tree wrestling

The Obligatory Christmas Tree Close-up of the Bandaid Box

File this under the heading of Best Laid Plans, the kind that “gang aft agley,” as Scottish poet Robert Burns warned in his philosophical poem “To A Mouse.”

My wife usually shops for a Christmas tree with a scrutiny normally reserved for my shortcomings as a spouse. She also insists that I proffer an opinion on each candidate, after which she makes up my mind which tree to get.

This year it was going to be different. To help a charitable cause, she bought a Christmas tree online. That means she bought a tree sight unseen.

What did your mama tell you about buying a pig in a poke?

As usual Mama was right. The tree was too short. My wife likes a tall tree.

How short was this tree?

Well, to be kind I’d say it was vertically challenged.

But that wasn’t the tree’s greatest, uh, shortcoming. No hole had been drilled in the trunk’s bottom. Believe me, the spiked stand is the way to go; saints have lost their religion in trying to make a tree stand up straight in one of those contraptions that come with three or four bolts you have to tighten just so.

So we bought another, taller tree. Then my wife said, “Let’s decorate both trees. We can put the short one on the Carolina porch.”

“Be still, my heart!” I muttered – but I waited till she had left the room. My mama didn’t raise no crazy children.

Turned out, we actually had a spare tree stand, spiked! We also have a cordless drill. But we soon discovered that our drill could not bore a hole in a hot biscuit, let alone dint the tree trunk. Time for Plan B. We bought one of the old-fashioned tree stands!

Next, we found that branches near the trunk’s base prevented the tree from fitting into the stand. At this point, I could feel my own religion registering about a quart low, but I persisted. I fetched a hand saw and went to work.

I wrestled with that tree until I was inventing new swear words. Then Margaret exclaimed, “You’re bleeding!”

She was right. The saw had sliced across the thumb knuckle, and the wound was bleeding profusely. The cut wasn’t deep and was only about an inch long, but as Mercutio said to Romeo, “…’tis not so deep as a well nor so wide as a church-door, but ’tis enough, ’twill serve.” I went to tend my thumb.

The cut bled off and on for more than five hours. Too, the saw wasn’t rusty; still it was a saw. “You’d better get a tetanus shot first thing tomorrow,” Margaret said. I didn’t think I needed one, but the last thing I wanted to do was die hearing: “I told you so.” Besides, truth to tell, I’ve learned that my wife is a pretty smart cookie.

Long story longer, I waited an hour next morning in a pharmacy’s so-called minute clinic before I got up and left. Stopped by the office of Dr. Tisha Williams, one of my doctors, and showed my wound to her medical staff. Twenty minutes later I was on my way home, happily immunized.

The short tree? The tree that fought back when I took a saw to it? The Christmas tree that only a Grinch could love?

It’s still on the porch, leaning against the wall, sulking, waiting no doubt for round 2.

It’s likely to have a long wait. I have only one good thumb left and my Christmas spirit already feels two sizes too small.

Image: The Obligatory Christmas Tree Close-up of the Bandaid Box - a composite image created for from a promotional photo of Bandaids and an image by Brian Hathcock via flickr and used under a Creative Commons license.
Robert Lamb

Robert Lamb

I grew up in Augusta, Ga., where I attended Boys' Catholic High. After service in the Navy, I attended the University of Georgia, majoring in English, and then began a (wholly unexpected) journalism career on the old Augusta Herald, an evening paper, and ended years later in Atlanta at The (great) Atlanta Constitution, which I left in late 1982 to write The Great American Novel. That goal has proved remarkably elusive, but my first attempt (Striking Out, in 1991) was nominated for the PEN/Hemingway Award. My second novel, Atlanta Blues, spent a few minutes on the best-seller list in (at least) Columbia, S.C., and was described in one newspaper’s year-end roundup as “one of the three best novels of 2004 by a Southern writer.” My third novel won no honors but at least didn’t get me hanged; titled A Majority of One, it is about a clash between religion and the Constitution over book-banning in the high school of a Georgia town. For my next novel, And Tell Tchaikovsky the News, I returned to an Atlanta setting for a story about the redemptive powers of, in this case anyhow, “that good rock ’n’ roll.” I've also published a collection of short stories and poems: Six of One, Half Dozen of Another. One of its stories, “R.I.P.,” was a winner in the S.C. Fiction Project in 2009. Before retirement, I taught creative writing and American literature at the University of South Carolina and its Honors College, and feature writing in its School of Journalism. I maintain a now-and-then blog at boblamb.wordpress.comand I walk my dog on the beach a lot at Pawleys Island, S.C.