2021 Christmas Story
“A Horribbable Christmas Story”
“93 degrees.” Belinda sighed, looked over at her Dad in the Driver’s seat and repeated herself but this time with more emphasis hoping to get a response. The road kept rolling out in front of them in what seemed like an endless ribbon. She longed for the Christmas that was waiting at the end.
Her Dad had not ignored her disdain, in fact, it reminded him a great deal of a similar trip he had been on 30 years earlier with his Father and he was trying to decide whether he should tell her the story, knowing it would bore her into silence, therefore he opted for the ignorance approach.
“Wow,” what a way to spend Christmas Eve, Huh?”
Trying to mask her agitation, “Sure enough. Nothing says Merry Christmas like 93 degrees on a hot and sunny drive to pick up building materials.” Then to emphasize her frustration, “Why is it so blasted hot?”
“Just the way it goes sometimes,” he smiled, somewhat proud of himself for negotiating a conversation with his Teenage Daughter. Determined to continue, “Could be worse. We could be trying to get home in 6 degrees weather where we are trying not to get stuck in a snow drift. Wouldn’t that be fun?”
There was no reply. He glanced over at his young sweetheart. She had that look. The look she used when she was trying to complain and instead of letting her whine he tried to make her feel better by saying it could be worse. She hated it when he did that. Why was he always trying to say it could be worse!
His defense irritated her even more; he was employing that stupid boyish grin. She hated that! She wanted to be unhappy and he was bound and determined to make her smile. She fought the urge to smile for a moment but looking at him holding that steering wheel and grinning like a three year old that just found the cookie jar; all she could see was a little boy in a man’s body playing with a big machine. It was almost cute, except there was not much about him that was actually cute. She turned to face the window so he could not have the satisfaction of seeing the smile crawl across her face.
As the miles sped by, the drone of the wheels on the pavement sang her into a soft yet restful sleep. The road may be bringing her closer to home but she was safely tucked into Winkin, Blinkin and Nod’s wooden shoe which was set off in a different direction altogether.
“Well, Hello, Missy,” Said a man’s voice standing off to her right. She thought of answering him but was prevented by the beautiful winter forest sunrise she was trying to take in.
“Missy, are you alright?”
“Yes, Sir.” Tearing her eyes away from the spectacle to address the man speaking while turning to face him. But there was no man to be seen. Puzzled, she looked around but could not see anyone in the winter wonderland.
Snow plopped off of a branch, billowing up the snow it had displaced. The motion caught her eye and so did what caused the commotion. A large black bear shimmied down the tree. The surprise and fright in her face was unmistakeable. As he reached the ground the bear stepped out from behind the tree. Noticing her look, “oh, Missy, no need to worry. I was sent to fetch you and bring you to the party.”
Belinda was awestruck,”what party?” Then she realized she had not only heard a bear speak but she had asked it a question and was awaiting a response.
“None other than the Great Christmas Forest Festival, young lady, and you are the guest of honor. Which means I have a pretty important job if I do say so myself. Come on, follow me.”
Not having many other options, Belinda trudged over to the tracks in the snow and followed her guide. A hundred yards or so into the journey she spoke up, “Will this be a long walk?”
“Oh, not too far. We will need to be there by nightfall to get you situated.”
They walked on in silence for a while. It kind of reminded her of hunting with her Papaw. He could walk through the woods without making a sound for hours until he happened upon something that he wanted to show her, then he would talk for way too long. The more she thought about it, she realized this bear even looked like her Papaw. Gruff, stern, certain, driven and both of them had the same look in their eyes, like they were looking into you instead of at you.
“Mr. Bear, what is your name?”
“Folks around here call me Danny,”gruffed the bear.
“Well it is a pleasure to meet you, Danny the bear,” she said.
“Oh, no, Missy. The pleasure is all mine. You are famous in these woods. Every critter in the forest knows who you are. They will for sure be wanting to howdy with you at the Great Christmas Forest Festival tonight.” Danny stopped for a moment, sniffed the air cautiously and then proceeded, “Yep, you are one famous little Lady.”
Feeling a little bit embarrassed by being called famous, “Oh, come on Danny, why would I be famous?”
Danny turned to look at her, “Everyone knows you are the one that protects the forest from the Horribbable Haints. No need to be modest here, Missy.”
