Their faithful Friend and Servant,
Marley was long dead: to begin with. Having contracted some strange disease, from some strange perversion with a monkey, in a strange land, Africa, he was long gone. Scrooge had signed his death certificate by hand, just as Marley should of used his hand, but that was then and this is from then. Marley was dead as a limpdick.
Mind! I do mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a limpdick. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard no dick at all, being the deadest a man could be. But the colloquialisms of our forbearers as to there application is understood, and therefore I shall not disturb it, or the Country's done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a limpdick.
Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don't know how many years. Always together, they shared business and residence together. Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend , some, dare say mate, and the sole mourner. And Scrooge was so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, he sobbed with no resolve throughout and doctors recommended various opiates to sedate his grief. The very same some, suggest there was more to Scrooge's carrying on, perhaps it was the onset of his illness, or the recognition of who he is and what he lost. Scrooge changed that day, the very day of the funeral, first he buried himself into his work and then he buried Marley.
The mention of Marley's funeral brings me back to the point I started from. There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. The preceding and aftermath of Mr. Scrooge's personal account of these times are well documented with eye witnesses and Scrooge's very own court testimony. Scrooge was deemed of ill mental well being and placed as to not cause harm to himself or others.
Cratchit, immediately on promotion, retained the best sign makers in all of London, spare no expense, to redesign and erect, the "Scrooge & Marley" sign, now S&M, for all to witness. As he was neither "S" or "M" rather just a big "C", to wit, he seldom answered to anyone.
Oh! But he was a loose canon on the deck of the boardroom, reckless at the helm, steering of this ship of state. Cratchit! a mincing, stoneless, waistcoat tugging, pansy prancing, timid, overly generous, do gooder! Soft as shit, from which not even steam or scent would reek as to offend anyone's nostrils. Magnanimous in gifts and grants, copious in negotiations with all to his very disadvantage. The benign ignorance within him softened his features accordingly, bloated his round face, joweled his cheek, waddled his gait; made his eyes squinty, his thin lips blue and spoke out whispering in his grating voice. A balding pate was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his two pudgy chins. He carried his own low temperature, even keeled, always about with him; he iced his office in the dog days; and tropical comfort during Christmas. Again, spare no expense to self indulgence.
External heat and cold were the banes of existence for Cratchit. More warmth, more comfort, as so no wintry weather chill him. No wind more than a soft breeze, no falling snow more than a flurry, just soft spring rain to freshen his soft demeanor. Foul weather didn't know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often "came down" with Cratchit safely sheltered from the storm, hiding from the elements less he perish from fright.
Everyone stopped him in the street to say, in transparent insincerity, "My dear Cratchit, how are you? When will you come to see me?" All manner of beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, children asked him what it was o'clock, and as he revealed his pocket watch they were off with it. Men and women too, once the word had spread, took advantage, such a doofus in the parting of his wealth, such a poof of a man to be fleeced, his life squired the way to such and such a place, of Cratchit. Even the blind men's dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would lift their legs to stream or squat to defecate; and then would wag their tails as though they said, "There, step in it you fool, piss on you, you teste lacking bastard!"
But what did Cratchit care? He was too timid to challenge. He edged his way along the crowded paths of life, still in his timidness he seemed to call on all human nature to heap unto his pathetic passivism for their amusement. It was what the knowing ones call "bollocksless" to Cratchit.
It was upon this time -- of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve -- the old Cratchit sat busy in Scrooge's counting-house. It was cold, grey, misty weather: damp like an old whore less the stench: and he could hear the people in the alley outside completing bargains for services to render, beating their johns off upon their breasts, and spitting the result upon the pavement stones. The city clocks had only just gone three, but it was quite dark already - hidden gloom, lurking all day: and the redlights were glowing in the windows of the neighboring offices, like lanterns to the libido, signaling some mouth or orifice could be taken for a price. The fog slithered, curling under doorjambs, snaking through keyholes and uncaulked crack. It was so dense throughout, that although the alley was of the narrowest, the whores on their knees opposite were mere phantoms. To see the velvet mist smother the living, smudging sight, one might have thought that Nature was to erase, and was erasing on a large scale.
