A Lonely Dog On Christmas

Christmas Day is fast approaching. For Beckham, the family bulldog, it means just another year of being ignored while chaos and mayhem reign throughout the house. In this holiday short story full of laughter and family dysfunction, Beckham narrates an ill-conceived plan to create an unforgettable landmark moment in order to reclaim the spotlight.
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A Lonely Dog on Christmas By Patrick Yearly Copyright 2012 Patrick Yearly Smashwords Edition All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, distributed, stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, without the express permission of the author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes. This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, or any events or incidents, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Christmas is Coming Christmas is the pits. That's right, you heard me. Worst time of the year. If you can just hold on for a minute I'll tell you why. The more you hear me out then you'll realize that I'm right. To begin with, what's the big deal about Christmas? Everybody always gets so stressed out. It's supposed to be a time for fun and laughter and creating lasting memories with family and friends. After that comes peace and harmony, love and understanding and all of that other nonsense. Naturally, the boatloads of presents are what matter the most. But I just don't get it. Maybe it's because I'm five. And I'm a dog. If it were up to me we'd charge ahead from Thanksgiving and blaze into New Year's Day and leave December choking in the dust. There's just too much going on and not enough time left for the meaningful things, like lying around and doing nothing. It all starts at Halloween. Some of the costumes are a bit scary for me, but the candy part is definitely the highlight. I try my damndest to run off as many kids as possible by barking as loud as I can, but I always wind up getting put down in that miserable basement with the door shut. Treated like an outcast in my own house, rather rude if you ask me. My game plan each year is to terrorize the kids so they hightail it away from here before they reach the front door. It's a simple strategy, less kids means more candy for me. Somehow, it never seems to work. But enough Halloween talk, I'm here to whine about the holiday season, specifically Christmas Day. I can deal with November. Actually, the first two weeks of the month can be quite gorgeous here in Northern Virginia with bright and warm afternoons livening up the time I get to go out and play in the yard. There are always plenty of colorful leaves to kick around and eat. A word of caution though if you ever get hungry: brown leaves just aren't nearly as tasty as the red and yellow ones. Once Thanksgiving week rolls around the weather starts to turn and sometimes it can get downright cold. That's also when the busy season starts and my attitude heads south along with the birds. I can't stand them by the way. Cats will always remain Dog Enemy Number One, but birds are definitely in the conversation. Thanksgiving Day can be a good or bad day, it all depends if there's anyone here at the house. If the family gets invited to head over to pig out at one of the relatives, then I'm screwed. No gourmet meal with the trimmings for me, just the same old drab dog food. But when they stay here and fire up a feast there's plenty to chow down on. I sleep enough as it is, but wow, that tryptophan in the turkey knocks me out even twice as long. The more I think about it, I'm done after dinner until Black Friday morning. So how can I be a dog and smart enough to know about something like Black Friday? It all comes down to one thing cable TV, the Wikipedia of dog smarts. Ask me anything about news, sports, fashion, weather, celebrity gossip, World War II history. Oh, I can't leave out food. Yep, I've got all the answers to everything. If all you only did when you're awake is sit in front of the television, walk around the block, run in the yard and, of course, eat, you'd have plenty of time for home schooling. I can tell you whatever you need to know. Of course I'm speaking hypothetically, I can't give you any of the answers because I can't talk. You'll just have to go along with me on this. If you're wondering how I'm able to sound so educated, you would be too if you spent countless hours watching reality television, the backbone of higher learning. Some of us dogs are actually smarter than we seem and some of us are dumber than we look. Now that I've got all of that out of the way I can go into my tirade about Christmas Day. And, by the way, since I'm airing my grievances I should add that Christmas Eve isn't much better. The season itself isn't so bad, it's those two days that really chap my ass. I know what I said before about doing away with the whole month of December, but since this is my story I should have the right to mangle it if I want to. So, to start at the beginning, I live with the Mathison's