Winter came upon Middle-earth in the form of fluffy white snow. Everyone was in good spirits especially those who dwelled in the White City of Gondor. For winter meant Christmas, and Christmas meant giving love and showing good will toward others.
Only one person had a different viewpoint about Christmas. To him, Christmas meant the columns of golden coins standing on his desk piled up even higher than they had been all year. His name was Sarumezer Scrooge.
Saying he was the stingiest man–excuse me–wizard was the extremely sweet way of putting it. “Out of my way!” he snarled as he walked down the icy streets one Christmas Eve, waving his black staff at the small children sledding in the snow. He wobbled on, then paused. “Hey, you! Boy! Boy!” he called.
A young lad scurried up to him, a wisp of a boy barely more than twelve with golden blonde hair and quivering blue eyes. “Yes, sir?” he answered, shrinking with fear.
“Is your father Eomer, Third Marshall of Riddermark?” Sarumezer demanded.
“Jolly good! You tell that good-for-nothing that I have lost my patience with him. If he does not pay up the debt he has on that horse of his, I shall have to take the beast away. And I may foreclose on your house as well, because if he cannot afford a simple nag, he cannot afford a house. I expect a payment within three days.”
The boy reeled with shock. “You can’t do that!” he wailed.
Sarumezer glared at him. “And why not?”
Sarumezer threw his head back and laughed loudly. “Christmas! Bah, orcbug!” He grabbed the boy by the collar, bringing the lad’s face close to his. “Three days. No later.”
Then he threw the boy down onto the ground and continued on his way toward his dingy office.
The counting office of Sarumezer Scrooge and Gandalf Marley were the same as always: cramped, damp, and cold. Now, Marley was dead to begin with, having fallen into shadow some seven years past. This must be clearly understood for what is yet to come.
Aragorn Crachit sat at his tiny desk, his fingers frozen in thin gloves as he held the quill. He was wrapped in bedraggled clothing from head to toe which did nothing to warm him. When Sarumezer stormed in, Aragorn jumped back to life, writing as fast as he could figure numbers. “Oh, chill, Crachit, it’s just me,” Sarumezer snapped.
Aragorn thought if he chilled anymore, he would freeze solid. “Excuse me, Mr.. Scrooge,” he spoke up.
“I-I-I was hoping if I may have a lump of coal for the stove.”
Sarumezer stared at his clerk with slight confusion. “What? I thought I gave you your daily lump.”
Aragorn hesitated. “Well, yes, you did, sir, but I…”
“Oh, I get it. You want an extra lump.”
“Okay, I understand. Very well.”
Just when Aragorn thought he had finally gotten through to his employer, Sarumezer whacked him on the head with his staff. “There’s your extra lump,” the wizard sneered. “Now, get back to work!”
As Sarumezer began to become comfortable at his desk, the door opened. He looked up, but there was no one there. “Hello?” he called.
“Hello!” a voice called back.
Sarumezer looked around and still couldn’t see anyone. “Where are you?”
“Sheesh. Down here,” the voice replied.
Sarumezer leaned over his desk to see two three-foot hobbits standing in front of it. “Who are you?”
“I am Merry Brandybuck,” said one hobbit.
“And I am Pippin Took,” said the other.
“We are the order of the Gondorian Charity Foundation and would like to speak to you about a donation for the poor and homeless.”
“Or liberty bonds for the war,” Pippin threw in.
Merry elbowed him. “What war?” he said through clenched teeth.
“You know, the they’re fighting over at Helm’s Deep that Frodo dragged us into…huh?” Merry whispered something in Pippin’s ear and it dawned on him. “Oh, yes. That’s right. Never mind. Wrong story.”
Merry turned his attention back to Sarumezer who simply stared at them. “Are we at the presence of Mr.. Scrooge or Mr. Marley?” Merry inquired.
“Mr. Gandalf Marley fell into shadow and has been dead these seven years this very night.”
“Hey, I remember that!” Pippin cried. “And Gandalf ain’t dead! He’s OW!” Merry shut him up with a swift kick in the shin.
“Anyway, Mr. Scrooge,” Merry continued as Pippin rubbed his sore shin, “without any further interruptions, what donation shall we put you down for?”
Sarumezer gave him a long pointed glare. “Nothing.”
“You wish to remain anonymous?” Merry asked hopefully.
“All I wish is to be left alone!” Sarumezer cried, jumped up to his feet. “My taxes go to pay for prisons and poorhouses. If the homeless want shelter, they can seek shelter there!”
“But some would rather die!” Merry exclaimed.
Sarumezer glowered at him and raged in a tight voice, “If they would rather die, then they’d better do it and decrease the surplus population. Now get out of my office! Or I shall throw you out!”
Merry and Pippin wasted no time scurrying out the door. But good-natured Pippin was never one to leave on a bad note. He leaned back into the doorway and called, “Merry Christmas!” before Merry dragged him outside.
“Bah, orcbug!” Sarumezer yelled back, slamming the door so hard the walls shuddered with his hate.
The afternoon wore into the evening. There were times when Aragorn looked up from his work, resting his weary eyes as he stared out wistfully toward the softly falling snow, toward the street that would lead him to his home, his family, the one happiness he had in his life.
“Crachit! Back to work!” Sarumezer’s voice snarled from the next room.
With a sigh, Aragorn snapped back to the real world, a wretched world of percentages, integers, and fractions. His family wouldn’t become a reality until he arrived home.
Closing time finally rolled around, and Aragorn brought Sarumezer his mail. There was only one item, a letter from Sarumezer’s nephew, Boromir. “Blast that wretched nephew of mine!” Sarumezer growled, tearing up the red envelope without bothering to open it. “Every year he sends me one of those bloody invitations for his bloody dinner party when he knows *** well I can’t bloody make it! If I had my way, every idiot who goes around with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips shall be baked with his own cookies and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.”
Aragorn stared at him. “Cookies, sir?”
“I’d like to see you think of something more clever at the top of your head!” Sarumezer snapped. He stood to put on his hat and scarf and saw that his clerk still stood where he was. “What is it, Crachit!” he yelled. “Don’t you want to go home?”
“Yes, sir, that is what I wanted to speak to you about,” Aragorn began nervously. “You see, I…”
“Oh, do let me guess,” Sarumezer sneered nastily. “You want the entire day off tomorrow?”
“Yes, sir,” Aragorn answered, ducking his head should Sarumezer try to whack him with his staff again. “It would waste expensive coal for the fire since you’ll have no one to do business with,” he added as an afterthought.
“Hmm…good point,” Sarumezer sighed. “Very well, Crachit. Take the blasted day off.”
“Oh, thank you, sir!” Aragorn cried happily.
“Be here all the earlier the next morning,” he continued as he brushed past.
“I will, sir!” Aragorn called. “And Merry Christmas!”
“Christmas! Bah, orcbug!” Sarumezer shouted angrily and slammed the door behind him.