Date: Fri, 11 Dec 1998 21:12:35 -0500
Subject: re: A Christmas Carol (GFR Style)
WITH APOLOGIES TO CHARLES DICKENS!!
Erwin Bauer watched over the sales floor from the raised office platform at the back of the main floor of the Woolworth variety store. As Store Manager it was his responsibility to maintain the profitability of the store and to secure it for the safety of his customers and employees alike. It was mid December at sales were brisk, just the way he liked it. The home office didn't call the last three months of the year the "Golden Quarter" for nothing. The entire profitability of a store could hinge on the Christmas shopping season. The pressure to maintain the sales pace was great.
In alot of ways Erwin hated Christmas. Being in the retail field, he never got any time off during the holidays. That made his family life horrible. In fact, his choice of careers had cost him his marriage. His wife, Barbara, had always wanted him to get a "real job." As time went on, she discovered that he would not leave his chosen field of endeavor. So she divorced him. Erwin grunted grimly as these thoughts came and went out of his consciousness. However, working for Woolworth gave him one advantage, he didn't have to go very far to shop! Being located in downtown Peoria, Illinois, he had access to all the various department stores that were right across the street.
Erwin heard a page for him over the intercom, "Mr. Erwin, please come to register 3." He recognized that register 3 was the "Layaway" counter. He walked over and there stood a middle aged woman arguing with the clerk. "How can I help you?" asked Erwin.
"Are you the Manager? ... good ... I need some help. I have some toys on layaway for my kids, and I need an extension. I don't get paid until the 23rd. Your clerk here, says that she'll put everything back on the shelf if it's not paid by the 20th. I won't have the money in time! Can you help me?"
"Well Ma'am," started Erwin, "It's not company policy to extend these things, I'm sorry."
"Screw your company policy! I'm going to tell all my friends to stop coming here. Where's your Christmas spirit?" complained the lady.
This was all Erwin could stand and he snapped back, "You have no idea what your talking about! How would you like to trade places for a minute. I've got district and corporate staff breathing down my neck every minute of the day. They want to discontinue the layaway program altogether, And I don't blame them! In about a minute, I'm going to have you arrested for trespassing, so get the hell out of here, MOOCH!"
Erwin was spitting mad by this time and his face was beet red. Even the clerk was frightened. She had seen Erwin do this alot lately and she was thinking about getting a new job. The lady cussed out Erwin, the clerk and the store and left in a huff. Erwin glared at the clerk and said tersely, "Don't ever call me for that kind of shit again, or you'll he out of here. Remember, it's MY WAY or the HIGH WAY, got it?!"
The clerk nodded at Erwin and he turned and stormed off. As he walked away she flipped him off and stuck her tongue out at him. She wouldn't wait to get fired, she would start looking for a new job tomorrow.
Erwin stomped back into the office and slammed the door. He walked past the bookkeeper who didn't dare to look up. With a short, "Scram," she got up without acknowledging him and left the office. The phone started ringing. Bauer picked it up, "Office."
"Bauer? This is Mead, how are your sales this week?"
It was Douglas Mead, the district Manager. Erwin Bauer flipped open his "Beat Yesterday" sales log and read off the figures, "Up 10 percent from last year this time, boss."
"Not good enough, Bauer! Do you know you have the worst increase in the district? Shit, even store 132 in Bloomington is beating you!" said Mead, tauntingly.
"We'll pick up the pace, boss."
"You better, or I'll start looking for a replacement," said Mead as he hung up abruptly.
"Asshole," thought Erwin, as he too hung up his phone. He began rubbing his temples and starring off into space. Presently, he slid open the bottom drawer of his desk and removed the half empty bottle of Johnny Walker Black label and a small tumbler. He poured about two fingers and slammed them down, then poured two more and rubbed the glass across his forehead.
The store closed at 6 pm. After all the employees had left, Erwin set the old time lock on the door and walked over to the bus stop which was in front of the Bergners Department store. The sidewalks were full of Christmas shoppers and smiles were on everyones face, except for Erwin Bauer. There was snow on the ground and the streets were slushy as the city bus pulled up to the stop. The doors opened and Erwin stepped on. He greeted the smiling face of the driver with a scowl and deposited 50 cents in the slot. About 15 other people got on at the same time. The doors closed and the bus pulled away from the curb.
On the way home he saw the usual signs of urban decay. Bums were everywhere, panhandling people right on the street, in full view of the police. And they wouldn't even do anything about it. "My tax dollars at work!" he thought and grimaced. The scene began to change as the bus moved to the suburban areas. There he saw many houses decorated with lights both inside and out. The bus pulled over to the curb and opened the doors. Erwin grunted and stood up and exited the bus.
