O CHRISTMAS TREE

Bronx, New York
Friday, December 24, 2010

Hellboy careened around the corner from the Grand Concourse onto Kingsbridge Road, trying to catch up with the enormous monster he had been chasing for the last fifteen minutes. Local residents, holiday shoppers, and other pedestrians got out of his way by running into the discount shops, bodegas and restaurants that lined Kingsbridge Road.

The monster ran into the street, scattering cars, and then leapt back up onto the narrow sidewalk, driving more pedestrians into whatever shelter they could find. Hellboy, now close behind, drew out his enormous pistol and hoped that he could take down the monster in one shot without endangering innocent bystanders with his more than bad aim.

Just as he was lining up the shot, the strong scent of pine suddenly overwhelmed him. He looked up to find that he and his prey were surrounded by Christmas trees for sale, some displayed in stands, some propped up along the building fronting the street, and others wrapped in wires lying in a heap.

Regardless of his concentration on his target, a scene from Hellboy's youth briefly sprang up before his inner eye. He could see every detail of a rather scraggly Christmas tree decorated with cheap glass ornaments and tinsel, which to his young eyes had looked like a splendid vision.

Shaking away the complex emotions of this memory, part joy and part grief, Hellboy squeezed off a shot that blasted one pine tree into smithereens and another that thankfully dispatched the monster.

"You can come out now," he called out to the man hiding behind a makeshift shed that bore the lettering 6' X-MAS TREES $25. "Sorry about the tree. Someone will pay for it."

"Don't bother," said the man in a thick Hispanic accent. "Saving my life's payment enough. You want, I'll even throw in another tree you can take home."

Hellboy smiled. "Nah, I've already got a tree all decorated. Tell you what, though. If a family comes along today looking for a last-minute tree, you give them my tree. Deal?"

"Deal," replied the Christmas tree vendor, "But I still wish I could give you something."

"Don't worry," Hellboy said as he went to collect up the carcass of the monster, "You gave me something that no amount of money could buy. Thanks for the memories."

Later that evening, Hellboy sat on the floor and contemplated the majestic pine tree that he had just finished decorating with beautiful ornaments before the callout to the Bronx. Yet, no matter how majestic the tree or how beautiful the ornaments, no tree ever looked more splendid to him than the cheaply decorated tree he had admired while sitting on the floor in Trevor Broom's lap.

Once again, he was assailed by that combination of joy and grief, and he wished that the man who had raised him could still be with him on Christmas Eve.

This hasn't been an easy year for me. I was laid off last year and have been working as a freelance copy editor, which gives me little time for writing. I've also been suffering from a major writer's block on Hellboy's Family and hope to someday get the energy to update that story. Hope you all have a great holiday tomorrow, Beth Palladino

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