How the Grouch Stole Christmas


Cindy Lewis was a nurse in the Cardiac Care Center at the Houghville Regional Medical Center. She loved her job and co-workers, who formed a tight team. She was proud of the work they did as well, since their efforts were lifesaving. Their unit took care of people from a large region who were having heart attacks and other cardiac problems, some of whom were flown in by helicopter in order to get treatment as quickly as possible. They also had their own entrance from the outside that ambulances could back up to, in order to get patients into the unit as quickly as possible, rather than having to route through the Emergency Department. The Center had been the brainchild of Dr. Edward Kind, an area cardiologist who realized that standardizing care and improving emergency response times could help many more people than the fragmented system that used to exist did. Ed was also a great boss – smart, and talented with high standards for the care given, but still grandfatherly and warm. He lived up to his name with the kindness he showed both his patients and his staff.

Cindy looked forward to the holiday season because the staff had so much fun decorating the unit, including stockings that they all surreptitiously filled with cute little items for each other. They always had a party where they exchanged gifts and ate festive foods. It helped the staff to stay cheerful when they had to work on days that were holidays for everyone else, and kept them positive for the patients unfortunate enough to need their services on a holiday.

When she came into the unit one day in early December she saw an unusual number of staff members milling around by the conference room. "What's going on?" she asked a fellow nurse, Jane Stark.

"I'm not sure," Jane replied. "Mary just said we're going to have an unscheduled staff meeting."

Cindy and Jane filed into the conference room with the other nurses, doctors, techs, and administrative people, to see Dr. Kind standing at the front of the room with a striking younger woman. She was tall and had black shoulder-length hair. Her face was beautiful with high cheekbones but she looked remote as she stood there without a smile. She was glancing at the individual staff members as they entered and Cindy caught a glimpse of cold blue eyes before they moved on to the next person.

Once all the staff had entered Dr. Kind cleared his throat and said, "As you know, my wife has been having health problems and unfortunately she has taken a turn for the worse. I've been contemplating retiring anyway, and because of this I've decided that I need to leave sooner rather than later. I'm sorry to spring this on you so suddenly. I am happy to say, however, that we are fortunate to have been able to recruit Dr. Jennifer Crouch to replace me as head of the Center. She has been the Associate Director of the Cardiac Care Unit at the Mount Crumpit Hospital and brings excellent skills to this position. Please join me in welcoming her here."

Cindy was shocked at the announcement and could tell from the murmurs in the room that her co-workers felt the same way. "Mary, did you know that Ed was going to retire?" Cindy asked the administrative assistant standing near her.

"No," she replied shaking her head. "This is a surprise to me too."

Mark Jones, one of the doctors, was standing nearby and said, "It's news to me too." He mused, "She must be the 'take no prisoners' sort to have conquered the world of Interventional Cardiology at her age."


Cindy had settled a patient after Dr. Crouch had done an angioplasty with stent placement, and had just returned to the nurses' station. Dr. Crouch was there finishing her paperwork. Maybe now would be a good time to get to know her a little better, Cindy thought. She doesn't come across as very warm, but if we talk a little I bet I can get her to relax with me some. "So, do you like to be called Jennifer, or Jen?" Cindy asked.

Arctic blue eyes looked up and caught Cindy's expressive green ones. "I like to be called Dr. Crouch," she replied coldly. "I don't believe in excessive familiarity between staff members. I expect the nurses to address the physicians as 'Doctor' and in turn we will address you as 'Nurse.' Do I make myself clear?"

"Crystal," Cindy ground out. "Mr. Stevens is resting comfortably. Is there anything else you require at this time, Doctor?"

"No," Dr. Crouch said and returned her attention to her paperwork.

Cindy fumed as she went into the lounge to get a cup of coffee. "Dr. Grouch is more like it," she grumbled.


They clustered around the bulletin board, looking at the schedule. "Looks like I'll be on all next weekend and through the night before Christmas," Cindy said.

"Thank goodness, I'll be home for Christmas," Jane said. "Little kids really don't understand when you have to celebrate at another time because you are scheduled to work on a holiday. Cindy, I need to count the narcotics – can you help me?"

"Sure," she replied cheerfully. "Let me just put up the stockings and I'll be right with you." Cindy hung the stockings along the front of the nurses' desk as usual then went to crosscheck the stock of narcotics with Jane. When she returned to the desk, Dr. Crouch was standing there, and the stocking labeled 'Cindy' was dangling from her hand.

"What is this? Or, more properly – I know it is a stocking; why is it hanging in my Unit?"

"We always hang them up in December since Christmas is coming. People bring in little things for each other and we go through them at the Christmas party," Cindy explained.

