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A Rat Rhyme After
Christmas Carol Before

Lo awake sometime before his watch rang one. He stared at the ceiling and at the flames. He knew something would happen. Supposedly this ghost would be a nicer one. It would just show him what his friends and family were doing. Lo actually wanted to see some of that. He wanted to see his cousins and uncles and aunts. He would have preferred to be with them but at the same time be no where near their offers of sadness. He wanted to be there but not. To be a fly on the wall and the next ghost really offered that.

When Lo's watch beeped the hour he nearly wet himself. He stared into the haze and saw no one. He waited figuring in some time something would come. The silent running of traffic, the hiss of the gas but no ghost. He looked at his watch seeing 10 minutes had passed he decided to get something to drink. Walking across wood floors in slippers he went into the kitchen. Opening the refrigerator, pulling some egg nog and turning he saw the next ghost. Dressed in a comic book convention shirt that was stretched to its limits over the doughy flesh. His puggy face turned to Lo, the slight beard looked more of dirt then hair, his unkept hair glistened in the night. Lo recoiled and dropped the nog.

"Are you the ghost of christmas..." Lo asked.
"Let me see, I'm here at 1 in the morning and waiting for Menlo Granes. I think I am the ghost, don't you?"
"Who are you? What are you?"
"Oh, we're going to get cliché now."
The ghost sighed, "A guy named Charles Dickens wrote-"
"I know that but what do you mean cliché?"
"If you're so familar with the story you should know. Anyway I'm here to show you what's happening now."
"Can we see my Uncle Martin, he just-"
"Listen I'm the ghost here, we'll see who I say we see. Anyway take my hand and let us get on our way."

The ghost led the way. First he took Lo down unfamiliar streets and through alleys. They passed many families sleeping or wrapping gifts. At each house Lo waited for the ghost to stop and them to enter but the ghost continued. Finally they reached a glowing sigh, "Burgar Station".
"Why bring me here?"
"Within those walls are people forced into labor on this night."
"And? You must see no all people can enjoy this day with their families."
"Why don't we see families so I can realize what I'm missing?"
"Do you want to be the ghost? Because I can let you. It's not like I trained for this. Come on." The ghost's voice was slimy with sarcasm as they entered the building.

A dark haired teen moped the floor while wearing the gold and silver sci-fi uniform. A purple haired girl waited behind the counter wearing an Uhura style ear piece. (Note: This all would have made more sense if I had done fast food zombies first but I ran out of time.) They both did their work boredly.
"Ok their bored, so what."
"Listen Mr. I-can-be-the-ghost they are here because they need the funds for Christmas."
"But why are we here?"
"Watch them Menlo and understand their struggle better."

Lo looked at them. The one mopping the floor stopped and stared pounding out some rhythm on a table. The other one stopped him. The girl just looked at her nails and back at the kitchen. She grew bored and started pulling down the decoration.
"Hey why you doing that?" The mopper asked.
"Me too."
"Ya know I shouldn't even be here."
"Like tonight or in general?"
"I agree."

"Do you see Menlo?" The ghost asked after disappearing into the kitchen and returning with some fries.
"See what? They're fucking bored. I already knew that." Lo answered.
"No don't you see them-"
"Listen I knew they'd be bored. Matter of fact I had no doubt about that at all. Just take me somewhere else."
"We must leave now."

The worked returned to the job. And for no reason the author forgot the Hanukkah joke he was going to make. Something about it people remembering too late... oh well. Maybe for Passover. Regardless of the author's dilemma the pair again took to the streets. The walked it and finally came to the offices of the "Point Shopper".
"Let me guess Kelli is working?"
"As a matter of fact yes."
"Skip it ghost."
"Do you question the points I am making?"
"No I know there is fudge in there and I think you may want some."
"There is more reason for showing you this then fudge."
"I bet."
"Listen why not show me Want and Ignorance?"
"If I must show you I will."

So the spirit took him toward the beach. They walked it for what seemed like hours but the sun still remained down. The ghost led Lo to the bus depot. There wrapped in old jackets were people. Dirty, cold, battered from the elements they turned. Seeing the spirit they stood. Lo could make out the dirt on the faces and the blank expressions. They approached the spirit, taking his hand. They were children but their bodies showed the experiences of some adulthood. Lo looked at them and shrugged. The spirit rose itself to full height. It towered over Lo and in a voice that boomed with thunder it said to him, "These are the children of Man, the forgotten lonely ill gotten spawn that have come with his cities. They bear the mark of him but none of his being. They cling to me for their father's deny them. The boy is Ignorance and the girl want. Beware them both in all degree for I see them in your future. Fear the boy for on his brow I see written DOOM," at that moment Lo noticed a tattoo reading Doom under the dirt and hair of the boy, "Deny them! Forget them! But know they are your children too!"

At that moment Lo's watch beeped the hour and the ghost was gone. A thin mist carpeted the floor of the depot. Lo could feel the cold cement through his socks. He looked but saw no hooded ghost. Creeping through the air was the scent of decay. Light at first. Feathery and like air it wafted. Drifting closer Lo covered his mouth as the mists opened and a corpse turned toward him from across the depot floor.

© Sal Ponce 2001