Zachariah Scrooge sat alone in the office, before his writing desk, his worn overcoat wrapped around his large body. His hazel eyes narrowed at the laptop screen in front of him, the flashing vertical line taunting him, daring him to type words. Fingers tapped along the keyboard, only to be followed by an angry mashing of the Backspace button. Staring at the faint glow of his laptop’s monitor, he finally slammed it shut, his hands raising up in frustration.
“Bah, humbug!” He cried, standing and moving over to the minifridge adjacent the glass panel windows. Pulling the door open, he bent down, peering long and hard before finally grabbing a Diet Dr. Pepper. The sound of carbonation filled the air as he popped the tab and took a sip, staring out onto the nigh-deserted street known as West Broad.
“Are you all right, Zach?” Came a voice from the hallway. Scrooge turned to see Aaron Grant, his comedy partner, emerging from the shadows, arms filled with wrapped boxes. “I heard you all the way from the mailroom.”
Grant was, by all accounts, a good looking man. Tall, toned body, a perfect smile that was roofed by a perfect head of brown hair. His winter beard was supple.
Scrooge peered into his reflection of the window. He was short, rotund, a fair smile, with his dark blond hair receding into a widow’s peak. His winter beard was but a patch on his chin and sideburns that grew unruly far too fast.
“I’m fine, Grant,” Scrooge muttered, his eyes remaining forward. “Just another mental block, is all.”
“Oh, all right then, nothing too terrible, then.” Grant said, unloading the packages onto an empty desk. “I was wondering if you wanted to come by my place tonight. Stacey and I are doing a little gift exchange.”
“Gift exchange?” Scrooge turned to face Grant. “What for? Her birthday’s already past, and yours is in June.”
Grant laughed, shaking his head. “No, for Christmas. It’s Christmas Eve.”
Scrooge rolled his eyes, putting the cold can to his lips. “Christmas Eve. Harumph, just another day where I sit, attempting to think of clever things to say to the peons.” He waved his can toward West Broad, his eyes narrowing as he watched a man and woman walk, fingers intertwined with each others’. Turning away from the window, his eyes focused on the pile of gifts. “For a little gift exchange, that’s quite a few presents.”
“Well,” Grant said, smiling. “There are only a couple in here for Stacey. I have a few for my parents, and a couple for my son.”
“That’s right, I forgot.” Scrooge muttered again, his eyes scanning the packages. “You and Stacey are having a child soon.”
Grant nodded, grinning wider. “April. I know it’s a little early, but I just couldn’t help it.” He laughed, shrugging his broad shoulders. Scrooge peered at him, then smiled. It wasn’t a kind smile, however. Far from it.
“Well then, if you are exchanging presents tonight, you should have no problem with coming in tomorrow morning.” Zachariah moved back to his desk, sitting down and reopening the laptop. Grant stepped back slightly in surprise.
“But tomorrow’s Christmas Day! That means food! More gifts! Sleeping in!” He moved his arms outward, palms toward Scrooge, attempting to appeal to the generous spirit of the large man in front of him. Scrooge looked up briefly, then moved his attention back to the computer.
“That’s not possible. There is work to be done. Humor to be published. You will be here at 8 a.m., or I replace you with a joke book sponsored by Garfield.” Scrooge’s fingers began clacking against the keyboard. “Be glad I’m letting you go home early tonight.”
Grant moved his arms down, shaking his head slightly as he scooped up the gifts. “I really hope you understand what you’re asking is a very mean-spirited thing. Christmas is supposed to be spent with family, not with a sly wit and a cynical point of view.” He moved over to the door exiting out onto West Broad, pausing and turning back once more. “At least promise me you’ll go home tonight, and not spend the night here like you did last Christmas.”
Scrooge’s eyes never wavered from the screen. “I make no promise I have no intention of keeping. Now go.”
Grant’s eyes filled with pity as he turned away, leaving Zachariah Scrooge alone in the office.
