Marley and Cratchit
by David Steffen
STAVE 1: THE MARVELOUS MACHINE
In those days Jacob Marley was full of life and vigor. His smile shone so that anyone who saw him soon smiled widely in return. A moment in his presence would make one’s worst burdens seem lighter. His optimism and generosity brought out the best in others, catching easily as a torch in dry straw.
Those were happy, hopeful times. Ebenezer Scrooge, the pinch-faced and greedy miser, would not weigh on his mind until many years later. In those later years the two men’s appearances matched as twins, and their customers would often confuse one for the other. But in every other manner they were as different as two men could be. I will speak further of Scrooge, but not yet, for this is not his tale. In these days long gone, Jacob Marley was a portly man, neatly dressed and neatly groomed, with hair black as pitch and never a whisker on his face. Marley entered the shop on that momentous day in the manner with which he was accustomed, swinging the door wide and exclaiming “Hallo!” to his business partner in a sonorous voice that any Shakespearian actor would envy. His jowls swung with the force of his entry, and wobbled like a custard for quite some time after. His clothes were not of the finest material, but were fine enough for a man of his young age, a sign of the moderate inheritance left him by his father the year prior. The front office held two desks, one tidy and one covered with heaps of paper and mechanisms.
Behind the cluttered desk Bob Cratchit looked up with a quiet smile. Where Marley was expansive and memorable, Cratchit was small and quiet and utterly forgettable. He was a pleasant man, so pleasant that I have only ever known one man to ever speak crossly of him: Scrooge, that nasty old miser who spoke crossly of everyone, regardless of cause. Look! He has intruded again upon our story where he is not wanted. I will speak of him no more until his presence enters upon the story.