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Patrington & Withernsea, Week 11: 25 December

It being Christmas Morning I went to see my old friend Ebenezer Scrooge and wish him the compliments of the season. I found him in his chambers eating a thin stew before a meagre fire. He was still in his nightclothes, and the tassel of his cap as he bent his head to the bowl dangled like the light of a pilot fish.

“Sit down, my friend, sit down,” he cried on seeing me and gestured to an armchair. “Just move all those out of the way.”

I placed an untidy heap of correspondence on the floor and took my seat.

“Letters from the poor,” he explained with a grimace. “Philanthropy never stops. Why, I had two gentlemen come to see me only yesterday asking for donations: they’re getting up a fund to send the poor on holiday to Florida this Christmas.”

“And did you give anything?”

“Advice. I told them, if people would rather go to Disneyland Railroad Mickey’s Toontown, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population at Tesco’s checkouts—the self-service checkouts too, mind you, not just the ones in the aisles.”

“But what’s this?” I asked, nodding at his meal. “Alone on Christmas Day?”

“Oh, I’m not invited to my nephew Fred’s any more. Not after the Unpleasantness involving the whoopee cushion, Tiny Tim and the cat. After all, how was I to know the cat was pregnant?”

“What happened?”

“Let’s just say Mrs Fred wasn’t the only one who had kittens and leave it at that,” he said darkly.

I had noticed that he kept glancing anxiously at the clock.

“Are you expecting someone?” I asked.

“The Spirit of Christmas Yet To Be,” he said. “I’ve already had the other two.”

“What, again?” I exclaimed in surprise. “Are you still being haunted?”

“Oh, yes. Every year. It’s not that I’m ungrateful: but the Spirit of Christmas Past always insists on watching The Muppet Christmas Carol and joining in the songs, and as for the Spirit of Christmas Present—” He broke off darkly. “He eats all the best candy, leaving me with the nougat and, yes, see here!”

Scrooge produced a tub of sweets and rattled it to show how few were left. Prising off the lid he squinted inside, then threw the box on the floor in disgust. “Bah!” he said. “Humbugs!”

Just then there was a knock on the door, “Oh, Lord,” Scrooge cried, “here he is! He always wants to play board games and listen to the news. I wouldn’t mind, but he sniggers when they preview the football since he already knows who wins.”

“Well,” I said, “I’d better be going.”

I got up and opened the door. A dark shape stood without, shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand which clutched a half-empty bottle of Bailey’s. A box of Monopoly was just visible beneath its robe.

“He’s mucked about with the tokens, you know,” Scrooge was grumbling behind me. “A top hat, yes; a thimble, fair enough; a dog, why not—but honestly, have you ever seen a Monopoly set with a miniature grim reaper? I mean, it’s hardly seasonal, is it?”

I glanced at the spirit. For the first time the hand appeared to shake; but, it seemed to me, with silent laughter.

Behind me Scrooge murmured sadly, as if to himself, “And he builds graveyards on his properties, not hotels.”

I closed the door behind me and left them to it.

And so, as Tiny Tim once observed, God Bless Us, Every One!

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