IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL In Prose
A Ghost Story of Christmas By
Robert L. Robinson, Jr.
IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
Stave I. PETER BAILEY’S GHOST
Peter Bailey was dead to begin with. Without this one fact, we would have a hard time going forward anywhere in this story and nothing wonderful could come from the telling. It’s been said that he died with a single word on his lips, “Potter.” At least that is what people have whispered for these last seven years. No one quite knows that for sure, but should you ask Peter’s younger brother Billy, he will tell you it is a fact. Yet, the true fact remains that Peter Bailey died seven long years ago. Now he did not die exactly to this night, but to his family, the memory of him never seemed more alive than at this time of year. And this is Christmas time and never has there been an evening in any year quite like that of Christmas Eve. The snow gently falls upon the streets of Bedford Falls, creating a white magic to fill the air. Children dance and play in the fields and side streets of this little hamlet, building snowmen, throwing snowballs and racing wooden Flexible Flyer sleighs down the hills on blades made faster with a coating of candle wax knowing that later that night, when the sun sets, Santa Claus will begin his magical journey that ends beneath their Christmas trees. The sound of motor cars on the streets should be the only thing one hears, but it isn’t. It is the laughter and greetings as the holiday season takes hold of the citizens, as the locals walk up and down the main street of Bedford Falls stopping in every shop for that special, last minute gift that they simply must have. And along the way as they walk to and fro, they share a smile to each person they pass with a warm holiday greeting. And as snowflakes fall upon little heads, each child takes comfort in the knowledge that Santa’s sleigh will land better with a full snow upon each roof. From his office window, with a magnificent view of the town square, the most powerful man In Bedford Falls, Henry Potter, sits in his wheel chair looking out at the people that feed his empire. He watches as they scurry like rabbits, in and out of stores that pay rent to him, buying gifts they can’t afford in his stores with money they earned from jobs in businesses that he owns, thus going more in debt to him, keeping the never ending cycle turning. He observes as they carry fattened Christmas turkeys and geese from farms owned by him, struggling with a smile as they drag a Christmas tree to
IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
their homes while their children merrily dance about it. Nearly everything in Bedford Falls run on the life blood he provides. But a further glance down the road and Potter is snapped back to reality. A sign drapes proudly and prominently over the center of town. A sign decorated with the accursed word that has been a thorn in the side of Henry Potter for years: “Bailey.” It is a welcome home sign, with a simple message, “Welcome Home Harry Bailey,” that is a tribute from the town to the youngest son of Peter Bailey, returning home a war hero. Harry did something that Potter never did, he saved lives, not ruined them. The week before, during the Second World War, Harry saved the lives of many naval men as he shot down enemy pilots on a suicide run against his vessel. Now, the entire nation, her President and the people from his home town are celebrating his return. But that is not what is bothering Potter. It is the fact that the sign for Harry is a reminder of the only man to successfully thwart him at every turn, Harry’s older brother, George. George Bailey. Now if truth be told, if ever there was ever a man that Potter truly hated, that man was George. The father, Peter Bailey, Potter understood. He started the Building and Loan because he was an idealist. But George, no. Potter could not figure out George. To Potter, people were black and white. They were easy to read. He has and they want, and usually it is that simple. A worthless carrot dangled with a promise is enough to get most men to dance to the tune he wanted, but not George Bailey. Potter would have a full monopoly on lives in Bedford Falls if not for George and that is one fact he can never forgot. Seven years ago, when the father died, Potter felt certain that the only business to stand up to his juggernaut, the Bailey Building and Loan, would fall and become his. But it didn’t. Not only did it not fall apart, it became better than ever. Better than ever, when it should have been his. George had no interest in the company. Potter knew that, the whole town knew that. All he wanted to do was see the world. His whole life was a discussion of other places, any place as long as it was not Bedford Falls. But the death of Peter Bailey put into effect a chain of events that this very evening would change the world for two very different men. “Mr. Potter,” ask Grant, his assistant. “The Mayor is here.” Grant is always there for Potter. If Potter needs anything, he is there. Every day without fail, rain or shine, light or dark, he pushes the wheel chair, protects him, and drives him. No matter what the deed, Grant is Potter’s legs. “Send him in,” answers Potter as he turns about. Coming into his office is a smallish man. He has been waiting patiently for his audience and now has it. “Mr. Potter,” begins the Mayor, “thank you for seeing me.” “Yes, get to it,” responds Potter. “I haven’t all day.” IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
“Christmas plans, I guess, Mr. Potter? Me too,” chuckles the Mayor. “Midnight mass and then opening presents with the grandchildren and…” “Christmas plans,” laughs Potter. “I have better things to do with my time than waste it with simpleton relatives with no ambition or purpose except to accept the scraps I dole out. Now what can I do for you Mr. Mayor?” The Mayor wipes the sweat off his brow and clears his throat. “I..I mean.. .we…the town fathers and I were hoping you would help to underwrite the celebration for Harry Bailey tomorrow. The eyes of the nation are upon us, Mr. Potter, and we all want Bedford Falls to sparkle and shine.” “Sparkle and shine,” responds Potter. “Is that all you want?” “Well, yes, it is. The Navy is flying Harry in tonight and with Sam Wainwright out of town, I thought you might like to help.” “Why can’t the town pay for this?” ask Potter. “Well, “answers the Mayor, “we are not in session to approve this. It is the end of the year, it is a new expense and we never budgeted for this. Times are tough Mr. Potter, tough indeed. People need something to bring them joy, hope. A celebration when one of their own does well, especially at Christmas time will help.” “You collect taxes don’t you, Mr. Mayor? “We do, but as I said, times are tight. There are many people out of work and those that are lucky enough to have jobs don’t get paid very well. You know that, Mr. Potter, you’re the largest employer in the area.” “Are you accusing me of not paying a day’s wage for a day’s work Mr. Mayor?” snaps Potter. “Oh my no, Mr. Potter,” trembles out the Mayor. “I just mean, that everyone could use more. Now, can we count on you for this celebration?” “And out of curiosity, exactly how much do you need for this?” ask Potter. “One thousand dollars should just about cover it. The high school band is going to play, and we have open top cars, and a parade. It is wonderful that we can put you down for helping.” Potter turns to Grant. “Push me closer,” and the large man in all black wheels Potter’s chair around the desk to be side by side with the Mayor. “Mr. Mayor, you may put me down for nothing.” The Mayor looks at Potter for a few seconds not sure what he heard, then smiles widely. “Oh, you had me scared for a moment, Mr. Potter. I thought you meant you weren’t helping. You wish to be anonymous. Very wise, very wise indeed as always.”
IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
“Mr. Mayor,” states Potter calmly and clearly. “You may put me down for zero. I shall not be funding your wasteful parade. As you said, times are tough. Our thousand dollars would be better served elsewhere than a parade for Harry Bailey.” “But it is Christmas time and…” “And it is a rather poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty fifth of December. I can’t go down the street without some fool shaking a bell wearing a ratty old red suit begging for money. Then it’s the endless line of beggars coming forth from this charity or that. Now, if you want to have a parade Mr. Mayor, let them all know that at the end of the parade you are giving something away, then you’ll have your parade for free and not have to come bothering me. Good day, sir.” The Mayor gets up out of his chair and leaves. As the Mayor is leaving and walking through the bank, Potter watches as the Mayor greet a man on his way out. It is as if the encounter never happened as the Mayor is smiling and happy exchanging holiday greetings as if all was normal. “Bloody fool,” mumbles potter to himself. “Get me my hat and my paper,” Potter orders Grant. Without a word, Grant retrieves Mr. Potter’s hat and coat as well as his own then places a warm blanket over Potter’s useless legs. They wheel into the center of the bank where a fuss is made over them by all they pass but Potter ignores this. He ignores everyone except the one man with the beaten up old hat that walks up to him with no fear to address him. “Well, good morning, Mr. Potter. What’s the news?” begins Uncle Billy Bailey. For as long as Billy can remember, Satan has always had a face, and that face is before him now. But Billy knows that he has always been able to keep the devil at bay with his two business partners, first his brother and now his nephew. Billy takes the paper from Potter, a bold face deed, but Billy is feeling more inner strength in his old bones than he had in years. Potter looks up in disgust and Grant is deciding what course of action he should take when Billy opens up the paper and sees the headline. “Well, well, well, Harry Bailey wins Congressional Medial. That couldn’t be one of the Bailey boys? You just can’t keep those Bailey boys down, now can you, Mr. Potter?” “How does slacker George feel about that?” asks Potter with a snarl. “Very jealous, very jealous,” responds Uncle Billy. “He only lost three buttons off his vest. Of course, slacker George would have gotten two of those medals if he had gone.” “Bad ear,” spits out Potter sarcastically. “Yes,” replies Uncle Billy tossing the newspaper back onto Potter’s lap. “After all Potter, some people like George had to stay home. Not every heel was in Germany and Japan!” IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
