'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
A CHRISTMAS STORY WONDERFUL LIFE CAROL
I love the Christmas season, especially the traditional Christmas movies. I’ve watched those old movies so many times now, they sort of blend together. Without a doubt, my favorite is the classic film with the young boy, Ralphie, who wants to get a BB gun for Christmas, but his Old Man is really frustrated because he works for a mean old miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, down at the Bailey Brothers Building and Loan in the Bedford Falls section of London.
One day Ralphie gets a Little Orphan Annie decoder ring. As he’s trying to decode a message, he goes into a trance and suddenly the Ghost of Christmas Past appears, whose name is Clarence, and he shows Ralphie what London would be like if he had never been born. Ralphie is horrified to discover London has been renamed Pottersville. Also his school, Warren G. Harding Elementary School, is now named Old Fezziwig’s. Ralphie’s spirits are raised a bit when he sees that his 4th grade class is having a joyful Christmas party, but then he gets sad again when Harry Bailey falls through the ice and drowns and his buddy Flick gets his tongue stuck to a frozen flag pole. The clincher is when he sees that Schwartz’s desk is empty, with just his crutch there. The Ghost shakes his head sadly and says, “I see a crutch without an owner. And Mary is an old maid.”
Then the Ghost of Christmas Past brings Ralphie to another scene, and he sees his Old Man slaving away in Scrooge’s office, trying to fix the furnace by the faint flickering light of a single leg lamp. Scrooge’s partner, Jacob Marley, lies at the point of death, but Scrooge refuses to call an expensive doctor because Uncle Billy misplaced $8,000 in cash earlier that morning. Even though Sam Wainwright (hee haw!) sent a telegram pledging up to $25,000 to help, Scrooge still decides just to sit there, reading the Sunday comics and cursing out the Bumpus hounds, and waiting for Mr. Martini to show up with some wine.
Outside Scrooge’s office, Bert the cop, Ernie the cab driver, and Scrooge’s nephew Fred sing “I Love You Truly” in the rain, but their singing is interrupted when Scut Farkus and Grover Dill jump them from behind, and twist their arms until they cry, “Uncle!”
Ralphie can hear his Old Man grumbling about his longing to leave Bedford Falls and travel the world. But ever since that day when he married Mary Cratchit, the same day there was economic panic and a run on Higbee’s department store, the Old Man was destined to be stuck in that boring town forever.
Then the Ghost leaves Ralphie all alone in a dark cemetery, where Raphie sees the graves of Scrooge, Harry Bailey, and the sad remains of the Old Man’s shattered Major Award. He thinks he hears the sound of taps being played, gently.
Ralphie is frantic that he has missed Christmas, but then suddenly he is back in his house. He sees his brother Randy sleeping on the floor, cradling a toy zeppelin, while Zuzu is playing with her petals and ringing a little bell on the Christmas tree. So it’s a wonderful Christmas after all!
In the final scene, Ralphie takes his Red Ryder BB gun and shoots Mr. Potter in the butt, and says, “God bless us, everyone!” Then he quickly runs through the Minnesota snow to his school, where he will play the part of a shepherd in the Christmas play, directed this year by Charlie Brown.
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