On the 7th Day of Christmas Rich Glinnen gave to me…
“Now they notice us,” Elm guffaws, simply stunning in an afro of violet, “all year long these people just coast on by, picking their noses.” The nearest trees grunt in agreement.
“What did Elm say?”
“A little louder, please. Some of us aren’t spring chickens in our nineties anymore.”
When Elm’s observation was relayed to those further away, they too grunted and chuckled in agreement.
“Nobody seems to care when all is evergreen,” an especially gnarled giant said.
“That’s for damn sure,” another agreed.
“What was that?”
“Hey, speak up, will ya?”
And soon the dialogue amongst the trees was relayed to every social circle in the forest beside the Sprain Parkway—and they all grumbled in agreement, hacking up sap as they spoke.
“Gotta lay off the congestion. It’s giving you congestion,” bellowed Elm, knowing full well it would get a laugh since he was the biggest perpetrator of secondhand exhaust smoking.
After his joke was passed around through the rings, everyone howled with laughter, shaking branches and dropping pinecones as they shook.
“My bark’s going to crack, Elm,” Daisy said, flowered in sunshine, “that was a hoot.”
Elm had been hearing Daisy’s praise for decades but has never seen her. Unfortunately, her life-bearing pinecone settled behind Elm. Whenever she spoke, her sweet words caressed his husk and seemed to dissolve rings from his core—reduced him to a sapling.
“My pleasure, Daisy,” Elm said, soaking it all in: the brisk breeze, the bloody sky throwing roses. He’s been around long enough to appreciate this fine weather, for it won’t last long.
All was quiet and serene. Elm and Daisy sighed simultaneously in adoration of the world they managed to sprout out of. They both cackled, each coughing up sap; however, some of Daisy’s had pelted Elm.
“Oh my gosh, Elm! I’m so sorry.”
Elm felt it and knew it must’ve come from his smoking partner. It warmed him, hugged him like a sweater.
“I’m so embarrassed, I should have covered my mouth,” Daisy explained, flustered, “but it just took me by surprise—”
“It’s ok, Daisy,” Elm assured her, gently. “It’s beautiful, ain’t it?”
Daisy was blushing like a redwood, unbeknownst to Elm. “It sure is, Elm.”
The dusk and evening passed too quickly for them. During the day it’s much too dangerous to smoke exhaust, since there are so many cars passing by, and a tree could fall ill if inhaling too much at once. At night, however, there were far fewer cars—only the occasional passerby, of whose luscious pollution they would toke.
They giggled under the web of stars etched above, ignoring the hushes that encircled them like steam—as well as the faint reiterating of the hushes from the outskirts, and the distant rationales for the initial hushing that followed…
Dawn jangled in like a truck.
Daisy stretched her branches wide, arched her trunk. “I feel like we didn’t even sleep, but I feel great,” she exclaimed.
Elm was refreshed too, “Yeah, I had a ball last night.”
“Me too, Elm.”
“Just excuse the morning wood,” Elm smirked, bathing in the high-pitched laughter behind him. He must’ve told that one everyday for the last 70 years, but it never got old.
When Daisy composed herself, she sighed, “I love you, Elm.”
He had never been loved by anyone before, and it wasn’t until Daisy confessed hers did he realize that that’s what he felt for her, too.
“I love you too, Daisy.” How he wished he could see what beautiful entity embodied such an aria.
The morning rush began to trickle, as Elm and Daisy toked on exhaust and love; their sighs matching the hissing of cars, harmonizing like rolling waves.
That’s when the logging truck inched into view like a decrepit hand.
Elm was in Daisy’s view, saving her the torment of watching death approach, inescapable and hungry. She continued sighing, gradually getting more stoned, more lovestruck. He let her dream.
How cruel this world is, Elm thought, how cruel my heart is. Of all moments for it to attach to its soulmate: the day before they choose the Christmas tree for Rockefeller Center. That truck was splintered into his memory. Years ago, he’d watch it fly past in November. As of late, it would coast by cautiously, so as not to miss an approaching turn. Now, it was halted before them at the foot of the hill, clumsily angling itself to climb the dirt path leading to their patch.
Daisy was choking. “Easy, Daisy,” advised Elm, peering at the clouds of smoke billowing from the truck’s smokestacks, “breathe through your nose.”
“What’s that smell, Elm? What’s going on?”
“You know I love you, right? We’ve only just—”
“I know, Elm.”
“Let me finish. I know we’ve only just fallen for each other, but I’m the luckiest tree I’ve ever known.”
Daisy was overwhelmed with love, but too distraught to feel it’s pleasurable embrace. What was he getting at? And then she heard the truck climbing too.
