Paul Scroogeden poured himself a well deserved glass of sherry. He was exhausted, and no wonder. He had played all day with the children on the beach, showing them how to plan a development, how to subdivide, and to reticulate. He was rather proud of himself, in fact.
The experience of the night before he had dismissed as a nightmare brought on by his overenthusiastic approach to the chilli prawns at dinner.
He put his feet up and relaxed, feeling a little drowsy, and soon began to doze off.
Then he felt a cold, clammy sensation on his thigh. His eyes opened to see the ghost sitting beside him, her hand just above his knee.
"You again", he exclaimed.
"Yes and yet no", she replied, "for tonight I come to you as the ghost of Christmas present"
"Oh good", said Paul, "This year I want a new ute, a floating mattress for the pool, a.."
"No, you fool, present, as in the present time", the ghost rebuked him. "You will understand when we get there"
And off they went again.
As they flew through spectral dimensions, Paul couldn't help think there was something familiar about this ghost. Was it her glasses? Her formidable chest? Or perhaps the disdainful way in which she spoke to him? He felt sure he knew her.
Their first stop was a ramshackle old bach. It was a total mess inside, empty boxes of Dunkins Donuts were everywhere, books on bondage scattered all over the place, and a scraggy Christmas tree was decorated with dirty looking underwear.
Next to the tree sat a large, naked woman, clutching her knees and rocking back and forwards.
"Oh what will I feed my tiny tum, oh what will I feed him", she moaned softly over and over again. "My poor little tiny tum, starved this Christmas"
Scroogeden shrank back in disgust from the scene, but the ghost held his arm tightly.
Then they flew again, whirling and twirling until they arrived in a pleasant kitchen, where a woman who bore more than a passing resemblance to the ghost was seated at the bench, making mince pies. As she worked she wept silently, her tears mingling with the mixture. Beside her on the bench lay what appeared to be a half written manuscript, entitled "The greatest comeback since Lazarus"
Paul looked at the woman, then at the ghost. "That's you, isn't it"?
The look on the ghost's face had lost any remaining vestige of pleasantness.
But she simply grasped Scroogeden by the arm and took him to one final destination.
This time they alighted amongst quite opulent surroundings. A charming lounge, expensively furnished, but it was the old couple standing next to the desk which caught Scroogeden's attention. The woman was weeping openly, and her husband had his arm around her shoulders, comforting her. They appeared to be signing a document, a house sale contract.
Paul caught sight of the words Wharetana Bay on the document.
"Perhaps it's for the best, old girl", said the man, "after all, you can always have another dream. Maybe we should retire to the Gold Coast instead"
"I only ever wanted to live there, in that house, on Waiheke", she sobbed in reply. "Why did they hate us so much? Why did they persecute us"?
Scroogeden found the ghost was now gazing at him in a most malevolent way. He felt quite uncomfortable.
"Can we leave now"? he asked.
Silently the ghost ushered him from the room, and soon Paul found himself back in Bali.
He felt rattled by the experience. All these people so miserable, and at Christmas too. How had they got like that?