Ebenezia Scrooge looked up from her work and surveyed the room. Bob Scratchit sat in the corner, carefully entering figues into the ledger. The clock on the mantelpiece, illuminated by the dying embers of the fire, spluttered a wheezy three chimes.

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“I wondered, Miss Scrooge, if it might be in order to finish a little early today, maybe at five o’clock... as it is Christmas Eve.”

“Oh, all right but why do employees feel they can leave off early on Christmas Eve? When I last checked, December 24 was still a working day. And what is that dreadful noise outside in the street?”

“I believe it to be a popular song called Wombling Merry Christmas, Miss Scrooge.”

Two cheery looking gentlemen stepped into the room. One of them was holding a collecting tin: “For the poor, Miss Scrooge. To give them a hearty Christmas.”

“Bah, humbug,” she retorted.

Bob Scratchit scratched around in his waistcoat pocket and drew out two farthings. “It’s not much....” he sighed and dropped the coins in the box.

“I am paying you too much, Bob Scratchit,” said Scrooge. As the clock struck five, Scratchit pulled on his coat, bid Scrooge “goodnight” and stepped out into the bitter night, going home to his wife and children. He couldn’t help singing as he walked: “We wish you a Wombling Merry Christmas.”

In Scrooge’s counting room, the candle flame flickered and died in a pool of melted tallow. She put on her hat and coat and crossed the road to her tall, house with its two front doors and big brass knockers (... don’t even think about it.)

As Scrooge pulled her key from her pocket, she thought one of her knockers had taken the form of a face (see, I didn’t use ‘knockers’ gratuitously). It was that of her dead partner, Jacqueline Marley. Scrooge shook her head. “Seeing things.” Inside, she lit a candle and made herself a Cup-a-Soup before lighting the few sticks in the grate and sitting down in the chair by the hearth. As the warmth spread through her chilled body, she started to drift off to sleep but was startled awake: “Ebenezia Scrooge!”

“What? What is it?”

“It is I, your partner, Jacqueline Marley.” Scrooge peered through the half light and saw Marley, swathed in coffin shrouds and bound with chains which clanked as she walked. “Blimey, you look terrible, Jackie.” “Quiet!” thundered the apparition.

Scrooge considered. “I know what you are, ghost; you are a piece of undigested meat.”

“What soup did you have?”

“Tomato.”

“I rest my case. You must change our ways, Ebenezia. This night, you will be visited by three spirits who may be able to save you from my intolerable fate.”

“Yes, the white with the chains is not a good look.”

And then Marley was gone and Scrooge was alone. “Indigestible Christmas singles, that’s what it is” Scrooge decided as her eyelids became heavy and began to close.

“Wake up, Ebenezia...”

“Who... what are you?”

“I am the spirit of Christmas past. Come with me.”

Scrooge rose from her chair without seeming to stand and suddenly she was looking in through a window. Inside, all was merriment.

Her first employer Mr Fuzzywig was dancing with his wife and there was she, the young Ebenezia, standing with Beau, her handsome suitor. He held out a small, open box. A ring sparkled. “Will you marry me Ebenezia?”

“I’m sorry, Beau, but until I have made my way in business, I cannot marry. Perhaps you could wait?”

But Beau had already moved to the side of Ebenezia’s best friend, Chardonnay, and was asking her to marry him.

“You mucked that up.” commented the spirit as the seasonal Womble song rose to its crescendo.

Scrooge turned to speak to the eerie spirit but it was gone and she found herself at home and back in the room. Then: “Ho! Ho! Ho!” boomed an earth-shaking voice.

“Brian Blessed, is that you?”

“No! It is I, the spirit of Christmas present. Come along, we haven’t got all night. We must visit Bob Scratchit.”

Wrapped in the warmth of the spirit’s great cloak, woman and ghost sped through the night to the Scratchit family’s tiny house. Outside in the yard, the pudding was bubbling in the copper tub and inside, the family including Tiny Jim were sitting around the table.

“May I propose a toast to Miss Ebenezia Scrooge,” uttered Scratchit jovially.

“Boo!” called his wife and children in unison.

“He’s not that bad, is he?” said Bob, lifting Tiny Jim on to his shoulder: “Is he?” he asked his small son.

“God bless us, every one,” said the little lad, significantly, and coughed a bit.

“Tiny Jim isn’t ill, is he,” asked Scrooge anxiously, tugging the spirit’s sleeve.

“It is yet to come...” The spirit’s words disappeared into the air as Scrooge once again found herself alone in her parlour. As she looked to the clock, the walls shimmered into nothing and Scrooge found herself standing alone in a bleak landscape. In front of her, a gravestone stood stark, silhouetted against the moonlit sky. (That’s enough descriptive passages. Ed)

At her shoulder stood a spectre in a hooded robe but Scrooge could not discern its face.

“You must be the harbinger of Christmas yet to come... are you CGI?” she asked dubiously.

The spirit did not speak but pointed at the stone. Scrooge peered at the inscription and there she read her own name.

“But what of Tiny Jim?” she asked, shivering.

At Scratchit’s home, Tiny Jim’s chair was empty. His mother and father and brothers and sisters, united in grief. “Oh no, oh no, no...” Scrooge’s own words re-echoed in her head as the world spun and she seemed to fall through the darkness and into her own bed. The morning light spilled through the shutters. Scrooge flung them open and called to a boy in the street. “Boy, yes, you boy. What day is this?”

“Why, it is Christmas Day.”

And as he spoke the church bells began to ring. “Stay there boy.”

She was suddenly joyful. “I’m going to give Bob Scratchit a raise, see that Tiny Jim has the best doctors, give money to the poor and be a nice Ebenezia Scrooge. Everything will change.”

Scrooge wrapped her dressing gown over her onesie and rushed downstairs, picking up her purse from the hallstand. “A glorious day; a wonderful day. ” She opened the door to the street.

“Boy, I want you to rouse the butcher and bring back that big Womble hanging in the window.

lynne.mortimer@eadt.co.uk

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