A Ranger Christmas Carol
By Indy and Chris Silva
Chip Maplewood as Ebenezer Chip
Dale Oakmont as Bob Dale
Gadget Hackwrench as Mrs. Dale
Foxglove Fairmont as The Ghost of Christmas Past
Monterey Jack as The Ghost of Christmas Present
Zipper as Tiny Tim Dale
Noel Maplewood as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
Cheddarhead Charlie as Old Cheddarwig
Camembert Kate as Cheedarwig’s Wife
Sparky as Jacob Sparky
Theo Maplewood as Fred, Ebenezer’s nephew
Bink Chesnutt as Becky, Fred’s wife
Buzz and Chirp-Sing as the Charity Workers
John Trumble, Margie Peters and Cissy Taylor as the Dale children.
Kimberly August, Nan Trumble, Ronald Isaacs, Peter Warrick, Ophelia Vickers, Jesus Cabrera, Louis Chambers, Xavier Bricker and Augustus Engalls as various children.
The activities room at the rodent annex of the Morningside Orphanage was filled to capacity on Christmas Eve night. Chip had promised to visit after he had left with Theo, and now he was fulfilling that promise. All of the Rangers had come with him, and even Bink had come along. Her coming was partly to spend some time with Theo, but also to play a role, for the Rangers were putting on a performance of “A Christmas Carol” for the kiddies.
Bink wasn’t the only outsider, though. Gadget had combed the neighborhood, rounding up volunteers. There were very few who could say no to such a kind soul, so they had more than enough people to play the various roles. They’d also recruited some of their Christmas guests, who’d only been too glad to help out. The kids formed an overflow crowd in the spacious room, with enough talk to satisfy a political rally.
“Okay everyone, just like we rehearsed it!” Chip said, looking over everything like Patton reviewing his troops. “Remember, this is for the kids so let’s get it perfect!” Gadget came up to him. “Chip, this is supposed to be fun. You haven’t acted like this in a long time.”
“Hey, someone has to make sure everything gets done!” Chip said gruffy. “Now, have you double-checked the special effects machines?” Gadget nodded. “Sure have! They should all work with—”
“Don’t say it!” Chip said. Then he caught sight of another problem. “Dale! Are you ready?” Dale came running with a Santa suit on, with his Groucho Marx nose glasses. “Sure am, Chiparoo! We’ll have ‘em rolling in the aisles!” Chip snatched the glasses off of him. “Get out of that silly outfit! This is a serious play, and we’re doing it by the book.”
“What book—‘Chip’s 101 Ways to Spoil Everything’?” Dale asked.
“Dale, you don’t take anything serious!” Chip retorted.
“And you don’t know how to have fun!” Dale returned.
Lahwhinie came and stood between them. “Okay, you two, make nice or I’ll have to have to break out the coal and switches—and I won’t be putting them in your stockings.” Chip grumbled, “Okay. Sorry Dale.” Dale grinned at once. “Just wait, Chip, you’ll see! This’ll be great fun!”
Chip was about to say something about that as well, but then it was time to start. “Okay, we’re on! Stay calm and remember your lines!” Chip watched as Dr. Batorious headed out on stage to start the show, and hoped that he could do either demand he’d made on the others. When Dr. Batorious came out, dressed in Victorian garb, the kids all clapped and shouted.
The bat smiled and nodded, then took the book in his hands and assumed the role of narrator with his deep voice. “Jacob Sparky was as dead as a burnt-out light bulb. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wondrous can come of this tale. Seven Christmas Eves after his passing, ‘Chip and Sparky’s’ was still known throughout the city as a reliable detective agency, yet Ebenezer Chip had a wider reputation as the most miserly of employers. Well did Bob Dale know it, yet finding a ‘situation’ of any kind is a blessing in a city of four million.
“So it was on this particular Christmas Eve that we find Mr. Dale filling out his expense reports with a weak tallow candle as his only companion. The office was cold and empty, and three layers of thin clothing will only do so much against the chill of a loveless office. A slam at the front door let a gust of ill wind through the bare-bones room, putting out Bob’s candle.”
Gadget turned on the wind machine offstage, not only blowing out the candle but nearly blowing Dale and the set off with it. The kids giggled and laughed, and Dale struggled to keep his battered top hat on. “Golly!” Gadget said offstage. “Guess I made too many modifications to this fan. Hang on, Dale!” Deftly, she worked with the fan until it quieted down. The kids did as well, and the play continued.
“Mr. Dale!” came the unpleasant uproar offstage. Ebenezer Chip removed the first of his much more generous three layers and stomped in, the kids welcoming him with a chorus of boos. Chip was dressed as an elderly munk, his shoulders stooped and wearing a Victorian outfit befitting the play. His look was stern and domineering. Bob Dale immediately rose, as was his requirement, and removed the extraneous layers from his master’s impatient body. “Expense reports, eh, Mr. Dale?”
“Sure thing, Mr. Chip!” Bob said, running over and bringing back the itemized list. “See? I kept it to five pounds or less, just like you said! Of course, it wasn’t easy finding soft shoe leather for dinner…”
“Bah!” said Ebenezer, settling into his badly-creaking chair. Everything in the place spoke of a lack of care, brought on by the fear of spending an extra farthing lest it be wasted frivolously. Ebenezer was getting on in years, his black chipmunk stripes turning gray, and more than several gray streaks adorned his fur—of course, he blamed that on Bob, as he did everything. “You just don’t know where to look for good leather, Mr. Dale! Why, when I was a lad, I lived on nothing but wax and puddle water for three years while I paid my dues as a detective’s apprentice.”
