31 December 2006

A Gay Christmas Carol (Part 7 - The end of it)

...yes, oh yes!

It was almost better than sex!

"I don't know what to do!" cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath. "I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as the devil, I am as merry as a boy running away from school, I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody, I’ll say! A happy New Year to all the world!"

Scrooge found himself in a bed that was his own, in a room that was his own… and it certainly wasn’t the first time that he awoke fully dressed, with mud on his boots and knees. He was so fluttered, glowing with his good intentions, that his broken voice would scarcely answer to his command.

"Why, there's the door by which the Ghost of Bob Marley entered, and there are stains on the floor, made by those horrible wretched brought by the Spirit of the Past! And over there is something that the Ghost of Christmas Present left… why, it’s a tin of beans! So it's all true; it all actually happened!” cried Scrooge. "Lessons of the Past, the Present, and the Future! The Spirits of all Three be praised! I’ll say it every time I’m on my knees… thank you; Bob Marley, thank you!"

He scrambled out of bed, determined to change his clothes. Soon his hands were busy with his garments, putting them on and making them parties to every kind of extravagance, before spending a considerable time fixing his hair. He was checked in his transports by the churches ringing out the lustiest peals he had ever heard.

Clash, clang, hammer; ding, dong, bell!

Bell, dong, ding; hammer, clang, clash!

Oh, glorious, glorious!

Running to the window, Scrooge opened it and put out his head. No fog, no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring cold; a cold piping for the blood to dance to!

Golden sunlight; clear blue sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells… oh, glorious!

Almost heavenly!

"What's to-day?" he cried, calling downward to a boy who loitered about in the street.

"Eh?" returned the boy, with all his might of wonder.

"What's to-day?" said Scrooge.

"To-day?" replied the boy. "Why, Christmas Day!"

"It's Christmas Day!" said Scrooge to himself. "I haven't missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like… and so can I!”

He laughed aloud, and even for a man who had been practicing his laugh for many years it was a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh; the father of a long, long line of brilliant laughs.

“Lad, do you know the Poulterer's, in the next street at the corner?"

"I should hope so," replied the lad.

"Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize turkey that was hanging up in the window?" said Scrooge.

"What, the big one? Not the little prize Turkey: the one as big as me?" returned the boy. “It's hanging there now!”

"What a delightful boy! Why, it's a pleasure to talk to him! He understands the importance of size!" said Scrooge. "Yes, my young buck. Go and buy it. Tell them to deliver it to-”

“They don’t do deliveries!”

“In that case, fancy earning a little money, lad?”

“Er… I’m supposed to be going to the Church!”

“No need… God’s always there, and besides, there are always so many people chanting at him all at once that she’s hardly going notice if you don’t go along this once. Here, I’ll give you a quid!”

“Bugger off!”

“Alright… a fiver!”

“A tenner, or nothing!”

“Done! Get the Poulterers to charge that turkey, but make sure that they leave a price tag on it, and then I want you to deliver it to Mr Bob Cratchit. He lives at-”

“Bob Cratchit, who has a son called Tim that’s hung like a-”

“You know him?”

“Hard to miss, isn’t it?”

“What a remarkable boy! Then you’ll know where to take it! And in a few years time, you’ll know a few other things, I’ve no doubt! Come back after you’ve done, and I'll give you the money."

But the lad wasn’t prepared to take Scrooge’s word and demanded payment up front: Scrooge gave him half, and the boy was off like a shot; he must have had a steady hand at a trigger who could have got a shot off half so fast.

“So begins my charm offensive on the Cratchit's!" Scrooge cackled, rubbing his hands and splitting with a laugh.

Shaving is not an easy task, nor was it for Scrooge that morning; shaving requires attention, even when you don't dance while you are at it. His hand continued to shake very much, for it had been hours since he’d last poured himself a decent drink, but if he had cut the end of his nose off, he would have put a piece of sticking-plaster over it and been quite satisfied that morning.

Shortly after he’d finished, the little boy called for the rest of his money. Nice boy… Very! With a chuckle Scrooge paid what was owed, promising to recompense the boy even more for his Christmas services if he called back to visit in a few years time.

As he closed the door, Scrooge’s eye caught the door knocker, bringing a smile to his face before he went frisking down the hallway to stand in front of the telephone, perfectly winded.

“So much to do!” he exclaimed.

It proved more difficult than he anticipated to contact an undertaker on Christmas Day. When at last he got through to one, Scrooge gave the receptionist an earful; it was an outrage, the way things were going in this country. Didn’t deaths happen at any time of the year? Then why shut for Christmas?

The gentleman on the other end of the telephone listened to all of this, and even murmured sympathetically, until he realised that Scrooge had telephoned to make arrangements for his own funeral at an unspecified date in the future; he required an expensive and elaborate one, with specific and detailed instructions concerning how to reach his own personal hairdresser, who was the only one to touch his hair. The undertaker provided contact details for another agency through which it was possible to hire mourners, but since they were certainly closed today, Scrooge resolved to make those arrangements later in the week.

