It's the Goofy Christmas ... Err, Sorry Schmidt … Holiday Episode
"I'm so excited that Coach is coming back to spend Christmas with us this year. It's gonna be great - Christmas pies, decorating the tree, ice skating!"
"We live in LA, Jess. It's sixty-five degrees all winter. There's no ice to be skated."
Jess plopped down on the apartment's big brown leather couch next to Nick.
"I know, I know, but I'm a dreamer, Nick, not a Grinch. You should try to incorporate a little more of that attitude into your own outlook," She cocked her head to the side and gave him a wide-eyed knowing look.
"Hah! Jess, this is our first Christmas together so there are a few things you need to know. One. The warm weather makes everything less festive. Two. I'm not really a ‘festive’ kind of guy anyway."
"Three. Schmidt doesn't celebrate your heathen goy solstice party," Schmidt announced -- awkwardly in the third person -- as he walked into the room wearing only a towel around his waist. "Do not wish him a 'merry Christmas,' do not get him a Christmas present, and DO NOT ask him to use his considerable culinary talents to create delicious CHRISTMAS baked goods." The syllables of the holiday emerged from Schmidt's mouth with ever more ridiculous over-emphasis. "This is an inter-faith household and we also, my dear friends, celebrate a little thing I like to call Hanukkah. The Festival of Dedication. The Festival of Lights. Let there be light, bitches," Nick's body twirled around as he threw his hands up in celebration and his towel shot up like Marilyn Monroe’s white skirt, flashing his heavy genital array to his apartment-mates' horror.
"Oh, oh. Oh god. Get it away,” Nick’s face crumpled in disgust.
Schmidt blushed but recovered: "Shut up you loved it. That’s my shamash, bitchezzzzz."
"Did not love it," Jess said, her eyes averted, covered halfway by a raised hand as she desperately tried not to make any awkward guttural noises. "Get outta here."
A few hours later there came a knock at the door,
"Coach is here. Coach is here. Coach must nowbe here," Jess sang out, vaguely aligned to the tune of “Jingle Bells.”
“Nope. No, it’s just me,” Winston’s voice came muffled through the heavy door.
“Awww, Winston, you’re not our exciting houseguest. . .”
“No, I’m not but I did lose my keys,” said the tall former basketball player as he was let into his own home.
But no sooner had the door reclosed and Jess’ rendition of “Jingle Bells” recommenced than another voice intoned through the wall: “I hear our female companion.”
Jess flung it open and wrapped her arms around the man’s neck.
“Heyyyy there, Jess. Woah. Woah. Ok, yeah, good to see you too, back up off a little bit,” his tone momentarily became biting as he ended his sentence but the sentiment was lost as he was entrapped by more loving arms.
“Hey, hey,” Nick joined Winston and the other two, walking into the common area from his bedroom. The three men greeted each other with camaraderie, slapping each other on the back and embracing briefly in man-hugs.
“So what’s up, man. How are things? How is Seattle?”
“Aw, man. Seattle’s ok. Went to live where the sun don’t shine if you know what I mean by that.”
The three weren’t completely sure that they did know what he meant but they went with it, “Yeah, yeah, totally.”
“But it’s great, ya know. The swank gym I’m working at overlooks the water and sometimes killer whales will swim right up to the glass.”
“Yeah, but I miss you guys . . . Even you Nick. I miss the crying and complaining. . .”
“Aw, come on.”
“Naw, I say that with love, man, but let’s be honest: nobody throws a pity party like Nick.”
The laugh Winston had been trying to stifle suddenly escaped past the clenched fist he held up to his face as Coach continued.
“It’s great, though, when you need to feel sorry for yourself, he can really make it happen. That’s what was up when we first met, ya know,” he said now turning to Jess.
She nodded, interested, “Oh was it? Actually now that you mention it, me too kind of. The whole Caroline saga.”
She looked thoughtful, reflecting.
“Oh, Caroline, well this was the pre-Caroline. If you thought that was bad . . .”
“Oh come on, guys, we do not need to go there,” Nick cut in, but Coach couldn’t be stopped.
“Before there was Caroline, there was Marochka.”
Nick bent over on the couch, placing his head in his hands.
“Now I’m sure you’ve heard of the Turkey Drop.”
Jess gave him a blank stare.
“Ok, well, the Turkey Drop refers to the period in college where all of the delusional high school couples who went to different colleges break up - between the beginning of freshman year and Thanksgiving. And the general rule is even if you make it to Turkey Day, during that first vacation, the rest of everybody else breaks up and if you don’t then you’ll probably get married.”
“Ah, I see.”
