Flash fiction by guest blogger Lee Ann
Rows of evergreen trees filled the field, stretching to the edge of the narrow road and back to where the woods began. Some were the right size, anywhere from four to six feet high but others climbed toward the dull sky, reaching up to ten feet and beyond. The wind that whispered through the branches reminded her of ghosts and the entire Christmas tree farm experience was surreal, reminding Bethany of an animated holiday special. If a talking or singing snowman emerged from the trees, she would not have been too surprised.
“Do you see one you like?” Raleigh’s voice interrupted her musing. With a borrowed handsaw, orange with wicked sharp teeth, he looked out of place. Under normal circumstances, he was handier with a pen or television remote than any type of tool so in this wild place, Raleigh looked like a deranged tree man bent on mayhem.
Bethany walked down the road, turned left and sauntered through more trees. An insane urge to hum carols seized her but she did not, dealing instead with the task at hand. How, she wondered, do you choose a single tree of the proper size from hundreds of like pines? And how do you adjust the concept of size from the wide-open field of trees to the close, confined walls of an apartment?
One tree, tall enough but slimmer than most of the rest, seemed like the ideal choice. She touched one branch, amazed at the give of a living object, and waved one mittened hand at Raleigh.
“I want this one.” She imagined it in a stand, decked with small multi-colored lights and ornaments. “It will look just right.”
He shrugged. “If you’re sure.”
Raleigh knelt on the frosty ground and began sawing at the slender trunk with the jagged teeth of the saw. The soft wind sounds through the other trees ceased and a high keening echoed in her ears, the awful sound of an emergency siren or a banshee.
“Stop!” Bethany screamed. “You’re killing it.”
“Huh?” Raleigh stopped, sap spattered across his freckled hands like blood. “What are you talking about?”
The tree’s screams grated on her soul like someone’s fingernails scratching down a chalkboard and she knew even though they stopped, it would die, mortally wounded. Still, she could not listen any longer so she pulled the saw out of his hands.
“I changed my mind.” The lie sounded fine as she spoke it, plausible and convincing.
“I think it would be better to buy a fake tree. Let’s turn in this saw and head for Wal-Mart.”
He scowled but pulled himself up from the ground, brushing the dirt from his jeans.
“Whatever, Bethie, whatever. I just wish you had decided it sooner. We drove by three different Wal-Mart stores on the way here.”
Raleigh turned to go and she followed. Although the screams softened into whimpers, she could still hear them but she did not look back, not even once.