“Back,” orders Potter and Grant turns bringing his employer back to his office. Potter is mad and not happy with the event. This is his town. He built Bedford Falls into what it is and in his bank no man should talk to him as such. “Bailey,” mutters Potters as he is rolled to behind his desk. There, back in his power center, he throws the paper down opening it to see the story everyone is talking about when he finds much more. An overflowing envelope of money lies before him, with large bills starting to escape the white flap. Potter’s eyes grow wide as he picks up the envelope with reverence and thumbs through it. He knows it is not his thus the source has to be confirmed. “Take me back there,” he orders. “Hurry up!” Grant swiftly pushes him to the door where Potter opens it just a little to peer through. At the bank floor, no longer sure of himself is a sweat drenched Billy Bailey. The pockets of his pants and jackets have been pulled out, and he is frantically looking everywhere. Where you or I would feel sorrow for this man, Potter senses a conquest. “Take me back,” he simples says. There is much to do. This is a catalyst for events he has been planning for years, and now it has simply been placed in his hands. All he must do is sit and wait. The waiting does not take long. Not when you are a man like Potter. He reviewed his books, watched as the bank closed and the employees went home, and sat and waited. And while waiting, he put his plan into action. He used all his power, power that he built up for just this moment, to put his plan into effect. Each piece has been carefully maneuvered on a chessboard in Potter’s mind. The sheriff is ready to go at a moment’s notice without knowing why, the local news know that Potter is going to break something to them shortly and are holding their presses. Everything is ready. All he needs is the man he hates to come to him. And at Eight PM that night, the light rapping on his window lets him know that George Bailey has finally arrived. “Let him in,” Potter orders his goon. Grant leaves the room, the only person other than Potter that knows the full story of what happened and walks to the front of the bank to unlock the door and let George in. Snow covers his tall, lean body, his shoulders down as he looks like a condemned man walking his final mile. Potter’s goon says not a word and leads George Bailey into Potter’s office, motioning for him to sit. “I’m in trouble, Mr. Potter,” begins George. The honesty in his voice rings out in a tone that could inspire angels to action, but not the hardened ears listening. “I need help. Through some sort of an accident my company’s short in their accounts. The bank examiner’s up there today. I’ve got to raise eight thousand dollars immediately.” IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
Potter looks him square in the eyes. This is the moment he has wanted, the defeat of the only man to ever hold him off and it is within his grasp. But it can’t happen too fast, thinks Potter. This has to play out. Learn exactly how desperate and broken George is. “Oh,” begins Potter, “so that’s what the reporters wanted to talk to you about?” “The reporters?” stammers a frantic George Bailey. “Yes,” says Potter, placing the first knife verbally into George. “They called me up from your Building and Loan. Oh, there’s a man over there from the D. A.’s office, too. He’s looking for you.” George Bailey is a man that lived his life, one foot here and the other in his dreams over there. Dreams of exploration and travel, adventure and journey, but fate had other plans for him. Upon his father’s death, he gave his chance for his dreams to his brother and took over the family business. He took it over as the only solution from letting Potter taking control. Then when he married, his wife Mary shared his life, knowing his dreams and making the world they lived in, a magical dreamland. But he could never see that through the gossamer clouds he looked through. Now everything is crumbling. His castles built in the sky have tumbled and the cold light of reality is splashed upon his face. “Please help me, Mr. Potter. Help me, won’t you, please? Can’t you see what it means to my family? I’ll pay you any sort of a bonus on the loan…any interest. If you still want the Building and Loan, why I…” “George,” interrupts Potter, “could it be there’s a slight discrepancy in the books?” “No sir,” responds George. “There’s nothing wrong with the books. I’ve just misplace eight thousand dollars. I can’t find it anywhere.” “You misplaced eight thousand dollars?��� “Yes sir.” “Have you notified the police?” George looks in shock at this. “No sir, I didn’t want the publicity. Harry’s homecoming tomorrow…” Potter can feel his hands on Bailey’s throat and knows he has him twisting. “They’re going to believe that one. What’ve you been doing, George? Playing the market with the company’s money?” “No sir. No sir, I haven’t.” “What is it,” drives Potter, fully knowing the truth,”a woman then? You know, it’s all over town that you’ve been giving money to Violet Bick.” “What?” “Not that it makes any difference to me, but why did you come to me? Why don’t you go to Sam Wainwright and ask him for the money?” IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
Potter needs to know one last thing. Sam could be the only escape that George has and this will let him know if there is an escape hatch or not. “I can’t get a hold of him. He’s in Europe, “confesses George. Potter now has to know one last thing, and then he can complete his goal. “What about all your other friend?” “They don’t have that kind of money, Mr. Potter. You know that. You’re the only one in town that can help me.” The tie is cast my friends, and like a cat playing with her prey, Potter knows the time for the kill has come. And like a cat, he enjoys this role, relishing in it. “I see,” begins Potter. “I’ve suddenly become quite important. What kind of security would I have, George? Have you got any stocks?” George on the other side of the table senses that the situation is dire but he is trying to hold out. It is what dreamers do; they dream and hope that a solution in his mind’s eye can come true. “No sir.” “Bonds? Real estate? Collateral of any kind? George reaches into his pocket and takes out his life insurance policy. His stake in the world tied to this document and now he has to share it with the one man he would never under normal circumstance want to. “I have some life insurance,” states George. “A fifteen thousand dollar policy.” “And how much is your equity in it?” “Five hundred dollars.” It is done. Potter knows every detail about the fiscal condition of George Bailey. He can see from looking at him his mental condition and knows he has a broken man before him. There are words he has always wanted to say, and now the time for such statements is upon him. “Look at you.” Smirks Potter. “You use to be so cocky! You were going to go out and conquer the world. You once called me a warped, frustrated old man. What are you but a warped, frustrated young man? A miserable little clerk crawling in here on your hands and knees and begging for help. No securities, no stock, no bonds, nothing but a miserable life five hundred dollar equity in a life insurance policy. You’re worth more dead than alive!” Potter can see the anguish in George’s eyes. He hit a nerve and knows it. One more twist of the knife and his work is done. “Why don’t you go to the riff-raff you love so much and ask them to let you have eight thousand dollars? You know why? Because they’d run you out of town on a rail.” “That’s not…” “But I’ll tell you what I’m going to do for you, George. Since the state examiner is still here, as a stockholder of the Building and Load, I’m going to swear out a warrant for your arrest. Misappropriation of funds, manipulation, malfeasance…” IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
George Bailey has heard enough. He knew it was a mistake to come to Potter, but he had no other choice. And Potter knew that also. George is up and staggering like a drunkard to the door, as Potter picks up the phone. “All right, George, go ahead. You can’t hide in a little town like this.” George Bailey is out the door and walking past the window in a daze when the other end responds to Potter’s call. “Bill, this is Potter. Move your men in on the Bailey Building and Loan. I’ll give the reasons when you have George Bailey.” Potter sits back in his chair. Soon, every piece on the board will be in full position and not only will the Building and Loan be his, but the Baileys will be ruined. Ruined on the very day meant to honor one of their own. The irony is not missed by Potter. “Pour me a drink, and then take me home. I’d rather be there when the fireworks happen.” Grant pours a scotch into a short glass, the sound of the ice cracking as the warm liquid splashes over top of it, and then hands it to Potter. As Potter’s man prepares to take his master home, Potter looks into the glass, staring at the ice cubes when one of the cubes begins to change shape and takes the form of Peter Bailey’s face looking back at Potter with a rather disconcerting glance. Closing his eyes shut tight, Potter then reopens them to look back into the drink and the ice cubes are exactly what they were, ice cubes. “Humph, “shrugs Potter and thinks nothing else of the moment’s insanity. He takes two gentle sips, then tips his head and finishes the glass, just as Grant returns with his top coat and hat. The car ride to Potter’s estate is short and uneventful. They pass homes decorated colorfully for the holiday and when looking through the windows Potter sees images of happy families oblivious to the worries of the world. This means noting to Potter. As his driver brings them through Bailey Park, a development of families who went to the Baileys to escape his clutches, Potter does not see the joy and happiness within. No, the old cold soul that he is sees only opportunity as others expense. Once he has the Bailey Building and Loan, and controls the mortgages for Bailey Park, these families can be evicted and the homes sold for twice what they are getting now. It is all coming together. The rest of Potter’s evening was uneventful. As his man Grant got him inside, Potter turned to him before he reentered the car to drive away, “be ready for my call. When this starts, I want to be there.” “Yes Mr. Potter,” responds Grant, “and a Merry Christmas to you.” “Merry Christmas indeed,” snorts Potter. “We’ll see how merry it is for George Bailey. Just be ready for my call.” Without another word Potter enters his home. It is rather like him, larger than life, but empty and cold. His butler is there without a word exchanged, bringing his dinner and a warmed brandy, which he takes into the living room. As he prepares to leave he asks finally, “Will that be all Sir?” IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
