After brushing his teeth and taking a quick hot shower, Ebenezer Scrooge goes to his bedroom so that he can get to sleep for real. No naps in his lounge chair. No awful Chinese take-out. No cheap brandy that’ll mess with his head the next morning. None of that shit. Scrooge is trying to forget the conversation he had with the deceased Jacob Marley, but how the hell can you possibly get that out of your mind?
It’s not every day that your dead business partner returns to the land of the living with the intent of delivering an ominous message involving ghosts or whatever.
The grandfather clock sitting in his bedroom says it is a quarter past midnight. It’s technically Christmas, if that’s significant of anything. Scrooge doesn’t think so. He wonders if Fred’s party is still going on. But he decides he doesn’t actually care. It’s not like he’d ever get properly dressed and drive over there to see if it’s still popping. No, that would be absurd. He’ll settle for dreaming about ghosts instead.
Scrooge turns off the light and tucks himself in bed. A picture of he and Gail from a random bodybuilding contest in 1993 still sits on his bedside table. He has no intention of placing it in the dresser drawer so that it can be forgotten. For whatever reason, Scrooge still thinks about her. Not so much his three other wives. They can all rot in Hell where they belong. There was something about Gail that causes her to still linger in his cold heart. Something special…
He closes his eyes and promptly falls asleep.
Minutes pass. The grandfather clock strikes one. But it is not the clock’s chime that wakes him up. No, it’s instead the agonizing sound of a tapping on his window. Scrooge alertly sits up, breathing hard. Sweat is pouring down his face. He knows what’s about to happen. He dreads with every fiber of his being the frightening presence of the first spirit Jacob foretold. Scrooge stands up and walks toward the window. Should he open it and let the ghost in? Do ghosts need to be let in, like a dog who’s just taken a shit in the front yard? He never was very religious or took much serious thought about the supernatural. But he decides to open the latch of the window anyway.
A blue streak of light sashays into Scrooge’s bedroom. It twirls, dances, flutters up and down, and eventually stands still in the middle of the room. The light expands, forming a large blue disc that spins in a circle like a flying saucer from an H.G. Wells novel. The disc grows taller, with Scrooge being able to clearly see the shape of a human being inside it. The figure is hunched over. The blue light explodes suddenly, sending Scrooge hurling backwards onto his bed.
“Dear God! Ow!” Scrooge hits his head against the wall. The light dies down. The figure stands up straight and turns toward him. Like a proper host, Scrooge – still wearing his pajamas – attempts to greet it with a certain level of formality and politeness.
“Are you the first spirit who’s coming was foretold?” Scrooge asks. Once his eyes are able to adjust to the darkness, he is better able to see who this ghost is. It appears to be…
…a naked young woman.
Oh wow. Scrooge feels a tingle run down his spine. He may have also felt a surge of electricity enter his groin. When was the last time that shit happened? Scrooge cannot recall. The ghostly figure appears to be floating in mid-air. The blue light has faded, but her angelic glow remains. The spirit turns toward Scrooge and speaks.
“Yes, I am. Good evening, Ebenezer.” Scrooge peers closely at the spirit. He gasps when he sees her face. The ghost bears an uncanny resemblance to Tanya Morganthall, one of the most famous female bodybuilders of the 1970s. Tall, brunette, with striking brown eyes, Tanya revolutionized the sport. She introduced female bodybuilding to the world by exploding onto the scene after being discovered at a small gym in San Diego. It was her appearance on the cover of the September 1974 issue of Fit & Sporty Magazine that changed Ebenezer’s life forever. Her graceful beauty combined with sleek, angular muscles shifted his paradigm: the way he viewed femininity, womanhood, beauty, and bodybuilding. He hid a copy of the magazine underneath his mattress and used it whenever he felt the, uh, “need” to use it. Scrooge may still own it even today.
“My God. You strike a remarkable resemblance to, uh, Tanya Morganthall,” Scrooge squeaks with the nervousness of a school boy talking to a cute girl for the first time. “You aren’t her, are you?”
