Copyright 2001 by S.R. Sudekum
Chapter IV - The Lot
After an eternity the low slung stars began to fade, and their light replaced by a cold greyness creeping over a black shape in the distance. Daylight transformed Chris' nightmare world into a clearly visible living hell that was now his life. The once-shining stars were revealed to be but clear glass orbs hung on a wire, nailed to rough-barked posts jammed into the ground. The black hulk slowly became the greasy backside of a hamburger stand. And the rotting spruce leaning against him was still there, wheezing his yellow breath onto Chris' bent branches.
"Mornin' scrub. I see you're still here. Now that daylight's up, I can get a look at ya. Shit, ain't you a tall one. They'll get a good price for you I wager."
"Who are you...? What IS this awful place! Where's the forest!"
"THIS is yer forest now, scrub. Enjoy it while it lasts, which won't be long now."
"Why am I bound? Where are the birds? The snow? The squirrels?"
"FORGET 'EM! Shut the fuck up about the damned birds. We don't need to hear about 'em or your precious forest. Your humus is concrete, your birds are mangy sparrows that shit on ya, your squirrels are mongrel dogs that piss on your trunk!" A strange twisted amusement crept into the stranger's voice. "and here you'll be until some _happy family_ pays for your sorry ass and hauls you away!"
The spruce shuddered in a fit of coughing, and to Chris' horror, a fine shower of yellowed needles sprinkled to the ground. A wave of revulsion swept over him, moreso because he could not move away. The spruce continued to lean heavily on his side, pricking him with the dry, sharp dying needles.
"I been here weeks! WEEKS! You ain't been here NO time compared to that! Oh, they come, they yank your limbs and now the needles come off in their hands and they curl their lips and screw up their faces like someone stuck a turd in their mouths and they walk away, wiping their hands on their pants like they touched somethin' dirty! Well FUCK 'EM! Fuck 'em ALL! Buy me, I'll make your little asthmatic kiddies cough their lungs out!" The spruce let out a hacking cackle that made Chris' needles stand on end.
"I-I don't belong here" Chris whispered to no one in particular..."If this is being a Christmas Tree, I want no part of it!"
The spruce did not answer, it leaned silently, seemingly having lost interest in Chris and the outside world in general. Chris too, withdrew, trying to find some sort of oblivion to escape the pained numbness of his branches still bound so tightly to his trunk, and the sick throbbing of his stump.
The sun arrived over the burger stand, and with it came the humans. Bundled up against the snowless cold, wandering among the trees with arms folded tight against their chests, teeth chattering and children hopping up and down trying to keep warm. Amidst the whining of infants and gruff rumblings of the men, the higher pitched wounded-rabbit screeching of the women, examining the proud unbound field trees, pulling their branches, hefting them in the air and bouncing the trunk ends on the hard grey ground. They were oblivious to the cries of the trees when the impact of their trunks on the ground drove the nails of the crossed boards deeper into their flesh, and the weeping as they walked away, the field tree left once again, surrounded by its own shed needles.
If a tree was lucky...or was it lucky?...a human would take it away. It was hard to see from Chris' point of view, but he could make out the hapless tree bound to the rooftop of a car or truck as it was driven away. Hopefully to a fate better than...this one.
On wore the day, humans coming and going, trees being taken away...more than once one of the bound trees nearby would be lifted out and with a shining metal blade, have its twine binders cut away. The tree's branches would spring out on their own, and Chris could hear the gasp of combined relief and pain as the once-cramped branches assumed their natural angles. He thanked the Maker that he was unable to see what happened next as the tree was taken out of his sight. For the sound of hammering and the uninteligible cries from the chosen tree made it all too clear. It was getting its new feet.
The spruce leaning on Chris had been silent all through the morning, thank goodness for that as well. No other tree near him seemed to see him, or want to see him. Perhaps they too were drawn into their own private worlds, until the shining blade came their way. How long had they stood here, supporting each other, wrapped in twine and pain, sap coagulating on the cold hard ground beneath their raw bleeding stumps. Better to not think about it, not to think about the new feet or what happens later. Better to not even think at all, but to just lean, and be supported by whoever it is you're leaning on. If they don't like it, that's their problem.
To be continued...