One hour passed. Then another. Then another. West Broad progressed from a steady stream of people crossing the window to a trickle, until finally it was barren. Zachariah Scrooge leaned back in his chair, taking one more look his blog post. He glanced down at his watch. 11 p.m.. Surely the roads would be clear. With a stifled yawn and a shrug, Scrooge saved the post and stood up. “I’ll finish it tomorrow.” He grumbled, ambling to the exit. Placing his wool cap on his head, he stepped out into the cold. “Harumph, blasted weather.” Scrooge said to himself as he slid into the driver’s seat of his Camry.
The engine came to life, and Scrooge’s face twisted into a mask of pain as he heard Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” come blaring through his car’s speakers. “Blasted Christmas music!” He yelled, twisting the volume knob to the left so violently, it threatened to snap off. Scrooge took a moment to enjoy the silence and solitude, and let out a long exhalation before pulling out onto the empty street.
As he drove, his thoughts drifted to Grant. He could just see Aaron and Stacey, sitting together in their living room, exchanging gifts and looks of love between each other, both eager for the future. “Children, hmph.” Is all Scrooge could say as he shook his head to clear out the vision.
Finally arriving to his home, Scrooge shrugged off his overcoat. Locking the front door, he moved over to his couch, sitting down and picking up the TV remote. “Christmas.” He growled as he clicked through the channels, his heart growing darker with each commercial or sitcom that espoused a holiday cheer which he did not feel. “Blasted holidays!”
Scrooge turned the TV off, tossing the remote down onto the couch and standing up. “Best get to bed and get the day over with.”
He moved to the bedroom, getting into his nightgown and sliding into bed. His eyelids grew heavy, and he was just about to fall asleep when he heard a voice.
“Zachariah…” It was ghostly, faint. Scrooge sat up in bed, his body tensing with fear.
“What, who’s there?!” He whispered.
“Zachariah…” The voice said again. From the living room, Scrooge could see the glow of the TV. His body relaxed, laughing at himself.
“Fool I am, I must have left the TV on. I’m more tired than I thought.” He padded back into the living room, grabbing the remote and pressing the Off button. But the screen stayed on, playing a cliche-filled commercial with holiday sentiment. Scrooge slapped the remote against his hand, pressing the Off button again. “Damn batteries.”
Suddenly, the channel changed! No longer was it a commercial or a sitcom, but rather a man dressed in a black bowling shirt with white down the front, cargo pants, and a Philadelphia Eagles baseball cap turned backward. Scrooge peered closer, his eyes narrowing.
“…Thomas? Thomas George?”
The man in the TV nodded. “Yes, Zachariah, it is me, your old improv partner.”
Scrooge sat on the couch, slack-jawed. “But, it’s not possible…you’re dead!”
Thomas nodded again. “I am dead, Zachariah, and now I must roam the airwaves, amidst all the pop culture that I exploited within my improv scenes. Reality shows, game shows, terrible sitcoms…They are my residence.”
Zachariah leaned forward. “But why are you here now, Thomas? It’s been ages since we performed together.”
Thomas raised an accusatory finger. His dark eyes blazed with passion. “You have grown complacent, Zachariah! Your humor once brought joy to hundreds, but now you have allowed your cynical views of life to overpower that humor! I come with a warning: You shall be visited by three spirits tonight…the Spirit of Comedy Past; the Spirit of Comedy Present; and the Spirit of Comedy Yet to Come. Heed their lessons well, Zachariah! And also check out ‘Modern Family’, Wednesday nights on ABC!”
The television screen blinked off. Scrooge sat on his couch for a long moment, keeping his eyes focused on the screen. It blinked on again, Thomas filling the viewspace.
“Seriously, you need to get to bed so the spirits can come.” The screen turned off for the final time.
Scrooge stood up quickly. “Hmph, spirits.” He spat out as he moved back to his bedroom, crawling under the covers. “Spirits…” he grumbled one more time before his eyes closed, drifting off into sleep.
To Be Continued…