Max, having just stripped down to nothing but his boxers, was about to approach Emily’s beautiful right bicep and kiss it before she unexpectedly asked this question.
“Uh, yeah. Sure. What is it?” Max Shimura politely asks. He walks right up to Emily, dressed in a sexy revealing white satin slip dress, and places his warm lips onto her hard bicep peak. He recalls her arms being 16.5 inches in circumference, but that could be when she’s in “competition shape.” Regardless, they seem noticeably bigger since the last time he saw her.
“This building is haunted. The front desk guy told me when I checked in.”
Genuinely curious, Max stops kissing her muscular arm and turns to face her. He gets lost in her gorgeous ocean blue eyes before refocusing on the conversation at hand. “Really? As in haunted by a specific ghost, or by mysterious apparitions in general?”
“By a ghost, I think,” she says. Emily Jakobsson is a 30-year-old professional bodybuilder and athletic apparel model from Sweden. Like many Scandinavian women, she has dense bone structure and the genetic makeup to grow large, impressive muscle mass. Max first saw her for a muscle worship session about 8 years ago when she was a 22-year-old powerlifter and he was a poor 20-year-old college student. The $350 he spent to see her that evening made a significant dent in his modest bank account, but it left quite an impression. He instantly became infatuated with her. Dare say, he fell in love? Max knows these sessions aren’t romantic in nature (he’s pretty sure she’s married, or at least engaged), but he can’t help but dream.
“Not sure who specifically, but he says somewhere within the halls, guests have seen the white figure of a dead woman float around in mid-air,” she says. A casual fan of the paranormal himself, Max actually wants to know more to this story. He’s not one for hunting ghosts, but if it’s right here in this very building, he definitely doesn’t need to travel far. “I haven’t seen her yet, but I’d love to!”
“Yeah, no kidding. I didn’t know this building was haunted, but I do know that this place wasn’t always a hotel. I believe it used to be an insane asylum,” Max says. “World War I era, I think. Maybe later. I don’t know exactly.”
Emily’s eyes widen. Max quickly steals a glance at her broad shoulders before returning his gaze toward her lovely face. “Seriously? That’s some top-notch horror movie shit right there!”
“Well, to be fair I think it was technically a regular hospital that happened to have a mental ward,” Max recalls. “It may have been in the basement? Who knows…”
Max places his fingers onto Emily’s sculpted pecs. She kindly flexes them in response. But she still seems preoccupied by the possibility of ghosts haunting the building to focus on giving her client a good time. No worries, though. Max appreciates Emily’s body with or without her attention being on him. From head to toe, Emily is a sight to behold. He can only count on one hand other women who’ve achieved her flawless balance of natural beauty, femininity, muscle mass, symmetry, and fun personality.
“Still, that’s quite a coincidence,” she observes.
Emily motions for Max to lift her dress over her head. He happily obliges. Wearing nothing but a creamy orange-colored bikini and stiletto heels, Emily is in full Goddess Mode. She lifts her left leg up and impressively bounces her quads up and down, mesmerizing her client. They have to be at least 28 inches around. Maybe 30 inches? Max can’t help but feel a chill go down his spine just thinking about it. He can see every striation, every individual muscle dancing in response to her flexing.
“God, you look amazing. Absolutely perfect, Emily.” She stops daydreaming and turns toward Max. She smiles to acknowledge his compliment.
“Why, thank you kind sir. I suppose I should stop talking about ghosts and instead start showing off my rock-hard body!” And with that, Emily does exactly that. Emily takes a small step back to give her room to showcase all the main bodybuilding poses. Max gets down on his knees to watch the Scandinavian Muscle Goddess in action. He reaches out to touch her meaty calves, tree trunk thighs, and bulging hamstrings. He’s always been a leg guy, in case that hasn’t been made clear yet.
“Mmmm, unbelievable. Love these legs. Love how much hard work you put into them.”
“Thanks, darling. Thank you very much. I’m glad someone notices.” She then turns around to show off her back muscles. As wide as a freight train, Max cannot fathom how a woman can be so damn large and remain as unquestionably feminine at the same time. Miss Jakobsson has achieved the seemingly impossible. She’s peerless.
“Oh, I’ve noticed. I follow you on Instagram, so I’ve kept track of–”
Out of nowhere, the lights suddenly start to flicker. Emily stops posing. Max stops regarding her immaculate figure. They both look up at the ceiling light fixture. After about a dozen rapid flickers, it finally goes out. The bathroom fan turns off. The air conditioning unit – which had been blowing in gentle warm air to heat up this small room on this late October evening – stops humming.
Darkness. Nothing but darkness and…eerie silence.
There appears to be a power outage. No need to be an electrician to understand that.
“Well, shit. That sucks,” Emily says. She walks over to the desk phone sitting on a small bedside table. “Is it just us, or has the entire building gone dark?”
“Let me check.” Max quickly pokes his head out the door to see what the hallway looks like. He’s careful not to step outside because he’s wearing nothing but boxer shorts…and sporting a massive erection. How embarrassing would it be if somebody saw that?
All the lights appear to be on in the long corridor hallway. And, as a side note, there isn’t a single soul in sight. Which seems odd considering how many tourists he saw in the lobby an hour ago, milling around and chatting up a storm. So it must be just their room that’s without power.
Max closes the door. He sees Emily on the phone, speaking to a front desk staff person. She nods her head, mumbles something unintelligible, then hangs up.
“What did they say?”
“They said it’s an old building and that shit like this happens frequently,” she says, rolling her eyes. “They recommend finding the electrical panel and manually switching the room lights back on. If that doesn’t work, they’ll send over a maintenance guy to inspect what’s gone wrong.”
Great. A fucking maintenance guy showing up? That’ll ruin the mood!
Max turns back toward the door to look for the electrical panel. He doesn’t see one. Emily also starts to search. In complete darkness, it’s difficult to see anything. A moment later, she apparently finds it.
“I think this is it.” Emily pulls back a small painting of a 1920s speakeasy hanging on the north-facing wall. “It’s a weird place to put it. And why would they hide it behind a painting?”
Emily tries to open the old rusty metal door situated at eye level. It’s somewhat jammed shut, so she has to force it open with all her (considerable) strength. Once she does, a cloud of dust greets her as the door flies open.
“Oh gross! Ugh.”
Max is now standing behind her. He cannot help but admire her rounded butt. Holy shit, she must squat a lot. Or do endless walking lunges. Or both. Damn! Before he can caress it, a brown leather-bounded book drops to the floor. Emily picks it up.
“What the fuck is this? This isn’t the electrical panel. It’s some sort of safety deposit box,” Max says. He leans over to see what kind of book it is. It appears to be a diary.
“It’s a journal. It’s really old. Take a look at it,” Emily says. She opens the curtain to let in some moonlight. There’s a full moon out with not a single cloud in the sky. Max takes the diary and thumbs through it. Indeed, it’s somebody’s old journal. Emily finds her cell phone, turns on the flashlight app, and shines it on the crusty yellow pages of the diary. Max finds a random passage and decides to read it.
