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Andy Prest: Here's an anti-mask Christmas Carol for pandemic-weary readers young and old

Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of COVID Past, Present and Yet to Come in this modern twist on a Christmas classic
North Shore News sports editor and columnist Andy Prest pens a pandemic-era take on a classic Christmas ghost story.

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatsoever.

He had sworn the pandemic was nothing but a hoax. Forsaking all warnings, he threw a massive maskless masquerade ball, at $1,000 a plate, for a legion of like-minded folk. He caught the COVID, Marley did, and gasped his last breath in the hallway of an overstuffed hospital. 

Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

And so it came as a shock when Marley, or a ghostly version of him, his phantom mask hanging lamely under his chin, appeared a year later before Scrooge, his old business partner, and a man known across Facebook as the most virulent anti-masker to ever chomp horse dewormer.

“You will be haunted by three spirits!” Marley yelled, before falling into a ghastly coughing fit, vanishing into a fine mist that splattered across the face of the stunned Mr. Scrooge.

“Humbug,” said Scrooge, turning back to a poster bearing the words “Your all Sheep” that he was preparing for a hospital protest the next day.

In a flash of light, the Zoom app on his phone blazed open of its own accord, and there staring at him was a spirit, old yet young, sitting in front of a bookcase for some reason. Scrooge clicked the off button on the phone, but the image stayed. App after app he swiped through, but still the image remained.

“Who, and what are you?” Scrooge said. The spirit’s mouth moved, but no sound came out.

“You’re muted,” said Scrooge.

“Sorry,” said the spirit, reaching a ghostly finger to the screen. “I am the ghost of COVID past. Watch with me.”

And with that, the image turned to scenes of the early pandemic. There was young Scrooge, safely socially distanced at home, playing online poker against his girlfriend, Michelle. On the counter behind, a sourdough was rising.

“Those were fun times,” said Scrooge.

The image changed to show Scrooge, pulling out of a parking lot full of panicked shoppers, his pickup truck full of toilet paper. The image changed again, and there was Scrooge yelling at a barista who asked him to put a mask on. Michelle, looking horrified, quietly backed out of the café and disappeared into the night. 

“Leave me, Spirit!” yelled Scrooge, and the phone went black.

He fell asleep, but awoke with a start.

“Come in, and know me better, man!” bellowed a boisterous spirit dressed in sweat pants covered in Cheezie stains, an unkempt, bushy beard speckled with bits of mayonnaise and a clump of old soup.

“I am the ghost of COVID present!” the spirit shouted. “Look on me!”

“It’s kind of hard to miss you, oh Spirit,” said Scrooge. “Do you mind putting a shirt on?”  

“No need!” said the spirit. “And sorry for shouting! I’ve lost all my social skills, and have worked from home and worn the same clothes for 22 months, and was kind of hoping that everyone would have worn masks and gotten vaccinated and this thing would be over by now so we could, you know, go out and do fun things again!”

“Can you show me no joy on this day?” asked Scrooge.

“Well, the Bryan Adams concert was cancelled, but I’ll see what I can do!”

And with that, they were transported into a bustling family home.

“Kids, it’s time to Skype with your Uncle Scrooge!”

“Dang it, Mom. Do we have to?”

“Yeah, Mom. Didn’t you see him on the news, protesting the Remembrance Day ceremony? Remembrance Day, for fudge’s sake!”

“OK, fine. Screw it,” said the mother. “Let’s make milkshakes and play Mario Party instead.”

The scene shifted to New York City. There we see Michelle. She’s in quarantine, lying in bed. With Pete Davidson.

“Show me no more!” yelled Scrooge.

Scrooge was flung to the ground, and he looked up to see that he was now in a graveyard. A figure wafted by, cloaked in hospital scrubs with a face shield and N95 mask.

“Are you the ghost of COVID future?” Scrooge asked, his voice trembling. The spirit said nothing, simply pointing to a gravestone.

“Here lies Scrooge,” it read. “Dumbass.”

“Oh, Spirit. Is there any way to change this? I’ll do it. I’ll do anything!” Scrooge wailed.

A mask floated onto his face, snug under the chin and pressed securely above the nose. Scrooge smiled.

He awoke at peace. Giddy at his new lease on life, he jumped out of bed and raced to the window.

“You there, boy,” he yelled at a passing scamp. “What day is it?”

“I don’t know ... Wednesday?” the boy answered. “Every day feels the same.”

“So COVID is still here?”

“Yeah, it’s still here.”

“Oh you clever lad, and what of Christmas? Is it still cancelled?”

“Yeah,” the boy said. “I mean, no, not really. It’ll be small this year, but we’re doing a cheese fondue tomorrow, and we baked cookies and watched Elf last night and it was actually pretty fun. I guess you could say Christmas lives on, in the hearts of the friends and family dearest to us, those fortunate few we can see in person, and the many other we can still connect with through gifts or kind words or simple well wishes.”

“Well said, young man! I’m going to purchase the biggest chunk of cheese in town, and join you for fondue!”

“Uh, don’t do that. Just stay in your bubble, OK?” 

“OK! But can I throw a huge party, with you and everyone else in town ... next year?”

“I mean, no guarantees, I guess. Maybe?”

“Maybe! That sounds good to me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to Zoom with my nephews. God bless us, every one!”

“OK, guy. Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas, guy!”