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A Christmas Carol: Stave Three: The Second Of The Three Spirits

A Christmas Carol.
In Prose.
Being a Ghost Story of Reason.
It's an Ayn Rand Christmas.

Stave Three
The Second Of The Three Spirits

Scrooge woke up screaming, then realized his throat was rather sore so he stopped, for now, given the night he was having, though, he reserved the right to begin screaming again at a moment's notice. Oddly enough, Scrooge thought he still heard screaming. He took a moment to make sure it wasn't him; took another moment to ascertain that he was, indeed, back in his chambers, then got up to follow the sound of the screaming.

The screaming was rather loud and seemed to be coming from behind his closet door.

"This is my house," said Scrooge walking toward the door. "Whoever or whatever foul thing is in my closet, prepare to- "

As Scrooge laid his hand on the doorknob in mid-bluff, a strange voice called him by his name, and bade him enter. Since the screaming had stopped, Scrooge complied.

It was his own bedroom. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation. The closet was gone and the colors of his admittedly drab bedchamber were turned up to eleven. It was as if someone had taken a living picture and cranked up the HDR to worrying levels.

Scrooge looked behind him and saw his colorless bedroom, then looked back toward the closet and saw the bright, gleaming, over-saturated bedroom; and how he hadn't noticed before he couldn't say, but on his bed lay the biggest man Scrooge had ever laid eyes on. He had to be twelve feet tall and weight at least several hundred pounds more than Scrooge himself.

The creature lying on Scrooge's bed opened his mouth and screamed. Scrooge covered his ears and was about to run when the giant began laughing. It was a warm, inviting laugh. A laugh that did not make you the butt of a cruel joke but instead invited you to appreciate a clever joke well told. When the giant laughed a feast appeared around him: turkeys, hams, and chickens of all sizes; sausages, hot dogs, and brats prepared on a grill; chestnuts, strawberries, and apples looking freshly picked; butter cream, carrot, and red velvet cakes frosted to the nines; barrels of ale, casks of wine, and more juices than Scrooge could name.

"Waking up with a scream," exclaimed the giant. "How invigorating!"

Despite the giant's booming voice, Scrooge barely heard the giant speak. The giant, used to such behavior, clapped once, a loud, thunderous sound that would have gotten Scrooge's attention from even miles away. Scrooge focused on the giant in front of him.

"Come in!" exclaimed the giant. "Come in and know me better, man!"

Scrooge entered with his dander up. In his mind, one did not simply offer a spread such as the one laid out before him without wanting something in return. While any passerby would have described the giant's eyes as clear and kind, Scrooge's first thought when seeing the giant was 'used car salesman.'

The giant, as if reading Scrooge's mind, said, "I am the Ghost of Christmas Present. Look upon me!"

Scrooge did so, and seeing the loosely hung robe in shimmering emerald green, Croc'd feet, long curly hair, sparkling eye, cheery voice, and large suspect cigar held in one extra-large hand, Scrooge revised his initial impression and thought, 'trust fund frat bro.'

"You have never seen the like of me before!" exclaimed the Spirit.

"Every time I step foot on a used car lot or walk past fraternity row at the U," Scrooge made answer to it. "Spirit! Conduct me where you will and let us get this over with."

The Ghost of Christmas Present rose.

"Touch my robe!"

"Not a chance," replied Scrooge.

"Very well then. Grab an apple and we shall be off."

Scrooge did as he was told and held it fast.

His bed chamber, along with all the food and drink, save the apple in his hand, vanished instantly. They stood in a city street, snow falling pleasantly around them, yet Scrooge felt neither wind nor cold. It was evening and the neighborhood was full of children building snow forts and snow men while the sound of snow blowers and shovels filled the air. Across the way in an open lot, defenders were preparing a snowball arsenal in a snow fort while attackers at the other end of the lot prepared their offensive ammunition. Christmas lights on houses, garages, trees, bushes, and lampposts blinked merrily.

"To be blunt," Scrooge said, ignoring the activity around him, instead staring pointedly at the cigar held in the giant's hand, "that is a peculiar smell coming from your cigar."

"Mind it not, Scrooge. Follow."