“Yes, Godfrey,” answers Potter as he sips slowly from his snifter swirling the warm drink about, taking in its aroma. “Tell the staff they can leave me be.” “Thank you sir,” responds the Butler. “They’ll appreciate that, being it’s Christmas Eve and all.” The butler turns to leave knowing that Potter will have nothing else to say. Once they are all gone, Potter sits quietly, the only sound being the crackling roar of the fire as it dances and leaps in a scarlet ballet before him. His eyes are drawn to this mad panorama before him, when the flames begin to raise. They grow redder and larger until Potter could swear that they have formed a shape before his very eyes. “Henry Potter,” says the shape in the fire to him. “Who’s there?” asks Potter, not really expecting an answer. “Who said that?” “Ask me who I was in life Potter,” responds the fire. “Very well,” responds Potter. “Who were you then?” The fire takes the shape of a man and steps from within the fireplace to stand before Potter. Each steps forwards, cools the shape until it begins to look human. The body is translucent and bears chains up, down and across the body. “In life Potter, I was the only man you envied.” “I envied no man,” retorts Potter. “Speak your name and be done with this game.” “Peter Bailey.” “Peter Bailey?” says Potter in shock. “Peter Bailey has been dead for seven years.” “And many living men step forth from your fireplace to converse with you Potter?” “None do, and neither do you,” states Potter. “I must have fallen asleep and you are but a dream. The Bailey’s were on my mind today, thus you. Perhaps, the brandy helped. There’s more spirits than spirit about you I think.” “Potter!” exclaims the spirit of Peter Bailey. “Look upon me. Do you think I come calling socially upon you in death, when we never did so in life?” “What do you want of me?” trembles Potter. The shouting by the ghost of Bailey has shaken him and he is beginning to understand the situation he is in. “To do for you what you have never done for any others.” “And what might that be?” “I am here to offer you salvation,” informs the ghost of Peter Bailey to Henry Potter. “Fine, thank you, now kindly go Peter.” The ghost of Peter Bailey walks about Potter’s wheel chair, the chains clinking and clanging about behind him. “This is not a business transaction Potter. This is a transaction with the greatest reward at stake.” IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
“Ah a profit to be had,” smiles Potter. “I never thought you were interested in profit Peter. You could have had a wonderful life, but you never saw the value in it.” “That is my curse Potter,” laments Bailey. “I didn’t see the value in it. But not in the dollar and cents of life, but the happiness that life creates. My time on earth was tied into my business. I failed to see any of the world around me. While I helped those about me in Bedford Falls, I didn’t help with their lives. I knew nothing of men and women and how they lived. I knew they needed a loan and we made that loan, but I didn’t make an investment in their souls. Each missed soul I could have known is now a link in the chain I wear. Your chain was greater than mine when I passed over, and has continued to grow. Now, I spend my days and nights travelling the world learning of men and how they live and love, reducing my chain, one link at a time.” “But that is good business Bailey, to make loans for profit,” comments Potter. “Better than I ever gave you credit for. I thought you were a wide eyed idealist, like that son of yours.” “I should know men as well as George. You should know men as well as George. There is a man we both could learn from, but instead you spent today putting into play a plan to destroy him. Why, because he dared to learn about people and help them escape the clutches of you.” “So, you are here for revenge, Bailey?” ask Potter. “No,” answers Bailey. “I am here to help you.” “Help me take away the Bailey Building and Loan?” “No,” answers Peter Bailey. “To help you save yourself. Tonight two men will meet a cross roads in their lives and only they will determine what happens tomorrow. One is my son George. He is on a road outside of town at this very moment. He sees no escape from the trap you set and is thinking of killing himself. You did your job too well Potter.” “Now see here Bailey…” “The other man is you, Henry Potter. Tonight, you must learn the meaning of Christmas and hopefully in doing so, you will learn about mankind and how they are more than entries onto your ledger.” “Well, I can see from your fine example Peter that I need to reevaluate my life. Thank you for your help and…” “And you would try to dismiss me Potter?” asks Peter Bailey. “I died seven years ago, knowing love but not knowing life. You know neither. Your soul is nearly condemned to eternal damnation, but I pleaded your case and thus you stand one chance. But how this will happen is entirely up to you.”
“You pleaded my case,” inquires Potter. “With whom did you plead my case? I need no one’s help!” Peter Bailey simply looks up as if to show Potter that he went to a higher authority than he himself has ever gone. “To save your soul Potter, you shall be visited by three spirits. Each has something wonderful to share with you, but you must listen to them.” “What spirits Bailey?” demands Potter. He has grown tired of this conversation. “The spirits are here to show you Christmas. They will be your guide on a journey you must take. Without their visits you can’t hope to escape the doomed path your soul now travels. Do now what you have never done Henry. Open your eyes to the joy about you and learn from them. Expect the first tonight when the clock tolls midnight.” The apparition that was Peter Bailey walked backwards from Potter, signaling him to come closer. Potter rolled his chair to the window which was rising by itself with Bailey’s approach. “Remember Henry Potter, two souls tonight can be lost or found. Your destiny is tied to both.” With those words, the presence floats through the window to rise into the cold night. Potter rolls closer to the window to see the night sky filled with ghosts like Bailey, all flying fitfully through the air, bearing the chains that they also made in life. Potter has no words to express his emotion as he looks out the window at the dancing specters. He slams closed the window then rolls back before the fire. He refills his glass and holds it tight in his hand as he reflects upon the past few moments. Shortly, deep in thought, his chin falls to his chest as sleep overtakes him.
Stave II. THE FIRST OF THE THREE SPIRITS
When Potter awoke, the house was dark, except for the embers still burning from the fire. He squinted tight his eyes trying to see in the black but it was to no avail. The large glass was still in his hand, and as the memory of Peter Bailey and his nocturnal post mortem visitation returned, Potter took one last big sip. “Impossible,” he said out loud to on one as no one was there, almost as if trying to convince himself that it never happened. From the over large grandfather clock in the center foyer came the first “Dong.” Potter turned his head to listen for the next, which came loud and clear as did ten more. One the twelfth “Dong,” Potter looked back and forth in the room. Now, I’ve never been told to expect the visit of a spirit, and dear reader, I am sure that you have not either, so I would be as fretful as Henry Potter was. A spirit could be anything and he had no idea what to expect, but if it was not a dream, and he was pretty certain at this point that it was, something might be coming for him. It began as a twinkle of a light. A reflection on the wooden floor from a passing vehicle, except no vehicle drove past Potter’s home. This light began to grow and grow until it took the shape of a strange figure. It was a strange figure -- like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some supernatural medium, which gave him the appearance of having receded from the view, and being diminished to a child's proportions. Its hair, which hung about its neck and down its back, was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it, and the tenderest bloom was on the skin. The arms were very long and muscular; the hands the same, as if its hold were of uncommon strength. Its legs and feet, most delicately formed, were, like those upper members, bare. It wore a tunic of the purest white, and round its waist was bound a lustrous belt, the sheen of which was beautiful. It held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand; and, in singular contradiction of that wintry emblem, had its dress trimmed with summer flowers. But the strangest thing about it was, that from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light, by which all this was visible; and which was doubtless the occasion of its using, in its duller moments, a great extinguisher for a cap, which it now held under its arm. Potter looked at this creature before him with a combination dread and curiosity. Slowly, as if walking on air, the spirit glided over to Potter, to look down upon him in his wheel chair. IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
“Are you the Spirit that Peter Bailey told me would come?” asks Potter. “Are you in the habit of receiving spirits as visitors, Mr. Potter?” responds the Spirit. “I am not.” “Then in that case,” answers the Spirit, “I am!” “Have you a name Spirit?” ask Potter. “I did,” replied the Spirit, “but it has been more years than I can recall, thus that name is lost with those years. Instead, ask me what I am.” “Fine then,” replies Potter. “What are you?” “I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.” “Christmas Past,” repeats Potter. “All Christmases?” “No,” states the Spirit. “Your Christmases.” “But I don’t celebrate Christmas, Spirit,” informs Potter. “Waste of a day with nothing being done productive.” “You did Henry Potter,” said the Spirit. “And now you do as well, but that is a tale for my brother to tell.” “Your brother?” asks Potter. “You have a brother?” “I have many brothers and sisters, Mr. Potter,” stated the Ghost of Christmas Past,” but this evening is not about me, it is about you. Your welfare is at stake and we must make haste. Time is short and your lessons long, and we have far to journey.” Potter looks at the spirit, as it burns brightly before him, as a guiding light and wishes that this dream would end. “Spirit,” pleads Potter, “Look at me. I am old and cripple. I couldn’t make a journey.” The spirit laughs in a voice unlike any sound Potter has ever heard, as it reaches forward to touch Potter. “Rise Henry Potter. Rise and walk with me.” For the first time in half a century, Henry Potter can feel the muscles in his legs again as he tries to put weight on them. With a smile on his face, he rises out of his chairs. “My legs!” exclaims Potter. “They work.” “All things are possible with me this night,” answered the Spirit. “Now but a touch of my hand there,” continued the Spirit, laying it’s hand over Potter’s heart, “and you shall be upheld in more than just walking.” Stepping towards the wall, they walked through it, together into the ebony night, illuminated by twinkling stars and a full moon glowing abreast the new fallen snow, Potter and the Ghost of Christmas Past walked straight into Potter’s past. IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
