Bob Scrooge


December 23. Two days before Christmas, one day before Christmas vacation, as far as the alumni of Carson High School was concerned. It was the last day of school before Christmas vacation. Fluey, Multi, and the rest were going to get together after school to exchange gifts, since they were all going to spend Christmas Eve with their families. Usually Fluey would be eager to get to school. There were only three times during the year where he'd actually be excited about going to school: the day before Christmas Break, the day before Spring Break, and the last day of school. Peter and Valerie thought that this time would be no exception. At about seven o' clock, Peter and Valerie went downstairs for breakfast.

"Fluey up yet?" Peter asked.

"Not yet," Valerie said. "But I don't think I have to prod him, like I usually do."

"Yeah. He only likes going to school on the day before Christmas Eve 'cause he knows he won't have to do any work!"

Valerie laughed. By seven fifteen, Fluey finally staggered downstairs. He looked terrible, tired and disheveled.

"What happened to you?" Peter asked. "Did a hurricane hit and we weren't aware of it?"

"No," Fluey replied. "I was up all night finishing my homework, among other things."

Fluey began running his hands through his hair, trying to get it manageable or something. When he finally got it looking good, he grabbed his backpack.

"I'll see you guys later," he said. "I may be late. You know me and the guys are getting together after school. And we might end up going over to Edison."

Thomas Edison was a private school that a friend of Fluey's and Multi's went to. His name was Coiley Collins, and Peter only knew him through a movie the three boys made for Screen Gems not too long ago. Speaking of Screen Gems, Peter checked the clock, and had to get going himself. So did Valerie.

"Hey, we'd better get going or our bosses will have a cow!" Peter shouted.

"Your boss might," Valerie said. "I work for my dad, and he's giving us a half day today and tomorrow."

"He should give you the whole day. By the way, are your parents still coming over for dinner tomorrow?"

"Oh yeah. Definitely."

Peter and Valerie kissed each other goodbye, and they were off. The halls of Carson High were jammed with kids wearing nothing but red and green, and other festive colors. Keith, Laurie, Erin, Amara, and Michelle walked into homeroom. Linda followed. Multi and Shawn were already there, going over plans for Christmas.

"Hey you two are forgetting the mistletoe," Laurie teased.

"Ha, ha," Shawn said.

"She's just jealous because she doesn't have a boyfriend," Multi said.

"Droll, Mills, very droll," Laurie said. "By the way, where's Fluey?"

"I don't know," Multi said. "I hope he doesn't flake out. He said he'd show up."

Ten seconds later, Fluey dashed into the classroom, just as the bell rang. The teacher, Mr. Allen, checked his watch and then turned to Fluey.

"Made it on the last second, Mr. McAlister," he said. "You're losing your touch."

Fluey didn't answer. He just walked over to his desk breathlessly.

"Late," he said, catching his breath. "I know. Sorry."

"You okay?" Linda asked.

"Yeah, you look winded," Multi said.

"Fine," Fluey said. "I just ran about halfway across the school! That and pulling an all nighter doesn't do much for your morale."

The others nodded. Homeroom was the same old same old. There were morning announcements, roll call, so on and so on. The bell rang finally, and the kids filed out on their way to their next class, which happened to be math. Nobody did much. A lot of kids got up and doodled Christmas messages on the blackboard.

"So what's the plan for after school?" Erin asked.

"Well, we're gonna head over to Edison," Multi said. "At least Fluey and I are. We're gonna get Coiley and then head on over to the Hound Dog."

"We'll meet you guys there," Fluey replied. "This day is gonna be the longest of our lives."

"It always is when it comes to vacations," Linda said.

"School makes me sick," Fluey replied. Then, being the ham he is, he stood up and started coughing, over doing it a little. The others laughed at his act. Then the fake cough turned into a real one, and it sounded awful.

"Whoa, easy there, Fluey," Multi said.

"We knew school made you sick but we didn't think literally," Shawn said.

"Unintentional," Fluey replied. He groaned, and put his hand to his chest as he sat back down.

"You all right?" Linda asked.

"Yeah," Fluey replied. Then he began coughing again.

"Better watch it, Fluey," Multi said. "It sounds like you're gonna cough up a lung in a minute."

Once the coughing fit was over, Fluey picked up a folder and then started hitting Multi with it.

"Ow! Hey! Watch it!" he yelled. "Okay, okay! I surrender! I surrender! Truce!"

The others started laughing. Multi ran a hand through his hair and shook his head. There were times when he questioned his maturity versus his friends' maturity.

"Fluey, sometimes I think you have the maturity of a three-year-old," he said.

Fluey just gave Multi a smug look and that was all there was to it. The day went on. Fluey was still coughing, and it seemed to sound worse by the hour.

"Fluey, I think you should see the school nurse," Linda said at the end of third period. "Your cough's sounding terrible."

"I guess maybe you're right," Fluey replied. "I'll see you guys later, okay?"

The others nodded and walked off. Fluey went straight for the nurse's office. The nurse, Ms. Pratt, was sitting at her desk, sorting through medicines that some students had to take, no matter what.

"Hi, Ms. Pratt," Fluey said.

"Fluey McAlister," Ms. Pratt said. "Long time no see. Last time you were in here, I had to treat you for a bump on the head.."

"I got hit in the head with a volleyball," Fluey said. "Multi has a killer serve."

"Well, I know you don't have gym until fifth period, so what's the story?"

Fluey was about to tell her when he started coughing again. He coughed so hard, he dropped his books and had to grab onto the side of Ms. Pratt's desk for support.

"Never mind," Ms. Pratt said. "I think I know. You're the sixth kid to come in with a hacking cough, Fluey. Sit down here. I'm going to take your temperature."

Ms. Pratt had an old fashioned glass thermometer. Fluey had always hated having his temperature taken, especially with the glass thermometers. Peter and Valerie had one of those new thermometers that you stick in your ear and just push a button, and it's all over with. At any rate, Ms. Pratt took out her thermometer and stuck it under Fluey's tongue.

"Now don't bite on that," she said. Fluey nodded. "You know there's something going around. Probably the flu."

Fluey nodded. Three minutes later, Ms. Pratt took out the thermometer and adjusted it. Then she put it down and picked up the phone.

"Is your aunt at home, Fluey?" she asked.

"No, she's at work," Fluey said. "But she may be out now. She said she was going to do some shopping today. You could try though."

Ms. Pratt dialed the bank where Valerie worked. Another secretary answered the phone.

"Hello, Cartwright Bank," he said.

"Hello, this is Edith Pratt, Carson High's school nurse," she said. "I need to speak with Ms. Valerie Cartwright."

"I'm sorry, you just missed her. She'll be out for an hour or so. Can I take a message?"

"Well, I can't wait an hour, so if you could just tell her that I'm sending her nephew home sick, I'd appreciate it."

"Of course."

Ms. Pratt hung up the phone.

"Your aunt just stepped out," she said.

"You could try my uncle," Fluey said. "There's a guarantee that he'd be at work."

Ms. Pratt nodded and picked up the phone again. She was a huge fan of The Monkees, so she knew the Screen Gems number by heart. Screen Gems was a hive of activity. Camille, Sarah, and Phyllis were singing their rendition of "Sleigh Ride" a la Ronettes style. The others were cheering them on.

"You girls should cut a Christmas album," Quackerjack said.

"And be photographed in what they're wearing now," Davy said.

The girls happened to be wearing red mini dresses, trimmed in white fur (but it was fake). But that wasn't what Davy meant. The mini dresses were really short, and it showed off the girls' legs quite nicely. Reggie was practically drooling, since Sarah had a body that just wouldn't quit, legs included.

"Hey Reg, rent a drool bucket," Sarah said, smacking him upside the head. "Honestly, us women aren't made just to wear short skirts so you guys can drool!"

"Then why do you wear stuff like that, Sarah?" Mike asked. "You're constantly wearin' skin tight body suits, short skirts, short shorts, all that sexy stuff."

"Well if you got it, flaunt it!"

"I'll keep that in mind."

The phone on the wall rang just then. It was a good thing too. Mike probably would have said something that he'd regret, especially if Sarah was around. He stood up, walked over to it, and picked it up.