The door of Scrooge's counting-house, now S&M ltd, was open that Cratchit might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in a grandly appointed foyer, a sort of buffer zone to Cratchits separate office, was receiving vigorously applied oral satisfaction from some factory wench. Cratchit had his heat stove moderate, but the visual heat from the antechamber raised the temperature of his room several degrees. The clerk kept the curtains drawn wide and a window open by several inches, soliciting passerbys to become an audience to this sordid scene. Cratchit stayed in his hovel, peeking out through the crack, watching in wanton envy of his clerk. Wherefore the clerk pulled down her white bloomers, and there tried to insert a lit candle; in which effort, not having any of that, she abruptly resisted, much to the clerk's and crowd's amusement.
Cratchit! You worm you!" cried a snarly voice. It was the voice of S&M's shareholder representative, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.
"Gah!" said Cratchit, "Bumplug!"
He had so heated himself with fiscal calculations and lost, this stockholder, the largest of the group, that he was all in a rage; his face was red and bursting; his eyes squinted, and his breath smelt of liquored fortitude to embark on this endeavor.
"Bumplug?" said the shareholder. "You don't mean that, I am sure, to me?"
"Oh no, no,," said Scrooge. " Merry Christmas! Yes, indeed, that's what I meant. And you? You have no reason to be merry? You're quarterly profits have been tallied? You are not endowed?"
"Come, then," returned the shareholder. "What reports are you privilege of? Have you not seen any talleys? Any returns?
Cratchit having never paid attention to any financial indicator had no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said "Gah!" again; and followed it up with "Bumplug."
"You better be thinking that!" said the shareholder.
"What else can I be," returned Cratchit, "when I live in such a world of comfort and bliss? Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas! What's Christmas time to you but a time to dwell on financial numbers of the year; a time for finding yourself a year older, pleasantly employed; a time for balancing your books and having every item balance with profit to all? If I could work my will," said Cratchit cheerfully, "every indigent who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be saked in brandy and indulged in all manner , carefree in their very humanity . He should!"
"Cratchit!" screamed the shareholder.
"Oh dear!" returned Cratchit humbly, cowering, " Oh, well I'll keep Christmas in my way, and let you keep it in yours." Trying to make amends of his thoughts and opinions: to no avail.
"Keep it?" repeated the shareholder. "You are going to lose it. The entire business with your charities, donations, spendthrift extravagant style."
"Oh dear, really?" said Cratchit. "But it is the holidays and there are so many requests for favor!"
"There are many things to which you apply 'favor', by which we have not profited, I dare say," returned theshareholder. "Christmas among the rest. With bonus for all pockets and gamebirds on employees tables, days off at a time, with pay no less. Are you mad? Or just so destined a fool? But, I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round - as time your honorable contract is to expire. -- as a good time: a time to review the incompetency of your stature and position, a enjoyable time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when we the shareholders seem by one consent to openly review the renewal of your tenure, and to think of your position sliding to the grave, and not another year, not a moment into the new one of dealings with you . And therefore, Cratchit, as it will put greater amounts of gold and silver in our pocket, I believe that it is in S&M best interests to relieve you of your position; and I say, good riddance too !"
The clerk in the ante chamber heartily applauded: seeing the situation and positioning himself toward the future, he buttoned his waistcoat and wiped a few dribbles of drip.
"Oh dear me," said Cratchit, "and with Christmas upon us and me not able to live my lifestyle? You're quite a powerful speaker, sir," he added, turning to shareholder. "Surely your not considering, I mean, I could do anything, is this done and finished?."
"No, sadly Cratchit it isn't done. Tomorrow then, a meeting of all board members to eradicate your position. A vote to be taken and then away with you, be there if your man enough, I dare say."
Cratchit, groveled in all manner beneath the dignity of any man. Said that he would remedy the fortune, would cut back on the expenditures, and indeed live a more frugal year ahead -- yes, indeed he did. He went the whole length of the expression, of begging, of asking one more chance.
"But why?" demanded the shareholder. "Why?"
"Why did you want me in the first place to become CEO?" said Cratchit.
"Because we needed a piss on, a shill, someone to take the government intervention."
"Because you needed a bootlicking lackey?" muttered Cratchit, as if his realization of his self was that after his utterance.
"No need to show at the meeting, Christmas day and all, you'll be to busy with parties, and pleasure, this is business, to which you are no party much less our pleasure," said the shareholder.
