25 comments

Fiction Funny Holiday

"It kinda looks like—"

"Don't say it." 

Kenny nods solemnly, recrossing his long legs in the rusted lawn chair. The skinny blue and white plastic spindles weaving the chair seat have long since loosened and torn. His ass hangs out of half of it, but it doesn't bother him any. I watch him try to change the subject in his brain, can physically see the wheels turning, his lips twisting from one side to the other. 

It doesn't work, though, so he readjusts in his chair and tries again, "I'm just saying—"

"Don't say it."

"It looks like a friggin' Christmas tree!" He shouts, hands flopping in the air dramatically.

I sigh and crack open my beer. We sit quietly in our old shitty yet somehow still comfortable lawn chairs and stare at the tall green spruce, shimmering as if it were decorated with the ghost of baubles, tinsel and lights of Christmas past. He's right. It does look like a Christmas tree.

Doreen, a few RV's down, had some fancy app on her phone where she could just take a picture of the damn thing, and it told her everything we needed to know about the giant green tree that showed up out of nowhere a couple of days ago.

As if a fully grown, sixty-foot Christmas tree appearing fully rooted in the center of our little town wasn't bizarre enough, the fact that we're about ten clicks outside'a Roswell, a desert-laden arid landscape, only added to the mystery.

The even stranger thing was, about four or five nights ago, I was out, maybe had a few too many beers, wandered a little too far into the desert, and I coulda sworn I saw this same tree. Just sitting there, in the middle of nowhere, all by itself. It glistened in the moonlight, and I slapped my face to get a grip, but it was still there when I pried my eyes back open. Somewhere between the booze and the call of the moon, I passed out right there on the hard-packed dirt, and when I woke up, there was no tree.

Of course there wasn't; that would be crazy. 

But when I stumbled back to my silver Twinkie airstream the next morning and heard the commotion of my neighbors, all gathered around outside their RVs and trailers at the center of our little town, it was impossible to miss that same giant green monstrosity beaming up from behind the crowd. As if it had just up and twinkle-toed its way over here and then planted firm.

According to Doreen and her fancy app, said green monstrosity is a Norway Spruce, the same kind they use at Rockefeller in New York at Christmastime. And it just so happens to glimmer when the light catches it as if it's decorated in rows and rows of lights.

Annoyed I won't partake in further discussion—as if it weren't the only thing we've all talked about since the damn tree's mysterious arrival—Kenny huffs and climbs out of his lawn chair, joining Doreen, her husband Danny, and a handful of other locals and their heated conversation.

There's a lot of pointing and handwaving. I sit back in my chair and attempt not to give in to the temptation and join them.

After a few lazy hours and a long nap in the sun, I haul up out of my lawn chair and make my way inside. 

I never needed or wanted more than I got; my place is comfortably sparse, and the stream's tiny size has never bothered me. It's the quiet of living alone I've always craved.

The can opener in my grip is halfway twisted into a can of beans when the door rattles, Doreen knocking and shouting my name.

"Open up, Joe!"

Grumbling, I pull my lit smoke from between my lips and growl, "It's open."

The rattling door whips open, Doreen huffing as she enters. She stares down at the can in my hands, brows furrowed. "Tell me you're not eating that for dinner."

I growl back, straining the beans in the sink before dumping the can into a pot on the hotplate.

"Joe, why don't you come out and join us after eating that very enticing can of beans? We've got a whole spread; everyone's brought somethin'. Not that what you've got there doesn't look like the best damn meal you've ever had. Looks very appetizing. Filling, too."

"You're not very funny. And I ain't in the mood," I say quietly.

"Never are," she rolls her eyes, gripping the Formica countertop, her claw-like hot pink fingernails clicking furiously. "Joe, it's Thanksgiving. And there's a god-forsaken Christmas tree out there! A goddamn miracle! You shouldn't be alone here, stinkin' up the place with cigarettes and beans. Come over."

Steam begins to rise up out of the pot. I stir it. Doreen watches me. I watch the steam.

She groans, "Just think about it. No one should be alone on the holidays. Even your ornery ass."

The screen slams shut behind her. Of course, she doesn't shut the door. I turn the heat on the hotplate off, then move to close the door when the sounds of laughter drift in through the screen. I watch my neighbors laugh and talk with their hands and hug and touch. A part of me shifts uncomfortably at all that affection. Another part watches with envy.

I close the door quietly, light up another cigarette, and grab a spoon, not bothering to transfer my dinner to a bowl. Faint sounds of holiday music and chatter filter through the aluminum walls of my airstream. The air inside feels thick and stifling.

By the time I crack another beer, it's full dark. A new, glimmering light streams in through the window above my sink. It shimmers and dances, and I want so badly to ignore it, but the laughter's grown louder, and suddenly, the silence of my home, ordinarily comforting, feels oppressive.

Tentatively, I get up and glance out the window. 

The damn tree is lit. It's fucking lit, with white and green and red twinkling Christmas lights, seemingly unfolding out through the branches. I'm certain it's not plugged in, and there are no wires or string lights. We've checked. It's been doing this since its equally mysterious arrival.

Doreen and her husband Danny smile, his arm draped over her shoulders as they look up in wonder. Kenny wobbles from too many beers, a shit-eating grin on his face, our other neighbors all cuddling and chatting around the tree, relaxing beneath the glow.

I feel envious.

I grumble, grab another beer from the fridge, and reluctantly step outside. I'm grateful no one makes a big deal of it when I give in and join them.

