Friday, December 16, 2011

Ebenezer Christian and the Three Christmas Spirits, Chapter 9

     At this writing, Christmas is less than two weeks away. In 2001, (not, as I'd incorrectly remembered, 2002) a few weeks after Christmas, I wrote this novella as a reaction against the way Christmas has become a racket. Many of the worst offenders are professing Christians who have bought into the Christmas racket and are contributing to the world's problems by participating in that racket.
     We need to reconnect with the world, and we need to rethink Christmas.
     Over the coming days, I intend to post each of the fourteen chapters and addendum to Ebenezer Christian and the Three Christmas Spirits. The following is Chapter Nine.  For the Table of Contents to Ebenezer Christian and the Three Christmas Spirits, click HERE.

Chapter Nine
Ebenezer Christian's Christmas Eve
       We shall now return to our protagonist, Ebenezer Christian.
     There are certain advantages to having some time off on Christmas Eve, and Ebenezer Christian was beginning to enjoy them.
     He called his wife, Mary Martha Christian, before coming home in order to lessen the shock of his wrecked career as Santa Claus. Upon his arrival at his spacious home on Elm Street, Mary Martha Christian expressed unreserved joy over the chandelier that hung above her grand piano. Over and over, she cooed, "Oh, Eb," (because that's what she called him) "you're so thoughtful!"
     Ebenezer Christian suggested that they take a drive around Bedford Falls looking at the Christmas lights. She and their daughter Buffy (who was home from college) were thrilled at the idea. Their son Enoch thought it was a dumb, boring idea and opted to stay home.
     Mary Martha Christian had more than the usual reasons for being thrilled: it would help take her mind off of a horrifying experience she'd had earlier that day.  Mary Martha Christian, Pastor Ananias, the pastor's wife Sapphira, and others were working to put away the costumes, set, and so forth, from that year's Christmas production.  When she stepped into the church sanctuary, her nostrils were assaulted by a nauseating odor. She immediately notified Pastor Ananias, Sapphira, and the others, and they investigated the sanctuary to discover the source.
     There they saw what they later were to describe as a horrible-looking Puerto Rican man and woman who smelled as if they hadn't taken a bath or changed clothes in weeks. The young couple had not actually identified themselves as Puerto Ricans, but the minister and his flock were sure they must have been. These church people at least were sure that the couple were not Cubans.  They had seen Cubans in the movies, such as "that girl with the big smile," and none of them looked as awful as these two; therefore, they reasoned, the homeless couple must have been Puerto Ricans.  
     Pastor Ananias and another man in the church knew a few Spanish words, and the vagrants spoke very little English, but this was enough for the church to learn that the two vagrants were on their way to Florida to find work, and they needed a place to stay. Pastor Ananias mustered up his kindest face and informed them of some homeless shelters within a few miles of the church.
     They knew of the shelters, and they'd tried to gain admittance. The trouble was, homeless shelters have a rule that men and women must stay in separate shelters. The vagrants said they couldn't accept this arrangement because the woman was pregnant and due to deliver almost any day.
     The fearful churchgoers were stunned by the revelation that the woman was pregnant. They had been reluctant to look at the couple, but this news drew their attention to her large belly. What a shame, they thought. Those two, who couldn't afford to feed and clothe themselves, were about to bring a baby into the world. They, who could not house themselves, were presuming to dictate to charitable citizens the terms of their free housing. To compound matters, they actually had tried to turn the house of the Lord into a flop house.
     With the support of all who witnessed the event, Pastor Ananias ordered them from the premises. "Esta muy frio afuera," the man pleaded. "Donde pasaremos la noche?"  The church members understood the words muy frio, donde and la noche, and they correctly reasoned that the man had said something like, "It's very cold outside. Where will we spend the night?"
     "Swallow your pride," the minister intoned, "and accept the generosity of the homeless shelters. We at this church will pray for you, but that's all we can do." Afterwards, Pastor Ananias told Sapphira and the other the church members who were present that, although these two people might have been honest (he clearly doubted it), allowing transients to roam the church unsupervised at night would set an unwise precedent. The sight of all the priceless articles that adorned every wall and niche of the church, and well as the costly furnishings; and the knowledge of all the sterling silver ceremonial items that the church possessed would certainly prove too great a temptation for some future transient to resist.
     Mary Martha Christian was still trembling hours later when she told the story to Ebenezer Christian. "No one could have, or should have, done more for them," he consoled her. "We pay taxes to take care of people like that."
     Communities strung with Christmas lights testify to the truth of the poet E. Merrill Root's observation that the only things that are always new are the things that are very old. There's not a thing I could tell you about the myriad, multi-colored lights strung across almost every building and large tree in Bedford Falls. We see them every year, yet they always seem new. They're like the smiles of friends we had not seen since the previous Christmas.
     Even Burke and Hare's Funeral Home looked cheerful.
     Every city and most large towns boast certain locals who have added so many decorations to their homes and yards each year, that their cluttered homes and lawns have become sightseeing attractions. Often, they've accumulated so many decorations that they see fit to leave them up all year round and accept donations to pay the electric bills and to buy more decorations.
     Clifton Douglas served that purpose for Bedford Falls.
     All over his house and yard, and even into the kitchen and the living room, one could find several of every Christmas image anyone could imagine. A larger-than-life-sized Santa with his sleigh waved from the roof, and countless Santas and elves were elsewhere. Every Disney character you could name filled the yard. Thousands of lights covered the house and stretched along cables to every corner of the front yard like so many bowers. The place even had a manger scene.
     Everyone who didn't live in Clifton Douglas' neighborhood liked Clifton Douglas's house and yard. One would think that, in the spirit of Christmas, his neighbors would have been more than happy to accept all the traffic moving slowly enough to enjoy the sight of a thoroughly Christmassy house and yard. One would have thought that, during the season of peace, joy, and love, they would have been more hospitable toward people who saw fit to park all along both sides of the street and even in people's driveways and yards.
     Yes, Ebenezer Christian was understanding enough to see that all these extra cars were somewhat inconvenient; but, surely, he thought, anyone who was filled with the Christmas spirit could accept it all in good cheer.
     The whole Christian family felt relaxed and filled with joy, as Ebenezer Christian drove his carload of Christians to their spacious home on Elm Street and maneuvered his car into its position in their three-car garage. Then Ebenezer Christian slapped his own forehead and groaned, "Oh, no!"
     "What is it?" the others all asked at once.
"Buffy, I meant to get you a silver crucifix; but, in the confusion this afternoon, I completely forgot! I'm sorry. I don't have a Christmas present for you."
     Buffy smiled and hugged his neck. "Oh, yes, you do, Daddikins," she said. "I had been praying that something would happen that would allow us to enjoy Christmas together. Every year, you had been too tired to do anything but sleep on Christmas. By getting fired, you gave me what I wanted most for Christmas."

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