"Well, I could be there," said Cratchit
"I want nothing from you; we ask nothing of you; what? You want us to be friends?"
"That would be nice," said Cratchit.
"I am sorry, with all my heart, to find you so naive. We have never had any connection, to which I have been a party. But I have made the effort to have this the last Christmas, of your blatant ignorance. So A Merry Christmas, Cratchit, good afternoon!"
"Good afternoon," said Cratchit with shaking hesitancy.
"And A Happy New Year!"
"yes, yes, do!" said Cratchit
The shareholder left the room, thru the antechamber without another word, notwithstanding. He stopped at the outer door to bestow the greetings of the season on the clerk, whispering in hushed tones, less Cratchit hear. Both merrily slapped each other on the back in some agreement and out the door to the street went the shareholder.
"There's another fellow," muttered Cratchit; who overheard him: "my clerk, with unrecorded withdrawals from the ledger, and a wife, who entertains in all manner, be it on her knees or down on all four, talking about a merry Christmas. I'll retire to Bedlam."
This lunatic, in letting the shareholder out, had let two other people in. They were portly gentlemen, pleasant to behold, and now stood, with their hats off, in Cratchit's office. They had books and papers in their hands, and bowed to him.
"Scrooge and Marley's, S&M, I believe," said one of the gentlemen, referring to his list. "Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Scrooge, or Mr. Marley?"
"Mr. Marley has been dead now a score of years," Cratchit replied. "He died twenty years ago, this very night. As for Mr. Scrooge, poor soul, send to an asylum for good care to his mental well being. I, sir am Robert Cratchit, Bob to you."
"Oh? Thee Bob Cratchit?" they eyed each other with glee. We have no doubt to your liberality is well represented by your capacity as acting officer of the firm," said the gentleman, presenting his credentials.
It certainly was; for they had been two kindred spirits. At the ominous word "liberality," to most, a dodge, yet Crachit beamed, and nodded his head, and reached for the checkbook on his blotter.
"At this festive season of the year, Mr. Cratchit, Bob.." said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."
"Are there no prisons?" asked Cratchit.
"Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
"And the Union workhouses?" inquired Cratchit. "Are they still in operation?"
"They are. Still," returned the gentleman, "I wish I could say they were not."
"The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigor, then?" said Cratchit.
"Both very busy, sir."
"Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their disgusting course," said Cratchit. "I'm very glad to hear it, if but only it be a place of wretched shelter for them. I might add, you should include those in your presentation, less they be forgotten and not funded properly."
"Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude," returned the gentleman, "a few of us are endeavoring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?"
"Everything and anything!" Cratchit replied gleefully, if this were to be one of his last acts as administrator of S&M, then why not be the magnificent fellow he thought of himself.
"You wish to be anonymous?"
"Oh, dear fellows, no, should any inquire as to S&M contribution, or my personal input, do tell, as for those in such inquiry to match or perhaps excel in their generosity." Cratchit opened the check ledger, signed his signature as executor of S&M, and handed the men a blank check: that is, without a set amount promised scrawled somewhere on it's paper.
"I wish I had funds on hand, as it is Christmas and banks are closing for the Holiday," said Cratchit. "Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. Except, feed the poor, help the homeless, with means you can, regardless of race, creed, color or belief. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned -- they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there, take their families and live a life of what comfort they may, less work hinders their rest with it's hectic pace."
"Many can't go there; transportation and the sort, some would rather stay at hotels."
"Well then, what a novel idea," said Cratchit, "they had better do it, and hurry along before all the my contributions are spent. Besides -- excuse me -- I don't know that."
"But you might know it," observed the gentleman.
"It's not my business," Cratchit returned. "It's enough for a man to understand his own business, and sadly I have been recently told, I don't know mine. At least not in the profitable business sense. Please take my personnel check and fill out the amount!"
Seeing clearly that it was wise to make haste before Cratchit came to his senses, the gentlemen hurrily withdrew. Cratchit returned his office with a swagger but naggin doubt, and in a more anxious frame of mind at again, feeling and being duped.
