“As the Lodge Turns” Episode 53: Paw Humbug!

On this episode of “As the Lodge Turns”…

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Ebenezer Pooch loathed the whole season of Christmas, to the point that his neighbors all called it an illness.

Some dogs said he hated the twinkle of lights, or the jingle of bells. Or maybe the boxes wrapped neatly with bows? The voices of carolers and the new-fallen snow? Other dogs said he simply detested playing the part of a host…

But what made this grumpy little dog hate Christmas the most…?

“Paw humbug!” he’d say in his bitterest bark, his beady eyes scanning the yard full of dogs.

He glared as they frolicked and jumped in the pool, and slathered each tennis ball with their plentiful drool. From his spot near the fence he snarled and growled, cursing the influx of guests, the size of the crowd.

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“What’s wrong, Ebenezer?” asked the beagle named Bing, the only dog there who didn’t mind listening.

“This place is too crowded! It’s completely unjust, forcing me to breathe the same air as a horde of strange mutts!”

“But you have lots of room,” Bing reminded him gently, “and besides, this time of year is all about giving! You have enough space to share, and share plenty!”

Ebenezer scrunched up his nose and his tail twitched a bit. Bing readied his ears for a barking fit…

“And why must I share with them? I was a newcomer too once and made my own place! I owe these strangers nothing, let alone my space!”

“But they have nowhere to go while their parents are away…we should make them feel welcome during their first stay…” Bing said with a trembling voice, beseeching his neighbor to make the right choice.

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“You’re wasting your time, Bing, he’ll never learn. He’s stuck in his ways, with no room to turn,” said Max the German Shepherd, flying to the fence like an oversized bird.

Ebenezer’s eyes narrowed and his lip curled back as he prepared his tongue for a proper attack.

“Paw humbug! If these dogs have nowhere to stay, let them hear my proclamation!”

He cleared his throat loudly to catch their attention, silencing the yards and raising the tension. Several pairs of eyes blinked back in his direction, wondering what he meant with sudden apprehension.

“Run away all of you, if you’ve nowhere to go, and decrease the surplus population!”

The other dogs barked, their answers unheard, but one little puppy would not be deterred.

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“Mr. Pooch didn’t mean that, we misunderstood! Please repeat what you just said to us, if you would?”

Bitty Bing stared up at him with eyes wide and shiny, his voice loud and clear for a dog so tiny.

Ebenezer looked down, face full of contempt. From the sting of his wrath, not even puppies were exempt.

“I meant what I said, and every last word! Must I repeat them when only you misheard?”

Bitty Bing’s eyes glittered with tears, betraying a sorrow beyond his years.

Did the stirrings of guilt pierce Ebenezer’s heart? Or was it just indigestion that made his chest smart?

Late that night he curled up in his bed, the sight of Bitty Bing’s face still stuck in his head. He stretched out his paws, his mouth made a yawn, and in the darkness of the living room, he wished his thoughts gone.

No tree lit the room where Ebenezer slept. No holly, no wreaths, no decorations were kept. He and his father always spent Christmas alone, with no festive cheer to ruin their home. The holidays were frivolous, they both knew for certain, and they shut out all merriment with the tug of a curtain.

But drifting to dreamland, would it really have mattered? The glow of soft colors, the gloom gently shattered…

A speck of light threw a shadow on the wall behind Ebenezer, and he trembled awake as if thrown in a freezer. Before his eyes was a sight so bizarre, he blinked one, two, three times to be sure of what he saw.

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Fluffy and white like the tiniest snowflake, a strange dog stared back as he started to shake.

“Who are you?! How on earth did you get in here?!” Ebenezer cried in a bark tinged with fear.

“Do not be afraid,” she said in a delicate murmur, “I have come to show you your past, not commit murder.”

“Show me my past?! Well, aren’t you quick! You’re one of those new Lodge dogs, come to play a nasty trick!” he sputtered and spat, rising to his feet in one second flat.

The little white dog remained calm and serene, not once perturbed by his making a scene.

“To some I am rosy, to others, regret. I’ll give you my name, so do not forget. A shade of times never meant to last, I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.”

Before he could answer Ebenezer was lifted, blown into a darkness that swallowed and shifted. The stars above resembled flurries of snow, but he was far too afraid to look down below.

“Do you believe me now?” asked the Ghost of Christmas Past, a hint of amusement raising her brow.

Ebenezer Pooch just stared, his comebacks depleted, as into the kaleidoscope of shadow their forms slowly retreated…

…to be continued…