Bugger, bugger damn thought Zelda as she slowly unfolded each strand of tinsel from the box where she stored it, each strand that she carefully placed on the tree for maximum effect. Most of her friends thought she was crazy gathering up the tinsel after Christmas each year for reuse. Carefully plucking one strand at a time from the tree and folding it up and stowing it away in the special box that her Uncle Bartholomew had made for this exact purpose. He understood her compulsion, of all her family, perhaps the only one.
Her children would roll their eyes and murmur no thanks, then run away when Zelda announced that it was time to either put the tinsel on or take it off. Even her dog Kit Kat who normally was always underfoot would put a paw over one eye and slink away. This tinsel business took a fair amount of time, so before Zelda started this special chore, she put out extra food and water for the dog and cat and always made sure that she had a roast and potatoes in the oven and salad in the fridge.
Strand by strand, oh the heat, she thought as she started at the top of the tree standing on a ladder, she was feeling a bit torpid, was that the word? She’d been reading one of Graham Greene’s spy novels set in the Caribbean. Really, she thought the English shouldn’t go where it is sunny, all they do is get burnt bright red and complain about the natives. Did one become torpid or was the climate torpid. She would have to look at a dictionary. Imagine her children’s surprise when she hauls that puppy out.
Her children lived pretty much completely online, she hardly saw them anymore and even when they were in the same room, they barely lifted their eyes from their screens. She didn’t mind too much as they took less tending, but something was missing. Back in the day in the rooming house that her Grandma ran, filled with strangers, you got your room and board and everyone ate together. Family style meals, when all the food was served on platters and placed in the center of the table and everyone helped themselves. She remembered her Grandma would sometimes smack her wrist with a wooden spoon saying watch your ‘boarding house reach’ when Zelda reached across the person sitting next to her. While she smarted from the the smacking spoon, Grandma would carefully explain where the term came from.
Zelda was about a few inches down the tree when she started feeling faint and thought she would come down for a nice glass of Lemonade. Lemons were on sale at the Super Duper Mart in town, apparently the manager Dave Johnson had made a mistake on his order form putting a zero after the one beside case lots of lemons and one case was already going to be a lot of lemons for the Super Duper Mart in Dunstable Township. Zelda got the lemon-aide out of the fridge and held the pitcher up to her nose and took a deep inhale and the smell of lemon brought the lemon song to mind … oh shit, how did it go, something like … oh yes … “lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet but the fruit of the poor lemon …”
She sang the song under her breath as she poured a glass of juice and took a drink thinking of her old high school friend Raymond Pickering and his jaunty Bow Ties. Raymond loved the lemon tree song and would sing it at school walking down the hall between classes. With twin quirks of the lemon song on repeat and his very large collection of bow ties that he had made himself, he sometimes got a fair amount of teasing. His mother taught him to sew pretty early on. She admonished him, saying that he would have to do something with himself. All the neighbours thought that it was pretty young really. Too young to start learning to sew. Raymond being only seven at the time. But who really knows anyways and he took to it quite well.
Zelda slurped up the last of her Lemon-aide and got ready to get back up the ladder. She looked at her tree, her pride and joy. Nothing else really measured up. Her work at the Dunstable County chapter of the Beelzebub society while very fulfilling in and of itself definitely played second fiddle to the tinsel. Her husband Norman had gone silent a few too many years back and stayed that way, she suggested he go off and find himself but he wouldn’t leave his lazy-boy. At the end of the day she didn’t mind really, his only conversational gambit had been the price of stocks and bonds. Which Zelda had no interest in really. Her children had slipped out of reach riding waves of zero’s and one’s into unknown universes. Zelda preferred the here and now.
Her therapist was on the fence about wether Zelda’s penchant for making Christmas into a one month plus holiday, with her compulsive attention to the detail regarding the tinsel, was actually helping or hindering. It started quite innocently during a session after Zelda had finished crying over being abandoned by her family, her therapist had encouraged her to find a hobby that she could claim as her own. Zelda had come back a few months later, with her voice all bubbly and her eyes shining, gushing over her new found love of Christmas tree tinsel application and removal. Zelda couldn’t contain herself and continued to gush that tinsel was helping her to discover Buddhism and a few other of humankind’s more esoteric spiritual arts. Zelda’s therapist frowned thinking that she might have inadvertently created a monster.
Zelda’s therapist decided that she would make hay while the sun shone and began documenting her patient’s progress in a series of articles that created quite a stir in the psychology community. If you can’t beat them join them the therapist thought. She crossed her fingers that her suggestion would in the end prove to have had a salubrious effect. Zelda began blogging her quirk and that led to the fifteen minutes of fame that Warhol had spoken about. When you tin foil the walls of a Manhattan warehouse and make six hour films of people sleeping. When you’re an artist you make whatever it is that you want. Do you care if people like it? You might, but if you already have cash and don’t care if you sell your work like Mr. Warhol, you have the luxury to not give a rat.
The funny thing for Zelda, the side effect that no one was expecting, was that her children found her on the internet. I mean she was right there all the time, right there in the living room folding and unfolding tinsel one minute, then the next. Martha Stewart was gushing over the care Zelda was taking with Christmas. It’s not all about the gifts she was saying. The internet fell in love and people were swooning over her, so much so that she got maximum traction that year. Her kids rediscovered their mother and came round to find out if they could lend a hand. Maybe the little shits just wanted a spot in the sun. You can never be too cynical.
The Admiral’s Boy