"Screen Gems, Mike speakin'," he said.

"Is Peter Tork there?" Ms. Pratt asked. "This is Edith Pratt at Carson High, I really need to talk to him."

"Yeah, sure," Mike said. "Hey Pete!"

"Yeah?" Peter asked.

"Phone for you. Edith Pratt at the high school."

"The school nurse?"

Peter began to get nervous. He always got nervous whenever anybody from the school called him during school hours. But he took the phone from Mike anyway.

"Hello?" he asked.

"Mr. Tork?" Ms. Pratt said. "Edith Pratt. I'm glad I got a hold of you. I called your wife, but she wasn't there."

"What's the problem, Ms. Pratt? Another gym class accident, or worse?"

"Oh no, nothing like that. Fluey came into my office with a hacking cough, and he has a temperature of a hundred and one, and I'd like to have you come pick him up. I know he walks to school, and I'd rather not send him home by himself."

"Yeah, okay. I'll be there right away. Thank you for calling."

Peter hung up the phone and then grabbed his coat from the couch that sat in the middle of the room.

"Hey, Pete, what's the rush?" Micky asked.

"I have to get down to the high school," Peter replied. "The nurse wants me to pick Fluey up."

"Uh oh, what happened?" Mike asked. "Multi hit him with a volleyball again?"

"No, actually," Peter said. "The nurse said he was coughing and had a low grade fever, and she didn't want him walking home in this weather. You know they're calling for snow."

"In LA," Reggie said, nodding.

"Right," Peter said. "Tell Bob where I went. I probably won't be back today, either. It depends."

"Sure," Mike replied. "I'll give Bob the word."

"Thanks, Michael."

"Any time."

Peter was off. Mike knew Bob would understand. He was pretty easy going. Or so he thought. During the Christmas season, Bob was known to get pushy. The boys were slacking, the Writer usually didn't work on any Christmas themed movies, and not only were the boys slacking, they were putting off deadlines. Not only that, but Bob just didn't like Christmas too much. He came out of his office carrying a stack of papers just then.

"Can't you guys do anything but sit there and sing Christmas songs?!" he shouted. "Honestly!"

"We already finished filming that movie of yours, Bob," Mike said. "What else do you want us to do?"

"Help me drum up publicity for it!" Bob shouted. "This is all just completely crazy. It always gets like this around Christmas. Where's Peter? I gotta talk to him."

"Peter left," Mike said. "He's probably not comin' back in today, either."

"And how come?"

"The school nurse called. Apparently, Fluey caught a bug or somethin' and the nurse sent him home."

"And why didn't she call Valerie?"

"'Cause Valerie was probably out."

"That's gratitude for you. What time did he leave?"

"Just now."

"He's probably not home yet. I'll call him in about an hour."

With that, Bob took his stack of papers and walked off. The others stared after him as if he were crazy.

"Ebenezer Scrooge lives," Sarah said, sarcastically.

The others agreed to that one. Back at the school in the meantime, the bell just rang, and the kids began going to their lockers to gather up books and stuff like that. Fluey pulled his backpack out of his locker, shoved some of his books into it, grabbed his coat, and slammed the door shut.

"What's up?" Multi asked.

"I'm going home," Fluey replied. "Uncle Peter's picking me up."

"Not feeling good, huh?"

"There's an understatement. Call me after school. If I'm feeling up to it, come on over, okay?"

"Sure. I'll see you later. I've got to get to chemistry before the bell rings."

"Well, don't blow up the lab."

Multi smacked Fluey in the arm and left. Fluey gathered his things and walked out to the front of the school to wait for Peter. He came within ten minutes, much to Fluey's relief.

"What did Bob say when you told him you were leaving early?" he asked.

"I didn't tell him," Peter said. "But I have a feeling he'll go easy on me. I have a good excuse."

"That slave driver?"

"Fluey, come on. Bob's not a slave driver. He just gets tense during the holidays."

Fluey nodded. He had seen Bob in action during the winter, and especially during Christmas. At any rate, Valerie was already home when Peter and Fluey entered the house.

"You're home early," Peter said.

"I know," Valerie replied. "Martha got a message for me from the school nurse, so I asked my dad if I could have the rest of the day off."

"I see."

Fluey threw his gear onto the floor and flopped down on the couch. Valerie sat down next to him and put her hand on his forehead.

"I probably shouldn't have let you go to school today," she said.

"Well, I didn't start feeling lousy until I got to school," Fluey replied. "All I want to do right now is sleep."

"Sounds good to me," Peter said. "I'm going to call Rampart and set up an appointment with Dr. Brackett or Lynn or Dr. Early, or somebody."

"Better count Dr. Early out. Phyllis told me that he wasn't going to be there today, tomorrow, or Christmas, either."

Peter nodded and dialed Rampart General Hospital. Dixie picked up the phone.

"Rampart General," she said. "Dixie McCall speaking."

"Hi, Dix, it's me," Peter said.

"Hi, Peter. What's up?"

"Plenty. The school nurse called and sent Fluey home sick, and I was wondering if I could make an appointment to bring him in at Dr. Brackett's or Lynn's earliest."

"Well, I'll have to call you back. You know Joe's not in today, and Lynn and Kel are busy right now, so I'll have to check things over."

"Okay."

Peter hung up the phone, hoping Dixie would get back to him soon. The phone rang almost immediately.

"Hello?" he asked.

"Peter it's me," Bob said. "Mike told me why you left early, and I understand completely."

"Well, thank you very much, Bob."

"Just come in about an hour early tomorrow."

"Bob! I can't come in an hour early tomorrow!"

"Well, you'd better. Look, if you come in early, I'll give you half the day off, okay?"

"Promise?"

"But only if you come in early."

"Deal."

Peter hung up and sighed. There were times when Bob just drove him completely out of his mind. Half an hour later, the phone rang. Valerie picked it up this time.

"Hi, Dixie," she said.

"Is Peter around?" Dixie asked.

"Yes, but he's in with Fluey right now. Want me to tell him Dr. Brackett's or Lynn's schedule?"

"Yes. Dr. Brackett can take him tomorrow morning around eight. It's the only time he has open."

"Eight in the morning? I don't know, Bob made him promise to come in early."

"Well, it's the only time Dr. Brackett has open."

"Okay, I'll tell him. Thanks."

Valerie hung up, and then went up the stairs. She met Peter halfway.

"How's he doing?" she asked.

"I don't know," Peter said. "He said he had a headache, his throat hurt, and he said his chest started hurting whenever he coughed. And that cough sounds really bad."

"Well, I got Dr. Brackett's schedule for you. He can see Fluey at eight tomorrow morning."

"But I have to go into work early tomorrow."

"So do I. I told my father I'd be in tomorrow morning by seven thirty."

"Bob will just have to understand."

That was all there was to that. Peter didn't have any other choice. Bob in the meantime, was sorting through the Writer's old scripts, trying to figure out which ones to archive and which ones to toss. As he was doing that, Mike entered the office.

"You gonna be workin' late?" he asked.

"Looks like it," Bob replied. "Why do you ask?"

"No reason. I gotta go pick up my cousin and my aunts at the airport. You doin' anythin' for Christmas?"

"The usual. Nothing. I gotta get through my paperwork before the twenty-seventh."

"You're a workaholic. Take a break!"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah."

Mike left. Bob continued to work through his paperwork. The next morning, Screen Gems was a hive of activity once more. Mike and Jerry were doing their "Jingle Bell Rock" bit, which looked like an act out of vaudeville or something like that. Bob heard all the commotion, and turned off the backing music right in the middle of the song.

"Turn that off!" he yelled. "I can't think with all that racket! And where's Peter?"

"I dunno," Drake said.

"I told him to come in early, and he's late! Boy, I'll unload an earful on him!"

"Maybe 'e's stuck in the holiday traffic," Davy said. "You know 'ow it is with last minute shoppahs. Right, Reg?"

Reggie threw Davy a dirty Look. He was known for waiting until the last minute to do his shopping. At any rate, Bob unloaded some paperwork on the group and told them to get working on it.

"How come?" Jerry asked.

