Skip to content

Sarah looked around, which didn’t take long: The gas lawn mower; the partially filled hole described in his hilarious groundhog invasion story at the cookout last Saturday night; six useless flowerpots, cracked and spilling dirt; and the time machine.

This started as one thing and I'm not sure how it became this other thing.

Tom entered the shed and turned on the overhead light. He edged over to let Sarah in. He motioned for her to close the door behind her. Sarah motioned that this was ridiculous. It drifted on its hinges and partially closed on its own. He shuffled over to the wall to the right of the door, the nail holding the rake snagging his t-shirt for an inch before releasing it. There wasn’t much room. It seemed a mistake to be in here wearing flip-flops. She kept her ankles as close together as possible without falling over while she found a level spot. Sarah looked around, which didn’t take long: The gas lawn mower; the partially filled hole described in his hilarious groundhog invasion story at the cookout last Saturday night; six useless flowerpots, cracked and spilling dirt; and the time machine.

“That’s the time machine?” Sarah asked, since he hadn’t offered.

"Homebody" at the Saturday Evening Post Friday Fiction

“Wait,” said Scrooge. “I was told to expect the Ghost of Christmas Present. Aren’t you the Ghost of Christmas Future? Did I sleep through that?” “I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,” boomed the ghost. “You’re just not going to like what’s going on out there right now.”

The Ghost of Christmas Past had just left. Scrooge was moody, reminded of his lonely childhood and his sister, the only person who had loved him, and whom he truly loved. Now he felt a little bad about treating her son like dirt. He heard a sound, felt a change in the air, and he knew what was coming next: The Ghost of Christmas Present. He turned and saw a giant in a black shroud slowly raising a bony, skeletal finger to point at him.

“Wait,” said Scrooge. “I was told to expect the Ghost of Christmas Present. Aren’t you the Ghost of Christmas Future? Did I sleep through that?”

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,” boomed the ghost. “You’re just not going to like what’s going on out there right now.”

Scrooge reached out to lightly touch the hem of the Ghost’s garment. The Ghost reached faster and yanked Scrooge along by his ear. They saw factory workers with a high ratio of cancer and lung disease because of lowered water and air standards. High tariffs had boomeranged to pass the costs on to consumers. Forests burned and continents turned to mud. People with the same economic and community interests were at each other’s throats because of race or gender identification.His ex-fiance was working 20-hour shifts in an ICU. His clerk was quarantined from the rest of his family, their medical insurance exhausted and their table set from a food bank. A pandemic raged, killing thousands weekly and no one knew which medical advice to trust. The GCP looked down at the miserable wretch next to him, waiting.

“Nothing to do with me.”

“Fuck you, pal,” said the Ghost. “My time grows short. I have to get this costume back in five minutes.” 

He opened his robe. There, clutching his knobby knees, were Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro. “These are Greed and Ignorance. Beware them, but Ignorance most.”

As the spirit dissolved and feeling came back into his right ear clam, Ebeneezer Scrooge drew himself up to his full, lopsided height and passed a shaky hand through his comb-over indignantly.  He patted his bulging wallet, the thick wad angling his butt out like a nightgown with a bustle. “Nothing to do with me,” he repeated, just to hear himself.

The sound of music and the twinkling blind of bright fairy lights startled him, coming so instantly. When he could focus he saw a tall, happy Ghost of Christmas Future. He was thin, with white hair and a weirdly too-white smile, and seemed to be thousands of years old and a boy at the same time.

“Hey, man,” said the Ghost. “How’s it going?” He laughed merrily. “You don’t have to answer that.”

“I thought the Ghost of Christmas Future didn’t talk?” said Scrooge. 

“I don’t like to tell people bad news.” 

There was something about the chipper tone that frightened Scrooge, more than anything had frightened him since that time his dad almost didn’t bail him out of his fourth bankruptcy.  

“You have good news for me then, Spirit?”

The spirit smiled, his merry eyes twinkling in the electric candlelight. “Good news for you, no.”

“That’s all I’m interested in,” Scrooge said, or more precisely whined.

“That’s my point, man. You’ll be gone. People will heal. The great work will begin because everyone will remember the cautionary tale of you.”

“I thought you spirits were sent to help me?”

“Yeah, we gave up after the second try.”

Scrooge swayed, and almost fell to his knees except he was too arrogant and also had a bad sense of balance and thought he might fall over. “O Spirit! What will become of me?”

“You’ll be dead. What do you care what happens to the world after you’re gone?”

“Good point,” admitted Scrooge. “Nothing to do with me.”

With that Scrooge awoke in his own bed. He was happy, somehow taking the lesson to be he would die before the indictments came in.He went to the window to order a Christmas turkey to be delivered to himself, but the delivery kid was at home under quarantine.

The Circus Festival Is No Place For Benchwarmers

August 2019, we visited the bi-annual AYCO Festival. In moves every time, and this time it was in San Diego. I thought I'd write a straight travel article. This is how it turned out.

Representatives from the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts included (from left) coach Karen Ladd, Gretta Maguire, Mara Sell, coach Adam Woolley, Jonas Sell, Isa Kennedy, Bronyn Mazlo, and parent Shana Kennedy.

WALT MAGUIRE Representatives from the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts included (from left) coach Karen Ladd, Gretta Maguire, Mara Sell, coach Adam Woolley, Jonas Sell, Isa Kennedy, Bronyn Mazlo, and parent Shana Kennedy.

Running Away to the Circus, by Walt Maguire.
Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/4/19 (online) 10/6/19 (print)