EDITOR’S NOTE: Because of a production error, this column did not run on Dec. 28, 2013 as it was scheduled.
He was not really a bad man, though he probably didn’t know it. Even so, he was surprised when he ran over a Christmas tree a couple days before the holiday. It wasn’t his fault — like the thing he did on the football field once, or the way he’d used up different people, or the uncared-for children a couple cities over. Maybe that was part of the reason for his surprise.
There he was following close behind a van with a Christmas tree on top, past the high school, around the bend. He was impatient with how slow the van drove. Why in the world are they getting a tree now, he wondered angrily, everyone’s supposed to have their tree already. As the van crossed the train tracks he looked at a woman in a passing car. When he looked back, the tree was already on the road in front of him. He didn’t even have time to swerve; he just ran right over it.
It made a horrible scraping and scratching and clunking sound. He swore, and looked out the rear view mirror. He didn’t see the tree anywhere and supposed it had rolled off to the side of the street. He swore again, this time at the van still in front of him. He thought of speeding up and giving them a piece of his mind. Then he thought about their faces when they got home and had no Christmas tree. That made him smile and laugh out loud.
But he didn’t laugh when he arrived at his apartment a few minutes later and got out of the car. No, it was a slew of swears and oaths and epithets. The tree was snagged on part of the muffler, the part that was still attached to the body of the car. It had trailed the whole way home with him. And worst of all, a thick branch had snapped off the bottom of the tree and speared the left rear tire, which by now was only half inflated.