“So that’s why he’s such a crusty old wet blanket,” Bob muttered, winking to the audience. The kids laughed.
“What was that!” Chip demanded.
“Er, nothing. Shall I stoke the fire for you, sir?”
Ebenezer looked at his shivering employee as if he’s gone insane. “Here’s a test in deduction for you—where does heat come from?”
“Someplace other than here,” Bob quipped.
“Uh, I mean, from coal?”
“Correct,” Chip said. “And how do you get coal?”
“By being naughty all year. You must have a house full of the stuff, right?”
The kids laughed heartily at this, and Chip appeared close to a conniption. He nearly came out of character, but managed to hold on. “Have you ever heard of money, you nitwit!” Bob pursed his lips, thinking. “Well, it seems to me I have. It’s that shiny round stuff that you can get things with, right?”
“Riiiiight,” Chip said. “And of which you’ll have none if you keep this up. Now, coal is temporary and coal and costly, so that’s what clothes are made for.”
“Yeah, if you like living on the dangerous side of hypothermia,” Bob muttered again. Then he turned to the kids and started crooning a parody of an old Loretta Lynn song. “I’m just a co-o-al mi-ser’s fodder…”
“Uh, nothing. Guess I’d better get back to work,” Bob said, heading back for his desk after acquiring a fresh match from Ebenezer’s horde—Ebenezer only let him have one at a time. Bob lit his candle again, and Ebenezer made sure that Bob worked on the company’s records right up until closing time. When it came, Ebenezer stood up.
“I suppose you’ll require the whole day tomorrow?” Ebenezer asked.
“If it’s quite convenient, sir.”
Ebenezer scowled. “It’s not convenient, and it’s not fair. Every 25th of December, I find myself paying you for no work! Yet you’d think yourself ill-used if I were to dock you for not being here. Well, I suppose you must have it, but be here all the earlier the next day! I’ve got three missing-persons cases and you’re going to do all the legwork!”
“Oh, thank you, sir!” Bob said, nearly making the mistake of hugging him. He stopped at Ebenezer’s glare and only said, “Merry Christmas!” Ebenezer harrumphed with a, “Bah! Humbug!” and promptly walked right into his nephew Fred coming in, bumping heads with him. Fred was a handsome young munk, and despite Ebenezer’s revulsion, he had to admit that Fred reminded him of himself as a younger man.
“Best of the season to you, uncle!” Fred said, shaking Ebenezer’s hand.
“Bah! Humbug!” Ebenezer replied.
Fred appeared aghast at this, and a smattering of boos came from the kids again. “Christmas, a humbug?” Fred continued. “But uncle, don’t you know that this is the time of year for forgiving and forgetting? For letting the warmth and kindness that so many people have in abundance to creep in and flood your soul?”
“I have no use for such things,” Ebenezer said. “Christmas is simply a time for buying things. For me, it’s a time to find who’s been dishonest with themselves, their families or their companies. And believe me, there’s more dishonesty than there ever will be warmth and kindness. Anyone who believes otherwise should be hung on the spot, and a Christmas wreath attached to his gravestone!”
More booing from the kids, then Fred continued. “But surely, uncle, you can’t mean that!” Fred said. Ebenezer appeared resolved, but Fred was determined to have the final say. “Well, be it as it may. We have had no quarrels between us, and I prefer to keep a jovial mood. So a Merry Christmas to you, and to you, Mr. Dale!”
“Merry Christmas, Fred!” Bob said, then cringed when Ebenezer growled gruffy. “Bah!” he said, pushing past the both of them.
The curtain fell and the kids all clapped, thoroughly enchanted with it all. Chip walked over to Dale. “What’s the idea of ad-libbing like that? You know we’re supposed to keep it close to the script!” Dale waived him off. “Aw, everyone knows the old version. It needed some pizzazz!” Chip shook his head and walked off, preparing for the next scene.
When the curtain rose, Ebenezer was outside his place of work in a wretched mood, which suited him perfectly. Detective work had been good enough, and he’d amassed quite a fortune. But it was never enough, not for him. And that was the unfortunate state of affairs the old munk was in when two gentlemen approached him in the snow-laden street outside his establishment.
“Excuse me. Are you Mr. Chip, or perhaps Mr. Sparky?” one of them asked, a rather portly guinea pig. Ebenezer pointed up to the sign. “Mr. Sparky has been dead these seven years. How may I be of service?”
The other fellow, a kind-looking sparrow, produced a ledger. “We are collecting funds for those unable to help themselves at this desperate time of year. What may we put you down for, sir?”
The guinea pig appeared confused. “You wish to be anonymous?”
“I wish to be left alone,” Ebenezer said, eyeing them harshly. “I pay for the prisons and workhouses. They’ll have to suffice. Now begone, and let the poor fend for themselves!” The kids booed again, and Ebenezer walked offstage. When the curtain rose again he entered his “house”.
The home of Ebenezer Chip was a stately yet somber two-story mansion. If a house had a personality, this one would be in mourning. Ebenezer went in, locking the door behind him immediately. He practiced this ritual through several rooms (going through the motions onstage of course), up the stairs, and into his master bedroom. A meager supper of oatmeal supplied his wants, for while he had money and more to have a sumptuous feast nightly he could not bear to see the money go. So it was that Ebenezer Chip, a debtor to his own wealth and fortune, prepared for bed.
