Genre: Fantasy, Holiday, Short Stories
The Christmas tree stands at the very center of the action during the holidays. It lights the way through the dark, guards the gifts, brings joy.
But once the holidays end and the needles fall, the owners kick the trees to the curb. Quite literally.
Which is where I find them.
I listen to their stories, good or bad. And help them transition into the next phase of their existence.
A Second Chance is a fantasy post-Christmas story about letting go of the past and finding new beginnings.
Everybody loves a good Christmas tree for Christmas. But once the holidays are over, the trees must go. Nobody wants an old skeleton with twisted limbs and hardly any needles left, standing in the middle of their living room, reminding them that the party’s over. So before they go back to work, back to school, back to their everyday lives, they remove the pretty decorations, take down the lights, remove the bright star, and throw the tree out.
Nobody cares what becomes of them.
Most of the time, if they can get away with it, they’ll dump the tree anywhere. Even some families who have a fireplace don’t go through the trouble of cutting up the tree for firewood. They prefer the wood they bought at the store, which is the right size, and isn’t sticky, and won’t soil their fireplace. And won’t require any physical labor on their part.
In the countryside, the trees that aren’t used for firewood usually end up in a ditch, or in the forest, looking up at their living siblings, as they waste away.
In the city, where the risk of getting caught for littering is much greater, most trees are lucky enough to be deposited in a place that will allow them to be recycled.
A place like this.
I stand guard in front of the City Hall, watching over the dying Christmas trees. It is two days before the end of the school holidays, and high season for throwing away Christmas trees.
The city has dozens of these stations, spread out in different neighborhoods and suburbs, in the hopes that people will go to the trouble of bringing their trees. We know from experience that they will not bring them to the waste collection.
Yesterday I brought back over a hundred and fifty trees. From the looks of it, today we’ll go over two hundred.
I approach a large fir tree which is leaning against the wooden fence we’ve set up. She’s almost two meters high and has perfect proportions. Her branches still have all their needles, standing to attention. She has no wood boards nailed to her trunk, or signs of having been screwed into a tree stand. The last ten centimeters of the trunk is slightly darkened. She’s been allowed a flowerpot, to continue the semblance of life while she served her family.
I brush the fingers of one hand lightly across the needles.
Christmas presents going way above the lower limbs. Two types of white lights; fake candles and falling snow. Foie gras, snails in their delicious buttery sauce, beef, potatoes, the traditional bûche, and an apple sorbet trou Normand—in Armagnac.
I smile at the fir. “You got a good one, huh?”
I lean in and take a good sniff. She smells of wood smoke, long family dinners, and children’s laughter. No yelling about going to bed, only long hugs and sweet kisses. No lack of anything, including love.
This fir has lived every Christmas tree’s wet dream.
I walk farther down the fence to a pine tree with several broken branches and very few needles left. The pines are usually quite resistant and rarely lose their needles, even after being used as a decoration for over four weeks.
“What happened to you, babe?” I whisper as I trace my hand along one of the broken branches stripped of needles.
Two boys fighting. One probably five years old. The other closer to ten. They’re pulling on a fireman’s truck, the smallest boy screaming that it’s his, his older brother claiming that he can use it as long as his brother isn’t playing with it.
The mother coming through the door as the boys crash into the tree. What are you doing! she screams at them, her hands coming up, vibrating, next to her head, as if she’s resisting tearing out her hair. Why can’t you get along for two minutes? Why do you have to ruin everything?