An Xmas Carol by William M. Baird

Preface: Many years ago, my father wrote a skit, replete with bad jokes, for the family to perform on Christmas Eve. We all had parts and none of us, other than my dad, had read any of the skit before being thrust into the dramatic performance. It nearly came to a halt when we all came down with an uncontrollable case of the giggles. While cleaning my office this week, I ran across the script and concluded that the message – and the fun – should be shared, even if it is not the holiday season.  So with thanks to my dad, William M. Baird (Grandpa Scrooge in the skit), and credit to Charles Dickens, Groucho Marx, Douglas Adams, L. Frank Baum, Hee Haw, and others,  I hope you enjoy!

SCENE 1: Grandpa Scrooge’s Family Room. Mark (son-in-law) arrives.

MARK: Merry Xmas Grandpa Scrooge and Grandma Jean!

GRANDMA: Merry Xmas to you!

SCROOGE:  Xmas! Bah, humbug! Don’t talk Xmas to me. Xmas is for simpletons.

MARK: Why, Grandpa Scrooge. How can you say that. Xmas is a wonderful time of year. Everyone is happy and cheerful. Why, look at Grandma Jean.  She loves Xmas. See how bright and cheerful she is?  And you smell good, too, Grandma. What are you wearing?

GRANDMA: Clean socks.  Don’t waste your time trying to get Grandpa Scrooge to like Xmas. He’s hopeless.

SCROOGE (to Mark): Humbug! Look where believing in Xmas has got your wife. She’s defending Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in a hit-and-run accident. I didn’t know she was a criminal lawyer.

MARK: Aren’t they all?  Well, I’m sorry you are such a grouch about Xmas. I have to leave. Happy Xmas, Grandma Jean. Merry Xmas, Grandpa Scrooge.

GRANDMA: Happy Xmas, Mark.

SCROOGE: Bah, humbug! Good riddance. Why did we let him in the family, anyway? I’m going to bed. Goodnight.

Grandpa Scrooge falls asleep on the floor.

SCENE 2: Grandpa Scrooge’s Family Room. There is a knock at the door. Scrooge opens it to find Glinda the Good Witch.

SCROOGE: Why it’s Glinda, the Good Witch. What are you doing here? Why aren’t you in Oz?

LISA: I’m not Glinda now. Oz is closed for repairs. Times being what they are, I accepted this temporary gig as the Spirit of Xmas Past. I’m here to remind you of a time when you really enjoyed Xmas.

SCROOGE: Xmas? Humbug! I never enjoyed Xmas. Xmas is for fools. It’s how the merchants and retailers get us to buy useless trash for each other. I’ll never enjoy Xmas. By the way, now that I see you in the light, you look a lot like my daughter-in-law, Lisa. Are you sure you’re not her?

LISA: Of course not. You can’t choose your relatives, but you can choose your in-laws. You don’t think I would choose you, do you?

SCROOGE: No, I guess not. Say, you don’t have any talcum powder, do you?

LISA: No, I don’t. Come. I need to show you an Xmas you really enjoyed. Walk this way.

SCROOGE: If I could walk that way, I wouldn’t need the talcum powder.

A vision of three young children appears before them.

SCROOGE: Why look at those lovely children. Who are they?

LISA: Surely you recognize your own grandchildren!

SCROOGE: Don’t call me Shirley.

LISA: It is Xmas, 1990. They are little Lianne, little Stephanie, and baby Andrew.

SCROOGE: How beautiful they are! Now I remember. Lianne was 6 and she talked all the time.

LIANNE: talk…talk…talk…talk…talk…(continue softly until the end of the scene).

LISA: And Stephanie was 4 and she constantly fussed at Lianne.

STEPHANIE: fuss…fuss…fuss…fuss…(continue softly until the end of the scene).

LISA: And Andrew was only 3 months old and just beginning to babble.

ANDREW: babble…babble…babble…babble…(continue softly until the end of the scene).

LISA: Don’t you remember how happy you were every Xmas?

SCROOGE: Yes, I do. Being a grandfather and spoiling the grandchildren is so much fun. I almost forgot. Grandchildren are almost as much fun as pets. Not to mention Nikki and Snow.

LISA: Nikki and Snow?

SCROOGE: I told you not to mention them. They’re not in this story. What happens now?

LISA: Now, you will be visited by the Spirit of Xmas Present. Adios. Hasta la vista. Boujour. Auf wiedersehen.  Ta ta.

