Saturday, November 24, 2012

Christmas Story #1 - 1899


Peter Cratchit stood graveside on a bitter mid-December morning. To say that the sky was dreary or gray would be understating its dismal nature, in the way ashes from a burnt log could be more pleasantly described as fluffy flakes of oxidized wood. The sky was charred, and icy pellets stung the faces of mourners who struggled to shield themselves with cloaks and umbrellas from the sideward wind.

The timid patriarch of the Cratchit clan died at home surrounded by his large and loving family. It was true that Bob was adored throughout his life, an object of sympathy from all who witnessed his servile existence at the hands of that man. Ninety-two years, not a minute of which could be characterized as easy, was the reward in this world for a humble man who showed only love, the simplest of men who lived and died in Camden Town.

It was also true that Scrooge was a man remade. Peter benefitted greatly as his apprentice, as did the entire Cratchit family. But those who knew him most intimately, in the context of a counting house, and under duress in a business transaction, spoke in hushed tones of the old one as if speaking the name might reinstate the curse and darkness of prior times in his company.

And in fact, Peters own son and namesake had suffered greatly. The third generation in the Cratchit lineage loitered silently in the presence of a father otherwise occupied, whose dilated pupils revealed a defective clocklike inner preoccupation, the greed that had driven Ebenezer mad.

But somehow, the grandson was possessed of Bob Cratchits kindness, perhaps the way a beaten dog grows more loving in response to its masters disaffection.

Peter the younger was staring out the window contemplating the approaching turn of the century and enjoying a gently falling snow when his housekeeper quietly knocked on his office door and presented him with a steaming pot of Earl Grey.

Sorry sir. Not meaning to intrude. A holiday solicitor wishes to see you. Should I bring him in or do you wish to remain alone?

He paused, turning in his chair to face the servant squarely and consider her words, so haunting and familiar. He opened the side drawer of his ancient desk, a relic from the offices of Scrooge and Marley. He reached into a cash box and brushed his hands against an ugly corroded knocker, a reminder from Scrooges door.

No, It is Christmas, Carol, he said handing her a generous donation. Give him this with my best wishes.

He hesitated and reached for the drawer a second time, closing it with a shudder.

And please tell him I wish to remain anonymous.

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