Jock and Myrtle
by Headley Hauser
Jock the Scotch Pine was pretty clever considering he was a barely animate being with his legs stuck in 20 feet of mud. He wasn’t content to take the sun when it offered and water when it flowed. Jock, though planted by others for their own sap-shedding purpose, had learned to live his life as he chose. He hadn’t always been kind – well, he’d never been kind, but he was his own tree, with no one to tell him what to do.
Jock had lots of space to stretch out in what was once a Christmas tree grove. He had all that space because the rest of his class of seedlings got chopped off in early adolescence to spend a couple weeks sitting in water festooned with tinsel and electric lights.
“Feeble-rooted morons,” scoffed Jock in a highland accent. Jock was not a fan of Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day or any other holiday when human celebration required the holocaust of great swaths of herbivorous life. Why his grove mates gave their lives for such a tradition was beyond him.
Arbor Day wasn’t bad in concept, but the trees planted never made up for those lost in other holidays, and most humans didn’t even know what day in June it fell.
“What a crock o’ haggis,” said Jock. “This is the thanks we get for all our oxygen.”
Jock survived because he was clever, and one of the ways he was clever was that, untypical of Scotch pine, Jock could move his limbs up and down. When the barbarian in the green and red stocking cap came by with his ax, Jock dropped the branches on one side and raised them on the other.
“That’s odd,” mumbled the barbarian. “I thought this tree was shaping up nicely last week.”
Jock shook snow from his upper branches, landing a glop of slush neatly down the neck of the barbarian’s sweater.
“Poop!” said the barbarian.
Jock rustled – as chuckling was beneath the dignity of intelligent tree-kind.
But all that was years ago. Jock was now too big to be a Christmas tree, and he was all alone on a cool spring day, wondering if there was more to life that sucking water through his roots, and exhaust fumes and cow flatulence through his needles. Jock didn’t want to admit that for all his independence, he was lonely
That’s when he met Myrtle, who despite her name was not a plant. Myrtle was a cardinal, and she was looking for a place to make her nest.
“This one looks nice,” said Myrtle, unaware that Jock understood bird speech. “It stands all alone. I wonder why the bird feeder people didn’t chop it down.”
This didn’t go over well with Jock, and so when Myrtle laid grass in one of Jock’s boughs, he shook it out as she flew away for more.
“This is odd,” said Myrtle. “There’s no wind, and I’m certain I put the grass in right. It’s not as if this if my first nest.” Myrtle studied Jock for other birds, or even squirrels the might have knocked the grass from the bough. There was nothing to see. Jock stood alone in a field of stumps.
“The cardinal rule of deduction,” said Myrtle, “is that when you eliminate the probable, you must consider the improbable. Tree, are you shaking off my nest?”
This impressed Jock who had never heard of the cardinal rule of deduction, or anything else intelligent from a bird beyond, “tweet,” and “got any worms?”
“Aye, it’s me,” said Jock in a heavily brogued bird-speak.
“A clever tree!” chirped Myrtle. “I do get so tired of trees that just groan when the wind takes them.”
“Ya seem a bit clever yerself, wee bird,” said Jock.
And so Jock let Myrtle stay in his bough, though he couldn’t help needling her from time to time.