Cicero and Sons

  • Reading time: three-and-three-quarters minutes
  • Word count: 722
  • Published: 15 dec 2013
  • Author: Matador the First
  • Copyright: Matador the First, 2013


The overly black tar in the streetside corner of the shopping center lay in unwelcome contrast to the tent that stood there and the green Douglas-firs it sheltered. An idiot—by which the narrator of this story means the narrator of this story—might have suggested that at least the white lines marking the parking spaces could maybe represent thin strips of cold winter snow, to which Quickbreak would say he knew a snow-obsessed guy at a store just up the road and over on Turkey Lake and the idiot should go and chat him up, and that the store even had snow machines. But to our hero’s knowledge there was no idiot, or at least the idiot wasn’t talking right then, and so he slowly heroed his way among the pre-cut trees standing in the tent in rows so tight they would (and did) make ultra-skinny jeans worry that they just weren’t quite skinny enough. Eventually, after stumbling and falling in- and outside the too-crowded tent and also freeing a frazzled woman’s hair from a particularly angry-looking aggressive fir, he found the owner standing behind the register.

“Quickbreak! Back for another tree?”

“Yeah. I’ve been pretty un—”

“John!” She held her hand up next to her mouth. “That customer in the corner! Did you help her? You’re actually back for another tree? I was jo—”

“No he didn’t, I did!”

“Sorry. Barry?”

“Yeahp!”

“Where’s your brother? Oh my God, you look horrible.”

“It’s just some gla—”

“Working on the netting machine!”

“It jammed again?”

“Yeahp!”

“He can fix it?”

“Ma! Course he can. He’s fixed it a hundred times before.”

“Another tree, Quickbreak?”

“Yeah.”

“This’ll be, what, five?”

“Six.”

“Six?”

“Yeah. Bought an artificial tree, but—”

“You missed that strong, sharp Christmas smell.”

“No. Yes. No, but it—died. Like all the other ones.”

“A fake tree died.”

“Caught fire.”

“But when you said like all the others, you didn’t—”

“They all caught fire, yeah. Like a cold.”

“You just said you probably weren’t watering them enough.”

“Which was probably true. And not.”

“So you grossly underwatered them and then burned a bunch of candles in their branches or something?”

“I watered them plenty.”

“And not enough? Ok.”

“And I never put candles in Christmas trees.”

“Crappy wiring? Crappy lights?”

“I swear. With all that whiskey I look like an alcoholic.”

“Whiskey.”

“Yeah. Whiskey. For my trees.”

“The hell for?”

“And some for me. It’s not like I can afford both bottled water and whiskey, Cicero. Sometimes I drink whiskey. But never naked water. Figured why not use what I drink for the trees?”

“I’m going to ignore the part where bottled water’s actually way, way cheaper than whiskey—”

“Not for me. I buy online so I get a big—”

“That’s great. Just use tap water for the trees.”

“I’m not using city water for my plants. Any of them. Ever. You must be out of your nuts.”

“Let’s accept for now that sloshing up your Christmas trees with bourbon is a reasonable—”

“Which it is.”

“How’d your fake tree catch fire?”

“They said it was flame-retardant, so—”

“You didn’t.”

“Held up great against a little Bic lighter—”

“I’m sure it did.”

“—but not so much against kerosene—”

“Course not.”

“—and an open flame.”

“They’re not supposed to be fireproof.”

“Believe me, I am now intimately familiar with the differences between ‘flame-retardant’ and ‘fireproof.’ ”

“…”

“…”

“If you get another tree, can you promise to—hang on.” Cicero dug in the back pockets of her jeans and pulled out her wallet.

“A man’s wallet?”

After tearing through the pockets and cards—“It’s a woman’s wallet ’cause it’s mine”—she handed our hero a white card bearing a green logo. “Won that in a game of white elephant last week.” Our hero looked it over and she put her wallet back in order. “It’s a gift card. Fifteen or twenty bucks on it.”

Quickbreak stared at it. “Publix?”

“Put it in your wallet.”

He did.

“I’ll sell you one more tree. Ok?”

“Sure.”

“Just five bucks for this one.”

“Can’t argue with the price.”

“Now. Promise me you’ll water it with actual water.”

“Ok. Sure.”

“Good. Your tree’ll be a lot happier. And a lot less on fire.”


“Cicero and Sons” is the twelfth and final section in a twelve-part story. You can read the whole story by viewing its tag.

fingerpuppet DOT raygun GMAIL dot COM