at 1521 Morning Glory Court. For security reasons, I can't reveal the name of the town. That's not really true, I just said that to make you think we're more important than we really are. Ryan and Karla run the place. Derek's the oldest kid, he's 21 and goes to Moron State. Not the fastest piston in the engine, but he treats me well. He may be the first student in history to graduate and retire in the same year. Kaley is 19 and there's more hope for her. She attends the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, that's about a two hour drive south of here. She's quite thin and attractive and plays a sport there involving a stick or a foot, I'm not sure which. Young Matt is only six and we hang out a lot together. I guess in adult speak he was a 'mistake', if you know what I mean. Karla found me as a pup in a pet store over at the town center, barely a mile from here. She said I was special and stood out from the crowd. Compared to the other uglies they had behind bars there, of course I was irresistible. When I walked in the front door for the first time I was welcomed with open arms, except for Matt who stepped on my foot. He gets a pass on that one since he wasn't yet a year old. I'm lucky to have such a good family to live with. Of course, there are areas of improvement I've identified for each of them, but since I can't write or talk, the odds of getting my recommended changes implemented are nonexistent. For me, as long as I don't pee on the carpet I'm meeting standards. They call me Beckham after David Beckham, the superstar soccer player. I'm an English bulldog and he's from England and, if you've ever seen a picture of him, that's where the similarity ends. I enjoy antiquing, reading romance novels and playing my cherished violin. Not really, my day primarily consists of walking around in circles. That's all you need to know about us for now. I have to return to focus on my outrage about Christmas. The curtain for the first act of the circus always rises when Ryan valiantly tries to put up the outside lights over Thanksgiving weekend. Two years ago, he connected all of the cords together, plugged them into one socket and proceeded to blow out sixty dollars worth of decorations. He had to go back to the store and buy several new sets of lights and do it all over again. Other people are on the lookout for bargain discount prices while Ryan manages to double the cost of his purchases. Edison would have been proud. Another blunder takes place each year when the wreath is mounted on the front door. Ryan always forgets to make sure it's securely attached to the hook. The first time a visitor doesn't ring the doorbell and tries to knock, the wreath goes crashing down onto the front porch cement floor. At this point, it looks like it's been put through a paper shredder. There's also a mechanical deer with white twinkling lights on the front lawn that used to slowly bend it's neck up and down. But awhile back the neck got stuck looking skyward and it just stays in that position now. Most people say it looks like it needs to go to the chiropractor. While Ryan rolls out his vision of an above average outdoor winter wonderland, Karla is hard at work getting all of the indoor decorations in place. I've lost track of the number of boxes she brings out of the crawl space. Of course, I can't count so that could be part of the problem. She seems to really enjoy finding just the right place in every room for the hand crafted ornaments she's collected through the years. By Sunday afternoon, everyone has chipped in to trim the artificial tree and Derek and Kaley have been shoved out the door and are headed back to college, only to return for the holidays in just a few more weeks. Before you know it, Christmas Eve will be here and then the problems begin for me. This year, I won't let it happen yet again. This year, I'm out for revenge! Christmas Eve “Derek, where have you been? You know we have to get the house ready. It's nearly six o'clock and you're just walking in the door! Your father and I would like a few minutes to relax tonight too. Get a move on it. I need you to empty out the dishwasher without breaking half the dishes. And whatever presents you bought need to be put underneath the tree." "Chill Mom. What's there to eat for dinner?" Derek looks like he's been rolling in mud for several hours. The dirt marks from his shoes should match up well on the light green carpet. "It's on the dining room table. We've got Chinese from Fu Wong's and pizza from The Italian Cafe. It's still warm, they both delivered a short time ago. Wash your hands before you touch the food. We'd prefer not to die from food poisoning until after the holidays." In my brief life, I've noticed on TV shows that Christmas Eve night is depicted as quiet and serene. Families gather around their festive and well trimmed tree to listen to songs of the season, a cup of egg nog in one hand along with a moist slice of pumpkin pie in the other while they cherish their time together and reminisce about holidays past. Around here, every year, it's like they're in the middle of a tornado drill. I try to just stay out of the way because this is the point where it kicks in, they completely ignore me until the day after Christmas when half the presents under the tree get boxed up and returned to the mall for what they really want. There won't be any 'Hey Beckham, let's take a walk buddy' or friendly pats on the head or even just a smile. They'll walk around me and over me like I don't exist. I've done nothing to deserve it. Filing a grievance with The Humane Society probably won't get me very far. 