“Let Nothing Ye Dismay” is fictional holiday tale. It tells the story of a group of Millenial 20-somethings trying to celebrate Christmas together, for the first time away from their parents, in a rented beach house. Various adventures, romantic and otherwise, ensue.
“Wait ’til you meet her. She’s way cool. Like the grandmother we never had.”
“Whoa, slow down, Beebs,” Dan said, chuckling. “You talked to her for, what, five minutes. For all we know her basement is full of buried bodies she poisoned with arsenic at Christmas dinners past.”
“Her house is on stilts, like ours, wise guy. There is no basement.”
“Wow, this is the most random conversation ever,” Scoot said, shifting beneath his burden of two beer cases stocked one on top of the other as they shuffled along East First towards Katharine Hunter’s house.
Belinda carried an eggplant casserole (another treasured recipe from a mother to whom she could barely stand to speak). Her cousin Dan carried a bag with their Christmas presents for one another, plus some cologne for Katharine, hastily bought at the CVS just off the island. Jeremy brought up the rear, with a bag of board games and a DVD player with one, precious DVD.
They got to the house early, so eager were the others to meet this maternal ghost of Christmas past whom Belinda had described.
When they rang the bell, though, no answer came. A Toyota Corolla with Carolina plates sat in the driveway.
“Hmm, wonder where she could be?” Belinda said, trying to peer in through the door’s side window panel. “What’s that?”
The warm breeze wafted a keening sound through the gathering dusk, up from the beach.
“Seamiiiiiiiieeeee! Seamiiiieeeee! Seamiiieeee!”
“That’s her,” Belinda said. “That doesn’t sound good.”
They set down their packages, clattered down the wooden steps, ducked beneath the elevated house, hoisted themselves over the railing onto a walkway a little bit up the dunes and raced single file to the beach.
Katharine stood in the middle of the beach, a leash tossed over her shoulder, turning frantically to and fro, her hands cupped to her mouth as she trudged up the strand: “Seamiieeee!”
Belinda ran up to her: “Katharine, what is it, what’s wrong? Is Seamus lost?”
“Oh, dear, I’m so glad you’re here,” Katharine said, her shaking hands clutching the outsides of Belinda’s arms. “Yes, he’s lost. I don’t… I don’t know what happened. I was cooking dinner, when I realized, silly me, that I’d forgotten some ingredients. So I just ran to the IGA, you know, just over the causeway and Seamus comes along, because he just loves the car, you know.”
“And then …?” Belinda prompted.
“Well, I came back to the house and I had enough things that I had to make several trips up and down you know, because I kept buying things, you know, treats, that I thought you young people might like, so I left Seamus in the car while I did it .. because he loves the car, you see.”
“When I came down the last time, he was gone. Door closed, but no dog. Just gone. Gone. I’ve been searching and searching for a half hour, but I can’t find him. I can’t imagine where he went.”
“Did you leave a window open in the car, maybe?” Dan asked.
“No, no, I don’t think. Oh, I just don’t know. It’s not open now, is it? I just don’t get it. He’s never run off before.”
“We’ll find him,” Scoot vowed, with the most emotion Belinda had heard from him all week.
Dan deployed his considerable logistical powers to plan a search: by car, by bike, on foot. Each person got a sector; Dan took Katharine in his car. They surveyed dunes, peeked over fences at swimming pools, quizzed the rare pedestrian, pounded on the windows of just-closed stores to quiz merchants.
Nothing. A glum search party reconvened in Katharine’s living room about 7.
The ham, forgotten in Katharine’s oven amid the crisis, was done to a leathery crisp. Jeremy sliced a few chunks, and picked at them in a bowl. The rest steered clear of the charred hunk, but Dan and Belinda had tossed an array of snacks into a few bowls. They munched empty calories as Dan plotted new search strategies for the morrow.
“We’ll find him, Mrs. Hunter,” Dan promised. “In daylight, it’ll be easier. He can’t have gone far. He’ll be fine. “
“We’ll find him. For sure,” Scoot echoed.
Katharine put her head in her hands, stifled a sob. “It’s my fault. Bernard always told me not to leave him out in the car. But he loved it there so.”
Belinda wrapped an arm around Katharine’s slight frame: “It’s not your fault, dear. Like Danny said, we’ll find him in the morning. There’s nothing to be done right now in the dark. Seamus is a smart dog; he’ll be OK.” She turned the old woman’s streaked face to her. “So, hey, do you ever watch The Christmas Story?”
“The movie with Darren McGavin and the chubby little guy with glasses, Ralphie, the one they show in marathon on TNT every Christmas.”
“Never saw it, dear.”
“Well, then, that’s just what we’re going to do. Scoot, hook up the DVD and fire up the Ralphie movie.”
And that’s what they did, deep into the night, while eating Poppycock and chocolate pretzels and gingerbread cookies with icing. As the movie spun its web of whimsy and nostalgia, even Katharine’s mood lifted, as she chuckled at Flick’s tongue getting frozen to the flagpole, Santa’s elves shoving Ralphie down the slide, and the Bumpus’ dogs.
As her eyelids drooped, Katharine’s head nestled into the crook of Belinda’s shoulder. Belinda held her tight, rocking slightly, stroking her silver hair as Dan covered the two of them with an afghan he borrowed from a nearby chair. Scoot had checked out in a recliner, while Jeremy was curled into fetal position on the floor, snoring lightly. A clock in the room chimed.
“Merry Christmas, Beebs.”
“Merry Christmas, Danny.”
“You OK there with Mrs. Hunter on you? Is your arm asleep?”
“A little but soon the rest of me will be asleep, too. I’m going to drift off, Dan. What will you do?”
“You do that. I’ll go look for Seamus a little more. The pooch is probably gone for good, but I didn’t want to admit that to her on Christmas Eve. But I’ll give it a try. Want me to turn off the TV?”
“MMM-mmm” Belinda said as her eyes squeezed shut.
Next Scene: Happy returns of the day.
Posts Thursday afternoon.