“My love for you is unending. It has no bounds. But society will not let us be together. I am unwell and everyone knows it. You have your whole life in front of you. You say you want to go off and fight in the war against the Germans. While you are in the trenches, I shall be here. Rotting away in my little room. All alone.” Max reads aloud.
“Damn. That’s sad. It must be the personal diary of a former patient here. You said it used to be a hospital, right?” Emily asks. Max nods his head. He continues to read:
“The world will not allow us to be together. But we are stronger than that. We are meant to be together, in love, for all eternity. If we cannot be together in this life, we shall be together in the next life. I know a witch who understands the ancient incantations. She has taught me how to give us eternal life. So no matter what happens, we will live our lives together in love forever and ever. With or without society’s approval. I love you, Private Max Kincaid. Sincerely, Emily Carroll. August 7, 1916.”
Both Emily and Max are silent for a moment, deep in thought.
“Whoa. I mean, holy fucking shit. Her name is Emily and his name is Max. Just like us!” Max whispers to Emily. She too is stunned. This shocking coincidence disturbs them both.
“This is from World War I. This Emily Carroll girl seems like a patient at this hospital. She says she’s ‘unwell,’ so that probably means she was a mental patient,” Emily ponders. “And Max Kincaid is a private, so that must mean he was in the military. Maybe he worked at this hospital as an orderly. Or maybe he was a patient as well, but not a mental patient. Just a regular one.”
“Fort Brennan is 30 miles away from here. Maybe he was injured in a basic training accident. Wow. What a find! I wonder if the local museum would want this.” Max wonders aloud.
“She mentions knowing a witch. Was Emily Carroll into witchcraft?” Emily asks. She takes the book, finds another random page, and reads out loud: “Today is the day we choose to die together. Our fates are bound. There is no going back. This is the path we choose. At the stroke of midnight, we will slice our throats and bleed out all the hate that has been oppressing us. All the demons that have denied us our happiness. And before our hearts stop beating, we will say the ancient incantations that will grant us eternal life. Sincerely, Emily Carroll. October 31, 1916.”
“Wow! It was Halloween night, more than 100 years ago when she wrote this. They carried out a suicide pact. Fuck! That’s intense.” Emily exclaims. By now, it’s a mini-miracle that Max has completely forgotten that he’s currently in the presence of a beautiful, scantily clad female bodybuilder. He’s seen her three times before for a muscle worship session, and usually savors every minute of it. But tonight, on Halloween Night 2020, they’re both distracted by the personal diary of a long-dead woman whose tragic story is yet to be fully uncovered.
“I’ll bet you’re right. Private Max Kincaid was either an orderly at the hospital or a patient here. They met, fell in love, and understood that their families wouldn’t approve of them being together. There’s no way his parents would want him to marry an unstable woman who was committed to an insane asylum. So they formed a suicide pact, probably went through with it, and hoped their souls would forever haunt this building, so they could actually be together for all eternity,” Max speculates. “Ancient incantations? A witch? Holy shit, that’s fucking intense.”
“I found it! The incantations, or whatever it’s called,” Emily announces after flipping through more pages of the diary.
Emily shines her phone at a slightly torn out page located at the very end of the diary. It’s written in English but seems to be Sumerian in origin. Max is no historian, but his father is a history professor at the local university. So he knows a bit about ancient civilizations. The scribbled writing is Miss Carroll’s attempt to phonetically spell out an ancient language.
“Shall we read it together?”
Emily looks up at Max after he asks this. Max doesn’t blink. A wicked smile forms across her gorgeous face.
“Yes! That’ll be fun. What’s the worst that could happen?”
Well. Famous last words, Max thought to himself. But what the heck?
Scrooge’s heart drops like the DJ’s sick beat. Gail Moore? So she ended up marrying Eddie Moore, the retired bodybuilder and U.S. Marine whom Ebenezer once got into a bar fight with? It was in 2002. In Rio de Janeiro. They were both scouting a beautiful young Brazilian female bodybuilder (with the greatest ass in the whole fucking universe) with the intent of asking her to join their company.
At the time Scrooge was with the WCBF. Eddie, however, was a senior executive at the East Coast Bodybuilding Federation. They both wanted this young lady to become a member of their respective team. But she could only choose one. It’s taboo within the industry to be sponsored by multiple companies simultaneously. After several beers and shots of whiskey Ebenezer and Eddie got into a brutal fist fight that resulted in both men spending the night in jail, surrounded by drug dealers, pimps, and low-rent assassins.
But that’s neither here nor there. Scrooge’s eyes are glued to the dais. The DJ starts playing “I Like It” by Cardi B, a far cry from Dean Martin’s classy Christmas crooning. Soon, Gail walks on, dancing along to the music. She’s perfect. She’s older, but still as gorgeous as ever. She’s wearing a skimpy low-cut leather dress that generously shows off her curvy body. Gail isn’t as muscular as she used to be, but you can tell she still lifts regularly.
As Gail dances and glides across the stage, loud hollering fills the room. The crowd is enjoying every second of it. Even Bobbi and Tim. He may not be old enough to understand what is happening, but Tiny Tim knows a funky beat when he hears one. Bobbi sways back and forth with the biggest smile on her face. It never occurred to Scrooge until now that Gail could very well be one of Bobbi’s biggest heroes.
After leaping into the air and landing spread eagle with the grace of a ballerina, the audience cheers so wildly Scrooge wonders if the windows will break. Thankfully, they don’t. Gail stands up and bows as the music fades. The applause lasts a good three or four minutes. Ebenezer loses track.
“Unbelievable. She’s still in great condition,” Scrooge mutters to himself. The Ghost of Christmas Present nods in agreement.
“She is. She’s remarkable. And your instincts are correct. She is indeed married to Eddie Moore. They’re very happy together. She’s the proud mother of three children. All girls.” Scrooge turns toward the spirit in disbelief.
“Wow. Good for her. That’s…incredible. She deserves happiness.” Before he can start to weep, Scrooge sees a large crowd of people shake Gail’s hand, hug her, and mob her. They love her. And she loves them. She’s happy – smiling, laughing, celebrating. In all the years he’s known her, Ebenezer cannot remember a time when Gail looked this alive. She seems at peace. Powerful. Joyous. Happy. Ecstatic. Content. As if she’s found her purpose. This is very unusual, at least from Scrooge’s narrow perspective.
Did she ever feel this way during their marriage? Ebenezer is starting to have his doubts. Perhaps she never felt happy when they were together. Maybe this is the first time she’s ever felt this happy in her life. Now. After their relationship deteriorated.
“What are you seeing, Ebenezer?” The Ghost of Christmas Present asks. Scrooge almost forgets she’s there, as he’s totally captivated by the scene unfolding around him. He turns to her with sadness in his eyes.
“I’m seeing Gail…happy. Really happy. She’s smiling. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen her smile that much.” Then, Scrooge turns his gaze toward Bobbi Cratchit and Tiny Tim. They’ve moved away from the dessert bar. He is unable to spot them until he notices them approaching Gail.