'Grin and bear it', isn't that the saying? "Daddy, can this be a present?" It looks like Matt must be scrambling for last second gift ideas. "No Matty, a box of kleenex doesn't count. Go ahead and put it back on the counter." Last year, Kaley helped him wrap up the TV remote as a present for his older brother. It took Derek two hours to realize it was a gag. Matt means well, but being six can bring it's challenges. Like the time he tried to warm up slices of cold pizza in the clothes dryer. My family favorite, though, is Matt by far. If I had to pick a karaoke partner, he would get the call every time. You can't go wrong with somebody that still believes in Santa. Although, when Matt's not around, I've heard Kaley say more than once that Derek believed until his senior year in high school. I'm not sure if that's true. "Did you talk to your parents yet Karla? What time are they coming tomorrow? We're going to have to get it in gear when we get back from church." "The usual, around Noon. Dad's been having some minor side effects from the new medication he's taking and Mom had to go into too much detail. She made sure not to leave anything out. All I should say is that I'm glad I picked up a can of air freshener at the grocery store. I'll leave it at that." "You only got one? With Derek home, you should have picked up a case. Buying in bulk puts a nice dent in the cost. What about the Internet millionaire and Her Royal Highness?" "Very funny. My brother and his fiancé should be here at about the same time or maybe a bit earlier. I think he might have to work in the morning. I can't imagine how hard that must be on Christmas." That guy, now he's something else. If the Three Stooges ever wanted to expand, they wouldn't even need to hold auditions. He'd be the fourth Stooge hands down. I think he's blown through at least three girlfriends since I've been living here. I haven't seen his latest victim yet. She probably weighs four hundred pounds butt naked. Kaley always makes fun of fat people behind their back so this should be interesting. She says they should hold an eating competition for fatties at the Olympics and call it MOO for the Morbidly Obese Olympics. Since I'm on the topic, I do have to say I'm disappointed they don't have an Olympic event for dogs. The only idea I've ever been able to come up with is ‘Synchronized Urinating’ so I guess I shouldn't plan on getting on a plane anytime soon to carry the flag in the Opening Ceremonies. "What about Clark and Karen? Have they confirmed?" Ryan's brother also has a family of five. Once everyone shows up tomorrow there'll be fourteen people here and one overlooked cute and very adorable bulldog. "Yeah. Sounds like they'll get here around the same time as your brother and parents. We can get all of the gift giving out of the way at once and then kick back and enjoy the afternoon." "It must be nice, thirteen people get to sit on their ass and one person does all of the work." "Sorry babe, I didn't mean it that way." Ryan's face just got redder than the color of ketchup. Kaley always brightens up a room when she's in it. That cheerful personality to match her good looks makes her the golden child compared to Derek, but I think Karla is starting to get steamed right now. "Stop texting Kaley, put the phone down and focus on getting up out of the chair, moving your feet forward one at a time and going into the closet to get the vacuum. Once you do that, press the 'on' button and start cleaning. Do I have to remind you that it's Christmas Eve?" "Oh my God Mom, could you be any meaner? I was just letting Jennifer know what time to come over. We're going to watch 'The Notebook'." "The Notebook? What are you two trying to do, see who can run out of tears first? Great choice for a holiday movie. Why don't you watch Silence of the Lambs after that? It'll put both of you in the Christmas spirit." "Ha, ha Mom. And stop glaring at me Dad, I'm going to go get the vacuum. Right after I grab an egg roll." "Matty, why don't you go help your brother take cups out of the dishwasher? Then we can watch ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ in a little bit." ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’! Could Karla be more insulting? How am I supposed to compete with that beagle Snoopy? He always gets the best parts in those shows and makes the rest of us dogs look like slackers. Well, I guess when you get down to it that's what we really are. And then there's that stupid Great Pumpkin show at Halloween. They make him out to be a Harvard graduate with a doctorate from MIT. Who are they kidding? His dog house smells just like the rest of us. 9PM. Kaley and her friend Jennifer are secluded in the family room watching their chickflick. Derek's 'best bro' from high school has come by to play video games, yet another Yuletide tradition that dates back to early 1800's Austria. They're trying to get to Level 3 on 'The Ultimate Idiot', I think that's the name of the game. Ryan and Karla are helping Matt put out cookies and milk for Santa before Matt heads off to bed. Every year, Ryan sits down about 11:30 and pigs out on the cookies. He always wolfs down the whole plate like it's the only meal he's had all day. That might possibly explain why he's thirty pounds overweight. Then he pours the warm milk into the drain and belts back a couple of beers in its place. That's topped off by a shot of vodka to put him in the right mood to dream about sugar plum fairies. Just like the way Santa does it. This is what really grinds on me. Why can't I get a few cookie scraps? How come they always ignore me on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? I know the saying isn't 'Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Dogs', but at least give me some love. I've been getting squat for far too long. It's time for me to rally the troops and prepare for combat. Alright, I don't know what the hell I'm talking about, but Dr. Phil says it's good to get your emotions out in the open. The countdown to the showdown has begun. Christmas Morning Ugh! I know that's not how you're supposed to greet Christmas morning. My reaction should be to belt out 'Joy to the World' or some other holiday mumbo jumbo. But at 5AM, I've got nothing. Matt's up, and that means I am too. I've heard that a fresh pot of coffee works well to kick start things, but since neither of us has any idea what coffee tastes like, that option is off the table. Karla and Ryan are always good about clearing out an area right in front of the tree and stacking Santa's presents in the center so Matt knows where to look and doesn't rip apart everyone else's gifts. I have to give them their due for the way they plan ahead. Santa always delivers quiet presents, its Mom and Dad who buy the noisy ones. That way it bides time and paves the way for an extra hour or two of sleep. Fortunately for them, as well as King Derek and Queen Kaley, he's been quiet so far this morning. Most families prefer to use an alarm clock to wake up. Here at the Mathison's, everyone greets the new day to the sound of Matt slamming down the toilet seat. "Is it really necessary to be burning popcorn so early and today of all days? What are you doing in there? The whole house is going to stink." Ryan isn't too thrilled with Derek's culinary efforts in the kitchen at seven in the morning. "C'mon Dad. Don't you remember that fake food pyramid I downloaded last summer and gave him? He thinks it's going to help him get washboard abs." Kaley never tires of playing practical jokes on her older brother. For his advanced age, I'd say Derek's in good shape. As a track runner in high school he set a few school records. "It actually says 'burned' popcorn on it?" "Yep. And it also lists putrid beets, rancid cabbage, rotten tomatoes and slime covered cauliflower. Some of the real food items are mixed in there too to make it look more legitimate." "Now that we can rule out the possibility of Derek becoming a celebrity chef someday, let's start opening gifts. Before we know it, it'll be time to head out to church," Karla says. She looks nice wearing a thick white robe. In my opinion, she's quite attractive, an older version of Kaley. Of course, I'm prejudiced since Karla rescued me from that pit of a pet store where I was being starved to death with only days to live. Well, actually, none of that's true. She had to put me on a diet when I first got here. I just said it to make her look good. "This year, shopping was seriously smooth. I knocked out everybody's gifts between the grocery store and the gas station." Derek has a weird look on his face as he walks into the living room holding a glass in one hand and the gourmet popcorn in the other. "Mom, this grape juice tastes strange." "You got that from behind the large oatmeal can in the closet didn't you? That's prune juice for your grandfather in case he wants it. Can't you read labels?" "That's OK. I hear it's going to be added to the new food pyramid that'll be out in the spring. I'll send you the link when it's posted." Kaley is on top of sniffing out a good opportunity to stick it to her older brother yet again. "Awesome!" Derek has a wide grin and nods his head in approval, knowing that his sister has his back. I thought Christmas gift giving is supposed to be an orderly process. At least that's what I see on TV. As I've mentioned, it's my only window to the rest of the world. I was under the impression that each family member opens one