Or so the joke as old as time goes, but that’s not exactly how it happened. In the wee hours of Christmas Morn, the trio actually dropped through the clouds into Gabriel’s Pub and were lucky enough to land in an empty booth. It had been an endless night, as all their Christmas Eves tended to be, and they were elated at the chance to finally give their exhausted ethereal forms a much-needed rest. The mood was festive and the music just holly-jolly enough and the triad of road-weary spirits sighed as they sank into the corner booth’s deep cushions. Like eider down pillows, they were.
It had been a harried Christmas Eve—typical for the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Yet to Come. This year the three were assigned a real piece of work who went by the moniker: Reginald Crunk—Founder and CEO of Crunk Technologies.
Mr. Crunk was harsh and had the type of menacing attitude the trio rated a ten on the Bah-Humbug Scale. As was their process in such cases, one-by-one the ghosts escorted him through the timeline of his life, showcasing his self-centered, miserly choices and the resulting consequences. He had been shamelessly uncooperative and unrepentant—at first.
In the manner of a stereotypical narcissistic boss, he scoffed when he viewed his past Christmases and grew smug at the reminder of the tantalizing state of his current holiday season. He didn’t see a problem. So what? He’d used the employees’ Christmas bonuses to pay for a luxury cruise. He deserved a break and to break-in a new busty blonde assistant who needed to keep her job. Sheila, or perhaps Shelly. Her name was inconsequential. She was just another notch on his bedpost.
Mr. Crunk’s stubborn resolve finally took a turn, beginning to waver, when the Ghost of Christmas Present pulled The Tiny Tim Card. It got ‘em every time, only instead of Tiny Tim, it was Tiny Tina, the daughter of Bill Blathers, a lowly numbers-cruncher who was reliant on that bonus to afford Tina’s ongoing chemotherapy treatments.
Mr. Crunk was baffled by his own momentary show of weakness. What was this liquid rolling down his suntanned cheeks? He grew angry, dotting a finger around his contoured cheekbone to burst the teardrops—stopping them cold in their tracks.
“Color me impressed, Prez. Making Crunk watch Mrs. Blathers knit the headscarf, Tina’s only Christmas gift, was a stroke of genius,” Past said, his face awash in an array of holiday colors.
“I just softened the bastard up a little—showed him love and kindness still exist in their world—but Future is the real hero,” Present said, magnanimously shifting the credit to Future. Past and Present beamed at Future, the humble hero who like the Wizard of Oz, was the man behind the curtain. The brains of the three-spirit operation. As per usual, the turning point and big win for the team was the boss’s viewing of his Christmases yet to come.
“Don’t hold out on us, old soul. How did you hook him?”
Future’s expression grew heavy as he stared through his hands. “I wish I could regale you with a swashbuckling tale of epic proportions, but it was the usual brand of uninteresting. You know, spirit takes man to his own funeral. Not a single soul is there to pay respect to the poor sap. Sap is in denial then finally accepts the truth. He is a selfish jerk. No friends. Life wasted. Vows to change his miserly ways… yada, yada, yada.”
Future looked up and saw the admiration in the eyes of Past and Present. He didn’t want to tell the star struck old fools the entire story. How the visceral reaction Crunk experienced had more to do with vanity than regret. Upon viewing himself dead, with his formerly pampered skin sallow and withered like a prune, his face turned seven shades of purple and like a naughty toddler, he cast himself to the floor to have an old-fashioned temper tantrum. Crunk let loose the waterworks, using the hem of his designer flannel nightshirt to staunch the flow of tears streaming down his face. The chap was an ugly crier who didn’t like the future in store for him if he stayed this wretched course. He didn’t mind that he was a pig-headed miser or that no one bothered to show up at his funeral. He just didn’t want to be the unkempt sod in a cheap coffin and dime store suit and tie, but no one wanted to read that story. Future was a thoughtful soft-spoken ghost who didn’t want to reveal the gory details, thus tarnishing their big win.
He shrugged his shoulders, “I couldn’t have done it without your previous stops along the timeline.”
There were congratulations all around as they attempted to clap one another on the back, their gossamer hands passing straight through the trilobite molecules, which in combined form created their physical manifestations, their hands winding up where they’d started—back on the scarred surface of the table.
A crimson demon, bound in chains and covered in black tattoos of Beelzebub, shuffled to the booth—her chains jingling and jangling with each step—and stood glaring down at the trio, impatiently tapping one dainty cloven hoof.
“I’ll take your orders when you’re finished almost patting yourselves on the back… again.” (The three were on a several-century ‘converting miserly bosses’ winning streak.)
“What’ll it be boys?”
The boys, older than Methuselah, said, “The usual, Legion.”
Being creatures of habit along the time-space continuum, they’d ordered the same three drinks for eons. Legion spun, neatly navigating the iron chains, and jingled and jangled her way down a dark tunnel ending at a speck of light somewhere in the great beyond.
The crafting of the boys’ drinks could take anywhere from a nanosecond to a couple of hundred years, depending on which bartender was on staff at any given time. Legion was back in a flash, a small round serving tray bound to one hand.
In unison the trio shouted, “All hail, Clinx!” For he was the fastest pour in the heavens. The quickest of the captive bartenders.
“He’s a speed demon,” Legion said, laughing her horrible gasping choke, mirth transforming her aura from fire and brimstone to a carnival of garish clowns, as she began to deliver the goods.
She set a 9,000-year-old tankard of mead before the Ghost of Christmases Past, who slowly faded into the background as he drank.
A frothy mug of Oud Geuze, Gabriel’s Beer Du Jour, for the Ghost of Christmas Present, crafted in Belgium and guaranteed to provide the sensory experience of an astral journey. He sipped and enjoyed the moment.
“And for you, the not-yet-invented Bedazzled Melortian Snow,” Legion lifted a contraption that looked like a peppermill crossed with a baking sifter and held it high above Future, the Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come. He closed his eyes as Legion churned a whirling dervish of neon red and green sparkling powder atop his ethereal head.
“Delicious,” he murmured before he was swept away to get back to the future.
Legion rolled her eyes, all six of them. In all the centuries she’d been serving the old spirits, the Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come had yet to pick up the tab.
She twirled, navigating her chains, and jingle-jangled her way to the disruptive table occupied by Santa and a dozen drunken elves.
Growing up, my family moved around—a lot. I attended a total of nine schools-in six cities-in four states before my first year of college. My first attempts at writing became a series of short stories inspired by the antics involved in making those numerous moves—from north to south and east to west—with my oddball family. Two local newspapers picked them up; running one story per month in a humorous memoirs column for a couple of years and that had me hooked. I continued to write, entering contests and submitting stories to a popular local news blog. Most recently, I have completed my first book, a compilation of letters to my sister-in-law describing my first year as a new-hire flight attendant in Boston called, "Dear Melinda, How I Met Your Brother." Now the hard part, finding a publisher. I have two children (now in their 30's) and reside in North Texas with three rescue dogs and a WFH job as an environmental compliance manager. I am continuing to write part two of my book, Dear Melinda, How I Married Your Brother. You can read more of my work on my website - Lisa H. Owens.