A Christmas Carol—Yet Again

Schmoesknow.com

Schmoesknow.com

There had never been a more miserly man than John Q. Consumer—better known as, GOUGED. He adopted his nickname for he felt Christmas was no more than another excuse for retailers to pick a man’s pocket. “Season of giving? Bah, humbug!” he was often heard to say.

His abrasive personality and manner of being were forged out of his disdain for the holiday—and for not spending money in general.

Every year—starting around June—he found himself being bombarded with Christmas deals, on television and in print ads, offering holiday sales on everything—from cars to…well… MORE CARS!

Oh sure, advertisers still offered the cheaply made goods as well—like those that would fall apart after only three or four uses, but, GOUGED, had discovered something more devious.

Retailers would often mark goods up in price in advance of the holidays. Only to reduce prices back down to their original OVERPRICED amount in time for Christmas holiday shopping.

Naturally, GOUGED, became as bitter as the cold that accompanied the festive holiday season.

And after finding that those items failed to work when he got them home, he was further frustrated by having to go back and stand in long lines to get his money back. Many times, only to be told of the retailers no return policy.

He felt preyed upon by the mercantile for his hard earned… MINIMUM WAGE.

During the holiday season the “Ladies and gentleman of charity” could be found standing by their little red kettles in front of many retailers places of business.

They would ask him to contribute to those in need of common necessities. Hoping, that he might be willing to give to the less fortunate, and thus offering provisions for the poor and destitute—of which he was one.

Being part of what was formerly known as, The Middle Class, his answer was always the same. “Bah, humbug.”

No one ever had the slightest clue what that meant. But, they figured as long as the old fool cracked loose with some cold hard cash—preferably tens and twenties—let the old geezer babble and speak all the gibberish he wants.

For the record; Bah, humbug actually translated into, “Hey, when are you dummies going to start contributing to my needs?”

So this Christmas Eve, GOUGED, decided things would be different. He launched into a tirade, and asked his detractors why there weren’t more unionized workhouses in operation paying a living wage to their workers?

And, why bankers never considered lowering interest rates? Or, why unemployment offices never honestly tried to provide for those in debtors prison—better known as credit card holders?

“Right.” they would reply, “Well, you see sir, there are many unscrupulous employers operating, along with banking institutions and corporations, and each is corrupt as all get out. They’re always wanting to pay less while raking in more. Bankers raise interest rates constantly to remain highly profitable. And all this comes at the expense of the suckers… uh… laborer’s and shopper’s.”

TheDailyBeast.com

TheDailyBeast.com

“And why do they do this?” GOUGED asked. “I’ll tell you why. They want to ‘decrease the surplus population’ that’s why! Then you’ll only have the wealthy to fill your little red kettles at this time of the year.”

And they were all to aware of how the tightfisted wealthy seldom did that.

His rant had caught them off guard. GOUGED sounded inexplicably like he was from the United Kingdom, but they knew him to be American?

Realizing his slip of the tongue as he had recently become an Anglophile—no doubt because he had seen far too many remakes of A Christmas Carol—he decided to pause for effect.

Then—now in broken American English—he continued his rant.

“Employers don’t like having to pay health benefits for what is left of their overworked, underpaid employees. So, in order to increase their hefty profit margin—and still reluctantly pay the health care cost—they slash the wages of the laborer’s who helped make them that tidy profit.”

Oh, it should be noted, that many a laborer hadn’t seen a cost of living increase, in about fifteen years.

And, GOUGED, further knew that those who lost their jobs would likely find themselves navigating a never ending call tree over the phone with the unemployment office.

Those few who did manage to get through, would likely be dismissed as unwilling to work. And this was because they were going to be paid far less than what an illegal alien (immigrant, or is that emigrant) could possibly scrape by on.

The “Ladies and gentleman of charity” warned, GOUGED, that the merchants might be angry if they ever heard his views on the state of the economy. Perhaps they might hire some peasant to go about plastering his car windshield (LITERALLY), with thousands of flyers in an attempt to promote one of their sales.

“Bah, humbug!” he shouted at them, and off he went into the bitterly cold winter night. Seeking out his car in a poorly lit parking lot, only to uncover its windshield—WITH A CHISEL AND A SCRAPER!