present at a time while everyone else patiently sits and watches. The person who receives the gift then responds with a gut wrenching 'thank you' that brings a tear to the gift giver's eye. Not in this house. They all hover around the tree and wait for Ryan to yell 'NOW'! Then, they all dive bomb into the pile and start grabbing for any box that comes close to having their name on it. Karla looks out for Matt and hands him his presents first before she jumps in for battle. They all act like they just fell off the deck of the Titanic and are scrambling to find the last life preserver in a freezing ocean. "What the hell is this?" Kaley is sighing as she opens her gift from Derek. He's not saying anything, he has a pained and confused look as he numbly stares at the 400-page biography of Lincoln that Ryan has given him. He's wondering how a parent can be so cruel to expect him to read in his free time. The dust is beginning to settle, it looks like Ryan got noise canceling headphones. I have no idea why he'd need those. I'm surprised he hasn't already put them on and started to wear them right away. He also got a custom made bobble head created from his likeness. I guess they'll make just about anything anymore. He's got a big noggin to begin with. The gift looks like a Mister Potato Head on a spring. Kaley seems pleased with her classy looking jewelry box. Now that he's recovered from the shock of the book, Derek has made a quick recovery and is admiring his newest and latest mind numbing video game. I guess 'How to Improve Your IQ' was sold out. Karla is beaming with her sparkling necklace. Ryan steps up four times a year for her and spends money: Christmas, Valentine's, Mother's Day and her birthday. Otherwise, he's so cheap he'd prefer to have the electricity cut off and just go with candle power at night. Matt always does well, he now has plenty of toys to break in the coming months. By May, he'll start badgering Karla by asking how many more days until Santa returns. "C'mere Beckham." Kaley is calling me over and I know what's coming next. It's now Year Three to have to wear the ugliest Christmas dog sweater on the planet. This thing defies description. She starts pulling it over me and I try to resist at first, but I know it's a losing battle so I give in. I'm not even sure it's been washed since I last wore it. It smells like BO. Well, since it's my BO I probably shouldn't complain too much. For me, yet again, no gifts in sight, not even a refurbished dog bone. I don't get squat. This is also the first time anyone's paid any attention at all to me this morning. Just wait and see. The crippling gusts of a mighty wind will befall this house and scatter it into ten thousand pieces. No, not really. I'm just blowing off steam. "All right, let's get a move on. We've got five minutes to get to the church and the service starts in ten. And I can't find my keys! Has anybody seen the keys?" Karla might seem frazzled now, but the fun won't really start until she has a full house later on this afternoon. "I've got 'em. Matty put them in the blender. He thought it's the best place to keep keys safe so they don't get bent." Ryan has a smile on his face now, but he didn't seem too happy a few months ago when Matt put his wallet in the freezer over the Labor Day weekend. "We'll meet up when we get there. Kaley and I are driving separately," Derek says to Karla as he starts to put on his coat. I can never figure out his fashion style. I think the most appropriate way to describe it is 'Salvation Army casual'. "Wait a minute Derek. Are you saying we're using three cars to take five people down the street? Where is your common sense? That's a ridiculous waste of gas!" If Karla has a nervous breakdown right now it might impact the start time for dinner tonight. "We can't agree on the radio station. Kaley wants Christmas music. I need Power104 and you guys always have that 'All Wiggles' crap on for Matt. Only crazy people still listen to AM." "It's a Wiggles CD. It's not AM and we're not nuts. Now the two of you get in the car and let's go!" The door slams behind Derek as he follows the others out to the car. Nobody remembered to say goodbye to me. So, here I am alone for the next hour. It gives me enough time to sniff the wrapping paper, take a well earned nap and begin to plot my revenge in front of the whole group at dinner. I will not be marginalized. I am Beckham, hear me roar. Or, at least hear me bark moderately loud. Christmas Afternoon Didn’t I say earlier that Christmas Day is supposed to be devoted to peace, love, harmony and understanding? Or should I have said laziness, drunkenness, indifference and slothfulness? I can't seem to remember which is most appropriate, but I do know that a few people in the crowd that will be here for dinner would definitely qualify for the latter category. They might even be considered Team Leaders. With all that needs to be done to get things running smoothly, Karla is the only one doing anything constructive right now. I guess this proves she's