He had just put on his nightcap and gown when a singular sound came from offstage. The rattling of chains could clearly be heard, then a ZAP came, and someone said, “I hate when that happens!” Slowly the rattling and zapping came closer. Ebenezer looked toward the door at stage right, and exclaimed, “Humbug!” But still the sounds came, and one by one the seven locks on the bedroom door unlocked themselves.
In a great WHOOSH (Gadget had adjusted the fan better this time) the door opened, and there in the doorframe stood the ghost of Jacob Sparky. He was dressed as Ebenezer remembered him, his business attire perfect, his hair mussed and standing on end. However, now he was a spectral white from stem to stern and glowing. Slowly the apparition dragged itself into the room, then Sparky removed the bandage around his head and he seemed to become more corporeal.
“Ebenezer Chip…” Sparky said, slowly, hollowly. Ebenezer tried to deny what was in front of his face, but it was difficult. “What…what do you want?”
“MUCH!” Sparky said, stepping forward, then he paused. “You don’t believe in me, do you?”
“I do not,” Ebenezer said. “You might be the result of the oatmeal I just ate, or Mr. Dale’s constant prattling on my mind. No, you’re just a flimsy figment of my imagination.”
“YAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!” Sparky shouted, and bolts of lightning shot from him in every direction. Ebenezer cowered in the floor, overcome by the fearsome sight. Sparky focused ghastly eyes on him. “Munk of the worldly mind, do you believe in me or not!”
“Yes!” Ebenezer said. “I must. I do. But why have you come here? Can you sit down?”
“Do it, then.”
Sparky dragged himself over to a chair and sat down, and he noticed Ebenezer looking over the heavy chains he was bound with. “Like them? They’re the best replicas I ever made. Say, what’s your name again?”
“Oh yes. Wait, I thought it was Chip,” Sparky said.
“It is! Ebenezer Chip!”
Sparky grinned. “Oh! I didn’t know Chip was your middle name.” Chip did a dope slap, and the kids giggled. The munk recovered, and pointed to the chains, speaking deliberately. “Say Sparky, what are those chains for?” Fortunately, this did help Sparky to remember his lines and he nodded and resumed his character. “Do you not recognize these fetters, Ebenezer? When I died, your own were as long as this. Now you have added seven years’ labor on them, and you have enough to bridge the Thames!”
Ebenezer looked at himself. “Are you cuh-razy! I don’t have any chains.”
“Ah, mine were invisible as your were, Ebenezer, until the day I died. This is the chain I forged in life, because I refused to love my fellow man! Link by link, and foot-by-foot it grew with my greed and self-centeredness. Now, I am doomed to walk the earth and see what I can never share, but might have shared!”
At this point, Sparky let out an unearthly scream that raised the fur on Ebenezer’s back. “I’m sorry for you, Sparky,” Ebenezer said. “You were a good mouse of business, though.” Sparky jumped up and got in his face. “Business! Mousekind was my business! The common welfare, my fellow man, was my business! Our work was only a deciliter in the infinite oceanic googleplexes of my business! But now, Ebenezer, I have come to warn you, and to give you a chance of escaping my fate.”
“You were a good friend to me, Jacob,” Ebenezer said. “What do I have to do?”
Sparky stood there several moments. A ripple of laughter went across the audience and Chip whispered something to Sparky. He nodded and said, “You will be haunted by three spirits.”
“Three? Is this the chance you mentioned?”
Ebenezer backed up a step. “Then I would rather skip it.” Sparky drew close again. “Ebenezer, if you do not receive these spirits and learn the lessons they teach, then you will be condemned even as I!” Ebenezer gulped, looking at those chains again. “Well, okay then.”
“Expect the first when the bell tolls one,” Sparky said. “Expect the second at the stroke of two. The third will get here in his own good time.”
Ebenezer didn’t understand any of this. “But what if I—”
Sparky raised a hand. “My time grows short. Remember what has passed between us, Ebenezer. Your life depends on it!” Sparky drew the bandage tight ‘round his head, and “faded” into an apparition once again. In a moment, he walked through the bedroom window and Ebenezer followed to see him fly off into the cold of the night, courtesy of Gadget working a hook and wire offstage. This impressed the kids no end.
“Bah, humbug!” Ebenezer said, but not convincingly. Shaken, the munk turned to his bed, trying to convince himself it was all a dream. The curtain fell and the kids clapped again. Gadget got Sparky down and he began dusting himself off. “It’s a good thing I’m a dust collector. Never would’ve been convincing otherwise.”
Dale looked at him, confused. “You collect dust?”
“Sure,” Sparky said, “whenever I get a fresh charge, it pulls dust from everywhere. Sometimes it gets bad when I have a sneezing fit near a water supply.”
As the curtain rose on Ebenezer’s room again, the toll of Big Ben struck one and brought Ebenezer out of his slumber. He looked to the left and right—nothing. “Well Jacob, where is this spirit. A dimwit in death, as you were in life…” Ebenezer laid back down, but then a light entered the room. It grew brighter and brighter still, until the whole room was illuminated with a warm and pleasing glow. Ebenezer threw back the bed curtains surrounding him and came face to face with an angelic-looking creature.
She was a pretty female bat, clothed in a shimmering white gown, with a glorious glow coming from around her head like a halo. In her left hand, she held a candlesnuffer. Ebenezer just stared, overcome at the beauty of this creature.
“Hi there, cute stuff!” she said. “I’m the Ghost of Christmas Past.”
Ebenezer didn’t respond at first, then pointed. “That glow. Where does it come from?”