The road before them was gravel and rough, with a crunching sound made with each step. Ahead of them lies a grand manor, the elegant main house at the center of the Potter Estate. It is bustling with life as horse drawn buggies make their way to the main house. “Do you know this place?” questions the Spirit. “I should,” says Potter. “I grew up here. It’s my family home.” The spirit smiles at Potter. “It is good that you remember. I feared you had forgotten.” “No, not forgotten,” says Potter matter of factly. “I just haven’t thought of it recently.” Up the path they walked, Potter looking down every side path with a memory of a childhood adventure that they lead to, as they get to the grand house. “Your father was a man of some importance,” asked the Spirit. “He was,” answers Potter. “He owned the bank. Made a fortune in railroads and then used his profits to form a bank.” Suddenly from behind the translucent pair, a duo of boys comes running up the path. “Why that’s Joey and Stephen Holohan,” cries Potter. “They were friends of yours?” “They were my best friends, Spirit. We were inseparable, like the Three Musketeers,” said Potter fondly. “We could leave at dawn, come home for supper and have an entire day full of adventures that would be exceeded only by the next day’s adventures never duplicating the day before. How I loved those two. Can’t they see us?” “These are but shadows of things that have been,” said the Ghost. “They have no consciousness of us.” “To run with them once more, and fight pirates on Treasure Island, race through the wild with Hawkeye, with not a care in the world,” reminisces with a laugh not often heard from that cold hearted Henry Potter. “I didn’t think you remembered how to laugh Mr. Potter,” comments the Spirit. “Perhaps other lessons lost will be found again this day. Let us go inside now, and join the merriment.” Walls mean nothing to spirits, not like they do to you or I. melting through the stone masonry of the house from outside to inside is a simple task for the Ghost of Christmas Past. Within the walls echo the joyous sounds of a party. Laughter and music kept in time with the tapping of dancing shoe soles as the party goers merrily skip about. “This is my parents’ annual Christmas Eve party,” informed Potter to the Spirit. “Every year they opened up the house, and invited everyone they came in contact with during the year to the party. It was the biggest event in town. We all looked forward to this one night.” IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
“That sounds strange coming from you Henry Potter,” jested the Ghost, “looking forward to Christmas.” Potter ignores the comments and actively scans the room. His hardened heart skipped a beat or two at the sight of old friends all about the room. Childhood friends that meant the world to him but who until moments ago, were forgotten memories. A four piece band plays holiday tunes, and the Spirit smiles in tune to the happy melodies. “Come Mr. Potter,” instructs the Spirit. There is a scene here, we must watch.” Potter and the Spirit walk into the family dining room to see a young boy alone at the table. The lad, not quite a boy and not quite a man, but an awkward teenager on a mission of love. Think back dear reader to that first crush; when the simple thought of someone would set your heart to patter. This is the state of the young one here. He is anxiously waiting for someone to enter. “Do you know this lad?” ask the Spirit. “I do,” answers Potter. “it’s me.” “And who do you wait for?” “Jennifer.” “Jennifer. Your first love, wasn’t she Mr. Potter?” “Love is a powerful word spirit,” retorts Potter. “She was my friend.” “But so were Joey and Stephen Holohan, if I recall.” “Yes, but…” “Your heart didn’t race quicker when they came into the room as it did when she entered, did it? Ah, we can watch now and see,” remarked the Ghost of Christmas Past as a young lady in a stunning gown enters the dining room. “Hi Hank,” says the girl he has been waiting for. “Hi Jennifer,” responds the young Potter boy. “You weren’t in school today,” she comments. “I had to go with my father to finish getting ready for the party. It’s sort of a tradition for us. He helped his day, I help him, and some day my son will help me.” “That’s fine, I was just curious. It was dull anyway. Miss Crabtree let us go early. Her brother was in town.” Hank Potter reaches under the table to the chair beside him and pulls out a present. It is wrapped carefully, as done by somebody deliberately and with purpose, and garnished with a bright red ribbon wrapped into a bow. It is not a perfect bow, but to young Jennifer, it is the prettiest bow she has IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
ever seen. Hank hands her the gift, his face as flush as the snow outside. “I hope you like it.” With a smile for response, Jennifer accepts the package and carefully undoes the wrapping. Hank watches with his eyes wide, having anticipated this moment, but now it is here. Jennifer opens it to find a careful whittled figure of a horse and girl rider. “Oh Hank,” exclaims Jennifer with glee, “it’s gorgeous!” She throws her arms about his neck and gives him a big hug. His face changes from pale to red in a moment as he awkwardly accepts her hug then glances up. She does the same and they see that they are under the mistletoe. “Did you plan this? She asks. “No…” stutters the young Potter boy. “Honestly I didn’t.” it was the truthfulness of his answer that leads her to believe him. “Well,” states Jennifer calmly and in control, “tradition rules that we simply must kiss beneath the mistletoe.” She places her hands on his shoulders and slowly draws him in, her eyes closed tight. He leans forward, his eyes tight, lips puckered and for a magical moment, they met, lip to lip in the most blissful moment of Potter’s young life. “Does this mean you’re my girl?” he asks innocently. “I guess it does,” she answers and slips her hand into his to walk back into the party. Potter looks away as the young couple goes into the main hall to dance with the other merrymakers. “That was a happy moment for you Henry Potter, wasn’t it?” asks the Spirit. “Just a youthful crush,” answers Potter. “Puppy love, nothing more.” “That was more than puppy love, “ replies the Spirit. “Until you were twenty five years old, Jennifer was by your side. Including another Christmas Eve in this house. Do you remember which night I speak of?” “There were many evenings in this house, Spirit” exclaims Potter.” I can’t be expected to recall them all.” “Let us visit that evening,” says the Spirit, taking Potter through the walls and time to a night, twelve years from the one they just left. Young Potter is a handsome man, having made quite a name for himself in his father’s business. If truth be told, the father never saw the potential for some business that his son did, and he grew the business beyond the father. There was a reluctant tension between them, as their roles have reversed and many of the employees, suppliers and customers now came to the son, and not the father. “I see your father Mr. Potter,” comments the Spirit. “The joy on his face is not there as it was in years past.” “Age will do that,” snaps back Potter. IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
“Age or having one’s own flesh and blood take the lifeblood of your business from you,” responds the Spirit. “It’s not so much that I took as he let it go,” replies Potter. “Is that how you remember that?” questions the Spirit to Henry Potter. “Let us watch, and see who has the faulty memory.” Sipping a drink, Henry Potter, Sr., stands by the fireplace, the flames dancing a mad ballet before him, but he is blind to it. The sorrow of his wife’s passing that spring is magnified with the holidays and things within his business are not right. “Father,” begins the son. “We must talk.” “Yes Hank,” answers the father. “I plan to ask Jennifer to be my wife tonight.” “Son,” says the father as he embraces his only child. “That is wondrous news.” “I also plan to announce your retirement from our business. A house may only have one master, and ours is better served with my serving that role.” “Hank…” starts the father. “I have no intentions of retiring. “Father,” states the son, “it is done. All the business we have is under my control. Retire now gracefully, maintain your dignity. I do not want a public battle with you, and to do so will be harmful for you.” “I built this company and…” “Yes father, you built it. But I have made it an empire. We now are involved internationally in banking and transportation. We have grown beyond this little town with investments in men and companies across the country. Stay as Chairman Emeritus for the rest of your days, live comfortably, but it is now mine to run as I see fit. The board will back me on this. I have made them richer than their wildest dreams, and men crave wealth and will follow it’s source blindly.” “Henry…” says a soft feminine voice from behind him. “What is this? “Jennifer,” responds a startled Potter. “Are you throwing your father out of his company?” “Jennifer,” says Potter turning to her, “this is business. You haven’t the head for it. Let my father and I finish our dealings privately. After, I should wish a word with you.” The young lady turns to walk away, her mind confused. She had seen the changes in Henry Potter, but this is beyond what she thought possible. Both Potter and his father watch until she is gone,
when the son turns to the father. “You may continue in this house and your income will not suffer, but I want all your equity in our business transferred to me by the end of the year.” “Henry,” says the father with tears in his eyes. “It is better that your mother passed when she did. You have not grown into a man with compassion in his heart. I do not know if you have a heart. Out of the love I have for you, I will comply. Now, if you do not mind, it is Christmas Eve. Please leave this night to me to enjoy.” And with that, the father walks away. “That was not pretty” comments the Spirit. “It was necessary,” explains Potter. “He had no vision for the future. All he saw was Bedford Falls. There was more to life than that for us. I had to expand our holdings and he was holding me back.” “But that was one of your two task,” says the Spirit. “Let us see how the second will go.” Young Henry Potter, in new knowledge that he alone is the captain steering the ship of his destiny sails over on light feet to Jennifer. “Jennifer,” begins Potter after kissing her cheek. “Merry Christmas.” “I do not think your father finds it very merry, Hank,” replies Jennifer. “In time, he will. It is for the best. There comes a time when the reins must be turned over. I merely let him know that that time had arrived.” “But there must be ways to do so,” pleads Jennifer “that allow man to maintain his dignity. Look at him,” she observes as he walks out of the room, toward the stairwell for his bedroom. “He is broken.” “He will survive,” answers Potter. “He is stronger than you give him credit for.” “No Hank,” she answers. “He is weaker than you give him credit for.” “Perhaps, but that is not what I wished to discuss with you. Please, sit,” and he leads her to a sofa by a window. “For the last twelve years, we have been together, and before that since as long as I can recall, you have been in my life. I have amassed a fortune that continues to grow each day, and can provide for you the lifestyle you so richly deserve. “ “What are you saying Hank?” “I am saying,” says Henry taking a small package out of his pocket and handing it to her, “that I wish you to become my wife.” Jennifer opens the box and stares at a diamond on great size that sparkles and shines in the moonlight from outside the window. She looks at it and then looks at him. “Until moments ago, “she begins, “I would have accepted this without thought.” “Jennifer?”
