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A Christmas Carol for 2011

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It's been 168 years since Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol to illustrate the horrific living conditions of the English poor and promote the true nature of Christmas.  If Dickens were still alive, he'd be compelled to update his tale.

On Christmas Eve, Bob Cratchit comes home from work and tells his wife, Emily, he's been laid off, "They're shutting down the tractor factory and moving it to China."  "How are we going to pay for the Christmas presents?" she asks.  "We've already maxed out all our credit cards."  Emily just came off a long shift at Walmart and she's exhausted.  "I don't know," Bob responds, "but what I'm most worried about are Tiny Tim's medical bills."  Their only son, Tim, is short for his age and has brittle-bone syndrome.  When Tim was a baby, the Cratchits lived near a chemical plant that contaminated the groundwater.  Rather than deal with the damage, the chemical corporation declared bankruptcy.

Bob Cratchit goes to the YMCA to work out and encounters Ebenezer "Eb" Scrooge, who inherited the tractor factory from his father, Jacob.  "How's it going, Cratchit?  How are your wife and little boy?" Eb says with false bonhomie.  "Not so well," Bob answers, "because you decided to move the factory, I'm out of a job."  "It wasn't personal, it was business," Eb snaps, "You shouldn't have any problem finding a job, Cratchit.  You can build a web site or something."

Eb returns to his mansion and falls sleep.  In the middle of the night the gleaming ghost of his father, Jacob Scrooge, wakes him up.  "So you'd move the factory, would you," Jacob wails.  He transports Eb thirty years into the past.  Jacob and Eb Scrooge are in the factory cafeteria at a Christmas Party for the employees and their families.  Jacob thanks everyone, "All of you shared in our accomplishments, so all of you will share in the profits.  I'm giving each of you a bonus."  As cheers fill the room, Jacob hugs Eb and says, "This factory is my second home and these employees are members of my extended family.  I trust that you will always take care of them."

Next, Jacob transports Eb back to the present, to the Cratchit home.  Bob and Emily are hosting a potluck Christmas dinner with their neighbors.  Ten adults share a scrawny chicken and one bottle of cheap wine.  "What are we going to do?" one man asks, "There's no work in town."  "We could try looking in Metropolis," another says.  "There's nothing there unless you want to work in a McDonalds," Bob observes.  Tiny Tim interrupts the adult conversation, "Momma can I go outside and play with the others?"  Emily forces a smile and says, "Yes.  But be careful," and watches Tim hobble out of the room on his crutches.  "Closing down the factory is Scrooges' fault!" one man bellows.  Bob Cratchit sighs.  "Eb's not as strong as his father; he did what his accountants advised." Bob lifts his half-filled glass, "but we have each other and somehow we will get through this.  Merry Christmas!" 

Finally, Jacob transports Eb to the future.  At the town graveyard, Bob and Emily Cratchit stare at a small pine coffin. Jacob whispers, "After Bob lost his job, they couldn't afford the treatments Tim required."  Then Jacob transports Eb to the town square, which is covered with tents and ringed by heavily--armed police officers.  Jacobs explains, "After Bob and Emily lost their house, they joined the Occupy Wall Street protest." A police bullhorn blares, "Leave now or you will be arrested."   Bob and Emily face the police, hold hands with their neighbors, and chant, "We are the 99 percent.  We are the 99 percent."

The original A Christmas Carol had a happy ending.  For 2011, here are two possibilities:

Ending 1: Eb Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning, remembering the dream of his father and Christmas past, present, and future.  He goes to his liquor cabinet and pours himself a stiff drink.  Well fortified, he dresses and calls for his limousine.  Eb is driven to the Metropolis country club, where one of his friends is hosting Christmas dinner. After several drinks, the party is shown a video by Mitt Romney: "Merry Christmas," Mitt says.  "With your support, and that of other job creators, we can save America from"" He pauses and the guests chant, "Socialism." Mitt continues,  "Save America from those who would replace our merit-based society with an entitlement society."  The host proposes a toast, "To the 1 percent."  Eb and his friends raise their glasses, "To the 1 percent."

Ending 2: Eb Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning, remembering the dream of his father and Christmas past, present, and future.  He wanders through his lonely mansion until he makes a decision.  He dresses and has his limousine drive him to the Cratchit home.   "I've brought you a turkey and all the trimmings," Eb says to the surprised Bob Cratchit.  "And a present for Tim."  Over dinner, Eb announces that he has decided not to move his factory to China.  "We can make better tractors in the USA.  Besides, I learned one thing from my father, we can accomplish anything if we work together."  Tiny Tim says,  "Merry Christmas, Mr. Scrooge."

 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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