“Hi Gail. Do you remember me? My name is Bobbi. This is my son, Tim,” Bobbi nervously asks Gail. “We met briefly at last year’s contest in Denver. You told me to never give up my dreams. To never look at an obstacle as being an obstacle, but instead as an opportunity to grow. I never forgot that. You’re…one of my heroes.”
Gail takes a moment to remember Bobbi’s face. She then extends her arms wide and hugs Bobbi so tightly Scrooge is surprised her head doesn’t pop off. “Of course I remember you! Aren’t you working for that horrible Ebenezer Scrooge right now? Let me warn you about him, my dear. He’s a cad. But I’m sure you know that already.”
Bobbi looks around the room before chuckling. She isn’t one to throw her own boss under the bus, but it seems as though nobody within earshot would mind if she did so. Ebenezer Scrooge isn’t considered a particularly sympathetic man in these parts.
“I sure do, yes,” Bobbi says. “In fact, he’s making me work on Christmas Eve. Can you believe that?” Gail nods her head “no,” knowing exactly what kind of man her ex-husband is, especially as far as the holidays are concerned. Tiny Tim emerges from behind her mother’s back to look up at Gail, whose performance knocked everybody off their feet.
“Is this your little guy? He’s getting so big! Soon you’ll be just as strong as your mommy,” Gail says. Tiny Tim smiles but does not say anything.
“He’s really shy around adults,” Bobbi warns. “Plus, he’s been fighting off a bad cough that’s been affecting him for the past few days. If it gets worse I might need to take him to see the doctor.” Bobbi squeezes her son out of concern for his wellbeing. Scrooge takes note of Tiny Tim’s condition.
“Oh, that’s too bad. I hope Ebenezer gives you some much needed time off to take care of him if that’s the case,” Gail says. “But then again, maybe not. Let me know and I’ll give him hell if he doesn’t, sweetheart.”
Tiny Tim coughs violently a few times. All look at him with concern. Even Scrooge. He wants to reach out and hug the little guy, but cannot because he is not actually there. Scrooge looks at The Ghost of Christmas Present. She glares back at him. “If Tiny Tim were to need urgent medical attention, you would be so kind as to give his mother some paid time off so that she can tend to his needs, right?” Scrooge nods, but genuinely wonders if he would have had he not witnessed this eventful scene.
Then, without warning, the room blackens. Yet again. The figures of Gail, Bobbi Cratchit, Tiny Tim, and the hundreds of souls around them fade away into total blackness. Scrooge is dazed. He never knew Bobbi was that fond of Gail. Nor did he know that Gail was that beloved within the bodybuilding community. To him, she was just a fading athlete whose popularity had come and gone. It never occurred to him that people – young and old, those who remember her heyday and those who were not even born yet – still adore her. That young women like Bobbi Cratchit, who was barely alive when Gail was at the height of her popularity, could look up to her for inspiration. She even said it herself. Gail is her hero.
“Where are we going next, spirit?” The blackness persists, which is unusual. Normally they’d be at their next destination by now.
“My work here is done, Ebenezer. From here on out, I leave you with the next spirit.” The blackness dissipates, leaving Scrooge and The Ghost of Christmas Present in the middle of a dirty looking convenience store. Bags of potato chips, beef jerky, candy, cheap beer, rip-off brands of sunglasses, cigarettes, and scratch tickets line several shelves. The Ghost of Christmas Present is still with Scrooge, but she has a peculiar red glow surrounding her impeccable body.
“The Ghost of Christmas Future, or more specifically, The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come,” she explains. Her red glow shines brighter and brighter as their conversation goes on. “She will show you two versions of the future, I believe. And whether or not either of them comes to pass is entirely dependent upon you, Ebenezer.” Her glow becomes so brilliant Scrooge has to look away. Finally, she disappears just like the spirits and shadows before her. No one seems to be in the vicinity of the convenience store. There are no employees, customers, or people roaming around the streets. Scrooge looks around for any sign of life. Then, Scrooge notices smoke coming out of the bathroom. If there’s anything Scrooge hates more than gas station bathrooms, he is yet to find it. Tentatively, he approaches the source of the mysterious smoke.
Suddenly, the entire store is caked in thick gray smoke. But Ebenezer doesn’t cough or smell it. It’s like it’s not actually there. He hears the bathroom door creak open, but no footsteps emerge. Scrooge knows it’s the third spirit, yet for whatever reason he feels the most anxious for this one. The first was that of his dead business partner, Jacob Marley. The second was an apparition that looked just like Tanya Morganthall. The third resembled Elena Bourean. But what about this specter? What will she look like?
The gray smoke slowly but surely disperses. Standing in front of the bathroom is a robed figure. She is wearing a jet-black robe that covers her entire body. Unlike The Ghost of Christmas Past, this spirit can walk on the ground. It approaches Scrooge methodically, as if she’s self-aware of the macabre nature of her existence. Scrooge isn’t always a fan of excessive theatrics, but he’ll indulge this specter for the sake of personal growth and redemption.
“Are you the third spirit whose coming was foretold?” Scrooge asks with rote formality.
Silence. Then the spirit nods its head up and down. Ebenezer guesses – correctly, of course – that this denotes the answer is “yes.”
“Alright then. Are you silent, or just choose to be silent for dramatic effect?” That causes the spirit to laugh out loud.
“Great. You caught me!” The spirit lifts the hood from its head to reveal its true form. Like the previous two spirits, this one is female. But she isn’t someone Ebenezer recognizes. He looks closely at her face. She’s a bit plain looking, but not ugly by any stretch of the imagination. She can be “the girl next-door,” as if that wretched cliché needed any further usage. She takes a few more steps toward Ebenezer. “Greetings. I am the final spirit who will guide you through this eventful evening. I am The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, or The Ghost of Christmas Future. Did my predecessor give you the gist of what I plan to do with you?”
“Yeah, she said you’re going to show me two versions of the future. And I have the power to decide which will happen, for whatever reason,” he answers. “If you don’t mind me asking, spirit, but who are you in the real world? I don’t believe I recognize your face.”
The Ghost of Christmas Future looks at a nearby can of creamed corn. It’s way past its expiration date, which makes her frown. “That’s because I am not born yet. So not only will I show you the future, I too am from the future. I will be born in the year 2023, which is, by my calculation, five years from now. Well, four and a half years from now if we want to be exact. But whatever,” she explains. “I’m the shadow of a young lady who aspires to become a female bodybuilder.” She rolls up her sleeve and reveals her swollen biceps. Scrooge marvels at her vascularity. He whistles in response. She politely smiles.
“Thank you very much, Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge,” she smiles. “However, whether or not I actually become a bodybuilder is very much in your hands. It’ll make sense a bit later. For now, we begin our tour. Look behind you. Mr. Scrooge.”
A bit dumbfounded, Scrooge slowly turns around to see what is behind him. What he observes makes him gasp. It’s Bobbi Cratchit! She’s an employee of this dreadful convenience store, judging from her cheesy-looking yellow and brown uniform. She’s standing at the cash register looking bored out of her mind. She even yawns, as if we needed further evidence of her boredom.