The spirit giggles, then comes close to Ebenezer. He feels his pulse racing. “Of course not. The real Tanya Morganthall is happily retired in Lubbock, Texas. She’s now a grandmother of four. No, I am merely an apparition that looks like her. I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.”
“The Ghost of Christmas Past? How quaint!” Ebenezer scoffs. “What are you going to do? Take me back in time so that I can see how my terrible decisions decades ago forged a path for me to become the grumpy old miser I am today?”
The Ghost of Christmas Past looks stunned. She blinks several times. “Uh, yeah. That’s sort of the plan. Huh. Good for you, knowing what I’m here for,” she begins. “Shall we get to it? Might as well.”
Scrooge stands up to regard the spirit closer. Sure enough, she looks exactly like a youthful Tanya Morganthall. In the nude. Floating in the air. Scrooge met the real Tanya Morganthall once, at a party twenty-eight years ago in Last Vegas. He hit on her, but she rebuked his advances. She was already married and had a child. But Ebenezer never let reality get in the way of him pursuing his fantasies.
“Yes, spirit. Let’s get this party started.” Scrooge puts on a nightcap, as if he’ll actually need it. The Ghost of Christmas Past extends her hand and Scrooge delightfully takes it. The window, which is already cracked opened, shatters into a million pieces. Scrooge, guided by the spirit’s magical touch, flies off into the distance. The horizon explodes with an intense white light that forces him to close his eyes. He can feel the freezing air cascading off his body. He’s flying, but he feels more like he’s floating. It’s strange.
When Ebenezer opens his eyes, he finds himself situated inside a familiar motel bedroom. It’s December 25, 1989. Early evening. It’s somewhere along the Oregon coast. The small picturesque bed and breakfast establishment is perfect for a romantic getaway. That’s exactly where Ebenezer and his future first wife, Gail, were staying on this fateful evening. The room is empty, cold, and dark. Just as Ebenezer was going to ask the spirit a question, he hears joyful laughter off into the distance.
“What a gorgeous evening. What a perfect day this has been, Ebenezer!”
Scrooge immediately recognizes this voice. It’s Gail! He hasn’t spoken to her in decades. They met a few months prior at a photoshoot in Venice Beach. He was enthralled by her. She was too. And when he promised her stardom, she couldn’t resist him. Ebenezer hears the sound of the door being unlocked. Suddenly, it opens. Scrooge nearly dies of a heart attack when he sees the figures of two familiar individuals walking in.
It’s him and Gail!
Albeit, both of them are a lot younger. Nearly 30 years younger, to be exact. Ebenezer marvels at his dark hair, fit physique, and stylish clothing. Why doesn’t he look that good anymore? And Gail looks just as stunning as ever. Long dirty blonde hair, deep blue eyes, and muscles to spare. She was wearing a red overcoat that made her look like royalty. By his standards, she was royalty. The Ghost of Christmas Past guides Ebenezer to the far corner of the room. It then occurs to him whether or not they can see them.
“Are they able to see us, spirit?” he asks.
“No, Ebenezer. These are mere shadows of events that have come before. They are not real, just as I am not real. You are witnessing history, not an active participant of it,” the ghost explains. “They can neither see nor hear us.”
It is at that exact moment that Ebenezer remembers why this evening is so important. It is the first time they ever made love. Before, she kept a strict “respectable Catholic woman” distance from her new boyfriend. But today, she felt comfortable enough around him to shed that visage. Tonight, she was going to allow him to have her. In every way he desires.
“I know what comes next,” Ebenezer whispers to the spirit.
“I know you do,” The Ghost of Christmas Past smirks.
Young Ebenezer and Gail kiss. They drop their shopping bags, then kiss so deeply that even Old Ebenezer can feel his blood boil. The Ghost of Christmas Past watches with a keen sense of emotional detachment. After their lips come apart, Ebenezer approaches the fireplace and lights it. Gail enters the bathroom to change.
“I’ll be right out, my love,” Gail reassures her boyfriend.
