This is the third part of a story inspired by Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It originally appeared in ILMK on December 24, 2009.
This is part 3 (and the conclusion) of the story that had begun in this earlier post.
It was like being everywhere at once.
Warmth and sorrow, family and fear, here and there…it was all the same. It seemed to flicker like an old nickelodeon…phft-phft-phft as each smallest split second changed to the next.
At first, Scrooge/Everything couldn’t focus. It was one rush of feelings, emotions, thoughts, and nothing. You couldn’t look anywhere in particular because wherever you looked, you saw something else…or was it the same thing? You (and I) saw yourself (and it) whenever we/they tried.
Eventually (although it happened instantly), Scrooge/Everything became aware of scenes. Not as things separate from himself or from each other, but as part of existence (and yet, the whole of it).
Scrooge felt the immersion of someone reading a book…how you enter the author’s universe, while still being part of yours.
He was a single mother, a soldier in Iraq, the captain of the high school football team, himself, a surgeon, a small child sleeping on a cement floor with five other siblings, a cat, a dog, a thought, a prayer, a kiss, a tear…a moment.
He became aware of the Cratchit family. Bob was still at work…we had that meeting tonight. He felt his (Bob’s?) wife’s resentment, but resignation at the same time. Two young children, who he knew were the twins, were playing a videogame. A third tiny youngster shouted encouragement.
“Get him, Robby, get him!”
“I’ll get him, Tim.”
Scrooge knew there was nothing on the screen right then for Robby to get. He was humoring Tim, who was blind. His video self fired off a shot at the wall…the TV made the distinctive “pzzoo” sound of the ray rifle.
“Did you get him, Robby?”
“Sure did, Tim! Sure did!”
The other gamer, a girl named Kelsea, rolled her eyes. She didn’t really approve of lying, but it made Tim happy to be a part of the game. She was itching to see the next level, and they weren’t going to have as good a chance of getting there if Robby kept wasting his ammunition charge like that. Still, she figured it was worth it to see Robby high-five tiny Tim’s outstretched hand.
A voice came through the intercom.
“Mom, it’s me!”
Scrooge knew it was Martha, the oldest daughter. “I’ll get it!” Tim ran unerringly to the button and buzzed his sister up the stairs.
“Hey, Double-T! I got you something!”
“Well, the teachers let us out early for Thanksgiving, and Ms. Ramirez dropped me off at the library–”
“Did you get me a book?”
“I did,” Martha said smiling. “The Scarlet Pimpernel.”
“Oh boy, thanks! What’s a pimplemill?”
Tim’s mother called from the kitchen. “Pimpernel. It’s a flower.”
“A flower?” Tim was still holding out his hands to Martha.
“Not this Pimpernel, Double-T! He’s a hero…with a secret identity and everything.”
“Even better. He saves people from the bad guys in old France. If he didn’t, they’d cut off their heads!”
“Yaaaaay! I’m going to go listen to it right now! Thanks, Martha!”
Tim took the box of CDs that Martha slapped into his open hands and ran down to the room he shared with Robby and Kelsea.
“That was nice of you, Martha.”
“Well, Mom, Ms. Ramirez offered to drive me. Mr. Cho brought turkey in for everybody, so I had enough lunch money left for the bus. I can probably get one of the other kids to take it back.”
“Mom,” Kelsea said hesitantly, “Latella’s cousin is blind. They don’t have to get books from the library…he gets all the audiobooks he wants sent to him for free.”
“That’s great, dear. But to do that, you have to have a doctor certify you as blind as there is a lot of paperwork to fill out.”
Scrooge/Kelsea fell silent. S/he knew that they couldn’t afford a doctor. Scrooge/Mrs. Cratchit wished again that Bob had a job with full benefits. She’d always wondered if little Tim’s eyesight could have been saved if they weren’t just going to the community clinic. She knew it probably wouldn’t have made any difference, but she couldn’t help wondering.
“Mom, when is Dad going to get here?”
“I don’t know, Robby. They have that annual marketing meeting tonight.”
“Dumb old Scrooge!”
“That’s Mister Scrooge, Robby…he is your father’s boss, after all.”
“I know. I just hate that guy sometimes. Why doesn’t Dad just quit and get a better job?”
“We don’t say hate in this house, you know that. It’s not that easy, Robby. It’s a hard time to find work out there. Besides, your father likes working for Mr. Scrooge.”
Martha pouted. “I don’t know why. He treats him like dirt. He doesn’t pay him anything, and he makes him work all the time.”
“I can’t say I really understand it either, dear, but it’s what your father wants.”
Scrooge suddenly found himself back in his office. He was just himself again. He was thinking about Bob, when a dark figure grabbed him by the wrist.
“Wait! Slow down”
The ghost of tomorrow did not wait…it never does.
“Where are you taking me?”
Scrooge felt himself fall through the floors of the building. He thudded on to the lobby floor. Workers went past him, carrying chairs and tables. They came out of the freight elevator, headed for a big truck on the street.
“Somebody must be moving,” thought Scrooge.
The spirit pointed to where the building receptionist was opening the glass case that contained the directory. She slid out one of the printed names.
“Spirit, tell me…what is happening?”
The spirit continued to point. The receptionist walked over to the garbage can where a security guard was standing.
The guard smiled at her. “Well, that’s it, huh? They are finally gone.”
“Well, it was only a matter of time, I guess. I heard on the news that they went bankrupt.”
“Got any news on a new tenant?”
“It’s not that easy to fill a whole floor. I’m guessing it will be awhile.”
She dropped the laminated name in the silver bin and walked back to her desk.
The spirit led Scrooge to the garbage can. Scrooge stood, afraid to look inside, afraid at what he might see.
“No, spirit, no!”
The spirit stood, immobile and impassionate. Scrooge couldn’t help himself…he saw the J. Marley Publishing sign, with the logo of Jacob on it.
“Bankrupt! It can’t be! I won’t let it happen! You…you wouldn’t show me this unless I could do something about it, right? Jacob said it could change…he said I had a chance if I could learn something! I’ve learned, spirit! I’ve learned that books are books, whatever the format! Its not the paper, it’s the words that matter! And poor Tim Cratchit, and a million others like him! We…I can help them! Please, spirit, please! Give me another chance!”
“Unca? Are you alright?”
Scrooge found himself back in his office again.
“You…you’re still here! The business is still here!”
“Sure it is, Unc. Geez, how long was I on that phone call, anyway? So, you want to get back to that meeting?”
“Yes…yes, I do! Cratchit!”
Bob was surprised to hear his boss yelling.
“Get in here. No, wait, start some coffee first. Nephew, tell me about those e-books. I want to do them…I want to get started right away! Make sure they have that read-aloud thing…that’s important!”
“Sure, Unc, that’s great!”
“Cratchit…Bob, I’ve decided you are going to get a bonus!”
“Uh..a bonus, sir?”
“Yep! I’m getting everybody in your family a Kindle! You tell Tim he can have all the books he wants, and you send me the bills. When he gets done with The Scarlet Pimpernel, you tell him old Neezy wants to talk with him about it.”
“Yes sir! Bless you, sir!”
Scrooge was never again troubled with spirits. Jay-Em e-Romances were a permanent part of the bestseller lists, with the first one in the series always being offered for free. Martha Cratchit wrote a few herself, eventually become a successful author. The company thrived, and the Greasy Cat Foundation, with Timothy Cratchit as its Executive Director, became a leader in providing free e-book readers to those in need.
May we all learn from the past, savor the present, and build a future not just for us, but for others.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.