“Oh that. Gadget said it had something to do with a high-yield tungsten lamp with a—” Chip shook his head, giving her the “nix” sign. Foxy glanced at the confused audience and then looked back to Chip. “It’s not for you mortals to understand that.”
“You said you were the Ghost of Christmas Past,” Ebenezer said, glad that they’d gotten past that speed bump. “Long past?”
“Oh no,” the ghost replied. “Just your past, you miserly cutie!”
The kids laughed a little at that, and Chip ducked his head a little in embarrassment. “Uh, aren’t we supposed to be doing something about me?” Ebenezer asked.
“Oh, you’re right!” the ghost said. “Take my wing, because there’s a lot to do!”
Ebenezer took the ghost’s wing, and seemed to get some satisfaction about doing so. The curtain closed again and reopened a minute later to reveal that they were in the countryside, near an old stone school. “Do you remember this?” the ghost asked.
“Do I!” Ebenezer said. “This is where I grew up as a boy! There’s the park and all the trees, and here come my friends!” Ebenezer waved as a bunch of school children went by, but they ignored them. The ghost waved him on. “They can’t see you, you know. All of this is simply shadows of what has been. Or at least that’s what the manual says. Come on.”
Ebenezer followed the ghost into the school after another scene change, finding a solitary young chipmunk there. The boy was reading, and appeared to be trying not to notice his situation. “Aw, the poor little boy,” the ghost said. “He’s alone on Christmas.”
“Alone?” Ebenezer said. “Why, he has his Sureluck Jones and Dr. Blotson to keep him company. No, he’s not alone at all.” The ghost made no comment, but waved her wing and seemingly by magic the boy aged several years. In fact, it was a nice trick with a trap door and Theo doing double duty as a young Ebenezer. In a few moments, a female chipmunk came rushing into the room.
“Ebenezer!” the newcomer said. “Ebenezer, father and I have come to take you home!” Ebenezer stood aghast—it was his dearly departed sister. “Fenn…” he whispered. Silently, the old Ebenezer watched as Fenn led his younger self outside, to his stern father. Ebenezer’s father was a practical man, without a shred of kindness in his soul—business was his only thought, and he had decided it was high time to make sure the same happened for his son.
In a week, Ebenezer had left school and was entered as an apprentice detective under the tutelage of Cheddarwig Charlie, a kind and jovial mouse with a craving for adventure—and cheese. Ebenezer watched on with a look of satisfaction as he remembered the happy days he’d spent there under his good master. Then the scene shifted to one Christmas Eve in particular.
“Close up, boyos!” Cheddarwig shouted, pulling all his junior detectives away from their desks. “It’s Christmas Eve! No more work tonight! Now, we whoop it up like the olden days. Why, I remember back in the old country, we’d have a right rippin’ time! Of course, it wasn’t easy keeping the dingoes away from the plum pudding, but they did make good dance partners. Speaking of which…”
Cheddarwig caught Ebenezer by the shoulder and twisted him around. There, just come in the door, was a beautiful young mouse who bore a striking resemblance to the ghost beside him. Her blonde hair was done up in a fancy Victorian style, and the look in her eyes spoke of a loving mischief.
“Belle…” Ebenezer muttered. “I’d forgotten how lovely you were…”
“It seems you’ve forgotten a lot of things,” the ghost next to him said. “Maybe you should try mineral supplements. Oh, I forgot we’re supposed to be in the past.”
Ebenezer hadn’t heard a word the ghost said. Instead, all his concentration was on the beautiful girl whose charm and wit had beguiled him in his youth. Now there he was, the young and strong munk (still Theo, but in a different costume), taking her hand and leading her out on the dance floor. Cheddarwig led his wife, who really was his wife, out on the floor and soon the whole room was abuzz with talk, song and merriment.
“A silly mouse,” the ghost said, looking toward Cheddarwig. “Look at how he jumps around and wastes time. What did he do to make everyone so happy?”
“You don’t know him!” Ebenezer retorted. “He made life a pleasure working for him, and even though he didn’t spend much, the joy he gave us all m—”
“Yes?” the ghost said, waiting for more.
“Uh, nothing. Nothing,” Ebenezer said, but it was obvious his mind was elsewhere now. The ghost brought him back to reality with a fresh change of scene, by a park bench in winter. “You loved that dear maiden, Ebenezer, but you didn’t invest your time with her. Instead, you invested it in books, in moneymaking, and in learning every means to get ahead.”
“And why shouldn’t I have? A munk has to secure a life for himself, or he’ll be on the street!” Ebenezer said. The ghost pointed as a figure walked nearer from the distance. “You did that, but you didn’t stop there. Your drive and determination knew no bounds. Soon, all you cared about was making money from your skills and nothing else mattered. Do you know this place?”
Ebenezer looked the bench over. “Sure. Belle and I often met here.”
“And this was the last time you met.”
The figure in the distance was close now. Ebenezer, dressed to the nines, come up to the park bench. He checked his pocket watch, impatiently waiting. A few minutes later, Belle arrived. She was dressed as a maid, and had obviously come from her place of employment.
“I’m sorry I’m late, Ebenezer, but this was the quickest I could get here,” Belle said. Ebenezer stood up. “You know how I feel about punctuality. I have two cases to solve, and that demands my time. Now, what did you call me here to say?”
Belle removed her necklace, at the end of which was an engagement ring. She handed it to Ebenezer. “Here. It’s yours now, and that’s at it should be.” Ebenezer blinked, shocked. “But Belle! We promised each other to wait until my fortune was made! Can’t you wait for me?”
