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A Christmas carol.

All right, children, is everybody settled? Good. Stay quiet now, and Uncle Ronald will tell you A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Once upon a time, in the City of London, England, there was an honest, hardworking businessman named Ebenezer Scrooge. With his partner, Jacob Marley, Scrooge founded a small but profitable blacking factory in Cheapside. The Marley died and Scrooge was left to run the business alone, assisted by his clerk, a man named Bob Cratchit. This Cratchi fellow wasn't much help. He was a lazy, worthless agitator type who was always trying to organize the other workers into a union. He kept Cratchit on purely out of the goodness of his heart, because Cratchit had a crippled son named Tiny Tim. Far from showing his gratitude, however, Cratchit accused his employer of violating the child labor laws and threatened to take him to court. Even though Scrooge patiently explained that nobody else would hire 8-year-old children, Cratchit just sneered, "Bah, Humbug!"

This Cratchit had no team spirit whatsoever; he was always trying to shirk his duties and constantly nagging Scrooge for days off. Reminds me of certain Federal employees who are too lazy to work on Martin Luther King's birthday. Nowadays, of course, Cratchit would have been calling for government boondoggles like the Legal Services Corporation and Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and for cuts in defense spending to pay for them.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, the straw that broke the camel's back was Cratchit's refusal to work on Christmas Day, even though Scrooge was swamped by the end-of-the-year inventory. I should think that it would have been the essence of the Christmas spirit for him to help poor Scrooge keep his costs down. But no. Cratchit said he'd promised Tiny Tim he'd be home for Christmas dinner, and if he didn't come the boy's heart would be broken. Now, Scrooge had seen this Tiny Tim, and he suspected he was faking a gimpy leg so he could collect disability payments, or whatever they called it in those days. Like father, like son. Cratchit was what was known as an "almshouse chiseler," which means he was always getting money from poorhouses under the system of socialism that was prevalent in England before Mrs. Thatcher turned the country around. At any rate, when Cratchit refused to work on Christmas Day, Scrooge just blew his top and fired him.

Well, Cratchit stormed out, vowing to get revenge. Using money he'd cadged from the almshouse, he went to a pub and had some drink with an out-of-work actor he knew. This fellow used to play ghosts in Shakespearean plays until he was kicked out of the Stage Actors Guild for un-British activities. The two of them hatched a plot whereby the actor would dress up like a ghost, sneak into Scrooge's room at midnight and frighten the old man out of his wits.

I'm afraid this bit of blackmail worked all too well, because poor Scrooge had a cardiac condition and was under doctor's orders not to get excited. The ghost told him in a deep, scary voice to bring a turkey and two bottles of gin to the Cratchit place on Christmas Day or someone would tell the police that he'd been dumping blacking into the Thames and polluting the royal swans. So the next morning he sent the Cratchits a basketful of food, and they all got high on plum pudding. Cratchit was so elated by his success that he persuaded his co-workers to go on strike, and Scrooge finally had to move his blacking business to India, where the work ethic was still strong.

So that's my story, childern. Happy holidays to you all, and by golly, even if it is illegal to teach young people about the Man Upstairs. I'm going to say it: God bless us, every one!
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Title Annotation:satire
Author:Lingeman, Richard
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:editorial
Date:Dec 29, 1984
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