Chapter Four

Disclaimer: I do not own the Lorax.

It was remarkable, really, the way that his family didn't stop trying to change his mind on his new policies until the first quarter earnings after they had been implemented showed that they weren't losing money after all.

Really, they had been so very persistent about it that if they weren't his family, he probably would have fired them all. As it was, he was seriously wondering what they even did all day.

The pollution hadn't been completely eliminated though he was working on that and at the very least it had all been reduced. Scientists were falling all over themselves to try and get his attention by bringing down the pollution level more than the others and while it was all rather bizarre, he had to say that he approved of the results.

He was still cutting down some of the trees because he still couldn't get the tufts plucked from the living trees fast enough but he was having some of the trees hand-plucked and he was replacing every tree he cut down with one and sometimes two more.

He was still trying to come up with a product to eventually replace the thneed and though he'd had a few ideas, none of them were really jumping out at him. Still, he had time.

To his great surprise, since he had started trying to improve the environment (or at least maintain it), he was actually feeling even better about being a success. He hadn't actually thought it was possible but it turned out that it was. The Lorax had stopped telling him that he was a terrible person and it turned out that not being told how awful he was really had a way of improving his mood. Even his family, who relied on him for their living, focused all their complaints on the Lorax.

It almost made him wonder why he had taken so long to get on board with the whole environmentally friendly business practice thing.

And the day he had first seen his picture of the decimated grove the Lorax had taken him to right next to that same grove sprouting hundreds of tiny Truffula trees had been the third time in his life he felt that he could fly. Fortunately, he didn't try because he was sure that that would just end in tears but he felt it all the same. The first two days, of course, were when he first discovered this place and when he had sold his first thneed.

The thneed always made him feel good and he was pleased that there was no longer any chance, however slight, that his decisions might mean that his invention no longer brought him joy.

He'd even seen the animals more than he had been (coincidentally on days when he had sent his Aunt Grizelda to do something else) as well as the Lorax who, despite his claims of unpredictability, continued to show up at his office every Wednesday at three.

"All I'm saying is that it's weird," he told Norma one day about fifteen minutes before they expected the Lorax.

"I don't see why it's weird," Norma disagreed.

"Yeah but you never see anything as weird," the Once-ler pointed out.

"Not true. I find it very weird that your mother is so intent on getting me fired," Norma informed him.

"Well…actually, I find that weird, too," the Once-ler admitted. "But you have to admit that your weirdness threshold is much higher than most people. Or is it lower? I can never remember. Either way, it takes a lot more weirdness for something to register as weird to you than it does for most people."

"Maybe you're just overly sensitive to things that you think are odd," Norma suggested.

"Me and everyone else around?" the Once-ler asked skeptically.

"Oh, so you've found someone who agrees with you that this is weird?" Norma asked sweetly.

The Once-ler slumped. "Well…no." And it hadn't been for lack of trying, either. He'd had people polling the townspeople and none of them found it at all odd. "But none of you have really left the town so of course you wouldn't think it was weird!"

"I think you're trying a little too hard," Norma opined.

"This town has no name!" the Once-ler burst out.

"Why do we need a name?" Norma asked reasonably. "We all know what someone's talking about when they say 'the town.' You yourself have referred to the town a few times in this conversation already."

"Yes but there are other towns out there," the Once-ler pointed out.

Norma shrugged. "And the people here don't really travel. Besides, everyone outside the town has already begun to address their letters to Thneedville."

The Once-ler's eyes lit up. "Thneedville?"

Norma took one look at his face and reached for her planner. "Would you like me to start looking into real estate, sir?"

The Once-ler nodded vaguely, distracted by the cheery thoughts of an entire town named after him. And why not? The town needed a name, even if he was the only one who could see that. And why not name it after his thneeds? They were the only reason that anyone had even heard of the town much less wanted anything to do with it. And they were the lifeblood of the place, really. Already people were having a hard time picturing a life before thneeds and that had been exactly what he'd hoped for so long ago when he first got the idea into his head.

The Once-ler would feel self-conscious about directly naming the town after himself (because, really, who did that?) but naming it after the product synonymous was his name was just as good. He'd be immortalized. He would be remembered even after the thneeds fell out of favor (if such a dreadful thing ever occurred) because as long as this town stood then he had made his mark on the world.

