It happens every year. Thirteenth of December. Thank god he don’t bring eleven more gifts. Twelve days of Christmas and all. Our little community just couldn’t handle much more tragedy. Whoever’s pulling this prank got a fucked up sense of the Christmas spirit. Some think it’s a curse, but I always figured it would be a blessing to know when you were going to die.
No one’s ever seen the Tree Trimmer. That’s what folks call him cause every year he hangs the ornaments out on Hatsix Road, and every year folks try and catch him in the act. But it never been done. Something always happens. One year the road got flooded. One year storm knocked down a bunch of trees. Tragedy always strikes. Yes, sir.
The ornaments dangle from the branches like drops from a fresh cut throat. Too many to count. It must take hours to put them all up. I mean, some of them are way up there. They’re all pretty much identical. Except for one. They all seen better days. Some of them got more scratches than they got red, but the name is always plain as day.
How the Tree Trimmer determines what name decorates the ornament is up for debate. The deaths don’t have much in common, in fact, nothing except for the Tree Trimmer. The poor fool who gets named starts counting out the days. Happy New Year, mother fucker. You got 364 more, maybe. There’s no reason or rhyme to it. Took quite a few years before they even figured out what was going on.
Some folks only had to wait a few weeks. Old man Jennings got hit by a car right after St. Paddy’s Day. Course he was drunker than a skunk and shouldn’t have been crossing the highway in the middle of the night. It’s almost like the Tree Trimmer knows the dumb ones and puts them out of their misery, but that ain’t always true. Last spring Julie Nichols got hit by lightning. Year before that Sam Perkins spun out on the ice going over Bull River Pass. They didn’t find his car for two weeks cause of the blizzard. Poor bastard. Just saying there ain’t no pattern.
This year me and my buddies volunteered to collect all them bulbs. I’ve climbed a dozen trees so far, but no name. My best friend shimmies up the tree next to mine trying to reach the ones at the top. He grabs an ornament and inspects it for a name before dropping it like he was snake bit. It shattered into tiny slivers that disappear into the rotted layer of leaves below us.
“Way to go. Did you see a name on it?”
Billy’s eyes locked on mine wider than a mustang’s.
“There weren’t no name on that one.”
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