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Mr. Stump

by Camille Picott

A hush settled over the boardroom as the door opened. Mr. Stump entered, his Spanish moss toupee arranged to perfection upon the polished remains of his trunk. All the trees in the room stood and clacked in a rush of leaves and branches. Mr. Stump smiled and waved his tap root.

“Good evening! Welcome to the final episode of The Scion. Tonight, one of the two finalists will sacrifice their boughs for the job of a lifetime. Tonight, one will become my Scion. Let’s give a round of applause to Ginkgo and Liquid Amber!”

The air whooshed as boughs clacked. Ginkgo smiled, rustling his bright green, fan-shaped leaves; they were sustained summer foliage, the result of long months spent in a greenhouse.

Liquid Amber waved her newly-pruned branches at the audience. Not one spiked seedpod dropped from her boughs, a testament to the skill of her arborist. Her youthful, blond-brown bark set many a root twitching.

The audience quieted as Mr. Stump spoke. “Each finalist has been given the task of designing a business venture for Stump Enterprises. Ginkgo, you’re up first. Tell us about Soil for Saplings.”

Ginkgo stepped forward. “As you know, Mr. Stump, I’m involved in the Big Sapling program. I’d like to introduce you to my Little Sapling, Almond!”

The audience cheered as Almond, a spindly young tree, swaggered into the boardroom. From the flakiness of his bark, all the trees could tell he was from the Great Infertile Valley.

Almond flashed a smile. The audience gasped. Right above his eyes, a large section of his bark had been removed. Exposed was a pale rectangle of raw cambium. Pulsing like a video game atop the cambium were bright red letters that read Stump Enterprises. As soon as the audience saw this, they relaxed and cheered.

“Mr. Stump,” Ginkgo said, “Almond is the first participant in Soil for Saplings. This program is designed for underprivileged sprouts and saplings--that is, plantlets from families whose soil quality is below the national average. What you see on Almond’s cambium is a mediatronic image, which we pay the plantlets to wear. They can start earning soil the day they sprout.”

Mr. Stump raised the small burl above his right eye. “Ginkgo, I have to ask: Do you really think trees are going to allow their plantlets to be branded with a company logo?”

“Mediatronic images are not permanent, and the bark will grow back,” Ginkgo replied. “A microchip is implanted into the vascular system. It projects an image onto a designated area of cambium. The implant can be modified at any time to promote any number of Stump ventures. Because Soil for Saplings will generate millions of pounds of nutrient-rich soil never before available to underprivileged plantlets, I believe my venture will succeed. If you hire me, Mr. Stump, I’ll work my bark off to prove it.”

“Thanks so much for being here tonight, Almond,” Mr. Stump said. “And thanks for your presentation, Ginkgo. Liquid Amber, it’s your turn.”

“Thanks, Mr. Stump.” Liquid Amber sharply rapped two roots together. The lights dimmed. A holographic image materialized in the middle of the boardroom.

“My business venture is Grafters’ Resort, an island especially designed for those who wish to undergo cosmetic grafting,” she said. A three dimensional rendering of a seaside resort rotated in mid-air.

Grafters’ Resort will practice in all the latest cosmetic grafting trends. We’ll have on-hand grafters who specialize in leaf and bark alterations. Want the smooth, white bark of a birch tree? Grafters’ Resort can provide that.” The holograph shimmered into an image of a pine tree sporting snow-white bark. “Tired of your same leaves? Ready for a positive change?” The image changed again to show an acacia tree waving branches covered with maple leaves.

“Clients at Grafters’ Resort will relax in especially-designed compost recovery beds, surrounded by tranquil island beauty,” Liquid Amber said. A holographic image of a smoking compost bed appeared. A humidifier pumped moisture into the air above it.

“Mr. Stump, cosmetic grafting becomes more popular every year. If you hire me, Grafters’ Resort will put you at the top of this growing industry.”

“Mr. Stump,” Ginkgo said, “while I appreciate Liquid Amber’s proposal, you have a lot of young, image-conscious viewers. Does Stump Enterprises want to contribute to the growing rate of over-pruned saplings? Please remember, Mr. Stump, there are incentives to help the needy. Soil for Saplings will qualify Stump Enterprises for a hefty tax break.”

Liquid Amber rustled her branches. “Mr. Stump, Soil for Saplings exploits impoverished plantlets. I don’t think this is the sort of reputation you want for Stump Enterprises.”

“Why should everyday trees be subjected to advertisement without benefiting from it?” Ginkgo asked. “This will put the rewards of advertising directly into the hands of those in need.”

Grafters’ Resort will revolutionize medical standards!”

Soil for Saplings will--!”

“That’s enough.” Mr. Stump calmed his two Scion contestants with a wave of his roots. “I’ve heard everything I need to make my decision.”

He paused dramatically, fixing Gingko and Liquid Amber with an imperious stare. “I just want to say, it’s been tough. I’d be confident embarking on a business venture with either of you.

“But alas...” He adjusted his Spanish moss toupee, “there can only be one Scion.”

Mr. Stump pulled out a chainsaw and turned it on. The audience leaned forward in anticipation. He stood between Ginkgo and Liquid Amber, holding the chainsaw high.

“Liquid Amber, Grafters’ Resort is a brilliant concept... But... I love the idea of helping needy plantlets. Ginkgo, congratulations, YOU’RE MY NEXT SCION!

A cheer went up from the audience. Mr. Stump swung the chainsaw and sawed through Ginkgo’s trunk, right above his eyes. His lovely boughs toppled to the boardroom floor.

Mr. Stump solemnly handed Ginkgo a Spanish moss toupee. “Welcome to Stump Enterprises.”

Grinning with joy, Ginkgo settled the toupee onto the weeping remains of his stump.

Copyright © 2007 by Camille Picott

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