“Dear God, it’s Bobbi! Spirit, what year is it and why is this young lady working at this God-forsaken establishment?” Bobbi Cratchit gets so bored she looks at her phone and starts to play some mind-numbing game. Angry Birds, perhaps?
“She works here now. The year is 2020, so two Christmas Eves from now. Bobbi worked for you for a year and then moved on. But once you got rid of the Female Bodybuilding Division, she decided to quit bodybuilding altogether and find a new profession. So far, this has been it.” The Ghost of Christmas Future has put the hood back on, as if that’s even necessary. A bell rings, signaling a customer has entered the store. It’s an elderly man who’s wearing nothing but a military-style green overcoat. That looks a bit suspicious, Scrooge thinks to himself.
No shoes, no socks, no pants, no hat. And he looks like he needs a shave. And a shower. What the hell is he doing here–
“Good evening, sir. Can I help you?” Bobbi politely asks the disheveled man.
“Sure. Can you help me with…this!” The man opens his coat to reveal that he’s completely naked. He swings his floppy penis around in a circle several times, does a quick choreographed dance, and runs out of the store laughing to himself. “Merry Christmas, babe! I’ll be back! You just wait…!”
The hideous man’s voice thankfully trails off. Bobbi is standing at the cash register, stunned and speechless. She should have expected a man wearing a large coat and no other clothing would be a serial flasher, but how the fuck can you make that kind of instant assessment?
“What the fuck was that shit? That’s so fucking gross!” Bobbi exclaims. She quickly checks the computer to see if this asshole is on their “watch list.” They do have a few people in their database who they’ve caught on CCTV shoplifting or dealing drugs. But none of them fit this lunatic’s physical description. Gee, should she include the word “micropenis” in his character biography?
Scrooge is disgusted on her behalf. So is The Ghost of Christmas Future, even though she’s technically not supposed to comment on the action. As if matters couldn’t get worse, Bobbi looks outside and sees two high school kids getting into a fist fight. They’re screaming, cursing, and threatening each other. Just another day at the office.
“Fuck you, you little bitch! I’ll whoop your ass, you fucking cunt! You just watch me! Get the fuck away from my girl, you little piece of shit!” one unpleasant voice screeches.
“Oh yeah tough guy? You wouldn’t fucking dare come at me! I’ll beat your ass to death, you fucking bitch! You bitch! Come here, bitch!” an equally unpleasant voice responds.
The company’s policy is to only report a physical altercation if it appears other customers are in danger. So far, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Until…
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Bobbi screams at this sudden burst of noise and drops to the floor. Ebenezer’s heart jumps a few beats. The spirit seems unfazed. Dutifully, Bobbi finds the phone, dials 9-1-1, and stays on the line like she’s been trained to do.
“Holy fuck! What the fuck did you just do? Holy fucking shit!!!” a third voice yells out. Scrooge can’t see what’s going on outside, but it doesn’t take a genius to guess. The two kids sprint at full speed as far away as they possibly can. The third kid is probably lying in a pool of blood, bleeding to death. Bobbi mumbles something to the emergency operator. Scrooge and The Ghost of Christmas Future approach the window to see what the fuck just happened. Sure enough, there’s a 17-year-old boy lying on the ground. Blood is everywhere. There’s too much darkness and fog to see where he’s wounded, but it doesn’t look good. He isn’t breathing.
“Hello, police! There’s been a shooting at the Sunrise Gas Station on 58th Street! Shots fired. There’s someone who’s been hit by multiple bullets. Send help now!” Bobbi shouts into the phone. Scrooge turns toward her. He sees real fear in her eyes. She knows she’s not in physical danger, but it’s not every day that live bullets are flying in the air in her vicinity. That has a way of shaking you to your core.
Two minutes later, police and ambulance vehicles arrive onto the scene. An officer takes a statement from Miss Cratchit. Paramedics tend to the wounded young man. Ebenezer doesn’t read lips, but he can tell that they’re saying to each other that the boy is dead. Three bullets right to the chest will do that to you. Scrooge and the spirit are standing still in the corner of the convenience store – right next to the frozen burritos – and have not said a single word to each other. What is there to say during a tragic time like this?
By now, the manager of the Sunrise Gas Station has also arrived. He tries to comfort Bobbi, but he knows she’s shaken. It’s one thing to be disgusted at a flasher who ran in and out in the blink of an eye. It’s quite another thing to be traumatized by the sight of vicious homicidal violence. The manager decides to close the gas station for the evening. Bobbi packs up her belongings and walks out of the store. She tries to avoid looking at the scene of the crime, which is still streaked with blood.
Scrooge and The Ghost of Christmas Future quietly follow her to her car – as if they needed to be quiet. Nobody can see or hear them, after all. Bobbi is now talking on her cell phone.
“Hi, Timmy? It’s mommy. You might see on the news a story about a shooting that just happened at the place where mommy works. But don’t worry, little buddy,” she says, stifling tears. “Mommy is okay. I’m not hurt. Just a bit…surprised. That’s all. I’ll see you soon. My boss gave me the rest of the night off. Okay, I love you. Bye.”
Ebenezer looks back at the store. Sure enough, a camera crew has shown up. They’re from the Channel 7 Evening News. Looks like this is one tragic Christmas story that Seattleites everywhere will be hearing about shortly.
Bobbi gets in her car, starts the engine, and drives off into the distance. The police and medical responders are still on the scene. Apparently, there were other witnesses in proximity. An elderly black woman, her son, and a random jogger who happened to be passing by. The police collect statements from them too.
“Spirit,” Scrooge turns toward his host. “Is this the life poor Bobbi Cratchit has to live two years after I axe the FBB Division? Is that really what her fate is going to be?” The Ghost of Christmas Future nods her head. Scrooge sighs. “Well, shit. That fucking sucks. She’s a great girl. She deserves better.”
Then, it hits him. Like a bolt of lightning.
“Holy shit. She does deserve better. And I can play a part in making that happen!” Scrooge looks at the spirit. She nods her head again in agreement. “So that’s the lesson I must learn, spirit? I must keep the Female Bodybuilding Division around so that she can avoid living this pitiful life?”
“No, Ebenezer. That’s not the entirety of your lesson,” the specter begins. “There’s another side to it. Obviously, eliminating the FBB Division isn’t going to force every former competitor into dangerous jobs like this one, but that will be the fate for Miss Cratchit here, as well as her son Tim. He’s not so tiny anymore, you know.”
Ebenezer raises an eyebrow. He recalls that Tim was sick at Mr. Fezziwig’s party two years ago, but he chooses not to ask any follow up questions about that. He’s perfectly content going along for the ride with his spiritual host.
“Show me the other reality. When I don’t eliminate the FBB Division, please,” Scrooge requests.
A black swirl engulfs them. The horrifying scene at the gas station goes away for good. Thank God for that! Soon, the vortex shimmers, rises upward, and finally disbands. Now, they find themselves in a completely different environment. A mansion. They’re just outside the front door. It takes Scrooge a while, but eventually he recognizes whose house this belongs to.