"Because I said so that's why!" Bob yelled. "Oh yeah, and get practicing."

"Practicin' for what?" Mike asked.

"The biggest concert event of Christmas history. You guys are gonna sing Christmas songs at the Hollywood Bowl tomorrow."

"What?!" Reggie shouted.

"Not tomorrow!" Mike yelled. "We all had plans!"

Bob rolled his eyes and walked off. The others stared at him as if he were crazy. He was just ticked that Peter hadn't shown up yet. But he had a good reason for being late. He and Fluey were at Rampart General, in one of the examining rooms. Dr. Brackett was doing the preliminary check up, as part of the examination. All sorts of things were running through Peter's head by this point. He was up all night worrying about it. Fluey's fever had increased slightly, which made Peter even more worried than ever. His worst thought was that Fluey had contracted mononucleosis.

"Well?" he finally asked.

"Well, what we have here is a case of pneumonia," Dr. Brackett said. "I don't think there's any need for Fluey to stay here at Rampart. This can be treated easily with some antibiotics."

"Oh thank goodness," Peter said.

"There's just one catch. I don't have any of the antibiotics here right now. But I'm supposed to get some in by two o' clock today. I'll run them by your house."

"Got it, Doc. Anything else I should know?"

"Just keep Fluey home, and in bed. That's about all I can tell you right now. And if he gets any worse, give me a call. I'll try to get the antibiotics to you as soon as they come in."

"Okay. Thanks, Dr. Brackett."

Peter and Fluey left Rampart and headed home. Then Peter called Bob at the studio and explained why he hadn't come in early.

"I had to take Fluey to Rampart," he explained. "Dr. Brackett could only see him at eight!"

"Well, there goes your half day off. You'd better get down here right now! I've got a project on my hands and I need all of you here."

"But Bob, I can't! Fluey has pneumonia, and Valerie's at work! I don't want to leave Fluey here alone when he's sick!"

"He's sixteen! He can take care of himself! Now get your butt down here right now or you're fired!"

Bob slammed the phone down. Peter sighed and listened to the dial tone for a minute or so. Then he dialed the bank and told Valerie the news.

"Worse yet, Bob wants me to come in or I'm fired," he said.

"All right," Valerie said. "I'll talk to my dad. I'm sure he'll give me the day off. I'll be home as soon as I can."

Valerie hung up, and then went into her father's office.

"Dad, we need to talk," she said.

"What about?" her father, Charles, asked.

"Peter just called. He and Fluey got back from the doctors."

"So what's the news?"

"Well, Peter said Fluey has pneumonia, and he has to go into work, but he doesn't want to leave Fluey home alone. This is an emergency, Dad. If you want, I'll work New Years Eve, I'll do the weekends, I'll do whatever you want me to do, but I just need today off!"

"Well, pneumonia hasn't killed anybody in a long time, but it's still pretty serious. Go ahead, take the day off, honey. We'll work something out."

"Thanks, Dad! You're the best!"

"While we're on the subject, I think I'd better get in touch with your mother and cancel our plans for dinner. I don't think we should come over considering Fluey's under the weather, as it were."

Valerie agreed, and she was off. Peter finally made it into work. Bob wasn't too happy.

"Where were you?!" he shouted.

"I already told you," Peter said.

"You're later than I thought!"

"Well, I'm sorry Bob! Next time my nephew's sick with pneumonia, I'll rush out of the house as fast as I can. I have to meet Sergeant Bob's schedule I'll say."

"There's no need for sarcasm, Peter. You're late, you blew the half day."

"I know."

"And there's nothing I can do about it. Fine with me."

"Thank you, Bob."

"I'm docking your pay."

"What?!"

"Well, think about it Peter! You left early yesterday, you came in late today! It's only natural I dock your pay!"

"Bob that's unreasonable!" Mike shouted. "He had a good excuse!"

"Excuses, excuses," Bob replied. "Now listen, Pete, since you came in late, you don't know what's going on. You guys are giving a concert at the Hollywood Bowl tomorrow."

"But tomorrow's Christmas!" Peter shouted.

"I know that," Bob said. "More crowds. People coming in from out of town. It's perfect!"

"It's insane!" Jerry shouted. "I can't spend tomorrow at the Hollywood Bowl performing! I'm not even doing my radio show tomorrow!"

"Yeah," Reggie said. "Besides, what about Sarah's party? She always throws one on Christmas!"

"You'll have to cancel then," Bob said. "Oh, and by the way, everybody's working late tonight so we can pull this concert together."

Everyone began shouting at once.

"What?!" Reggie shouted.

"You can't do that!" Davy yelled.

"What about our families?" Drake asked.

"Bob, this is so unfair!" Camille shrieked.

"I'm not workin' late!" Mike yelled over the din. "My cousin and my aunts are in town, Joe and Aunt Kate are comin' over for dinner tonight, and I've got too many plans for tomorrow! I'm not workin' late and that's that!"

"Okay fine," Bob said. "You don't wanna work late, you don't hafta work late."

"Thank you."

"You're fired."

"What?!"

Everyone began talking at once then. Yelling at Bob, claiming he couldn't fire Mike like that, protesting about the concert, and working late.

"Look, I want to pull this together," Bob said. "It's our slow time, so we need something to make us money. And this'll do it."

"Fantastic," Reggie said sarcastically. "We're gonna be pulling an all nighter just so you can make some money."

"Charity must be foreign to you, Bob," Sarah said.

Mike shook his head in disgust and prepared to pack up his things. He was completely ticked off. Not that being fired bugged him. He'd probably pull out of it by moving to a new record company, or even starting his own. What ticked him off was that Bob was making everybody work late on Christmas Eve, work Christmas day, and finally cut Peter's paycheck.

"I can't believe he docked your pay," he said. "You had a very legitimate reason for comin' in late, too!"

"I know," Peter said. "Boy, I'm in trouble."

"Yeah? How come?"

"Well, I needed the money for the antibiotics. Those things aren't cheap you know."

"Oh, I know. Hey, what are you gonna tell Dr. Brackett and Valerie?"

"The truth, I guess. Maybe Dr. Brackett and I can work something out."

Mike nodded. He gathered everything of his together, and then left, giving Bob a dirty Look as he crossed the set.

"Merry Christmas, Bob," he said, bitterly. "And a happy New Year!"

"Aw, go sit on it, Mike!" Bob shouted, and stormed into his office. "Now maybe I can get some work done."

The others were working on the concert event. Bob staid in his office and went through paperwork, at least until the door opened.

"Well, I see you're still swimming through paperwork," a voice said. Bob looked up and took off his glasses. He saw his younger sister, Sadie (short for Sondra), standing right there in front of him.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, going back to his paperwork.

"Since when do I need an invitation to visit my big brother?" Sadie asked. "Bobby, you gotta take a break. You're drowning in your work."

"I've got to get this put together," Bob said. "The group's gotta perform."

"On Christmas?"

"Sure. It'll make some big bucks! Goodness knows, this studio could use some. Our last picture we made was a bomb!"

"Bobby, please take a break. It's Christmas. It's not healthy to be overworking yourself, or your employees. Come over to my house for dinner tonight. I'm having a huge get together."

"Sadie, you invite me to your annual Christmas Eve get together every year, and every year I say no. This year isn't going to be any different. Especially if your husband's gonna be there."

"Of course Dirk's gonna be there! What do you have against him, Bobby?"

"He's a jerk."

"Oh come on, Bobby!"

"And that's another thing, Sadie. Don't call me Bobby. I hate that name."

"You used to like it."

"Bobby is a little kid's name. No grown man in their right mind goes by Bobby."

"Oh? Well how about Bobby Day, Bobby Darin, Bobby Sherman, Bobby Hart, Bobby Helms, Bobby Vee, Bobby Vinton . . . . ."

"I get the gist, Sadie! Not me. I prefer Bob, and you know it, and so does Dirk the Jerk."

"Look, just try to come over, okay? You haven't even seen Dirk since the wedding!"

"Why did you ever get married?"

"I fell in love, that's why. Which is more than I can say for you. You practically have a girlfriend for every day of the week."

"I'm a swingin' bachelor. Look, if you're just gonna stand there and fight with me, get outta here!"