“Let me finish please, Hank,” she politely demands. “However, having watched you toss your own father out of the business he built, I have to wonder. When I become of no value to you, or you find another you desire more, will you toss me to the side?” “That would never happen.” “Which is what your father thought. I cannot accept this offer at this time. I need time to think, to reflect.” An loud sound shatters the party from the upstairs bedroom. The spirit touches Potter’s sleeve and they rise through the ceiling to the master bedroom as young Potter comes racing into the room. On the floor, in a pool of blood holding a smoking pistol is his father. On the desk with blood splattering covering them, is a haste fully written note, leaving all his belongs to Henry. Potter looks back and forth at his father’s corpse and the will giving him possession over everything. “Spirit,” says Potter. “I have seen enough. Take me away from here!” “She never married you, did she?” asks the Spirit. “No, after the funeral she gave me back my ring and walked away. I never saw her again. I understand she married Joe Holohan and they made a large family together. Now please, take me home, I can’t stand anymore.” “We have but one more set of shadows to observe,” replies the Spirit as they walk into a darkened room. The room is old oak from the walls to the table and chairs. The conference room is cold and empty, devoid of all pictures and decoration. At an empty conference table, Potter at the head, sits in his wheel chair. Grant stands behind Potter as always, ever vigilant, ever ready. A young woman, plainly dressed opens the door and steps in. “Mr. Potter,” she begins, “Mr. Norton and Mr. Taylor are here to see you.” “Fine,” answers Potter. “Send them in.” Two large men come into the room. They are well dressed, one in a country suit while the other is in a silk suit from China. “DB, Jim,” says Potter. “Glad you could make it.” “Henry,” replies D.B. Norton, “we’ve great plans ahead and they couldn’t wait.” The Spirit walks about the room, looking at the three men. “Three titans of industry, you three met this very morning, here to carve up humanity like a Christmas goose.” “Who are you to comment on business, Spirit?” Potter responds. “Those two are the brightest minds I know. Norton has built a communications empire bigger than Kane’s ever was and Taylor has turned men into leaders and has them in political offices all over the country. That is how business is done and I invested in each. I make no apologies to you for that!” IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
“Is that nonsense squared away with that idiot senator?” asks Potter to Taylor. “Smith is nothing to us, Henry,” answers Jim Taylor. “I lost the senior senator in that state, but picked up three new ones. We have ten men in office across the nation, ready to push our agenda and nullify anything Smth can say.” “And our political machine? Are we ready to mobilize the John Doe’s again?” “Not under that name” explains Norton.” Mitchell the writer and Connell my former editor threatened to go public and blow the entire story that we were going to set me up to run for president on the backs of the John Does. We need a new face, some non idealistic fool that can be bought. Men who won’t take money, can’t be trusted.” “What about that pitcher?” “John Willoughby? Married to the reporter,” reports Norton. “They have a nice small town paper they run with Connell and happy to be out of the big time, writing about the little guy. Pure nonsense.” “What if we start building a ground swell now? Get some young fresh faced punk into the Senate and then have him start the same ideas that the John Does had? Jim, you have anyone in mind?” “We could use DB’s nephew Ted,” comments Taylor. “He’s handsome and smart, and knows how to play ball. Or that war hero from your town I saw all the signs for.” “Harry Bailey?” responds Potter. “He’d never work. All the Baileys would not recognize an opportunity if one spit in their eyes. Let’s work on Ted.” “If we do this right,” says Norton, “We could have the White House in two years.” “That is what I am counting on. Good day gentlemen,” states Potter and both men with a nod stand and leave. “With all the misery in the world about you, and on this most festive day of the year,” comments the Spirit, “you and your cronies chose to spend this morning, not conducting business to benefit mankind, but to enslave them.” “Not enslave,” says Potter, “control. The world is out of control. It needs a firm hand to guide it back to prosperity. That’s what we offer.” “But at a profit, Mr. Potter,” Says the Spirit. “But at a profit.” “There is nothing wrong with profit. It is a measure on success. And why not meet this morning? Business is business. And like me, these men have no time to waste on Merry Christmas. Ridiculous foolishness.”
“Oh Potter,” wails the spirit. “Did you learn nothing from my lessons I showed you this evening? Come, my time has ended and I fear I failed you. I pray my brothers have more success with you…that they ‘turn a profit,’ as you would say if men’s souls had fiscal value.” And with that the Spirit is gone and Potter finds himself sitting alone in his wheel chair.
Stave III. THE SECOND OF THE THREE SPIRITS
Potter awoke in his chair not sure if he had just dreamt the night before. He was not one for dreams, as his history of crushing them would illustrate, but still, he was confused. Yet it was a noise that awoke him, but a smell. Smells that have not filled his nostrils in years. Wondrous foods and cakes cooking seem to float in from the dining room around the hall. And as he deeply sniffed in the scents, he heard his grandfather clock toll “one.” Was there to be another Spirit arriving for him, filled his mind. “Potter!” boomed a loud robust voice from his dining room. With slow motions, Potter rolled his chair forward, towards the source of the smells and the voice beckoning to him. It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation. The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove; from every part of which, bright gleaming berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney, as that dull petrifaction of a hearth had never known in Potter's time, or for many and many a winter season gone. Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. In easy state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see:, who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty's horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Potter, as he came peeping round the door. "Come in!" exclaimed the Ghost. "Come in, and know me better, man." Potter wheeled his chair slowly as he entered timidly, hanging his head before this Spirit. He was not the dogged Potter he had been; and though the Spirit's eyes were clear and kind, he did not like to meet them. "I am the Ghost of Christmas Present," said the Spirit. "Look upon me."
Potter reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice. Its feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the garment, were also bare; and on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanor, and its joyful air. Girded round its middle was an antique scabbard; but no sword was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten up with rust. "You have never seen the like of me before!" exclaimed the Spirit. “I have not,” answered Potter, “but having met your brother earlier, I can’t say I’m entirely surprised.” “Then feast your eyes upon me O’man!” booms the Spirit. “And join in the revelry. “ “You are a wasteful spirit,” comments Potter. “And what would you have me do with it, Potter?” asks the Spirit. “Give it to a charity?” “That’s not what I said, Spirit?” “No,” responds the Spirit, “you didn’t and in that lies your curse. But come, the night is young and we have many places to journey to this evening. Rise Henry Potter and may those legs that are useless to you know, find the strength to keep up with us.” The giant sprit full of life reaches his hand out to Potter and once accepted, both walk into the night. As they step out of the dark, they arrive in the light of day. It is late afternoon in Bedford Falls on Christmas Eve as the wet snow falls upon Potter and the Mirthful Spirit. Through the center of town, they walk leaving no prints in the virgin snow as they walk to a home on the other side of town. “Do you know this street?” asks the Ghost of Christmas Present. “I do,” answers Potter. “It is Sycamore.” “Yes,” answers the Ghost. “It is twenty three Sycamore, the home of George Bailey. One would think that you would know more of the man whose fate you seek to undermine.” “Bah,” snorts Potter. “Why should I bother to know his home. It is not likely he would invite me in.” “Are you so sure of that Potter? George Bailey has never thought ill of you, you forced his opinion. But come, let us enter and see the merriment!” The inside of the home it smells of pine trees and baking cookies. A handsome woman in a black dress and apron is replacing baked cookies with raw dough in the oven in a precise like motion. A young girl is trying to keep up with her mother as she lays the new batch on the counter. IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
“Can I test this batch too, Mommy,” asks Janie. “It’s the only way to know they’re ok,” responds Mary Bailey with a bright smile. Her eyes twinkle in the Christmas lights through the home. As the spirit walks through the home, he dips his torch a bit and sprinkles a magic dust upon the food and drink as well as the children. “What is that you drop?” ask Potter. “A Christmas blessing, Potter” replied the Ghost. “Something you know nothing about now do you?” “I know that each year the poor get poorer and the rich get richer and all your blessings don’t seem to be worth very much,” comments Potter. “You are picking on me for being a realist, when what do you and your kind sell? False hope laced in false promises. With me people always know where they stand.” “That they do,” says the Spirit, “and you, my sad miserable friend, are the poorer for it.” “I’m not.” “But you are. Take Mary Bailey,” begins the Spirit as Mary walks into the living room to continue with her son, Pete and Tommy putting decorations on the Christmas tree.” She has riches you will never know. Since she can remember, she has loved George Bailey. It is her love that makes his dreams possible, and tonight, because of you will test her strength, but we get ahead of ourselves. Observe as she works with her children.” “Where’s George,” comments Potter. “Shouldn’t he be here with them helping?” “He would Potter, as he has been every year before this one, but he is at the Bailey Building and Loan, searching for money that sits in your jacket pocket. You would rob this family of their provider, their father and their husband. For what Potter, to gain one more business, a business worth less than all the others in your impressive portfolio, yet more important to you simply because George would never sell out to you. His world is in an upheaval and you hold the key to his salvation, but you chose profit over mercy.” The Spirit points to a sole figure walking down the center of Sycamore Street. His lean figure hunched over with each steps, hands deep inside his pockets. “He arrives home, Potter” announces the Spirit. “Come, lets us watch your handiwork and see what it creates.” The broken notes of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” play through the foyer as Janie practices the song on the piano. George comes through the front door and brushes a mild powdering of snow off his head and shoulders.