“Oh my heavens! This is Jacob Marley’s old house! After he died, I believe his son Anthony inherited it. He’s the man who impregnated Bobbi. He’s Tim’s father!” Inside the house loud music, laughing, and other raucous shenanigans can be heard. The Ghost of Christmas Future walks past an empty beer keg, a used joint, and an empty box of condoms. Curious, Scrooge walks through the front door – without opening it, naturally – to see what all the commotion is about. The spirit follows behind inconspicuously.
Inside, the party is as wild as it sounds from the outside. Male and female bodybuilders, along with non-bodybuilders, are cooped up inside the Marley mansion – eating, drinking, smoking blunts, laughing, arguing, joking, and occasionally fighting. Nothing like some casual violence to make the holidays merrier. Scrooge wanders around the house looking for…something. He isn’t sure what he’s searching for, but for some unexplainable reason an unseen force is compelling him to be on the hunt.
At last, he finds what he’s looking for. In the main recreational room, a large crowd has gathered around a staging area. The atmosphere is similar to Mr. Fezziwig’s party a couple years earlier. Except the venue is much different. The size of the crowd is probably smaller, but Scrooge cannot say for sure. Ebenezer wades through the large mass of humanity – it’s easy for him to do that considering he’s witnessing shadows of events yet to come – and finally arrives near the front of the stage. And what he sees makes him stop dead in his tracks.
It’s Bobbi Cratchit.
But this time, she’s not working at that filthy gas station where nothing but depravity and violence festers. This time, she’s wearing a sexy Christmas-themed bikini. She’s huge. HUGE. Much larger than she currently is. Her body resembles that of a heavyweight bodybuilder, thick and muscular as hell. She’s posing on stage next to Rebecca Williams, a veteran female bodybuilder whom Ebenezer discovered at a rotten car dealership nearly two decades ago. She was a “fit” girl standing near the “muscle cars,” as if she could use her good looks to attract new customers. Ebenezer approached her and asked if she’s like to quit this dead-end job and come work for the WCBF as a sponsored athlete. She wholeheartedly agreed and quit on the spot. Good for her.
On this day, Rebecca and Bobbi are “competing” against each other on this makeshift stage in front of a cacophonous cheering section. The “loser” gets to take a shot of tequila. The “winner” gets to take two shots of tequila and advance to the next round. Bobbi looks pretty drunk right now. As does Rebecca. And the crowd, of course. Gail doesn’t appear to be anywhere in sight. However, Ebenezer Scrooge is struck by how radically different Bobbi appears to be, compared to how she was at that ugly convenience store.
“Let’s go Bobbi! Go get it, girl!” a random person shouts at the top of his lungs.
“We love you Bobbi! You’re a superstar in the making!!!” another random person screams. Enthusiastic hollering follows. Bobbi looks radiant. As she’s doing a double biceps pose, she looks happy. Alive. Empowered. Beautiful. Confident. Purposeful.
“Wow,” Scrooge mutters.
It is at that moment that Ebenezer finally “gets it.” It’s an epiphany. An awakening. A paradigm shift. Bodybuilding, for both men and women, isn’t about business. It’s not about money. It’s not even about fame. It’s about being the best person you can possibly be. It’s about fulfilling your dreams. Striving toward a goal. Building a family. Being a part of a community. Bobbi looks vivacious, while at the gas station she looked dead. Not dead on the outside (which, unfortunately, could end up happening if those bullets had been aimed at her instead of that poor kid), but dead on the inside. She didn’t have any purpose. Her dreams were squashed. But not by any natural means, but solely because of him. Ebenezer Scrooge. He dashed her dreams, not anybody else. He controls whether she – and countless other female athletes – has the platform to become what she wants to become.
Female bodybuilders don’t need a platform. But there’s also no reason to take that platform away from them. The FBB Division may not make money, but it doesn’t lose any money either. But at the end of the day, it’s not about either of those things. It’s about happiness. Fulfillment. Destiny. Dreams. Community. Self-love.
“Spirit, I finally get it!” Scrooge confesses. The Ghost of Christmas Future is now standing next to him. They are both watching Bobbi Cratchit look completely at home. She’s sparkling. She’s vibrant. He finally understands why both Gail and Bobbi – as well as countless other women – don’t trust or especially like him. It’s because he refuses to see the other side of the bodybuilding industry that isn’t about money.
That other side is…the human side.
“Yes you do, Ebenezer,” the spirit says. “You finally understand what you need to do. How you can make this all right. How to right your wrongs.”
Just as Ebenezer is about to respond to his spiritual guide, he finds himself floating straight up into the air. He cannot stop his upward momentum. It’s just him, flying high above the Seattle skyline. Scrooge is sobbing. His body enters the clouds. A bolt of lightning strikes across his face. He closes his eyes to avoid being blinded. When he re-opens his eyes, he’s now lying down in his bed. In his home. Just him. The grandfather clock says it is 9:00 a.m.
It’s Christmas morning.
As giddy as a schoolboy, Scrooge runs to his window and opens it. He smells the fresh air. Then, he spots a young child making a snowman across the street. Whiteness permeates the world. A fresh sheet of snow apparently fell during the night. The kid seems at peace, but Ebenezer cannot help himself. He must find out if it’s truly Christmas morning. If the spirits returned him to the right place and time.
“You! You there!” he shouted to the boy on the street. “What day is this?”
The boy gives Scrooge a puzzled look. “It’s Christmas, sir. Christmas morning.”
“Good! I haven’t missed it! I’ve been given another chance. I will honor the importance of female bodybuilding in the past, present, and future!” Scrooge proclaims. The boy looks confused, so he continues to make his snowman unabated. Ebenezer slams the window shut, scrambles around to get dressed in proper clothing, and runs downstairs to his lounge chair where his phone is still sitting. He forgot to charge it overnight, but thankfully it still has 38% battery power. Scrooge immediately dials Charlie’s number.
“Charlie! Wake up!” he gleefully shouts once Charlie answers it. “Merry Christmas to you and your lovely family! Hey, you don’t need to do anything right now, but I’m reversing my decision to get rid of the Female Bodybuilding Division. I want to keep it. Forever. Alright? Have a Merry Christmas. Bye, Charlie.” A perplexed Charlie is standing in his living room – surrounded by his wife, four kids, and three dogs – unable to process his boss’s unusually chipper mood. What gives?
Next, Scrooge leaves a voice message on the homeless shelter’s answering machine. He promises to double his donation to $3,000 for their annual fundraising dinner. He figures their staff will get it first thing tomorrow morning.
“Alright, one more stone left unturned,” he proudly exclaims.
Not wanting to disturb her beautiful family on this special day, Scrooge texts a simple message to his brand new intern:
“Merry Christmas, Bobbi. Just so you know, I’ve had a change of heart. I’m keeping the FBB Division. Your dreams will not be shattered. Go and fulfill everything you hope to achieve in your life. Sorry for being a jerk. See you at the office tomorrow!”
At Bobbi Cratchit’s cramped apartment on the other side of town, a buzzing of her phone forces Tiny Tim’s mother to stop cooking Christmas breakfast and check it. After she reads her boss’s inexplicable text, she stands frozen, unable to speak or move. Her young son notices his mother’s unusual behavior and approaches her cautiously.
