This captivating sequel to A Christmas Carol is brought to you by Jim Moore.

“What a year it’s been,” Scrooge thought as he settled onto his favorite bar stool at the local pub.

A young man not more than 25 years old settled in beside him. “How so?” he asked Scrooge.

Did I say that out loud? Scrooge wondered. “One year ago, right now, I was hoarding everything I owned with no regard for anyone else. I did not care about anyone’s needs or happiness. My goal was to get what I needed and the rest could care for themselves.”

“Oh yes,” the young man replied, “I’ve heard of you. You made a great difference in this town. People are saying Tiny Tim would have died without your intervention. Why did you do all this?”

“Last Christmas Eve,” Scrooge said, “I was visited by three Spirits and one ghost who showed me that if I did not change my behavior I would die a lonely, frustrated old man. I realized that if I didn’t act like a better person, I would be punished. So I changed. I started doing things for others. Feeding the hungry. Caring for my workers. Spending time with family. And what’s funny is, everyone started treating me better.

“People who used to ignore me or mock me came to love me. They appreciated the good things I did. Moreover, I got such a warm feeling of acceptance every time I performed a good deed. As if I was now a better person for doing the right thing.”

“That’s called self-justification,” the young man explained.

“It is?” Scrooge responded. “Well look at me, I’m self-justified! How wonderful!”

“But is it, Scrooge?” The young fellow pressed in a little. “What do you feel when you don’t make the right choice?”

Scrooge stopped for a moment and took a sip of his ale. His expression changed as he thought about the question. “I’ll say this, my friend. Before I tried to be a good person I didn’t know how much work it was. I thought I’d buy Cratchit a turkey and give him the day off, then I’d head to Fred’s party for a drink, and that would be it. However, the next day I saw something else I needed to do. The next day, there was some new problem. The next week, a major issue no one was dealing with. Every time I’d think about that cold gravestone and wonder, if I don’t do this, will that still be my fate? What seemed fun at first became work.

“Then I realized so many other people were not working as hard as they should! So I started warning them about what would happen if they didn’t do the things they were supposed to do. Their behavior was inexcusable, and they needed to know! Gradually the people who were praising me stopped. They still seem respectful of my sacrifices but I sense they don’t like me very much. Maybe I just remind them of their own cold graves.”

“I know I didn’t care for your speeches very much, Ebenezer,” the young man stated.

For the first time Scrooge looked closely at the man. He realized that if he looked away and squinted, the fellow seemed to wink of green and red. Alarmed, he shouted, “Who are you boy?! You’re one of them, aren’t you? I’m following your rules! Why are you here? What else do you want?”

The young fellow stood and looked at him directly. He seemed even younger, barely a man at all. When he spoke, his voice rolled like a river, all the words coming into one thought: “Ebenezer Scrooge, I am the Spirit of Christmas, Period. And I am here to end all your labors!” With that, the ground dissolved beneath them and they fell into space. Strange visions flew by, some terrible, some rapturous. One minute Scrooge wanted to scream, and a second later he wanted to giggle.

“Christmas Period, you are going too fast!” Scrooge yelled. “I can’t hold on.”

“Then let go,” Christmas Period whispered.

And so Scrooge let go, although he could hardly not let go. When he did, nothing changed.

“You see Ebenezer, you never had to hold on at all. I held you.”

Then they stopped. Dust rose from their feet as Scrooge smelled the mix of manure, roasted lamb, wine, and sweat. These smells he knew from his travels. The common smells of an inn closed up for the night. But the door to the inn wasn’t closed. And as he examined the room, he realized that what he saw was familiar to him, even though it was completely different from what he expected.

An exhausted young mother leaned back onto the belly of a heifer who had lain down to form a sofa for her. She was covered in sweat. Beside her a clearly rattled man stumbled with something in his hands. His arms were shaking, and his voice trembled.  “I don’t know what to do, Mary! Mary, am I killing him?”

The heifer gazed on calmly, and the girl muttered, “He’s fine Joseph. Just take some clean hay to rub him down just like you would a new lamb.”

Joseph took the hay and wiped the baby clean. Ebenezer noticed that if he looked away and squinted, the child seemed to wink of green and red. “It’s you!” he said to the Spirit. “You’re the baby. You are the Christ!”

“Yes,” the Spirit responded. “It’s me.”

“I don’t understand why you’ve brought me here,” Ebenezer asked. “These people have not been harmed by me, nor do they miss me. This scene doesn’t frighten me to act better. This is wonderful to see, but it isn’t about me at all.”

“Ebenezer, all of this is for you. But it isn’t about you. The night I came and the day I died and the morning I rose were all for you, but none of it happened because you did anything. Before you stole your first pound, before you gave your first pound away, I had already done everything that needed doing. That’s why I am the Spirit of Christmas, Period.”

Instantly they were back in the pub. Two ales sat on the bar with suds streaming down the sides. The Spirit tossed his back in one giant gulp, burped a little burp, and smiled at Ebenezer Scrooge. He leaned in and circled his arm around the old do-gooder’s neck and Ebenezer heard the river-words starting:

“I-am-Christmas-Period, Ebenezer-Scrooge, do-not-work-to-please-me-because-you-cannot-please-me-and-I-have-never-not-been-pleased. When you wonder if you should act, look on me in your heart. Then, do as you wish with my face in your face. You cannot mess this up. Do not worry for others, Scrooge. I have saved you. Can I not also save them? You need not judge my people.

“Now my friend, have another ale. Listen to a story. Do not give a care for tomorrow, and have a Merry Christmas. Period.”