This is the third of a five-part series. A new part will appear each day this week. Happy holidays to all who serve from EMS World.
The blinding light was nothing new, thought Michaelmorser Scrooge; every night spent in this wretched building gave rise to the cursed things, most nights hourly, accompanied by the PA.
Chest pains? More likely heartburn from eating too much stew!
Abdominal pain? Ha! Gas is more like it. A fart does wonders for normal men, but not these fools who inhabit the city of Providence!
Unconscious? Hardly! Fat, drunk and stupid is more like it.
Seizure? Seizure shmeizure, I’m about to have a seizure if these lights don’t go off!
“You are a weird little man!” boomed a voice from the center of the blinding light.
“What? Who goes there?! And what are you doing in my office?!”
“I am the Ghost of Christmas Present!”
“A good Christmas present would be to make the lights disappear.”
“Not a Christmas present, you odd creature. The Christmas Present!”
The blinding light subsided, and Scrooge was able to get a better look at the originator of the voice.
“Zack! What are you doing dressed in velvet and wearing that crown? Fur belongs on animals, not on people’s heads! And what’s in that goblet you drink from? I’m parched!”
“This is the milk of human kindness, and I am most certainly not Zack,” the apparition boomed, then drank heartily. “This is the year 2012. I have 2011 brothers, and Zack is but one of them.”
“Save some for me!” Scrooge pleaded.
“When there’s a lot, I drink a lot. When there’s a little, I drink it all!” The ghost tilted the golden goblet to his lips and guzzled, then wiped his beard clean of the frothy brew and handed the mug to Scrooge.
“Too late,” said Scrooge, peering into the empty goblet. “It’s gone.”
“You are a pathetic creature, Michaelmorser Scrooge! The cup of human kindness is never empty. You need only look within!”
Scrooge looked again. The cup was full. He drank. The room spun, and it was delightful! He drank some more. Music filled the office, and the lights once more grew bright.
“This is fabulous,” said Scrooge to the giant, bearded Zack. “Can I have some more?”
“Perhaps. For now we have work to do, and I don’t have much time.”
“If I must,” Scrooge giggled and took hold of the specter’s sleeve.
Though the city seemed deserted, the Ghost of Christmas Present knew just where to lead them. In a blink they were outside a familiar place.
“Why have you taken me to this place?” Scrooge asked. “I just left.”
“Look inside, you pathetic man, and listen!”
“I hope he is well,” said Mrs. Michaelmorser. “Every year the weight of responsibility grows heavier, and he brings his sadness home.”
“Remember when he would spend days decorating the house?” asked young Brittany. “It was the grandest in the entire neighborhood!”
“I miss the baked stuffed shrimp,” added Danielle. “It’s just not the same these years past. Something is missing.”
“I fear he has lost his soul,” said Mrs. Scrooge. “And without soul, it might as well be simply boiled shrimp!”
Scrooge’s family went about their tasks, wrapping gifts, stirring the gravy and putting neat rows of manicotti into shallow baking dishes.
“At least he didn’t forget the manicotti this year!”
“Or the wine,” said Brittany, pausing to uncork a bottle of Pinot noir. She filled glasses for all, then hoisted hers.
“To Michaelmorser,” she proclaimed. “May he find the spirit of Christmas!”
“To Michaelmorser!” the others repeated, and toasted.
Scrooge spun to the ghost in distress. “What is this madness?” he implored. “I’m the Christmasmeister! Do I not make the girls watch The Grinch every year?”
“The Grinch, Scrooge?” asked Zack as they flew back to the city. “How appropriate. Drink—you are returning to your miserable self!” He handed Scrooge the goblet, and Scrooge gulped.
“I know this place! The Cabbage Patch! Why have you brought me here? There is nothing here but misery!”
“Is there, Scrooge? Look around you!”
Children with birth defects of every kind imaginable filled the rooms of the pediatric nursing home. Some were on respirators, some lay in states of unconsciousness, others were barely aware that they even lived. Yet the people who worked here on this Christmas Eve had decorated the depressing place, and the cheer of Christmas could not be missed. Lights adorned dismal hallways, and Christmas trees sat in each room, topped with stars that shimmered. Their lights grew, then flickered, then grew again. Scrooge looked for the power source, but there was none.
“What powers the stars?” he asked Zack, sipping from the goblet and feeling the comfortable fire in his belly.
“The love that emanates from the people who believe in a greater good and spend their Christmases here, with these unfortunate souls,” Zack told him. “They have planned for weeks to get these children ready for a day at home, with their families, or for those who can never leave. They have spent their meager earnings decorating this place and throwing a party here, in what you so lovingly call ‘the Cabbage Patch.’”
From his crib a child stared at Scrooge. Their eyes met, and he smiled. The boy’s heart grew outside his body. It was the size of a grapefruit and covered his chest. It was hideous and horrifying and completely out of place on such an otherwise beautiful boy.
“I thought they couldn’t see us,” said Scrooge, smiling back at the boy.
“Those who will be leaving this earth soon have special gifts.”
“Is there nothing that can be done for him?”
“Why? Better he dies and decreases the surplus population!”
“You use my words against me, spirit!” Scrooge protested. “He never had a chance, this boy who wears his heart outside of his body. It’s not fair!”
“Is it fair that you wear your own heart so deeply embedded in your chest that even your own wife cannot get through?!” Zack exclaimed, poking Scrooge’s chest.
“Ow! That hurts! Cut it out! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it…”
Scrooge looked around his office and saw that he was alone. The clock showed nearly 3.
Michael Morse, EMT-C, is currently captain of Rescue 5 in Providence, RI, and has served on the city's busiest engine, ladder and rescue squads as a firefighter, rescue technician and lieutenant during his 21-year career. He is the author of the books Rescuing Providence and Responding.