“What’s wrong, mommy?” Tim’s little voice inquires.
“Nothing, sweetie,” Bobbi begins. “I just received great news. News that makes mommy really happy.” Satisfied with this answer, Tim makes a bold proclamation that Bobbi swears she’s never heard her son say before:
“God bless us, everyone!”
A small tear rolls down her face. Bobbi looks up and says a silent prayer to the heavens. Before she resumes preparing their breakfast, she peers down at her handsome son and replies to his blessing.
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.
Bobbi Cratchit, a brand new 24-year-old intern at the West Coast Bodybuilding Federation, could not help but eavesdrop on her boss’s conversation with his director of marketing. She knows this is a crucial discussion that will determine the fate of the WCBF’s female bodybuilding division. An aspiring bodybuilder herself, Bobbi’s heart sinks at the tone of her boss’s voice. She knows what’s about to happen.
“There’s nothing I can do about it. This decision has to be made,” Ebenezer Scrooge growls into the phone. “The lady competitors don’t bring in the crowds like they used to. Hell, let’s be perfectly frank, Charlie. Those ‘roided up chicks never brought in large crowds. It’s just the truth.”
“Shit,” Bobbi whispers under her breath.
Ebenezer stands up and looks out the window of his spacious office. A newly minted sheet of snow has just fallen across town, giving it a unique poetic beauty that even the grumpy Mr. Scrooge can appreciate. But he’d never acknowledge it out loud, of course. That’s not who he is.
“Listen, Charlie. My fucking mind is made up, alright?” Ebenezer pours a small amount of whiskey into his coffee cup and sips it with the delight of a powerhouse boss who doesn’t care what other people think. “Take off all mentions of the FBB Division from the website and scrub it from our social media accounts. But tell our sponsors that we intend to keep the bikini and fitness chicks. They can draw a crowd!”
Bobbi nearly snaps her pen in half in response to her boss’s sexist attitude. She has nothing against the bikini and fitness girls personally, but philosophically she’s totally offended that they’re allowed to compete in a bodybuilding contest when most of them probably couldn’t do a single pull-up to save their lives. Bobbi aspires to be a heavyweight bodybuilder like Alina Popa and Anne Freitas – which takes building a hell of a lot more muscle than any bikini competitor can even comprehend of. But her anger is outweighed by her sadness that her dreams of becoming a big-time female bodybuilder is about to get shattered for good.
A few minutes later Ebenezer hangs up the phone and downs the rest of his whiskey. He burps loudly and walks out of his office.
“You probably heard every word of that conversation, right Bobbi?”
“Of course,” she says with the fakest smile she can possibly muster. “How can I not? You and Charlie always have spirited conversations.”
Sitting at her desk near the main entrance, she’s well within earshot of Mr. Scrooge’s palatial corner office. It has a nice leather couch, a well-stocked bar, and plenty of posters of nude and near nude female bodybuilders lining the walls. He may not think much of them as financial assets, but he sure has hell seems to like how they look. It’s almost pornographic, as many outside visitors have observed over the years.
“Well, that’s certainly true.” Ebenezer scratches his salt and pepper colored hair as he peers outside the window on the opposite side of Bobbi’s desk. He notices out of the corner of his eye a familiar car park in one of the guest spots. He sighs. “But business is business. I have to do it. I’ve held out long enough, but now is the proper time to make this difficult decision. The Female Bodybuilding Division has to–”
“Sir, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but can I persuade you to change your mind?”
Bobbi gets out from her desk and approaches her boss. She may be a woman with well sculpted muscles, but she still lacks the confidence to firmly reprimand her superior. Hopefully she can use her own personal story to persuade him to change his mind…
Ebenezer chuckles condescendingly. “You can try, my dear. But you won’t. My mind is made up. I know you desperately want to one day become a competitive bodybuilder. And that’s great. I don’t want to dash your dreams. But if you’re going to do that, you’ll have to move away from the West Coast and head somewhere else.”
A virtuous knock on the door interrupts their awkward exchange. Ebenezer tries to ignore it even though he knows very well who their visitor is going to be.
“Yes, it definitely appears that way. But it’s my dream to get on that stage and compete with the best women in the world. And I have some great ideas of how we can market it moving forward…” Before she can finish, the door opens and Fred, Mr. Scrooge’s chipper nephew, struts on in. He knows he doesn’t have to knock on the door – it is a business, not a private residence after all – but he does so anyway because he never wants to appear to be rude.
“Oh, uncle! Good day to you! And it’s very nice to see you, Miss Cratchit.” Fred enters the room wearing a fashionable pea coat, Seattle Seahawks beanie, and red wool scarf. “Oh, I almost forgot. Merry Christmas to you both!”
Well, it’s not technically Christmas yet. It’s still Christmas Eve. But everyone knew where Fred was getting at.
“Bah, humbug,” Scrooge mutters to himself. “We were just talking business. And you have the nerve to barge in like this, dear nephew?”
Fred is carrying a gift basket full of wine, cheeses, fruit, jams, and crackers. He places it on Bobbi’s desk and smiles at her. “How is your family, Miss Cratchit? And how old is your son now?”
“Oh, you remembered!” Bobbi exclaims. “He’s doing very well. Just started first grade this fall. He turns six in three months.” Ebenezer walks into the bathroom to pee. He has no interest in talking to his annoying nephew or hearing about Bobbi Cratchit’s pitiful family matters. The father of her child is the son of Jacob Marley, Ebenezer’s former business partner. Jacob passed away seven years ago from cancer. He battled it for several years, but it finally conquered him. Ebenezer won’t admit this to anyone, but that tragic event changed him forever. He became colder and more distant. And definitely more emotionally detached. But because Bobbi’s son is Jacob’s grandson, Ebenezer felt an obligation to give her a job at the WCBF front office as an administrative intern. He’s too cheap to pay for a full-time employee, so he just simply cycles through intern after intern so he can take advantage of their affordability.
Plus, most employees tend to not last very long around Mr. Scrooge, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody.
“That’s lovely. Tell him I wish him and his mother a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,” Fred proclaims. “Wow! You’ve certainly been working out, huh?”
Today, Bobbi is wearing a short-sleeved blouse that shows off her big muscles. She began lifting four years ago after her son Tim was born. She usually wears a sweater to the office – especially on cold winter days like this – but she plans to attend a Christmas Eve party later this evening and she wanted to look “classy.”
“Thanks for noticing!”
“Well, how can I not? You look impressive. One day you’ll be a world-class bodybuilder,” Fred says. “I can sense it!”
Ebenezer flushes the toilet and forgets to wash his hands. He storms out of the bathroom and revels in being able to break to his nephew the cheerfully bad news. “Unfortunately, nephew, that’s not going to happen as long as she lives around here. I’m axing the FBB Division for good. It’s official as of today. Or more specifically, as of ten minutes ago.”
Fred turns toward his uncle with an exasperated look on his face. “Are you serious? You aren’t joking?”
