Eddy Simmons, owner and operator of Eddy’s Yule Trees, and not Big Eddy’s Christmas Trees, picked at his teeth with a matchbook cover and shuffled through the day’s take. He leaned back in his chair and set his sap-caked work boots on the tiny trailer’s counter. The presswood sagged and bowed from the years of use as a footstool.
He finished counting the money and then counted it again, going over expenses and profits for the last few days and swore to himself.
The kid he had helping out this year poked his head in and said he’s gassed the saws up and shutdown the netter and ran the clothesline through and around the tree trunks to lock them in their stands and was now heading home for the night. Eddy grunted his approval. The kid talked to much but he worked hard. Last year the kid didn’t say more than five words all season. Hardly worked either.
Eddy stood up. He stuffed the cash in the lockbox and then opened the trailer door, light a cigarette and looked out over the parking lot filled with trees. Balsams, Blue Spruce, Scotch Pine. His eyes moved over their angular peaks and across the road at the flashing neon sign.
Big Eddy’s face was done up in red and blue tubes and had the wide-eyed stare and too wide grin of a complete lunatic.
The signs three green tubes shaped like trees flashed one after another, creating a rippling effect.
“Those trees are what pull them in,” Big Eddy said. “They just follow the flashing lights and don’t snap out of it until there’s an eight-footer lashed to the top of their car.”
“Pull them in? Or away from my lot?” Eddy asked.
His father looked at him, the black bags under his eye making him look like an old weepy, hound.
“This is just business, son,” Big Eddy said.
Just business was the same answer he gave when Eddy asked him why he moved across the street.
“That new highway and supermarket on the edge of town get a lot of through traffic,” he said.
He hadn’t listened when Eddy told him that three years ago. Hadn’t listened to anything Eddy ever said until he quit. Didn’t listen to anything he said now.
Eddy put the lights out on the road sign and the ones strung out overhead. He walked away from the trailer and felt the dark snuggle in close.
He lit another cigarette and walked down the rows of trees, his gloved fingers reaching out the boughs, tugging at needles instinctively. He found a pruning hatchet leaned against the trunk of the tallest Blue Spruce in the lot. A fourteen footer.
Eddy slid the hatchet through his belt. Damn kid must have left it out. He breathed in the smoke, the crisp winter air and the smell of dying trees packed closely together. Eddy walked along the rows until his moustache frosted up and his fingers went numb. The neon sign across the street finally stopped flashing. Darkness fell heavy on both lots.
Eddy’s cold fingers ran along the hatchet’s edge.
He started across the street to pay his old man a visit.