In Which the Ghost of Parallel Reality Intrudes
The street outside still bustled with the racket of last-minute shoppers and the hurried steps of Christmas revelers off to the next holiday happy hour.
Springing down from behind his high desk, ol’ Chortlesworth Fezziwig was as spritely as ever. He had broken from his bookkeeping as easily as a man might break from a colonoscopy appointment.
The cause of his most welcome distraction was the appearance of his wife, adorned in a clearly “well loved” plain gray frock fraying on all edges. She held her bonnet by the ribbon in one hand as would an incarcerated chap holding sock full of soap about to administer a prison beating.
“My dear!” Fezziwig exclaimed. “Assuredly I know precisely what I shall buy you for a Christmas present!” He clasped her hands, his eyes moist with radiant devotion. “London’s most lovely lemon gown with lace and long silk gloves to frame your ageless beauty!”
He attempted to sweep her into a round little dance when she pushed him hard enough to send him in his long stockings flush against the desk, clattering on it the inkwell and its quill, which teetered and then fell inky point first.
“My love!” he yelped, righting himself, arms extended to her.
“Save it, bub. You and I both know any presents you can afford are in Christmas Past.”
Fezziwig’s countenance revealed he was touched by her reproach, but he forced his trademark smile to his lips, buoyed by his ceaseless optimism.
“Our position, it is to be said, stands less solvent than in years previous, but never fear! I was at this very moment devising measures to chase the wolf from the door.”
“Chase the wolf away? Why? We should invite him in and eat him! The larder is nearly empty, thanks to your extravagance. You’re not planning another holiday shin-dig are you?”
Fezziwig clapped his hands together with a gleam in his eye befitting the lusty vestige of his youthful self when once business flourished more abundantly.
“I assure, you my lovely Delores, your cunning husband is but a few pen strokes away from concocting the single-most brilliantly crafted financial scheme that will immediately absolve us of debt, dress you in the finest clothes and gold chains!” Then he covered his mouth with one hand as if to cover a cough. “With enough left over to have just a few people over for a quiet little dinner,” Fezziwig added under his breath.
“I knew it!” She folded her arms over chest and turned away from him in disdain. “I knew you were planning a Christmas party.”
In contrast to his good wife’s discomfited posture, Fezziwig served the counterpoint. He spun like a Dervish, leaping several feet off the floor, his hands flourishing over his head gamely as he regained the steps to his high desk, his face now as ink-splattered as his ledger, but no matter to Fezziwig! He snatched up the heavily leathered book and pirouetted down to his wife.
“The machinations of accountery would undoubtedly leave you befuddled, as a rainstorm might scatter the tender petals of the daisy. Allow me to summate my divestiture plan for you.”
“So you’re saying I’m stupid.”
“Hilli-ho! Why, no sane person would intimate such an affront!”
“To my face, you mean. Just give me the book.”
She yanked the ledger from him once again sending him bobbing off into the desk. After roughly thumbing through several pages, she snapped shut the book and hurled it, narrowly missing Fezziwig’s head.
“So, Mr. Bill Gates. Your big plan is sell everything we own and throw a big Christmas party? That’s your brilliant financial plan?”
“Chirrup! Hilli-ho! Scrumwumpery and fiddle! Come, come.” Fezziwig vaulted into two back somersaults with two twists while in an open tuck position, and he stuck the landing like a Romanian gymnast.
“Don’t try to deny it with your gymnastics, Fez. The gig is up. We are not selling everything we own.”
“Consider our children, the three dear misses Fezziwigs! Wouldn’t they be wretched not to share in the holiday merriment as we do every year with a side of roast beef and flagons of port, wheels of cheese, and the warmth of chestnuts?”
“Our three misses Fezziwigs are one missed meal away from applying for jobs at Hooters just for the employee discount!”
Fezziwig looked as if he were about to do a series of backflips landing in an elbow stand, but he thought better of it.
“If not for them, then what about showing generosity and good cheer to our workers, Sturdy Dick and Ebby Scrooge?”
“Listen, sap. Those two connivers have been flaking off a few pence here and a few pounds there from you for years. The only party they deserve is a hunting party.”
It was difficult for Mrs. Fezziwig to remain much angered with her husband, although she often tried. She knew he meant well, but his generosity was causing the Fezziwigs to teeter at the brink of pecuniary disaster and destitution. Already they had ___, and they had resorted to paying their taxes with winning scratch-off tickets. But Chortlesworth Fezziwig was a good sort. He could take a punch, could out-dance the Rockettes, and he was no slouch in the kitchen. Slowly her frosty attitude toward him melted.
“Your welsh wig is on too tight,” she chuckled. “I can see your organ of benevolence throbbing from here.”
She tenderly patted his forehead (because that’s where the organ of benevolence resides, you pervert. Consult your phrenologist for more information). Then Fezziwig raised two slim and tentative fingers formed like pincers.
“Something small, perhaps?”
“Five hundred of our closest friends and whoever spills in from the street, with catered food and free-flowing libations.”
“Smaller,” Mrs. Fezziwig countered.
“200 guests, the Mayor, and King’s Council, on a small flotilla of three-masters off the coast with just a few dozen crates of champagne and decorous entertainment proffered by the Royal Philharmonic.”
“The imagination reels from such constraint!”
Mrs. Fezziwig pointed to the ledger on the floor. “Fezzie, we need to constrain more than just your imagination this year. We have more losses recorded in that book of yours than a Green Party presidential candidate!”
Even his most modest proposal of a soiree consisting of a fiddler and a monkey banging on a chamber pot met with spousal consternation. After breaking into a quick chassé leading into an elegant pas de chat, finished with a chainé turn, Fezziwig replied with one of the wisest of responses on the historical record – men make note! For in suggesting to divide the baby, even Solomon himself had pissed off two women.
“What do you suggest, dearest?”
And so it was the remainder of the Fezziwig fortune was not squandered in one extravagance all of a Christmas Eventide. The Fezziwigs five, Mister, Missus, and the three misses, shared sections of an orange and half a sleeve of thin mint Girl Scout cookies while listening to the “Christmas Lounge” station on Spotify.
Unfortunately, the lack of larger-scale celebration in such a difficult economic time had unexpected repercussions – in fact unraveling of the known space-time continuum. Many years in the alternate future, the Ghost of Christmas Parallel Reality visited a very wicked man named Tiny Tim who had gotten it in his head that the world was a dismal place, but that the Large Hadron Collider was a pretty neat place to vent his frustration.
God bless us, everyone!
The moral of the story is clear and bright.
To maintain peace on Earth and holiday cheer
Husbands, grant yourselves a silent night
By answering your wives, “Yes dear!”