By this time last year, I was over-working myself at my job as a radio programme producer. One of the best things about the entire process (and there many awesome moments!) was writing a Christmas special for my then-show, The Morning Mojo.
It is an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Voice talents include my lovely nephew, Stanley Bentu, various We Fm staff members and yours truly.
Mr. Scrooge’s Christmas
It was a hazy Harmattan afternoon and Ebenezer Scrooge was being chauffeured to the hotel where a luxury suite was waiting for him – well-lit, clean sheets, and of course, the sweet selection of culinary delights. For the past two decades, Chief Ebenezer Scrooge had spent Christmas alone – Well, not exactly alone, but not with his family. Every second day to Christmas, Scrooge called his current wife and their children on for twenty minutes, no matter which country his family had chosen to spend the Yuletide; and then on Christmas Eve, he would retreat to his favourite hotel where he would spend the next ten days feasting, drinking and having fun with his buddies. He wasn’t particularly close to any of them: They were mostly businessmen-turned-politicians, just like him. On a personal level, though, he felt like he didn’t have too much in common with them. In fact, the last person he had felt close to was his old business partner and best friend, Marley. But Scrooge hadn’t thought of Marley in years and shoved the beginning of a memory back into the recesses it was trying to crawl out from. His reverie was broken by the sound of his driver’s voice.
“Oga, did you hear me.”
“Ehn…no, what is it?”
“I said, my son, Timi, wants to see Father Christmas this year. Can I take him there when I drop you off at the hotel?”
“Have you seen how long the fuel queues are? Just look outside.”
Bobby, the driver, instead glanced at the fuel gauge. The tank was still almost fuel.
“Sir, I’ll be taking a taxi…”
Ebenezer Scrooge shifted his considerable bulk and said nothing. The SUV had stalled in the long line of cars being searched by the hotel’s security. Scrooge did not appreciate the earnest look on his driver’s face.
“Bobby, I’ve told you that I will most likely need you this night.”
“Sir, please…my son has just started walking since that Nyanya…bomb blast.” Bobby’s voice broke. “Seeing Father Christmas will make him so happy.”
Scrooge said nothing. It was best to nip that in the bud, before the driver would start pressuring him about educational policies and safe schools. What did that even mean: safe schools? Were they not fenced? The youth of today asked for too much and were not ready to work…
Presently, the silver vehicle began to inch forward. Bobby mindlessly slipped a N50 note into the hands of a young beggar boy as he wound down the glass to greet the security officer. Scrooge’s attention was on his phone until the vehicle pulled up at the hotel’s entrance. The chief waddled to the lifts while his driver moved on to the car park.
It seemed Bobby would be spending the rest of the afternoon with the other drivers like him who were on hand for the occupants within the building. He dialed his wife, Patience, and said in a mournful voice: “Don’t tell Timi anything. I don’t want to raise his hopes too much. But I don’t want to disappoint him either. Somehow, something will work out.”
Bobby disconnected the call with a click and leaned the driver’s seat as far back as it could go. He turned on the car stereo and tuned to We 106. 3 FM [cue station ID] and closed his eyes, trying to enjoy the Christmas carols [cue choral singing].
Scrooge did not need to bring any luggage. He kept a permanent suite at the hotel and had a full set of toiletries and clothes there. His assistant always made sure he was sorted out. She switched off her work phone every December 23rd so she could spend time with her husband and the in-laws. Scrooge wondered why as all she did was complain about them. Scrooge’s lips stretched in a lascivious smile as he relished the thought of his own break from the family. As though on cue Delicia, his companion for the holidays knocked at the door. Ebenezer Scrooge and Delicia spent the rest of the afternoon browsing the overpriced shops in the hotel. Delicia would frequently coo in his ear and the shop attendants would hurriedly wrap up whatever item was requested for, often with a barely-concealed sneer.
After shopping came swimming. After swimming, a lavish dinner and a turn at the casino. Scrooge felt like a winner, as Delicia on his chubby arm, he rode the lift back to his suite, clutching his winnings. It was already past midnight and Scrooge could barely keep his eyes open. He secured his money in the safe (making sure Delicia was in another room) and crashed heavily in bed. Before long, he was asleep but it wasn’t a restful sleep. Delicia was making such a racket. “What on earth is that woman doing?” Scrooge mumbled.