(Note: Haint- pronounced like saint with an h instead of an s, is a mountain peoples term for a ghost or apparition. The word “Horribbable is an exaggeration of the word horrible, and I just made it up to sound funny)
Belinda felt a chill run down her spine. She found the jumble of emotions welling inside of her to be nearly impossible to manage. She liked being famous and revered. Her Mothering instinct enjoyed the thrill of protecting. She was trying not to laugh at the name of her Nemisis though, the Horribbable Haints, how sinister could they be? And just how was she supposed to find out what she had done in the past to fend off these, Horribbable Haints?
As she was pondering she let out a sigh, Danny stopped and asked if she was alright.
“I am fine, Danny. Just have a lot on my mind.”
“Can I do anything to help?” The bear inquired.
“Maybe you would like to ride on my back and I could tell you a story,” the great beast suggested.
Belinda pictured herself rinding a bear through the snowbound forest. She may not BE a hero but she would certainly LOOK like a hero; besides, that would be fun! She quickly accepted the offer then climbed up and found a comfortable spot.
“Danny, I am curious, what stories do the animals tell about me and the Horribbable Haints?”
“Well, Missy,” then he paused a moment to ponder. “There was the time the Horribbable Haints tried to bend all of the Tennessee State Straight Trunk Trees but you stopped them just in time. We were all moved when those devils tried to cause chaos in the forest by trying to convince the penguins (pronounced: pe-en-gu-ins) they could use their flippers (pronounced: fly-pers) to fly in the sky instead of swimming (pronounced Swime-ing) but you came to the rescue by chasing the Horribbable Haints away from the Pe-en-gu-ins, screeching like a Police siren which scared them off. I reckon though, the most popular story, by far, is how you saved Christmas by Re-relocating Rudolph’s nose.”
“Oh, my!” Belinda gasped, trying not to giggle and hurt Danny’s feelings. Quick as a wink she thought up a way to ask Danny to tell her the story. “I am curious,” she started, “how do you all tell that story? I am just wondering how much it has changed from the, um, original.”
Danny turned and grinned, “I was hoping you wanted to hear my version.
Everyone knows that one Horribbable Christmas night the Haints were out doing their worst. Fog and wind and rain and sleet, anything the Haints could contrive to keep Christmas from happening. Rudolph, however, rose to hero status, his bright red nose showed the way and the Christmas crisis was averted.
What people don’t know… but the animals do know, is that several years later those creepy Horribbable Haints concocted another fiendish scheme. Foul weather was brewing and just as the sleigh was being hitched the Haints started a small tornado that touched down square on poor Rudolph. It picked him up and flung him around so fast that his bright red nose was relocated to his rear. Satisfied with the dastardly deed the Horribbable Haints dropped him back in place and he was hitched at the head of the team. Every time he took a step his red light would flash from under his tail and the other reindeer thought it was a traffic light; by golly, it confused them so badly they just bowed up and stopped.
The evil contrivances of those Horribbable Haints had finally done it, they had bested Old Saint Nick, Christmas was done for.
But once again, you stepped in and saved the day. In no time at all you diagnosed the disfunction, had the light removed and then relocated into the proper place. You even sanitized the light so poor ol’ Rudy did not have to sniff his pooper all night long.”
Belinda threw her head back and belly laughed, “Now that is funny!”
Danny joined in and they laughed back and forth for a while enjoying each other’s company. She realized that she really enjoyed this gruffy old bear in spite of his cranky-ness and his hard headed ways, he really was a joy to be around.
The big bear paused for a moment. He looked back at Belinda and grinned great big. “Missy, we are here. Go on in and enjoy your Christmas party.”
He pulled back the boughs of a green fir and the light poured through. Her anticipation built like a rocket ready to blast off. Just as she stepped into the light she was jolted to the ground like an earthquake had knocked her over.
It was no earth quake. Her dad was standing there beside her holding her pillowed head in one hand and the truck door in the other.
“We are home honey! Figured I should drop you off at the Christmas party and I will take the truck back to the shop and meet you in a little while.”
Then, noticing the unhappy grumpy look on her face, the drool running on her pillow and the pillow seam lines imprinted on her face he offered an apologetic, “Merry Christmas?”
Realizing her dream may be over but the food, fun and family waiting inside the house would be very real; she hopped out, threw her hair back into a high pony, kissed her dad thanking him for the trip and then headed straight for the kitchen. “Merry Christmas!” she called running toward the house. Then she stopped, ran back to her dad. Throwing her arms around his neck she sank into his embrace. It was a Merry Christmas.
John is a recognized and highly respected author, educator, and businessman with a reputation for helping individuals and organizations create helpful and sustainable results.