Classic Uncle Bardie: Three Cats’ Christmas

Like “A Bob Crachit Christmas”, I posted this one back in December, 2013. Even though Christmas has passed, I thought this would be a nice reminder. Hope you enjoy as much as I did writing it.

Three cats under the Christmas tree
Buster, Sister, Mama Peaches
All purring their yuletide carols
On this the night before Christmas.
They’ve kneaded their joy, now they rest
Curled up next to tinsel and snow,
Dreaming their dreams of Santa Paws
Meowing his jolly ho-ho-ho,
Hoping for some kitty-katnip
And a ball of yarn for their play.
Maybe a mouse or even two.
They dream and sleep this night away
But soon will come the Christmas morn
And all will be right with these three
For they will wake with a good stretch
And a big yawn under that tree
After a game of give-and-take.
They’ll hurry for their bowls of food
And munch and crunch and lick their paws
Clean and they’ll be in the best of moods.
Then they’re off for the Big Outside.
But before they rush out they take
One last turn ‘round the Christmas tree
Just so the three can celebrate
How long long ago a Babe
In a manger lay in the cold
Without a blanket or cover,
And no more than a few hours old,
When one scrawny and feral cat
Crawled in and curled about the Child
And kept the Baby warm that night.
Let Him sleep with a sweet, sweet smile.
The morning came, the sun did rise
Up east and warmed the Child below
While the cat slinked away, no more
To be seen but all the cats know:
How that Cat gave all that he had
Enough to keep away the freeze.
So now in heaven there’s a Cat
That never has to scratch for fleas.
As our three cats go out to roam
This Christmas day they take delight.
It was one of them, some Unknown
Company to Jesus that night.

Classic Uncle Bardie: A Bob Cratchit Christmas

This is a repost from way back yonder in 2013. 2016’s been such a bah humbug of a year I thought you, my friends, deserved an extra special story for this fine Christmas day. So here is one that is loosely based on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”.

Ebenezer Scrooge was dead, had been dead for two years now. Everything he owned, his business, his savings, his house, even his cherished collection of exotic door knockers, everything with the name of Scrooge upon it he willed to Bob Cratchit.

Before he died, and after the incident with the ghosts, Scrooge had grown kinder and kinder. His business prospered even more than it did before that particularly frightening episode with the three ghosts. In the old gentleman’s waning years, he developed a special affection for his trustworthy clerk. Bob Cratchit became the son he always wanted.

It was the day before Christmas Eve. The staff at Marley, Scrooge, & Cratchit came in to work for a bit of good cheer, and their Christmas bonuses. Bob Cratchit was a generous man, so they were very pleased with the envelopes he delivered into their hands. With a “Merry Christmas and God bless us each and every one” from their employer, they were all out of the office by noon.

“Lock up as you go out,” a prematurely gray Cratchit called from his back office to his young assistant, Irving.

“Yes, sir.”

Bob Cratchit heard the door close, and he was alone with his mug of cider. It would be a lonely Christmas this year. All the members of his family were off on holiday expeditions, and he was left alone without anyone to share the Nativity with. There had been a time when the family cherished each other for themselves, when he had been Tiny Tim’s only horse, when they were poor, and happy.

It seemed as if only Bob Cratchit had escaped their good fortune unscathed. His wife, Mary, was always off on one of her little trips these days. This Christmas she was up visiting their oldest daughter in Edinburgh. Martha had married a count. Or was it a baron? Bob couldn’t quite get it straight which. They had a new baby for Mrs. Cratchit to spoil. How he missed Mary’s cooking. She had to be the best Christmas-goose-cook in the whole of England.

His son, Peter, was abroad this year with several of his playboy friends. Belinda, his youngest daughter, was on tour in Wales, acting in the latest Globe Players Production of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”.

The most disappointing of all was Tiny Tim. The operation Scrooge had paid for healed him of his affliction and Timothy Cratchit was no longer Tiny. He was now an Esquire, a very successful solicitor, and a Right Honourable Member of Parliament. He would be with the Tory Party leaders this Christmas on a retreat or some such thing which his father had nary an idea about.

Though proud of his family, they were never around anymore and he no longer found delight in the blessings bestowed upon them. Only the business brought him any satisfaction these days. And he wasn’t very good at that.

Things began to go downhill shortly after Scrooge’s death. In the two years since the funeral, he had managed to loose most of his benefactor’s capital. Upon reflection, Cratchit really couldn’t understand why but he knew he had to get to the bottom of things, and soon. Or Marley, Scrooge, & Cratchit would close its doors forever. Though he had done everything the way Scrooge had taught, the books were all in the red. Soon it would be Debtors’ Prison for Robert Elroy Perciville Cratchit.

