“What are your plans for Christmas, Scrooge?” he asked. His clerk unconsciously ignored the inquiry. “I say, dear man, what do you plan for the morrow?"
Slowly the clerk ceased his counting and peered over his spectacles at the manager. “Bah,” said he. “I may as well report to duty here in the warehouse, sir. Christmas is not worthwhile to my family, nor are we worthy of Christmas.”
“Dare I say it,” Cratchit replied, “my own house is empty, and I could use companionship on the blessed day of our Lord’s birth. It may as well be filled with the laughter and smiles of children. Won’t your family fill the opening?”
Scrooge appeared peeved. “To be honest, sir, Christmas hast always been a humbug to the Scrooges. No less cruel than any other, but amplified by the carols of the season. My family hast no need of such a holiday that only serves to remind us of our position.”
“Nonsense, Ebenezer,” said Mr. Cratchit. “I shall acquire the prize goose from the market. Your wife may prepare it in my own kitchen, and we shall all dine around my table. What say you? Shall we have a happy Christmas?”
“Christmas! Bah!” said Ebenezer. “What reason shall I have to have a happy Christmas? What reason has anyone?”
As he said such, Bob Cratchit’s nephew entered the dank warehouse. “Turns out, my bride and I accept your invitation for Christmas dinner,” he told his uncle.
“Well, well,” said Cratchit, “This shall be a robust holiday! Might you join us, Mr. Scrooge?”
Scrooge cringed and shrugged his already sunken shoulders defiantly. “The offer stands, dear clerk. The day will be a merry one, and a day your family will enjoy. I pray you will make a change in your heart.” To his nephew, Crachit said, “Nephew, Mrs. Crachit will have dinner on the table at two o’clock. Your dear, sweet wife and you are to be expected much earlier than that. We will enjoy one another’s company and share memories as we wait.”
“To that we heartily agree, Uncle. What an amazing day, Christmas is!”
“Indeed. Bless you and yours, Nephew.”
“And yours, Uncle.” Opening the door, he stepped into a blustery wind , filled with a biting snow. The singular flame in the open stove fluttered in the breeze like a springtime moth. Frost covered the single window in the Cratchit and Marley office, distorting the lights outside.
“With that note, my dear Mr. Scrooge, I suppose you will be wanting tomorrow off.”
“No, sir,” Scrooge responded. “I did not say such. I want to work. I need to work. My meager wage is all that I have…”
Cratchit interrupted, laughing, “Scrooge, Scrooge, do you not suppose I understand? I give you the day off with pay. Merry Christmas, Clerk.”
“I work for my wage, Mr. Cratchit,” said Ebenezer. “I desire not your pity.”
Again, Bob Cratchit released an astounded chuckle. “Pity? Nay, pity it is not. You may consider it a gift from the company. A Christmas bonus, if you will. It is neither pity or charity. It is a gift from the heart.”
Turning away, Scrooge rolled his eyes. “Bah!”
He considered any act of giving to be selfish by the giver. The giver, after all, only gave because of the false since of warmth in his heart…and that is all it was, Scrooge thought. It was all false, faux, and fake…and he could see it all with clarity. If his eyes were clouded with despair and cynicism in the matters of money, they were all too clear on topics of the heart. Or so he believed. Scrooge was the quintessential cynic, but to his credit, it was the one thing at which he was the master, and he quite enjoyed being the master of something.
“It appears we have overstayed our welcome, Mr. Scrooge,” said his boss. “Pray you get home safely, this evening.” Scrooge looked up from his ledger, scooped the counted coins neatly into the lock box, and covering the uncounted coins with a worn, dirty cloth. With a sigh, he stepped down from his stool and stretched, cracking his bones at the joint and grunting with the pain of being seated for such a period.
“Just as I told my nephew, come or not, you will have a place at our table, tomorrow at two, but we will eagerly await your family’s arrival ahead of the meal.”
Ebenezer just grunted in response, having not the energy to argue as he donned his overcoat and a ratty old hat and stepped into the bitter street. The door squeaked and slammed behind him.