"You haven't changed a bit, Bobby."

"Out!"

Sadie left. Good thing, too. Bob was about ready to hurl a box of scripts at her. It was one long, excruciating day. Bob wouldn't let anybody call home and tell them they were going to be late. They were on a strict schedule.

"Okay, that's a wrap," he finally said.

"Thank you!" Reggie shouted.

"Hallelujah!" Jerry yelled. He was exhausted.

"I'll see everybody tomorrow," Bob said.

"Not me," Jerry said. "If you want to fire me because of it, Bob, fine. But I'm not doing that concert!"

"Me neither," Peter said.

"Okay, okay," Bob said. "You win. Probably nobody would show up anyway. Well, see you guys bright and early on the twenty-sixth."

"The twenty-sixth?!" Camille yelled. "That's it? One day off?!"

"Bob, get real," Reggie said. "We're not working until after New Years. Deal with it!"

"Fine, have it your way," Bob said. "Just don't be surprised at your next paychecks! I'm docking all your pays! Including yours, Peter!"

"You can't!" Peter yelled. "You already did!"

"Well, I'm docking it some more!"

"But Bob, I can't possibly afford those antibiotics if you dock my pay more than you already have!"

"You should have thought of that before you decided to come in late this morning."

Bob went into his office to gather his things. Everybody else was ready to throttle him, except Peter. He was ready to forgive and forget, since it was Christmas Eve after all.

"Merry Christmas Bob Scrooge," Sarah said.

"I hope your Christmas tree has termites!" Reggie yelled, and the two of them left. Everybody else grumbled and started out. It was almost nine thirty by then. Peter walked over to Bob's office.

"Merry Christmas," he said, smiling. He was trying to make peace.

"Bah humbug!" Bob yelled. "I've got better things to do than waste my time with Christmas, lights, trees, tinsel, Santa Claus, sleigh rides, and silver bells!"

Peter heaved a sigh and walked off. The snow was beginning to fall harder. It looked like LA was in for a real blizzard. That meant a white Christmas. Normally, Peter would have been thrilled, but he was down in the dumps. As he was walking home, a car horn honked at him. He turned around and saw Multi and Coiley driving down the street.

"Hi, Peter!" Multi called.

"Multi, hi," Peter said. "Hey Coiley. What are you guys doing out so late?"

"Waiting for you to get off work," Coiley said. "Multi told me about Fluey. We were wondering if he was okay."

"Well, he has pneumonia," Peter said. "It's not a very serious case, but he's still feeling pretty lousy."

"I'll bet," Multi said.

"Look, you two better get going," Peter said. "It's gonna get pretty tough to drive around soon, and your parents might be worried."

"Yeah," Coiley said. "We'll see you later, Peter."

"Bye."

Peter waved as the boys drove off, and then started walking back home. Valerie stood in the doorway, hands on her hips.

"Where were you?" she asked. "I thought you were getting half the day off."

"I was," Peter said. "But since I didn't come in early, Bob made us all stay late and he docked everyone's pay because we all refused to work on the concert. He docked mine more than he did before!"

"That's just great. By the way, call Dr. Brackett."

"Why? Is something wrong?"

"Well, he called earlier and said something about not having the antibiotics ready yet. Also, Fluey's cough is sounding much, much worse, and I don't know what to do."

Peter groaned, and picked up the phone. He dialed Rampart and immediately got in touch with Dr. Brackett.

"What took you so long?" he asked.

"Bob made us work overtime," Peter explained. "About the antibiotics . . . . ."

"They just came in, but there's no way I can get them out to you."

"Why not?"

"Well, look out the window. We're completely snowed in, and I don't have any chains for my tires."

"Me neither. I can't come out there and get them. Also Valerie said that Fluey was sounded worse than he was before and . . . . ."

"Normally I'd suggest you bring him down here, but we're all snowed in. Besides, I wouldn't want him outside in this weather anyway. Just stay where you are, Peter. I'll figure something out."

"Okay. Look, I need those antibiotics, but Bob docked my pay, and I'm not sure if I'll be able to afford them or not."

"We'll work something out, Peter. Don't worry about it."

Peter couldn't help but worry. He hung up the phone, looked at Valerie, and sighed. It was about all they could do at this point in time.Mike, in the meantime was setting the table for Christmas dinner. Since Phyllis was still at the studio working on the concert, the family would be eating late. Of course, Mike started banging plates onto the table, followed by the glasses and the silverware. His cheeks were an interesting shade of red, and thunder clapped every time he used his magic.

"Uh oh, someone's mad," Sabrina's cat, Salem, said.

"Oh shut up, Fleabag!" Mike yelled. "That Bob is such a moron! He makes me so mad I could just . . . . oooohhhh!"

"Mayday! Mayday!" Salem whined running out of the room.

Mike's face turned bright red. Steam rushed out of his ears. If Joe, Phyllis, and Sabrina hadn't run in then, he would have gone through the roof.

"Mike, calm down," Joe said. "If you stopped thinking about Bob, you wouldn't get so mad."

"Who said I was mad?" Mike said. "I'M FURIOUS! You don't know what Bob's done this time!"

"You only told us a million times tonight, Mike," Sabrina said. "Come on, calm down and finish setting the table so we can eat."

"And try not to think about Bob," Phyllis said. "It's been a very long, hard, and trying day."

Mike nodded, and used his magic to finish setting the table. Then he walked into the kitchen. The girls were hanging out, making some last minute preparations on dinner. He grabbed a slice of carrot out of a bowl and began nibbling on it.

"Bob is such a Scrooge," he said.

"Don't I know it," Kate said.

"A visit from the ghost of Christmas past, present, and future wouldn't do him any harm," Mike replied. "In fact, I was thinkin' maybe we could get some magic together and . . . ."

"Michael!" Kate shouted.

"No magic," Zelda replied.

"But Aunt Zelda!" Mike yelled. "Bob needs to be taught a lesson! Aunt Kate, Aunt Hilda, you agree with me right?"

"Absolutely not," Hilda said. "I don't care if Bob's a Scrooge, Mike!"

"You don't use your magic to play Charles Dickens," Kate said. "And I don't want any bright ideas out of you, either, Sabrina."

"You guys are just no fun!" Mike yelled.

"Just promise us no magic, Michael," Kate said.

"Fine," Mike said, and he left. He grabbed Sabrina by the arm and pulled her out of the kitchen. Then he found Joe.

"Listen," he said. "We're gonna teach Bob a lesson by playin' Charles Dickens."

"But Aunt Kate said no magic," Sabrina said.

"Since when do we listen to our aunts?" Mike asked. "Come on, he needs this badly. He doesn't know how awful he's actin'."

"Okay, I'm in," Sabrina said.

"Kate's gonna murder us when she finds out," Joe said. "But I'll do it. I'll be the ghost of Christmas present."

"I'll take past," Sabrina said.

"And I'm future," Mike replied. "Okay, here's what we do."

The three of them huddled and Mike began whispering his plans. Bob, in the meantime, was vegging out on his couch, going through his paperwork while It's A Wonderful Lifewas playing on the TV. He worked for about three hours until it was about midnight. He fell asleep on the couch, TV set still on. A test pattern was there, the colored bars and the long beep. Suddenly, thunder sounded, and Bob shot to attention. He looked out the window. All he saw was snow. No thunder, and no lightning. He even opened his window and stuck his head out for a better look around.

"Huh," he said. "Must be imagining things."

Bob closed his window and turned around. Once he did, he was face to face with a man, about his age, wearing all black and chains. Bob recognized him as an old friend of his, Jake Marlon. Not only were he and Bob friends, they were partners. They had a studio and made low budget horror films there. Jake Marlon had also been dead for ten years. He was a marijuana addict, and drove his car one Christmas Eve while jazzed on the stuff. He crashed, and was killed instantly.

So is it any wonder why Bob let out a blood curdling scream when he saw Jake?

"AAAAUUUGGHHH!" he shrieked and ducked behind the couch. Jake sat on the couch and just stared at him.

"Boo," he said, oh so calmly.

"AAAAUUUGGHHH!" Bob shrieked again. Jake rolled his eyes.

