“Another shot, Rex said.
“Are you kidding me,” Brody groaned. “No. I can’t.”
“Come on,” Rex urged with heavy exaggeration on the second word. “I don’t wanna go home yet.” Brody sighed. He always thought Rex sounded like a donkey when he did that. And Rex wouldn’t quit it until Brody gave in. “What are you going to do,” Rex continued.
“Stop whining and get me the shot,” Brody said finally.
“Bartender,” Rex whistled and spun his pointer finger in the air, signaling for another shot. The bartender came over and filled their shot glasses to the rim. Rex’s eyes widened with glee. Brody closed his eyes and shook his head before they both tossed the tiny liquid down their throats in synchronization. Brody squinted his eyes, while Rex bared his teeth and groaned.
“Okay, serious question,” Rex said as he got over the initial sting of alcohol.
“Why? Why do the serious questions come when you’re trashed?” Brody asked, rubbing the corners of his eyes.
“No,” Brody chuckled as he rose his voice. “Just say it already!”
“I’ve never decorated for Christmas. There I said it.” Rex faced the mirror behind the bar and hung his head.
“So?” Brody asked as he shrugged his shoulders. There was a healthy pause before Brody realized this was something Rex had put some thought into. ”I mean, oh! Why? Isn’t that like your favorite holiday or something?” Brody asked as he sipped the rest of his beer.
“I mooch, bro. I’m a moocher.” Rex’s eyelids hovered so close to shutting. This happened when Drunk Rex was near. “I go to my sister’s. She loves that stuff. Me, I get the peach cobbler and I’m golden.”
“Okay, do it again,” Brody said as he adjusted himself on the seat. He could feel the last word he said almost slip off his tongue in slow motion. He covered his mouth as he coughed to correct himself. That’s when he felt the rush of blood swirling in his head. Enter dizziness.
“I can’t,” Rex said. “She’s in Washington this season. She’s not going to invite me to her husband’s family house.”
Bordy nodded in a daze. Synchronized inebriation. The alcohol hit them at the same time.
“So it occurred to me,” Rex said, as his index finger swam through the air to land carefully on top of the bar, “I have never decorated for Christmas. This is a big deal! I’m almost 30. This is an adult thing to do. Decorate.”
“Dammit Rex! I have an idea.” Brody leaned forward and listened to the silence to build attention to his words.
“You do? Are you sure? Your ideas are sometimes crappy.”
“Shut the hell up. Listen to me,” Brody said forcefully, trying his best to keep his sentence together.
“Wait! I know! More beer.”
“No. Well, yes. But no!!! Rex,” Brody said as he slammed the top of the bar. The bartender looked over with judging eyes. “We’re going to buy a Christmas tree!”
Rex’s eyes widened. “Stop it,” he said slowly.
“We are,” Brody responded with a nod and a triumphant grin.
“Tomorrow,” asked Rex.
“Now,” said Brody as he grabbed his jacket. “Get your stuff and close out.”
Rex ripped his wallet out of his back pocket and jogged in place as he fumbled for his credit card with excitement. The bartender held back a big sigh as he finished the transaction. Rex bolted outside, giggling. “Wait! Hold on, lemme get an Uber,” Rex said as he fished for the app on his phone.
“Are you kidding,” Brody asked as he slapped him. The soft blue glow couldn’t break his gaze fixed to his screen. “No,” he continued, pulling at his collar. “There’s a spot right around the corner. We can walk it.” Brody motioned across the street.
“What?” Rex pushed the question out for an extended emphasis. “That’s a Christmas miracle. How far is it?”
“Around the corner,” he repeated.
“No. I mean like… how many steps,” Rex corrected. “I have a goal to reach on my pedometer.”
Brody covered his mouth with an audible exaggerated gasp. “You said a bad word!”
“What?” Rex asked with a frown. “No, stupid. Pedometer,” he yelled. “It’s a walking thing.”
“Oh, that makes me merry,” his voice undulated. “We should sing carols for Christmas.”
“Chestnuts,” Rex started to scream and modulated to an off key sing along. “Roasting! On an open fire.”
“When you sing that song, in that way, it makes me uncomfortable. By a lot.”
“Jack Frost biting your effing nose…” Rex paused at the edge of the curb and jumped onto the pavement as if there was a puddle there. There wasn’t a puddle. Drunk Rex was on the prowl.
The two swished and swayed, mashing all of the Christmas songs together in a terrible, unprepared way.
“Guys, can you lower it down? Please, it’s late,” said the man at the booth to the Christmas tree lot. He had a scraggly beard and was bundled up fairly well. He had a comb over and heavy bags under his eyes. His eyelids hung low, fighting sleep.