GOUGED, finally arrived home close to midnight. He was sitting down to a cup of Campbell’s Beef and Barley soup, when someone came crashing through his front door. It was one, Jacob Marley, his former used car salesman. Who only recently had lost his job at the local Carfax dealership.

Hubpages.com

Hubpages.com

Hardly a ghost, but a shell of a human-being all the same. However, GOUGED, didn’t feel this excused, Marley’s, driving through his front door—WHILE INTOXICATED!

It made for a very uncomfortable encounter; “Take heed, GOUGED” Marley began, “for I have it on good authority—I think it was a guy down in front of Macy’s ringing some sleigh bells—that you have forged in life a chain of debt, far less than that of my own!”

GOUGED, cowered over his checkbook—surrogate to his empty bank account.

“Beware GOUGED” Marley intoned, “beware, for you will soon be visited by The 3 Spirits of Madison Avenue over the course of the next 72 to 96 hours. “Beware!” he warbled.

Then he faded from view—while handcuffed in the back seat of a squad car, as he was taken off to jail for a DUI.

GOUGED, thinking, Marley, was a man given to drink and likely suffering from the DT’s, decided to ignore the whole incident.

But, not before he called his State Farm Insurance agent about the damage to his front door. His agent was wearing Khaki’s at the time and sitting at his desk at 1:00 AM in the morning, just waiting for a business call. Not that any of that is important to the story.

Nevertheless, a few hours later, the first spirit of Madison Avenue arrived.

“GOUGED!” it bellowed from the glimmering light of the television screen. “Who is that?” asked GOUGED, grabbing his 12 gauge shotgun.

“I am the ghost of Black Friday past.” replied the voice from the TV. The spirit floated through the disrupted cable signal (which GOUGED paid through the nose for on a monthly basis) and into his living room.

Fearsome indeed was she. Battered of face with clothing torn asunder, the ghost was the full embodiment of a Black Friday shopper. A real Walking Dead zombie! She implored, GOUGED, screaming at the top of her lungs…

“Remember… anything for the deal, anything for the deal!”

The thirty second, million dollar spot—paid for by advertisers—was over. The spirit had vanished, but, not before GOUGED had emptied his 12 gauge into the screen in a blind panic.

“Now I’m going to need a new Samsung 110 inch TV for Christmas.” he frustratingly thought to himself—a sad price to pay for being a gun-toting ARA member.

Now, left with only being able to watch YouTube on his desktop, he gradually nodded off to sleep again.

24 hours had passed, when suddenly a voice echoed from the monitor in front of him. “GOUGED” the voice asked searchingly, “are you there?” He sought refuge under his pegged together, IKEA desk.

“I am the ghost of Small Business Saturday.” it continued. GOUGED,  recognized the voice.

“Bob, Bob Cratchet? Is that you?” GOUGED asked.

Bob was the owner of The Rug Emporium down the street. He was always going out of business for one reason or another, only to reopen a month or so later, but usually with a relative taking over as new owner.

However, old Mr. Fizziwig recently bought him out, or so Bob claimed.

“You have never seen the likes of me, have you GOUGED? For you’ve never shopped locally on Small Business Saturday, have you? In fact, you never shop at all, do you, GOUGED?” asked, Bob.

GOUGED replied “True, and I can’t see you now either, but I recently WINDOW SHOPPED your former store. Which I believe is now under new management by old man Fizziwig, is it not?”

“Window shopping doesn’t count, GOUGED. Ignorance and want, that’s what counts these days. But, I tell you what, my son, Tiny Tim (who stood 25 stone), has bought the store back from old man Fizziwig, and he’ll make you a right fine deal on some new Persian rugs. Whad’ya say?”

GOUGED, thought for a moment and replied…

“Okay… I promise to buy some rugs—NOT! Look, I’m going to need a new computer monitor more than those stupid rugs. See, this monitor appears to be shot!” (and a bang rang out)

And with that, GOUGED, was out of ammo.

Another 24 hours went by. Soon, GOUGED (who practically overdosed on sleeping pills), heard a buzz on his cell phone. He picked it up and clicked on the smart phone only to be met with a reminder, that the third spirit had finally arrived.