He had had such difficulty trying to define success. At first he thought it was just coming up with the thneed and creating it and then he had thought it was selling one. After that, success was everyone in town possessing one and then it was watching the thneed counter tick up, up, up. Every time, though, a small part of him doubted. What was success really? But now he thought he finally found it. A whole town named after the thneed. If that wasn't success, what was?

Besides, Thneedville sounded really catchy. He always knew that 'thneed' wasn't a stupid name no matter what the twins had said. They were just jealous that he was clearly going places in life and they really didn't have grand plans for their future. It was okay, though, because he was above pettiness and was glad to let them and the rest of their family share in his triumph.

Of course, while the town was pretty okay as it was, if it was going to be called Thneedville then it did need some work done. For starters, there should be a statue of him. Nothing too much, of course, but just to remind people who had forced their town out of its sleepy obscurity. He was sure that Norma could work out all the details there; she had very good taste.

"Thneedville," the Once-ler murmured dreamily. "I like the sound of that."

"Well I don't," the Lorax said flatly.

The Once-ler started because he hadn't noticed his entrance. Of course, with the Lorax's diminutive stature that wasn't an uncommon occurrence.

The Once-ler groaned. "Oh, what now? Let me guess, somehow naming our desperately in need of a name town Thneedville would kill all of the trees."

"No," the Lorax replied. "But this kind of power has a way of going to your head."

"I don't know what you're talking about," the Once-ler declared, crossing his arms.

The Lorax shook his head. "You never do, beanpole. You never do."

"Why can't I ever have anything nice?" the Once-ler complained.

The Lorax eyed his green suit distastefully. "Probably because you have terrible taste."

"Just because it clashes with you doesn't mean it doesn't look good on me!" the Once-ler protested.

"No, I just don't think something so ostentatious and pretentious would look good on anybody," the Lorax explained. "And I'll have you know that I look fetching in green."

"Well I think it looks nice," Norma said loyally.

The Once-ler smiled at her, deciding to take a chance. "Thank you. And since you, unlike some people, are capable of being nice to me, do you want to have dinner tonight? I know you were waiting for the chance to tell me about your niece's recovery."

Norma nodded, smiling herself. "I'd be delighted to. It's the strangest thing. Christine has been having problems breathing but lately all of that's going away."

"Huh. Imagine that," the Once-ler said thoughtfully.

The Lorax snorted. "Yeah, 'imagine that.' And what do you mean that I'm never nice to you? I'm always nice to you."

"You couldn't even pretend to be friends in front of my family who were all painfully aware that I'd never had a friend," the Once-ler retorted, realizing only after he'd said it that that came out a lot less careless than it had in his head.

The Lorax was staring at him like he'd grown an extra head.

"What?" he asked self-consciously.

"All this time…" the Lorax muttered.

"All this time what?" the Once-ler asked, having a sneaking suspicion that he wouldn't like where this was going.

"All this time you're still upset over that? Is that why you wouldn't listen to me about the trees?" the Lorax demanded.

"Nope, it's completely unrelated," the Once-ler insisted. "Although, for the record, I take promises made to friends a lot more seriously than I do promises made to acquaintances."

"Even close acquaintances?" the Lorax inquired.

The Once-ler nodded. "Even them."

"Look, beanpole, I wasn't happy that you brought your environmentally disastrous family to expand your potentially tree-killing business and that everyone wanted a piece of the tufts for a thneed. I certainly wasn't about to give them the idea that they could dismiss my concerns just because we were friends!" the Lorax exclaimed.

"So…just so we're clear," the Once-ler said, trying very hard to hide any sort of a grin but only partially succeeding. "Are you saying that-"

"Yes, fine, we're friends!" the Lorax cried out, throwing his hands up in the air. "Are you happy now?"

The Once-ler let a smile spread over his face. "Yes, I believe I am."

"So does that mean you can finally stop biggering?" the Lorax asked hopefully.

"Never going to happen," the Once-ler said cheerfully. "And what's your problem with that anyway now that it's not hurting the environment anymore? Do you just hate business or something?"

"…That book gave me a headache," the Lorax admitted.

The Once-ler laughed, feeling strangely free in the knowledge that he had never been happier than this moment. Some might say that there was nowhere to go but down and in the past he might have believed that, too. Now, he wasn't so sure.

Who said that happiness had a limit?

And like he'd always said (though admittedly he'd needed some slight preventative policy changes but hey, no one was perfect), how bad could it possibly be?

It's the End so Review Please!