“You don’t want me? We’ll, you snooze, you lose, sweets. I’m outta here,” Belle said, resolute. “You’ve found another love that I can’t overcome. Money and fame are all you love now, so take the ring and sell it. I’m sure the profit will make you happy!”
Belle cried as she turned and ran, and the young Ebenezer just stood there, unwittingly. Next to the Ghost of Christmas Past, the elder Ebenezer shouted, “Run after her, you idiot! What are you thinking!” But the younger version of himself simply stuck the ring in his pocket, shrugged, and walked away. His elder called after him, “Come back! Come back!”
The echoes of his own voice surrounded him, and then it was over. Ebenezer found himself in his own room, at the edge of his bed. “Why…why should I think of her now? It’s a humbug—it’s got to be!” Shakily, Ebenezer found his bed again and soon sleep claimed him and the curtain fell again.
The kids clapped and cheered, and Chip prepared for his next scene. “You’re doing great, Chip!” Gadget said. “And you were wonderful too, Foxy!” Chip nodded as Foxy stood behind him. “It’s going better than I thought. Monty, you ready over there?”
“The Ghost of Christmas Present’s ready and able, mate!” Monty said. Dale sat nearby, sulking. “Aw, I wanted to be the Ghost of Christmas Present! After all, he gets to give out the gifts!” Gadget came over and consoled him. “Well, you’re much better suited to being Bob, because he’s such a nice guy like you.” Dale ducked his head and grinned. “Aw, shucks. When you’re right, you’re right!”
As the curtain rose again, from out of the night an echoing laughter started and filled the dreary old house, driving out every vestige of melancholy. Ebenezer sat up, listening to the guffaws, and hopped of bed. Putting on his slippers, he edged toward the door.
“EBENEZER CHIP!” a voice boomed. “COME IN!”
Ebenezer opened his bedroom door and to his shock the next room had been transformed. The light in the room was glaringly bright. Food was everywhere in every form one could think of. Horns of plenty bookmarked a throne with a jolly mouse sitting atop it.
“COME IN AND KNOW ME BETTER, MATE!” the mouse said, and then the light level began to return to normal, as did the mouse’s voice. “I am the Ghost of Christmas Present. Come, come!”
Ebenezer came into the room, and there was something about it that made a person feel good. The human grinned. “You’ve not seen the likes of me before, have you!”
“No, never!” Ebenezer said, amazed. “Where did you get all this from?”
“From the bounty of love and kindness that you’ve been so bereft of. I take it that you have met none of my older brothers?” the ghost asked. Ebenezer shook his head. “I think I’d remember. Do you have many?”
“Over eighteen hundred!” the ghost said, laughing. “Now, are we going to spend all night here jawing like a bunch of dingoes at a pack meeting, or do you want to learn something?”
“Guess we’d better go,” Ebenezer said, taking hold of the ghost’s robe as he was instructed to do. In an instant, they were transported from nighttime to day, and from the room they were in to the streets below. Animals rushed to and fro everywhere, but would stop to wish each other a “Merry Christmas”.
“Come, Ebenezer,” the ghost said. “We’ve got a couple of visits to make.”
A winding walk through the old town brought them to the home of Bob Dale and his family. Ebenezer had never been there of course, but was impressed that Bob had been able to even buy a place to stay with the pittance…he pushed that thought aside and watched. Bob’s wife Gadget was there as were Bob’s children, save one.
“Oh, do hurry!” Gadget said, doing her best to get things prepared for the Christmas dinner. “Your father will be home any minute!” The children, a vigorous collection of mice and munks, did all that one could expect children to do. In order words, they cavorted and played and made half-attempts at helping. Then Bob was there.
“Father!” all the children shouted, running forward. Bob smiled warmly and met them all. “How’s the plum pudding this year, my poor but beautiful wife?”
“Well, it would’ve turned out better if I’d had a convection oven to cook it in. Of course, they couldn’t have that back in the Victorian era. Or wait, maybe they could’ve if they’d discovered the principle of heat exchange. But then again—”
“I’m sure it’s wonderful, Gadget,” Bob said, preventing her from running the play on another hour. “Let’s sit down to dinner, everyone! Then it’s time for Monday Night Football! God bless this mess!” Chip slapped his face again, and shook his head. Bob Dale had one small child on his shoulder, who had a tiny brace on his tiny leg and walked with a tiny crutch. Ebenezer watched as the kids helped the little fly to the table.
“See how they support him…spirit, why is he green?”
“Oh. He’s been sick.”
Ebenezer checked the ghost out to see if he was serious. “What’s wrong with him? He’ll be okay won’t he?” The ghost looked off into the distance. “None of my brothers will find him after this, if these shadows remain unchanged.”
“You…you mean he’ll die?” Ebenezer said. “But, can’t anything be done for him?”
The ghost grinned. “The prisons and storehouses will suffice.”
Ebenezer’s eyelids narrowed. “So, you’re using my own words against me.” The ghost nodded. “So next time, you’ll think twice, won’t you? Most of the poor don’t live in the slums, but in fine houses, surrounded by the things they’ve amassed. Shall we let <I>them</I> fend for themselves, eh?”
“No! Get me out of here!” Ebenezer demanded.
