It’s Christmas, Charlie Brown, & Cujo is coming too

24 Oct

When you think of Christmas break, do you think of 97 degree temperatures, plagues of gnats and high heeled sandals? If not, clearly you didn’t spend your college years at Valdosta State University in south Georgia.

One Christmas, my roommate thought that “we” needed to get a live Christmas tree for our apartment. Where were we going to get a live Christmas tree this close to Florida? It would have been easier to find a palm tree, but if we settled for a palm tree, then I wouldn’t have this to write about.

Pam held in her hot little hands an ad that stated ”The Greatest Tree Lot in The South” was just a “few miles” down the interstate, so we hopped into my jeep and began heading more south. We were laughing and talking until I noticed we crossed the Florida state line.

“What just happened?” I asked.

She gave me the please-don’t-ask-me-that look.

Another hour passed. In silence.

Finally she yelled, “There! Turn there!”

She pointed to a dirt road off of the interstate. Not an exit. We were now driving through a pasture. Pam looked at her paper, then looked up and pointed to a tree.

“Go that way.”

“Pam, what in the world are you reading?”

“I got this ad from the girl at Piggly Wiggly.”

I frowned. “What girl at Piggly Wiggly?”

We had never shopped at Piggly Wiggly.

We approached what I believed to be the baby Christmas tree section. These were like if Christmas trees had puppies. The pasture ended, and we just looked at each other. We got out of the car in our dresses and high-heeled sandals, and looked around. After a few minutes I started to get nervous.

In the distance I heard a pack of dogs, growling and barking. I also heard a loud engine and a possible chainsaw. The sound got closer and closer. Suddenly an old blue pick up truck with a gun rack came barrelling out of the woods. Two massive dogs jumped out of the truck and galloped towards us, the sounds of their slobbery barks echoing amongst the pines. Their facial flaps were rippling in the wind and drool was plastered on the sides of their fat stomachs. We ran as fast as our high heels would take us toward my car, jumped in and slammed the doors. A man who resembled Santa Clause (except with a really dirty beard. But I supposed Santa’s beard is pretty dirty anyway) rolled out of the truck in a faded pair of denim overalls.

Pam and I looked at each other. I said, “We just drove three days to get here, we’re getting a damn tree.”

We got out of the car and walked over to introduce ourselves. With fake names of course. He nodded and tipped his hat in return. How very Southern of him. He reached into the back of his truck and pulled out a massive saw.

This is it, I thought, this is the end. This is how it ends in movies. Two stupid girls drive out to a death trap according to instructions from a girl at Piggly Wiggly, and their bodies are found strung up in a baby Christmas tree lot.

He took out a cigarette, lit it, and looked at us as he exhaled into the wind. This is what serial killers do, I thought, they enjoy the whole process of planned murder. He tossed the saw down onto the ground in front of us. It bounced on the dry panhandle dirt, kicking dust into our faces.

“There you go ladies. Take your pick.”

“I’m so sorry. I’m not sure I understand what is happening.”

“You just pick the tree you like, cut it down, blow your horn real good and I’ll come bag it up when you’re done.”

He winked, put his hat back on and got in his truck. Cujo and Old Yeller stayed with us. They sat next to each other, watching and panting.

“Pam, get the saw.”

We wandered around for a while, and finally found a Tween Tree that was at least as tall as our shoulders. We decided this was the one. It was getting dark.

“How are we going to cut this tree down? I’ve never even cut the grass before.”

“Why do you think I would know?”

Pam sighed and said, “I’ll hold back the branches and you saw the tree down, please.”

Southern Santa may as well have handed us a butter knife. I was using all of my strength, pulling and pushing back and forth as hard as I could with the saw. My triceps were on fire.

“Kari, I think this tree is too thick. We need another one.”

“Oh, yeah? You think so? You could tell just by standing there doing nothing?”

We made our way to about five other trees and finally found one that looked cooperative. At this point I didn’t care if we only had a branch. It quickly fell, knocking off most of the pine needles. Rolling our eyes, we got back into my car and blew the horn per Santa’s instructions. I had a bag of Doritos in the back so I gave them to the dogs while we waited.

His truck came barreling out of the woods again and as he pulled up Cujo and Old Yeller stood at attention, licking the Dorito residue off of their dog beards. He threw the tree into his truck, knocking off some more needles.

“Girls, y’all sit tight for a minute! I’ll be right back!”

We were exhausted, my hand was bleeding from the saw and there were pine needles in my hair. A few minutes later Santa came back with the burlap wrapped Charlie Brown tree and threw it on top of my jeep. The last remaining needles fell off from the impact.

“That’ll be six dollars.”

I handed him a ten and said “Merry Christmas.”

As we drove away, he stood there smiling and waving at us as if we were his daughters on our way back to college. I swear there was a tear in his right eye. We stopped to wave goodbye, and for a moment I felt a wave of emotion as I looked at Cujo, Old Yeller and Santa Clause standing there alone in the pasture off of the dirt road off of the fexit three days south of Valdosta State.

I told Pam to write down the address and we would mail them a Christmas card. I couldn’t wait to take a family portrait with Pam in front of our Tween Tree Trunk and mail it to our parents and friends back home. They would be so proud of what college had taught us so far.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply