A Christmas Karen
Having the day off on Christmas Eve gave Kareneza more time to do her bit to "own the libs" on her Facebook feed. There was nothing else to do, no presents to wrap, no cards to send. Bah, Humbug! It was so easy to comment over and over.
"So sad when you see how far they are willing to go to hurt this country!"
"Who is going to pay for all this? Money doesn’t grow on trees."
"Working and saving worked for me, it’s your fault if you didn’t plan ahead."
When her cell phone chimed, Karenezer looked at the message. It was a Merry Christmas greeting and an invitation from her lesbian niece, Ashley. Nope to the nope! Karenezer set down the phone, ignoring the message, much as she ignored the doings of that perverted branch of the family tree. What did her sister do wrong in raising that child, Karenezer often wondered?
When her dinner was late, she gave the Door Dash driver an earful. No tip, of course, isn’t it bad enough there is a delivery fee? Kareneza kept to a strict budget.
If more people were like her, there would be fewer hands trying to take money out of her pocket. Her savings were hard-earned, and she didn’t spend easily.
The newest season of The Crown was streaming, so Kareneza clicked on her television and gathered a blanket around her lap, forgetting that the next morning was Christmas. There was Margaret Thatcher on the screen, telling the Queen that helping those that have fallen on hard times was outdated and misguided. Kareneza cheered at the screen as her heroine stood up for conservative values. By the time the television was segueing into the next episode, Kareneza was asleep in her chair.
The loud sound of a bell disturbed her sleep. She blinked in surprise as she woke; she knew she had set no alarm for Christmas morning. Her front door began shaking and shaking and was suddenly blown open. A white shrouded figure floated in. An unearthly visage, the shape was that of a woman, wrapped in chains tethered to a small table set up for an elaborate tea.
Karenezer gasped out, “Who are you?”
“Rather ask me who I was,” the phantom answered in a wavering voice.
“Who were you then?” Karenezer asked, her voice raising up an octave with anxiety.
“In life I was Margaret Thatcher.”
“Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of Great Britain?” Karenezer was incredulous. “Why do you come to me, this night?”
“It is my fate to wander the world and witness what I might have had, if I had made charity and mercy more of my business,” the specter of Thatcher said, “and I am here to warn you, that you may yet have a chance of escaping my fate.”
Karenezer felt a chill down to her bones as the ghost wavered before her. “What is this chance?"
“You will be haunted by three spirits. Look to see me no more; and for your own sake, remember what I have told you.” With that, the spirit wavered and then dispersed upon a gust of wind that blew the door shut. Unnerved by this hallucination, Karenezer went straight to bed without undressing and fell immediately asleep.
She was awakened in the dead of night and sat up in bed, her heart pounding. Her bedroom was as cold as ice, and another flowing ethereal creature was approaching, it’s visage like a girl child one minute, an old crone the next.
“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past,” this spirit intoned. “Rise and travel with me.” The phantom touched Karenezer on the shoulder and they both levitated and passed through the walls of the house and beyond. The world pass under them in fast-forward when the Ghost slowed, and they descended to the ground. Karenezer looked around.
“This is my childhood home, in Memphis.” The Ghost led her down the quiet street, it was early morning. They watched as a bus stopped and several black women exited and made their way up sidewalks to different homes.
Karenezer rushed up to one of the women, but the woman didn’t see her. “That’s Doris, our maid,” she told the Ghost of Christmas Past.
“Yes, and she’s working for a white family on Christmas Eve,” the Ghost replied, sadly. “The same as the other maids, not able to enjoy time with her family until tomorrow.”
“That’s her job, though,” Karenezer protested. "She's paid for that."
The Ghost didn’t reply, just whisked them back into flight, and the world shimmered again. When they stopped, Karenezer again recognized the scene. She saw her younger self with Danny, her college boyfriend. The spirit stood silent as she watched how he broke up with her, claiming that their life goals were too different. Karenezer wanted a finance career, in a big city. Danny wanted to join the Peace Corps and majored in contemporary literature. It would never work, he insisted, despite her insistence that her feelings hadn’t changed.
“No more, Ghost,” Karenezer begged, “Take me home.” The Ghost shook its head and the scene changed and Karenezer saw Danny, surrounded by a family filled with love and happiness.
It was then that the Ghost pressed on Karenezer’s shoulder again, and she found herself, exhausted, in her own bed.
In the blink of an eye, Karenezer was transported to a small apartment. There she watched as her Door Dash driver counted out her tips. There was a small child there, and an older woman. Three generations in one tiny home. The child was tucked into a small pallet in the one bedroom and the mother and grandmother wrapped the few presents that would be under the tree.
“Someone should have helped them have Christmas,” Karenezer said, feeling some compassion for the young mother.
The spirit replied, “Working and saving worked for you, it’s her fault she didn’t plan ahead.”
Karenezer hung her head in regret as she recognized her own words. She had typed those, or similar, often enough on social media.
Then the scene changed again, and she was watching her niece Ashley and her partner have a holiday party.
Her niece was happy, laughing and seemed very much in love with her partner. The food was sumptuous, and the guests were all having a good time. Someone asked about Ashley’s Aunt Karenezer, and she listened as Ashley described her as stodgy and curmudgeonly, but she was determined to bring her around eventually. A guest made a toast, “Love is love is love. To love!” And they all drank, celebrating the love all around them.
Again, away they flew and Karenezer sank into her own bed. She closed her eyes, willing the visits to stop and to wake up to her normal Christmas morning. Instead, she felt a colder wind blow in and when she opened her eyes, she shivered in fear. This phantom was faceless and dressed in a hooded black cloak.
"Are you the Ghost of Christmas Future?" she asked. The dark figure nodded and pointed, and Karenezer's bedroom shimmered and then reappeared, somehow older and worn.
She heard voices and followed the floating specter down the stairs. The living room was full of people, none of whom Karenezer knew. They were looking through her possessions. Karenezer protested but no one heard her, of course. The Ghost motioned her to look closer and Karenezer saw that everything had a price tag.
Just then, her niece Ashley and her partner came through the front door. A woman with a clipboard approached, asking for confirmation. "Are you sure you don't want to keep a memento for yourself?"
Ashley shook her head and replied, "No, I already have the family photos. Aunt Karenezer gave them to me years ago - she didn't want any of them, she said." Her voice was sad and her partner wrapped an arm around her shoulder.
Karenezer looked around and saw strangers taking away her things as the estate agent completed each transaction. She was filled with immense sorrow at all the missed chances. The Ghost made another motion, and she was in a dark place, maybe a basement.
The phantom pointed to an urn, dusty in a corner. There was a small plaque, too dusty to read. Karenezer reached out and wiped it with the end of her sleeve and gasped when she saw her own name engraved there.
She cried out, "Spirit, take me away from this future. I promise to keep Christmas in my heart, all the year round. I have learned the lessons taught to me this night. Please return me!" She grabbed at the cloaked figure as she pleaded and the cloak collapsed, and she was back in her own bed. Karenezer quickly fell into a deep undisturbed sleep.
The sun was shining brightly in the morning. The bed was her own, the room was her own. There was time to make amends and live a different life! Giddy with happiness, she bounded from the bed and dress in her finest clothes. She went to her niece's home and was welcomed with open arms. She tipped all her Door Dash delivery drivers handsomely and when the Christmas Eve driver returned the next time, she pressed a fifty dollar bill into the woman's hand.
Some who knew her before laughed at the alteration in her life, and her changed Facebook comments, but she let them laugh. Now she sought out new friends that also kept the spirit of Christmas all year round. And when her niece married her wife, it was Karenezer who toasted "Love is love is love."