Dr. Crouch frowned. "We are not here to socialize. We are here to provide Cardiac Care. You will please remove these right now."

"But they're an important part of our decorations!" Cindy protested.

"Well, that is easy to solve," Dr. Crouch sneered. "There will be no other decorations either. They are a fire and infection hazard."

"But people expect us to show holiday spirit," Cindy tried.

"The holidays are only an excuse to mark the Winter Solstice," Dr. Crouch sneered again. "There is no need for us to go through archaic rituals in the hope that the sun and warmth will return again. We are scientists here, and we know that the days will lengthen after the Solstice."

"But it lifts our spirits to exchange presents and share holiday food at the party every year," Cindy explained. "We order roast beef from the hospital cafeteria and people bring in other dishes to share."

A dark brow edged up. "Once again, Nurse Lewis, we are not here to socialize. There will be no exchange of presents here. And, holiday food is always heart-unsmart. We don't need to eat red meat and clog our coronaries. There will be no holiday party."

"Can we at least put up our tree?" Cindy begged, on the verge of whining. "We need to do something for the holiday!"

"No. Once again, unhygienic and a fire hazard."

"Well, then, could we deck the halls with pictures?"


"Yeah – winter wonderland scenes, mistletoe and holly – things like that?" Cindy wheedled.




"But …"


Cindy rushed into speech before Dr. Crouch could cut her off again. "But it's the most wonderful time of the year. People can set aside their differences and be more civil to each other than usual, and remember the important things in life – family, hope, love," she argued.

"It is a time of year like any other time of year, except that we can expect to be even busier than normal since people exert themselves in the cold, eat too much, have stressful interactions with relatives and wind up precipitating myocardial infarctions. I don't care whether you 'always' have done certain things. This is my Unit now and we are not going to mark this artificial holiday season in any way," Dr. Crouch said forcefully, then turned and walked away.

Cindy's shoulders slumped and her bright blonde head dipped towards the floor in discouragement.

"Nice try, Cindy," Jane said in commiseration. "We all appreciate your taking her on, but it's obvious she doesn't have any holiday spirit at all."

"Yeah, the Grouch has stolen our Christmas," moped Cindy. "Ironic she's in Cardiology, when her heart is two sizes too small. "


Friday night Cindy plunked down on her couch with a bowl of popcorn and put in a 'Xena: Warrior Princess' DVD, feeling the need of some comfort. She munched her way through the popcorn and sighed wistfully as the credits rolled at the end. I'd sure like to meet a hot Princess like that, she thought. It's funny – Jen – oh, excuse me, Doctor Crouch – has the looks but she's got a more prickly personality than Xena. I wonder whether she'll ever warm up to me? I'd like that …. it's not just lust on my part – well, it's not only lust, anyway – despite her lack of social graces she does appeal to me. She's smart, talented, confident, dedicated …. and, ok, hot. I don't think there's much chance of that, though, she concluded to herself sadly. She yawned, stood and stretched, and headed for bed.


She was sitting on a log by a campfire, with women in skimpy leather outfits with feathers in their hair sitting on other logs. It all seemed weirdly familiar and yet not quite right. They can't all be here, she thought in some confusion. As she looked at them, their names started to come to her.

A dark haired women nodded at her. "Our Queen, we have gathered here in this land somewhere between life and death so that we could counsel you while Morpheus wraps you in a cloak of sleep in your present time."

That's Melosa, she thought, then turned her attention to the next woman to speak, a curly-headed blonde.

"You are struggling with your soulmate's current incarnation, aren't you?" she asked.

"My soulmate?" Cindy said in confusion.

"Yes – she is still Xena even though you call her 'Jen' in your thoughts," replied a third woman. As Cindy looked at her, she had the sense she had learned something important from her, and the name suddenly came to her. "You're Eponin, aren't you?" she asked. She looked around the circle of women and named them off as she pointed to them. "Melosa, Ephiny, Eponin, Solari, Terreis. But, but… some of you are dead!"

"Well, Gabrielle, by your current time we're all dead, as are the incarnations you and Xena wore in this time," Ephiny pointed out. "But spirits can range across the gap of time and we knew that you needed the counsel of your most loyal Amazons, and of those who gave you the right to be called our Queen."

All five women nodded solemnly, and then Terreis spoke up. "You must remember that in this time you were able to tame the Warrior Princess by your unfaltering devotion and your persistence despite her attempts to push you away."

Solari added, "You can do this again, Gabrielle – Xena doesn't recognize you yet, but if you persist in showing her that kinder, gentler side she will eventually be won over yet again."