Swallowing my annoyance, I listen to theories of aliens and government conspiracies regarding the Christmas tree's sudden, strange appearance. Why either party would go out of their way to plant a fully grown glittering tree for a bunch of us bumpkins in the middle of the desert is beyond me. I've got no better ideas, but I doubt it's aliens or the government. More likely, we've all somehow accidentally ingested ayahuasca or some other mind-altering substance.

Kenny drags our lawn chairs over in front of the tree, propped up like a warm fire, and I join him and sit, kicking out my long legs, our asses falling through the broken spindles. 

I can't help the slight grin tugging at my lips at how happy this stupid tree makes my neighbors. Maybe I don't mind spending time with these idiots so much. Maybe they aren't half bad.


November 25, 2023 20:21

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

25 comments

Ken Cartisano
06:10 Apr 12, 2024

Why didn't the tree eat them Hazel? No reason? Perfect answer. In my book, (that's just an expression) this is not a story, it's the first chapter in a fairly funny, upside-down, atypical alien visitation novella. I mean, I can see where this goes. Can you? I don't want to write it, don't get me wrong, I'm just wondering if there isn't already more to this story, at least in your head, if not on figurative paper. This is like attending a chess match, and suddenly seeing an eight-move gambit that would essentially win the game, (an impossi...

Reply

Hazel Ide
14:44 Apr 13, 2024

Thanks very much Ken! I think this is actually one of my favorites. It's weird, right? And you're right, that's the main thing, the rest is hot air! Cheers!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Chris Miller
20:15 Nov 27, 2023

That's a great take on the prompt. Really nicely written too. Great work, Hazel.

Reply

Hazel Ide
00:17 Nov 28, 2023

Thanks very much, Chris! I like the more subtle prompts, sometimes.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
AnneMarie Miles
01:22 Nov 26, 2023

Ha ha! This was both funny and heartwarming. Somehow, in this short amount of words, you painted a very clear picture of Joe and his RV community. Every sentence was purposeful and just where it needed to be. Awesome job, Hazel!

Reply

Hazel Ide
04:37 Nov 26, 2023

Aw thanks AnneMarie! You’re very kind. Probably could have been longer but sometimes I prefer the stories short and sweet.

Reply

AnneMarie Miles
04:39 Nov 26, 2023

I really love the short and sweet, too! It's fascinating what writers can do in short pieces. You mastered it here. Glad I got to read this!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Zeke Northland
21:57 Dec 08, 2023

This is a nice little vignette with a character-driven voice. A pleasure to read.

Reply

Hazel Ide
03:43 Dec 09, 2023

Thank you Zeke!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Trudy Jas
19:32 Dec 07, 2023

Spot on! Thanks

Reply

Show 0 replies
Arsalan Khan
02:14 Dec 07, 2023

It's fucking lit. Loved it.

Reply

Hazel Ide
02:52 Dec 07, 2023

LIT. Thank you Arsalan :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Alison Rice
15:16 Dec 06, 2023

Very enjoyable story, Hazel! I like your descriptions such as "silver Twinkie airstream" and "twinkle-toed its way over here." Very tight and well-edited. I like the warm, fuzzy feeling at the end. It does not sound contrived but meaningful. Good job!

Reply

Hazel Ide
16:14 Dec 06, 2023

Thank you so much Alison! "tight and well edited" is maybe the best compliment ever haha

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Michał Przywara
22:44 Dec 05, 2023

Heh, the premise here with the tree is fantastic :) Great mystery, very bizarre behaviour for a tree - but of course the story isn't really about the tree at all. External events happen, but our protagonist wages an internal battle. Pride against the desire for connection. “I'm grateful no one makes a big deal of it when I give in and join them.” We believe it. It's probably what allowed him to enjoy this, and it speaks to the wisdom of his friends. By the end, they still don't understand the tree, but they know they don't need to. And a...

Reply

Hazel Ide
00:15 Dec 06, 2023

Thank you for the insightful comments :) you’re right, it wasn’t about the tree at all. I kinda feel like joe most days so it was nice to write a sweet, soft ending.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
E. B. Bullet
14:23 Dec 05, 2023

There's nothing quite like a grouche giving in to a little bit of cheer. It's very heartwarming. I especially love that no one teased Joe for coming out and joining the fun, so it was even easier for him to just settle in and be a part of it. Very wholesome! Very cute! Very mysterious..... This happy beginning could be a ruse for something more sinister. That tree hides things ... Anyway, I'm glad everyone's having fun. Thank you for sharing! Short but effective stories are hard to pull off, and you delivered ~

Reply

Hazel Ide
15:05 Dec 05, 2023

You’re right it could be the start of something more sinister! That would be fun. Like strange things popping up all over the country. Thank you for your thoughtful comments and read! They were a delight!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
David McCahan
08:45 Dec 05, 2023

Great depiction of curmudgeonly Joe alone in his trailer watching the rest like the Grinch in his cave. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Reply

Hazel Ide
13:15 Dec 05, 2023

I hadn’t made that correlation and now I can’t unsee it haha - thank you for the read :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Kailani B.
02:43 Dec 05, 2023

"As if it had just up and twinkle-toed its way over here and then planted firm." --- I can see that so clearly. Thanks for sharing this story!

Reply

Hazel Ide
03:07 Dec 05, 2023

Haha thank you Kailani! I’m glad that Fred flinstone cartoonish visual came through haha

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Kate Winchester
02:19 Dec 04, 2023

This was sweet. I enjoyed it!

Reply

Hazel Ide
03:23 Dec 04, 2023

Aw thank you Kate! :)

Reply

Kate Winchester
03:47 Dec 04, 2023

Welcome 🤗

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
RBE | We made a writing app for you (photo) | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.