It was about a block to his apartment building. The tenants had decorated their building as well. But, not him. He rode the elevator to the third floor and walked down the hall to his apartment door. He stuck his key into the door and opened it. He walked into a stark room with a few pieces of old furniture and absolutely no decorations. He checked the answering machine ... no messages. He walked to the refrigerator and pulled out a Hudepol Beer. He flopped onto the couch and turned on the TV. He slowly slipped off to sleep as he tried to watch a Hockey game on the sports channel.
He woke up the next morning, on the couch, wearing the same clothes and something new, the beer. He had spilled it on himself when he fell asleep. "Ah, the same old routine," he thought as he stripped off his clothes and cleaned himself up for another day at the store.
Everyday at the store was like the last one. He was completely absorbed in it and was not the least interested in anything going on around him. Finally it was December 24th and he hadn't done any shopping, but he didn't even care. He had driven his employees like a madman, he wasn't going to lose his job because of a lack of effort! In the middle of the afternoon he got a phone call. It was from the district office secretary. The news was not good. Douglas Mead had suffered a heart attack and died that morning. "At least he can't fire me," thought Erwin with a grizzly laugh. He checked on the layaways and noticed that the clerk had neglected to remove the package that the lady said she was going to be late on. He would fire the clerk the day after Christmas. Too bad he had to be closed on Christmas day.
Like all the other days, he rode the bus home and fell asleep on the couch, this time with a bourbon and coke in his hand.
Date: Fri, 11 Dec 1998 21:13:35 -0500
Subject: re: A CC GFR chapter 2
A Christmas Carol (GFR Style) Chapter 2
Erwin continued to snore loudly on the couch and a line of drool was falling from the corner of his mouth to arm rest of the couch. He was dreaming of firing the clerk and what fun it would be. Slowly, however, he heard from his sleep a sound. It was a tapping sound ...
He slowly awoke and drifted back to sleep a few times before he clearly heard the tapping. It was coming from the kitchen. He looked back at the TV and found himself looking at snow, the station was off the air. He looked at his watch, it said 2:12. It was dark outside ... hmmm ...what was that tapping.
He struggled to his feet, his joints and bones snapping and creaking in protest and shuffled off to the kitchen. There seated at the kitchen table, feverishly working an adding machine was Douglas Mead. Erwin stumbled back from this vision and began moaning ... "No, your dead, your dead ... nooooooo!"
"Of course I'm dead, you twit! Get a grip on yourself. You haven't much time!" said Mead as he continued to punch keys on the adding machine.
"What are you doing here? How can this be?" asked Erwin, now becoming rather curious.
"As you can see, Erwin, I've come back. I've been sent back to warn you. It's too late for me, but not for you. Look here, see how I've been chained to this adding machine? It's because I cared about my business more that the people in my life. I have been sentenced to this for all eternity. Unless, I can save someone else. That someone is you, Erwin. You will be visited tonight by three spirits. Heed them well!" Mead picked up his adding machine and walked out through the kitchen door and straight through a wall!
Erwin ran to the window and looked out. There was no trace of Mead. He must have been sleepwalking. Yes, that was it. That was pretty stupid. "Chained to an adding machine" he rubbed his temples and poured himself another drink. He decided to take a shower and then, for the first time in a month he actually laid down on his bed. The achohol did it's work and Erwin quickly dropped off to sleep. He didn't notice that his watch still said 2:12.
Date: Fri, 11 Dec 1998 21:13:44 -0500
Subject: re: A CC GFR Chapter 3
A Christmas Carol (GFR Style) Chapter 3
Erwin awoke to the most god awful sound. It was the sound of a guitar pumping out a lick so loud that the entire room was shaking. He leapt out of bed and there standing before him was a man about 5' 7" tall and he was playing an electric guitar. Erwin couldn't figure out how the sound was so loud since there was no amplifier.
"Who, the hell, are you?" demanded Erwin.
"Hi, my name is Mark. And I'm the ghost of Christmas Past."
"The what?" asked Erwin incredulously.
"You know, kiddo, the past, history, before now!" Mark patted Erwin on the cheek to get the point across. "Now hold onto my guitar and we will go into the past and see what we will see."
"Right," answered Erwin with a sneer and he put his pinky on the headpiece of Mark's guitar, "Like this?"