“Hello Darling,” says Mary kissing his cheeks as the children all shout ‘hello’ as well. George mumbles something as he steps into the living room. “Did you bring the wreath?” A sneeze from George is the only answer given for the moment. “Daddy, did you bring the Christmas wreath?” asks the oldest son, Pete. “Wreath,” responds George, “what wreath?” “The Merry Christmas Wreath for the window,” answers Mary. “Oh, um, I left it at the office,” replies George. “Is it snowing?” asks Mary, sensing that something is wrong with her husband. “Yeah, just started.” “Where’s your hat and coat?” she asks. “Left them at the office too,” mindlessly responds George. “George,” asks Mary her concern growing. “What’s the matter?” “The matter,” answers George with sarcastic tones, “nothings the matter, everything’s all right.” George walks into the room, past the specters of Potter and the Ghost of Christmas Present to slump into a chair. Little Tommy jumps up on his father’s lap, and George wraps his arms about Tommy’s body, holding him tight to himself, the tears that have built up inside, no longer being able to hold back, slowing falling down his cheeks. Mary is reaching up on the tree and has yet to see her husband’s pain, but like a wife, knows something is wrong. “Isn’t it wonderful about Harry? We’re famous, George. I’ll bet I had fifty calls today about the parade, the banquet. Your mother’s so excited, she…” It is then that Mary sees her husband and knows something is seriously wrong. He has never been like this. “Must she keep playing that?” George spurts out in response to the not quite classical rendition of the Christmas Classic his daughter is playing. “Now he sounds like you Potter,” comments the spirit. “It is a horrible noise,” replies Potter, “and for once I agree with Bailey.” “I have to practice for the party tonight, daddy,” answers Janie. “Mommy says we can up till midnight and sing Christmas Carols,” exclaims Pete. “Can you sing, Daddy?” asks Tommy. “George, you better hurry and shave,” suggests Mary from the ladder working on the tree. “The families will be here soon.” “Families!” shouts George, “I don’t want the families over here!”
Mary comes down off her ladder to lead George into the kitchen. “This is not going to get better, will it Potter?” asks the Ghost of Christmas Present. He will continue to slide, not seeing an end in sight.” “And what does this families problems have to do with me?” says Potter. “They made a mistake and I capitalized. It is as timeless as the world.” “Timeless you say,” asks the Ghost. “I think not. But I do not believe you should see more of this family’s intimate problem. They are a proud people and even though you need to learn of life, I will not betray their most sacred moment as the fates you force upon them come into play. You do not understand pain so let me tell you about pain. Mary Bailey will watch as the strongest man she knows, melts in front of her and her children like a snow man on a June day. She will watch not knowing how to help him. A hug or a soft touch will not ease his torment nor will the angelic voices of his children. Come with me a few moments into their future Mr. Potter. George had a bad moment with little Zuzu’s school teacher and his world continues to come crashing down upon him.” The children are standing in shock at their father. He has never screamed and yelled before, and never at them or their mother. They sense the same thing as Mary, but no one knows what to do. George also knows something is wrong with him, and he doesn’t know any way to spare the children other than one. With tears in his eyes, George looks at his wife, what he fears could be the last time. “Mary…” says George before he turns and heads out of the house. “Spirit,” comments Potter. “Now where is he off to?” “George Bailey came to see you,” says the Spirit. “He needed your compassion and humanity and you threatened him for crimes he did not commit. He was weak before he got there, and was worst when he left you.” “This family,” asks Potter. “What will happen to them?” “If fate is left to the course you set for it, I see this house as vacant as it once was. Mary Bailey working as a maid trying to keep food on the table for the four children, bitter, and alone. But that is if destiny holds one course. Mary Bailey is a woman of strength Henry Potter. You may have broken her husband, but you did not break her. Watch. Watch the cornered mother fight like a lioness protecting her family.” The telephone is in Mary’s hand before the door closes behind George. “Is Daddy in trouble?” asks Pete. “Yes, Pete,” answers Mary. “Shall I pray for him?” asks Janie. “Yes, Janie,” pleads Mary. “Pray very hard.” IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
“Me too?” asks little Tommy with the angelic eyes. “You too Tommy,” says Mary. She turns from the children and hears a voice on the other end. “Hello, Uncle Billy?” “Mary,” cries Uncle Billy, “I don’t know what to do?” Mary closes her eyes for a moment then speaks slowly and surely into the phone. “Uncle Billy,” she continues, “Slowly tell me what happened and what can we do?” Through a voice that goes up and down with emotion, Uncle Billy tells Mary of the short coming with the money. She listens calmly and then speaks carefully, knowing that she must reach through to Uncle Billy and get his attention. “Uncle Billy,” says Mary. “We don’t have much time. Run to Mr. Gower. Have him telegraph Sam Wainwright that George is in trouble. Tell everyone that George is in trouble.” “Mr. Gower…Sam Wainwright, everyone,” repeats Uncle Billy, “got it.” “Uncle Billy,” says Mary. “George has always been there for anyone that ever needed him. He needs us now. He needs you now. Hurry, please hurry.” Uncle Billy’s end of the phone call goes silent. Mary then dials again to the operator and asks to be connected to the Bedford Falls police. When the operator puts her through, she speaks to the secretary there. “Terri,” she begins, “This is Mary Bailey. Is Bert there?” “Mary,” whispers Terri, “what’s going on? There are all these men here looking for George and…” “Terri,” interrupts Mary. “I need Bert, please. It’s an emergency.” “Of course Mary, I am so sorry,” apologizes Terri through the phone. “I’ll connect you to him, and if there is anything I can do, please let me know” “There is Terri,” answers Mary. “Tell everyone that George is in trouble and needs their help. Just have them call me or come over” “I will Mary. God Bless,” says Terri. ”Please hold.” The line is quite for a few moments and the only sounds in the house are of the children praying between tear drops. The Ghost of Christmas Present walks beside Mary points to her. “This is what the items in your ledger look like Potter. People trying to survive your greed without sinking to the horrible level you would have them drop. But come, our time at the Bailey house is done. Rather, we should go to the police station, where those that do your bidding without thought, prepare to go after a man, they know to be good.” Within the Bedford Falls Police station, the small force of four men and a sheriff sit in shock in a small meeting room, hot cups of coffee before them. The Sheriff, a man who could have been honest, IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
but has supplemented his income with coins from Potter leads the discussion. Potter and the Ghost stand in the rear of the room watching as a debate about Potter begins. “Henry Potter has sworn out a warrant for the arrest of George Bailey,” begins the Sheriff. “He wants him under arrest tonight, no later than tomorrow.” “There has to be a mistake,” says Bert. “I’ve known George all my life, you all have. There has never been a more honest man in Bedford Falls, and everyone in here knows that.” “Our opinion doesn’t matter, Bert,” says the Sheriff. “Potter wants George arrested.” “What did he give you Bill?” asks Bert. “Thirty pieces of silver to betray a good man?” “You’re crossing a line Bert,” snaps back Bill the Sheriff. “Not the same one you did…sheriff,” replies Bert. “I’ll have you arrested also,” says the Sheriff. “By who?” asks Bert. “Every man here knows you are in Potter’s pocket. There’s not a man here willing to do Potter’s bidding on this on. You are on your own.” “Sit down Bert!” orders the Sheriff. “No,” responds Bert. “I’m going to go find George Bailey, but not for you. And not for Potter. I’m going to find him, because he’s my friend and because I can smell a frame up and this one stinks brother.” With those words, Bert walks out of the room. The sheriff looks on in disbelief and knows that there is nothing he can do. The three other men follow Bert out of the room, leaving the sheriff alone with the astral visitors of Potter and Christmas Present to watch him mull over the wisdom of betrayal of a good man. “Stop them you fool,” commands Potter to the sheriff, but of course only you and I can hear him. The sheriff sits alone with his thoughts, knowing that the respect he thought he commanded just walked out the door. Another mark in the ledger of life Potter created. As Bert walks through the police station, Terri, the receptionist calls to him. “Bert,” she yells, “It’s Mary Bailey on the line.” Bert races to the phone and accepts it from the blonde. “Mary,” says the strong voice of Bert, one of George’s two best friends. “I’ve been trying to get out of here to get over there.” “Don’t come here Bert, “pleads Mary. “Find George. Find him Bert, he’s desperate and scared and didn’t do what they say he did. Please, help him.” “I’ll find him Mary,” promises Bert. “I’ll find him.” The Ghost of Christmas Presents stands over Bert on the phone and sprinkles much of his magical dust over him. “Why did you do that?” ask Potter. IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
“Because this man has love in his heart for his fellow man, “answers the Spirit to Potter, not greed. Now come, I have two more places to take you this evening, Henry Potter.” Along the outskirts of Bedford Falls is a restaurant and bar. It is a popular place with the locals, call Martinis and offers fine fare of Italian food. Many go in for the seafood, but to most it is the spaghetti that draws them. As Potter and the Ghost of Christmas Present enter the doors, the sounds of the holiday greets their ears. One man is behind the bar making drinks. Potter knows him well. His name is Nick, and until recently, Potter thought he had another entry in his ledger. “You know this place, Potter?” asks The Spectral Guide. “And these people.” “I do,” responds Potter. “They live in Bedford Falls.” “But you own restaurants in town,” questions the Ghost, “do you not?” “I do.” “yet, here at Martinis they come. That man behind the bar, Nick. You saw him this week?” “Yes,” snarls Potter. “He wants to buy a home. I offered him a rental instead. He’s a bartender working for tips from the miserable. It would be a bad investment.” “And did he accept your offer, Mr. Potter?” “No,” laments Potter. “He didn’t. He got a mortgage from the Bailey Building and Loan instead.” “It seems that George saw him as a ‘good investment’ then, didn’t he Potter?” The telephone in the restaurant rings and Nick answers it. “Martinis, this is Nick.” Nick is quiet on the other end, then puts his hand over the receiver. “Mr. Martini, telephone!” A smallish man in a suit comes over to the large bartender. The burly man leans in to his employer to whisper, “it’s Mary Bailey on the phone.” The restaurateur grabs the phone from Nick quickly, as he has been worried about George for a while now. “Mrs. Bailey,” says Mr. Martini. “Mr. Martini,” asks Mary, “I’m trying to find George.” “He was here, Mrs. Bailey. Tonight.” Martini has feared this call. George was there, but in not good shape. He was distant and sad, and punched in the face by a man upset with the change in George from earlier in the evening. “Is he still there?” No,” says Martini with sorrow in his voice. “We tried to keep him from leaving. He was in bad shape, and not because he drinks, no Mrs. Bailey. Bad shape.” “He’s in trouble Mr. Martini,” states Mary. “Mr. Potter says George did something wrong with the money and now the police want to arrest him. It is not true…” IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