"Come on, Bob," he groaned. "Suck it up."

"Wha . . . . . what are you doing here?" Bob asked. "You're supposed to be dead! You're dead! You can't come back to life! So what are you doing here?!"

"You've been a bad boy, Bobby. I gotta tell you, you know I was worse than you ever were."

"Yeah, I know. You did drugs, I staid clean."

"I know. Believe me, it was the biggest mistake of my life. And you're making the biggest mistake of your life, fella."

"What do you mean?"

"I've been stuck in limbo for ten years, and I gotta tell you, Bobby, it's not a pretty sight. I'm telling you this now. Tonight you'll be visited by three spirits. Starting at one o' clock."

"Ooohh, that's not good, Jake. I gotta get a lot of paperwork done, I'm swamped, I really need my sleep and . . . ."

"Well, tough, 'cause it's gonna happen tonight at one! You'd better listen to them and do whatever they say Bob, or else you're in a lot worse trouble than I am!"

With that, Jake snapped his fingers and disappeared. Bob was completely mystified. He grabbed the remote control and changed the channel away from the test pattern. Another one of those old Christmas movies was playing.

"I think . . . . . I think . . . . . I think I'm overworked," he said. Then he heard his stomach growl. "I need a pizza. Lucky for me, Pizza Palace delivers twenty-four hours, and they're open on Christmas."

Bob picked up the phone and ordered a large pizza with extra cheese, pepperoni, sausage, and onions. Then he started channel surfing, in order to find something on television that wasn't Christmas related. At one o' clock, his doorbell rang.

"Gotta be the pizza," he said. He stood up, and opened the door. There stood a pizza delivery girl, who looked a lot like Mike's cousin Sabrina.

"Great," he said. "How much do I owe you?"

"Fifteen sixty-nine," the delivery girl said. "Plus tip. By the way, I've got something for you."

"Lay it on me."

The delivery girl snapped her fingers and transformed. She now wore a long, flowing, white gown. Bob stared at her as if she were crazy.

"I'm the Ghost of Christmas Past," she said.

"Oh my lord," Bob said, dropping his pizza. "Long past?"

"Your past. Come on. We've got places to go."

"Where?"

"Into your past!"

The Ghost took Bob's hand and the two of them flew out the window. Bob wasn't so sure if he was dreaming or not. It all seemed so real, but it all seemed so unreal, too. When they landed, they found themselves in Cannon County, Michigan. Bob walked up to a small ranch house and rubbed his hand in a circle to de-fog the window.

"Hey," he said. "This is my house. In my home town."

"Right," the ghost said. "It's also Baby Bobby Rafelsen's first Christmas."

Bob looked into the window, and saw his parents, Alan and Joanna, and him as a baby. He was tearing through a large pile of presents, which included stuffed animals and various other toys, but Baby Bobby was more interested in the wrapping paper than the actually toys. His parents thought that was just the cutest thing.

"There was a time where you loved Christmas," the ghost said.

"Yeah," Bob said. "I think it was up until I was eight or so."

"Well, let's go to another Christmas."

The ghost shifted the scene to three years later. Little Bobby was ripping open presents right and left. His baby sister, Sadie, was playing with paper and ribbons. Bob laughed, remembering the whole scene. Then the scene shifted again to when Bob was seven, and Sadie was four. He and Sadie were opening presents, and one box seemed to be alive. Both of them opened the box, and a golden retriever puppy came out.

"A puppy!" little Bobby shouted. The puppy crawled out of the box and began licking his face, as well as Sadie's. Both of them were laughing and gushing over him.

"We named him Fred," Bob said to the ghost. "He didn't last too long though."

"What happened?" the ghost asked.

"Sadie and I took him outside to play. We were teaching him how to fetch, and an uncle of ours ran over him with his Buick."

The ghost nodded. The scene shifted once more to the year after that. An eight-year-old Bob was decorating the Christmas tree, being watched by his favorite aunt, Marcie. Five-year-old Sadie was scribbling a drawing of Santa Claus. As they were doing that, the phone rang. Marcie reached over and picked it up.

"Hello?" she asked. "Yes, I'm Alan Rafelsen's sister. Yes? Uh huh. I see. Okay. Okay, bye."

Marcie hung up the phone. Bobby and Sadie looked at her, wondering what was going on. Marcie looked at the kids and sighed.

"Bobby, Sadie," she said. "I'm afraid I have bad news."

"What?" Bobby asked.

"Your mom and dad were in an accident, and killed."

Bobby and Sadie just looked at Marcie. Then the floodgates burst. Both of them started screaming. That wasn't the worst part. The worst part was Bobby and Sadie were separated. None of the relatives wanted to handle them, and they were sent to different foster homes.

"I didn't see Sadie for years after that," Bob said, getting slightly misty-eyed. "She and I were close before our parents accident. We grew further apart. We're not even close today, now that she's moved to California."

"Come on," the ghost said. "We're going to another Christmas."

The ghost took Bob to California then. Bob was a nineteen-year-old college student, majoring in film and TV production. He sported a pastel colored suit (a la Miami Vice), a mullet, and rose tinted aviator style glasses.

"Sheesh," the ghost said. "You had bad taste!"

"Yeah I know," Bob said. "But that was the style then. Chalk it up to my What Was I Thinking files."

The ghost nodded. She and Bob started watching what was going on.

"Hey, I remember this," Bob said. "This was the Christmas where I made my first student film with my partner, and best friend, Jake Marlon!"

The scene was two days before Christmas at the student union building. Some of the alumni were having an awards ceremony for Best Student Film. Bob and Jake made one they titled The Christmas Hacksaw Massacre, since the two of them were big on horror films. It starred both Bob and Jake, and Jake's girlfriend, Marla.

"And the winner for Best Student Film," the announcer said. "The Christmas Hacksaw Massacre, submitted by Marla Edwards, Jake Marlon, and Bob Rafelsen!"

"Yyyessss!" Bob shouted, jumping out of his seat. "You know what this could lead to, Jake?"

"Yeah," Jake said. "Our own production company!"

"Right. Specializing in gory horror films."

"Hey, Bob," a co-ed, Elle Bradshaw, said, coming over. "Great movie idea."

"Yeah, thanks," Bob said. "It just came to me after Jake and I saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

"You know, I never would have pictured you into being into gory horror films."

"It's us quiet ones you gotta watch out for. Hey listen, if you're not doing anything right now, do you want to go get some coffee?"

"Sure."

Bob and Elle went to a local coffee shop. The two of them were inseparable since then. At least until Bob and Jake graduated college and started their own company. They called their company Marlesen Productions. They made many a low budged horror film (some of which were gory, some of which weren't). They were pretty much successful, although Jake would use his share of the profits to buy marijuana and get high while Bob saved it to pay bills and things like that. He had very little time for Elle in those days.

"You were a workaholic from the start," the ghost said.

Bob didn't answer her. He just watched what was happening. He was working in his office when Elle walked in.

"Bob, we need to talk," she said.

"Uh huh," Bob said. "Two thousand nine hundred seventy-two . . . . so talk."

"Well, I was wondering when exactly were we going to get married."

"Oh yeah. Yeah. Well, look, Elle, you know I've been busy, and the money and all, I mean, yeah, I've got enough, but we've been getting demands for more movies."

"Forget it, Bob. I decided I don't want to marry you. You're too much of a workaholic, and I couldn't stand living with a man who cares more about money and his work than me."

"Look, what exactly are you getting at? I'm really busy here, and I don't have time for your problems right now."

Bob had said the wrong thing there. Elle looked at him as if he were the biggest creep alive, and then stormed out. Bob didn't even notice. He just continued counting his bills.

"Two thousand nine hundred seventy," he said, and then Elle slammed the door shut. All the bills scattered to the floor. Bob sighed and tossed the bill he was holding aside.

"Three," he squeaked.

"I think this was the worst Christmas of my life," Bob groaned. "On Christmas day, I got word that Jake was killed in a car crash. I lost my girlfriend, and my best friend in the same year. I think this was when I hated Christmas, and it staid with me until now."

"Just remember, Bob," the ghost said. "You fashioned all of these memories yourself."