Young Ebenezer removes his boots, coat, and hat. Soon, Gail reenters the room wearing nothing but stockings and black lingerie with crotchless panties. She looks beyond comparison. Both Young and Old Ebenezer’s jaws drop. She’s flawless. Gail’s muscles are accentuated by the fire’s orange glow. She poses for him, showcasing her 18-inch biceps and broad shoulders. Not a single inch of her body is weak or soft. She’s 195 pounds of pure female muscle. Standing at a modest 5’ 6”, she packs a punch – both literally and figuratively.
Gail jumps on Young Ebenezer and tackles him to the bed. They laugh, kiss, and touch each other. Young Ebenezer strips naked and takes his turn showing off his well sculpted body. Back then, Ebenezer also was an amateur bodybuilder, though he never had any dreams of competing. He was more interested in the business side of the industry. But that didn’t stop him from lifting and eating like an elite competitor.
Old Ebenezer takes a step toward the bed. He remembers every moment of this encounter as if it had happened last week. He’s been with many women in his life, but none of them quite like Gail. None of them had her strength, fortitude, confidence, intelligence, drive, and sweet personality. He’s yet to meet a woman who can match her. He’ll probably be searching for the rest of his life.
With the romantic glow of the fire filling the room, Gail mounts Young Ebenezer and allows his erect manhood to enter her inch by inch. He’s hard as steel, pulsating with desire, and ready to give her what she desires. She rides him like a cowgirl riding a prized stallion. Young Ebenezer reaches toward her engorged clitoris, which is bouncing up and down with rhythmic delight. It’s the biggest he’s ever seen by far. With his moist fingers he strokes her clit until she starts to moan so loudly he was afraid the guests in the next room could hear them. But at this point, he doesn’t give a fuck if they can.
In fact, he wants the entire world to know that he’s making love to The Most Beautiful Woman on Planet Earth.
Gail knows her orgasm is reaching its apex. Young Ebenezer senses he’s about to come too. She lowers her face toward his and playfully bites his lower lip. It begins to bleed. Mere seconds later both of them come together. He empties himself inside her. Gail revels in the naughty feeling of his warm seed entering her fertile womb. It feels both wrong and right at the same time. Just for good measure, Gail reaches down and masturbates her clit just as Young Ebenezer’s last final spurts subside. She gives herself a second orgasm and collapses on top of her lover.
They remain still for several moments, out of breath and dripping with sweat. Old Ebenezer feels his erection straining against his underwear. Does The Ghost of Christmas Past know this? He’s too embarrassed to ask.
“This is the first time you made love to her, isn’t it? On Christmas night?” The Ghost of Christmas Past asks rhetorically. She already knows the answer to her question, so why ask it?
“Yes, spirit.” Old Ebenezer’s gaze is still fixated on the two naked lovers lying in bed together. “This was also the night that I fell in love with her. Before, I had only lusted after her. For good reason, I might add! But it was this evening, this Christmas evening, when I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.”
“But…” the Ghost of Christmas Past wisely points out. “you didn’t end up being with her for all eternity?”
Old Ebenezer finally turns toward the spirit, looking directly at her. “You’re right. We got married, enjoyed a blissful life together for five years, then divorced. I was heartbroken. But she felt…liberated by it. I could never understand why.”
“Hm. That does seem odd.” The orange glow of the fireplace suddenly dies out. The room becomes dark, then disappears altogether. Ebenezer and the spirit are standing next to each other in a black vortex. “Let’s skip ahead to the moment when your relationship started to fall apart. This may enlighten you or frighten you. Only you will know.”
“Okay,” he responds meekly.
The blackness dissipates. Ebenezer now finds himself standing in a movie studio. It’s Christmas Eve, 1993. Scrooge recalls this evening just as perfectly as the night he and Gail first made love. They’re in Los Angeles at a cheap b-level film studio. The type of studio where low-budget campy horror movies and artless pornos are shot. At this moment it’s being used for a porno.
“No! I’m not going to do this! Absolutely not, Ebenezer!” Gail screams at the top of her lungs.