just happy when she's miserable. Ryan wasn’t too thrilled when the gang got back from church. Turns out that Matt had burped quite loudly during the sermon. Almost shook the walls. The minister was cool about it and didn't get upset, he told the congregation that it must have been an angel yawning. The arrival parade of underachievers is about to begin. It hasn't been more than a half an hour since the gang returned and the doorbell is already ringing. Karla's brother Will and his girlfriend Casey are here. She's not as monstrous as I expected. Probably slightly north of two bills or maybe a shade under. Her hair is a bit messed up though, it looks like she just stepped out of a wind tunnel. "Hey little buddy, are you ready? Let's get to it." Will's class act always starts out the same way, as soon as he sets foot in the living room, with a stunt for Matt that is the envy of David Copperfield. He throws off his coat, drops it directly onto the carpet (no hanger required) and heads straight for the leather recliner. He plops into the chair and proceeds to slide up and down against the back of the seat. After three or four tries, the spark is lit and Will peels off a loud fart sound that comes from the friction of his back against the leather. "Yes!!! Good way to start Christmas off, huh Matty?" Will is pumping his fists into the air as if he's just won the lottery." "Do it again Uncle Will. This time a lot louder." It's impossible to just do something once to entertain a child. Actually, the same could be said for Derek. "That's more than enough Matt. Your uncle had to work today and he's tired. Leave him alone." Karla is yelling out from the kitchen. The less reminders the better for her that she's related to this boob. Will works the security line for TSA at the airport. He's the one who sits on the chair and looks into the scanner and stares at socks and underwear. His greatest contribution to keeping America safe came about six months ago when he thought he saw a threatening object in a passenger's hand after they had just cleared security. The suspect disappeared into a crowd and an entire section of the terminal had to be shut down. They finally located the terrorist after an intense hour long search. The 'weapon' turned out to be a pez dispenser. It's not much later and now everybody else has shown up. Karla's retired parents, Emily and Dan, had barely sat down when Ryan's family was at the front door. His brother Clark and wife Karen, along with their two grammar school age kids, Rick and Kimberley, trudged in with their seven-month-old sister Tiffany, the human security alarm system. She's the cutest thing until she starts screaming uncontrollably. One time it was so bad that Karen had given serious consideration to getting more information from the hospital on their return policy. Wrapping paper is flying everywhere as another round of gifts is being exchanged. "Hey Grandpa, thanks for the present." Derek has his usual clueless expression as he holds up a paperback dictionary. "You're welcome. Your Mom says you can't spell for shit so maybe it'll help." Dan speaks with an eloquence reminiscent of Churchill at his best. "He can't read or speak in complete sentences either." Kaley has a wide mischievous grin. "That true what your sister is sayin’ boy? How do you expect to get past the 10th grade?" "No Dad, Derek's a junior in college now." Karla chimes in again from the kitchen. "The high school said they don't allow tenure for students so he had to move on." "Clark, I'm so sorry, please remind me again where you work?" Emily makes up for Dan's lack of manners with her politeness. "I head up the Accounting Department at the city zoo. Good hours and pays well. No complaints from me." "The zoo? What do they have you doing, counting monkeys all day?" Dan can never resist a wiseass remark especially since he's a wiseass himself. Since there aren't any sharp objects nearby, Clark manages a forced laugh while Karen sits there with a stone face. Seating arrangements at dinner might result in a wider conflict needing UN intervention. At least there's enough room in this house for everyone to fit in. It's a split level that's about ten years old and has a red brick front with bright yellow siding and rests at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac. The big back yard has a wood fence and three tall oak trees along with a nice sized magnolia bush that blooms pretty white flowers in the early summer. Inside, there are four bedrooms with the same number of bathrooms so nobody needs to get on anyone else's nerves. You could play basketball in the living room, the ceiling is so high. The dining room has a massive china closet, if that thing ever fell over it might set off a minor earthquake. Believe it or not, Ryan built a study out of a small room on the lower level. We're never quite sure what he does in there. He's a district supervisor for a fast food chain of restaurants so we can’t identify where the 'study' part applies. My guess is that he goes in there to