Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. I had done the deed myself: agonized over the decision, chosen the tools, picked the day, performed the execution, tidied the area, and retired to my quarters for some Netflix reflection and a libation. Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.
So it was with a start that I awoke in my easy chair, libation now spread across my khakis, to confront an apparition in my home entertainment room. It was gnarled, gaunt, branched and stark. Something straight out of The Nightmare Before Christmas. And completely blocking the view of my brand spanking new mega 80-inch flat screen TV.
“Who are you?” I ventured, trying to keep the conversation breezy, while craning my neck to determine if I could see around the thing, and wondering just how many libations I had managed to consume before nodding off, and exactly how far back I would need to rewind to catch up with the plot line. After all, this vision could simply be an undigested bit of pepperoni, a blot of melted chocolate, a crumb of a cheese stick, a fragment of an underdone corn dog. “There’s more of gravy than of grave about you,” I thought, wondering how in the world that popped into my head.
“Ask me who I was.”
“Well, if you’re going to play Twenty Questions, whatever. Who were you then?” I sighed, perhaps a bit too obviously.
“In life I was your tree. Marley.”
Uh-oh. I suddenly became aware that we had an issue here. “Do you mind if I refresh my libation?” I ventured.
At this the Spirit raised a frightful cry, and shook its chain with such a dismal and appalling noise that I figured I’d sit and wait out the drink for a few minutes.
“Mercy, mercy me!” I exclaimed. “Things ain’t what they used to be! Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?”
“Man of the cable-free mind!” exclaimed the Ghost Tree, “Do you believe in me or not?”
“Dude! Absolutely! But what’s with the chain?”
“I wear the chain-link fence you built next to me in life,” the tree replied. “Do you know what happens when a tree grows into one of those things? Do you know how freaking impossible it is to separate chain-link fence from xylem, phloem and bark? These are the patterns I bore, link by link and yard by yard; girded onto me by lousy siting and indifferent care. Is its pattern strange to you?”
It was at this point I began to understand that this could escalate into a serious standoff.
“Okay, okay, I feel your pain. But do you know how expensive one of those trendy wooden fences is? All of them eventually rot. And this was my first home with real trees. I didn’t really know what I was doing. Besides, I was always pulled away by my business–“
“Business!” cried the Ghost Tree, shaking its branches and littering twigs and stems all over the carpet, couch and snack tray. “Horticulture was your business! Some decent pruning was your business! Mulching, watering and a little TLC were all your business! The dealings of your career were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of your backyard business!”
That last sentence left me scratching my head, but the Spirit seemed rather agitated and I thought it best to let it get all of that frustration out of its system.
“Hear me!” cried the Ghost. “My time is nearly gone. You will be haunted by three Master Gardeners.”
“Whoa! No!” I blurted before I could stop myself. “No offense, but I have a conference call first thing in the morning and I will be going full tilt boogie for the whole week! I don’t have time for that stuff!” I was stunned by my own forcefulness, and so was the Spectre.
I dialed back my energy. “I have a suggestion for Plan B,” I said, trying to judge how that would play out with the specter that had invaded my rec room. “Is there a movie that you’ve always wanted to see?”
The Ghost Tree swayed in the ectoplasmic breeze, contemplating my offer. “Well…everybody tells me that Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy is really cool,” it said, a little shyly.
“Done,” I replied, heading to the kitchen. I’ll make some popcorn and you make yourself comfortable. Try not to shed into the chip dip. Marley, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Mike Nowak is an author, speaker, humorist, environmentalist, show host and entertainer. You can follow his exploits at mikenowak.net