Friday, December 31, 2010

A Christmas Carol II (Excerpt)

By Evil Wylie


STAVE ONE

Bob Cratchit sat in the reclining leather chair, surrounded by the spoils of a man whose possessions had grown with the elasticity of his waistline: a bronze elephant statue on the desk; an African mask on the wall; a breed of plant in the corner so exceedingly rare he knew not its name. All of it expensive. All of it interesting. Just not really worth a whole hell of a lot with a .36 calibre Colt Model 1851 Navy revolver inches from his face. The ropes dug into his wrists and threatened to leave permanent damage on the Hong Kong-tailored suit’s cuffs. He could feel the sweat staining the pits of his Italian silk blend shirt; he didn’t even want to think about what blood would do to the shirt.

“You won’t get away with this,” Cratchit said.

“You won’t either,” his adversary countered.

Cratchit’s adversary was clouded in the shadows of the room, lit only by a solitary desk lamp. Cratchit’s eyes darted across the room, but a painful swelling around his eyes hampered his vision; his captor was still too blurry to make out.

“Why won’t I?” Cratchit said.

No answer.

“What won’t I get away with?” Cratchit said again.

No answer.

“I deserve some sort of answer!” Cratchit said. “At least wipe the blood from my eyes? I can’t see you. If you want to negotiate something, it’s only fair that I should be able to see you,” Cratchit pleaded.

“Fair enough,” his captor said, before pulling at the Cratchit’s shirttail and ripping a wide swath from its material. The blood was wiped unceremoniously from his eyes before it was tied around the top of his skull to prevent further leakage. The captor stepped back.

“You--!” Cratchit shrieked upon seeing his captor for the first time.

“Yes: Me,” the captor said. He curled the sides of his mouth up into a frightful smirk. “Now listen carefully, old man: Where. Is. The. Money.”

“You and I, we had a deal,” Cratchit said.

The captor fired a bullet into Cratchit’s kneecap, shattering the bone into powder upon contact. Cratchit howled in pain.

“Wrong answer,” the captor said. “Now one more time: Where. Is. The. Money.”


STAVE TWO

The funeral for Bob Cratchit, one of London’s wealthiest men, was a standing-room only affair. Ebenezer Scrooge, Cratchit’s uncle and long-time business partner, had prepared a speech for the occasion but did not refer to it once. “If it were not for Robert Cratchit, I dare say that I would be the poorest man in all of London. Not poor in moneys, mind you; I would suffer from a poorness of spirit.

“When I first hired Bob as a clerk, I had no idea how profound his effect upon my person would be. I cannot say that he taught me what ‘love’ is, for that is the countenance of a woman’s influence, but I dare say that he taught me the value of benevolence. He adopted this wretched old man into his family and into their hearts I was born again.

“Goodbye, dear friend, and, as his son Timothy has said at every Christmas dinner, God bless us, every one.”

***

While the gravediggers worked to lower the coffin into the ground, Mrs. Cratchit walked the cemetery grounds with Scrooge at her side. “So, what will become of the business?” she said.

“It won’t be long before I join your husband, I’m afraid,” Scrooge said in a matter-of-fact way.

“What about your cousin?” she said.

“Fred?”

“The very same, yes.”

Scrooge shook his head. “While I dearly love my family, there’s not a one of them (including Fred) who has any more business sense than your common cockroach. It’s an awful thing to say, yes, but a true one I’m afraid.”

“Then what will you do?”

There was a long silence between them.

“Tim,” she said.

Scrooge nodded.

“He’s but a boy, only 18 years of age,” Mrs. Cratchit said. He will just be graduating University next summer.”

“I had hoped that he would begin his apprenticeship as a clerk with us immediately upon graduation. Without the proper guidance, those mischievous siblings Ignorance and Want can take over a boy’s head and steer him off course. Tim is good of heart, but a successful counting house needs a captain with the will of steel. I can learn the boy well,” Scrooge said.

A great gust of wind snatched Mrs. Cratchit’s bonnet off of her head. “Good Lord!” she shrieked. She started to take after it, but the hat danced out of her reach and sailed over the tombstones and out of sight. Scrooge caught her arm.

“‘Tis only a hat, my dear,” he said. It was the first time that he had touched a woman in years, and wholly inappropriate thoughts began to fill his head—thoughts that he at once dismissed, of course. Scrooge was an old man now whose loneliness was matched only by his generosity.

Cratchit’s widow looked him squarely in the eyes. “So it is,” she said. In the distance, her son Tim watched them from behind a tree, his eyes filled with rage.

***

After Scrooge had walked Mrs. Cratchit home, he stopped by his office. A police wagon was parked out front, and he suddenly found himself surrounded by law officers. “Can I help you gentlemen?” Scrooge asked.

“I believe you can,” a tall, strapping policeman said. “For starters: What were your whereabouts on the night of Bob Cratchit’s murder?”

Scrooge, being the solitary soul that he was, had no alibi and therefore believed himself to be a dead man even before he was arrested the following week. As he expected, the judge did not set a bail on account of the viciousness of the crime of which Scrooge was accused: The murder of his business partner Robert J. Cratchit. . . .

***

Evil Wylie is the curator of EvilReads, the most evilest publishing site on the Interwebs. New York magazine has called him, “High-handed, condescending, and egomaniacal,” which seems about as apt a description as any. Visit him at www.EvilReads.com or follow @EvilWylie on Twitter.

5 comments:

Evan Lewis said...

Great fun. Take that, Chuck Dickens!

ABSOLUTELY*KATE said...

Mr Lewis, I woulda referred to him as Chas Dickens, after the Evil of Wylie had his post Christmas fun wit'him ... bringing about the red and green (blood and greed?) ... but the query remains ... Will Tim succeed the blotto Bob?

God Bless Us everyone, I'm staying tuned -- the bonnet comment alone blew in more intrigue. ~ Absolutely*Kate

Alan Griffiths said...

A seasonal tale with a Noir twist! Super stuff.

Al Tucher said...

Excellent! Tiny Tim always gave me a pain.

Joyce said...

Great take on the classic tale. Really enjoyed the twists and turns. Great job.