“So I had known that Winston had a friend from home for a roommate, but we were still feeling each other out,” Winston cocked an eyebrow. “Err, still getting to know each other, and then the week after Thanksgiving he invited me back over to his dorm room with him after practice one day. And we were just talking, messin’ around, maybe gonna play some Halo, but as we entered the room, an inhuman noise rang out through the halls, a scream-cry followed by some blubbering that sounded like it might be being caused by some kind of animal abuse.”
Jess giggled and snorted a little. Coach paused but decided just to press on.
“So that’s when Winston turned to me and . . .”
Suddenly getting nervous looking at his three friends, Winston cut in.
“AND what I said was that Nick, my roommate, was going through a really tough time.”
“Oh I bet that’s what you said,” Nick offered from his position, head in hands.
“That is, essentially, what he said, yes. But was I ready for what I was about to see? No. I. Was. Not.”
“Oh, shut the fuck up,” Nick said, rallying. “You know as well as we that you were the real crybaby that day.”
“I certainly was not.”
“Look, Coach, I love you both but he’s right. Nick may have gotten dumped by Marochka, but I haven’t seen you open up like that any other time, not before or since.”
Jess looked quizzical.
“Coach got all maternal, comforting him, embracing him, telling him to let it all out, and, I think, eventually displaying a level of empathy that allowed him to get pretty weepy.”
“Hey, the story of Marochka was pretty fucking touching, man. . . And how was I supposed to know that sorrow was Nick’s M.O.?”
“Aw man, you guys. . .”
“Alright, alright, let’s break this little Nick Miller lovefest up,” Jess said, standing and rumpling Nick’s hair. “Where do you guys store the decorations?”
“What decorations, Jess?” Nick said, vaguely trying to fix the massacre made on his head.
“What decorations?” she whined, looking crestfallen.
“Jess, for the last time, we are men. Men do not decorate their bachelors’ loft for Chris…” Schmidt shot him a look, “for the winter holidays.”
“You guys we have to. Ok, jobs! Action items! Homework! Winston, Coach, and I will go get a tree. Schmidt!”
“Heyyyy,” Schmidt let out walking over and giving Coach a too tight hug. Coach quivered, shaking it off as the other man let go.
“Oh sorry, yes, great to see you Schmidt. How’s your lifting?”
“Guys, focus! Schmidt, you get ornaments and…”
Death glare from Schmidt
“ . . . Aaaand a menorah and some festive blue and white . . . somethings for the walls . . . perhaps. . . . or something.”
Schmidt nodded stoically.
“Ok, thank God I’m…”
“No, no, no. You’re not off the hook, Nick.”
“Scrooge. . . McDuck . . . Your task will become clear . . . In time.”
Jess, Coach, and Winston loaded into Winston’s sedan and drove out towards the suburbs, looking for the closest Christmas tree tent. Being the day before Christmas Eve, the people of LA were out in droves for last minute shopping, but, as Jess noted, they were mostly the kinds of people who didn’t have a tree yet.
Eventually, after enduring Winston’s bizarrely mixed mix CDs for far too long, they pulled up at one of the few remaining tree vendors. They were immediately greeted by an awkward couple making out in their theoretical winter wonderland, amongst the trees . . .
“God, did not need to see that,” Coach said.
“I bet they’ve been together for a week,” added Winston.
“So you two met through basketball, right?” Jess asked as they wandered away from the amorous pair.
“Yeah, summer training before freshman year. We hit it off I guess.”
“I guess so. Compared to everyone else in that apartment.”
“Actually I didn’t really notice you for a while towards the beginning.”
“Yeah, we were kind of in different groups I guess you would say,” Coach said nodding, thinking back.
“Yeah, which is to say: you talked to Schmidt.”
“Aww, come on, you loved Schmidt.”
“Clarification: I love Schmidt. Now. Mostly. But I definitely didn’t love Schmidt at the time,” Winston, wagged a finger in front of his companions’ faces for emphasis.
“He makes bad first impressions,” Jess offered.
“Yeah, and that’s another story.”
“But the two of us, well, I guess we just shared a vibe.”
“Well, Coach is a little more up tight than me.”
“And when he was training Schmidt. . .”
“That’s that other story.”
“. . . I guess I just see a person in need and I . . .”
Jess and Winston giggled together and eventually Coach joined in too. They picked out a medium sized tree, symmetrical and a nice green color. They strapped it to the roof of the car and headed back towards the apartment.
When they got back, Schmidt and Nick were watching hockey, sitting on the couch drinking beer. They looked distinctly like they had not received the seasons greetings Jess was trying to emanate into their space.
“You guysssss, let’s get this show on the road. We have to get this place looking festive,” Jess whined, fists clenched by the sides of her pocketed skirt.
