NOTE: This is a fictional Christmas story that highlights dishonesty, shady entrepreneurship, and the mystery surrounding living things. Last year’s Christmas Story (“Jungle Bells“) was a little more magical and playful. Merry Christmas.
THE NEFARIOUS HISTORY OF A FORMER CHRISTMAS TREE
“That’s not what I mean. I mean that particular tree over there has a lot of stories it could tell.”
“If you cut it down and looked at the rings you could tell how much rain and…”
“No. I mean, sure, but with that tree it’s different. A photo of that tree is on a lot of fridges and mentioned in many a Christmas letter.”
“This tree was sold to over a thousand people as a Christmas tree. Not trees like that one. That one. This tree that we are looking at right here.”
“Wow. Should be a plaque under it or something.”
“I’m making one.”
“What is the plaque going to say?”
“Not sure yet.”
“Tell me the story and let’s see if I can help.”
The story begins with a Christmas tree farmer who needed money, didn’t have any trees, but did have an idea. And a small sapling, or maybe it was a seedling. Either way, it was small, it was his, and it wasn’t big enough to sell as a Christmas tree. Not yet. But it would be. In 7 or 8 years. If only, he thought, I could sell it now…
So he sold the tree online. He set up a website, took a picture of the tree, promised periodic updates for the next seven years. And on the 8th year, he would cut the tree down and send it to the owner. His honest hope was that after forming a precise and detailed relationship with the tree, they wouldn’t want to cut it down. And then, if they didn’t want to cut it down, his work was done.
The problem was that he only had one tree. He did sell it. True. But he did sell it for less than enough. So he decided to sell it again. He was confident that he could convince the first owner of the tree that they should let it grow up to be and old growth tree. And if he wasn’t going to need to cut it down, why he couldn’t he cut it down and sell it to someone else? He paused here. He did. He realized that selling the one tree twice was crossing a line. And he also realized that once he crossed that line, there wasn’t a big difference between selling the same tree twice or four times or a thousand. So he sold that sapling a thousand times.
He kept his promise. He sent periodic updates. He even sent special funding requests over the years asking for a few dollars for fertilizer, and lawyer fees for zoning issues threatening to shut down his tree farm and consequently the eventual realized hope that you had invested in so generously a few years before. In economics the term is a sunk cost. And these tree owners kept sinking more money into the tree. And each year the Christmas tree farmer would get a few more saplings and start the process over again.
On the planned year of harvest for his first tree, instead of making a request of tree clemency or an excuse sprinkled with legal formalities, the Christmas tree farmer cut off contact, shut down the website, disappeared. A few stories made the rounds online about the missing trees, but even then, many people felt sympathy for the trees. What’s the worst case scenario here? A Christmas tree farm somewhere is slowly turning into a small forest. Not that bad of a scenario. Besides, the people that had bought a Christmas tree 7 years before had been buying trees those other years too. So they just kept doing that.
“How do you know all this?”
“What do you think I should put on the plaque?”
“Every tree has a story?”
“That doesn’t seem worth the words.
“Yeah, but of what?”
“Survivor of an internet hoax.”
“How about: This is not a Christmas tree, but once was, and now it is future firewood, or maybe like boards for a barn or something.”
“I’m pretty sure that would be the only plaque in the world with the words ‘maybe like boards for a barn or something’.”
“This tree was famous?”
“Was it though?”
“This tree, like all trees, should be famous, and would be if you knew the whole story.”
“Is anyone ever going to really stop and read the plaque?”
“Maybe not. I guess the only way people are really going to know the stories of these trees is if I come up here with them and tell them.”
“Do you think that tree over there has as interesting of a story as the one we’ve been talking about?”
“That one? Oh, absolutely. I’ve sold that tree over a thousand times too.”
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