And perhaps it was the pleasure the good Spirit had in showing off this power of his, or else it was his own kind, generous, hearty nature, and his sympathy with all poor men, that led him straight to Scrooge's clerk's; for there he went, and took Scrooge with him, holding his apple; and on the threshold of the door the Spirit smiled, and stopped to bless Bob Cratchit’s dwelling with the smoke from his cigar.

The Spirit entered the house and Scrooge followed. They came upon the Cratchit family dining upon their Christmas Eve dinner. It was a humble spread but one well made.

The children, three girls and two boys, all heartily enjoying their Christmas Eve supper, were engrossed in their own discussions. Bob Cratchit leaned over to his wife and whispered, "The doctor said Tiny Tim isn't responding to the new medication. It looks like she'll try to enroll him in the study at the U she told us about."

They turned to look at their son, Tiny Tim, who, despite eating well, for they always made sure he had enough to eat so he could keep his strength up for the various procedures he endured, looked frail and small. Tiny Tim, though, as always, was putting up a brave front for his family.

"Will we be able to afford it?" said Mrs. Cratchit. "The doctor said it would be so expensive."

"We always find a way, dear," said Bob, grabbing his wife's hand.

Tiny Tim turned toward the two of them and smiled, having overheard their exchange, then turned back to his siblings, who were now arguing over who would have to clear the table.

"I'll do it," said Tiny Tim.

"You will not!" said Mrs. Cratchit. "You can barely walk with your crutches now. Come, children, let's start cleaning up. Bob, you take Tiny Tim over by the fire so he can warm himself."

With half-hearted groans, the children began clearing the table while Bob and Tiny Tim settled by the fire.

"Why do you always volunteer to do everything?" said Bob to his son, stroking his hair with worry.

"Dad, I believe we are here for each other. I want to help others and experience as much as I can while I can. God bless us, every one."

Bob gave his son a big hug and grabbed the book they had been reading together from the coffee table. They both faced the fire, then Bob started reading to Tiny Tim.

The Spirit turned toward Scrooge, "I see Bob reading alone by the fire, and crutches without an owner, if these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die."

Scrooge looked surprised. "Why tell me, Spirit? You cannot believe this is my fault? It looks as though I pay Bob enough to have a Christmas Eve dinner and to afford medical care for Tiny Tim. Surely you cannot ask any more from me?"

The Spirit, usually carefree and relaxed, looked disgustedly at Scrooge, "The meal was provided by the local food bank and their medical coverage is provided by MinnesotaCare."

"Then Bob should find a job that pays better!" said Scrooge. "It's a free market. He doesn't have to work for me. He should just find another job. It's simple self-interest and self-responsibility."

"Tiny Tim will die."

"Then let the God that Tiny Tim believes in save him! Your God is all-powerful, right? Let your all-powerful, all-knowing God do something for him."

Mrs. Cratchit and the other children finished in the kitchen and brought Kemp's eggnog with them as they sat around the fire.

"A toast," said Bob. "Good will toward all!"

They raised their glasses and drank to the good of all mankind.

"Bah humbug!" said Scrooge. "They could all be out working this evening, shoveling sidewalks or plowing parking lots, instead of living off the charity of others. And look, over there, all those presents under the Christmas tree, probably provided by kindhearted fools who grabbed the children's names off an Angel Tree in Target or CVS."

Scrooge walked away from the warmth, light, and love of the house into the cold, dark night. "Take me back home, Spirit."

The giant turned to watch Scrooge leave and said, "You must first look at the apple in your hand."

Scrooge did as he was asked. The apple was shriveled and bruised.

"That is an apple from the tree of knowledge," said the Ghost. "It reflects in itself the knowledge and wisdom of the one who holds it."

As Scrooge watched the apple, it turned black, then to dust.

The Ghost appeared beside Scrooge.

"Without that apple," said the Spirit, "you are lost and have no way of getting home. I'm afraid I must leave you now."

Scrooge was about to protest but the Spirit disappeared into the falling snow which began to rage around them. Scrooge tried in vain to see Cratchit's house or any of the Christmas decorations lit nearby, but to no avail. Scrooge thrust his arms out in front of him and walked, hoping he was headed toward shelter; but hope soon turned to panic and, as the snow swirled wildly, stinging his face and hands, choking him when he breathed, Scrooge ran blindly. He made it only a couple of steps when he hit a tree, banging his head, knocking himself out.