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“The Sneezing Christmas Tree” is approximately 6500 words. It contains 5 chapters. The first chapter is now available in two different formats for download:
The first chapter can also be read online below.
We found Emily on a snowy night in early December. She was standing tall, dusted lightly in white, at the end of a long row of Fraser firs. Our family had crisscrossed the tiny Christmas tree farm at least a dozen times before laying eyes on her. We chose her the moment we saw her.
I can’t even tell you the name of the farm — and not just because it was many years ago. We visited so many that night that I completely lost track.
Mommy had a vision of our perfect Christmas tree. A Fraser, a beautiful frosty blue color, with soft needles so Tommy and I wouldn’t poke our fingers. Tall, at least nine feet. And full — no bare spots, or at least not many. You can hide little ones by turning them toward the wall.
And of course, we had to cut the tree ourselves.
We’d driven from farm to farm without finding the perfect tree. With each stop, Daddy had gotten a little grumpier. Daddy would get that way sometimes, when he had to fix the washing machine, or when Tommy would flush his race cars down the potty, or when we were too loud or asked too many questions.
But as Tommy and I danced and twirled around our newfound tree, I could see the joy in Daddy’s eyes. I heard him laugh his deep laugh and knew he was happy.
I was happy too.
My name is Alice. This is the story of our Christmas with Emily, a beautiful but perfectly normal tree. At least, that’s what we thought — until the sneezing started.
* * *
We had never named a Christmas tree before. I have no idea what put the idea into Tommy’s head, but he suddenly shouted.
“The Christmas tree’s name is Emily. HELLO, EMILY!”
Mommy started to ask him why he chose the name Emily. But before she could finish, he cut in again.
“I’ll knock her down!” he yelled. And with that he cocked his arms like a man starting a race, threw his head back, and charged full-speed into Emily’s side.
Luckily for Tommy, he was wearing enough layers to have launched himself into a brick wall and scarcely felt the impact. He bounced off the tree and landed flat on his back, his short little legs kicking in the air for a moment above him.
Mommy and I laughed at him.
“Silly,” I said. “You have to let Daddy cut it down.”
But Tommy was already making angels in the snow, flapping his arms and legs as wide as he could. My little brother was like that — always going.
“Are you ready for me to cut it down?” Daddy asked.
“HER,” insisted Tommy. “Not IT. Her name is Emily.”
“How do you know you get to pick a name?” asked Mommy. “Maybe Alice wants a say.”
Tommy turned to look at me. “’Emily is fine,” I said. A smile lit up his face.
“Okay, Emily it is,” said Dad. He laid down on his side next to the tree and carefully set the teeth of the long saw against its base. He started to cut. The soft wood gave way easily; it took only a few seconds for him to saw through the entire trunk. Tommy and I cheered as the tree tipped, landing in the newly fallen snow with a gentle swoosh.
We dragged our tree to a big barn at the front of the lot where Daddy paid for it, along with a hot chocolate for each of us. Watching as Emily was baled and tied to the roof of our van, Tommy and I sipped our drinks slowly. Daddy laughed most of the way home, singing carols loudly and telling us Christmas stories from when he was a boy. Mommy’s eyes glowed. I heard her whisper to him, “I love you.”
* * *
It was too late when we got home to decorate the tree. Daddy carried Emily into our living room and stood her carefully on the stand, but Mommy said the rest would have to wait for the next evening.
Before heading up to get ready for bed, Tommy turned to the tree.
“Welcome to our house, Emily. Our bedroom is upstairs; so is Mommy and Daddy’s. You can have the downstairs to yourself.” He paused, then asked, “Are you afraid of the dark?”
“Tommy, she’s used to sleeping in a dark field in the middle of a farm,” Mom said. “I think she’ll be alright.”
He considered this for a moment. “Okay,” he said. “Well, let us know if you need anything, Emily.”
“Good night, Emily!” I called. We both ran upstairs to get ready for bed.