Good day or good evening. Here is the thirty-fifth in a series of fifty-two weekly one-page stories that I am posting on this site, in an ongoing experiment in web publishing. Thank you for reading.
Linda had promised her son Chuck that he could Facetime with the Christmas tree before she put it out on the curb, so on the morning of December 27 she called her ex-husband’s wife Savannah’s phone, since Savannah was more likely to be with Chuck than the ex was. Chuck answered, meaning Savannah had seen that it was Linda calling and passed the phone to him. “Hi Mommy!” “Hey Chuckie, how’re the Bahamas?” “Good.” Chuck, who was six, was sitting on a towel on the sand looking at his mother’s face in his stepmother’s phone. Behind him was the supine, oiled, youthful body of his stepmother, in full view next to Chuck’s face on Linda’s phone. “Honey, would you mind facing the other way?” “What?” “Uh, here, you want to talk to Chrissy before I put her out on the curb?” “Chrissy!” Linda propped the phone against a milk carton on the kitchen-slash-dining-room table next to the tree and cleared away breakfast while her son conversed with the tree. On one of her trips back from the sink she heard him saying “…except this morning when we got to the beach Savannah told me to go all the way back to the hotel room because she forgot her sunscreen and when I got to the room Daddy was wrestling on the bed with Yvonne and they were in their underwear.” Linda froze behind the milk carton. Chrissy, the Christmas tree, asked, “Who the hell is Yvonne?” “My nanny.” “How did you feel seeing them wrestling?” “Okay, not bad and not good.” “Did you tell Savannah about it?” “No, she’s not interested in wrestling.” “Where’s your dad now?” “I don’t know. Chrissy, can you put Mom back on the phone? Bye!” Linda picked up the phone and looked into it at her son’s face. He was lying on his back now on the towel and holding the phone above him so she couldn’t see Savannah anymore. “How was your Christmas, anyway, Mom?” “Pretty good.” “Savannah told me it’s okay to be sad.” “Why, honey, are you sad?” “No, you are. I’m gonna go swimming now with Savannah. Don’t worry, I’ll be home soon. Bye!” Linda’s phone went dark. “Chrissy,” Linda said to the tree, “what am I supposed to do about this?” “Hire a better lawyer so Chuck can be with you next Christmas and you won’t have to go alone to the Michaelsons’ party, stand in a corner, come home, drink whiskey, and cry your way through Terms of Endearment again.” “Even if I could do that how am I going to compete with a five-star hotel in the Bahamas?” “Listen,” Chrissy said, “I know your human problems are very pressing but let’s not forget that you drove out to the country, cut me out of the ground, strung me to the roof of your rusted-out station wagon, drove me back to the city, stuck me in a shallow bowl of water that often went dry before you refilled it, and hung things from my branches while I slowly died to complete your annual ritual. So forgive me if I’m not aces at alleviating your winter holiday crisis.” “Wow, when did Christmas trees get so judgmental?” “Ah, lighten up, Linda, I’m just fucking with you. Come on, take these ornaments off me and bring me down to the curb so you can get on with your day.” Linda eased all the ornaments off the tree, put them back in the ornament box, and carried Chrissy down the stairs to the sidewalk. “This holiday is always a bit sad,” Chrissy said, as Linda laid her down on the cold curb, “but I guess that makes sense.” “Why’s that?” “Well, we’re celebrating the life of Christ, right? And so even among the rare families in which there hasn’t been a major rupture and no one acts like a schmuck, you can’t fully celebrate it without touching the suffering.” “Well you’re definitely the most philosophical Christmas tree I’ve ever had.” “I’d say I’m about average, you just happen to be in that moody kind of space where you’re paying more attention this year, so if you look at it that way the holiday’s not a total wash.” The sanitation truck pulled up to the curb. One of the workers leapt off of it, picked up the tree, threw her into the back of the truck, and set in motion the device that came down upon her and crushed her together with her brothers and sisters. “Bye Linda!” Chrissy hollered cheerfully above the noise of her own destruction. “Bye Chrissy, and thank you!”