It was the ghost of Cyber Monday.

“Am I in the presence of the ghost of Cyber Monday yet to come?” asked, GOUGED, reluctantly. His smart phone beeped in the affirmative. “Oh spirit” GOUGED continued, “I fear you most of all. For I am technologically challenged and do not have a PayPal account. Should I Google how to get one?”

The phone beeped and an image appeared. It was the photo of an H&R Block. Followed by the words “Spend…or else!”

GOUGED thought for a moment, and then asked, “Or else…what?” Another beep, and a picture of Tiny Tim’s Rug Emporium appeared with the words “Closing, everything must go. Going out of business.”

Columbiaclosings.com

Columbiaclosings.com

Gouged asked, “Spirit, are these the shadowy signs of what might be, or what has actually happened? Because, Cratchet is always claiming he’s going to be going out of business.”

The phone beeped once again and the screen on his phone read…

“GOUGED, I fear if you do not start spending money—LOT’S AND LOT’S OF MONEY, AND SOON—Tiny Tim’s Rug Emporium will be no more. And, I suspect a visit from the IRS might be in order.”

“No not an audit!” cried GOUGED.

“Please spirit, I promise I’ll exhaust my savings (all two cents worth), I’ll even spend money I don’t have, max out my credit cards, get a lone from a bank—well at least exhaust my savings, spend money I don’t have, and max out all my credit cards.”

“Can’t do much about the bank loan thing though…banks don’t loan money anymore. But, I swear on my former used car salesman’s liver, I’ll do the rest!”

The phone beeps stopped. GOUGED, figured he’d better sell out to the spirit of Cyber Monday—but FAST!

“Hey… I don’t mind being gouged for the money, honest I don’t!” he screamed, “I promise, I’ll do all the other stuff just like I said. Just please… don’t send the IRS to my door to conduct an audit. I can’t afford a law firm!”

GOUGED, dropped to his hands and knees—and reached under his bed for an an old shoe box full of receipts—just in case. Then he rushed outside and practically drove over a jaywalker carrying a small turkey to get to the closest ATM and withdraw his savings.

GOUGED, proved to be better than his word, though. He gave all his cash until the little red kettles swelled with money. And he bought those Persian rugs, just like he promised he would from, Tiny Tim’s Carpet Emporium.

Of course… he eventually was arrested and put in prison for the embezzling of funds, writing bad checks, and for committing grand larceny.

But, he did keep Tiny Tim’s Rug Emporium from going out of business. Plus, he kept Tim out of debt, all while still keeping Tiny Tim’s Rug Emporium flush with cash.

And after all, isn’t that what the true spirit of Christmas is all about? The spirit of giving—until it hurts?

(Soon to be a Major Motion Picture from some big name studio starring Tom Hanks—then I woke up.)

 

 

 

 

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71 comments on “A Christmas Carol—Yet Again

  1. Such a great revised Christmas story, Paul. Love the 3 ghosts. But the picture of the Black Friday shoppers…the scariest of all ! I missed all 3 shopping frenzies…blissfully. Thanks for a well-crafted satire. Too bad it rings true for so many in debt at this time of year. ☺

    • It started out as a short story, but it turned into a huge novel that especially Charles Dickens would disown! Now I’m wondering if I’ll ever make the New York Times best seller list? You’re welcome, Van. And sadly, I agree with you that it does ring true for so many at this time of year. Very hard to be the season of giving with so many in want and being barely able to provide for themselves. Thank goodness you weren’t caught out there with the throng of shoppers—still hopelessly standing in the checkstand line one later. Although that might mean… you still have a flush bank account. If any among us can still make that claim these days. Thank you for the wonderful praise too. :o)

  2. Well done Paul. Your writing recalled conversations my wife and I had over the last week watching all these relentless Small Business Saturday commercials mostly sponsored by American Express. We remain fascinated by the ad concept of spending one day spending in small, local businesses as if that act alone is going to keep their doors open 365 days from now. And after all the Black Friday sales what else do you need? The irony of Amex promoting this day is also quite muddled since for years the amount they charged all businesses to accept their card was significantly higher than MasterCard or VISA. There was a time when you couldn’t use their card at all for business, pleasure or anything else because business owners wouldn’t give them such a high cut on sales. No, small businesses obviously need support year-round…and it’s much more pleasurable to pay in cash at that. We can all take those concepts to the bank.