It’s four years later. Young Ebenezer is pleading his case, but to no avail. Earlier that day he impulsively decided to rent out the studio space for a few hours. The studio is always busy with various projects going on, but not tonight. It is Christmas Eve, after all. No filmmaker or crew would want to work tonight. So, here he and Gail are, alongside Monique, a Nigerian-born former marathon runner turned pro bodybuilder. Monique and Gail have become great friends. So great that Ebenezer suggested they do some “girl-on-girl” scenes together. Gail thought her husband was joking, she so went along with it. Little did she know that he was being dead serious.
“Why not? Come on, do it for me,” Young Ebenezer begs. “It’ll make us tons of money. You know the direction the industry is going, Gail. If a woman bodybuilder wants to be financially successful, she can’t just be a competitor. There’s no money in that. At least, not consistently. You have to earn an income doing other things.”
“Other things?” Gail shouts back. “You mean porn? Smut? What the fuck are you thinking! I don’t do shit like that. You know that! This is dirty and gross.”
Monique is standing by awkwardly. As a bi-sexual immigrant black woman who speaks broken English, she’s accustomed to doing “whatever is necessary” to earn enough money to eat and pay the bills. She’s done lots of porn throughout the years. She’s done scenes with men, women, bodybuilders, non-bodybuilders, and everything else in between. She doesn’t do animals, though. Monique has a little bit of self-respect!
Young Ebenezer switches off the camera. It’s sitting on a rusty old tripod that’s so decrepit Ed Wood probably once used it. Monique is completely nude, her hypermuscular body greased up with baby oil in order to make it shine. Gail is still fully clothed, but her emotions are as raw as can be. She has her enormous arms crossed in front of her chest.
“Come on, baby. I know you don’t usually do this,” Ebenezer implores. “But listen to me. This is the way things are now. Remember that VHS thing Dawn Longfellow did a few years back? God damn, it practically resurrected her fucking career! And that was the very definition of smut…”
“For the love of God, Ebenezer!” Gail smacks a nearby light stand, making it wobble around but not fall down. “Dawn is a slut. I’m not like her. I don’t want my family to see me do stuff like this!” Monique sits down on a chair and mutters something unintelligible to herself. Gail storms off to the dressing room.
“Gail! God damn it, Gail! Get back here. This isn’t my choice. This is what we have to do if you want female bodybuilding to survive.” Old Scrooge cringes at the sight of his younger self screaming so relentlessly at his current wife. The Ghost of Christmas Past glances at Monique and sees she wants to be anywhere but here. Old Scrooge notices how offended his younger self looks at his wife’s insistence that she not do anything against her wishes. How could his younger self be so heartless?
“Stop it, Ebenezer,” Monique chimes in. “If she doesn’t want to do this, then she shouldn’t.”
“Shut up!” Young Ebenezer snaps. He chases after his wife down the hallway. Deep down inside he knows she won’t do this “girl-on-girl” scene. But how can she be so blind? Does she actually think she can earn a steady living just being a competitor? No. You have to make money any which way you can. And the WCBF cannot stay afloat unless they get “creative” in earning more revenue. That’s what Ebenezer and his new business partner, Jacob Marley, discussed with shareholders at last month’s meeting.
Old Ebenezer puts his head down in shame. “My God. How foolish was I? I alienated my own wife. Over what? A fucking low-budget porno? Why was I so stupid?”
“Stupidity isn’t the only reason.” The Ghost of Christmas Past lays her muscular forearm against Scrooge’s shoulder. “You were also prideful. You and Jacob were so sure you knew how to revive the female bodybuilding industry from its inevitable demise. You two wanted to return it back to its former glory of the ‘70s and ‘80s. And you thought blue movies were the answer.”
“I thought they were!” Scrooge defends himself helplessly.
“For some, yes. But not for all. Not everyone wants to do that. And they shouldn’t be forced to, either.”
Monique and the film set fade off into the black nothingness from whence it came from. Scrooge and The Ghost of Christmas Past are alone in the void.
