The cold didn't bother me. I didn't even realize that it was cold until I saw Cyke Cratchet shivering more than working. "Stop yer shiverin' an' get back to work."
"But Mr. Scrooge, couldn't we make a fire for warmth?"
"Hell no! Burning wood is burning my money. Unless you wanna burn yours? Do you wanna pay for the logs? Do ya?"
"No sir, I can't spare the money or else my family won't be able to eat." Cyke said in a small acquiescent voice.
"Well then, stop yer complainin' and get to earnin' yer money. A starvin' family's a helluvva thing to have hangin' over a man's head."
"Sir, I was hoping I might go home early tonight."
"Well Mr. Scrooge sir, it-it's Christmas Eve."
"Bah! Flamin' humbug! That's no reason to stop workin'. So git back to it." He seemed to have somethin' else to say, but I could tell he didn't want to say it. "What's the matter Cratchet? I suppose you wanted to have tomorrow off completely, eh?"
"Oh, yes sir! Could I?"
"Hell no! Just cuz it's Christmas ain't no reason not to work. In fact, be here early tomorrow." And Cratchet went back to shivering and working. And I went back to counting my money.
Later that night, as I was undressing for bed, I heard something behind me, but when I turned to look there was nothing there, except a funny blue face on my doorknob, kinda looked like my old partner, Kurt Marley. But not enough to distract me. "Bah flamin' humbug."
Then I heard the noise again, this time I was sure it sounded like metal, like chains clanking together. "Logan Scrooge!" That voice sounded familiar. This time when I turned around I came toe to toe with my old partner, my late partner, Kurt Marley, blue fur, pointy ears and tail and all.
"Kurt! But you're dead! You've been feedin' the worms fer years. Damn, that's some nasty indigestion! Gotta stop eatin' my own cookin'."
"You're right Logan, but I've come back to warn you. If you don't change your ways, you'll spend eternity carrying even more chains than me, mein freund. Your only chance will come to you tonight when you are visited by three ghosts. Heed what they say Logan, or mein freund, you'll pay like I am paying. Good-bye."
Well I only had one response to that load of malarkey. "Bah flamin' humbug! And good riddance." And I went to bed.
It wasn't long before I was woken from my slumber by a bright light shining through the curtains around my canopy bed.
"Wake up Sugah, it's time ta go."
"I'm sleepin', leave me alone." And I rolled over.
"Nope. No time for ya grumblin' Sugah. Up and at 'em. Your little blue furry friend was here earlier to warn you. Ya shoulda been prepared." A beautiful woman with a stark white streak in her auburn hair reached in to my bed, grabbed my blankets and hauled me offa my bed and onto the floor with a strength I never would've expected in a woman who looked like that. "Now let's go Sugah. We ain't got all night, ya know."
From my sprawled position on the floor, tangled in my blankets I growled, "Kurt Marley was the result of something bad I ate before I went to bed, and so are you. Now unless you intend to be better company, leave me alone."
"No can do Sugah," she said and grabbed my blanket, with me in it, and flew into the air. Then she let go of one side of the blanket and dropped me. I almost didn't land on my feet.
I took hold of the other end of the blanket and tugged it, pulling her towards me like a kite. "Why don't you just come back to bed with me?" I gave her a smirky smile. I was agreeable to that. She cocked her head, lookin' at me for a second. I figured she was deciding whether or not she liked my offer; it couldn't be that she didn't like me. But when I reached for her hand she flew back.
She mumbled something that sounded like, "Just for that Ah oughta go to bed with you, serves you right, ya nasty ole man." Then louder she said, "Ah ah ah, no touchin' Sugah. Bad for yer health." She looked down at me. "Maybe before we go you'd better put on somethin'.a little warmer."
I realized that I was standing there in nothin' more than my skivvies. "Where is it you think we're goin' darlin'?"
She wrapped me up in the blanket and flew us both out the window. "Not where, Sugah, when. Ah'm the Ghost of Christmas Past. And you've got some catching up to do."
We flew across town and came to a stop in the street outside of a window where there was a warm glow. "This is our stop. Recognize anything?"
"It's Xavier and Moira Fezziwig's. This is where I was apprenticed! That's me, all my friends, only younger! Xavier Fezziwig always threw the best Christmas parties."
She said, "So I take it you enjoyed them?" I nodded. "Well, no bad memories here. Ooh! Who's that pretty little red head you're talking to?"
"That's Jean. She's my.was my betrothed. She's so beautiful! Even more so than I remembered."
"Is she dead?"
"No, well I don't know. I never saw her again after she decided not to marry me, not long after this party. I don't wanna see her anymore; it hurts. Take me home Spirit."
The next time I opened my eyes I was in my bed again and there was a loud laugh coming from just the other side of the curtain. When I pulled it back, there was a huge blue furry beast wearing a wreath of holly on his head and guffawing away. I thought he didn't see me and I tried to slide back behind the curtain, but no such luck.
"Come my little friend. It is time to depart on yet another excursion. I trust my companion, your previous tour guide, was hospitable?" I nodded, not quite knowing what else to do. "Good. Now let us be on our way."