    • Bruce, your statement about how the concept of one day of shopping locally, might not be of much benefit to small business if they only get those customer’s attention on that one day, made me think of something else. What if we gave as much attention to the hungry all year round, as we do come the holidays. Maybe then even more good could be accomplished. You also offered up some other fine points, especially in regards to American Express. And thanks for the kind words, Bruce. :O)

      • Paul, was wondering if you could provide a belated Christmas gift and follow my other site at lifeattitudes.wordpress.com? I know with all those query letters you’re quite busy but it would be most appreciated. Just getting that avatar of yours on lifeattitudes (providing you comment of course…) will bring lifeattitudes life. I mean, the nose knows, right? Anyway I hope you’re getting traffic your way from my blogs as I have your link on both of them. Carry on, sir. Oh, and sorry again about Chip Kelly…

    • Isn’t it though? I tell you Jan, it’s a wonder our bank accounts have any money left in them. What with Macy’s One Day Super Sale Saturday, and Preview sale Friday. Followed by the Post Sunday Sale—of 20 to 30% off selected in store items. And the not to be missed, Monday after Sunday close out sale. All just before the big Tuesday blowout sale. Only to then be followed by the early Wednesday morning two hour Clearance Sale. And I think that leaves most of us standing in the soup kitchen line now! 😀

    • LOL! He tried desperately to get in contact with… Jan. She must have been too busy though. But, she probably wouldn’t have time to do the art of the deal anyway—all those commercials! Besides, all that Christmas shopping we do in JUNE wouldn’t have allowed them time to look over a contract anyway. 😀

  3. Hehe, a truly perfect christmas tale for 2015!! I especially love the ending- “But hey…he kept Tiny Tim’s Rug Emporium out of debt and in business. And after all, isn’t that the Christmas spirit? The spirit of giving—until it hurts.” Hehehe, very clever you!!

    • Thank’s Sarah! I knew if anyone could appreciate that last bit, it was likely going to be you. Not that either of us have a twisted sense of humor or anything like that. But, if it’s socially acceptable—WELL OKAY THEN! 😀

    • Thank you, Johanna. Sorry for the delayed response, been stuck in a checkstand. Did you know that Christmas shopping can leave you stranded in line… a long time? On the other hand, as you well know, I love giving people stomach aches by way of a good old fashioned belly laugh. I would say those Black Friday shoppers look so life-like, but they look more like The Walking Dead, instead!

  4. Lol…you had me at Gouged. There are so many sides to this satirical story that is so well written and provides a twist of humor with every pinch of salt. If only we could channel our giving spirit throughout the year. And the absurdities of these constant sales that we follow like lemmings has made me crazy for years. Hallmark is calling..:)

    • Your so right, George. Just imagine the spirit of giving, one that last all year round. What a wonderful gift that would be to give to the country and its people. Maybe starting a program along the lines of the Peace Corp might work. A group dedicated to feeding the hungry and helping the homeless. Perfect time of the year to start a program like that. And I’m delighted that you loved my character, GOUGED. “LIVE MY CREATION, LIVE!” Whoops, sorry George. I lost it there for a moment and went all Dr. Frankenstein. 😀

      • When I think about the amount of money that will be spent on this upcoming election, much of it used to stroke the giant sized egos of some of these people, and the good it would do for those less fortunate, it makes me sick. People are willing to give tens of millions to support their own individual causes or special interests, because not a fraction of that to where it might be most needed. So sad.

      • I know what you mean, George. And these are the people who want to be our leaders? No wonder we’re always going in the wrong direction. We’re being led by people without a compass—without a moral compass that is.

  5. This was an enjoyable retelling (retailing?) of the classic story, although instead of Tom Hanks I think you should strongly consider casting Kermit and the other Muppets in the key roles.

    The Three Spirits of Madison Avenue were fairly terrifying, but I think at least one of them may have been a bit of undigested beef. In any case, there was more of the gravy train than of the grave about them.