“Mrs. Bailey,” interrupts Mr. Martini. “George Bailey is my best friend. When I had no home, he and you helped me get one. I would not have my house or my business without George and I will be there to help. You may depend upon me.” “Oh, Mr. Martini,” cries Mary, “Thank you.” Martini hangs the phone up and waves Nick over. “Help me up on the bar Nick.” The large man helps the smaller man climb onto the bar top. “Everyone,” begins Mr. Martini, “please listen to me.” The Ghost of Christmas Present moves beside the small man so as not to miss a word. “We all know George Bailey. And each person here, owes a big part of our lives to him. For me, I got a house because of him and almost everyone I know did also. He is in trouble now and needs our help! Nick, bust open the juke box, I’m bringing every dollar I can to his house. I don’t know what they say he did, but I know George Bailey! And a better man has never lived! We are now closed for the night!” Martini opens the cash drawer and places every bit of money into a large bowl. People walk by and start dropping money into the bowl as well, each commenting upon the character of George Bailey. Then it comes from the rear, someone says the name and it begins. “I bet Potter is behind this!” shouts a man. “It has to be Potter, he’s been after the Baileys for years!” “People, people,” pleads Martini, “forget Potter. George needs us.” Looking into his eyes, the Ghost of Christmas Present turns to Potter. “They know Potter. They know that George would never do what you said and even more, they know you are behind this.” “They can’t prove anything,” states Potter. “They don’t have to,” answers the Spirit. “In their hearts, they’ll always know.” The two stand in an empty restaurant as everyone climbs into cars to drive to the Bailey’s home, as the word has spread, that George needs help. “Is there no one that thinks of me on this holiday night?” ask Potter. The Spirit looks skyward as he ponders Potter question. “Perhaps there is one. Come, let us away,” and the pair find themselves standing in a one room flat over a store in Bedford Falls. Alone in a room is Grant, a bottle of scotch beside him as he sits in a cold chair listening to the radio, waiting for a call to come. “This man thinks of you Potter,” says the Ghost. “Your man servant Grant awaits your call. He has no life, no enjoyment in the world. His only companionship is you and your commands. Is he happy? No. How could he be? He stands a silent witness to your doings every day, watching as you ruin and destroy lives.” “Spirit,” begins Potter, “I never thought of what my actions did to others, only how they impacted me. Is there no one this evening in Bedford Falls happy?” IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
“There are,” responds the Spirit. “May we see them?” “Touch my robe o’man,” commands the spirit, “ as we have many stops and my time grows short.” Potter looks at the Spirit and realizes that he has been aging considerably during this quest. “You look different,” states Potter. “Older, more frail.” “Ah, you have noticed Potter,” responds the Spirit. “Each unhappiness cuts into my timeline and we are near the end of being for now. Come, we have much to see.” In a flash, Potter and the Spirit are whisked through the bedrooms of the children of Bedford Falls. Those asleep dream of the visit from Santa Claus and the gifts that await them in the morning and the others, toss and turn in their beds, not able to sleep with the anticipation. “They are only children,” comments Potter. “They are.” “Why show them to me?” asks Potter. “You asked to see who is happy? They are,” states the Ghost. “They lie in bed, with happy thoughts, and not the worries of adulthood. Santa Claus will come tonight and fulfill their wishes, but their parents lie in bed, knowing that in two days, they are back to the misery that you created for them to toil in.”
It was a long night, if it were only a night; but Potter had his doubts of this, because the Christmas Holidays appeared to be condensed into the space of time they passed together. It was strange, too, that while Potter remained unaltered in his outward form, the Ghost continued to grow older, clearly older. Potter had observed this change, but didn’t ask of it again, until he noticed that its hair was grey. "Are spirits' lives so short?" asked Potter. "My life upon this globe, is very brief," replied the Ghost. "It ends tonight." "Tonight!" cried Potter. "Tonight at midnight. Hark! The time is drawing near." “But you came to me at one in the morning, how is this…”asks Potter. “With the spirits, time has no meaning, Potter” states the Spirit. The chimes were ringing the three quarters past eleven at that moment.
"Forgive me for what I’m about to ask," starts Potter, looking intently at the Spirit's robe, "but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?" "It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it," was the Spirit's sorrowful reply. "Look here." From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment. "Oh, Man, look here! Look, look, down here!" exclaimed the Ghost. They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread. Potter started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude. "Spirit, are they yours?" Potter could say no more. "They are Man's," said the Spirit, looking down upon them. "And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!" cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. "Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end." Potter turned away from the Spirit and saw a shape in the distance standing before him. He was all in black and quickly turned to seek the refuge from his last companion and saw he had left and Potter was now quite all alone.
Stave IV. THE LAST OF THE THREE SPIRITS
The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came, Potter fell down upon his knees; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery. It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded. He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved. "I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?" said Potter. The Spirit answered not, but pointed downward with its hand. "You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us," Potter pursued. "Is that so, Spirit?" The upper portion of the garment was contracted for an instant in its folds, as if the Spirit had inclined its head. That was the only answer he received. “Spirit,” begins Potter, “I have seen shadows of deeds I did as a young man, and deeds I have done as recent as today, but I fear you more than the others. Should I fear you?” Once again the shrouded head of the figure nods acknowledgement. It then holds up a boney hand and points forward. Ahead of him is the building of the Bedford Falls Chamber of Commerce. Forward Potter and the Spirit walk silently into the building. The flag that flies over top is at half mast and the room they walk into is filled with men in suits. “When did he die?” one man asks.
“During the night, I heard,” responds another. “Since it was Christmas Day that he kicked on and he has no one with him, no one knew he was dead until two days later.” “I always said he was stinker, and now the dead geezer has proven me right, ” added a third. “I hear that the funeral will be in the high school stadium,” adds the first man. “I didn’t know he had that many friends,” responds another. “He didn’t,” the man answers, “but everyone is coming to make sure he’s really dead.” Everyone laughs at this commentary. “I heard everyone is planning to jab the corpse with a pen knife, just to see if he pops up.” “You know,” adds another, “he would have died years ago, but Satan, kept putting the kibosh on that. Last thing he needed in hell was that guy,” they joke at the poor corpse’s expense. “Who’s paying for this?” “Why he is the ol’ skin flint. Gonna have a party in death that he would never have had in life. With on heirs, the state is footing the bill, knowing that they’ll deduct it from his estate.” “I’m surprised he didn’t have the money buried with him,” they laugh. “I’ll bet he tried,” they laugh back. Potter looks at the Spirit questioning. There is not a kind word for this poor soul anywhere. No mourners anywhere in the room. The Spirit lifts his arm and points out the window. There, staggering across the street is Uncle Billy. His face is bright red and he is greeting each person he meets as if it is Christmas day. The Spirit guides Potter outside and down the street to the pawn shop. Walking in the shop, they see Grant come in with a bundle of goods. “What do you have here?” asks the man behind the counter. “Some odds and ends,” answers Grant. “That’s all.” The clerk begins going through the pile, finding a watch, some jewelry, nothing special in the pile. “There’s nothing much of great value here. I’ll give you one hundred bucks for the lot.” “Done,” responds Grant. “Relative?” the clerk asks. IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
“Nah,” responds Grant. “I hardly knew the guy.” The clerk peels off the money and Grant takes it and walks unknowingly past the apparitions. “For a few moments, Spirit,” begins Potter, “I feared you were showing me there, but when he said he hardly knew me, I knew it couldn’t be me. He’s been with me nearly twenty five years. He knew me.” While they stand there watching Grant leave, two more people come into the pawn shop carrying goods. “What do we have here, a run on household junk?” ask the clerk. “Junk?’ laughs a toothless old crone. “I think not. I’ve got silk sheets, and candlesticks.” “You took silk sheets?” asks the second lady. “Where in the world did you take those?” “From the bed around the old dead fool,” she laughs. “I worked for him for twenty years, and I don’t think he could point to me in the street and say hello. Now, how much?” “You are a pair, robbing the dead,” laughs the clerk. “And why shouldn’t we?” responds the second. “He always took care of number one when he was alive. Now what do you have for me?” The clerk peels two piles of five one dollar bills each out of a roll and lays them down on the counter. “Now don’t be taking advantage of my generous nature, but I’ve always been soft to the ladies.” The two ladies take their money and leave. The Spirit then points to one more direction, up the road. Together they walk the empty, snow filled streets of Bedford Falls to a large home. The mailbox says “Bailey,” it is not the home of George. As they walk to the front door, a car pulls up. It is a taxi cab. Getting out and walking right through the ghostly versions of Potter and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is Ernie Bishop. He walks to the door and rings the bell. An elderly woman comes to the door. “Ma Bailey,” begins Ernie to the woman in the door, “he’s dead.” “Well, may God bless his soul,” she responds, blessing herself. Ernie looks at her in wonder. “After all that cold fish did to you and your family, the first words out of your lips when you hear he passed is a blessing. I will never cease to be amazed by you.” “Ernie,” explains the older woman, “life is too short. He was a cold, twisted man and died as alone as he lived. If my praying for his soul helps to save it, so be it. But if I was to spend IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL Story ©2010 ROBERT L. ROBINSON, JR Based with love and respect on characters created by Charles Dickens and Frank Capra
all my days hating him for who he was and what he did, I’d be as dark as him. And Peter or George would not want that.” “Spirit,” ask Potter with dread in his voice. “Who is this man that people mock in death, and rejoice at being dead? I fear the answer is before me and I don’t want to know but I must.” The Spirit says nothing to Potter but points across the street from the Bailey home. There over a stone wall is a graveyard, which Potter looks at in fear. “But the body is still cold, or is this more of your ghastly magic?” Potter asks. Still the Spirit says nothing but continues to glide forward, leading him with feet that never touch the ground. Forward they travel until at last they reach the dark and cold cemetery. Here, then, the wretched man whose name he had now to learn, lay underneath the ground. It was a worthy place. Walled in by houses; overrun by grass and weeds, the growth of vegetation's death, not life; choked up with too much burying; fat with repleted appetite. A worthy place! The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to one in the distance. Potter advanced towards it trembling. The Phantom was exactly as it had been, but he dreaded that he saw new meaning in its solemn shape. "Spirit,” asks Potter. “Before I look at the tombstone at which you point, answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?" Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood. "I need to know that if the lessons you should me will allow me to change, to repent myself. Can you tell me that?" The Spirit was immovable as ever. Potter crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name, HENRY F. POTTER. "Am I that man who lay upon the bed?" he cried, upon his knees. The finger pointed from the grave to him, and back again. "No, Spirit! No!" The finger still was there.