Bob wasn't listening anymore. He was taken back to his living room. The clock struck two, and he found himself on the couch, sitting next to a box of half eaten pizza.

"That's it," he said. "No more extra cheese, pepperoni, sausage, and onion pizza after midnight for me! I'll stick with liverwurst, sardine, and onion sandwiches! I wonder what's on the tube?"

Bob turned on the TV again and began surfing. Then he saw a light go on in his kitchen. He turned off the TV, stood up, and walked inside. He saw someone who looked like Dr. Joe Early sitting at the counter, drinking egg nog and eating Christmas cookies.

"Who are you?" Bob asked.

"The Ghost of Christmas Present," the ghost said.

"Long present?"

"There's no such thing as long present. I'm ghost number two, and I'm here to show you how people celebrate Christmas. Mainly your friends and family."

"Oh. Ah ha. Okay. Sure."

"Come on. We're going to go back awhile so you can see how people celebrate Christmas."

"This oughta be good."

The ghost took Bob around town. Their first stop was at Captain Stanley's house. The ghost sent them back to nine o' clock that night. Jerry had just walked through the door.

"Where were you?" Hank asked.

"Bob made us all work late for nothing," Jerry replied, taking off his coat. "I gotta tell you, it's cold out there!"

"Yeah, we're in for a good snow storm," Linda said. "An old fashioned white Christmas."

"My favorite kind," Jerry replied.

"About time you got home," Christine said. "Jerry, look at you! You're half frozen!"

"Blame Bob," Hank replied. "Come on. Let's hit the den. I've got the fire place started."

"Great," Jerry said. "The perfect thing to thaw out!"

Hank laughed at that and walked into the den. Jerry, Linda, and Christine followed. The four of them were planning a huge dinner, but it would wait until Jerry thawed out a little.

"I thought Jerry and Captain Stanley didn't like each other," Bob said.

"They're on good terms," the ghost replied. "Christmas is the time for peace on Earth, you know. Jerry and Captain Stanley put their differences aside during this time of year."

"That sounds like something Peter would say."

"Well, come on. We've got a lot more to see."

The ghost led Bob to another house in LA. Bob de-fogged the window and looked inside. There was Mike and his family sitting down at the table for their dinner.

"Now how can Mike be so happy?" he asked. "I fired him."

"That's beside the point, Bob," the ghost said. "He's happy because he's with his family for Christmas. That's all anyone ever needs these days."

Bob looked into the window. Mike took his fork and tapped his water glass with it.

"Attention!" he shouted. "I'd like to propose a toast!"

"I'm for that," Phyllis said, picking up her glass. The others nodded and did the same.

"First of all, I propose a toast to the master chefs," Mike said. "Phyllis, Carole, and Aunt Kate, who in no way used her magic to help out with the cookin'."

"Amen to that!" Warren called out.

"To the chefs!" everyone called out.

"I'd like to propose a toast to the kids," Zelda said, referring to Mike, Phyllis, and Sabrina. "Who talked me and Hilda to actually come down to California for the holiday season."

"We never get together enough anyway," Hilda replied.

"To us!" Sabrina said, and she, Mike, and Phyllis clinked glasses.

"I propose a toast to the food," Salem replied, jumping on the table.

"You would," Sabrina said.

"Hey, get off of there," Mike said, putting Salem on the floor. "Next thing you know, Spotte and Cookie will be followin' his example."

"Just what we need," Phyllis said. "The dog and cat on the table."

"I'd like to make one more toast," Carole said. "And Mike, I know you're not going to agree with this one, but I feel obligated to propose a toast to Bob, since he signed the paychecks that helped pay for the feast."

"Yeah, to Robert Reid Rafelsen," Mike said. "I hope he chokes on his chestnuts."

"Hey!" Bob shouted. "How'd he know my middle name?"

"Michael!" Kate shouted. "It's Christmas. The time for forgiveness!"

"How can I forgive someone who fired me?" Mike asked. "And docked a man's pay twice for leavin' the studio early and then comin' in late?! That man is just a Scrooge!"

"I hope he gets a visit from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future," Sabrina replied.

"Don't get any ideas, you two," Zelda said. "I don't want the two of you getting together and putting your magic together, and that's final!"

"Look, let's just forget about Bob for right now," Warren said. "It's not necessary, and frankly, I'm starvin'!"

Everybody else agreed and dug into the feast. Bob clicked his tongue against his teeth and turned to the ghost.

"Is that what he really thinks of me?" he asked.

"There are times when he does, yes," the ghost said. "Come on. I've got two more places to show you."

"I can't wait."

The ghost and Bob then stopped inside an apartment building, jammed with people enjoying a Christmas party.

"Where are we?" Bob asked. "Is this Sarah's party?"

"No, this is your own sister's Christmas Eve party," the ghost said.

"Oh yeah. There's Sadie right there. And Dirk."

Sadie and Dirk walked over to the window and looked outside. It looked like Los Angeles was blanketed in snow, and it was still coming down strong.

"We're snowed in everybody!" Dirk called out.

"Thank goodness none of us drove here!" one of the guests called out.

"Yeah, in fact, most of us live right here in the building!" another laughed.

"Right," Sadie said. One of her friends, Leslie, walked over to her.

"Hey Sadie, is your brother coming this year?" she asked. "I'm dying to meet him!"

"I couldn't talk him into it," Sadie said. "He said he had too much work to do."

"He always says that," Dirk said. "Personally, I don't think he even wants to come. He doesn't like me."

"What's not to like?" Dirk's friend, Bill, said. "You're smart, funny, and you've got a great personality."

"Yeah, but Bob just hates my guts."

"I don't know why," Sadie said.

"He's a jerk," Bob said. "That's why."

The ghost nudged Bob in the ribs. After awhile, Sadie suggested that the group play charades. A group of the guests gathered around and started to set it up. Dirk had one in mind.

"This is in honor of your brother," he said to Sadie.

Dirk then got down on all fours and began to imitate a horse, only the others didn't know what the heck he was doing.

"A pig," Leslie said. Everyone cracked up. Bob was insulted.

"Oh, she's a laugh riot!" he shouted.

"Uhh," Sadie said. "You're a horse . . . ."

"One horse open sleigh," Bill replied.

"Jingle bells," another man named Frank guessed.

Dirk then made a motion like he was taking a bite out of something and eating.

"Hay," a girl named Donna said. Dirk stood up and nodded. Then he held up five fingers.

"Okay, fifth word," Sadie said.

Dirk began jumping all over the place, acting like a monkey.

"You're an ape," Bill said.

"A gorilla," Frank said.

"A chimpanzee," Leslie said.

"A monkey," Donna replied.

Dirk stopped, nodded, and pointed.

"I got it!" Sadie shouted. "Hey, hey, we're the Monkees!"

"Yes!" Dirk shouted. "Sorry, we were talking about Bob, he's got the Monkees working for him, I had to."

The group began to laugh. Bob shrugged and then turned to the ghost.

"Can we go home now?" he asked. "This is all very amusing but . . . ."

"I've got one more," the ghost said. "Last one, I promise."

"Okay. But this had better be good."

The ghost and Bob were off again. This time, they stopped in front of Peter's house. Bob de-fogged the window and looked in. Peter and Valerie were sitting at the dining room table, not saying much of anything. The radio was playing Christmas music in the background. The feast that lay before them was big enough to feed an army. Or at least five people, but they were the only two sitting there.

"You hungry?" Valerie asked.

"Not really," Peter replied. "Are you?"

"Not really. What are you thinking about?"

"The antibiotics. I can't get out to Rampart to pick them up. It's too far to walk, and we're completely snowed in. Dr. Brackett and Dixie are stranded at Rampart, as well."

"I know. We're dealing with a pretty bad case of pneumonia here. I know we really should bring Fluey into the hospital but we can't."

"Right. And Dr. Brackett said not to, anyway."

Things got quiet again. It was so quiet, Peter and Valerie could hear Fluey coughing from his room upstairs. It sounded terrible. Peter stood up and started up the stairs.

"What are you doing, Peter?" Valerie asked.

"What my mother did when Fluey had the chicken pox and the measles and the flu," Peter replied. "Sit up with him."