pass gas or pick his nose. I know it's gross, but the truth can make us stronger and one day set us free. "Kaley, why don't you come in here and help. I could use another set of hands." Finally, Karla is willing to admit she can't do it all by herself. "Alright Mom. What do you want me to do?" Kaley has been playing with Tiffany and managed to keep the decibel level below the sound of a 747 taking off. "You can start out by peeling the potatoes." They're both standing near the kitchen sink and out of earshot from the living room. "Ugh! You know my talent stops at just pouring things. I'm not good at manual labor. And what do you mean by 'start out'. I can't be in the same standing position more than two minutes or I get dizzy and see flashes with stars bouncing around. Like in the cartoons." "How many people are in this house right now young lady?" "I don't know, it's Christmas. Don't make me use my brain." "There's fourteen of us and one person is doing all of the cooking. Don't you think I'm entitled to some help?" "Yeah, I guess. What about Grandma and Aunt Karen? Shouldn't all the womenfolk be in here? We could all go milk the cow together after dinner and then knit socks in the barn for the rest of the kin." "Very funny. That reminds me, before you begin with the potatoes I need you to take the frozen vegetables out of the freezer and put them on the counter." "Mom! How many vegetables are there? This freezer is jammed with stuff." "Eight. There are also six desserts I'll need you to get ready later on." "Have you lost your mind! Why so many?" "I sent out questionnaires this year and for once everyone responded in a timely fashion." "Hey Karla, how about another round of beers in here? We're getting thirsty. And another plate of cookies too." Will is bellowing from the living room. His butt has been welded to that chair for hours. I don't think he realizes that Karla is right next to the knife block. If he keeps this obnoxious behavior up she might be serving his head on a plate along with the turkey. I have to say, even with a house full of deadbeats, except for Karla, there really is a nice cozy, quaint and festive atmosphere in the house this afternoon. It's sunny outside and kind of chilly. It can snow here in Virginia right before or after Christmas Day, but very rarely on the 25th. We've got a tree with twinkling colorful lights while a glowing fireplace warms the room and laughter fills the air. As for the adorable English bulldog, I'm still steamed that I'm merely an afterthought, if even that. Give it a few hours and I'll give them a Christmas to remember. Christmas Dinner "Okay, we're about ten minutes away before we sit down to eat. Now is the time if you need to wash up. You should probably let Will go first since he'll need to hose down." Will can't even hear Karla making the announcement from the dining room. He's out cold in the recliner and snoring so loud that he could be mistaken for a ship's fog horn. Karen's kids and Matt have been giggling nonstop. "Mom, do you want me to start bringing out the vegetables? It's getting pretty crowded on the counter with all of the food jammed in there." After two hours of helping Karla, Kaley is busy in the kitchen and surprisingly still conscious and functioning. "Yes dear, just make sure you wrap the dishes in tin foil so they don't cool down too quickly. We're going to need to get clever to make sure that everything fits on the table and there's still room to maneuver." All afternoon, the adults have been packed in like sardines on the two living room couches. At this point, I think that Karla's parents may be glued shut to each other. I know for a fact that Will's girlfriend, Casey, has lost hearing in both ears after sitting next to Tiffany, the third loudest baby on the East Coast. Every time someone says something to Casey she just nods and smiles. You could ask her right now if it's been two weeks since she took a bath and you'll get that same goofy look. "Oh no! Oh my god, I'm so sorry Mom." The first vegetable dish Kaley brought out to the table has gone crashing onto the dining room carpet. "Whoa! Which one is it?" Derek jumps up from lying flat on the living room floor. He's been in a semi-comatose state for hours, ear plugs in, listening to music on his smartphone. This is the most excited I've seen him since he found out that reruns of The Flintstones are being aired every day on cable. "Could it be? Yes, it is! Broccoli kicks the bucket. A Christmas miracle. God bless us, every one." He's on his knees with his hands folded in prayer, looking up at the ceiling. "Alright wise guy, help your sister out and clean it up." Ryan is not as amused. It gets dark early this time of year. By five o'clock it's pitch black and the lights are on outside while the curtains inside the house are drawn shut. When I was much younger last year, I would try playing out in the backyard after the sun went down and I kept running head first into the wooden fence. If I remember right, it probably took about ten collisions