Instantaneously they were transported back into time (kinda like the WayBack Machine!) and Erwin found himself looking down on a rock and roll concert. It was a Grand Funk Concert and there, in the audience was himself. Only it was a much younger self, "Geez, look at those sideburns!" he thought as he saw himself. He recognized it as 1974 and he was looking at himself at the Funk show with his girlfriend Bev. Up on the stage, Farner, Brewer, Schacher, and Frost were really putting on a great show.
"Look at yourself down there," said Mark, "Look how happy you are and how happy Bev is. Don't you remember how that was?"
Erwins' smile disappeared from his face as the thought about the answer, "I didn't really know what life was all about, then. It's a tough world out there and I'm just looking out for my own interests."
"I don't know," Mark said, "That young man down there seems to know how to look after himself," Erwin looked down and noticed that he was kissing Bev and Bev was really kissing back. How he had loved her. "If you will remember, Erwin, this was your first Christmas together with Bev. It was the best time of your life. Wouldn't you like to relive those times?"
"No way," responded Erwin, "I was flat broke. I just didn't know any better."
"That's too bad, Erwin. That was when you were the smartest."
The vision faded from view and Erwin once again found himself asleep on his bed. He turned over and tried to have a different dream. That last one had been really weird.
Date: Fri, 11 Dec 1998 21:36:15 -0500
Subject: re: A CC GFR Style chapter 4
A Christmas Carol (Grand Funk Style) Chapter 4
Erwin's watch still said 2:12 when he started having a strange dream involving someone tapping him on the head. He awoke suddenly to the sound of a familiar drum riff. He sat up straight and there in front of him was a guy with an afro hair cut playing a bright red drum set. And man, was he ever pounding on those skins!
"Wake up sleepy head!" cried the drummer.
"Oh, not again. Who may I ask are you?" asked Erwin.
"My name is Don, Erwin. And I'm the ghost of Christmas present."
"You've got a Christmas present for me?" asked Erwin with a raised eyebrow.
"Don't be a smart ass!" replied Don. "Touch one of these cymbals and we'll be on our way."
"Sure, bonehead," said Erwin as he grabbed onto a vibrating crash cymbal.
He was instantly transported to a house where there was a Christmas tree but no presents under it. Sitting nearby was the lady from the store who didn't have the money for the layaway toys. She was crying. There were also two children standing there looking at the tree. There sad faces said it all. There weren't any presents under the tree for them. They tried to comfort their mother but it would do no good.
"She should have planned better." said Erwin, without a thought.
"'Should have planned better'," replied Don, "You are such a dolt, Erwin."
"Yeah, Dolt. Do you know that she works two jobs just to keep a roof over her families head. Her husband ran out on her and left her with two kids. It's all she can do to keep going. And now they haven't got anything under the tree. Let's go check the kitchen ... Look at this, there isn't anything to eat here. Looks like a hungry Christmas to me," said Don cautiously.
"Aren't there welfare programs for cases like these?" asked Erwin, "What do you expect me to do?"
"Maybe nothing, maybe something. I just thought you should know what some people go through."
With that the scene in front of them faded and his bed room came back into view. Don sat back down behind the drums and began pounding out the beginning to "We're an American Band." ... "Think about what you've seen tonight!" ... Don's image began to fade but it took longer for the sound of the drums to go away. Erwin stood for a moment and then crawled back into bed. The clock on the night stand said 2:12. Erwin didn't notice. He laid back down and tried to go back to sleep.
Date: Fri, 11 Dec 1998 21:51:52 -0500
Subject: re: A CC GFR Style chapter 5
A Christmas Carol (GFR Style) chapter 5
Erwins' sleep was disturbed by the bone crushing sound of a bass guitar. The walls trembled as Erwin stumbled from bed to find a man playing Bass right at the foot of his bed. Instead of introducing himself the man just continued to pluck the strings of his bass. It was giving Erwin a headache.
"Let me guess ... Christmas yet to be?" asked Erwin with a shrug.
The man just nodded and pointed to the strings on his guitar. Erwin strummed them and he was transported to a cemetery.
"What is this?" he asked the silent bass player.
The ghost said nothing, but waved him over to a grave site. There, a grave digger was throwing dirt onto a casket. The casket was a plain pine box. To the side was a headstone, it too, was rather plain. On it was chiseled, "Erwin Bauer ... June 15,1955 ... December 24, 2002."
He overheard the grave digger talking to himself, "It was only a matter of time, yep, only a matter of time. He always hated the customers in his store, not to mention the employees. I only wish he had never even lived here."
Erwin was shocked to the core by this statement. "Oh Ghost of Christmas yet to be, can the future be changed? Is this the way it must be?"
The Ghost nodded his head to the first question and then shook his head to the second question.
"Then there's still time!" said Erwin.