"All night?"

"Oh probably."

"I'll tell you what, Peter. You take a couple of hours, then I'll relieve you, and I'll take a couple of hours, and then you'll relieve me, and so on and so on."

"It's a deal."

Both Peter and Valerie shook on it, and then walked up the stairs. They walked inside Fluey's room, and were surprised to find him awake.

"We thought you'd be sleeping," Valerie said.

"I know," Fluey replied. "But I can't get to sleep."

"Understandable," Peter replied. "I just hope you're not awake all night."

"Believe me, I hope I'm not awake all night, either."

"Well, while you two try to get some sleep, I think I'll get some myself," Valerie said. "Do you need anything before I go, Fluey?"

"No, I'm okay," Fluey replied.

"All right," Valerie leaned over and kissed Fluey's forehead. "Goodnight, sweetheart. Feel better."

"Thanks," Fluey replied. He closed his eyes, and slowly drifted off to sleep.

"I think he'll be okay," Peter said.

"I hope so," Valerie said. "I'll see you in the morning. And don't worry about it, Peter."

"I'll try."

Valerie left the room. Peter sighed. He couldn't help worrying though. Bob turned to the ghost.

"It's that bad, huh?" he asked.

"Oh yeah," the ghost said.

"Geez. I didn't even give Peter a chance to tell me."

"You get like that a lot."

"But pneumonia hasn't killed anybody in years!"

"Well, contrary to popular belief, Bob, it has been known to kill fifty thousand people a year, if they're not treated."

"So, what would happen if Peter didn't get those antibiotics he was talking about?"

Bob turned to the ghost, but found he was gone. He looked all over the place.

"Hey!" he shouted. "Hey ghost! Where are you?! Don't leave me out here alone! You gotta tell me what's gonna happen!"

The wind began blowing harder, and then he found himself in a graveyard. He screamed and backed away.

"Where am I?" he asked, backing up. "What's going on here?! What . . . . . ack!"

Bob had backed into a tall figure wearing a black robe, and hood, that hid his face. Bob looked up at him and cowered.

"You . . . ." he said. "Are you the Ghost of Christmas Future?

The figure nodded.

"My future?"

The figure nodded again. Then he instructed Bob to follow him.

"You want me to follow you?" he asked.

The figure nodded again. So did Bob.

"Okay," he said. "Sure. Whatever you say."

The two of them left the graveyard and walked towards Screen Gems. It was another Christmas Eve. The place was decorated elaborately for Christmas, like always. The ghost led Bob inside the studio where he usually worked.

"You want me to go in there?" Bob asked. The ghost nodded, and Bob walked inside.

Most of the usual crew was there: Davy, Micky, Quackerjack, Reggie, Drake, and Jerry, as well as most of the girls, and they were partying. Only Mike and Peter had made themselves scarce. For the time being. The ghost motioned Bob to enter his office. Sitting at Bob's desk, was Mike, going over some paperwork.

"What's Mike doing here?" Bob asked. The ghost pointed to a name plate on the desk. It read "Michael Nesmith Producer."

"Mike's head honcho of my team?" Bob asked. The ghost nodded. A light lit up on the phone. Mike picked up the receiver, and pushed a button.

"Yes, Ruth?" he asked the secretary.

"Peter Tork is on line two, Mr. Nesmith," Ruth said.

"Okay, thanks."

Mike pushed a button on the phone, leaned back, and propped his feet up on the desk.

"Hey Pete, what's shakin'?" he asked.

"Hi, Mike," Peter said. "Hey, listen, man, I don't think I'll be coming into work today. You know, after what happened last year . . . ."

"Yeah, I know. No explanation necessary. I'll see you sometime after New Year's okay, buddy?"

"Sure. Merry Christmas, Michael."

"Same to you, Pete. Hang in there, okay?"

"Okay. Bye."

Mike hung up the phone, put his paperwork in a folder, and stuck it in the desk drawer. Then he walked out to the studio area.

"Hey guys," he said.

"Hi, Mike!" Quackerjack said. "Listen, man, I gotta tell you, you're a much better producer than Bob ever was!"

"I hear ya," Drake said. "Especially during the Christmas season."

"The main difference between Bob and me is this," Mike said. "He hates Christmas, and I love Christmas!"

The others agreed and continued partying. Mike popped some music into a tape player, and tapped Jerry on the shoulder.

"Come on, Jer," he said. "Let's do the Checker/Rydell 'Jingle Bell Rock' bit."

"You got it," Jerry said.

Mike pushed the play button, and the boys did their "Jingle Bell Rock" routine, using the Chubby Checker/Bobby Rydell version of the song. Then, Camille, Phyllis, and Sarah did the Ronnettes "Sleigh Ride" routine. The three Monkees and the three Mallards did the "Riu Chiu" bit, and then Mike called it a day.

"I'll see you guys tomorrow at Sarah's party," he said. "And nobody comes to work until January second, okay?"

"Yeah," Davy said. "See you latah, guys!"

"Thanks for the half day, Mike," Reggie said.

"Knowin' the way you shop, Reg, you need the afternoon," Mike replied.

Reggie gave Mike a sarcastic laugh, and walked off. Bob was completely flabbergasted.

"I don't believe that," he said. "I honestly don't believe that! When did Mike take over the studio?! When did he take over my job?!"

The ghost didn't listen. He just led Bob over to another scene. Bob looked in the window of a building, and found some people inside a pawn shop, holding various items.

"You sure this was a good idea?" one asked.

"Relax," a woman said. "He won't need these anymore. Not where he's going."

Bob got a close look at the items. Most of them looked like curtains, blankets, and maybe a watch or some cuff links. Bob couldn't really see.

"Boy whoever owned that stuff must've been a real rotten person," he said.

The ghost then led Bob down the street. Reggie and Micky were doing some last minute shopping, talking over things.

"I gotta tell you, Mick, it's happened," Reggie said.

"Yeah, so suddenly too," Micky replied. "Walked straight into traffic without looking, got hit by a truck, and it was all over. Served him right, though."

"Hey, you remember that old movie that Quackerjack likes, Scrooge?"

"The musical?"

"Yeah, you know that song Quackerjack likes to sing every now and again?"

"Yeah, the one that goes thank you very much, right?"

"Yeah, sometimes I feel like singing that to you-know-who!"

"Well, it wasthe nicest thing he's ever done for us!"

Micky and Reggie walked off laughing their heads off. Bob stared at them as if they were crazy.

"I'm never gonna understand those two," he said. "Who are they talking about, spirit?"

The ghost didn't answer. He just led Bob over to Peter's house. Bob walked over to the window, and de-fogged it. Valerie was sitting at the kitchen table with her parents. All three of them looked depressed.

"So when's Peter coming home?" Valerie's mother, Ursula, asked.

"Probably half an hour," Valerie replied. "But I'm really not in the mood to celebrate Christmas."

"I know what you mean," Charles replied. "It's been a year since it happened, but you never fully get over it."

"I can only imagine what Peter's going through," Ursula said. "This is hitting him harder than anyone."

"I still can't believe it," Valerie sighed. Her eyes began to water just then. "I had always feared this would happen. Peter and I always expected to go first, not the other way around."

"That's what makes it so hard," Ursula said.

Bob looked at the three of them, and then turned to the ghost.

"What are they talking about?" he asked. "And where is Peter, anyway?"

The ghost led Bob back to the cemetery. They saw Peter standing by a headstone, not saying anything. Tears were rolling down his cheeks, but nothing was coming out of his mouth, not even a wail, which is what Peter usually did when he cried. He wiped the tears away and walked off. Bob walked over to the stone and wiped the snow away from it. Once he read what was engraved on it, the pit fell out of his stomach.

"Fluid Tork McAlister, September sixteenth to December twenty-fifth," he read. Then he stood up and looked at the years on the stone. "Hey, that's this year's date. Or last years from this time period. Oh man, he was only sixteen?! No wonder Peter and Valerie are so . . . . . I mean . . . . ."

Bob was at a loss for words. He then turned to the ghost.

"I didn't think it was this serious," he said. "I didn't want this to happen, spirit! Tell me, are these events of what might happen or will happen?! Tell me this can be changed! It has to be changed!"

