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The Fallen Tree
The tree was over twenty feet tall but it had the perfect top. I was freezing and a light drizzle made the ground slippery. Soon, the drizzle would begin to freeze and my family would find itself isolated in the countryside by a two week ice storm. Living in the country, our water came from a well and any interruption in electricity deprived us of water. But, I wasn’t considering this coming ice storm. I was only concerned about our Christmas tree.
It was December, 1966 and I was eleven years old. I was halfway through my sixth grade year and already, I had grown three inches since the summer. Changes were happening to me that in time I would learn were due to this weird thing called puberty. And, perhaps it was my surging testosterone that allowed me to climb a slippery, icy tree in the cold winds of December.
My father worked for the Post Office. Long before UPS and FEDEX, the post office was the only way to ship packages at Christmas. My father dreaded this time of year. Beginning in early November, he knew he would be swamped at his job. Extra hours were added to his work schedule. He would leave before 5 AM and not return before 6 PM through most of the month of November and December. Each year, my father and I would go out into the vast wooded area of our 62 acres of pasture and forest and choose a tree for Christmas. The only kind of tree we had to choose from were long needle pine trees. They were never as shapely as a spruce or fir, but they were fragrant and fresh. And, being the poor folk we were, we couldn’t afford money for a fancy real tree.
But, this year was different. My father had taken on an extra late shift and would be working until midnight for the first two weeks of December. I had the choice of waiting until the end of December to go with my father and cut down the tree, or I could do it myself. I was eleven now. I was growing into a young man, as my mother was fond of telling people. Bolstered by her comments, I was determined to prove myself.
And so, I set out on this dreary gray Friday afternoon looking for the perfect Christmas tree. And there it was before me. Problem was, it was the TOP of a tree! No problem. I loved to climb trees. I would just shimmy up the tree and cut out the top. I had my father’s bow saw looped over my shoulder and my fake leather gloves on over my corduroy coat. I started up the tree and was a bit shocked at the slippery limbs. Was that ice forming on the ends of the pine needles? I hoped so. That might mean we would finally have a White Christmas!
I longed for snow at Christmas all my life. I recall one very cold night after watching White Christmas on our new color TV. I was about 9 and I went to the back door of our house. High up in the eaves, my father had mounted a spotlight to illuminate the back yard. I turned it on and leaned out the back door. I craned my neck to look up at that light and waited for snow flakes to drift down around it. It was only days before Christmas. I knew if I longed for it hard enough; if I willed it to happen snow would fall. But, the skies were as clear as could be with a million glistening stars against the black velvet of a countyside night. No snow. I stood there until I had a crick in my neck and my nose was numb from the cold before giving up and going back into the house.
Now, as I climbed that tree, I said a silent prayer for snow. It would be answered all right. Two weeks of snow and ice and frigid, frozen weather that would close the schools and make our coming Christmas possibly cold and without electricity.
I picked the level that would become the base of the Christmas tree and started sawing away. My hands were already numb from the cold but I soon warmed up as I drew the sharp toothed saw through the soft flesh of the pine tree. The smell of resin engulfed me.
I felt the limb I was sitting on shift and a sudden wind saved my life. I slid to the side just as the tree top above me snapped along the line of my saw cut. The top of the tree toppled to the side and then kicked back with the sharp edged rim of the saw cut. If I had not slid sideways, the bottom of that toppling tree would have decapitated me. The tree top finally snapped away, the rest of the uncut flesh ripping away. The tree top slid through the limbs beneath me and I fell off the limb.
I clawed at the trunk and the limbs as I slid downward but the now icy bark refused to give my hands purchased. I finally wedged between two of the bottom large limbs and came to a painful halt. The bow saw tumbled down from above me and barely missed my head. I sat there gasping for breath and began to shake. I could have been killed! What was I doing? Risking my life for a Christmas tree?