“No, dear Fred. I’m being perfectly serious at this moment. After years of staving off this harsh reality, I’m afraid this is the time to do what should have been done years ago. I’m eliminating the women’s bodybuilding class for good. Permanently.” Scrooge sits down in a comfortable leather chair and basks in his unsentimental despotism. Fred turns to his uncle and pleads his case.
“Oh, please reconsider, dear uncle,” he begins. “The women deserve their time in the spotlight, too. They work just as hard as the male competitors, if not harder. They’re incredibly hardworking athletes who deserve to have their blood, sweat, and tears recognized. Please don’t do this, Uncle Scrooge.”
Fred’s uncle shakes his head with the look of a man who refuses to be persuaded otherwise. “Sorry, nephew. My mind is made up. I already spoke with Charlie about altering all our marketing materials to reflect this new reality. The FBB Division is a dead goose. But the bikini and fitness girls will be allowed to remain, if that’s any consolation prize.”
“Consolation prize?” Fred interjects with righteous indignation. “This isn’t about what I want. This is about fairness, equality, empowerment, and doing the right thing. Women have made an indelible impact on the history of this sport. Don’t turn your back on them!”
“Nope.” Scrooge leans back, demonstrating his power and prestige with the careless smugness of a totalitarian dictator. “My mind is made up. Business is business. End of story.”
Fred, knowing putting up a further fight would be fruitless, turns toward Bobbi and smiles at her. “Well, so be it. I hope you are able to achieve your hopes and dreams, Miss Cratchit. Even if you need to move away from my uncle’s jurisdiction.” Bobbi is crushed to hear such a nice man like Fred become such a cynic so quickly. That’s what happens when you engage in a business conversation with the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge.
“Thanks,” Bobbi says meekly.
“Well, my reason for coming here is to invite you to my Christmas Eve party, dear uncle. But I get the feeling you won’t feel charitable enough to attend.”
Scrooge laughs and stands up. “No, my dear nephew. I will not be attending. I don’t like parties. Parties make me uncomfortable. Too many people having a good time. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.” Scrooge grabs his coat and briefcase from his office and locks his office door. Bobbi quickly glances at the clock and sees it’s nearly 4 p.m. How fast time flies! “Have fun, Fred. And tell your wife I said hello.”
“I shall,” Fred begins. “If you change your mind, you know where I live. My address hasn’t changed. The party starts at 6 and will go on all night.”
“Bah, humbug. I won’t change my mind, I can guarantee you that!” Just as Scrooge is about to exit through the front door, Bobbi suddenly remembers an email solicitation that arrived in her inbox just this morning.
“Oh, Mr. Scrooge? We got a letter today from the local homeless shelter. They’re asking if we’d like to sponsor their annual year-end holiday fundraising dinner. Can I tell them yes or…”
Scrooge stops dead in his tracks. Without hesitation, he provides his answer. “Tell them not this year. No fucking way. We gave them $1,500 last year and the homeless problem is even worse. Worse! I tell you, someone needs to address the issue of this pitiful surplus population plaguing our fine town. It’s cluttering up our streets!” And with that, Scrooge slams the door shut, leaving Fred and Bobbi completely and utterly speechless.
How can a man be so cruel and unfeeling? It boggles the mind.
“Merry Christmas, uncle,” Fred mutters with much sadness.
The drive home was long and arduous for Ebenezer Scrooge. When it snows, people in Seattle become idiots and can no longer drive like civilized people. On a clear day, he can make it back to his condominium in twenty minutes flat. But today, it takes almost forty-five minutes. Bah, humbug indeed.
Scrooge parks his car in his usual spot and trudges toward the front door. The chilly air assaults his senses. A few neighborhood kids are building a snowman. A larger group of kids are making snow angels on a nearby baseball field. Scrooge hates the snow. And the rain. And sunshine can be a bother if it gets too hot. Basically, Scrooge hates a lot of things.
He takes his keys from his pocket and proceeds to unlock the door. But before he can do that, he looks at the brass door knocker and sees the reflection of a familiar looking man. Scrooge’s heart skips a beat.
“What? Who are you?” Scrooge violently turns around to see who has crept up behind him. He sees…nobody. How fucking strange! He then turns around and looks at the door knocker again. There is no one in the reflection. Not even Scrooge himself. The man in the reflection looked oddly enough like his late partner Jacob Marley. But that’s impossible, Scrooge thinks to himself. Of course it is, but the resemblance was uncanny. He must be exhausted from working so damn much. Nothing a short nap and a tall glass of brandy can’t cure!
Moments later Scrooge is pouring himself a glass of brandy and opening up a bag of barbecue chips. Though he is a 57-year-old man, Ebenezer still snacks like a small child. He regrets nothing. He eats nearly the entire bag. Satisfied for now, he puts the chips away back in the pantry. He knows in a short while he’ll crave actual food. But now is not that time.
By now, the sun has completely set and the unforgiving coldness of winter makes its presence felt. Ebenezer finds an old blanket sitting in the laundry basket and wraps it around his body. He turns on the fireplace. Within seconds a generous warm orange glow fills the room. Scrooge sits down in his favorite lounge chair and takes out his phone.
“What the hell should be open at this time? Chinese? Thai? Greek?” Ebenezer opens a take-out delivery app and scrolls through his various options. Nothing excites him. So he has to settle for Chang’s Family Restaurant, one of the worst Chinese joints in the city. It isn’t bad on its own, but it certainly doesn’t satisfy his desire for a nice juicy steak. So stir fried green beans and noodles will have to do for tonight.
He makes his order and sees his dinner should arrive in 22 minutes. Fantastic. Scrooge turns on the TV to see what’s on. Nothing much except for a college football bowl game featuring two teams he doesn’t care about. After flipping through channel after channel chock full of God-forsaken Christmas cheer, Scrooge opens Netflix and peruses through whatever terrible options it has to offer. More of the same. More Christmas. More dreadfully happy people enjoying this superfluous commercialized monstrosity of a holiday.
Scrooge turns off the TV in disgust. He checks his phone and sees his dinner will arrive in 19 minutes. Can time move any slower?
Perhaps it can. Scrooge leans back in his chair and sighs. If there’s anything in the world he hates more than Christmas and holiday cheer, it’s having to wait a long time to satisfy his hunger. Scrooge is not a man who is accustomed to waiting. Whatever he wants he gets. Immediately. It’s been like that his whole life. A great example is how his first marriage came to be. Gail was her name. She was a rising star in the bodybuilding industry, having graced the covers of several magazines and appeared in a few documentaries and television commercials. He had to have her. No one else could. Scrooge remembers the first time they met. Gail just wrapped up a photoshoot with a well-known photographer. It was at Venice Beach in 1989. He was a young scout recruiting new athletes to join the newly established West Coast Bodybuilding Federation. She wore a revealing red bikini and looked radiant. Scrooge approached her boldly and asked if she was interested in turning pro. She blushed and replied enthusiastically “yes!” He was lost in her deep blue eyes, unable to think or complete a coherent sentence. He could not stop looking at her magnificent body. She had a lot of muscle but had the potential to build so much more. She just needed a few more years and a better personal trainer who knew…
A knock on the door interrupts Scrooge’s trip down memory lane. He looks at his phone and sees 20 minutes have passed. Did he fall asleep? Scrooge could have sworn he only closed his eyes momentarily. Surely he didn’t take a nap without intending to!
