A Pre-Christmas Carol: Stave Five

The End of It

Splurge took a moment to confirm that the armchair was his own. Yes indeed, everything seemed normal. Then, suddenly, he noticed the chiming of the eBay clock coming from his kitchen. Ding…ding…ding…ding…he held his breath…ding…ding…ding…ding…ding…ding.

Nothing happened. Splurge waited a full two minutes just to make sure, but nope, still nothing happened. “Oh frabjous day!” he exclaimed, jumping up and clicking his heels together. “Calloh! Callay!”

He ran around in happy little circles. “My shop!” he cried to himself, suddenly. “It’s not boarded up! Those are the floorboards where the Ghost of Christmas Presents stood. And that…that spot on the wall is where the Ghost of Christmas Past stuck his ghostly gum!” He was actually a little disappointed to see that it had gone. He ran to the window and threw it open. “It’s not a post-apocalyptic wasteland! I’m not a dictator after all! Glorious! Quite glorious!”

“Yerwha?” asked a youth out on the street, perplexed by Splurge’s sudden public display of insanity.

“You there, boy,” said Splurge. “What day is this?”

“Eh?”

“What day is this?”

“Today, sir? Why, it’s Christmas Day.”

“Is it really!?!” Splurge was astounded. He’d been away for very nearly two months.”

“I mean Halloween. Sorry, I was looking at your shop.”

“What?” Splurge looked down. Even in the daytime, there was a little pool of festive light shining on the pavement, because of course he’d never turned off the display. “Oh, of course you were! Of course you were. Ah-tee-hee-hee! It’s quite garish, isn’t it. Yes, quite awful. It simply has to go. I tell you what. Do you know the hardware shop on Bridge Lane?”

“I should think I do.”

“Of course, of course! I tell you what. Go down there and rent the biggest woodchipper they have, and I’ll give you twenty pence.”

“What?”

Splurge grinned. “Come back with it in less than five minutes…and I’ll give you half a pound!”

The young man made an obscene gesture and walked off.

“What a remarkable lad!” said Scrooge, watching him make his way down the pavement. “A delightful lad!” and he skipped merrily down the stairs to the shop floor.

“I will do as the spirits asked,” he said, tearing down a cluster of crumpled foil snowflakes. “I will observe all the holidays that I can,” he swept the singing penguin off the counter, “and keep all of them in my heart.” Thoughtfully, he crumpled up a paper cut-out of Father Christmas that he had pinned to the back wall. “But only at the appropriate time of year!”

The young man from the pavement never came back with Splurge’s woodchipper, probably because the reward offered had been so insultingly small. Thinking back, Splurge wasn’t totally sure why he’d suggested it. He blamed years and years of watching the same old Christmas movies every year. It was probably for the best, though: in hindsight, Splurge would definitely still want to put on a big display (only, maybe not till December. Late November at the earliest).

“Oh my!” exclaimed Splurge, halfway through rolling up an inflatable snowman. The head stared accusingly at him as he tried to squoosh the last of the air out of it. “I must pay a visit to Brad Crockett! I must set things right with him, yes…” And he skipped out of the shop without even bothering to get dressed, though luckily for all involved he was still wearing the same clothes he’d had on the day before, so it didn’t really matter and I don’t know why I bother mentioning it, to be honest.

There was no bell or knocker at Crockett’s Costumes and Capers, but fortunately it was a shop so Splurge just walked in and went up to the counter.

“Mister Splurge!” said Brad, surprised. “What brings you here today?”

“Well.” Splurge put on an air of smug satisfaction. “I thought about what you said yesterday, about my October Christmas display competing with your Halloween sales, and do you know what I thought?”

“Um…” the colour drained from Crockett’s face a little. “No? What?”

“I thought I should try harder!” Splurge jabbed a pudgy finger in the air. “I thought I should set up a really huge display! And what’s more, I thought that I should organise a big, last-minute event!”

Crockett went quite white. “Oh.”

“And do you know what else I thought, Mister Crockett?” Mrs Crocket here came downstairs to see what all the noise was about. “Do you know what I thought?” Splurge let the words hang there. “I thought you might be able to provide me with some fake cobwebs.”

“You eh…fake…cobwebs, Mister Splurge?”

“Yes!” cried Splurge. “Fake cobwebs!” He quietened down. “I’ve been a fool, Brad. All these years I’ve been drawing Christmas out longer and longer, and you know what? I didn’t need to. Sure, it’s good for shifting CDs as gifts. Sure no other occasion’s quite as big. But there are other occasions, Brad, and I want to keep them.”

Splurge was better than his word. Together, he and the Crocketts had a spooky (and unusually profitable) Halloween, partly thanks to the crowd that gathered when police arrived to investigate a report of a madman leaning out a window in the area. Less than a week later they had a toasty bonfire night. After that came a reasonably quiet Saint Andrew’s Day. And after that (though not before its proper time) came a very merry Christmas: the merriest, indeed, that any of that happy group had ever had.

And may you have a Merry Christmas too.

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