The Perfect Tree
Alan was sitting in the back of the limo glaring at Denny who was looking sheepishly anywhere but at his husband. It was November 30th and they had struck out from their suburban home at 10AM on what Alan had thought would be the relatively easy task of finding a Christmas tree. So much for "easy," he thought. Aloud, he asked plaintively, "Denny, where are we going?"
"We're heading for a tree farm I know of; it's about an hour's drive. We'll find the perfect tree there. I just know it."
Alan snorted. "Forgive me, Denny, if I don't share your enthusiasm. We have been to five, count 'em, five Christmas tree lots today. I saw beautiful trees in each one but, someone found fault with everyone I selected." Alan began to mimic Denny. "No, no, no! This one is too short, too tall, too sparse, too full. Too full? How is a Christmas tree too full?"
"I admit, Alan, that some of the trees were beautiful but, they were not perfect. This is going to be our first Christmas together as a married couple. I want it to be special!"
Denny seemed so earnest and adamant that Alan had to smile in spite of his annoyance at being dragged around for hours. Well, to be fair, he thought, riding around in a limousine with a well – stocked bar can hardly be considered "getting dragged around" but, I want to go home. "Our first Christmas together will be special, Denny! It's going to be memorable because we're married, you're taking the experimental medication and it's working and most importantly, we're happy. A tree will be lovely but, it's still just a tree."
Denny tried to put himself in his husband's shoes. His family was so dysfunctional growing up that holidays were a thing to dread. He told me he and his wife use to celebrate but, after she died, he just stopped. I'll have to re – ignite the Christmas spirit in him. "We'll see, my friend, we'll see."
"There it is, Alan! That's it! That's our tree!" Denny exclaimed excitedly as he started moving down the row toward his prize.
"Denny, be careful! Wait for us!" Alan called as he and the farm owner hustled to catch up with him. He threaded his arm through the older man's to slow him down. "I really don't feel like taking you to the hospital because you fell," Alan chastised.
Undeterred, Denny just grunted in answer though he did slow his gait slightly. With the owner bringing up the rear, Denny and Alan walked arm in arm until Denny stopped them in front of a tree that was taller than its surrounding brothers. Smiling broadly, he motioned to it and said to Alan, "See? What do you think?"
Alan walked around it with an appraising eye. He looked at Charley the farmer who walked closer and said, "This is an excellent choice, Mr. Crane! This is a Blue Spruce; they make excellent Christmas trees. This one is twenty feet tall and perfectly symmetrical."
Alan nodded. "How much?"
"This specimen is a bargain at $550."
Alan tugged on Denny's arm to keep him quiet. "It would be a superior bargain at $400 cash," he countered.
"You drive a hard bargain, young man. $500."
"Let's split the difference, shall we? $450, my final offer."
The farmer sighed, "Alright. $450 it is."
Alan smiled; he loved winning in any form or fashion. He waved off Denny's money and pulled the money out of his wallet and handed it to Charley along with a business card. "Fine. Here's our address, please have it delivered tomorrow. Come on, Denny, let's go home."
"The living room doors appear to be locked."
"They are locked, Sir. Per Denny's orders, you are not allowed into this room until he says otherwise. Is there anything else I can help you with?" The Major Domo smiled sympathetically at the younger Mr. Crane.
"Oh, honestly! Really? I know the tree was delivered and Luis and Maria are decorating it. What's the big deal? I can see it!"
"Denny made it quite clear you may not see it until he's ready. I'm sorry."
Alan knew there was no way he could talk the man into opening the doors so he said, "That will be all, Rodeo, thank you." He went to the front hall closet, grabbed his jacket and went outside. He walked around to the living room windows overlooking the backyard, only to find they had been covered with newspapers. Dammit, what the devil is going on in there? Shrugging his shoulders, he walked farther until he had reached the back door. He stepped into the kitchen where Dave the chauffeur was sitting at the table chatting with Olympia as she baked sugar cookies. "Dave! Just who I was looking for! I have some errands to run."
"No problem, Mr. C.," Dave said. "Let's go."
"Great. Olympia, please tell your husband to inform Denny I've gone out for awhile," Alan said before grabbing two cookies and ducking back outside.
When Dave dropped Alan off three hours later at the front door, Rodeo was there immediately to take his coat and shopping bags. "Denny wishes to see you in the den," he said. "He is already there."
When Alan walked in, Denny grinned like the Cheshire Cat. "I've been waiting for you. Let me pour you a drink." As he handed the glass to the younger man, he said "I have something to show you but, you have to trust me."
Alan clinked his glass against Denny's and then took a sip. "Of course I trust you, " he replied. "What is it?"
When Alan obeyed, he felt a cloth cover his eyes and get tied at the back of his head. "Denny?"
"Just put your arm in mine and hold on to your drink. This won't take long."
Alan felt Denny leading him out of the den to the right and down the hall toward the living room. "Now Alan, I'm going to let you go after we step inside but, I don't want you to move. I'll remove your blindfold soon, alright?" When Alan nodded, Denny unlocked the doors and led him inside.
Alan strained his ears to listen to what Denny was doing. He heard switches being flipped until the sound of Trans Siberian Orchestra softly playing "The Carol of the Bells" on the CD player drowned out everything else. Suddenly, Denny was at his side untying the blindfold. When it came off, what Alan saw took his breath away.
The tree that he had seen unadorned on a tree farm the day before now stood in one corner of the room festooned with ornamental six inch diameter balls of gold, green and red. Silver bells and nutcrackers painted as soldiers in red jackets and white pants had been placed carefully throughout; the white lights of the tree pulsated in various patterns that reflected off the tinsel and the ornaments. On the top of the tree was an angel in robes of gold, silver and white holding a trumpet as if blowing a fanfare.
"Denny, it's beautiful. I don't think I've ever seen a tree so gorgeous."
Denny had moved closer to the tree. He motioned Alan over. "Come look at this," he said. He had his hand behind a square silver ornament that Alan could see was engraved.
He read it aloud, "Denny and Alan Crane, First Christmas, 2008." He backed away and sipped his drink to give himself time to clear the lump from his throat. "Denny, I don't know what to say."
The older man laughed. "Say it's not just a tree and I'll be satisfied."
Alan hugged Denny tightly and whispered, "I was wrong; it's not just a tree" into Denny's ear. "I'd like to sit and look at it for awhile, if you don't mind. Care to join me?"
"I would love to."