“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.
“Wake up, sleepfaces!”
Jeremy’s tap on Belinda’s shoulder brought Belinda out of a confused, half-awake dream state. What was it that she’d been running after so desperately on that foggy beach?
She tried to lift her right arm. What was that?
Oh, it was Katharine’s head, still dead asleep in the crook of her arm.
Belinda heard a rattle of silverware and pots coming from the kitchen.
“Wh-what’s going on?”
“It’s Christmas morning, and the men in your life are preparing your morning feast,” said Dan, with an apron comically wrapped around his thick torso as he walked into the living room holding a mixing bowl. “We’ve got bacon frying, coffee dripping, bagels toasting, waffles waffling.”
“Don’t think Dan-o has slept yet tonight,” Jeremy said. “He’s a little giddy, but he’s got me and Scoot as kitchen help.”
“Did you find …?” Belinda asked hopefully.
Dan shook his head, turning back to the kitchen.
Katharine stirred. Belinda wished her Merry Christmas and gave her a status report.
“Acch, it feels like a small animal died in my mouth overnight,” Katharine said. “Did I really sleep on the couch all night? Well, let me get cleaned up a bit.”
In 10 minutes, they’d gathered around Katharine’s white dining table, as Dan passed platters of waffles, bacon, and bagels across the counter from the kitchen.
Christmas carols wafted from the radio in the living room.
Reaching his seat, Dan raised a mimosa glass high. “A Christmas toast – first to Seamus and his homecoming.”
Katharine looked at him, startled, “You found…?”
“No, no luck so far, but it’s Christmas and I believe in Christmas miracles.”
“To Seamus, then!”
“To my parents, may they be looking down and smiling at us,” Dan continued.
“To Pat and Jim!” “To Jim and Pat!”
Much clinking of plastic cups.
“To my Bernard.”
“Bernie, Bernie, Bernie,” Jeremy chanted until a look from Belinda shut him up.
“To Steffi, may her flight back have been smooth,” Scoot said.
“To Stef, indeed,” agreed Belinda, eyebrow arched at her brother.
A sharp knock sounded on the front door: “What could that be?”
They hustled to the door behind Katharine, who opened it a tentative crack.
Out on the landing stood a weathered old gent, about 80 years old if a day. He wore a golf shirt, plaid Bermudas, with sandals and white socks at the end of his bowed and mottled legs. On his head perched a ball cap saluting the destroyer on which he’d served in the Big One.
“Merry Christmas, you live here?” he barked.
“Of course I do. Who are you, if I might ask?”
“Somebody who’d be a lot happier if you had the faintest clue about the proper way to care for a dog.”
“What do you mean? Do you know something about Seamus?” Katharine opened the door fully, one hand to her heart. Four young faces peered over and around Katharine’s form at the curmudgeon in the ball cap.
“Is that the critter’s name? Well, it’s thanks to me he’s still alive and right over there.”
The fellow gestured to a white Mercury Marquis parked on the street. The tinted windows made it hard to spy what might be inside.
“You left him out in the hot car last night. In that broiling heat. Poor beast was roasting so bad, I thought I’d better rescue him. Took him home last night, game him a good bath and brush, I did.”
“You… you stole my dog right from my car in front of my house.”
The man pulled himself upright, in military bearing: “Not steal, madame. Rescued.”
Dan slipped in front of Katharine: “Listen, pal, get us the pooch and let’s be done with it.”
“I just felt,” the man said, “that a lesson had to be taught.”
“Well, you thought wrong,” Dan said, “but it’s Christmas, so let’s not dwell on what a self-righteous busybody you are. Let’s just get the dog back.”
“Madame, you should teach your son some manners.” But the man turned on his heel, clicked his key fob to unlock the car, opened the back door.
As Katharine came down the stairs, Seamus bounded out of the back seat. He ran up to his owner, leaped joyously, escaped her embrace, and proceeded to run around and around the front yard, his haunches comically low to the ground, his mouth open in relief and delight. After eight manic circuits, he zipped over to a palm tree and let out a long, celebratory stream.
Belinda and her crew laughed until their eyes watered, as Katharine found a leash and slipped it around the terrier’s neck, dragging him reluctantly inside.
Inside, Seamus attacked his water dish as though he’d been wandering the Mojave for a week, not AWOL on Ocean Isle for a night.
“What a cool dog!” Scoot said as he and Jeremy rolled around on the carpet, playing with the pooch, seeming five years old again to Belinda’s eyes.
Another knock on the door.
“If it’s that guy again for another round…” Dan said, rising from a second helping of waffles.
“Maybe he wants a reward for returning Seamus,” Scoot said. “Wow. All-time chutzpah award.”
Belinda ran to answer. She opened the door, beheld Steffi with her finger to her lips, whispering, “Shhhh!” Belinda’s hands rose, palms upward, in the international gesture of “Huh!”
“Love makes you do strange things,” Steffi whispered. “I’ve been back an hour wandering around looking for you all, ‘til I saw Dan’s car parked out front.”
Steffi slid in front of Belinda and marched into the living room, where Scoot had just risen from the floor after rough housing the dog.
Steffi walked up to him, threw her arms around his neck, pulled him close and kissed. Deeply. Jeremy hooted.
Belinda whispered to Katharine: “She’s my best friend, Steffi.”
“Very pretty girl; they look good together.”
Steffi pulled away, but kept her arms around Scoot’s neck.
Scoot stared at her.
“Wow,” he said.
“You big goof, has it ever, in the last five years of me hanging around you, watching your stupid sports games, buying you pizza, playing Wii and just generally mooning around, has it ever dawned on you how nuts I am about you?”
“Wow,” Scoot said. “I thought Beebs put you on a plane.”
“I never got on. My mother called again, drunk again, and she ticked me off so much with what she said, never mind what… well, anyway, I never got on my flight. Or the next two. Ended up spending the night at the Holiday Inn Express. And that apparently made me smart enough to realize something. If I never came back here and made myself do what I just did, you’d never get around to telling me whether you feel the way I do.”
“Wow,” Scoot said.
“Well?” Steffi said, and closed her eyes, as though bracing for a blow.
“Scoot, for God’s sake, say something besides Wow,” Belinda said.
Scoot put his arms around Steffi’s neck: “Well…” He paused three, four, five beats. “Did you ever notice, Stef, all the way through high school and college, I never had a real girlfriend?”
“Yeah, I guess. I figured you were shy, or too into your video games.”
“Well, figure again.”
“I was waiting for you to do what you just did.”
“Wow,” Steffi said, and pulled Scoot towards her again.
While they were at it, Belinda felt Dan’s arm enfold her:
“Well, cuz, SLALOM may have just lost a few members. You and I are still pathetic losers, though.
“But at least it looks like this Christmas junket of yours may have turned out fairly OK in the end. Little shaky there for a while, but OK in the end.”
“Yep,” Belinda said. “Very, very OK indeed.”
Listen to the radio play of Let Nothing Ye Dismay at 6 p.m. Christmas Eve or 9 a.m. Christmas morning on WHYY-FM. Or stream the broadcast online or download a podcast, using the links on this page.