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A Christmas carol

R.L. Scrooge was a rich and powerful man. He owned vast tracks of land in North Texas, including choice parcels Downtown and in the suburbs. He lived in a $1 million home in the Chase Oaks subdivision of Plano with his young blonde wife and two young blonde daughters behind a security gate, a security wall, a security system and a security guard.

R.L. commuted to his office on the 40th floor of the NationsBank building in his private helicopter, and he launched at the Dallas Club regularly. In fact, when he had one too many scotches at lunch, he liked to remind everyone that he had built the first 10,000 strip shopping centers in Arlington.

One Christmas Eve afternoon, R.L. was sitting in his office, admiring his view of the city and thinking about his Christmas trip to Aspen, when Bob Crachit knocked on his door. Bob was one of R.L.’s bean counters, a quiet fellow who lived in a house with four mortgages in East Dallas. Bob’s house had four mortgages because his neighborhood was red-lined, and he couldn’t find anyone who would lend him the full value of the house. R.L. could have straightened the problem out with a phone call, but he didn’t like to do things like that.

“Bidness is bidness,” he was fond of saying.

“R.L.,” said Bob, “there’s something wrong with some of these numbers.”

“Boy, what could possibly be wrong?” asked R.L., who often sounded like Foghorn Leghorn when he was in a good mood. “Aren’t we buying, selling or developing every strip shopping center in the city?”

“That’s part of the problem,” said Bob. “All of these properties are listed on the books as being worth millions and millions, but they are barely worth thousands and thousands. We can’t keep inflating the values like that. It will all come tumbling down.”

“Boy,” said R.L., “don’t worry about it. After all, bidness is bidness.” That evening, as R.L. was 40,000 feet in the air, snoozing in first class (Upgraded, of course, for what kind of chump actually pays for first class?), he thought he felt someone nudging his shoulder. He turned around, and the airplane was gone. Instead, he was floating above the Rockies next to someone dressed like Lady Bird Johnson.

“Did I have too many scotches?” R.L. asked Lady Bird.

“No more than usual,” she said. “I am the Ghost of Christmas Past, and we have some bidness to take care of.”

Then, she snapped her fingers, and they were transported to Christmas Eve, 1925. R.L. saw himself as a small boy, and all of the men looked like Dan Ackroyd in “Driving Miss Daisy.”

“Ah, that was a Christmas,” said R.L. “That’s the way life should be. The colored folks knew their place, the white folks knew their place, and women knew their place. Say, I don’t remember Dan Ackroyd being in my family.”

“Get real,” said Lady Bird, and she vanished. R.L. blinked, and found himself outside a courtroom. Someone dressed like the guy who played Lt. Gerard in “The Fugitive” was handcuffed to him.

“Shut up,” said Lt. Gerard before R.L. could speak. “I am the Ghost of Christmas Future, and we have some bidness to take care of.”

They walked into the courtroom, and R.L. saw himself sitting at the defendant’s table next to a lawyer whose suit cost almost as much as R.L.’s private helicopter. Even worse, the 12 people on the jury all looked like Bob Cratchit. “Don’t tell me – Bob was right about those land deals,” R.L. said. “Hey,” said Gerard, “bidness is bidness.”

Suddenly, R.L. saw a way out.

Isn’t there supposed to be another ghost, the Ghost of Christmas Present?” he asked. “Don’t I get a chance to atone for all of this?”

“Get real,” said Gerard. “We make our own present. What do you think this is, a fairy tale?”


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By |2015-07-13T22:21:19-05:00December 1st, 1992|All Columns, All Magazine Articles, Holidays|0 Comments

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