“Is that the lesson I must learn? That I took the WCFB in the wrong direction? That me and Jacob were wrong?” Scrooge fights off a sneeze that is about to explode at the wrong time.
“No, not exactly. That’s one lesson, sure. But not the only one. The other spirit shall show you more, Ebenezer.” The Ghost of Christmas Past also begins to fade away, slowly but surely. Soon, she is just a voice speaking without a body.
And with that, Ebenezer is transported back to his bedroom in the blink of an eye. He glances up at the clock. It is 2:00 a.m. on the dot. The grandfather clock chimes two times, as if on cue. Then, music starts to play downstairs. In the same living room Jacob Marley’s ghost made his glorious entrance. This time, without fear, Ebenezer Scrooge trots downstairs to see what all the commotion is about. The music is Dean Martin’s rendition of “Let it Snow! Let is Snow! Let it Snow!”
As much of a grumpy miser as he is, Scrooge admits that he secretly loves this song!
For some unexplainable reason, the home gym has returned. Except Jacob Marley isn’t here deadlifting. Instead, someone is squatting. 405 pounds! Holy shit…
“Are you the second spirit whose coming was foretold?” The ghostly figure continues to squat, as if it hadn’t heard Scrooge’s question.
“Give me a moment!” a female voice with an Eastern European accent demands. The voice is exotic but not angelic. Finally, she finishes her final repetition and reracks the bar. It makes a loud clanking sound. Scrooge’s heart skips a beat. It skips even more beats after he sees what this second spirit looks like.
Dripping sweat and breathing loudly, a bulky woman with thick muscles, long brown hair, and hazel eyes wearing nothing but a red and green sports bra and skin-tight shorts walks toward Scrooge. She is a dead ringer for Elena Bourean, a world-class female bodybuilder from Romania. Miss Bourean has won the WCBF Heavyweight Women’s Bodybuilding Title eight years in a row. Unless Scrooge decides to change his mind about eliminating the FBB Division, she won’t be able to win a ninth.
“Good evening. I had to get a quick workout in before we go on our little adventure,” she begins, extending her hand toward Scrooge. He shakes it. Her strong grip almost causes every bone in his hand to shatter. “I am The Ghost of Christmas Present. How are you doing, Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge?”
Scrooge tries to not show that he is in pain from the handshake. He doubts he’s a good enough actor to hide it. “To be honest, spirit, my mind is spinning. I’ve experienced a lot so far. It’s not every day that spirits from the Other World come to Earth and interact with me. So you’ll excuse me if I seem out of sorts.”
“Out of sorts? That’s an understatement! Want a cup of hot cider? I get tired of Gatorade day in and day out,” The Ghost of Christmas Present says. She goes over to a stove top (because apparently there’s a stove in the living room, along with a squat rack!) and pours a glass of cider for her guest. “Come in and know me better, man!”
The Elena Bourean lookalike hands Scrooge the glass of cider. He sips it.
“Holy shit, that’s good. That sure hits the spot, especially on a cold winter night like this,” Scrooge proclaims. He chugs the rest. The Ghost of Christmas Present smiles. “Where did you learn to make cider this delicious?”
“Oh, when you’re a ghost you have lots of spare time on your hands.” The Ghost of Christmas Present pours herself a glass of cider too. “Speaking of which, why didn’t you attend your nephew’s Christmas party? Fred knows how to throw a party, if you know what I mean!”
Scrooge sits down on the sofa and sighs. “I don’t know, spirit. I’m not a very sociable person. I prefer to be alone, crunching numbers and doing bookkeeping tasks. I’m afraid I don’t know what to do at parties. I’d be at a loss.” The Ghost of Christmas Present finishes her cider. Scrooge marvels at her flawless physique. He cannot stop staring at her chiseled abdomen. She indeed looks just like Elena Bourean, just as The Ghost of Christmas Past was a doppelganger of Tanya Morganthall. Whoever is in control of the Other World sure knows the right people to replicate when sending ghosts down to the Real World!
“At a loss? Golly, that sounds stressful,” the spirit replies with genuine compassion.