He finished off his cider and thought how much he missed those long winter nights with Mr. Scrooge, or Ebenezer as he insisted Bob call him. As they drank their mugs of smoking bishop, that Christmas punch Londoners especially cherished, they warmed themselves by the old man’s fireplace. Ebenezer passed along his tidbits of business acumen, secrets of a master business magician to his apprentice. But, without Scrooge to cast his spell, the business was falling apart. The younger man had perhaps a year left, then bankruptcy.

It was getting late, almost night, when Bob Cratchit finally bundled himself up, his shoulders stooped with the weight of money and its worries. Money was not the root of evil but the worry of it must surely be.

He walked out into the London fog and locked his office door behind him. The bell of the church nearby tolled six. The street lamps were already lit. Soon the city would be dark, except for what little light the lamps gave off.

“Would you care for a carriage, sir,” a coachman offered from his horse-drawn taxi.

“No, thank you. I believe I’ll walk.”

Though the night air was nippy, it was not chilly enough for him to deny himself a brisk evening walk. He loved this time of year when the city streets and the lights from the houses along the way reminded him of earlier Cratchit family yuletides when they were poor. The simple joys of a Christmas pudding, a Yule log, and the unwrapping of their meager gifts. But that was then. Now the Cratchits were a wealthy merchant family, and as stylish as could be. All of London envied them their good fortune.

“Then Merry Christmas, sir,” the coachman said.

“A very Merry Christmas to you as well.”

As he strolled along, he passed a court yard. Workmen were finishing their repairs on the gas pipes. Several ragged men and boys stood around the brazier nearby and warmed their hands. Bob Cratchit walked past them and past the ancient gothic church. He dropped a coin into each of the beggars’ hands as he came upon them and wished each a Merry Christmas. He walked past a number of houses, the smell of roast turkey and goose and hen and Christmas pudding from them filling his nostrils with the happiest of smells. Strolling along the streets were bands of carolers, singing their “God rest ye merry gentlemen.”

Bob Cratchit made his usual stop for his supper in one of several of the taverns along the way home. He read his newspaper, then had his usual conversation with the tenants of the tavern. After an hour or so of this, he was out the door and back into the fog and the frost. Soon he found himself standing at the front of the house Scrooge had willed him.

He walked through the old black gateway to the house. He placed his key in the door and turned it. As he went inside, he felt a chill pass through him, a bit chillier than the night air that he was escaping. He shook himself free from the feeling and closed the door and stepped into the dark room that had become his home. He went to light a fire in the large fireplace but decided against it. Instead he lit a candle.

Standing there in the dark with only the candle for light, he looked up at the large portrait of a smiling Ebenezer Scrooge hanging from the wall. But tonight the old man was frowning back at him. Bob Cratchit closed his eyes, then opened them again. His benefactor was not frowning. He was smiling as he always did.

“Now I’m seeing things. Perhaps this is what Ebenezer meant by humbug.”

As he retired deeper into the cavity of the house, he found himself inside his bedroom. It would be another long, lonely night in this gloomy bedchamber Scrooge once occupied.

He closed the heavy door behind him and quickly dressed into his long night shirt and crawled in beside his bed warmer. He blew out the candle that he sat on the bedside table. Soon he dozed off.

Startled awake by some eerie sound, he sat up.

A squeak, perhaps from a mouse that had chosen his room for its home. But it didn’t sound like a mouse.

An icy breeze filled the room. The window was open, he guessed. He looked over at it. The window was closed. He shivered.

Slowly a translucent gray mist moved through the door.

Bob Cratchit grabbed his quilt and pulled it over his head as he lay back in the bed. Then he worked up his courage and he pushed the quilt down. After all, he was a modern nineteenth-century man. Humanity had banished all its needs for fear. Scientific progress was its destiny.

So what was there to be afraid of?

Absolutely nothing.

He lit his candle to abolish his fear. Then he looked over at the book on his bedside table. The title on the cover read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In the distance, the church bell struck midnight.

Bob Cratchit looked up at the door. His face turned pale.

Wh-wh-wh-what.

Before him stood a large specter.

“Bob Cratchit, Ebenezer Scrooge sent me,” the unearthly visitor whispered. “I am the Ghost of Business Past.”

God bless you everyone and a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from your friend, Uncle Bardie.

Halloween Brew

Happy All Hallows’ Eve to you and yours.

‘Tis a dark and stormy night

The vampires are out for a bite

And the ghosties on the prowl

Something out there’s smelling foul

While down in Zombie Town

There’s the howl of a devil hound

And deep in Castle Vlad

Frank ‘N’ Stein are in their lab

Mixing up their ghoulish stew

Stirring up that Halloween Brew.