Bob then heard some laughing coming from the other end of the graveyard. Two gravediggers were filling in a grave.

"I have never seen a funeral like this," one said.

"You said it," the other replied. "No mourners, no family, no friends . . . . . smallest gathering I've ever seen."

"Yeah. Hey, let's take a break before we get done. After all, he's not going anywhere."

The two gravediggers laughed and walked off. Bob looked into the grave and shivered.

"Hey, spirit," he said, cautiously. "Is this the grave of the guy everybody's so glad croaked? Who's is it?"

The spirit snapped his fingers, and a light appeared on the grave. Written on the tombstone was this: "Robert Reid Rafelsen May 29-December 31" and the years were as plain as day. Bob nearly passed out.

"Huh?!" he shouted.

"It's your grave, Bob," the ghost said, removing his hood. He looked like Mike, and even spoke with the same Texas accent. "Happy landings!"

The spirit raised his arms into the air and thunder and lightning crashed. Bob fell into the grave, and then grabbed onto a root to try to climb out.

"Wait a minute!" he yelled. "Spirit! Whoa! Hey! Hold it!"

The coffin inside the grave opened, and smoke and flames came out. Bob panicked even more.

"No, no-no-no-no-no!" he shrieked. "Spirit! I'll change! I promise I'll chaaaange!"

With that, Bob's root snapped, and he fell into the grave, screaming. When he landed, he found himself laying on his bedroom floor, tangled in the blankets.

"Spirits!" he yelled. "Let me out! Let me out! I'll change! I'll . . . . . eh?"

Bob untangled himself and looked around. He looked out the window and saw that it was daylight. He jumped to his feet and turned on the radio. Bobby Helms' "Jingle Bell Rock" was just finishing.

"That was Bobby Helms," the DJ said. "Part of our twenty-five hours of Christmas. And Merry Christmas out there! We're certainly celebrating this Christmas morning with a white Christmas, and to commemorate it, the Drifters!"

The DJ then put on the Drifter's "White Christmas." Bob turned off the radio and practically collapsed on the bed.

"It was only a dream," he said, breathing of relief. "Oh thank goodness. Then there's still time!"

With that, Bob got dressed, grabbed his cell phone from his dresser, and then dashed down the stairs. He had a lot of things to do. He jumped into his jeep and practically plowed through the snow. He dialed Rampart on his phone.

"Dr. Brackett, it's Bob," he said. "I need those pneumonia antibiotics. I'm coming over to pick you and them up, and then we'll head for Peter's."

"How in the world can you get through this snow, Bob?" Dr. Brackett asked.

"My jeep has four wheel drive. Besides, I grew up in Michigan, I know how to get through snow. Now have those antibiotics ready, I'll be there in an hour."

Dr. Brackett was about to say something, but the line went dead. He was also extremely confused. Exactly one hour later, Bob parked his jeep in front of Rampart and practically ran inside, nearly running over Dr. Brackett.

"Have you got 'em?" he asked.

"Yeah, I got 'em," Dr. Brackett said.

"Then let's go."

Bob grabbed the doctor's arm and practically dragged him out the door. Then they hightailed it to Peter's.

"I have never seen four wheel drive like this on a jeep!" Dr. Brackett shouted once they arrived.

"I had Mike fiddle with it for just such an emergency," Bob replied.

"Should've guessed Nesmith had something to do with it."

Bob ignored the comment and banged on Peter's door. It was about seven thirty in the morning, so Peter looked like a train wreck.

"What happened to you?" Bob asked.

"I've been up all night worrying," Peter replied. "What are you doing here, Bob?"

"I forgot to give you your Christmas present."

"What?"

Dr. Brackett walked up the path then, carrying the medicine bottle with him. Peter was practically flabbergasted. Valerie came down the stairs, looking like she hadn't got a wink of sleep, either.

"Who's at the door, Peter?" she asked.

"Bob and Dr. Brackett," Peter said. Then he turned to Bob. "How'd you get through the snow?"

"I've got four wheel drive on my jeep, and Mike souped it up for me awhile back," Bob explained. "Just in case it ever snowed in LA and I needed to get out of town."

"Oh."

"So I brought over Dr. Brackett and he brought over the antibiotics. And another thing, Peter, about your pay."

"Yeah?"

"I'm giving you and everyone else a raise. I didn't have the right to dock your pay, and I'm sorry."

"All is forgiven, Bob. It's Christmas."

"Thanks, Pete."

"Why don't you come in, Bob?" Valerie asked. "It's freezing out there."

"I'd love to, Valerie, but I can't," Bob said. "I've got some stuff to do."

Bob left and jumped into his jeep. He took off, and sped around town, stopping off at some stores that he knew were open. Then he zoomed to his sister's apartment complex. He tore through the door, and was nearly stopped by the security guard.

"It's okay!" he shouted. "My sister lives here. I'm just dropping in!"

"But . . . ." the guard said, but Bob was too far gone to say anything.

Bob dashed up the stairs to the fifth floor and banged on the door. Sadie opened it. She stared at her brother intently.

"Do I know you, sir?" she asked.

"Very funny," Bob replied. "I drive through ten inches of snow to come by and say Merry Christmas and that's the greeting you give me?"

"Huh?!"

"Listen, you and Dirk inviting your friends over tonight as well as last night?"

"No, actually, I ran into your friend, Sarah, and she invited me to her party later today after I left your office yesterday."

"Did she say anything about me being invited?"

"Yeah, you're invited if you want to come."

"Great! Wouldn't miss it!"

"What's gotten into you, Bob?"

"Let's just say I've seen the light."

"Well, come on in. Dirk's cooking breakfast, and I'm brewing the coffee."

"Can I take a rain check? I've got somewhere else to go right now. I'll be back in an hour or so."

"Okay."

Bob dashed off, leaving Sadie bewildered. He jumped into his jeep and dashed off. Sadie and Dirk watched him through the kitchen window.

"Who was that?" Dirk asked.

"Maybe aliens have replaced my brother with a clone," Sadie teased.

Bob drove through the streets as fast as he possibly could safely. The anticipation was killing him. He stopped at Mike's house, and rang the door bell. Phyllis answered it.

"Hi, Bob," she said a little surprised. "What are you doing here?"

"I need to talk to Mike," Bob said, trying to sound serious and solemn, but it wasn't easy.

"Oh sure."

Bob walked inside and found Mike by the tree, sitting on a footstool in front of an easy chair and dangling a piece of ribbon over his cat, Cookie. She was trying to grab at it.

"Hey, Mike," Phyllis said. "Bob's here to see you."

"What does he want?" Mike asked, standing up. He glared at Bob.

"You know I've had it with you," Bob said. "I don't know why I never fired you before. You do nothing but lose your temper, blow things up, and slack off!"

"Is that all?"

"No that's not all. You keep everybody on task, too. I want you back, Mike. The studio won't be the same without you. And you don't have to come into work until after New Years."

"You're kidding!" Carole shouted.

"What made you change your mind?" Warren asked.

"I had this crazy dream last night," Bob explained. "First, my old partner, Jake Marlon, who's been dead for ten years came to visit me, and then the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future showed up, and then . . . . well, it was just too crazy. And the craziest thing was the ghosts looked like Sabrina, Dr. Early, and Mike! Crazy, huh?"

"Yeah, crazy," Kate said.

"Well, I'd better go," Bob said. "I'll see you guys later at Sarah's party."

Bob left after that. Kate closed the door, looked at Mike and Sabrina, and folded her arms across her chest.

"Michael . . . ." she said sternly.

"Sabrina . . . ." Zelda said in the same tone.

"Did you two use your magic on Bob last night?" Carole asked.

"Maybe a little," Sabrina said.

"But he needed to be taught a lesson!" Mike yelled. "I couldn't let him get away with dockin' Peter's paycheck for somethin' as trivial as comin' in late!"

"Besides, it did a lot of good," Sabrina said.

"That's true, it did," Carole said.

"It's Christmas, guys," Phyllis said. "I think we can forgive them this once."

Everybody laughed. It looked like it was going to be another perfect Christmas.

The End