Oh, Tanner Baum (Pt. 4 of 5)

Note: Call me lazy (I can take it) but I have decided to re-post the Christmas story I wrote a few years ago. Yes, it ran on this blog before and, even though I am loathe to re-post old material, I like this story and thought it was worth another spin around the digital block. Today (Sunday) is the first chapter and the story will conclude on Christmas Day. Enjoy...

As we started running toward the tree Bart was holding, we all stopped at the same time and stared. The tree was pathetic. The trunk was crooked and the left side of it looked like it had survived a hurricane, limbs curled back over themselves and needles sticking every way but right. There was no way daddy would accept a tree in that condition and he proved me right by telling Bart to get that one out of his site and grab another. The next one Daddy pointed to got displayed a lot quicker because all of the kids were helping. We couldn’t help the way the tree looked, though. It was possibly more wretched than the first one. It was so bad that daddy didn’t even have us spin it, not even once. Daddy decided to change his luck by trying another row of trees, but each one we pulled out to show him was pitiful. They were either really thin or had giant holes in them big enough for baby Cephus to hide in. Daddy was spinning and pointing that stick so fast he looked like a wizard casting spells, except he would have to be from the Minnesota Wizard Clan where they are more accepting of flannel and lace-up boots.

Whatever he was trying to conjure up with that stick it wasn’t working. Every single tree we hauled in front of him was useless. I was starting to get scared and, by the amount of fingernail chewing being conducted by my brothers and sisters, they were too. Bart had to go home when his momma came to pick him up an hour into our hunt. He looked relieved. As we all gathered around the latest choice, Daddy told me to run get one of the adult Boy Scouts because he had some questions for him. I grabbed the first dude I found and we hurried to the back of the lot to talk to Daddy.

Daddy didn’t give the Man Scout a chance to introduce himself before he barked, “Sir, your allotment of trees this season is deplorable. What say you?”

“I’m afraid you’re right, Mr. Baum. Seems we tried a different supplier this year and what they sent us has been a bit disappointing.”

“Disappointing? That, my man, is a gross understatement. These trees should be burned!” I admit I would love to see a whole Christmas tree lot set on fire but I know what Daddy was getting at. So did the Man Scout.

“I tell you what I can do, Mr. Baum. If you can find something in here you can work with, I’ll sell it to you half price.” When daddy heard that offer, he softened up a little. If coupons are big in the Baum family then half-off deals are huge. The Man Scout was speaking Daddy’s language.

Daddy placed both his hands behind his back and took on a serious look. He stared at the Man Scout and said, “I will take that offer under advisement and let you know in a reasonable time what my decision will be.”

“As long as a reasonable time is within fifteen minutes because we close at nine.”

Daddy turned away from him and started to pace. This was a good sign because when daddy paced it seemed to charge up the part of his brain where The Genius lives. Some near miracles have occurred from Daddy’s hands once he has spent a little time pondering. The kids knew to let him be and work through it on his own time. After ten minutes the Man Scout got tired of waiting and he walked back to the front to begin the process of shutting down the lot for the night. In all my years of hunting the tree, we have never come home empty handed, proving that when Daddy got the special feeling, great things happened. I could not imagine tonight would be different but just as a little seedling of despair started to germinate in my gut, daddy stopped, turned to face us and pointed the measuring stick at me.

“Tanner, go find the man in charge and tell him to bring me a saw and a ball of twine and meet us in aisle two. The rest of you, follow me. There is work to be done.” I ran off to find the Man Scout. Daddy was getting us a Christmas tree.

By the time we found Daddy and the kids, they had pulled two nasty trees out of the stack and had them lying on the ground right next to each other. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what daddy had planned but I was in no position to doubt him. He instructed my brothers and sisters to stand the trees straight up and hold them side-by-side. When that was done, he stepped back, setting one end of the measuring stick on the ground, holding it out from his body, looking like Moses before he parted the Red Sea. Since I wasn’t a participant at that particular miracle, what followed next will have to suffice as my Children of Israel moment. Daddy started barking out instructions, simple and clear, and that’s when we all knew daddy was either a genius or a saint.

© 2008 Jay Colle

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