The feeling of fear and panic began to subside and I felt something new, something fresh. My heart was thumping and my breath was erratic but I had accomplished something on my own. It had turned into something dangerous and I suddenly realized that making decisions on my own would be a risky business. This is what it meant to be grown up; to find yourself faced with a lonely decision and then having to face the consequences. Learn from this, I told myself. Don’t ever cut the top of a tree off by yourself. I slowly descended the rest of that pine tree. I found the saw and cut away the ragged bottom of the tree top. By now, night had fallen and the ground was icy as I dragged the tree back across the pasture toward my house.
It seemed like forever by the time I pulled the tree across the pasture to the back of my house. I left it there and stumbled inside to warmth and the smell of fried chicken and mashed potatoes and the warm smile of mother. My father sat at the kitchen table. I was shocked. They had let everyone come home early on this Friday. I told them I had cut down the Christmas tree on my own and the look on my father’s face was priceless. His mouth fell open and he couldn’t believe it. My mother hugged me and was proud.
Until we saw the tree the next morning in the light of a gray dawn. It was lopsided and crooked and ugly. I was disappointed but my father clapped me on the back.
“We’ll make it work, son. It will be beautiful.”
That’s me standing next to the ugliest tree we had ever seen for our Christmas. In the following days of darkness and cold without electricity, the fragrance of that tree lifted our feelings. It promised coming days of life and light and the joy of Christmas. The electricity returned in time for Christmas Eve but we didn’t go back to school for three more weeks due to a flu outbreak. But, that tree was very special to me. I would lean over and look up through the branches of that tree at the gleaming lights and the shining ornaments and the glistening tinsel and I was once again above the ground suspended above the world; just me and my tree.
Years later, this incident would be the inspiration for that scene in the play, “The Night Gift” I mentioned in my last post. Eventually, I took that scene and wrote an entire play around it, “The Homecoming Tree”.
It is the story of a young boy who has lost his father to the attack on Pearl Harbor. He must cut down the family Christmas tree alone so he can become the man of the house. The story revolved around my parent’s experiences at the beginning of World War II. I have rewritten the play and I am working on a novelization of the work. One day, I hope to see it on the big screen — it would make a killer Christmas movie! And, I hope in 2014 I can find someone, someplace, some theatrical team willing to perform my newest version of this play. We’ll see. Until then, enjoy your Christmas tree this year. But be careful if you try to cut it down yourself!
A New Star Trek Series?
While I am waiting for the availability of “The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos” around November 20th (I’ll give all of you a firm date once I find out) I thought I’d share something just for fun. In the past couple of months there has been rumors and suggestions for a new Star Trek television series. The movies have proven successful and now the writers of these two movies think it is time for a television show. Star Trek was made for episodic series. Only then can it deal with pithy and difficult social and humane issues as it did in the 1960’s. You can’t dig that deeply into a movie.
But, we can’t simply go back to the original world of Star Trek, can we? Now, we have two parallel time lines so what do we do? What and WHEN would be the focus of the next series? So, if you are a Trekker, then read on. If not, then come back soon for more information on my book.
So, here is an idea. It may already have been used in the spin off games, comic books, or novels but a suggestion:
It is the far future and the Borg eventually overran the Federation. All but a few worlds were assimilated. Quadrillions of sentient beings became Borg. Earth became an outlying Borg world with an underground rebellion preventing the planet from total conversion. With over 95% of the Federation worlds under Borg control, the Borg grew tired of the rebellion on Earth and withdrew from a devastated and depopulated Earth.
But, the Borg’s greatest strength proved to be their undoing. With so many minds now linked in the Borg collective, the Borg began to splinter. Twelve factions within the collective mind began to strive for dominance. Soon, these sub-consciousnesses drew apart and so began the Borg Civil War. Such battles and such clashes were unparalleled by any in the history of the galaxy. Great war machines were built that dwarfed entire solar systems. Energies were deployed that tore holes in the very fabric of space. Biological and genetic weapons decimated normal genomes and created horrific spawn of the Borg. Entire regions of the galaxy became uninhabitable filled with unspeakable pervasions of space time.