“Delicia. Delicia, stop making that noise,” Scrooge called out loud. He rolled over on his side…and saw Delicia fast asleep beside him. So what, was that noise?! “My money!” Scrooge gasped, scrambling out of bed. He made his way, trembling, towards the safe. The clanging sound continued. As Scrooge’s eyes adjusted to the dim, he saw, projected on the safe, a familiar face. It was the face of his dear departed friend, Jacob Nesta, nicknamed Marley during their apprenticeship days. “Have you come to get your revenge?” Scrooge asked, taking a step backwards. The apparition gradually shifted from its place on the safe to standing full length in front of his old friend.
“You betrayed your only friend, Ebenezer. You took my money and turned your back on me when illness took my health,” the spectre said in a rattling voice. “But I’m not here for vengeance,” Marley continued. “I am here to help you. To show you a better way.” Chief Ebenezer Scrooge snorted in derision. “You! Help me? You could barely help yourself in your lifetime. Now, you’re dead! How could you help me?”
Marley rattled as though he were wrapped around with chains. “A short while ago you thought I was here to exact revenge.” Scrooge pulled the strings of his pajamas tighter and said nothing, a mutinous look on his face. “This is a dream. When I open this safe, I will touch my money and I will wake up.”
Scrooge dialed the code and the lock sprung open with a soft click. The door swung open before his hand could touch it. A loud rush of wind bellowed from the safe and Scrooge shut his eyes against the blast. When he opened them again, he was standing in his living room. Well, his parents’ living room. He stood stock still and looked around in dismay. How hard he had tried to forget this place. He could hear soft crying in a corner. Scrooge knew who it was. His mother, newly widowed, was trying not to cry too loud, lest her in-laws hear her. Scrooge tried to shut his eyes but found that he couldn’t as the scene unfolded before him. A harsh male voice called out to the crying woman.
“You! Witch! You have not explained how my brother died and you’re here crying crocodile tears!”
Mrs. Scrooge covered her trembling lips with a fist and choked back sobs. Marley materialized before his friend, eyes looking gentle and filled with understanding. “Why did you bring me here?” Scrooge asked through gritted teeth.
“These are the shadows of things that have been. That they are what they are, do not blame me,” the ghost replied.
A six-year old Ebenezer joined the two figures. Mrs. Scrooge looked up and beckoned to him. Scrooge had already taken a step forward when he realized it was the child she needed. The boy, dressed in worn clothes that were obviously his best, threw his arms around the woman’s necks. “Promise me you won’t forget. That when you are grown up, you will do the right thing!” The shouting in-law materialized and dragged the boy out of the door as the woman’s keening began anew. The boy sniffed once and wiped away a tear. His uncle’s hand lashed out and struck him once across the face. “Man up!” the bully barked. Ebenezer held his cheek all the way to the parked station wagon loaded with his parents’ belongings. He stared out of the car window, watching his former playmates, in their special clothes, going visiting, laughing, and some holding gifts: It was Christmas Day.
Scrooge found himself in bed again. He was sure he was dreaming…Unless…he was awake and was hallucinating the sounds coming from the living area of his suite. He looked around. Marley was nowhere to be found. Scrooge followed the sounds of the merriment and came face-to-face with a smiling giant. The man wore a thick green suit and matching boots, both trimmed with white. He looked like an overgrown Nigerian flag. “Is he not feeling hot?” Scrooge thought to himself. “My good man, come in and get to know me!” the giant said before raising what looked like a large turkey leg to his lips. The man’s beard was thick and woolly. He swiped it on his sleeve and smiled at a bewildered Scrooge. The giant tapped his belly and bellowed: “My, my, your girth is almost as wide as mine!”
