A Bees’ Christmas Carol, Part Two

8 12 2010

Read Part One Here.

 

The clanging bells of Scrooge’s clock awoke him with a start. “What?! What’s this?” He cried, glancing over to the timepiece, its first and second hands currently resting at 12. “Blasted alarm. Once again something else that needs to be fixed in my life!”

“And it’s not even the most important thing that needs to be fixed, Zachariah.” A voice from the ether said. It was a woman’s voice. Delicate. Lilting. Scrooge would have found it relaxing, if there had been a body to place with such a heavenly sound. Instead, he clutched the worn sheets of his bed to his body, hiding the lower half of his face.

“W-who’s there? Show yourself!” He cried, with more terror than anger in his voice.

“Calm yourself, Scrooge,” The soothing voice said. Out of the darkness, a woman appeared. She was petite, with brown hair that draped over her shoulders. Her face was one of kindness, with a genuine smile for the miser. “I am the first spirit of Comedy your dear friend Thomas mentioned to you.”

Scrooge slowly let the sheet down from his face, his body still tense as he rested against the large headboard. “Oh, yes. Of course.” His eyes narrowed as he studied the spirit before him. “You look…familiar.”

The spirit smiled, her arms lifting from her lithe body slowly, then brushing her hands downward. “We spirits take on a form that can be found comforting. I believe the woman you are seeing was from a television show, with new episodes still being played to this day. A show that is found late at night on Saturdays.”

“Yes, well,” Scrooge muttered, sitting further up in bed. “Let’s get on with it then. Are you here to show me slides or give some speech about how comedy was simpler when you were around?”

“Nothing like that, Zachariah.” The spirit whispered softly, gliding to the side of his bed. She reached out with her right arm toward Scrooge, who shrunk back, his hands clutching his sheet tighter. The spirit laughed. “Zachariah, I am here to take you back to when you first started comedy. To a more innocent time, when laughter was all you needed.”

Scrooge’s eyes darted down to the spirit’s hand, then back to her face. Though he had spent the past few years of his life with the inability to trust anyone, he found the spirit calming, genuine. Tentatively, he held his right hand out. The spirit grasped it gently, whispering thanks.

Suddenly, Scrooge found himself no longer in his bedroom, but on a black stage. He peered out into the darkness, instantly recognizing the faded blue upholstery on the seats in the audience section. “But, it can’t be…” He muttered, stepping forward onto the stage.

“Yes, Zachariah,” The spirit clasped her hands in front of her, floating serenely in the upper left portion of the stage. “This is your old high school.”

“My God!” Scrooge cried, his bare feet padding along the stage. “It’s been 8 years since I’ve seen this place!” He turned around, his eyes wide as he took in the architecture. “I spent so much time in here. It was like a second home.”

“And you can’t have a home without a family.” The spirit said just as the doors from the hallway opened. Scrooge’s mouth went agape as he saw himself from 11 years ago. Hair curled high, a hawaiian shirt, and ill-fitting jeans. His hand ran over his head, kept clean by a #1.5 razor. “Good lord, look at me. Not a care in the world.”

The door swung open again, three more people entering. The first was a tall young man, with straight red hair in a bowl-cut that extended to just above his ears.  “Nathan!” Scrooge exclaimed. The second, another young man, around Scrooge’s 5’5″ height, with dark blond curls piled on his head. “West!” He exclaimed again, a hint of joy beginning to stir within his soul.  And the third was a young woman. Straight black hair pulled into a ponytail. At the sight of this girl, Scrooge stumbled back slightly. “…Laura.” He whispered.  Scrooge shook his head, the back of his hand reaching up to his eyes, wiping them quickly before spinning to face the spirit. “We must hide, spirit! I’ve seen enough of those time-travel movies that I know if my past-self sees me, then my future-self could no longer exist!”

The spirit laughed kindly, raising a hand up. “Relax, Zachariah. We are merely spirits, the same ghosts that haunt all theaters. We will not be noticed.” Scrooge’s body relaxed slightly as he joined the spirit at her side, growing silent. The four young people in front of Scrooge all moved to the stage. Nathan was the first to speak, stepping into the middle of the circle, the clap of his hands echoing throughout the auditorium.

“All right, guys, we got a competition to get ready for this Friday! It’s time we showed those fools over at Wayville that Lee High is as talented as they are!” The four of them nodded vigorously. Scrooge couldn’t help but smile at the sight of his younger self, balancing on the balls of his feet, bouncing his body slightly side to side. “Look, spirit! Look at that! I remember this! It was the practice before my first improv competition.” He couldn’t help but smile slightly at the memory. “It was an exciting time. A new time.” The sound of the group warming up brought his focus back to them.

The four young people were in a circle, tossing an imaginary ball around. “Zach, green ball!” “Green ball, thank you! West, green ball!” “Green ball, thank you! Laura, green ball!”

“Laura…” Scrooge chuckled under his breath, turning to the spirit. “Behold, spirit, the girl who got me into comedy in the first place.”

The spirit laughed, tilting her head. “Is that so, Zachariah?” Scrooge smiled and nodded, turning his attention back to the group.

“Indeed, spirit. I always had an interest in comedy. But, it was when I found out that she…” He gestured toward Laura. “…Was joining this improvisation group…You couldn’t sign me up fast enough.” He grinned at the thought, shaking his head ahead. “I was a young man in foolish puppy love.”

“Zach, green ball!” “Green ball, thank you! Laura, green ball!”

The spirit turned toward Scrooge. “What happened to these people, Zachariah?”

The joy in Scrooge’s eyes faded slightly, the smile from his face eroding slowly. “…I don’t know. After graduation, we all went our separate ways. Nathan went north. West stayed within the area. Laura went south, then north. And I…” Scrooge shrugged. “…I went my own way. I thought I had to get as far away from this place as possible. Become my own man and all that. And I did. I did become my own man.” He laughed bitterly. “My own man who isn’t able to keep in contact with people in his life.”

The spirit said nothing, her eyes softening as she reached her hand out, placing it gently on Scrooge’s shoulder. “Come, Zachariah. I believe you’ve seen enough.”

Scrooge looked at the spirit’s hand, then into her eyes. “Please, spirit. Let’s stay a while longer?” He could feel the spirit’s hand squeeze his shoulder, and knew her response before she even spoke.

“I am sorry, Zachariah. But what’s in the past is in the past. And, if all you think about is the past, then you won’t see the opportunities you have in the future.”

Scrooge nodded sadly. “Yes, spirit. Of course.” He stood up straight, hands smoothing out the front of his wrinkled nightgown before once again wiping his eyes. “Take me away, spirit. There’s no longer any need for me to dwell here.”

The spirit smiled softly, and within an instant Scrooge was back in his bed, under the covers. He sat up with a start, looking over to the clock. It only read five minutes past the midnight hour. “A dream,” he said, laying slowly back into bed. “Nothing but a…wonderful dream.”

He rolled onto his side, staring at the wall. His own words echoed through his mind. “There’s no longer any need for me to dwell here.” He whispered, before sleep finally overtook him.

To Be Continued…

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A Bees’ Christmas Carol, Part One

1 12 2010

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.”

“July, actually.”

“Whatever.”

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…