“Can you take a look at something for me?” Maple asked.
Fir creaked out a flat response. “Do I have to?”
“Please?” Maple asked. “I think I’ve got something on my trunk.”
A sigh of falling needles. “Like what?” Fir asked.
Maple rustled their branches impatiently. “I don’t know; that’s why I want you to look at it.”
“Fine,” the evergreen said..
Maple leaned with the wind, branches parting to give a clear view. Fir leaned as well, bending closer to inspect the trunk.
They spotted the source of Maple’s concern immediately. The growth, or whatever it was, was impossible to miss. Broad, blunt branches ringed Maple’s trunk, there was a lot of discoloration, and several vines hung down from their lower branches. Then Fir spotted the infestation. They were used to this sort of vermin of course; but it was extremely unusual to see so many climbing in the branches of a tree all at once. The squat, hairy little things were all over Maple’s branches, letting out shrill squeals as they scurried about. Fir straightened up with a shudder of revulsion.
“Well?” Maple asked.
“Yeah, you might want to get that checked out.”
“What . . . what is it?”
* * *