"When are we going this time, bub?"
"Why, right now, of course, when did you think we were going? Um, shouldn't you, uh, get some clothes on?"
I looked down. I was still in my skivvies. "Just a sec." I grabbed a pair of bright yellow and blue pajamas. Hadn't had 'em on for a long time, fit kinda tight. Oh well, better than traipsin' around the neighborhood in your undies, not much better, but better.
"Let's be on our way, time is-as they say-short, rather like you, my little friend." That big blue beast smiled at me, like he thought that was funny.
I growled. "I thought you guys were supposed to be helpin' me, not makin' fun o' me. Now, let's get on with it Spirit."
"Hmm, I see we are not in the most jovial of spirits. Best that we get to the point then." He reached out and grabbed me by the scruff of the neck like a dog. Before I could tell him what I thought of being handled like that we were in a strange house, full of strange people, and Cyke Cratchet.
"Hey, what are we doin' here?" I yelled.
"It's your life, you tell me. Judging by the wealth displayed in your bedroom, I would've expected a house this poor to be the last place to hold your closest friend."
"Closest friend!? Why, that's Cratchet! This must be his house. He's not my closest friend."
"He's not is he? Well then that must be my mistake." I think I saw a smirk through all that fur. "So who is your closest friend?"
"That would be, no, I guess it's, nope, he's dead. Uhh, I don't have one."
"I see, well the office passes on to the person you spend the most time with. Who would that be?" One huge blue furred finger tapped the side of his huge blue furred face.
"I don't spend time with people."
"I see. Okay. Well. Hmm. Alright then."
"Get to the point Spirit, or else take me home."
"Let's try this, whose face do you see more minutes of the day, everyday, than anyone else's?" He stared at me.
"I don't look at people's faces. I don't look at people. They're all so.bah flamin' humbug!"
"I ain't yer friend bub. I ain't even sure you're real."
"You are wearing my patience quite thin. How about work? Who do you work with? You do work don't you, little friend?"
I growled at him real low. "I guess that would be.Cratchet."
He sighed. "Well, then it would seem we are in the right place. Now, for your own good, little friend, observe and learn."
A plain woman with brown hair stood working away in the kitchen. "Children, everyone to supper! Your father's home." She put a small bird on the table, and a couple of other bowls.
"Children, eh? That's not much of a feast fer four people, Cratchet, wife and a couple o' kids."
"A couple kids? As in the number two? Maybe you should recount there, little friend."
"Huh?" I turned and looked at the table again. Six kids were clamoring around the table, and one of them was leaning on a crutch. "Oh. So where's the rest o' the food? Apparently Cratchet's got at least one kid who plays hard. Gotta feed 'em good when they play like that." There was no answer. I turned to look at the Beast.
He shook his head.
"What?" I asked.
"There is no more food."
"What! For all those people and that kid!"
"Then what is Cratchet doin' with his pay?" I yelled.
"He spends it all on food. And that kid, isn't injured, she's crippled."
"Cratchet never told me he had a crippled kid! I had no idea!" I couldn't believe I hadn't known.
"You never asked, my little friend." I growled at him, again. "Perhaps you should just observe for a moment." And he pointed a furry blue finger past my nose toward the scene at the table.
Cratchet was seated at the head of the table. He raised a dingy mug and said, "Merry Christmas! A toast to Mr. Scrooge, the founder of the feast!"
I barely had a moment to beam before the little woman stood up. "To Scrooge? Logan Scrooge? The founder of the feast? Cyke, have you lost your mind? He's the killer of the feast, if anything."
"Now Kitty dear," Cyke began.
I dropped my head into my hands. "Spirit, must I listen to this? I did not expect to be torn apart behind my back."
"Just listen before you become discouraged, my little friend. Your friend, er, your employee may have some interesting things to say."
"Now Kitty dear," Cyke began, "Scrooge did pay all the wages that put every bit of food on this table. Meager though they may be, it is better than starving. And he has kept me on all these years, even when so many other men were out of work. So for that we are thankful to him. Aren't we children?" They raised an unenthusiastic chorus. "So let's not ruin the Christmas spirit. Come now Kitty, don't let your pryde stand in the way, let's toast Mr. Scrooge."
"All right. I'll toast him, but for you my husband, for Christmas, not for him." They all raised their mugs, "Merry Christmas!"
Then a tiny voice added, "God bless us every one. Even Mr. Scrooge."
The crippled girl began to cough so hard her short dark hair fell all in front of her face. "That kid! Spirit, that kid needs a jacket an' a doctor. She can't be healthy like that."
"She isn't healthy, my little friend, she isn't."
"Will she die?" I asked.
"If things continue on as they are." I knew what he meant.
"I am ready to go home now Spirit. Spirit? Beast? Hey where'd you go?"
"My time is up my friend." He was hanging by his feet from a street lamp.
"What do you mean time is up? I saw everything I was supposed to, didn't I?" He nodded. "So take me home!"