SCROOGE: How do you like that? She didn’t even say goodbye.

SCENE 3 Terri’s house. 

TERRI: So, Dad. What’s up?

SCROOGE: Terri!  What are you doing here?

TERRI; I lost the Rudolph suit, so I decided to look for honest work. So far, the best I can do is this temp job as the Spirit of Xmas Present.

SCROOGE: I hope we are going to see those delightful grandchildren again.

TERRI: How stupid can you be? Look around! It is Xmas present. Here we are. At my house. All gathered here, reading this weird play.

SCROOGE: If you think I’m stupid, you should have seen my grandfather. He was stooped from the waist and couldn’t straighten up.

STEPHANIE: Lianne, is there a way we can get out of this dumb play?

LIANNE: I’m afraid not, Steph.  If we don’t do this, we’re out of the will.

GRANDMA: If you girls think you have it bad, think about me.  I could have married Harry Hasegawa.

SCROOGE: Well, Spirit, the grandkids seem to be fine. The girls are beautiful. Andrew is handsome. They are all smart and talented.

ANDREW: Yes, we all take after Grandma Jean.

SCROOGE: Bah, humbug. You’re out of the will, Andrew. What happens next, Terri?

TERRI: I don’t know. I haven’t read to the end of the play.


SCROOGE: Here’s someone new. You look like my son.

MIKE: Yes, it’s me. I’m earning some extra Xmas money as the Spirit of Xmas Future. Look into this crystal ball to see the future.

SCROOGE: Isn’t that the crystal ball that belongs to the Wicked Witch of the West?

MIKE: Yes, it is. Oz is closed for repairs, so we borrowed it. Look into it so we can get this play done with.

ANDREW: No, Uncle Mike. This is a wonderful play and I am really enjoying it. Whoever wrote it is really talented.

SCROOGE:  Watch it, Andrew. You are beginning to sound like your friend Nick. But okay, you’re back in the will.  I see in the ball that its Xmas 2040. There are three miserable-looking people there. Do we know them?

MIKE: Don’t you recognize your grandchildren? They all decided they agree with you about how stupid Xmas is, and they have become mean, bitter, and ignorant. You can speak to them if you wish.

SCROOGE:  Andrew, you look awful What happened to you?

ANDREW: Well, I decided if Xmas is stupid, then education is stupid, too. There is probably no meaning to life and the universe. So, I dropped out of school. The only job I could get is a garbage collector. I don’t earn much, but I can get my clothes and lunches free. I wish you hadn’t been so negative about Xmas, Grandpa Scrooge.

SCROOGE:  And you, the skinny, dark-haired woman sitting on the pile of used shoes. Do I know you?

STEPHANIE: I’m Stephanie. Don’t you recognize me? I decided if Xmas has no meaning, then there is no meaning to life and the universe. I lost all ambition and failed out of school. The only job I could find is here at Goodwill, sorting these smelly old running shoes. Why did I ever listen to you about Xmas?

SCROOGE: Then you – the woman beside that big stinking pile of whatever. You must be Lianne.

LIANNE: Yes, it is I. No matter how poor and unhappy I am, I still manage to speak with proper grammar.

SCROOGE:  What happened to you?

LIANNE: I decided if Xmas has no meaning, then there is no meaning to life and the universe, either. I began drinking cheap Xmas wine and smoking funny cigarettes. I seldom take a bath, so like a dog with no nose, I smell bad. The only job I could get is here at the zoo, shoveling elephant poop. Why did I ever listen to you about Xmas?

SCROOGE: Spirit Mike, this is awful! Isn’t there something we can do to prevent this?

MIKE: What do you mean, we? This is your mess and surely you must be the one to clean it up.

SCROOGE:  I said not to call me Shirley. What do I have to do?

MIKE: The next scene is the last one (EVERYONE APPLAUDS). Maybe that will give you an idea.


SCROOGE:  What happens now?

MIKE: It seems there are alternative universes, and by our choices, we determine which one we live in. Look into the crystal ball, and we will see the alternate universe in the year 2040, which came about because you had a much more positive attitude about Xmas.

SCROOGE: I see the same three people, but they look clean and happy. Lianne, what happened to you?

LIANNE: Well, your attitude about Xmas was so happy, I decided there was real meaning to life and the universe. I worked hard, got a degree in veterinary medicine and moved to Hollywood. I married James Marsters and made a fortune by developing a new species of vampire bats that hospitals use to draw blood more efficiently.