before I figured out what was going on. Sometimes, repetition is not a good thing. Maybe Derek and I really do share some of the same genes. Eight adults and a baby are crammed around the cherry wood dining table. The family ping pong table has been converted into a separate eating area for the five youngest. At least they had enough sense to take down the net before they put on the tablecloth. With plenty of food and drink by candlelight, I do have to admit this is a rather comfy atmosphere. I, on the other hand, still have not been included in the merriment one bit. Kaley threw some slop into my dog dish a few minutes ago and just said 'here Beckham' and kicked it to the corner of the kitchen. I can now say with confidence that I've been completely ignored yet again on Christmas. Operation 'Let It Rip' is now a go. After a lot of pushing and shoving and hands flying in each other's faces, it looks like everyone is finally settled in. Ryan is holding a spoon playfully between his fingers and clinking his water glass for a moment of quiet, however hard that may be to accomplish. “Karla and I and the kids are very happy that you could all be here today to help us celebrate another Christmas. Let's all raise our glasses in appreciation and thanks for the good year of health and happiness we've had. And let's hope we're blessed with more of the same for the year ahead. Cheers!" In his eagerness, and drunken state, Will smashes his glass too hard up against Casey's and chips a big chunk off the top. Water splashes over the tablecloth and into the cranberry sauce. A touching start to the meal. "Dad, why don't you lead us with a prayer and then we can all dig in." Karla looks like she's in desperate need of a spa weekend. I think she's aged three years since this morning. Dan looks more somber than he has since he got here, he must take this stuff seriously. "Dear Lord, bless us on this joyous holiday. A day for greed, sitting on our asses and watching the NBA on TV because there's nothing else on. And by the way, the quality of play in the NFL this season has gone down a notch. How about tweaking that before the playoffs kick in?" "OK, all right. That's enough! Thank you very much Dad. For both tables, let's pass the food from left to right. Hope it tastes good!" "Everything looks delicious dear. How many years is it now that we've all been coming over for Christmas?" Karla's mom Emily is always so bright and cheerful. "Ryan, you've got a better memory than I do. How long has it been?" Karla is shaking her head as if she can't remember or probably doesn't want to remember. "Well, let's see. Matty is six and you weren't even pregnant with him the first year we all got together. That's right, Derek wasn't in high school yet either so it's got to be at least seven years. Will, when can we expect you to roll out the red carpet and host Christmas for a change?" "If everybody's okay with sitting on the kitchen floor and eating frozen dinners and doughnuts we can move this bad boy over to my place pronto next year. How about it 'sis'? "Charming, simply charming. I know the crystal ware you use to drink chocolate milk is priceless so we'll make sure we're on our best behavior." I guess this is it, I really am going to be frozen out. Year after year on Christmas and nothing. I'm a hole in the wall, a needle in a haystack or whatever other cliché you want to come up with. I have to put a stop to this and do it right now. Nations have been torn asunder and kings have been toppled for less. Well, that might be a bit melodramatic, but you know where I'm headed with this. Let's see who wants to pay attention now after I ruin their dinner. Several well placed packages delivered onto the carpet right in front of the adult's table should send the message home loud and clear. I think you get my drift. I've never barked and made a deposit at the same time, but I should be able to pull it off. I’m right where they can see me and I’m locked and loaded. OK, the day of reckoning has finally arrived. Ten, nine, eight... Wait a minute, look at them. Smiling and laughing. Just having a wonderful time, enjoying themselves to the fullest. Why shouldn't they? They deserve it. It's Christmas. Their Christmas. The best day I ever had was the day Karla found me and brought me here, to my home. Ryan, Kaley, Matt and yes, even Derek, are my family too. I'm treated so well I've lost perspective. Well, what do you expect, I am a dog after all. They always find the time to take me for walks, play with me in the yard, bring me to the vet, get me in out of the heat and cold, cuddle up with me before bedtime and even celebrate my birthday. Today is for them and not for me. The least I can do is to let them enjoy it without me getting in the way. But if this continues tomorrow there'll be hell to pay! Who am I kidding, it'll never happen. So there it is. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Feliz Navidad. It's been a long day. I think I'm going to go lie down now and take a nap. And To All a Good Night!!!