With that task done, Scrooge telephoned his nephew Fred, delighted to find that the family were at church, so he left a short pithy message on the answering machine to inform them he’d be calling around that evening for dinner.

“If you’re thinking of calling back, just want you to let you know that I’m going out for a stroll so I won’t get the message and that means you can definitely expect me… oh, and as for your little New Year’s Eve party, I wouldn’t miss it for the world!”

Next, Scrooge telephoned his asylum seeker cleaning lady, who was at home with her underfed family, as he anticipated she would be.

“I’m just telephoning to tell you that you’re fired,” he said at once.

The poor woman was startled and upset at this news, asking what she’d done to deserve such treatment.

“Nothing, yet!” Scrooge replied.

How the cleaning lady wept and pleaded, explaining that she depended on the meagre pittance he paid her to buy food for her starving children, begging Scrooge to give her another chance… after all, it was Christmas.

“No!” he said, deciding to soften the blow before hanging up by adding the words, “But Merry Christmas!”

He sat down breathless in his chair, then realised his words might be taken the wrong way, and chuckled till he cried.

That done, he had to decide what to do next. Scrooge had the feeling he was forgetting something, but finding himself dressed in his best finery, he decided to go out into the streets for a little stroll.

People were by this time pouring forth from their homes on the way to church, and Scrooge regarded every one with a delighted smile. He looked so irresistibly pleasant that three or four good-humoured fellows said;

"Good morning, sir. A merry Christmas to you."

Scrooge often said afterwards that of all the blithe sounds he had ever heard, those were the blithest in his ears.

"Come and see me!" retorted Scrooge to one particularly fine man who caught his eye. “Will you come and see me?"

"I will!" cried the gentleman.

And it was clear that he meant to do it.

"It’ll be worth your while," Scrooge whispered. "I am much obliged to you… but it’s you that’ll be thanking me… fifty times!"

He walked hastily past the church and continued about the streets, watching people hurrying to and fro. As usual, he slapped children out of his way and ignored all of the beggars, looking up through windows or looking down at the packages of the men he passed, and lingering upon everything could yield him pleasure.

Scrooge had never dreamed that anything could give him so much happiness… then, to top his every pleasure, he met Bob Cratchit and his son returning from the church service.

"Scrooge," said Bob, shaking hands with him. "I don't know what to say! It was very kind of you to send that gift this morning! Such munificence!"

“Yes, indeed,” said Scrooge, looking the younger man up and down. “We haven’t been introduced, but you’re called Tiny, I believe?”

“Er… yes, Mr Scrooge, but my real name’s Tim.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Tim… a real pleasure.”

All three stood for a while in conversation, with Scrooge endeavouring and struggling to feign interest in other members of this man’s family, delighted to receive an invitation to call around some afternoon, to discuss affairs over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, whatever that was.

“It would be a pleasure to get to know you better,” said Scrooge.

Scrooge was better than his word.

He did know at least one member of the family infinitely better… before Tiny Tim died

It was their departure on that Christmas morning that Scrooge remembered what he’d forgotten to do.

Dear heart alive, how he started!

He turned his steps back towards his own house, for in the midst of all these unprecedented happenings Scrooge had forgotten about the handsome young man under the Christmas tree; otherwise, he wouldn't have gone outside on any account. Back to his apartment he hurried, relieved to find that he had double-locked the door… which meant no one could leave.

To the living room he went at once. He turned the door handle gently and sidled his face in round, to find the young man waking up, looking at the tree in bewilderment.

"A merry Christmas," said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken.

“Where am I?” said the young man.

“At my place! I’ve been waiting a long time for this…”

“Wait a minute, is it Christmas morning? I shouldn’t be here! I mean, I’ve got plans to be with my family!”

Scrooge, whose hand was already on the dining-room lock, shook his head. He started off, and frisking round the fireplace

“I don’t think you’ll be leaving in the same state as you first entered… not after I’ve finished,” he said, clapping the young man on the back.

There were several other wonderful lines for Scrooge to play with from the original Christmas Carol, including "I'll go in here", "Will you let me in?", “Let him in! It is a mercy he didn't shake his arm off!” and “Nothing could be heartier!”

In short, both made a lot of noise until the end came: so did Topper when he came: so did every one when they came.

Wonderful party, wonderful games, wonderful unanimity, won-der-ful happiness!

So, what did the future really hold for Ebenezer Scrooge? Perhaps there is a gentle reader out there who was hoping for a day when he needed to receive medical treatment from his former cleaning lady, who had been granted asylum and had her nursing qualifications recognised? But we’ll leave you to imagine a happy ending of that sort…

In truth, for the rest of his days, while some people laughed to see Mr Ebenezer Scrooge, he let them laugh and little heeded them; his own heart laughed and that was quite enough for him. He remained wise enough to know that some people did not have their fill of laughter and he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, given the malady of their less attractive forms, and never forgot that nothing ever happened on this globe for good.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards.

And it was always said of him that he knew how to entertain well, if any man alive possessed that knowledge.

May that be truly said of all of us!

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