Grey clouds raced across the sky and cold wind ruffled Paul’s hair.
He gazed with sadness at Grandpa’s new tree.
It looked sick.
Its leaves were brown and crispy and some had fallen on the grass.
Paul grabbed the garden hose and watered the earth around the tree.
A large puddle circled the trunk but nothing happened.
Paul thought it needed some food. “What do trees eat?” he asked the sky.
In the garden shed, Paul foraged among lots of interesting containers.
On the bench he saw Grandpa’s half eaten sandwich and took it to the tree.
Crunch! He picked up the dog’s smelly bone and gave that to the tree.
Cackle! The hens followed a trail of grain as it trickled along behind him.
Paul was sure the cat wouldn’t miss her bowl of fish-flavoured treats.
From the kitchen, vegetable scraps joined a plate of leftover breakfast bits.
Paul stuffed an apple and a banana on top and ran back to the tree.
Icky! He pulled a fuzzy lollipop out of his pocket and tossed it on the pile.
Gloop! He found a jar of honey and poured that around the base.
Woof, cluck, meow, buzz! Everyone enjoyed the food except the tree.
“You still don’t look right,” said Paul.
A leaf fluttered down, then another and another until the branches were bare.
Paul felt a tiny ache inside.
He walked slowly into the house – then thought of an idea!
With his coloured pencils and sheets of paper he drew and drew and drew.
His scissors cut and cut and cut until he had a handful of leafy shapes.
It was a big job threading these leaves on to the branches.
He stood on tip-toe and just reached the highest twigs.
Paul knew it wouldn’t fool Grandpa, but he did want to make him smile.
He tugged Grandpa by the hand, outside and all the way to the tree.
“What’s this?” said Grandpa. “A Christmas tree?”
Paul shuffled uncomfortably. “No.”
“A tree eating all our food?” said Grandpa as his boots squelched in honey.
Paul hung his head. “Grandpa, your tree is sick. I tried to make it better.”
Grandpa’s eyes twinkled.
“You did a great job, Paul. The leaves look better than ever.”
Paul’s stomach did a happy flip.
Grandpa patted his shoulder.
“This tree will lose its leaves for winter and will grow new ones in the spring.”
Paul was relieved. “You mean it’s just taking a nap?”
Laughter rumbled out of Grandpa. “Exactly.”
Grandpa explained how the ground and the sun and the rain helped it grow.
Paul looked up at Grandpa.
“When it grows taller next year, I’ll need help with the paper leaves.”
Grandpa gave Paul a big, warm handshake.
At that moment Paul was surprised to see him wink.
“Don’t forget,” said Grandpa, “next year you’ll be taller too.”
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward