesting. At least you didn’t have to get up and milk them every morning!

      I never went to a cut-your-own place. Long ago my grandfather used to cut the crowns out of some of the many huge pines lining the property to use for trees. In the fifties even the trees had flattops.

  3. I love your Christmas tree story! I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who specifically looks for the “Charlie Brown” tree in the lot. We, too, keep our trees long past their, um, prime. After all, the twelve days of Christmas and all, right? 😉
    Fortunately, I’m not the one in the family that needs to dismember it at the end of its life…
    Happy Holidays!

    • Yes, the trouble with decorating the house with those poor dead trees is that at some point you have to dispose of the body.

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