Meanwhile the darkness cast it's shroud ,the fog swirled and thickened so, that muggers and thuggery resorted amongst themselves as people and carriages left the alleyway. The ancient tower of a church, phallic symbol of our creator, aggressively arched over Cratchit's window on brighter days, today it was looming in the fog. The cold pared one to the bone, to the very marrow. Cratchit shivered with each whistling knife like gust. In the main street down near the pub, some laborers were haggling with the tarts and strumpets , and had lighted a great fire to gather for warmth round while the ladies plied their trade with hand and mouth. The sewers had backed up from ice clogs of the waste, effusing slushy gobs of congealing human waste. The brightness of the shops where various sexual accoutrements hung limpy like their purchaser were constant dangling ornaments for every season. Poulterers' hanging the plucked naked bodies of game and fowl as mirrored the flesh marketed in the alley. The Lord Mayor, in hiding behind turreted walls from the septic sore, gave orders to his kitchen staff and servants all, keep Christmas pristine from the wrath of misery outside, and even the little tailor, whom he had fined five shillings on the previous Monday for being dressed as a woman to entice, pranced about in front of a mirror dressed like the Queen, while his apprentice straddled and rode a device.
Foggier yet, and colder! Piercing, searching, biting cold. Cratchit could see and feel the foreboding from his comfortable lair. If the good Saint Dunstan had the foresight to predict his very own demise, surely it was a vision of this night that sent his that mortal shiver. Three blurred shuffling rag bundles, with lantern and banshee pitched cornopean, took their stage to S&M entryway..
"God bless you, merry gentleman!
May nothing you dismay!"
Cratchit seized with fright at not having a schilling to spare the poor beggars, worried as to their demands and his appearance, hid behind his desk, afraid to answer his door.
Cratchit's clerk, disgustingly shaking his head at his employers easy intimidation, stepped to the door and handed each rag bundle a coin.
"Bless you gv'nor, Merry Christmas," they shouted and so embodied marched off into the dark till their music and singing were devoured by the dark.
At length the hour of shutting up the counting house arrived. With an hesitant tidying by Cratchit and clearing of throat, indication enough for the clerk to snuff his lantern and retrieve his coat and hat.
"You'll want all day to-morrow, I suppose?" said Cratchit afraid of this confrontational question.
"Hardly Bob, ol man, I fully expect to take the week, till after the New Year, parties and such as they are, you didn't expect me here for your convenience. Did you now?"
"Oh no, not, at my convenience" said Cratchit, " but it's really not fair. If I was to stop half-a-crown for it, you'd think yourself ill-used, I'll be bound?"
The clerk smiled faintly, "You? And her majesty's army I presume? Don't jest with me."
"And yet," said Cratchit, "you don't think me ill-used, when I pay a day's wages or now a week for no work.?"
The clerk observed that it was only once a year, "Suck it in old man."
"A poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty-fifth of December!" said Cratchit, buttoning his great-coat to the chin. "But I suppose you must have the whole week. Be here all the earlier next morning."
The clerk looked Cratchit up and down; and said, "And that's if you're here at all."
And the clerk walked out with a growl. The office was closed in a in haste, and the clerk, with his great coat eclipsing Cratchit's in style and design, went into the porn shop for a quick forgotten present. He then walked to his town home smiling at the carnal festivities planned for the evening with new friends to be made.
Cratchit took his melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern; Cock n' Swallow, his daughters' place of employ. Not seeing them, Martha and Belinda, but witnessing a line-up of men for the small booths in the back, he reasoned they had the night off, he reasoned wrong: and having read all the newspapers, went home to bed. He lived in chambers which had once belonged to his to his wealthy employer, Scrooge. They were a gloomy suite of rooms, a bonus for taking over the helm several years past. The lost of his position would mean the home too. Fully furnished, three floored and isolated from others, almost secluded neighborhood, by London standards. It was fine indeed, when they first moved in, but like the house, the family fell in disrepair, and soon it was not a home. The yard was so dark that even Cratchit, who knew its every dog pile, was hesitant to grope with his hands. The fog and frost so hung about the black old gateway of the house, that it seemed a border of sorts had taken up residency there.