    • Bun, I have to agree with you about Tom Hanks. But, WordPress told me it’s in my contract, or they’ll never bow to my demands for a six figure income. And I’m very in to getting money right now. Now? All the time! Anyway, I did want Kermit for the project, but he was otherwise committed to Disney and a new HIT TV show on ABC. But isn’t every new television series these day’s—at least according to those booming voice’s who announce their premieres, even though the show haven’t aired yet! And you’re probably right when you say that one of the spirits may have been a bit of undigested beef. Which also caused me to ask; Where’s the beef? 😀

    • Stephanae, I am sincerely happy about this one giving you a smile, because I’m really very proud of it. I had to constantly tweak it. In fact, I’m still compulsively tweaking it! But, it’s such a joy to be appreciated for a piece of work, especially when you feel you’ve done your best to bring it to life. And that’s how I felt about this post. I wanted to contribute something to the holiday season that was fun and observant, but with a little bit of a message, too. And then, I couldn’t resist taking it to the extreme—in hope’s that it might possibly be worth someone wanting to revisit it again down the road. Sprinkle it with outrages bits of humor to keep it fresh… and Viola! I think it’s a great testimony to Dickens excellent writing skills, that this one always seems to get reworked. Don’t you think so? :O)

      • Now, if only I can convince Tom Hanks to say yes to doing the movie. Maybe we could make A Christmas Carol trilogy! You know, like, the first movie would be all about the ghost of Black Friday, the the second Small Business Saturday, and the third Cyber Monday. Now that WOULD be different! 😀

      • Of course, my whole story lacks brains! Oh… Oh! Oh wait, you meant it should be obvious to Tom how good the script would be, and how he shouldn’t have to stop and think about doing the project for me, since it’s absolute genius. Yeah… yeah, I, I could deal with that too. How would you like to be my agent, Stephanae? 😀

      • And Stephanae, tell Tom if it will speed the film up, he can just make an X on the dotted line and dispense with signing his name in full. Except for when he signs my original copy of the manuscript telling me how indebted he is to me for offering him the part. Then I would like it in full. Anyway, I figure if we suck up to him enough, he might even convince his son, Colin, to join him on the project. Hey, two Hanks for the price of none, that’s not too bad! 😀

      • I just thought of something, as your agent I can say what I’ve always wanted to say “I’ll have my people contact your people”. This will come in handy when negotiating your upcoming and very lucrative contracts.

      • Your so right, Stephanae. One can almost smell the money. Not that were shallow like that or anything. But, at least, if for some reason, Tom’s people didn’t like are people—you and I won’t have to get mixed up in the rumble. That’s why his people and our people get paid. to take the lumps for us! That’s brilliant, Stephanae! No wonder you get the 70% while I get the 30. I knew there was a reason I put you in charge of my Swiss Bank Accounts. 😀

  6. It’s a little different than I remember it, but you know what? I’ll watch ANYTHING with Tom Hanks. But how much will that movie ticket set me back? And the popcorn? And how much is Mr. Hanks making again? A livable wage, I think.

    • Hi Jay! I was just mentioning to my friend Stephanae, that I was thinking of turning it into A Christmas Carol-The Trilogy. How could Hanks refuse? Just think of it—A three picture deal, with each Madison Avenue Spirit getting its own story! Maybe Tom would agree to take a percentage cut in exchange for not taking his usual salary—he’s a nice guy and could afford to take the risk. Not so sure about his agent though? But, we’ll just bypass the agent. And, as part of the deal, we talk the studio into negotiating a deal whereby, they (all 3pictures) are never shown on television, only at the multiplexes and only during the holiday season— and matinees only. Maybe we could swing a product placement deal with the Orville Redenbacher people where everyone in attendance gets free popcorn? You know, Jay, this could really work! 😀

    • Bev, you have no idea how much of a smile that compliment has brought to my face. I always hope to entertain as well as bring a different slant to my writing. When those two approaches to writing happen to coincide in one of my post—and I receive feedback saying as much—I get to experience a real personal sense of satisfaction. Thank you so much for the praise. :O)

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