A Christmas Memory

Capote"Morning. Frozen rime lusters the grass;
the sun, round as an orange and orange as hot-weather moons, balances on the
horizon, burnishes the silvered winter woods. A wild turkey calls. A renegade
hog grunts in the undergrowth. Soon, by the edge of knee-deep, rapid-running
water, we have to abandon the buggy. Queenie wades the stream first, paddles
across barking complaints at the swiftness of the current, the pneumonia-making
coldness of it. We follow, holding our shoes and equipment (a hatchet, a burlap
sack) above our heads. A mile more: of chastising thorns, burrs and briers that
catch at our clothes; of rusty pine needles brilliant with gaudy fungus and
molted feathers. Here, there, a flash, a flutter, an ecstasy of shrillings
remind us that not all the birds have flown south. Always, the path unwinds
through lemony sun pools and pitchblack vine tunnels. Another creek to cross: a
disturbed armada of speckled trout froths the water round us, and frogs the size
of plates practice belly flops; beaver workmen are building a dam. On the
farther shore, Queenie shakes herself and trembles. My friend shivers, too: not
with cold but enthusiasm. One of her hat’s ragged roses sheds a petal as she
lifts her head and inhales the pine-heavy air. "We’re almost there; can you
smell it, Buddy’" she says, as though we were approaching an ocean.

And, indeed, it is a kind of ocean.
Scented acres of holiday trees, prickly-leafed holly. Red berries shiny as
Chinese bells: black crows swoop upon them screaming. Having stuffed our burlap
sacks with enough greenery and crimson to garland a dozen windows, we set about
choosing a tree."

From "A Christmas Memory"

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