Choose Your Choice

  • Reading time: six-and-a-half minutes
  • Word count: 1220
  • Published: 13 dec 2013
  • Author: Matador the First
  • Copyright: Matador the First, 2013


“You look happier than a re-elected president.”

“Hadn’t eaten since lunch yesterday.”

Quickbreak folded the chair and put it back under the riser.

“…”

“So what do you know about Christmas trees?”

“We talking about live ones, sir?”

“No.”

“Oh. My cousin’s got a tree farm somewhere in Louisiana. Rows and rows of trees. Doesn’t know the first thing about numbering ’em. Big problem ’cause he’s got acres and acres of firs.”

“Fantastic. Now. Tell me about the fake trees right here.”

“I don’t know too much about them. Mostly I just pull them from the back when people buy them.”

Quickbreak flexed his bagged hand.

“But I do understand our product cards. So I can tell you what might maybe be good, based on that.”

Quickbreak flexed his bagged hand again. “So you can help me.”

Mitchell nodded.

Quickbreak relaxed his hand. It was warm and sticky. He walked toward a tree in the middle and handed Mitchell a product card.

“Now this tree”—Mitchell put his hand to the edges of the branches without taking his eyes off the card—“wow, that’s neat. This sucker makes espresso.”

“What.”

“Says there’s an espresso maker in the first section above the very bottom one.” He dug through the branches and found it. “One-mug-at-a-time thing.” He pulled out of the tree. “Want to try it? We’ve got the cups in the back.”

“Why would you want a fake tree to make coffee for you?”

“Because it can?”

“How tall’s the tree? Is it pre-lit?”

“It’s, uh”—Mitchell looked at the card again—“it’s six-foot-five.” He looked up from the card. “It is pre-lit.”

“How much is it?”

“Eight-fifty.”

“Are you out of your nuts?”

“It’s sold pretty well. A lot of people like coffee and they also like Christmas, so.”

“A lot of people like hiking and they also like eating too much, but you don’t see them going around gorging themselves while climbing Mount Rainier.”

“The bears would attack them.”

“…”

“…”

Quickbreak scratched his scalp and faked a cough. He walked along the perimeter of the area (Mitchell a few steps behind), occasionally hearing, or thinking he heard, a crunching plip, a sound he never was able to place or guess the source of. His hand and forearm, suffocating in the plastic bag, hung warm and sweaty and slick. His phone buzzed in his pocket and he pulled it out and put it right back. “Worst thing about having a smartphone? You get to see everything you don’t want to see, but on the go.”

Mitchell stopped at a tree a few feet behind our hero. “Since you have a smartphone,” he said, reading a new info card, “you might like this one.”

Quickbreak shrugged. “Looks like a regular fake tree to me.”

“I didn’t know we actually carried this one! It’s got Wi-Fi built in. Someone makes a tree that’s Ready for Wi-Fi, but this is live.”

“Wi-Fi?”

“For receiving firmware updates.”

“Firmware updates?”

“Also for downloading different lighting modes.”

“Can’t they just have the modes built in? You know, since they made sure Wi-Fi was built in.”

“It’s got a few modes already. The downloads are for new and totally different ones. Uses LEDs, so it can do a lot more than what it comes with.”

“They could’ve put the ‘a lot more’ on there.”

“They had to get it ready for the Christmas season.”

“Why’s it need firmware updates?”

“To enable the newer lighting modes they’ll release.”

“Of course, because why would anything be available on release day.”

“It’s got a built-in Web browser as well.”

“Does it have a screen?”

“No. But you can hook up an external touch screen.”

“What about a regular one and a keyboard and mouse.”

“That’s coming in the first firmware update.”

“Back up. A Web browser?

“For downloading firmware updates. Netflix works in it, too.”

“So you need a touch screen to get the first firmware update.”

“Yep.”

“But it’s got different lighting modes already, yeah?”

Mitchell nodded.

“One thing going for it.”

“There’s also a 3G model, as well. Fifty dollars more.”

“I’ll pass.” Quickbreak abandoned the tree. “On both.”

Mitchell followed him. “What kind of phone you have?”

“Newton.”

“There’s another tree I know of”—he grabbed Quickbreak and stopped them both—“this one, that’s got a built-in dock connector. The thirty-pin one, but it comes with an adapter for the Five.”

“Does it have speakers or something?”

“That would’ve been a good feature.”

“…”

“It’s just for charging your phone. Good place to keep it hidden from your kids.”

“I don’t have kids.” Plip. “I’m not married.” Plip, plip. “I don’t even have a girlfriend.” Plip, plip, plip.

“Maybe you’d like to reconsider the Wi-Fi tree, then? They’re integrating social networking in the next firmware update. Including dating sites.”

“No.”

“This one’s a Samsung tree. Their first foray into Christmas décor.”

“Don’t care.”

“You have a Samsung TV with Bluetooth, you can pair this tree with it and when you’re watching something the tree will change its lights to match or complement what’s on your screen.”

“Great. Still don’t care. Tree and TV are in separate rooms anyway.”

“…”

“Got anything simpler?”

“Pretty much all our trees are fancy. At least all the pre-lit ones.”

“You have ones that aren’t pre-lit?”

“One.”

“Show it to me.” Plip, plip. “Please.”

The glow in Mitchell’s face vanished as soon as Quickbreak asked to see the simple tree. “There’s not much to say about it. It’s six-five, it’s fake, it’s got no lights.” His voice sounded as if it had gotten in a bar fight for the fun of it and taken too many punches.

With their shoes squeaking on the floor half the time and sticking to it a bit whenever they took a step they walked to find the simple tree.

“I get the feeling you really don’t like this tree,” Quickbreak said. Plip, plip.

“I don’t. There’s not much to say or see about it.” Squeak, ckckck.

“Which would be why you’re leading me in circles.” Plip, plip.

“No, we’re going in circles because I can’t tell which tree it is.” Squeak, ckckck.

“It’s the only one that’s unlit.” Plip, plip.

“They’re all unlit”—squeak, ckckck—“because their power’s off.”

“Damn unprofessional.”

“You were the one who turned off the power strip.”

“But that was just for the snow—”

Mitchell shook his head.

“You had everything running into that one strip? That’s like plugging a shotgun barrel with your fingers and hoping they don’t get blown off!”

“Well I can’t find the tree now.”

“Just look for the one without lights.”

“Some of them are fiber-optic. Much harder to spot those unlit.”

“Turn the power strip back on.”

“Won’t come back on. That’s why I taped it down. It’s a testy little bastard.”

“So we look for the one that’s cheapest.”

“The non-pre-lit ones aren’t in demand anymore so some pre-lit models are cheaper.”

Eventually, after slowly circling the same overthick Slurpee-making tree for far too long like overtired geriatric vultures, they found the unlit tree.

“Looks a little—sparse.” Quickbreak was being generous. He could see the products lining the shelf behind the tree with no problem. In fact, it was harder to see the tree itself than the bright red boxes behind it.


“Choose Your Choice” is the tenth section in a twelve-part story. You can follow the story as it's posted to the home page or by tracking its tag.

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