“In fact, besides you, I’m the only tree I’ve ever known, but that—”
“Shut up, Elm. Are we getting chopped? Is that what that is?”
The truck was close enough so that they both heard its satanic jostling, the roaring, the grinding of rubber and snapping of branches. Tress and bushes alike tried holding this mechanical beast back, but their branches and leaves were no match and merely whisked its sides.
As the ground rumbled, the wind blew, and a cloud of coal nestled into a corner of the sky.
“It’s true, my love,” Elm lamented.
“Oh, my love,” she gasped, her voice cracking as she began to cry. “They’re going to carry me off like some dumb log.”
“I won’t let them, Daisy. Over my dead trunk.”
“They will! You can’t promise that.”
The ground shook with ferocity—it was upon them.
“Holy oaks, they’re here,” Daisy shrieked. “I’d love to see your face just one time. Why? Why must it be like this?”
Elm decided he had to see her, no ifs, ands, or stumps about it. He heard the guttural voice of a human: “Look at the size of deez dings,” said one.
“You ain’t kidding,” replied the other.
Elm and Daisy stayed perfectly still, which came easy to them, hoping they would choose another unlucky tree.
“Ok, I got one,” said one of the loggers, as Elm heard a spray can.
“Holy oaks, Elm, they picked me! It’s so cold, Elm. Please help me, I’ve only just begun to love. I’m just a sapling!”
Elm’s heart was rotting at her pitiful wailing. And shocked too, for he had no idea she was so young, as she had just confessed. She had the tenor of a mature woman—no younger than 80. Such a rarity she was for sure.
“What you doing, Gene? That ain’t big enough.”
“But she’s gorgeous, ain’t she? I’m sure someone will buy her, no?”
Elm was getting aggravated by their arrogance. Who were they to mow his lawn? He gauged by their footsteps that they were not too far behind him—right in between Daisy and himself.
The swarthy cloud above had transformed to a charcoal ship, and with it, plenty of gales. He waited for a lengthy one before hocking sap in the wind.
“Madonna, I think a bird just crapped on my neck!”
“They say that’s good luck.”
Both men turned to the direction of the airborne liquid.
“Yuck, it’s all brown. Damn thing must’ve been full of worms…” Gene said, wiping his palms on his jeans.
“Say, look at the size of that guy!”
Elm relished in the cold spray on his back.
“Elm, what have you done?” Daisy wept.
He felt the X marked sloppily, he felt the victory of manipulating the loggers away from his love.
“Alright, let’s take dem both and get the hell outta here before rush hour.”
Daisy erupted with sorrow while Elm tried consoling her: “I heard stories about how my great-great-grandfather, oak rest his soul, was chopped before his time. They wound up printing the first editions of Romeo and Juliet on him.” He ignored the treacherous buzzing of the dual chainsaws and Daisy’s shuddering as their teeth bit her bark. “Imagine that? A tragedy of star-crossed lovers, felling in each other’s arms. Just like us.”
Daisy tried to appreciate the irony, but there was a chainsaw ripping through her.
“Although, everyone in my family tree thought he was full of sap. The man did lie a lot. Not two of his saplings resembled each other…”
The unmistakable crack, the swooshing of leaves, the yelling of ‘timber’, and, finally, the quake of Daisy’s fall.
Elm kept his eyes fixed on the cloud that winter had served. Standing strong, at attention, firm, like a Marine in the ranks, he inhaled amongst the buzzing and palaver, and accepted his Christmas coal.
The Rink at Rockefeller Center was choked with people—the ice snuffed into woolen darkness. It seemed impossible to skate without bumping into someone a couple of strides in. It seemed just as unlikely for one to tumble with so many clogging the ice, yet somehow skaters swirled—graceful and graceless alike—in systematic entropy, and skaters fell, massaging smarted asses under the supervision of their bent-over companions.
And stretching above the sweaty skaters, with their puffs of breath leashed to each like empty thought balloons, stood Elm, donned in gaudy, itchy decoration.
It wasn’t a bad gig. He rather enjoyed the city. A nice break from rural life. And he had made his family tree proud, being the iconic Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza. Hardly anybody could say they’ve achieved as much. But the best part of the job—the perk of all perks—was seeing Daisy’s dazzling light, twinkling at him from a high-rise on W 49th Street.
Rich Glinnen is a market researcher by day and a writer by night. He enjoys bowling, and eating gruyere with his cats at his home in Bayside, NY. He was nominated for the 2017 Best of the Net Anthology. His work can be read in Kenneth Warren’s Lakewood House Organ, at foliateoak.com, petrichormag.com, underwoodpress.com/ruescribe and richglinnen.tumblr.com. His wife calls him Taco.
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