By Jeffrey L. Pardy Honourable mention for the Cuffer Prize 2013
“Get the hell outta here or
I’ll call mall security.”
“There’s no elves around to stop us now, stupid tree!”
— Telegram file photo
The ratty kids were back. The two of them had climbed over the barrier when Dwayne showed up. I could have been one of those mall security guys — chucking nasty mall rat kids out the front doors, telling them that Santa had nothing but a big lump of coal for them. But no, instead I gotta be the mall’s talking Christmas Tree.
“The hell you kids think you’re doing?” Dwayne said. Had his radio in one hand and one of them heavy-duty metal flashlights in the other, like he was gonna brain those brats. They took off.
“See ya next time, stupid tree,” one of the brats yelled.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, this gig ain’t that bad. Listening to kids rattle off what presents they want is decent most of the time. Gives parents a chance to relax. I take their brats off their hands for a while. Hell, the way I see it I’m performing an important public service. The greedy little bastards, they really twist my nut. The sweet ones, though, they make the gig worth it. I had this one girl a few days ago, no more than five, with her pigtails all in little bows and pleased as punch to be shopping with her mommy at Christmastime. “All I really want this year is world peas … and maybe a dolly if Santa could find one lying around the shop somewhere.”
So sweet, that kid. I coulda ate her up.
I guess the worst part of the job, aside from the ratty brats that come around yanking on my branches and causing trouble, is not being part of a union. Like the elves, they got a union. What, I can’t be in a union too? Granted there ain’t many of us — Denny in Halifax is still at this racket, and I hear Billy’s working the Winnipeg circuit these days. Still, we got rights. I told the elves’ union heads I wanted to join. “It’s the elves union,” they said. “You’re a tree, not an elf.”
“But I work as hard as they do, maybe harder.”
They got all up in arms over that, asking me what I meant by the words “maybe harder.”
“The elves are there for your protection,” one of them said, “and since you think so highly of the elves maybe next Christmas you should do the job by yourself. I hear the Santa at the mall in Gander needs a hand …”
“Oh no,” I said. “I didn’t mean it like that. You’ve got a great union here. I can’t see why I’m not a part of it. What, I don’t get health and dental just ’cause I’m a tree?”
The bastards showed me the door. Now the elves take 15-minute smoke breaks instead of the 10 they used to on account of the fact that they’re all disgruntled. Gimme a break.
Anyway, I haven’t always been the 12-foot tree that they stick in the mall to talk to kids at Christmastime.
I did have a pretty normal childhood, for the most part. You could say I was a little bit mischievous, but if you ain’t mischievous as a kid you’ll probably be mischievous as an adult.
And if you’re mischievous as an adult they’ll probably just end up chucking you in jail, so you gotta get it out of your system early.
When you’re a kid and your parents say, “don’t go out to the Woody Woods at night ’cause the wicked witch will turn you into a tree,” you think they’re just telling you that kind of stuff to scare you. No doubt, a kid running through the woods in the middle of the night ain’t the safest thing in the world.
Now that I’m an adult I get that maybe it wasn’t the smartest idea. But, I mean, we lived right on the edge of the Woody Woods. You’d think that if my parents knew the Wicked Witch of the Woody Woods lived there — that’s her actual, full name by the way. I told her it was the dumbest nickname I ever heard, so she showed me her driver’s license and everything right before she zapped me — that they wouldn’t have moved there in the first place. The way I see it, they were daring me to check it out on my own. I should have had them hauled away for negligence. Then again, not many parents could have dealt with raising a tree and not some regular little brat kid.
You think you were awkward as a teenager? Try sweating needles during gym class, or trying to dance with your date during prom and she’s getting all full of sap and you poke her in the eye with one of your branches and she says, “I think we should see other people.”
I think we should see other people? Come on! I gotta deal with a growth spurt that’s a million times worse than what everyone else is going through, and I got other kids wanting to shove presents under me, and I got teachers saying if I wanna get an A grade in their class I gotta swing by their Christmas parties where I know they’re gonna be drunk and sticking stupid ornaments all over me, and, on top of all that, I get dumped during the prom just because I poked her in her stupid eye with one of my stupid branches? That’s life for ya, one swift kick to the pinecones after another.
Anyway, I’m at the bus stop waiting for the bus — and getting on the bus is no easy thing for a 12-foot tree — minding my own business when I see those two little ratty kids from the mall again. They’re coming my way looking all sly and I know they got a plan. I’m casual, like I don’t even see them coming.
“Hey stupid tree! What are you doing?” one of them yells. “Waiting for the bus?” I pretend like they’re not there. I look the other way, as if I can see the outline of the bus coming but it’s real far off in the distance.
“Hey, stupid tree, I’m talking to you!” one of them yells, getting closer.
“Yeah, he’s talking to you, stupid tree!” Closer.
“Hey, stupid tree?” One more step. They reach for my branches. Gotcha.
I pick the two of them up by the legs. They’re just dangling there, screaming and crying and kicking to get free. One of them wets his pants. I laugh.
“Hey stupid tree, what?” I ask, swallowing one of them whole. His buddy’s face turns snow white before I pop him in my mouth.
So what? I eat kids. I’m a freaking magical tree. What a life.
Jeffrey L. Pardy lives just off the Avalon Peninsula on the Island of Misfit Toys. Inhabitants include himself, J3, and a cute dolly from Mount Pearl. He aspires to be just like the tree in his story.
Next week: Tracey Waddleton’s
“Home Again with the Fire Out.”