Front Office Fiction: The Christmas Tree

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Derinda had a mild obsession with Christmas trees. When she'd walked through the tree sales lots, she snapped pictures of potential candidates. The smell of pine and the tactile feel of pine needles had made her smile since childhood. Choosing a tree each year wasn't an easy thing for her, since each ornament adored pine held a special place in her memory. The tree didn't have to be perfect to be the right one...

The tree for 2012 was found on the eighth lot. The salesman had offered to deliver the 14 foot monster White Fir, but Derinda had insisted having the tree tied to the roof of her visiting friend's Yugo. She'd never realized how heavy a Christmas tree was, but as the small battered car creaked and groaned under the weight as they drove to Rams Park she kept looking at the torn fabric of the headliner. Each gust of wind caused the tiny car to swerve from lane to lane; cars next to them honking both anger or wonder at how the Yugo's driver could see out the windshield.

She and her friend from New Mexico had dragged the tree up to the building, leaving a long trail of pine needles in their wake. The door to the St. Louis Rams headquarters was another problem. The base of the tree being just over 9 feet wide, it became a battle as her friend pushed and Derinda pulled.

"I work in the only job in the world that has fifty men who each weigh around 1000 lbs and can lift your damn car with one hand. Where the hell are they when I need them?" Derinda groused as she gave another mighty tug on the tree's tip. Trees can only take so much tugging, and the tree top snapped off right as she pulled. Like being shot from a sling shot, Derinda flew backward hitting a "Christmas Around the the NFL" display.

"You all right?" her friend asked from beyond the forest of pine tree branches still outside the building.

She could hear her friend laughing, 'It ain't funny. I just crushed Rodger Goodell and Tom Brady..." She reached down her blouse and pulled the torn off cardboard head of a smiling Janoris Jenkins. Glaring at the image, she pointed at the star rookie corner back. "That's how you fell to the second round!" She tossed the thick piece of cardboard, which sailed like a Frisbee into the alarm control panel fixed to the wall inside the doorway.

Derinda had decided to bring the tree in at night to surprise everyone the next day. She'd planned to stay up all night decorating the tree. Getting up, she untangled herself from the display. Hold the top of the tree in her left hand, she looked from it to the image of a smiling Adrian Peterson cut out standing next to her. She dropped the now needle-less tree top, paused, then slugged the still smiling Peterson, "Take that Mr. 212 yards." An odd sense of satisfaction washed over her until the roar of a small engine was heard from beyond the doorway. "Oh my God!" She knew that sound. It was a chain saw her friend had brought to trim the base of the tree. She looked on in horror as the tree vibrated. Pine needles flying, a small opening appeared in the mass of green wedged in the doorway. The smiling head of her friend appeared.

"What the hell did you do to my tree!" Derinda leaped at her friend's grinning face. The head disappeared.

"The tree's fine. I'll just trim it down a bit here and there and it'll slide right in..." He revved the engine of the chainsaw. A small fist shot threw the opening, barely missing his nose. Suddenly the area around him was awash with light. He turned off the chain saw as he turned around. A mix of flashing blue and red lights cut through the spotlights.

"Freeze! Drop the chain saw dirt bag!" The bull horn enhanced voice came from beyond the lights.

An officer approached the suspect as he set the saw down, his weapon drawn. "Hands behind your head..." He stopped mid-sentence at the sight of the small fist still flailing at the air. This bastard was trying to cut that arm off with a chain saw! He slammed the suspect to the ground, adding a knee to his kidney for good measure. "You sick son of a..."

"Oof!", the air rushed out of his lungs as pain shot through him. "I can explain officer. I was just trimming the tree so..."

Other officers rushed forward and helped stand up the now handcuffed sicko. The first officer approached the arm coming from the tree. "Easy now. It's over. We caught the bastard..." He'd bent down to speak through the opening and the small fist made contact with his nose. He staggered backward.

"HA! Got you! You miserable tree murderer!" The fist continued to swing at the air.

A police captain approached the scene. He knew that voice and it made him groan. "Oh God, not again... Stand down men. Stand down!" He waved for the twenty-odd officers to lower their weapons. "Ms. Platt?" He asked the small fist.

The arm stopped. "Captain Duncan?" The arm disappeared to be replaced with a mop of blonde hair. Shaking her head to clear both hair and pine neddles, her bright blue eyes fixed on Captain Duncan, then shifted to her handcuffed friend. "HA! You got him! Book for pruning without a license and having a crappy car. You should deport him back to New Mexico. I'm pretty sure he doesn't have a passport too."

Duncan wiped his face with his left hand. "What's going on Ms. Platt?" The sound of sirens coming closer made him turn his head. "You set off every alarm in the building." He'd rushed to the scene of what dispatch had said was a robbery-fire-earthquake-terrorist attack.

"Really? Er, uh...I don't suppose we could keep this between ourselves? No need to call..."

"What's happened?" Rams' Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff yelled. He been told Rams headquarters was under attack and on fire, so he'd left a quiet family dinner before speeding to his office. He stopped mid-stride when he saw Derinda's face peering out from the pine tree blocking the front door. "No, no, no..." He nudged the Captain standing next to him. "You have my permission to shoot her, " He'd recognized her handcuffed friend, "Him too if you have enough bullets."

The Fire Chief approached the group, "Where's the fire?" His men were stretching out hoses from the 15 fire engines dispatched to what he'd been told was a disaster site.

Demoff pointed at Derinda. The fire chief recognized the face, and he began to chuckle as he called off the additional units screaming toward Rams headquarters. "Is she stuck?"

"One can only hope..." He said as he walked up to Derinda. "OK, what happened... Wait," He held up his hand to stop her from explaining, "I don't want to know, right?"

Her head and the tree began to nod, "It's a surprise. You don't want to ruin it, do you?" Derinda was shaking her head as pine needles rained down on her. "...but now that you're here, could you help get this damn tree inside?" She gave him her best beauty pageant smile.

Blowing out a long breath, his shoulders slumped as he nodded his head. Turning to the police Captain and Fire Chief, "Can you guys give me a hand?" They smiled and nodded. After studying the problem for a few minutes, it was decided that ten men pushing should do the trick. In a uniformed scrum, the fire and policemen gave a mighty shove. The door jamb gave way on both sides, the glass side panels shattering on the ground. The scrum's force was so great, it carried them through the doorway, and over the "Christmas Around the the NFL" display, flattening Adrian Peterson and Aaron Rodgers cut outs along the way.

"That's better!" Derinda smiled at her tree, oblivious to the stunned men around her. The lobby area looked like a bomb had gone off. She coaxed the men to help stand the tree, and when it was set perfectly in the place she'd chosen, Derinda stood back and smiled.

Demoff looked at her, then at the now mangled giant tree. Branches were missing or broken, and the tree's top was missing, yet she smiled at the tree like it was the most beautiful thing in the world. "Why are you smiling?"

Derinda glanced around the room at the police and firemen, then at Kevin. "A Christmas tree is more about the getting, than it is the decorations you silly man. It's about bringing something into your home that everyone can enjoy, but it's the doin' that counts. All year long this team of yours played hard, and with one game to go, they're still standing tall." She pointed at the proud, though battered tree, "...Just like my friend here." She gently touched one of the branches.

Kevin smiled. This nut job of a woman had a way about her, he thought. Kevin reached into a box filled with ornaments sitting near by. He handed one to her, "I wonder what next year's tree will look like?

Still smiling, Derinda hung the ornament on a needle-less branch. "It's going to be bigger and better than ever...

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