It's your time you should be frugal with, Scroogie, rather than your money
Scrooge in this tale is a teacher and a woman. In the story you know, dear reader, Ebenezer Scrooge redeemed himself by buying a nice big turkey that somebody else had to cook.
These are different times and this is a different tale. So pour yourself a good glass of grog and heed my story. You may profit from it, and if not, well, at least you'll have had some grog.
Scrooge - or Scroogie as she was known at her school - arrived home pale with fatigue. A big sneeze shook her frame. A gang of snowflakes sneaked into her bag of marking and her mobile phone rang. Its blue screen shifted into something like - could it be - the tired face of her dead colleague, Jendy Snapmuffin? Scroogie blinked and the face was gone. Shivering, she hurried into her house and slumped into the sofa, too spent to do anything but cough.
"Scroogie!" said a metallic whisper.
"Nn!" said Scroogie, petrified.
A blue swirl of tiny numbers appeared in front of her, as if an invisible finger were conjuring a computer from the evening air. The numbers became a wailing smudge, a blue scream, a crackling figure of - Jendy Snapmuffin!
"Scroogie!" it cried. "You are wearing yourself out, just as I did! I sank under chains of my own making. Pointless, so pointless. Tired ... so tired. And now, annoyingly, dead!"
The voice screeched like a nail down a blackboard, or worse - like a permanent marker pen down a new whiteboard.
"What must I do?" whimpered Scroogie.
"Relax!" That was weird, coming from a screaming blue smudge. "Ebenezer Scrooge's problem was that he gave too little. Yours is that you give too much - but to the wrong people, and for the wrong reasons.
"Look at your list. Some of those people you hardly know. Why pretend? What's Christmassy about that?"
Sneezing violently, Scroogie looked at her six-page list.
"You used to be sensible. You gave if you meant it - like that chocolate reindeer you gave to a friend who was having a horrible term. Now you give in a frenzy, thinking you must, you must. But why? Give to children who are too hungry to sleep. Not to well-fed people you don't even like."
Scroogie was quiet. The blue scream had a point.
"You organised Secret Santa again because you feared disapproval if you didn't. Stuff Secret Santa - your sanity is more important.
"You're a stressed-out spider trapped in your own web. But you can break free, and to help you do it, three spirits will visit you!"
Scroogie staggered off to bed, hoping she wouldn't sleep through the ghosts.
Scroogie was snoring like a man when she awoke with a scream, looking straight into the eyes of a thin, glowing snowman floating above her face.
"Relax," said the spirit, again rather inappropriately. It had a strange accent that Scroogie couldn't quite place. A bit like James Stewart in It's A Wonderful Life.
"Look," said the snow-ghost, settling on to the bed. One of its button eyes fell out. "Christmas wasn't always this crazy. It can be fun - but you gotta do a whole lot less. Make folks grateful for what they can get. Look at me. I only got one eye right now. But as long as I got one eye, I can find the other eye. See?"
The air crackled with frosty laughter. The snow-ghost pushed its eye back in.
Reader, if you have never seen a button narrow itself, there is little point in my labouring to describe how this phantom narrowed its eyes. It just did.
"Your husband travels. And works late, right? Well, so do you. This year, let him write his own damn cards. It's a start," said the snow-ghost, and melted, laughing.
A huge plastic reindeer smashed through the window in a blast of cold air.
"Ooh, look, how pretty!" giggled the reindeer, rolling its big stupid eyes at the broken glass.
"But why aren't you out there, shopping? You could buy a new window! Get them in the sale, quick - fourteen for the price of nine!"
The reindeer romped about Scroogie's bedroom slapping BUY NOW! stickers on everything, then smashed through the other window.
"Well, it's Christmas!" it snorted nastily as it gallumped away, kicking down lamp-posts.
A tall black figure glittered in the dark. It held a black wand with a black star. As it slowly raised the wand, a vision appeared that made Scroogie bite her pillow in horror. A Christmas list with 900 presents and 2,000 cards. 379 guests. And Scroogie, squashed by a herd of mad plastic reindeer.
Scroogie switched on the radio to check what day it was. Then she smiled, made a cup of tea, and started crossing people off her list.
Catherine Paver, Writer and part-time English teacher.