On Transylvania Street

There’s a lot of trick or treat

As the jack ‘o lantern choir

In their Halloween attire

Walk the walking dead dance

Skeletons doing their scary prance.

The headless horseman rides

With his head held at his side

In the Grand All Hallow’s

Eve Parade and Spooktastic Show.

Under a full witching moon

Midnight’ll be here soon

Then at “The Pit and Pendulum”

They’ll gather with their ghastly grins

For the Ushers will be there.

A cask of Amontillado they’ll share.

They’ll spill their tell-tale hearts

Spinning tales of the darker arts

And the time of the Halloween Brew

When they drank F ‘N’ S’s stew.

Another year rolls around

And the dead sleep safe and sound.

Then October shall arrive

When the dead come alive

For another show and tell

Under autumn’s darkest spell

When the goblins take to the air

For the Great Halloween Affair

And more of that Good Stew,

A tall hot mug of Halloween Brew.

Classic Uncle Bardie: Be Careful What You Ask For

Another Halloween repeat performance from 2013. Enjoy. It’s Halloween.

The light from the windows of her hundred-year-old house streamed out onto the lawn late that night in February. The light reflected the shadow of her silhouette behind the curtains of her second story bedroom. She was watching me, I knew, as I stood next to the fence across the street and waited. I had been here every night for one hundred days, in rain, in fog that came up off the nearby sea, and on clear nights. It was the key to the door of her heart.

I wondered if she would ever recognize my love for her. At first, I had sent her notes, then candy, then flowers, first one, then a half dozen, then a dozen. But she ignored them. When we had last spoke at our high school, she had urged, “Please don’t.”

But I loved her too much to give up and I knew she would come to love me. It was fated to be and only a matter of time.

Each night I watched her father arrive from some late night appointment and go into the house. He was always going and coming at night. But why? Why did he do this? After all, he was a successful lawyer who had an office downtown, open for appointments all day long. Why did he need to be out this late every night?

One night her father walked out of the house and headed for his car. I looked at my watch. Eleven o’clock. I decided to follow. I hurried around the corner and jumped into my old beat-up green Buick. I started it, then sat there. Her father backed out of the driveway and headed east.

I pulled in behind him, about twenty car lengths, and tailed him. We drove for thirty minutes or so until we came to an old rundown warehouse. He parked in its parking lot, next to the three or four other cars there. I pulled to a stop a block or so away and watched him enter a side door into the building.

I got out of the car and walked over to the partially lit parking lot. I went around to the side and listened in through a half-broken window. All I could hear was the sound of barking dogs in the distance. I pushed my ear closer to the window. Then I felt it. The cold metal in my back. It was a gun.

“Come with me,” the man behind me demanded and grabbed me by the neck and shoved me forward. Before I could turn around to see who it was, I was forced through the side door and into the warehouse. Before me stood several men.

“I caught this outside,” the voice behind me said.

“Welcome, Mr. Benedaro,” her father greeted me with a smile.

I was pushed toward the group of men and forced to drop onto my knees. I was in the center of a circle of these men.

From behind me, I heard her voice. “Now, Father?” she said.

“Yes, Daughter,” her father said.

I turned to see a large wolf, charging me with its teeth bared.

“What the he…,” I screamed as she bit into my neck.

Classic Uncle Bardie: SomeThing

                                                       A tale of horror
I am doing something this week I don’t usually do. I am re-posting a couple of posts I think you, my readers, my enjoy. I published this tale during Halloween week, 2013. I like it so much that I thought it should receive another go ’round. So enjoy this one, and happy dreaming.

Something moves. Or does it? Del isn’t sure. He looks and listens hard. For an instant, the thin, wiry man sees a motion, a movement among the trees at the edge of his back yard. Holding his shotgun with both hands, he readies himself to aim and fire. His eyes again search the trees and the marsh beyond the trees.

All is quiet. Nothing stirs, only the troubled whimper of a wind. Strange. Usually the marsh is alive with chirps and buzzes and all kinds of splashes. But now, not a sound. He listens harder, more carefully. Slowly he begins to hear the normal, marshy voices that grow louder as the afternoon light fades and evening approaches.

“Nothing here,” he decides. “Must be her imagination. She’s always thinking up things.”

He turns and steps easily across the wet grass, drenched from a sudden afternoon downpour that ended only moments ago. Returning to the house, he enters the back door and walks into the kitchen. Ginny stands waiting by the sink. She clenches a large butcher knife.

“Well, d’you see anything?” she asks, her eyes filled with terror.

“Nary a thing.” He sets his gun in a corner by the stove.

“You think I’m making it all up. Well, I’m not. I did too see something sneaking outside the bedroom window. Heard its growls too.”

“Now, now.” He takes his wife into his arms, then eases the knife from her hand and lays it in the sink. He holds her close to him.