“One thing more,” the ghost said, pointing. Bob Dale stood up at the table. “A toast, to the founder of the feast, Ebenezer Chip!” Gadget turned away. “I’ll never toast that odious munk’s health! Not that we have a toaster either…”
“Aw, come on Gadget! He’s not that bad. After all, he just bonks me at every opportunity, pays me way below poverty wages and has this weird fixation on coal for some reason. Maybe he is that bad, come to think of it…”
The kids laughed as Dale winked at them again. Chip fought for control as Dale brought his wife under the mistletoe. “That was one wonderful meal, Gadget. Baby, you’re the greatest!” Dale smooched her then and there, and the kids at the table clapped, as did the kids in the audience.
Finally, the ghost obliged Ebenezer, and they headed for another house. This one was decidedly in a better neighborhood and the sounds of laughter and music could be heard inside. “Come along,” the ghost said. “We have another visit to make.”
Inside they went, and found that it was the house of Fred, Ebenezer’s nephew. His wife Becky was there, welcoming the guests. “I remember when they married,” Ebenezer said. “She came from a poor family. Brought nothing to the marriage.”
“Do you weigh everything in gold?” the ghost asked. “Look at her! She’s a bright, energetic and loving young lady. Would that you could’ve said the same for yourself for a wife.”
“Hey!” Ebenezer said, but then his attention was fixed on the festivities. Fred and Becky had invited over all their friends and they were playing parlor games and eating of the plenty their hosts provided. Ebenezer found himself becoming absorbed in the games, until the ghost spoke again. “Fred is rather like Fenn, isn’t he?”
“Yes, he is…” Ebenezer said absentmindedly. “I hadn’t realized.”
“Of course you hadn’t!” the ghost said. “You’ve been walking through the world blind for years. You didn’t even know you had children, did you?”
“Children!” Ebenezer said, turning toward the ghost. “Where?”
The scene changed again, and now they were in a seedy part of town. The ghost parted the lower part of his long green robe, revealing two hungry and starving munks—a boy and girl. Ebenezer was reviled at once. “They’re…mine?”
“Yes. The boy’s name is Ignorance, and the girl’s is Want. Beware them both, but particularly the boy.”
Ebenezer looked away. “Cover them. I don’t wish to see them.” The ghost obliged. “They are covered, but they live. Many fall foul of them, and many more perish, for on their brows is written the word, ‘DOOM’.”
Then the ghost paused. “It’s time for me to go. Got another appointment over in Baghdad, and something tells me this bloke’s gonna get more than coal in his stocking!”
Ebenezer didn’t understand, on both counts. “Now? But, where are we? Don’t leave me here!”
“It’s too late, Ebenezer! Toodle-loo!”
“No!” But the ghost vanished from before him and the curtain fell. Chip marched backstage, looking for Dale, but Lahwhinie headed him off. “Oh come on, Chirp,” she said, “he’s just throwing himself into the role.”
“And throwing the script right out the window!” Chip said. “I didn’t spend five weeks on preparing for this to have him—”
“Chip, the audience is loving it, and so is he. So just settle down and have some fun like he is!”
Chip said and nodded. “I’ll try. But if he pulls one more wisecrack…”
“I’ll warn him…to get a head start.”
When the curtain rose again, the scene was the same as before, but now an eerie mist was rolling in. From out of the mist a tall-looking form appeared, floating lazily in the air The kids gasped when they saw there was nothing holding the creature up, for they couldn’t see his wing beneath his robe. The air seemed to grow colder, and Ebenezer felt afraid. The form flew closer, but Ebenezer couldn’t see its face or feet under the creature’s tattered robe. Slowly, the being pointed at him from under the robe, making a strange squeaking sound as it did.
“Are you the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come?” Ebenezer asked. “Will you not speak to me, spirit?” The tattered form didn’t move, but continued to point at him, making the squeaking sound again. Ebenezer came closer. “Could you repeat that? I didn’t quite catch what you said.”
The robed creature closed the gap between them, and Ebenezer touched its garment. A curtain fall and rise later, they were transported back into Ebenezer’s bedroom. There was only pale moonlight in the cold room, and there was something in the bed, covered with a bed sheet. Ebenezer noticed that the bed curtains were missing, as were some of his possessions. But he couldn’t take his eyes off that still form, and now his mercurial companion squeaked and pointed at the bed.
“Hey, this kinda looks like my place, if it had been ransacked after my death. Hey, who’s that under the bed sheet?” Ebenezer asked. The robed figure pointed again, as if it wanted Ebenezer to find out. Slowly, forebodingly, he drew near until his hand was mere inches from the sheet at the head of the bed. Then he shook his head and pulled back. “No, you can’t make me do that. I understand what you’re trying to tell me, and for the moment let’s say I accept it.”
The ghost nodded very slightly.
“Then let me see some people who have some feeling over this munk’s death!”
The creature stretched out its arm and Ebenezer touched it. A scene change later brought them to a filthy hovel, inhabited by a rotund cat who wore a battered top hat. In through the door came a bunch of ne’er-do-wells. Actually, it was Dale pretending to be Fat Cat, with a mask of the nefarious feline over his face. The goon squad was similarly masked and make up of Sparky, Buzz and Theo playing Meps, Mole and Wart respectively.
Fat Cat put his hand on his considerable hips. “So boys, what do you bring over this time? It better not be any of that fake gold again!” Meps shook his head. “Oh no! Only top merchandise this time. See?”
Meps, Wart and Mole poured out the contents of three bags on the dented wooden table in front of the big chipmunk…er, cat. Ebenezer came closer, and studied the items. “Of what value would a complete collection Sureluck Jones books be to the likes of them? Why, those books have been very well read, just like... my collection.”