"Spirit!" he cried, tight clutching at its robe, "please hear me! I will change, I must change, but is it too late for me? Can I be allowed another chance at life, a life I never lived?" For the first time the hand appeared to shake. "Good Spirit," he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: "Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Promise me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life." The kind hand trembled. "I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall live within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. My business shall be mankind and striving to help others, but please tell me that I may wipe the horrible slate clean and learn to redeem myself? I don’t want to live and die as that man you showed me!" In his agony, he caught the spectral hand. It sought to free itself, but he was strong in his entreaty, and detained it. The Spirit, stronger yet, repulsed him. Holding up his hands in a last prayer to have his fate aye reversed, he saw an alteration in the Phantom's hood and dress. It shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost.
Stave V. THE END OF IT ALL
Mr. Potter once again found he had awakened in his own home. But he was not in his wheel chair this time as after the previous visits, but in his own bed, the wheel chair parked beside, as is his custom each night. The moon shone over head and the dawn was still hours from coming. “I haven’t missed it,” exclaimed Potter, “I haven’t!” as he sat up in bed. He reached for the telephone and dialed to Grant. “It’s Potter,” he says gruffly into the phone. “What day is it?” “It’s Christmas now sir,” explains Grant back to his employer. “December 25th.” Potter smiles to himself, good good, he is not too late. “Excellent. I want you to get over here right away. We’ve got to get to George Bailey’s house immediately.” “Yes sir,” responds the man servant as Potter hangs the phone up. He has not felt this way ever in his life, Potter hasn’t. The Spirits have done their work all in a night, and he now the rest is up to him. Having sent the staff home earlier in the evening, Potter had to fend for himself in trying to get dressed and ready. He relishes the task, a smile on his face knowing that he has to face the world in a new way than he ever has before. The Spirit of Peter Bailey has given him the tools to rescue himself. A man that he would have thought hated him with his last breath and into eternity, but he came to him, came to him and showed him the light, the spirit of Christmas. And in doing so, taught him about the Spirit of mankind. “Mr. Potter, Sir,” says Grant loudly. “Up here,” says Potter. When Grant comes into the master bed room, Potter is in his chair and ready. “We haven’t much time, man. We must get to Bailey’s house, but first we must get to the office.” “Will the police be there?” ask the man servant. “That’s what I am afraid of,” responds Potter confusing the servant.
Mr. Potter and Grant enter the bank building and make their way to Potter’s office. He wants to retrieve the missing money. Upon arriving, Potter goes directly to his desk. There in the top drawer, still in Uncle Billy’s envelope is the eight thousand dollars. Eight Thousand dollars, the sum he placed on ruining the life of George Bailey and his family. He softly weeps while holding the money, his good Grant looking on in disbelief. He can sense it, that there is something different about Henry Potter. A knock at the window snaps both of them up, looking at the source of the sound. There in the window, looking mad with a little blood dropping off from his mouth, is a wide eyed George Bailey. “Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter!” shouts George. “Happy New Year to you!” responds Potter. “Go on home, they’re waiting or you!” George does not hear any of what Potter has said, as he is skipping merrily down the main street to go to Sycamore and his family. “Sir,” asks Grant. “Is everything alright?” “I’ve never been better,” laughs Potter. “Never been better, now hurry man, we’ve got to get to Bailey’s house.” The two men ride in the car silently, through the pelting snow into town. As they near Sycamore Street, the roadway is congested with cars all along the street. The street looks a leopard skin, tattooed with footprints in the snow. Hundreds of footprints trampling over each other, all travelling to one destination, to the Bailey house. Bert’s police car is parked in front, the red light on the top still spinning as Potter’s black car drives up. Within the window, Potter can see a crowd of people within the home. The front door is wide open as Grant helps Potter out of the car and into his chair. Through the snow, they walk up the front path to the door, as a taxi cab pulls up behind Potter’s car and the passenger in the front seat and the driver jump out, to race past them Potter and Grant without seeming to paying much mind to them to enter the house. Just before going inside, Harry Bailey glances back and looks at Potter then turns and goes inside, with not a worry in the world.
Potter and Grant arrive at the front door, seeing it open as they hear the sound of the song Auld Lang Syne being sung by everyone from the inside. “Sir,” ask Grant, not sure what to do next. “Wait in the car,” instructs Potter as he sits in the doorway, half in and half out. He wants to go inside the warmth of the home, but he knows that with the love and compassion of the people there, he will be rejected. He had never feared that before in his life, but now, the only thing he wants is the compassion and forgiveness of George Bailey. And he is afraid to ask for it. So, there he sits, alone and cold in the darkness of the night, inches away from the light and warmth of the people of the town he ruled under his thumb, just wanting their acceptance, not obedience and fear. Potter turns the chair towards the street, to go back to the car, not ready to enter the house when a hand on his shoulder stops him. “Mr. Potter“says a voice that Potter knows well. It belongs to George Bailey. Potter turns about to look up at the man he tried to destroy. “George,” whispers Potter. “The money,” begins George. “The missing money is here. We have it now.” “I have it here also George,” confesses Potter handing to George the envelope. “I found it in an envelope in my paper. Your Uncle must have placed it there by accident.” “I don’t understand Mr. Potter,” questions George. “Why are you telling me this?” “George,” says Potter, “I don’t know either, but tonight, something wonderful happened to me, and I saw the world in a way you wouldn’t believe.” “Mr. Potter,” chuckles George, “You’d be surprised what I would believe tonight.” “That’s right,” remembers Potter. “Your father told me that tonight was your night also.” “My father?” asks George. “Mr. Potter, are you alright?” “I’ve never been better George,” laughs Potter. “May I ask you a question?” “Please do Mr. Potter.”
“Tonight,” begins Potter, “did you find yourself at a cross road in your life? Where it could have gone one way or another and something magical, something wonderful happened to show you your life in a way you could never imagine?” George sits down on a chair beside Potter and places his hand over Potter’s. “I did. I was shown just how wonderful my life truly was and how I never had my eyes open to appreciate all my blessings. What did you see Mr. Potter?” “I saw just how miserable mine was,” says Potter honestly, “and how I have missed the wonders of life and people and that no matter how much money I have I was the poorer for it. Does this make sense to you George?” “It does, Mr. Potter, it does,” answers George. “But you said something about my father. Can you tell me what you meant?” “George,” says Potter shaking his head, “Peter Bailey came to me this evening. He told me he was there to save my soul so that I could be half the man that you are. He was proud of you George. Very proud of you. But, I sensed he was concerned you weren’t proud of the man you became. And you became a fine man. And from what I hear them say inside, you are truly the richest man in town, as the number of friends you have far outweighs the volume of entries in your ledger.” As the morning sun begins to appear, the tears are in both men’s eyes as they share this story. From the doorway, Mary Bailey has watched the entire time and now steps out to stand beside her husband. “Mr. Potter,” asks Mary. “Would you like to come in and join us?” “I couldn’t,” stammers Potter. “Please Mr. Potter,” says George. “It’s Christmas Morning. The sun is rising to show us a new day and Christmas is all about new hope and a new beginning. Join us.” “These people…” questions Potter. “I’ve done everything to make their lives hard and difficult. I couldn’t face them.” “These people,” explains George, “are good people. And this is Christmas, and if you’ve had the miracles I know you had last night as I did, then what’s one more miracle between friends?
“Thank you George,” answers Potter, holding his hand tightly. “I don’t know what to say.” “How about ‘Merry Christmas,’ Mr. Potter,” suggest Mary. “Merry Christmas,” says Mr. Potter. “And a happy New Year.”
THE END Written for Christmas 2008