SCROOGE: And Stephanie, what about you? What is that big house I see behind you?

STEPHANIE: You were so upbeat about Xmas, I knew there was probably real meaning to life and the universe as well. I worked really hard at my running and won every race I ever entered. Then, because I liked to run so much, I ran for President, and won that, too!

SCROOGE: That’s wonderful.  What about you, Andrew? What’s that medal I see around your neck?

ANDREW: You had such a positive attitude about Xmas, I knew for sure there was real meaning to life and universe. So I studied and became a scientist, and I discovered the answer to the most important question about life and the universe. The answer is 42. The medal you see around my neck is the Nobel Prize in Physics.

SCROOGE: I see the error of my ways. I’ll never be grouchy again. Merry Christmas, everyone.

ANDREW: God bless us, every one.

*  *  *  *


Mala’s Adventure

The searing summer heat stuck in Mala’s thick feathers. Her children squawked, stumbling around as she tried to ignore them. She waddled down the grassy path in search of some cool water – and peace. The ducklings bit their siblings and jumped on each other’s backs, mostly in jest but every few minutes one of them would push too far. A fight would break out and she’d thrust her beak into the roiling mounds of dark down and force the ducklings apart. She couldn’t wait until the brood grew their feathers and left her forever. Then she could return to her old life. Except…

She glanced up at the sky, half expecting to see Donna’s stubby form silhouetted against the blinding light of Sola’s Nest. But it wasn’t there. Mala missed her friend. She had felt so alive when she was with Donna on one of their adventures – weaving across the dry flat riverbed where angry monsters had bore down on them with terrifying roars; flapping, and flapping and flapping until they reached the top of a pointed stone spire, far from the river. Donna had squawked joyfully from that uneven perch, relishing in the freedom. Mala had gripped the buttress tightly, dizzy from the height. She feared the fall, uncertain her wings would be able to save her.

That’s where Donna’s plan was born – that pinnacle, high above the other peaks. She spread her wings to soak up Sola’s light and decided to go there. To see Sola for herself. To look into her golden eyes and experience her radiance first hand. And she wanted Mala to be beside her.

The fact that it could be done didn’t faze Donna. No one had seen Sola, ever. The two of them had tried once, back when their pin feathers were new. It was too far. Their wings became heavy and ceased to lift them long before the blazing Nest grew near. But Donna said the starting point was the problem. They needed to be higher, closer to Sola, before taking wing, and she’d heard of a place to do it. Mountain, she’d called it – like every stone spike they’d ever seen, put on top of each other. And once they were at the top, Sola’s Nest would be close enough for their wings to carry them.

And so they began planning. Talking to the old mallards (and even a goose who wasn’t too cantankerous) about flight paths they’d never taken, slowly plotting their way to get to the place called Mountain. But when their plans were nearly complete and the shorter days began beckoning them to warmer grounds, something changed. Dane with his emerald-green head shining in the sunlight stumbled into their lives. Looking back, Mala couldn’t remember why he was so important to them – what it was about him that drove a wedge between her and her best friend. Yet, it had happened, and Mala had won – or so it seemed at the time. She and Dane became mates, and Donna took off on her adventure alone.

Once her brood of eggs was laid, Dane wandered off with his friends, and Mala’s obsession with him cleared. She began asking everyone for news of Donna. No one had heard of her. Many didn’t remember her at all. Others insisted she was dead – like anyone who didn’t follow the Pattern of Life and pursued wild dreams. Mala knew that was probably true, but preferred to imagine her friend surrounded by the glow of Sola’s Nest, planning her next great adventure, and wished she’d gone with her.

A duckling tumbled against Mala’s leg, nearly knocking her over. She bleated at him angrily, then stopped. The down had been ripped off the back of his head by one of his siblings, and a glossy, emerald-green showed through beneath. Her children were growing up. She stepped into the river and they followed, gathering themselves tightly around her as they waited for the next lesson in foraging. In them, were glimpses of herself and Dane. In their shapes and coloring and personalities. In the way they walked. In the things they said. And the Truth of the Pattern of Life became clear.

Donna would be forgotten. When it was Mala’s time to return to the ground, no one would know that Donna had existed. Nothing would be left of her. But Mala would always be part of this world. Her children would carry her forward, having their own children and teaching the same lessons she gave them now.

Mala would still miss her friend. She would tell her children of their grand adventures as they fell asleep, but they would just be stories. Her own undertaking might not be as exciting, but it was more enduring. And she would always have the stories.