After twenty-seven years of marriage - and twenty-seven years spent with an artificial Christmas tree - Edward and Annie finally purchase a fresh pine. When they bring the tree home, however, the presence of the ample Scotch pine suddenly stirs a range of emotions in this long-married couple.
Tangled is a powerfully moving, compact short story from our Nibs line that captures the deeper essence of the Christmas spirit.
Annie slid the last cookie sheet into the oven and set the timer for another five minutes. Heat hit her face as she gazed through the piping-hot glass window of the lit-up oven and took a closer look. Rows of warming gingerbread men, smiles imprinted upon their soft, brown faces, grinned at her as though happy about being baked in a 325 degree oven. What a contrast they were to her impatient husband, Edward, whom she could hear in the parlor.
He was grumbling under his breath, having a hell of a time. When she peered around the kitchen doorway, she spied the tuft of his unruly salt-and-pepper colored hair and dark rings around the armpits of his light blue denim shirt. He was tall, a little over six feet, yet he stood dwarfed by that pine tree, fumbling with Christmas lights. He had plugged in so many strings that the endless wires were all tangled, strewn over the darkened floor of the living room. It looked like a dark sky had fallen on top of a rainbow and had scattered down sparks of its colorful light everywhere.
Annie cleared her throat and wiped her sticky hands on a dish towel. “Honey, I hate to disturb you while you’re hard at work,” she said, “but are you planning to break for supper?”
With a string of lights draped around his neck and flung over his shoulder, Edward nodded. “I’m just in the middle of this. But sure. In a little while I’ll probably be starved and ready to eat.”
“Okay, then,” she said. “I’ll take something out of the freezer, and we’ll have dinner later.”
“You know…,” Edward said, his words trailing off. He suddenly seemed as lost as his hands buried deep amid the branches of the tree.
“I…I’m really sorry about before.”
“Me, too,” Annie sighed. “I just can’t seem to do it right lately, can I?”
“You know, this isn’t easy for me, either,” Edward told her. “I’m trying. Really, I am. I’m doing the best I can.”
Annie didn’t say a word. She just looked past Edward and gazed at the tree, top to bottom, the lower half twinkling with lights. Standing there, facing Edward’s silhouette cast by the afternoon twilight as it streamed in from the front picture window, she recalled a few hours earlier when she drove up to the house with that ample Scotch Pine bound to the roof of their SUV. After Edward untied it and finally unloaded it, he’d stood the tree upright between them in the driveway and spouted off a litany of why the pine wasn’t good enough.