The two boys groaned but chose not to say anything, knowing it couldn’t possibly go anywhere. Winston and Coach followed close behind Jess, with the tree on their shoulders.
“God, I forgot to consider the dimensions of that elevator,” Winston complained.
They set it down in the corner of the room and Nick took the stand from Jess and started to screw the trunk in.
“So Schmidt, we were talking about how the three of us met that summer when we were tree shopping,” Coach mentioned.
Schmidt, not having gotten up from the couch, gave a muscle-rippling shrug in his black tank top.
“You mean when I was baller?”
“He means when your daddy bought your way onto the college basketball team.”
“Are you being serious, right now?” Winston asked, wide eyed. “You know that’s exactly what happened. I know you know that.”
“Listen, Coach and I first met the week training began, doing layups together, running laps and generally being put through the ringer so that we would know, deep down in our deepest cells the kind of effort it was going to take to stay on a college basketball team. And then one week later, after all that hell was letting up a little and the first couple guys had quit, that was when the coach called us all together and introduced our newest addition.”
“Well . . .”
But Winston cut Schmidt off, “This fatass rich white kid who couldn’t run a mile without getting asthmatic.”
“Schmidt, I love you, but that’s what happened. There’s no way it wasn’t because your parents donated all the money for that new science building on campus. And that’s fine, I mean whatever, but that’s the truth. That’s when my heart started to rumble a little bit and from then on, Schmidt became my personal project. I’m the reason he’s in as good a shape as he is now.”
Schmidt smacked his lips but didn’t say anything.
“And, that’s the reason why I’m now a personal trainer. It was my success in getting someone as pudgy and lazy and irritating and crazy as Schmidt looking like this,” he lifted the other man’s tank to reveal his muscular core. Jess frowned and looked off to the left. “That’s what made me realize I wanted to do this. Now I just need the book deal and my own exercise reality show on Bravo.”
“Alright, I think I got this,” Nick’s voice came from beneath the tree.
“Oh great,” Jess slapped her hands together in triumph, trying to distract from Schmidt who looked like he might cry.
“I’m. . . I’m gonna go.”
“Ok. . . . don’t forget ornaments and decorations then,” Jess offered hopefully but with a grimace.
Schmidt scowled and walked out the door.
Winston and Coach gave each other and knowing look and shook their heads.
Nick stood up, popping his back. Jess looked back at him.
“So how did you and Winston meet?”
“We grew up together.”
“Oh I knew that.”
The remaining four sat down on the couches, admiring the tree in the corner.
“Yeah, we met in kindergarten.”
“There was a small playground and the other boys were both tormenting us and chasing us around,” Nick said.
“Ok, ok, ok. Stop. There’s no need to tell the story at all but I’d prefer you just let it lie rather than tell a lie.”
“What do you mean?”
“What do I mean? Is everyone in this apartment losing their minds? What you just said was bogus.”
“That’s what happened.”
“Ok, here’s what happened, a bunch of the other little boys were chasing Nick around the playground and I stepped in to save-slash-help him. And from then on, we were fast friends.”
“What? Is that what happened?” Nick rolled with these things better than Schmidt. “What I remember is the two of us being chased around the slide, locking eyes, climbing the ladder together and then defending our territory from up there. We gave a high five.”
“There was a high five involved.”
The four of them did their best making the loft look wintery with what limited supplies they had, and Nick even concocted some DIY eggnog, which the crew drank late into the night. Schmidt was still nowhere to be found, though.
“Well I hope he’s ok,” Jess said, a little buzzed after her third cup of the very boozey holiday beverage.
“He’ll be fine,” Nick said. “You know what story we haven’t yet told, though, speaking of Schmidt -- the story of how he and I first met.”
“Haha, that’s right,” Coach said, jumping a little in his seat.
“The beginning of so much love and hate,” Winston said thoughtfully.
“So what’s the story?”
Just then, the door burst open and Schmidt entered with tear-smeared cheeks and an armful of pine tree-shaped care air fresheners.
“I’m sorry, everyone. I’m so sorry. I just. . . I got upset and then I wasted all this time and then no place was open and I. . .”
Schmidt continued panting, his muscular chest, heaving up and down in genuine distress.
Nick turned to Jess, “Just that this guy is a total nut job but I really love ‘em.”
Jess smiled broadly.
Winston got up and took the air fresheners. Nick gave his apartment mate a hug.
“Ya know, these are actually really going to work I think.”
“Yeah,” Winston hung one on a branch on the left side of the tree. It’s kind of an interesting concept.”
“Merry Christmas everyone,” Jess said. Then looking at Schmidt, “And Happy Hanukkah and here’s to a happy new year!”