‘Tis The Season

The three ghosts, Christmas Past, Christmas Now, and Christmas Future, aren’t coming to my manor for a visit this year. Not because I had some great change in my personality. I never did find my giving and loving self. Oh sure, I bought a turkey one time after my first haunting. A couple of farthings of supermarket turkey is hardly a profound change of demeanor. And the kid nearly lost an eye when I tossed the roll of farthings to him from the second-story window to fetch it.
I like those guys. I affectionately call them CP, CN, and CF. I ask around. I discover that the reason they aren’t coming is that they were let go. I asked CP what happened because he knows the past and if anyone could tell me what happened, it would be him. He told me, “Failure to successfully meet any of the mission objectives.”
So I figure this year, I will go and visit each of them. Maybe I will scare the hell of them for a change, it might just cheer them up.

I start Christmas eve over at CP’s place. I have to knock, of course. I don’t get to just pop into the middle of someone’s past like he does.
He’s in his usual black robe. It’s the past that’s dead, not the future, at least not the part we care about. He lets me in. The place is coated with cobweb and dusty memories.
“Ebenboooozer! Ebenbooooozer!” he wails. “Come in.”
“Hey CP. Nice place. Love what you’ve done with it.” I brush some cobwebs out of the way. They stick to my hand. I try shaking them off. I cough in the dust.
“You should get yourself a maid. You know, someone that can come around every once in a while and give the place a real deep clean.”
CP’s eyes would have rolled in his skeletal face if he actually had any eyes. “It doesn’t really work that way. You can’t just scrub out your memories,” he says.
“Anyway, sorry to hear about the job. Maybe I could write a five-star review for you or something. If you think it would help?”
CP wags his bony finger at me. “It wouldn’t have much credibility. I mean you still haven’t changed.”
“I feel bad about that. It’s not your fault. Look what you were up against. I mean sure, you have guilt and regret on your side. But how does that stand up against compound interest? You know I was watching a TV show on so-called financial advisors the other day and the show informed me I wasn’t just losing a few bucks here and there on every commission but because of compound interest, I was losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in future earnings. The quarter I gave twenty years ago is costing me a thousand bucks today. How can I give when it’s going to cost me a million dollars? You want to scare the shit out of someone, you should go into that business. You really gotta up your game if you want to compete against compound interest, the most powerful force on the planet. Einstein said that and Einstein discovered gravity and quantum physics.”
CP sits down on a wooden stool. He looks sullen and defeated. “I would like you to leave now.”

It’s not a long stretch to get from the past to the present. I knock on CN’s door. I have to knock of course. I don’t get to pop in all invisible, like a peeping tom.
“Ebenboooozer! Ebenbooooozer!” They all say it like that. Force of habit I guess. “Come in.”
“Hey CN.” CN is in full holiday regalia, decked out as if he were jolly old Santa Claus himself. He is stuffing himself with cookies and milk, maybe from Trader Joe’s. He drinks the milk straight out of the carton. He offers me the carton and what little is left. He mixes it with an aperitif.
I refuse slightly disgusted. “Dude, have some respect for your body. You ought to get a personal trainer or something. You’re letting your body go to hell.”
“I don’t have a body,” he counters. “And turning you around was my ticket to the good place. But thanks to your stubbornness that didn’t turn out so well.” He puts down the aperitif glass and picks up a candle.
“I feel bad about that. I wish there was something I could do to help. It’s not your fault. Look what you were up against. I mean sure, you have compassion and altruism on your side. But how does that stand up against marketing? I mean the whole Christmas thing doesn’t even make sense anymore. You have to buy stuff to give and the people that you buy the stuff from are the ones that are guilting you into giving so they can make a profit. You don’t hold a candle to those guys when it comes to the fear of gifting. You should take some marketing classes or get some training. Maybe you could use some of that hypocrisy in your hauntings next year?”
CN puts down the candle shaking his head no. He looks a little paler than before.
“Can’t you bend the means a little bit to achieve a good end?” I ask.
“No. The means to the end matter. It’s in the by-laws.” He falls back onto the chair. He looks a little shaken. “I would like you to leave now.”

The path to the future is uncertain and I’m running out of time. The evening is almost over. I finally find CF’s place. Or one possible future’s place. There’s a bunch of them. I’m not entirely sure this is the right one. It’s not like I can see into the future. I knock on the door.
CF answers. “Ebenboooozer! Ebenbooooozer! Come in,” she croons, slightly more pleasant than her predecessors. Her appearance changes as fast as the thoughts in my head. Sometimes she looks seductively beautiful; other times she looks like she just rolled out of bed.
“Hey CF.” I enter and inspect my surroundings. “I thought you would have had a much nicer place with all your knowledge of the future. More futuristic. You know metallic and shiny and minimalist in an expensive kind of way.”
“Well that seems uncalled for,” she complains. “I might have a nicer place if I still had a job. No thanks to you.”
“Yeah, sorry about the job. Maybe I could write a five-star review for you or something. If you think it would help?”
“Nah, don’t worry. I mean this is just one possible future of many.”
“I wish there was something I could do to help. It’s not your fault. Look what you were up against. I mean sure, you have decency and hope on your side. But how does that stack up against marketing and capitalism? Did you know that if a group of people plays a game where you win 20% over what you already have or lose 20% of what you already have in every one-on-one encounter, only one person will emerge as the winner, even if they start under the exact same conditions. You’re lucky to win with a fair deck. And we aren’t playing against a fair deck.”
“Be quiet. I order you to be quiet,” she raises her voice.
“Order me? Really? You got to come with more than that. Haha. Order me. That’s kind of cute. This place may be one possible future but the other 99.9% of the futures look a lot like this one. Maybe you oughtta take a course in economics? You’d make a great professor. And you might learn some better tactics.”
Her image seems to settle on a beaten-down middle-aged woman. She takes a shot and lights up a cigarette. “I think you should go now.”

An apparition appears to me in the morning. I’m a little bit groggy. Usually, the apparition appears before the ghosts come. “You did it!” the apparition moans ecstatically.
“Did what?” I ask.
“CP, CN, and CF have their jobs back. I’ve never seen them look so terrifying and determined. They sent me to thank you. They’d come themselves but there is still time for a few posts- Christmas hauntings. What did you say to them?”
“I just gave them a little encouragement is all.”
“It was a very nice gift.”
“‘Tis the season.”

The Gift of Giving

Claxons blare and a red siren’s red light circles the room in earnest. The service dispatcher runs to the monitor, checks the screen, and says “Oh, my!” He picks up his microphone, depresses the button, and broadcasts, “We have a Christmas emergency over on Clayton Street. We still have a few hours before Christmas. Do I have a host that can run over there immediately?”

“What’s the nature of the emergency?” answers back an idle host.

“An old man writing down the ROI of his Christmas gifts.”

“Oh, my! What’s wrong with all these old men? I got this. I’m on my way. What’s his twenty?”

Continue reading “The Gift of Giving”