Eventually, two factions remained, the Red Borg and the Gray Borg. These two remaining collective “minds” could have recombined and saved the Borg, but soon the Gray Borg lost ground. In a final desperate move, the Gray Borg unleashed the ultimate doomsday device. Arcane energies rippled through the remaining Borg collective, reducing all living matter to goo and disintegrating every Borg circuit.
Silence fell across the known galaxy. Borg ships and war machines drifted in cold, harsh space and peace filled the devastated territory of the Alpha Quadrant.
On Earth, a remnant of Starfleet had been biding its time, rebuilding quietly within the very wreckage of the Borg machinery and the tortured Earth. Salvaging Federation starships and merging them with Borg technology, Starfleet’s weakening pulse grew stronger. Once the Borg mind fell silent and was no more, this ragtag group of sentient beings emerged from the shadows to rebuild the Federation.
And so, the new Federation of Planets was created built upon the ashes of the dead and decaying worlds of the Borg collective. It was time to rebuild civilization by reaching out to worlds once prosperous and powerful. It was time to boldly go into an unknown universe far more dangerous than ever before. What remnants of the Borg Civil War await our intrepid starships? What horrors born from the great war machines and biological weapons await discovery?
This could be the new Star Trek!
What do you think? Where would you like to see a new Star Trek television go?
ResAliens — A Website Review Day 3
On the final day of a review of ResAliens, I wanted to review the short story, “Snow Angels”. The reason I chose this story is the profound difference between this story and “Some Assembly Required”. Where that story was strong, classic science fiction, “Snow Angels” is a scary thriller.
“Snow Angels” by Joanne Galbraith is one of those creepy otherworldly thrillers that features possible ghosts or possible real world killers. You have to figure out which. Emma is trying to recover from the accidental death of her husband. As the story begins, her daughter Marley sees someone out in the back yard making snow angels just like her father used to make. Emma, fearing they have a peeping tom, contacts her sister and the police. The incidents escalate and finally, someone enters the house. I do not want to reveal any more details. You simply must read the story to find out what is really going on.
STRENGTHS: I really liked this story and the creeping terror that builds as Emma tries to decide if she is losing her mind or if her dead husband really is trying to communicate to them from the other side of the grave. The tension builds slowly and tightly, well written and well paced. The characters are interesting and engaging and well developed.
The developing mystery of the visitor at the window is handled very adroitly and I didn’t see the ending coming at all. It is a testimony to good writing that the ending was not contrived and flowed out of the strength of the story. I really liked “Snow Angels” and I highly recommend it. After you read it, you may not want to look out your back window late at night.
The spiritual element was well handled and comforting and reassuring. God is indeed watching over us!
WEAKNESSES: If there is a weakness it might be in the question if God would allow someone to come back from the dead to warn loved ones of impending doom. Or, if the dead can truly perform miracles. But, in the context of this story and in the context of this website, this is a minor quibble.
I have really enjoyed this website. I look forward to exploring the past stories and rediscovering a world of good storytelling in the science fiction and thriller genre. I highly recommend the website.
Doubt and Regret: Twin Destroyers of Creativity
What a fantastic day it has been for me. I was so down after getting my galley proofs and realizing I couldn’t make substantial changes anymore and what I was reading was what was going to be in the final book. And then, the electricity was out last night so I got three hours behind on proofing. And so, I had all kinds of bad feelings going to bed. And then, today I read two wonderful blog posts.
Mike Dellosso is the author of “Darkness Follows” a truly frightening and great read and in his post today, he brought up the issue of regrets. Read it and follow the comments. It was, for me, very encouraging.
And then, over on Rabbit Room, what an encouraging post on the power of doubt in an artist’s life. Read it and weep with understanding, compassion, hope, and joy.
What is a Hutchmoot?
Check out my guest post on Speculative Faith. I had the fantastic opportunity to interview Pete Peterson of the Rabbit Room about the writer’s gathering known as Hutchmoot.
Welcome to my new website!
Welcome to BruceHennigan.com — the new home for my writing, drama and apologetics information. This website will be completely up and running in the next month or so, when you’ll be able to read my daily thoughts and learn the latest about my book, The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye, published by Charisma Media in October 2011.
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