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A Rat Rhyme After
Christmas Carol Before

Lo awoke sometime later. The room was dark and lit only by the moon's light. Distantly he saw the walls and the fire was still burning. The tv had been turned off but that didn't matter. Lo looked at his watch and grunted when he saw it was nearly 1 am.
At least during the day, he thought, I can go somewhere. Nothing will be open tonight.
He turned over and tried to fall asleep but the beep from his watch made him remember the ghosts of his parents.
Closing his eyes he heard the sounds of a car pulling up. The motor struggled to move down the block and the music blared with a song that was popular a few years ago. The driver parked. The car plinked as the engine cooled. Lo ignored the sound until someone knocked at the door. He turned over hoping they would see the dark house and go away. He didn't want to tell someone they had the wrong house. All he wanted was to go to sleep.
Again there was a knock and then one afterwards. Someone was even calling in. Asking for them to open up and then it stopped. He didn't hear the car pull away but he closed his eyes. Suddenly a hand was placed on his mouth. Lo struggled to throw away the stranger. Opening his eyes he saw no one.

Lo turned and in a chair sitting near the front door she sat. She was wearing the yellow and orange letterman jacket from high school. She had on jeans and a pink t shirt. Her brown hair was still down past her shoulders and with her green eyes she looked at Lo. "Jessica," Lo started as he rose from his bed and walked over.
"Lo, I am here to show you the past."
"You're the ghost of Christmas past?"
"yeah, come on who'd you expect?"
"I don't know someone..."
"What someone what? It doesn't matter Lo we don't have much time and a lot to see."

Jessica rose and begin to walk out Lo stopped. "Come on Lo," She called to him, "I'm not going to stay around all night for you." "It's just," Lo begin, "your dead."
Jessica laughed, "That's what it takes to be a ghost," Lo followed her outside. Jessica stopped, "Where there."
"In the past."
"We're not going to take the car?"
"Not yet. Instead look at the house that you once lived in."

The gloomy white walls and overgrown plants had been replaced. The dark exterior was replaced with christmas lights and ribbon. Each bush was decorated and neatly trimmed. A christmas tree stood in the front window and Lo could see his family and their friends inside. The sounds of music and laughter reached him. The smell of food tickled his nose and as Jessica led him inside with a pull of his had.

"Remember back when your family had the best house on the block?" Lo nodded and stopped. "You didn't live nearby until high school who told you about that?"
"Lo I am the ghost of your past I know all about the days when you were a kid. I know about the first present you ever got, I probably remember Christmas better then you do."
She said as she lead him around the happy family and friends and to the corner where the kids where playing. A small boy wearing thick glasses danced with a small blonde girl.
"And you, back in the early years. Back when you wore glasses and before Kelli started dying her hair. Even then the two of your were friends."
"Ok so I had a good christmas when I was a child what else are you going to show me? What Christmas morning the year I got a bike? What about that first computer I ever had or..."

Lo stopped the scene had changed. The family was gone. The lights were off but still the Christmas tree's colored lights shown from the living room. Lo, that is the younger Lo we'll call him Menlo, sat at the table doing something. He wrote in a notebook while a glass of egg nog sat in front of him. He paused and drank some and then continued to write.
"Do you remember this day?"
"Not fondly I see."
"How could I? Everything was different. In elementary school I was in the head of the class. Now I was in the bottom. I was beaten and humiliated daily. The even the geeks called me names. I didn't have a niche. I was too dumb for the nerds and too nerdy for the jocks. I was an outsider."
"Yet even in that sadness you found a moment to work on something joyful," Jessica reached out and the scene froze. She pulled away the notebook and read, "'Oh Christmas oh Christmas. Two weeks and Presents My family and friends and all things fun.' You still found happiness."
"Know what I was deluded. I had people around. Now I don't. I have shit. All my friends are gone. I have bills to pay and the family would rather have someone else to deal with. Why not show me that. Why not show me the hardship."
"Lo I didn't want to but since you want to see it I will." She pulled him into the other room. Menlo began again in the book. Quietly he wrote the words he couldn't say.

The ghost led Lo outside. It was raining and the lights of the houses across the street twinkled in the rain. A car was in the drive way, the cabin light on and Lo's father sat inside. He was just sitting there. He pulled a receipt from his pocket and then looked at his checkbook. He sighed and put them away. Shaking his head he opened the door and raced to the front door. Past Lo and Jessica and back inside. From in side a party was going on.
"Ok what was that?" Lo asked.
"Something you never saw. All during your early life your parents had to find ways to get money in order to make Christmas happy. Often they would find themselves in debt. They never let you know because you were so young but even last year they found themselves wanting for money just to make the season special."
Lo looked at Jessica. Then at the home. In his heart he missed the times. He missed his family more for this. He wanted them back and didn't want to have to face a Christmas alone.
"I want to stay Jessica."
"You can't Lo. This time is past. I have to take you back Lo."
"No, you can't!"

It was too late already had the scene faded and Lo found himself back in the living room. The warmth of the fire was releaving.
Lo's watch beeped one.

© Sal Ponce 2001