Scrooge gets up from his chair and heads to the front door. He greets the delivery man, a youngster in his early 20s who looks annoyed that he has to work on Christmas Eve. Ebenezer pays the kid and slams the door shut, locking it with authority. Soon, Ebenezer returns to his favorite chair and eats in silence. The green beans were fine. Not the best, but not the worst either. But it was the noodles that pleasantly surprised him. They’re much tastier than he was expecting.
After he finishes eating, Scrooge looks at the huge pile of dishes sitting in the sink and scowls. He doesn’t have any inclination to clean up after himself. It’s a holiday, after all! Can’t he be lazy just for one day out of the stinking year? Yes, that’s perfectly okay. So he decides to take a real nap instead of an accidental nap. That’ll cap off this frightful evening…
Within moments, Ebenezer Scrooge falls asleep for real.
He cannot remember if he dreamt of anything. But something startled him awake. Something was happening downstairs. There was a loud clanking sound repeating itself again and again on the bottom floor. Scrooge opens his eyes and sits up. The noise continues unabated.
“Is that…someone deadlifting?” Scrooge asks himself. He knows this is absurd, considering he’s the only person in the house. And he doesn’t have a personal gym downstairs. Ebenezer gets up and picks up a baseball bat sitting on top of a pool table. In “attack” position, Ebenezer cautiously walks down the stairs to investigate the source of this unexplainable cacophony. Once he reaches the ground floor, he notices a light shining in the living room. Scrooge raises the bat high in the air before pouncing toward his intruder.
“You there! Get the fuck out of my house, asshole!”
Just before his eyes can adjust to the light, a familiar voice replies to him.
“Ebenezer, cut it out old friend! You said I was welcome into your home anytime I was in the neighborhood,” the voice beckons. Scrooge lowers the bat and drops it to the floor once he is able to comprehend what is in front of him. Sure enough, sitting in the middle of his living room is a makeshift home gym. He could have sworn none of this existed an hour ago! He sees a bar with four 45-pound weights on each side lying on the floor. And sitting on a bench is the figure of a man Scrooge had known for decades.
Jacob Marley, his old business partner!
“Jacob! I must be dreaming. You can’t possibly be alive,” Scrooge observes in a daze. Jacob – if that’s what this apparition can be called – appears to be working out…right in Scrooge’s living room. He’s just got done deadlifting 405 pounds for who-knows-how-many reps. Very impressive. Jacob was always a gym rat at heart. He just sort of abandoned it later in his life and substituted going to the gym for snorting cocaine, partying all night, and heavy drinking. It’s what ended up killing him, unfortunately. His liver couldn’t handle his over-the-top lifestyle and became too sick to function.
“I’m not,” the apparition replies.
“Then…who are you?” The ghost blinks.
“No, no, you dumbass! Ask me who I was!” Taken aback, Scrooge swallows his pride and does as the ghost tells him to do. After all, it’s a fucking ghost he’s dealing with here.
“Alright, you prick. Who were you, then?”
The ghost, seemingly satisfied with getting everyone’s vernacular on the same page, takes a few steps toward Ebenezer. He backs up with fear.
“In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley.”
Ebenezer stands still and ponders what the ghost has just told him. He wonders if he’s still dreaming or if that Chinese food he ate was secretly spiked with LSD. Maybe this is what happens when you don’t leave a generous tip…
“You don’t believe me, do you old sport?” Jacob asks.
“Of course not! You’ve been dead for fucking seven years! There’s no way you’re still alive. This is just a fucked up dream, that’s all.” Just as Ebenezer was about to turn away, Jacob picks up the bar with one hand and tosses it across the room. Instead of smashing his coffee table into a million pieces, it instead disappears into thin air. Nevertheless, Ebenezer lets out a gasp when it happens.
“What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your own senses? Why do you doubt your senses?” Jacob floats toward Ebenezer and stops right in front of him. Up close, he looks as real as a freshly trimmed hedge. Refusing to back down, Ebenezer ignores the philosophical implications of the existence of ghosts and addresses his old friend directly.
“Because,” says Scrooge, “A little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheat. You may be an undigested bit of beef broccoli, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone chow mein. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!” Unconvinced, Jacob demonstrates his “realness” by picking up Scrooge and wrestling him to the ground. He pins Ebenezer to the ground and nearly chokes him. That’s enough to persuade him that Jacob is, more or less, real. “Alright, you fucking asshole! I get it, you’re real. God damn.”
Both men stand up and Jacob wipes off sweat from his brow. “Good. Because I’m as real as I’m going to get in this current reality. You’re probably curious why I’m appearing before you. Right?”
“Yes, of course,” Scrooge says.
“Good. Well, it appears the Powers That Be aren’t too happy with you. Especially since you’re planning to discontinue the Female Bodybuilding Division for good.”
“Oh shit. Is that what this is about? Mother fucker!” Scrooge leans against the wall and groans. “Why the fuck do the Powers That Be, or whatever the hell they want to be called, give a rat’s ass about what happens to the fucking Female Bodybuilding Division? It doesn’t make money and has no hope of ever making any money. Alright?”
Jacob Marley drinks from an imaginary water bottle. “True, but it can in fact make money and become really successful if you give it a chance. If you rebrand it. If you take my daughter-in-law’s advice.” Scrooge stands up straight.
“Well, this is fucking fantastic. You can hear my private conversations. Yes, you’re right that Bobbi mentioned she has some ideas of how we can make the FBB Division more successful. But I’m not convinced it’ll work. It’s not even worth a try…”
“Not worth a try? Oh come on, Ebenezer. That’s not the Ebenezer Scrooge I know. The real Scrooge loves muscular women. Almost too much,” Jacob smirks. “Your first four wives were all bodybuilders, were they not?”
“Of course they were!” Scrooge begins. “I love them as partners and lovers. But not as business commodities. I know it sounds harsh, but that’s how the real world works. There’s nothing I can do to change that.”
“Hm, I somehow doubt that’s the real reason. I think you’ve ignored your entire life just how important female bodybuilders are to you, your industry, and the world at large. Thankfully, I’m here to change all that!” Jacob rises into the air, with a brilliant white light filling the entire house. Scrooge squints in response. “More specifically, my friends are! You will be visited by three spirits. The first will arrive at the stroke of one. The other at two. And the third at three. Heed the lessons they teach you! I died a bitter man with lots of regrets. I drank and did lots of coke because it filled the void in my soul. Don’t make the same mistakes I made!”
The ethereal light gets brighter and brighter. Eventually, Jacob Marley’s body disintegrates into a fine white powder that looks ironically like the same kind of white powder he’d frequently snort off the butt cheeks of Brazilian supermodels. Within seconds the room returns to normal. The home gym disappears into the ether. The light is gone. Jacob Marley is no more. The house is dead quiet.
Scrooge remains frozen. Absolutely stunned. He cannot believe what he just witnessed. But he gets the horrid feeling that the fucked up shenanigans are just getting started.