“You must’ve heard the noises yourself. They were loud enough.” She settles into the sanctuary of his broad shoulders for a long, lingering embrace. Her whole body is shivering. He runs his hands gently through her hair and whispers soothing words into her ear until she is calm. After a few minutes of silence pass between them, he lightly kisses her lips.

Releasing her from his arms, he asks his usual, “D’you fix my supper for work?”

“You still going to work after what I seen?” She holds onto his arm.

“Course I am. How could I not?”

“Please stay home tonight. Just this once.” Her hand squeezes tighter and tighter.

“Shush.” He wrenches her hand from his arm.

“Sure wish you would stay home with me tonight.” She reaches again for his arm.

He forces her hand away. “Finish my supper while I get dressed,” he says, ignoring the supplication in her voice.

She chokes out the words, “It’s ready. ‘Cept for wrapping up a piece of that chocolate cake I made special this morning.”

“Look, if you get scared again, have George come on by,” he says, referring to their only son. “You can go stay at his house tonight. I’ll pick you up in the morning.” These are his last words on the subject. It is time to ready for work.

Del goes off into the bedroom and changes into his security guard uniform and is back in the kitchen just as Ginny is placing the cake into his gray lunch box.

Her eyes plea with him to stay with her and not run off to work. But he takes his supper from her hands and pulls his Atlanta Braves cap off the hat stand by the outside kitchen door.

Flipping the cap onto his head, he kisses her cheek a goodnight kiss. Then he is through the door and gone.

Ginny walks into the living room at the front of the house and watches Del through the large picture window as he drives away in his Ford Explorer. Then she drops into the large comfortable chair, Del’s chair, and trembles. Soon her entire body shakes. Tears well up into her eyes. Her face, wrinkled and sagging, appears to be much older than her fifty-seven years. The room darkens as the night fills it with its blackness. Ginny sits alone, afraid to fall asleep because of the nightmares she’s been having. She fights off the sleep. It is too much for her. She’s so tired from her lack of sleep over the last few days that she’s soon dozing off.

Asleep, she starts drifting in and out of her subconscious. It is then that a something eases its way out of the shadows of her sleep and into her dreams, those worlds of gray and fog and unhappiness that inhabit her slumber. Through these lands of mist and uneasiness, of phantoms, specters and dark, ugly things, this SomeThing walks, consuming everything in its path.

Thunder shakes her awake. Her clothes are drenched with sweat, the kind of sweat that only comes from fear. Out the window, a storm rages with a hard, driving rain pelting the grass. Again, the thunder grumbles and a tree crashes in the distance. Lightning streaks the sky and brightens the room.

Just for a moment, she sees it. A shadow, or at least what she, at first, believes to be a shadow. It isn’t. It is the SomeThing that had haunted her nightmares for days, the SomeThing that had made those awful growling noises, the SomeThing that had escaped into nothing earlier that afternoon, the SomeThing that had come from some hell of an evil place.

And a wicked looking SomeThing it is, its eyes cold and cruel with a hate that can only come from another world, its mouth dripping a mixture of white, rabid fear and dark, red blood, its huge body a black silhouette outlined against the lightning flashing in the distance.

Ginny cowers into her chair, struggling to breathe. She wants to scream, tries to scream, but the scream does not come out of her mouth. The Thing, the SomeThing reaches for her, its long talons grasping to tear open her neck.

*****

The house is unusually quiet when Del gets home. It is four o’clock in the morning of a cold, clear February night. The storm earlier has passed, leaving everything drenched and a full moon to fill the sky. Guided by the light of the moon, he hurries through the living room and into the dark bedroom. He leaves the light off so as not to wake Ginny and quickly undresses for bed. He crawls under the clean sheets, then turns to give his wife of thirty-seven years a goodnight kiss.

Ginny is not there. She is gone from her side of the bed where she always sleeps.

He starts to get out of the bed, but then decides, “Must be at George’s.”

He is relieved. Within minutes, he is snoring. His dreams delve deep, deeper and deeper and deeper into that subterranean underground that is his inner consciousness until he is struggling through a swamp, legs hip-deep in water. Cypress trees everywhere, and a heavy, red fog closes in around him.

Alone. No other life in the swamp, but the flies. Those damnable flies circling his head, making no noise. An eerie silence breathes on him as he forces his way through the muck and the mire. Feeling eyes following him, stalking him, he turns and sees…nothing. He looks back to where he is going. A necklace, his wife’s necklace, drops into his hand and opens. His photograph smiles back at him. He looks up. There she is, Ginny pinned to a tree.

This startles him awake. His body is unable to move, frozen with fear. Rain beats against the rooftop. Thunder groans nearby. Lightning brightens the room while the shadow of a SomeThing covers Del’s face.