Now, it is a fact, that there was nothing at all particular about the knockers on the door, except that they were very large. It is also a fact, that Cratchit had seen them, night and morning, during his whole residence in that place; also that Cratchit had every richness as any man in the city of London, even including -- which is a bold word -- parliament, aldermen, and businessman. Let it also be borne in mind that Cratchit had not bestowed one thought on his dear wife, since his mailing off the check that morning as per mutually arranged payment. And then let any man explain to me, if he can, how it happened that Cratchit, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the knockers, without its undergoing any intermediate process of change -- not a knocker, but the knockers of his estranged wife.
Mrs. Cratchit. They were not indistinguishable shadows as the other objects were cast but had a glow of light about it, like jelly fish globes. They were not thrusting in your face statements of proudness, but hung before Cratchit as once they did, to be taken and enjoyed like the woman fruit presented The heaved, as if by breath or hot air; and, though the nipples were wide, and their heft apparent, they were perfectly motionless. That, and their vivid colour, made it alarming; but its alarm was not that they were there but they were not his for his bidding.
As Cratchit looked fixedly at this phenomenon, it was just knockers again.
To say that he was not startled, or that his stomach hadn't twisted, or his anus tightened to a knot: and he was not terribly conscious of of letting go his bladder would be untrue. But he put his hand upon the key he had dropped, placed it in the hole, turned it sturdily, walked in, and lighted his candle.
He did pause, heart beating and nature demanding, before he shut the door; and he did look cautiously behind it first, as if he half-expected to be terrified with the sight of Mrs. Cratchit's arse or profusely thatched womanhood itself sticking out into the hall. But there was nothing on the back of the door, except the screws and nuts that held the knockers on, so he said "Whew, dear me" and quietly shut the door as if not to disturb the reality of now.
The sound still resounded through the house like eerie echoes. Every room above, even from within Cratchits own body, appeared to have a separate peal of echoes of its own. Cratchit winced at how empty he and the house had become. He fastened the door, and walked across the hall, and up the stairs; slowly too: listening to the hollow resonance as he ascended.
Time was when the gas lamps lit the way with a warm glow into the upper chambers. That was long before the bills to have been paid not and funds lavished by Mrs. Cratchit and her Society Maidens, or Tim's bail outs from her Majesty's dockets, or Martha and Belinda and their seeking penicillin. Charities that knocked, unions that threatened, children and wife to be satiated with schillings and pounds.
Up Cratchit went, sighing at what was. Darkness covered many an ailment, and Cratchit liked that, except he was alone. Before he shut his heavy door, as he expected no wife or child to come home that evening, he walked through his rooms to see that all was right. He had just enough recollection of the breasts to desire to do that.
Sitting-room, bedroom, loo. All as they should be. Nobody under the table, nobody under the sofa; a small fire in the grate; spoon and basin ready; and the little saucepan of stewed prunes. (Cratchit had a bowel issues) upon the hob. Nobody under the bed; nobody in the closet; nobody in his dressing-gown, which was hanging up in a suspicious attitude against the wall. Loo as usual. Bowl was stained from excrement remnants, steady drip from tank above, some functional wipes , washing-stand , propped by a book,, and a forsaken towel hanging by a hook.
Quite satisfied, he closed his door, and locked himself in; double-locked himself in, which was not his custom. Thus secured against surprise, he took off his shirt, trousers, and the last pair of Mrs. Cratchit's silk bloomers; a quick sniff to determine their viability for wear tomorrow: he put on his night shirt and slippers, and his nightcap; and sat down before the fire to take his supplement.
It was a very low fire indeed, but burning coal was cash on delivery and Cratchit had little of the both. He was obliged to sit close to it, huddled and shivering before he could extract the least sensation of warmth from such a handful of fuel. The fireplace was an old one, built by some Indian merchant long ago, and paved all round with rather graphic Indian tiles, designed to illustrate the Kama Sutra. There were women and men, woman and woman; men and men, assorted twists and turns of human form, fornicators all, bending and thrusting, frozen in portrayal, hundreds of figures to attract his thoughts -- and yet those breasts of Mrs. Cratchit, six years untouched, came like the lightening bursts to his rod, and swallowed up the whole. If each smooth tile had been a empty of carnality, and Cratchit were able to project his thoughts upon their palette from his thoughts, there would have been a copy of Mrs. Cratchit's teats on everyone.
"Bumplug!" said Cratchit; and walked across the room. It meant nothing and should be discounted or at the least a resigning statement to his recognizing his fault.