Boo! And Humbug! A Halloween Carol

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, October 28, 2010

Boo! Humbug!

What the dickens is going on?

Ebeneezer Scrooge is knocking on doors for tricks or treats. That's what's going on. And five days early. On Tuesday I was busy typing an in-depth piece about belly-button lint when there came a knocking on my office door. Bad timing, of course, because anything as complicated as belly-button lint needs total concentration to render the subject understandable to readers.

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Looking up from my belly-button, then, what to my wandering eyes did appear but Ebeneezer Scrooge, without the little reindeer.

Trick or treat, he exclaimed as he hove into sight, waving a giant plastic trash bag and then shouting “Boo! Humbug!” as he opened the gaping bag wide.

I bade Mr. Scrooge to sit down and solicited his story. Of his reformation regarding Christmas we are all aware, but this trick or treating at Halloween, or five days prior to Halloween, was never addressed by Charles Dickens.

“It was the ghost of Jacob, my old partner Jacob Marley, who gave me the idea. He kept showing up each October 31 and asking for candy, explaining it was something he picked up in America,” Scrooge, dressed as himself, revealed.

“Jacob told me that while haunting the various members of the Federal Reserve Board of Directors he saw any number of ghosts and ghouls walking the streets knocking on doors and demanding candy,” Scrooge told me.

“And Jacob thought it a twist in the tale and lamented never thinking of asking for candy during his own hauntings. He asked one of the ghosts, a child of five who explained they weren't really ghosts, that it was Halloween and they were trick or treating,” Scrooge related.

“And, to make a long story longer, he told the child he wasn't actually a real ghost either but, instead, was a novel idea and could he walk along and trick or treat with her. She readily agreed, calling to her friends, and the little gaggle filled several dump trucks with candy,” he assured me.

“The following October 31 he knocked on my door in London asking for candy and explained the thing thoroughly. I gave him a bit of undigested beef, which didn't seem to please him, but I had no candy,” Scrooge said, adding that he also offered Mr. Marley an underdone potato with similar disaffection quite visible on his former partner's face.

“But the whole notion of knocking on doors and getting free candy seemed utterly delightful to me and then it suddenly dawned on me-like the sun rising up over the horizon and making things all bright-that I could go trick or treating for little Tiny Tim, an adorable child who likes candy as much as he likes saying 'God bless us, everyone.' And so here,” Scrooge said, again opening the trash bag wide for my donations of candy, “I am.”

There is little more to add. Literally. I had no candy to invigorate his haul of treats for Tiny Tim but I did give him a container of yogurt from the office refrigerator and a cheese straw I found in the back of my desk drawer. These seemed to please him hardly at all but he kept up his convivial demeanor and was pleased when I asked how Tiny Tim was getting along.

“Splendidly. The little fellow has gotten any number of jobs showing up as a character in other people's books and seems quite taken by the results, though he admitted feeling out of place in that novel last year, Three Jaws For Priscilla, a story about a Welsh Rabbit covered in melted cheese who keeps asking people for bits of toast,” Scrooge revealed, making me, so he thought, promise not to mention that in this column.

Before he left, I told Scrooge that he'd got his dates messed up. No problem, he replied, because dates are like plums to him.

No, I said, Halloween is this coming Sunday, not the preceding Tuesday.

Scrooge then apologized and said he couldn't keep the days of the week straight since the three spirits haunted him all on the same night instead of on three successive nights as Charles Dickens had promised.

“Where does Dickens live? I'll give him this yogurt and the cheese straw,” he asked.

Somewhere in Amsterdam, I told him, not wanting to reveal that Dickens was cowering under my desk, having yielded to my professional pleas, and $10 worth of Reese's Pieces, for help writing this week's column.

If you see Mr. Scrooge Sunday night, don't tell him.