Meps pulled a few trinkets from a sack. “See, and look at the nice watch and chain!” Mole sulked, “He didn’t have any candy, though.” The rotund one looked the items over. “And bed curtains! He didn’t die of anything contagious, did he? Like coal fever?” Dale pushed up his mask and made a “nasty grin” look to the audience, who ate it up. Chip rolled his eyes and paid it no attention.
“Only if greed’s catching!” Meps said. The four of them laughed, and Ebenezer scowled. “These aren’t good feelings! This is greed and avarice. Isn’t there some tenderness or sorrow for this munks death?”
The ghost raised its wings and again the scene changed. They were back in the small and humble house of Bob Dale. But where they had seen a happy mother and children before, now they were somber and quiet. They sat around the fire, Gadget doing some sewing
“I fear your father’s late today,” Gadget said. “Well, not late as in ‘the late Bob Dale’. He’s just behind time—not that you could get behind time really, it’s just figurative. Wait, time’s not figurative, but—”
The child wisely interrupted. “He was never late when he had Tiny Tim on his shoulders.” Gadget’s eyes began to brim over. “That’s true, dear. He was no trouble...no trouble...”
The door opened, and Bob Dale came in. He was downtrodden, and the glint of fun that had been in his eyes was extinguished. He came over and hugged his wife, then each of the children in turn. “Dear, do you know who I saw today? Fred, Mr. Chip’s nephew, of all people!” Bob smiled a little, warming his hands at the fire. “He stopped me in the street, asking after me and all of you. He noticed I was a little down and he asked why and I told...I told...”
Bob reached for the tiny crutch, carefully preserved by the mantel, sorrow welling up. “My Tim! My little, little, Tim!” Ebenezer looked to his silent companion. “Spirit, what has become of Tiny Tim?” The ghost pointed toward Bob, and they continued to listen. “I’m sorry, everyone. I know he wouldn’t want me to grieve for him. He was such an understanding little lad, even if he was green and sickly.”
Gadget came over and hugged him, and the audience gave out a sympathetic “awww”. Ebenezer turned away from the tearful scene. “You have shown me sorrow and tenderness, but are there none who could but shed a single tear for that fellow under the sheet? Why have you shown me all this?”
But the ghost did not answer. Instead, it raised its arm, the scene changed, and they stood in a silent and gloomy graveyard. There were tombstones all around them, and the ghost squeaked and pointed toward one of them nearby. Ebenezer squinted at the names. “Phil Harris?”
The spirit squeaked and pointed to a different one. “Oh, sorry.” Ebenezer knelt near the stone, afraid to look. “Spirit, why have you brought me here? Why have I been shown all these things if I am beyond all hope?”
The ghost came near the grave marker and urged him to reveal the writing on the slab in front of him, covered with snow. Ebenezer knelt down, then in one motion did so, revealing the name “EBENEZER CHIP”. In a moment of pure supplication, the munk fell at the foot of the ghost’s robe. “Spirit, I’m not the munk I was! I can change! I will change! Tell me how I may sponge the writing from that stone!”
The munk begged and pleaded, pulling on the ghost’s robes. Then another quick scene changed and he looked up through his tear-stained eyes again and found, to his utter amazement, that he was in his room once more. Ebenezer stood up, looking toward the windows. It was dawn, and he could hear bells tolling pleasantly outside. Quickly, he dashed to the window (he was now on a catwalk above the stage) and unlatched it, opening it up. In a few moments, a mouse boy ran down the sidewalk and he hailed the boy.
“Hello there, sir!” the boy said, looking up.
“What day is it?” Ebenezer asked. The boy looked at him like he was out of his mind. “What day? Why, it’s Christmas day, of course!” Ebenezer smiled, clasping his hands together. “I haven’t missed it! The spirits did it all in one night! Of course they can! Boy, do you know the poultry shop on the next block?”
“I do, sir.”
Ebenezer was all energy now. “A remarkable boy, an intelligent lad! Do they still have the prize turkey?”
“The one as big as me? I should say so!”
“It’s a pleasure talking to him…go to the shop and buy the turkey for me!”
The boy started to leave. “Be serious, sir!” Ebenezer hailed him again. “I am serious! Be back in ten minutes and I’ll give you a shilling. Be back in five and I’ll give you half a crown!”
The boy tore off at a run, and in five minutes the poulterer was there with the turkey. He wasn’t happy at first because Ebenezer hadn’t come down yet. If he had known what had transpired, he’d have been more forgiving. The munk was fidgeting with happiness, trying desperately to get dressed and going three ways at once. The kids laughed, watching Chip frantically put on first one thing then another. There was so much to do, so much to make right.
Ebenezer came out at last and paid the boy, then paid the poulterer and told him where to take the turkey. The fellow wondered at this benefactor’s wishing to be anonymous, but the generous tip quelled any concerns. Then Ebenezer Chip was off and skipping through the neighborhood. He was looking in every direction for someone in need, and as London was a badly-off place at the time he found no shortage of takers. A minute later, he spotted the two charity workers he’d so badly spurned the day previous. He took off his hat to them as he walked up, but the guinea pig and nightingale weren’t glad for his company.
“Come back to add more rain on the parade?” Buzz asked. Ebenezer removed his hat. “I know my being here is distasteful to you, gentlemen. I beg your pardon for what happened earlier and if you’d be so kind as to accept my contribution to the poor for the amount of...” Ebenezer leaned in and whispered a very large sum into the guinea pig’s ear.
