art by Shothot Designs
A Christmas Frost
by Robert E. Keller
When I was a young boy, we used to take Dad's rusty pickup out to find the perfect tree. Dad always brought ropes because the wretch pines usually put up one heck of a fight. One time, a flailing branch ripped my cheek open so badly Mom had to stitch it up. I still bear the scar. With pride, I should add.
As I grew older, Dad let me swing Fungbrom's Axe. I chopped down my first wretch pine. My arms were torn and bloody, but once the wretches are free of their roots you can wrestle them onto a truck pretty easily. Dad was so proud he gave me a sip of whiskey, and I managed to keep it down.
Now I sit on my back porch, out of work and luck, watching the snow pile up in silver rolls that look so creamy you could eat them with a tablespoon. The wretch pine is already propped up in the living room, and I keep her nourished on skunk water from hollow trees. My boy James is standing in his dirty red snowsuit punching snow off the porch rail. Some cheap canned soup simmers on the stove.
"Dad, when can I play with Fungbrom's Axe?" James says, flinging snow into the air and letting it fall onto his face in some strange child ceremony.
"You don't play with it, son," I explain patiently. "It's a tool, not a toy. Actually, it's a weapon." I take a sip of whiskey.
Linda lets out a yelp. "Brian, your stupid wretch tree has fallen over on top of Bixby!"
If the wretch actually fell on Bixby, our Siamese cat, he was probably fur patches and blood pudding by now.