"No can do, m-"
"If you call me your little friend one more flamin' time bub." I shook my fist at him.
He nodded. "I see well. It seems that arguing over our destination, your friend's, er employee's house, took up more time than I thought. I suppose you'll have to walk home." And he disappeared.
So I was left walking home in my pajamas. I looked like a fool, an' after what I'd seen I felt like one too. But the pajamas just made it worse. Who walks a mile home in tight blue and yellow pajamas? Like some fool from a pajama party!
I was almost home when a huge shadow was hangin' over me, an' it wasn't mine. I turned around. "Hey bub, are you the third ghost?" The shadow wasn't the only thing that was huge. I was practically speaking to the spirit's stomach. I looked up.
He looked down, grinnin' with more teeth than I have ever seen before and said, "Yep, an' now it's Uncle Victor's turn to clean yer clock. C'mon ya sawed off little runt, let's go see what happens after ya die."
When I turned around I was back in Cratchet's house, but it was empty, except fer me and the hairy blonde spirit. Some guy was shovin' Cratchet's wife Kitty out into the snow hollerin' somethin' about not payin' the rent. "Why did I fire him? Show me why I fired Cratchet!"
"I tol' ya runt, ya didn't fire him, ya died."
"Where is he? His kids? An' I ain't a runt! Ya overgrown kitty cat!"
He leaned over, grabbed me by the collar and got right up in my face, "He's in prison fer not payin' his bills, three of the kids are workin' in the factory, and the other two are in the hospital dyin'."
"But that's only five, where's the sixth kid? The sick one?"
"Ya wanna see the crippled frail-runt? Then follow me." And he bounded down the street. So I followed him. I heard a couple of drunk bums laughing at "the two guys who escaped from the looney bin's pajama party."
When he finally stopped running we were in the cemetery. "There she is. Gawk all ya want, runt. That's one frail that ain't goin' nowhere."
"I kinda liked that kid. She was a real firecracker. An' I ain't a runt, ya loudmouth pussycat!"
"Ya ready ta do something about it, runt?" His eyes sparkled as he reached for my throat and lifted me off my feet.
"I can change this! I can be different and it won't be this way!"
"Only if ya live ya sawed-off runt!" He held me at arms length, laughing and growling. "Only if ya live!"
I looked down. He was holding me over a freshly dug grave. Then he let go. SNIKT. I clawed my way to the top of the grave, but before I was completely out he ripped the tombstone from the ground and threw it at me. It knocked me back to the bottom of the grave. I kicked and clawed but I couldn't get it offa me. I just kept kickin' and clawin', and then I woke up in my bed tangled in the curtains from my canopy. I jumped up and ran to the window. There was the snow on the ground. A boy was walking down the street. I stuck my head out of the window and yelled at him, "What day is it?"
He looked up at me a little confused. "It's Christmas day Mr. Scrooge, sir."
"It's Christmas! I haven't flamin' missed it!"
"Are you feelin' okay Mr. Scrooge?" he asked.
"Yeah, The Ol' Canucklehead is great!"
I looked down. I was still wearin' the tight blue and yellow pajamas from last night's trip all over town. "Thanks kid!" I ran down to the butcher shop and pounded on the door until the butcher answered. "Gimme yer biggest turkey bub! And Merry Christmas!" With a confused look on his face he handed me the one hanging in the window. I handed him a gold coin. "Keep the change! And Merry Christmas bub!" I made one more stop at the tailor shop before taking off again.
Next I pounded on Cratchet's door 'til his wife answered. "Merry Christmas Mrs. Cratchet!"
"M-Merry Christmas Mr. S-Scrooge. Is Cyke late for work?"
"Work? Work! Hell, no! It's Christmas!" I handed her the turkey. It was so heavy she almost dropped it.
"What's this?" She asked.
"Why it's Christmas supper! Merry Christmas!" And I turned to leave.
"Logan. Won't you stay and spend Christmas with us?" She asked. Just then I saw Cratchet come down the stairs wrapping his threadbare scarf around his slim neck. He looked wary at first, but then as he heard his wife's words he smiled.
"Yes Mr. Scrooge-"
"Logan, spend Christmas with us!"
"Much obliged, Cratchet." I said.
"Call me Cyke."
"Merry Christmas Cyke."
He put his arm around my shoulders. "Nice pajamas Logan."
"Thanks." Just then Cyke's crippled daughter hobbled up to us. "And you, little firecracker. I have somethin' for ya." And I reached out to her.
"For me Mr. Scroogester?" She looked a little scared at first, but when I picked her up and sat her on one of my shoulders, she laughed and clapped. I handed her the package I had picked up from the tailor shop.
She tore into it excitedly. "A cool trench coat, and it's like my favorite color! Yellow!"
"Just like you, sunshine!" Cyke said. "Thank you Logan."
"And a pair of pink sunglasses, just for fun!" I put them atop her head.
She threw her arms around my neck as she
slid off my shoulder, completely trusting me to catch the rest of her,
which I did, laughing. I knew I liked that kid. "Thanks Scroogester! God
bless us, like every one!"