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.
“We are, son. We are.”