“It can be. Which is why I avoid parties and any other kind of social gathering. Does that make me a horrible person, spirit?”
“Not at all,” she begins. “However, that does mean you do miss out on seeing the other side of your company’s business.” The Ghost of Christmas Present wipes off her gorgeous face with a towel that manifests out of nowhere.
“What other side?” Scrooge is truly perplexed.
“Oh, the side of the WCBF you don’t always see,” she says. “The social side of it. The human side. Not the side that’s only concerned with money, sustainability, and the bottom line.”
“I assume you’re going to show me this?”
The Ghost of Christmas Present winks. It sends shivers down Scrooge’s old spine. “Of course! What were you expecting?” And with that, the spirit extends her hand. Tentatively, Scrooge takes it. But this time, her grip isn’t oppressively strong. It’s more nurturing. A tornado-like swirl of wind and light surrounds them. The music fades away, as does the images of Scrooge’s house. Ten seconds later he finds himself in a large ballroom sometime in the present day.
A larger-than-life Christmas tree adorns the whole room. There are people everywhere – drinking, eating, talking, dancing, and celebrating as if they don’t have a care in the world. It takes a brief moment, but Scrooge soon starts to recognize the people in the ballroom. It’s bodybuilders! And their wives and husbands. Male and female competitors, retired athletes, photographers, personal trainers, sponsors, magazine writers and editors, and significant others are enjoying the evening’s frivolities. Scrooge knows many of them, if not all of them. Once again, he can see them but they cannot see him. Nor can he touch them or interact with anyone. Just like before.
“What is this? Who’s party is this?” Scrooge asks. But before his tour guide can answer, a familiar man walks onto a dais near the DJ and approaches the microphone.
“Welcome, everybody! Thank you for being here! I love each and every one of you,” Mr. Fezziwig announces to the crowd. The room erupts in applause. Daniel Fezziwig is the CEO of WBBA, the World Bodybuilding Association. It’s the parent company that owns the West Coast Bodybuilding Federation. Ebenezer once worked for the WBBA after he left the WCBF. He learned so much about business administration from Fezziwig. After six years working with him, Scrooge returned to the WCBF once the executive job became vacant. While he and Fezziwig didn’t always see eye-to-eye, he always respected him as a man and as a…
“Welcome to the annual Fezziwig Christmas Gala! It’s so great to see many world-class athletes in one room. Thankfully no urine test will be required before you leave!” Everyone in the room laughs heartily. Even Scrooge cracks a smile. “All kidding aside, I’m grateful that we’re able to host this party here in the Emerald City. It’s too bad my old friend Ebenezer Scrooge wasn’t able to come this evening. Then again, he probably wouldn’t want to come even if he could!”
The crowd boos at the sound of Ebenezer Scrooge’s name. Looking around at his colleagues expressing their displeasure toward him, Scrooge is deeply hurt. The Ghost of Christmas Present takes notice of this emotional reaction.
As Fezziwig continues to give his spiel, out of the corner of his eye Scrooge sees a familiar face. It’s Bobbi Cratchit! And she’s with her son, Tim. Tim looks to be about five years old. He’s quite tiny but carries around a lot of confidence. Just like his mother. Bobbi and her son are alone in the corner, drinking punch and eating cookies. Bobbi is dressed in a classy black cocktail dress. Her muscles are visible for all to see. Tim looks adorable wearing a small faux tuxedo.
Suddenly, the room grows quiet. Fezziwig is about to reveal who the guest performer will be! Apparently, the guest performer is supposed to showcase some sort of routine that’s a combination of dance, stylized movement, and traditional bodybuilding poses. Everyone waits with bated breath. Even Scrooge. Especially Bobbi, since she heard a rumor that this year it’s going to be a woman whom Fezziwig selects.
“Without further ado, this year’s guest performer will be…” he teases, enjoying the intoxicating power he has over his esteemed guests. “Gail Moore!!!”
The whole room erupts in a bedlam of cheering and applause.
Gail Moore? Scrooge knows exactly who that is.
It’s his first wife. The love of his life. With a new married name.