The thin darkly cloaked figure at the end of the bed did not arrive at a conveniently pre-determined hour. It was now just before dawn and Ebenezer Scrooge regarded his final visitor with one opened eye and terror in his heart. How long had this bleak apparition been there? Scrooge had no idea. "Are you the final visitor promised to me by John McCain?"
The figure in the cloak gave no answer but instead produced a hollow yowl and vile screech, an annoying sound somewhere between that of a rusty gate moved by an ill wind and the angry death rattle of murdered man. Yet within it Scrooge heard, or perhaps only hoped that he had heard, the "voice" of some uncertainty. There was no doubt whom this ghostly figure represented, for he was the Grim Reaper come for his soul. Scrooge trembled a meek protest: "No, Reaper, tell me there is still time! Tell me these visitors have been presented to me as lessons in the hope that I may mend my foul Republican ways?"
The figure offered only a skeletal hand and Scrooge understood that he should take it. He was hesitant but again there came a menacing yowl and screech. Scrooge reached for the hand. The hand was cold. Was this the ghost of Hemingway?
No sooner had this wrong thought crossed his mind than the two of them were standing in a cul de sac of that same suburban setting that Kennedy had only hours before taken him to visit. There before them was the happy home of his nephew, and inside the happy family he had never known. But they were not happy. There was a Bank of America foreclosure sign on the lawn and little left of the furniture inside.
"You needn't say a word, Reaper, Scrooge muttered. I can see for myself that this family has fallen on hard times. They have lost their house, sold most of their belongings, and are destined for a lesser hand-to-mouth life through no fault of their own." Scrooge's vehemence and even the words themselves surprised even him, coming out of his mouth like a holy rolling thunder scripted by Keith Olbermann or Frank Rich. "They were living the American Dream inside the bubble and it suddenly burst with the bad economy. I caused their misery. I am to blame."
Again that awful sound from the darkly cloaked figure, a gesture to look deeper into this domestic scene
"Where is little Tim?" There was no reply. All that was left of the boy was his small chair, now empty. "No, Reaper, don't tell me that! Don't say that he died due to a lack of medical coverage! No!" Scrooge fell to his knees. "Say that I can reverse these things to come if I change my behavior? Say that I can win back Tim's life and his home " please!"
But the Reaper was no so easily persuaded. He opened the door and they entered the house. Scrooge heard Bob speaking and bent nearer to hear what was said.
"It'll be all right, Emma. I swear. Between us we have five college degrees and a lot of work experience. Someone will hire us."
"If only that were true," Emma replied. "But there are thousands of people just like us, Bob, people who were school teachers and college professors who lost jobs due to budget cutbacks. I've looked for teaching positions in all fifty states and there are none. There's nowhere else to look." She tried to brighten, if only for the sake of the children. "I know I can work part-time selling shoes at Belk and part-time asking if you want fries with that, and maybe you can get some hours as a greeter at Wal-Mart. If your back can stand it." She smiled. "We'll manage." She added. "Somehow."
"We will do whatever we can to provide for our children," Bob replied. "Staying togther as a family is all that Tim ever wanted. Now that Tim's gone that is how we can best honor his memory.
"Take me away from here, Reaper. I've seen enough." The inner Scrooge, the part of himself that was all for himself and no one else, that part of himself that was pledged to the ideals he paid politicians and pundits to espouse, that part that had always been rock steady, was defeated.
But the darkly cloaked figure was not yet through with Scrooge. He transported them to a rental storage facility in Ebenezer's own city. It was raining and miserable outside, but a small crowd of bidders stood before a closed door. "This is where we put his stuff," the night manager of the storage facility said. The man looked a lot like Harry Reid. "No one in his family claimed anything and he didn't leave a will. We are selling it off in one lot to pay his taxes."
"Who are they talking about, Reaper? And why did you bring me here?" Scrooge was perplexed. "I've always been opposed to taxing the dead."
Again, the screech and yowl. This time, a bit more plaintive.