A Museum Christmas Carol
Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. This was nonsense! Jonathan still had work to do.
Jonathan gazed upon the stack of Change of Status Forms weighing down his desk. They would need to wait until after the new year for his signature. Those people would need to wait for their jobs. Nothing that can be done methodically should be done in haste.
The unsettling noise started again, getting louder as it resonated off the hard surfaces of his office. He must be overworked, Jonathan thought. If only people understood the exhaustion of the never-ending glad-handing.
Gazing out the window, he tried to regain his mental composure. Small snowflakes were being superseded by larger ones. In 12 hours, he would be Miami enjoying a holiday thanks to one of the trustees. He tried to focus on the image of the infinity pool and bikini clad ladies—the real meaning of the holidays.
He was abruptly jogged from his imagination by a vision reflected in his memory. Allegra Marley had been gone six months, and yet there she was reflected in the glass.
Jonathan Scrooge knew she was dead? Of course, he did. How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and she worked together for I don’t know how many years.
Jonathan turned his Knoll chair back to face his desk, eyes closed. After three slow breaths, he reopened his eyes. There, sitting across from him, was his deputy director, dead these six months. She seemed every bit the woman he sat beside in endless meetings. She wore her characteristic black clothing tailored in fashionably asymmetrical, haphazard manner paired with a ridiculously monumental necklace. Her hair hung in a loose bob, framing an angular, plain face. Her eyes had always been her most charming feature. But, now instead of a electric blue, they glowed. In fact, her whole person seemed to glow.
“Who are you?”
“You should ask who I was?”
“Alright then, I don’t have enough time for this. Who were you?”
“I must say that I am not shocked at your refusal to name an attribution. You were always averse to making declarations, just focused on counter-declarations and rebuttals. But, your time is shorter than mine, as it stands. So, I will do you the favor of getting to the point. I am Allegra. And, I am here to share what I know.”
“Al…Allegra. I must be nuts or overly caffeinated.”
“There is no saying if those two statements are true. But, I am still here sitting in your office, as I did when I was alive. Though now, I no longer need listen to your complaints or endure your micromanaging.”
“There is no need to insult me.”
“True. True. I am not here to settle a score but instead to warn you of your errors.”
“Errors? I don’t make mistakes. I have made this museum into an exemplar. The best scholarship and best business sense.”
“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business.”
“We are focused on the business of people. We are mission-driven.” Jonathan exclaimed smuggly.
“Oh, now. I was like you. I said mission-driven more often than my own name. But, I also avoided any family event. I spent 2 hours with the general audience in my last year here. And, most of that was when I traversed the lobby to go to the cafe.”
“Well, you were busy. The executive team has many responsibilities. They can’t be everywhere.” Jonathan knew how to handle his staff, even the dead ones. Words like this were perfect to prevent confrontation.
“Jonathan, you are not listening to my words. You are more focused on manipulating me.”
“Allegra, whatever has happened to you? You would never be so…direct.”
“Death, Jonathan. Death has happened. I spent the first week after death sitting in my old office. Listening as people walked by. Do you know what the staff said when they walked by? ‘She didn’t have much, poor girl.’ ‘Oh, she used to be nice before being promoted.’ ‘At least we don’t have any more of those awful committee meetings.’”
“Allegra you have a Ph.D. Really. Who cares what those people think? They are curatorial assistants. Secretaries.” Jonathan pronounced the last word with resounding disdain.
“They are our staff–our colleagues. And, they didn’t care for me…because I didn’t care for them.”
“Now you just sound like a consultant.” Jonathan sneered.
“Listen, you don’t need to believe me. You will be haunted,” resumed the Ghost, “by Three Spirits.”
“At least it is literary number.” Jonathan chuckled, first quietly and then more loudly as his pride turned to pronounced fear. He looked at the seat where Allegra had been. It fine leather surface was unmarred and empty.
Scrooge blinked hard. There truly had never been anyone in the seat, he concluded. Another coffee was clearly necessary. He picked up the phone to ask Mrs. Cratchett to whip up a latte. Then he remembered that he had let her go home early today–it was Christmas Eve. HR had demanded that he let the whole staff work only ½ day today, selling the bonus vacation day rather than a holiday party. He didn’t know why his staff deserved this bonus frankly. He was the one who really kept this ship sailing. And, he was the one who was still working, holiday or no.
He rose slowly. He felt a bit unsteady, truthfully. Passing his private restroom, he turned into the kitchenette. He avoided the instant coffee machine generally, but everyone made sacrifices. Tonight, this was his. Watching the brown brew drip, he stood trying to assess what might have caused his hallucinations. No head injuries, no spoiled food, no strange alcohol. Stress must be the cause. If only his staff understood the trails he endured!
Coffee in hand, he turned back into his office. Had engineering done something with the HVAC? The room was unnaturally cold, even for a museum. Oh, no. It was happening again. But, now Allegra looked incredibly strange as she sat huddled in the chair.
“Allegra, don’t you have something else you should be doing? Guessing ghosts don’t have budget reports to do, huh, if you have time to wander back in here.” He stated with clear sangfroid.
Whoever was sitting in the chair didn’t respond.
He approached the figure only to see an older man with an affable expression in pleasant repose.
“Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?” asked Scrooge.
The voice was soft and gentle. Singularly low, as if instead of being so close beside him, it were at a distance.
“Who, and what are you?” Scrooge demanded.
“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.”
“Long Past?” inquired Scrooge: observant of its dwarfish stature
“No. Your past.”