Holly, a shy tree (arbitrarily chosen to be female), anxiously peeked through the door. A black panther stood on his hind legs. The panther brushed off several pine needles from his simple white shirt with his left paw. With a scissor in his right paw, he snipped away at a pine tree’s leaves. The pine tree sat in a black, leather chair with a white sheet of cloth draped around its trunk. Although the tree did not have a face, it seemed to have a bored expression.
Holly took a deep breath, and stepped in. Panther glanced towards Holly, then back towards his current customer, trimming the pine tree.
“I’ll be with you in a moment,” he said in a deep, cool voice. Panther put a few finishing touches on the pine tree, removed the white cloth, and dusted away excess pine leaves.
The pine tree stood up, paid Panther, and left the store. Panther gestured towards the now empty chair. “Ah, Holly, good to see you again. Will it be the usual trim this time?”
“Well um, actually…” Holly began, taking a seat. “I would like something…more…er, festive.”
“Oh? Trying to impress someone?” Panther asked. He tied a white cloth around Holly’s trunk.
“N-no, of course not,” Holly said. She blushed, but tree blushes aren’t very noticeable. “It’s for the holidays.”
“Ah yes, it is that time of year again. Treesville does take Christmas seriously,” Panther said. He picked up a pair of scissors, and began cutting away a few of her leaves.
“Yes well… I-I’m going to be in the Treesville play this year,” Holly said, fidgeting in her seat.
“Is that why you’re so nervous? Calm down, else I might cut off the wrong branch.” Panther’s low, smooth voice eased Holly’s nerves, and she sat still.
There was a moment of silence, then Holly began again. “A-actually that’s not the only reason I’m nervous. There’s uh…something I wanted to ask you.”
Another moment of silence, broken only by the sound of tinkling Christmas ornaments as Panther pulled out a large box. “Well? Ask away.”
“Well,” Holly continued. “Mr. Panther, y-you said you were uh, a tree right?” Holly fiddled with her twigs, anxiously waiting Panther’s reply.
Panther arranged red and green crystal bulbs on Holly’s branches. “Yes, that is a correct,” Panther nodded. “What would I be doing here in Treesville if I weren’t a tree?”
“Um, yeah, yeah,” Holly hastily agreed. She glanced towards Panther. His brilliant, black fur coat grew thick in the winter, his clawed paws delicately placed sparkling ribbons on her branches, and his amber cat eyes glowed in the night.
Panther grinned, revealing a row of sharp, feline teeth. “Is there a problem, Holly?”
“N-no no no! Not at all!” Holly said, looking away. Panther put a star on Holly, then removed the white cloth. “Finished.”
Holly stood up and handed out fifteen Treesville dollars to Panther.
“Thank you for your patronage,” Panther said, bowing. “Please do come again.”
Holly moved to the door, then hesitated. “Um, one more thing?” Holly asked.
“Yes?” Panther narrowed his eyes at Holly.
Holly jumped, and almost ran away, but staid put. “P-panthers don’t eat…trees…d-do they?”
Panther bowed politely. “No, panthers don’t eat trees. Though I don’t see how that would be relevant, since there are no panthers here in Treesville.”
Relived, Holly sighed. “You’re right…” She exited the shop with a clear mind.