“Mr. Scrooge! Are you quite serious?” the guinea pig asked.
“Completely,” Ebenezer said. “There are a great many back payments included in that I assure you. Would you come around to my office tomorrow to work out the details?” The guinea pig and nightingale shook his hands. “Of course! Merry Christmas, Mr. Scrooge!” they shouted, and the kids cheered.
“That’s Mr. Chip,” Ebenezer said. Buzz did a double take. “Oh, sorry. Mistaken identity, I suppose.”
Ebenezer kept up a quick pace after that, pausing only to wish others a Merry Christmas and to give to all the local charities. He reached the house of his nephew Fred, and found it as jolly and music-filled as he’d seen it with the Ghost of Christmas Present. A knock at the door was of no help, so Ebenezer let himself in. It was a shocked host and hostess when they saw who was there. Fred walked up, bedecked in his best suit, and accompanying him was his blonde-haired squirrel wife Becky. It was the first time Ebenezer had seen her in person, and he had to admit that he would have been fortunate to have the love of such a woman
“Uncle!” Fred exclaimed. “We weren’t expecting you...quite so early.” Ebenezer took off his hat again. “Not expecting me all, I would guess. Fred, I owe you an apology for all the years I’ve wasted. I hope the two of you can forgive an old fool his folly and if your invitation is still open, I’d like to accept.”
Fred rushed up and hugged him. “Of course it is! Hurrah!”
The kids cheered again, and the lot of them had a wonderful time. Ebenezer found he could still dance the jig a little, and when the kids started clapping he lost himself in the moment and really gave it his all. The kids cheered loudly when he was done.
It warmed his heart to know that the Dales were having a good meal, and when he went home that night, he could hardly sleep for the joyous anticipation of what was to come next. When the next morning arrived, Ebenezer came in to “Chip and Sparky’s” at the usual time—and like usual, he was there first. That gave him time to set up and get ready, and five minutes later he watched as Bob bounded up the sidewalk and opened the door.
It was a challenge to put that scowl and harshness back in his face and voice, but he managed it, “MISTER DALE!” Bob cringed and stopped in his tracks. “Mister Dale, step over this way, if you please.”
Bob removed his hat. “Uh, good morning, Mr. Chip. Uh, something I could help you with?”
“There is. Sit down.”
Bob did so, looking more than slightly nervous. Ebenezer bided his time, then locked eyes with his employee. “What is the meaning, sir, of coming to work at this hour?” Bob appeared to panic. “Uh, aliens were attacking and the dam burst and then came the locusts…okay, my family and I were making rather merry yesterday. It was only one day a year, sir, it shan’t happen again.”
“I should say it won’t...” Ebenezer took another dramatic pause, reaching into a drawer, and all the kids held their breath. “Mr. Dale, this has gone on long enough, and I feel in good conscience that I have no choice but to...” Ebenezer brought out a bag of money “...double your salary and make you a full partner! What do you say to Chip and Dale’s Detective Company?”
The kids clapped and cheered. Bob looked suspiciously at his boss for a few moments, then he walked to his writing table and came back with a covered tray. “Would you like some Urkburgles, Mr. Chip?”
The kids laughed, and Ebenezer shook his head. “No Bob, I’m serious. I know I’ve been hard and unfeeling, but now I want to make things up to you. We’ll discuss it all over a Christmas bowl of hot cider. Now, Mr. Dale, I want you to go out and buy us a good coalscuttle and fill it with coal! You’ll not dot another ‘i’ in this office until then!”
Bob ran and jumped into Ebenezer’s arms. “Yes, sir, Mr. Chip! And Merry Christmas to you, sir!” Ebenezer laughed, feeling merry. “Merry Christmas, Bob!” Bob went out and Ebenezer settled back in at his desk. “I don’t deserve to feel this happy...but I just can’t help it!” Ebenezer threw away the quill pen he was about to use and just laughed until he cried. The curtain fell and the kids cheered again.
When they opened once again, Ebenezer was there, waiting for Tiny Tim. Dr. Batorious came back out and stood at stage left as the little Dale boy ran to Ebenezer. “Ebenezer Chip was better than his word. And to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he became like a second father—even if Tim was green.” The kids giggled and he continued. “The townspeople said that no one knew better how to keep Christmas than he, and may that be said of us all. And as Tiny Tim observed…”
Ebenezer held Tim up on his shoulder. “God bless us all, every one!” he squeaked, and the curtain fell to the standing applause of the children. It came up again with everyone walking out to take a curtain call, and Chip walked forward. “Thanks for your kind support, everyone. We enjoyed putting this play on for you, and we hope that you all have a very Merry Christmas!”
He got a “Merry Christmas” back, and then the Rangers and the rest of the cast headed offstage. Lahwhinie walked up to Chip. “So, feeling better now?” Chip nodded. “Yeah, I have to admit I am. I guess I could carried away with it all.”
Dale elbowed him in the ribs. “No, the time you pretended to be Sureschuck was carried away. This was way beyond that!” Chip eyed him, but let it pass. “Yeah, I got caught up in making it perfect instead of making it fun. Thanks guys, for reminding me about what the season’s for.”
Lahwhinie pulled him around, and pointed up—sure enough, mistletoe. “Here’s some Christmas cheer for you, Scroogey!”
Merry Christmas, everyone!
Indy and Chris Silva
Theo Maplewood and Noel Maplewood are copyright Indy and Chris Silva. The Rescue Rangers are copyright Disney and used without permission but with the utmost respect.