Cindy blinked as she slowly came awake. She remembered her dream and thought Wow, Cindy, delusions of grandeur much? 'Our Queen' indeed! She felt inexplicably buoyed by her dream nonetheless and thought, You know, this season is about more than the trappings. Whatever people are celebrating, and even if it is just all about the hope the sun and warmth will return, there is a holiday spirit that the Grouch can't steal from me. I'm going to go in and be cheerful even if we don't get to have a party or decorations!

She smiled companionably at her co-workers when she arrived. She was startled to see Dr. Crouch there, as she was not on the schedule. "What's she doing here?" she asked another nurse in a whisper.

"She always comes in to be sure things are going ok on the weekend days," the other nurse whispered back. "She sure isn't a pleasure to work with, but I have to admit that it's good to know she has our back."

Cindy nodded thoughtfully, then walked up to Dr. Crouch. "Good morning! And may the sun and warmth return!"

Blue eyes blinked and the dark brow quite predictably rose. "What brings on that greeting?" she asked dryly.

"Today's the Winter Solstice," Cindy explained cheerfully. "Even though we don't have anything in the unit to mark it, I'm still glad the sun will be returning. And I'm glad I get to do meaningful work with people who are the best in the field. So, it's a good morning."

Dr. Crouch looked uncharacteristically at a loss faced with this relentless cheer. "Ahh, ok, well, good morning to you too, then. I'm, umm, going to go now – I just wanted to be sure things were ok here. You have my pager number if you need me."

"Ok," Cindy smiled. "Be careful out there, ok? It's starting to snow – we're going to have a white Christmas. We could have a couple of feet of snow before this is over," she warned. "But let it snow! We are still going to be here in case we are needed," she said firmly.

"Ahh, ok, then …" Dr. Crouch said. "I'll be careful … and you have a good day here." She turned and strode to her office, then emerged in her coat and walked out of the unit.


It had been busy but as the day wore on the rush of business slowed. It was never a silent night on the unit because of the beep of EKG monitors and the occasional alarm on an automated IV pump, but it was at least quiet as evening fell.

Cindy was sitting at the nurses' station charting when she heard a sound. She looked up and said to Jane, "Do you hear what I hear? That sounds like someone's coming in the ambulance entrance."

Dr. Crouch came in covered with snow and lugging two large sacks. "Wow," Cindy said. "She looks like Frosty the Snow Man."

Jane snickered. "Suits her frosty personality, doesn't it?"

Cindy stood and said, "Do you need a hand there? I could take a sack so you could brush yourself off."

"Yeah, thanks," Dr. Crouch said. "Let's take these into the conference room. And anybody who's not busy right now should come along too."

Cindy's curiosity was thoroughly roused by this, and she eagerly accepted a sack and followed Dr. Crouch into the room. There the doctor shed her coat and hat, then opened the sacks and began pulling packages out.

"Ahh, I got to thinking about what you said about people's spirits," she said. "And I decided that the return of the sun is worth celebrating after all. So, I've got some little presents for people, and I've brought some food. And I contacted the cafeteria and they'll be bringing over some roast beef."

"Oh, wow!" Cindy enthused. "This is so great!" She threw her arms around a startled Dr. Crouch, then apologized and let go. "Gee, I'm sorry Doctor. I get carried away sometimes."

"Ahh, it's ok," she smiled shyly down at Cindy. "And you can call me Jen. Anybody who can make me forget my dislike of all the holiday hoopla deserves to be on a first-name basis."

"Ok, Jen," Cindy returned happily. "So what led you to dislike the holidays anyway?" she asked.

Jen scowled. "If you must know, when I was five I got up in the middle of the night before Christmas, and I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus. Then he turned around and it was my Daddy. I was so disappointed because I saw in a flash that if Daddy could dress up as Santa Claus, it probably meant that wasn't really Santa whose lap I sat on at the mall. I was awfully logical even at that age."

Cindy snorted with laughter, and after a moment Jen joined in with a dazzling smile.

Oh boy – hot and a smile to die for! Cindy began to scheme. Now to get her to think that celebrating Valentine's Day is a good idea ….



This little effort obviously (I hope it's obvious, anyway) is based on the Dr. Seuss story How The Grinch Stole Christmas!

Titles of Christmas songs used as phrases in the story: Mary, Did You Know; The Night Before Christmas; I'll be Home for Christmas; Christmas is Coming; Deck the Halls; Winter Wonderland; Mistletoe & Holly; It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year; White Christmas; Let it Snow; Silent Night; Do You Hear What I Hear; Frosty the Snow Man; I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. (A few more than 10 in case you want to disallow any.)

'Known' Xenaverse Amazons mentioned: five – Melosa, Ephiny, Eponin, Solari, Terreis


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