He found that he was now in the living room of his apartment. The Ghost of Christmas future was now joined by the other two ghosts as they played a song. Erwin recognized it as "Closer to Home." Erwin was determined to be closer to home for Christmas this year.
After the song was over the three ghosts faded from view and Erwin went back to bed. As he went to sleep the clock that read 2:12 began moving again.
Date: Fri, 11 Dec 1998 22:20:23 -0500
Subject: re: A CC GFR Style chapter 6
A Christmas Carol (GFR Style) chapter 6
Erwin awoke to the sound of church bells ringing in the distance. He looked at the clock. It read 8:15. He looked at it for a moment and then he eyes grew wide. He jumped out of bed and ran to the window and opened it. Below in the courtyard were two children having a snow ball fight. Nearby was a brand new sled.
"What day is today?!" called Erwin from the third floor window.
"Why, it's Christmas day!" cried the boys as they picked up the rope for the sled and walked over to a nearby hill, "Come and join the fun!"
"Horray!" laughed Erwin. He ran to his stereo and turned it on. He found a station playing Christmas music and turned it up real loud. He then went into the bathroom and shaved and took a shower. He toweled off and walked over to the closet, humming 'Jingle Bells.' He put on a some new clothes and topped it off with a sweater that Bev had given him years ago for christmas. He had never worn it.
He put on his heavy coat and walked into the kitchen. There, he grabbed a bag and filled it with groceries from his own cabinet and refrigerator. He walked out the door and down the elevator and hopped into his car. He fired it up and put it in gear.
He drove down to his store and opened the time lock. He walked through whistling a tune and picked up the bag from the layaway department. He also grabbed a shopping cart and filled it with other household items. All of these things he stuffed into the back seat of his car. He reset the time lock and drove away from the store.
He pulled up to the address on the label on the layaway package. The house appeared dark. He walked up to the door and knocked. A moment later a young boy of 9 years opened the door.
"Merry Christmas!" cried Erwin.
"Who says?" said the boy.
Erwin looked at the boy and then pointed toward the open back door of his car, "Take a look in there!"
The boys eyes grew wide and a grin appeared on his lips as he spied all the toys. "Mom, Bobby, come quick. It's Santa Claus!"
The boys' mother came to the door with a questioning look. Both boys were now pulling the bags from the back of Erwins car. They were having the best time.
Erwin looked at the lady and said, "I hope you will forgive me Ma'am. But I thought I might be able to make it up to you in some small way."
Tears began to form on the ladies cheeks as she began crying and hugging her boys. Christmas didn't miss them after all!
After all the packages were inside, Erwin started passing everything out. First came the toys, There was a train set and some games and all sorts of strange and wonderful toys. The boys were occupied by the toys, so Erwin took it upon himself to carry the groceries into the kitchen for the lady. He unloaded a complete Christmas dinner onto the counter and completely filled her refrigerator.
"Why the change of heart, Erwin?" asked the lady, whose name was Karen.
"Well Karen, let's just say three guys I respect very much straightened me out and I feel it's my duty to help you. But, let me tell you, it's a very happy duty. One I would like to repeat if I could."
That was the most wonderful Christmas that the boys had had. And the dinner was absolutely fabulous. Karen and Erwin were enjoying a bottle of wine after dinner and Erwin pulled one last gift from his coat and gave it to Karen.
"What's this?" asked Karen.
"Open it and see!" replied Erwin with a smile.
Karen unwrapped the small square package. Inside was a CD of Grand Funk. The album was "Closer to Home."
"Oh, this is my favorite. Thank you so much," Karen pulled Erwin close to her and kissed him full on the lips. Erwin in the back of his mind could hear the band playing for him.
At the end of the day, Erwin said his goodbyes to the family and headed back home. He was sure he had found a family to love. As he drove home the image of Douglas Mead materialized in the passenger seat. He was smiling.
"Well Erwin, did we learn anything?" asked Mead.
"Yes, Douglas, I did. I found that I was cheating everyone around me and more importantly, I was cheating myself out of the life I could have for the life I thought I should have."
"Then you have learned something, indeed. Did you notice that I'm not chained to my adding machine anymore? Well, that's thanks to you, Erwin. So, Thank you very much. By the way, I have it on good authority that you have many, many good Christmases yet to come. I won't be seeing you anymore, but that is a good thing."
The image of Douglas Mead started to fade, but before it was gone completely he pointed at the radio and the song changed. Mead smiled, nodded and then faded from view. Erwin smiled back and thanked him. Then he started singing along with the radio ... "Everybody, listen to me. And return me my ship ..."