Suddenly, Scrooge felt self-conscious. But the feeling didn’t last long the giant suddenly lunged forward and grabbed the chief by the shoulders in a tight hug. Scrooge tried to beat at the burly man but it was no use. He shut his eyes in despair, waiting to hear his own bones crack. A second passed. Scrooge opened his eyes and found himself crouched in a defensive position in the middle of an unfamiliar room. He couldn’t hear the conversations but he recognized the family. It was Bobby, his wife Patience and their son, Timi. Timi’s leg was propped on a low stool while his crutches were leaning against a bigger chair. Bobby pulled a package from inside his jacket and handed it to his smiling son, who was clapping his little burnt hands.
“When was this?” Scrooge asked turning to The Ghost of Christmas Present. “A few hours ago. While you were lounging by the pool, Bobby snuck away to give a gift to his son because he couldn’t get the afternoon off to visit Father Christmas.” Scrooge was apoplectic. “That…that ingrate! I told him to wait for me!”
“But you never left the hotel.”
“I could have,” Scrooge spluttered.
“Do you know what happened to young Timi there?” the giant asked.
“And you would deprive him and his father one Christmas Eve? Isn’t Bobby the most loyal driver you have ever had?”
“I pay him well. He could have got a better gift,” Scrooge replied with a sniff.
“You know that this boy has been in treatment since April. Public health workers are on strike now. All his parents’ earnings pay for the best private clinic they can afford. What is left for buying Christmas gifts?” the ghost asked.
Scrooge turned back to the family. He felt tears well up in his eyes and hardened his childhood resolve not to cry. “Man up!” he whispered to himself. As he muttered those words, a cold biting wind blew from the direction of the giant. Scrooge turned towards the chill and opened his mouth to scream but no sound came out. Standing in the giant’s place was a cloaked spectral figure. It lifted a single skeletal hand from beneath its mist-shrouded garment and pointed a bony finger at Scrooge, who felt the cold contact even though it had not touched him. The scene had also changed. It was cold, clammy and Scrooge could feel himself falling backwards. As he fell, images of his life passed before him. Every betrayal, every money-grabbing move, and every selfish choice he made…Finally, his mother’s voice admonishing him to do the right thing floated to his ears just as he landed in an open coffin. The lid closed over him with a creak and the spectre began to slowly shovel sand, burying Scrooge alive. Thud. Thud. Thud.
Scrooge began to scream! He could hear his voice and knew he was awake. He sat up in bed and looked around in a panic. He could hear Delicia showering through the shut bathroom door. He checked the bedside clock. It was seven am. It was already Christmas Day! There was no time to lose. Scrooge raced barefoot to the lifts and punched the button frantically.
“Sir! Sir! May I help you?” Scrooge turned to face a bell hop.
“The concierge! I need the concierge!”
“Don’t worry sir. Let me fetch her…Why don’t you return to your room?”
Scrooge finally noticed his disheveled appearance. “Thank you my good man.”
“It’s no problem, sir. Have a Merry Christmas.”
Timi was excited. His family was about to leave the house to attend Christmas service. There was a rapid set of knocks on the door. “Mummy!” the child called out from his perch on the big chair. Bobby surfaced, running a comb through his hair. “What is it, son?” he asked.
Bobby opened the door. His eyes popped open. Standing at the entrance to his home stood his boss, Chief Ebenezer Scrooge, dressed up in a Father Christmas outfit. “Is there a brave young man named Timi living here?” Scrooge asked in a booming voice, a close to the giant’s as he could get.
Timi squealed in delight, clapping his hands. “Wow! Look at all these toys!”
Patience hurried out at the sound of the commotion. “Oh…my…wow!” was all she could manage.
Bobby took Scrooge aside. “Sir, is all well?” he asked incredulous.
Scrooge smiled and winked. “Your boy, Timi, he will never worry about being cared for, ever again.” Scrooge clasped Bobby by the shoulders. “I’ve put urgent calls to the relevant people. We’ll see about sponsoring that Safe Schools policy into a bill…Speaking of sponsorship…Timi’s medical bills are on me.”
Bobby could only shake his head. Timi looked up at them, a huge grin on his face, as Patience slipped on a new jacket over his shirt.
“Merry Christmas! God bless us everyone!”