BWW Blog: 'Another Suitcase' by Jeffrey Sanzel, Executive Artistic Director, Theatre Three
"God bless us-everyone." So what happens now? Or-rather-next? Since we've been at Christmas Carol for so long, there is almost always a discussion at some point about what happens after the story. So-Scrooge "became as a good a man ..." Does he stay that way? What happens to Tiny Tim? We know he does "NOT"(emphasis Mr. Dickens) die. What about Fred? The rest of the Cratchits. And how do their stories relate? Do they?
There have been innumerable books that have addressed this question. I've read many of them (most?). Some better than others. Some much worse. Some ... well, did a tree really have to die for this?
A number of years ago, it was suggested that wouldn't it be nice for Scrooge to connect with his long-lost fiancée, Belle. My immediate response was a strong objection. I think that potential happiness is not in the cards for Scrooge. His journey will be a solitary one. (There have been on or two books that have actually had him meet Belle, now a widow; at best mixed results. And I'm being kind. Veerrrry kind.)
After thinking about it for a number of years, I decided to propose my own sequel of sorts. As my penultimate blog entry, I am sharing "At the Last," which I wrote three years ago. I offer it as is ...
Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas. See you once more, after the holiday.
At the Last by Jeffrey E. Sanzel
The old man startles awake.
He pulls at the loosely-tied dressing gown gapping over the stained nightshirt.
He climbs out of the chair and works his way to the head of the staircase, one slipper, half-on.
He peers down into the dim. The darkness only found before mid-day and just before twilight. One lamp burns in the house and that is behind him.
A moment passes. Another. Another.
No response. Shadows. Silence. He shuffles back to the chair, the half-slippeRed Foot catching on the balding rug.
As if he just remembered, he turns back and calls.
With a heavy sigh, he lowers down down down into the chair and the chair envelopes him, swallows him whole, the frail wisp of a frame barely denting a well-sprung cushion.
No, he thinks. No. Bob isn't here. Bob is gone. He's been gone two years. Or three. More? Yes. More. Gone.
They are all gone.
His gaze falls on far the window, covered in the heavy dark stuff, once rich purple, now faded eaten to dusty brown. The old man thinks about pulling them back. He thinks about opening windows shut for days. Weeks. More? More.
Oh, that's right. He's gone. Some illness some sickness something. Something took him ten-no fifteen (no?) years before. Perhaps. More likely it was the death of the boy. The little one. With the crutch. Who would ride on his father's shoulder. The boy's name ...
The doctors. There had been so many doctors. One after another. A long line of doctors of pills of tonics of needles of warm baths of cold baths of. The old man had opened his heavy purse and the doctors had reached in. The bottomless purse. Just after the joy. The doctors. One after another.
But the boy had died. Not then. But later. Some years later. But he had gone. And so had his father. After.
This time not a question. Not calling no. Just saying the name to conjure with. How Bob had come to the office after the joy, sometimes early often late. He would bring his family on a Sunday to eat at the old man's table, the six children, the wife. The wife. The wife who smiled at him but never smiled at him with her eyes. In her eyes her eyes her eyes there was no forgiveness. No charity. In her eyes were the days and weeks, the weeks and years of her husband's indenture. In her eyes the belief that nothing changes no one never not no. He understood those eyes.
There were the parties, too, in those later years, after the joy. The nephew and his dangerously beautiful wife. Always laughing. So happy. So much laughter. The old man never knew never understood the laughter. Sly looks exchanged glances and then. Laughter. The old man sat at the parties with the cup of hot punch fearing greatly fearing he would spill on the lush fabric that stretched across the too much furniture. Laughter.
The parties. The loud parties. The long parties. The late parties. He would smile and nod, little following what passed before him. And they laughed. And they laughed. What he could hear, he didn't understand. But fortunately, that was not much.
He had made the nephew rich. Gifts of money, loans with tacit knowledge that they were not to be repaid, investments. A piece of the business then another. The nephew graciously accepted each with a smile, a nod. With laughter. Joyous laughter but not the joy. The nephew, later a widower, and then remarried, had gone away. Far away. To Australia, perhaps. Perhaps not. Gone. Of a sort. But gone.
The little boy's name had been Timothy. The little one with the crutch, who rode his father's shoulder. The little one who was sick and then well and then gone. Timothy Timothy Timothy.
He catches himself. Again. No. Bob is gone. He no longer brings him the occasional newspaper to join the pile in the hall. He is gone. Like the little boy.
The sister. The sister is gone. Long before. Her face the most distant of all the fragments still a halo of light. The sister gone before the joy. Gone even in the time before the time before the joy. The sister.
The old man looks around the room. The bed lays unmade, the sheets askew and dank; the bed-curtains not shut and pulling from their rings. He so rarely sleeps in the bed now. Days and nights and days again in the chair.
And then there was her. What of her? The girl the woman the heart. Even in the aftermath, the days of joy, he wondered.
The old man shakes his head. That was a happy ending that was not no not to be for him no no not. Never. To be alone was what would be, that would come after the joy, even in the midst of the joy, with the joy, in the joy, with the family and the nephew and the little boy with the crutch. Even in the joy, alone.
Yes, the Sunday dinners. Yes, the parties. Yes, the hurried testimonials by the charities more interested in the change than his change. The money the money the money. Not the forgiveness not the charity of forgiveness. But the money.
The old man shakes his head. No. Gone. Gone.
Bob had forgiven him. Bob had taken his outstretched hand. Bob had taken his hand right there right there in the office just after the joy. Bob had taken his hand and forgiven him. Bob. Who was gone. After the boy.
The partner. He was gone so very gone so very very gone. If he hadn't been, there probably would not have been the joy so perhaps it was good that he was gone.
Oh, yes. The partner was gone before the joy and what followed. The partner would have laughed, too, to see the joy. Like the nephew and the dangerously beautiful wife. Laughed like them but not like them. The partner would have looked through him and laughed. The dust of laughter. Not like them. Not much.
The partner. A friend? No no not. But maybe. But the partner for so long that it was if nothing had come before. Just the partner and the time after the joy.
Except the sister. And the girl. So long ago so so so long ago. That was joy before the partner before the joy and what came after.
But now it was just the partner and the joy that came after.
The joy. That time. It had come on the morning after the true darkness, the forever night. The night that was fragments a shattered mirror. The true night the forever dark the darkness. But the morning. The morning of the great joy that brought all that came after.
The old man looks at his hands, sitting in his lap. The hands that had counted the coins and signed the deeds and hands that grasped and hands that clutched. The hands that had finally let go. The hands that were first to receive the joy the great joy the morning the joy.
It was easier before the joy. Before the joy there was the fear. They were afraid. There was no laughter before the joy. The hard hard heart so protecting. There was no laughter. No looks. No sly smiles. Fear. The money and the fear and the fear and the money. The grasping the clutching the coins the deeds. But then the joy.
The old man tires with the thoughts running through his mind as they tumble through so tired ... so tired ... so so ...
The old man will sit.
And the old man will wait.
And the old man will sleep.
Photo by Sarah E. Bush; Jeffery Sanzel as Scrooge