Rex put his finger over his lips, shushing Brody. “No problem. Hi, my name is Rex,” he said, stumbling forward. “This is my hetero friend, Brody.”
“He doesn’t care,” Brody responded quickly to him, while facing the man.
Rex crossed his feet and curtsied with his arms stretched wide in a theatrical manner. “We come bearing currency in exchange for your finest Christmas tree,” Rex said in a British accent.
“How much money do you have?” The man asked in a flat voice.
“Oh.” Rex stood up and spoke in his normal voice. “I didn’t think this far ahead. I have $10.”
“I left my wallet at home,” Brody said.
The man rolled his eyes. “Follow me.”
The two friends followed him down the path of hay and brightly colored Christmas lights.
“Bro,” Rex called out to his friend.
“Rex,” Brody answered in return.
“Who has custody,” Rex asked quickly.
“Of the tree,” Rex said in a lowered voice. “I mean, this is my first time and I want this to be special.” Rex’s voice had lowered to a whisper. “Have you ever done this before?”
The man leading the way rolled his eyes in silent frustration.
“No, actually. I’m kinda nervous now that I think about it,” Brody answered in a low voice.
“Really,” Rex asked with a higher voice than when he started.
“We can decorate together.”
The man let out an audible sigh.
“Where is this thing? We passed the tree on the way,” Brody said, observing the new part of the lot. There were hardly any desirable trees to buy. Brody looked over his shoulder and saw a large tree that was several stories high. It was the kind of tall tree you saw in Rockefeller Center. Except it wasn’t as decorated as the New York tree. There was only one string of Christmas lights that twisted around the branches to the ground.
“That’s not your tree,” the man said. “This is your tree.”
The man stepped aside and revealed a fig lower than his knee.
“Oh,” Brody said as he took a step back in dismay. “Well, that’s underwhelming.”
“That’s it?” Rex yelled. “I have seen bonsai trees bigger than that!”
“You said you had $10,” the man replied before he burped.
“Do you take credit,” Brody said calmly.
“No,” the man said flatly.
“Where’s your Christmas cheer,” Rex roared.
“I lost it on the way to show you this $10 tree,” the man said maintaining his volume. “Do you want it or not?”
Brody stepped forward to the twig, wide eyed, trying to hide his disgust. “Can we think about it,” Rex asked.
“Sure,” the man said with a bored face. He shoved his hands in his pockets and turned around slowly.
Rex tilted his head and stared at the tree. His upper lip curled with disapproval. Brody threw his arm around Rex’s back to break his attention from the tiny branch with smaller branches attached to it. “$10 is a lot,” Brody started.
“Ya think? Can you google it? Is this worth it? Are we being played?”
Brody paused in thought and chuckled. “Expensive smartphones to find out if a $10 tree is worth it,” Brody said to himself.
“That… is not a tree,” Rex said, pointing both hands in all directions to illustrate his point. “That may be the beginnings of a tree… It may want to be a tree, but it is not a tree! You hear me?”
“True,” Brody said, laughing at Rex’s frustration, “but, there’s a Charlie Brown vibe to it.”
“I don’t like Charlie Brown,” Rex said, fighting off the urge to pout. “Snoopy is cool though,” he reasoned.
“Then you like Charlie Brown.”
“I guess. But it’s small, Brody. It’s really small.”
“Yeah, for adults… from afar. But for Charlie Brown…” Brody knelt down on the ground. “What Charlie sees is big.”
The man turned around and took a step back. “What are you guys doing?”
“Getting perspective,” Brody said defensively. “Come on,” he continued to Rex, waving his hand for him to follow him and kneel on the ground. “From here, it’s a big tree.”
“Hey Charlie! I’m here to relieve you!” A younger man entered the space with a exuberance that was similar to someone ready for a morning run. He was there to relieve the salesman from his shift.
“What,” Brody said, while still kneeling. “Your name is Charlie too? Look, we found your tree!”
Charlie rolled his eyes again. “Night boys. Good luck,” he said to the other man.
“So,” the man started with a smile, rubbing his hands together. “Is that the one you want?”
“Yes,” Rex and Brody said in unison, while kneeling.
“Are you sure?” The man helped each one back up to their feet. “We got some nicer ones up front.”
“But this is what we can buy right now,” Rex said with a sad face.
“We accept credit,” the man said with a careless smile.
Brody gasped audibly. “Charlie said you don’t.”
“He might not, but I do,” the man said pulling out his phone.
“Technology,” Brody said before looking to the night sky with gratitude.
“Oh, but I like this tree now,” said Rex. “It can ride up front with me in the passenger seat.”
“Next to you in the Uber,” said Brody.
“Next to both of you because I take credit,” said the man.
“Sold,” Rex and Brody said in unison.