Last year, my brother-in-law, Zach, asked my wife and I what we wanted for Christmas.

The simple answer was “garage shelves and a pocket knife,” which is the answer my wife gave.

A more thorough response may have included a detailed description of the shelves and knife, or purchase instructions, or the reason we requested those presents.

And then, there’s the actual response I sent my brother-in-law, which is the response of a lunatic. Enjoy:

. . . .

Ebenezer Zack arrived early to work, as he always did, joy filling his heart until he thought it would burst.

Bob Cratchit stepped into the office.

“Cratchit! What’s the meaning of this? Working so close to Christmas!”

Bob Cratchit, the CEO, COO, CFO, and Vice President for Marketing of Ebenezer Enterprises, looked a bit confused. He said, “beggin’ your pardon sir, but it is the week before what they call Thanksgiving in the colonies.”

“Bumhug!” Ebenezer Zack replied. Ebenezer Zack had been saying this lo these few years since, well, since whatever it is that happened to him that fateful Christmas Eve.

Cratchit, as was the custom, immediately ran outside and found a bum to hug. Ebenezer Zack hugged two bums, and gave each of them large bags filled with pounds, shillings, and Christmas geese. It was getting harder to find bums as time passed.

“Cratchit!” yelled Ebenezer Zack. Though he was now a kind man, Ebenezer Zack hadn’t lost his habit of yelling curtly at everyone, though he did intersperse maniacal laughter in with the yells, which some might count an improvement.

“Yessir, Mr. Scrooge, I mean, Mr. Zack, sir.” Though Cratchit’s lot had no doubt improved, he was very confused most of the time.

“Hand out three more bags of money and then head home to that wonderful family of yours. And you know what else, Bob?”

“You’re not doubling my salary again, are you sir?!”

“Ha! Clever boy! Right you are! Doubled again!”

Bob Cratchit smiled, but he was secretly worried, because, as CFO of Ebenezer Enterprises, he knew that it was running an extreme deficit since Ebenezer Zack had so violently reversed his miserly ways.

“One more thing, Cratchit!”

“Yessir?”

“I have to buy a Christmas gift for my sister and brother-in-law. Give us some advice like a good lad.”

“Well, sir, I’m afraid I’m a bit useless on this one. You see, since we bought Tiny Tim those titanium prosthetic legs and he’s become an international track and field performer, we’ve felt a bit daft givin’ each other presents. . . .”

“Hah! Bumhug!”

. . . .

After a day of hugging street urchins and pickpockets, Ebenezer Zack went home in high spirits. As he approached his front door, he notice that the door knocker, which ordinarily appeared as a regal lion’s head, instead looked like his deceased former partner, Bob Marley.

“SCROOOO. . . I MEAN, ZAAAAAAAAAACK” said the reanimated visage of Marley.

“Hah! Bumhug!” said Ebenezer Zack, as he laughed boisterously to himself.

After a meager dinner, Ebenezer Zack was settling himself for his nightly repose, when he heard the distinctive sound of steel drums and a killer brass section.

“Bob? Is that you, Bob?” Ebenezer Zack asked, as the image of his partner began to manifest itself through the door to Ebenezer Zack’s bedchamber.

“Ebenezer Zack,” proclaimed Marley’s spirit, “You gon’ be visited by tree spirits, mon!”

“Tree spirits? What, like nymphs or dryads?”

“Nah, mon, Tree spirits! One, two, tree spirits.”

“Oh, three spirits, ha ha! Bob, you know I never could understand that bloody accent.”

“Okay, mon! But if you want a tree spirit, you can be havin’ some of ‘dis here ganja weed,” Marley replied, trying, as he so often had in life, to ply Ebenezer Zack with some recreational cannabis.

“Hah! Bumhug!”

. . . . .

Ebenezer Zack had slept less than an hour when his repose was interrupted by a bright light coming up from under his bedcurtains.

“What in blazes?” said Ebenezer Zack, as the bedcurtains parted, revealing the strange image of a diminutive David Bowie impersonator holding a golden cone. “I say,” Ebenezer Zack exclaimed, “aren’t you Ziggy St. . .”

“SILENCE!” bellowed David Bowie. “I am the ghost of Holiday Season past.”

“Holiday season?” Ebenezer Zack asked. “Last time –“

“Yes, upper management has decided we need to — how did he put it — expand our footprint in the marketplace. So, take my sleeve, and I shall reveal to you a vision of holiday season past.”

Ebenezer Zack did as instructed, and suddenly found himself in a completely unfamiliar setting. He was in a house, but where or when he could not say. It did not appear to be in London, or, indeed, anywhere in England. What’s more, the room was filled with strange furnishings, such as a box containing some sort of artist’s canvas whose images — surely not, thought Ebenezer Zack — seemed to be moving.

“What the Dickens?” said Ebenezer Zack. “Spirit, pray tell, where are we?”

“Watch and see,” David Bowie replied.

In the room was a middle aged man reclining on a sofa, watching the images on the mysterious box. Scrooge could hear the sounds and smell the aromas of a delicious dinner being prepared in the adjoining room. In the floor was a young boy, no more than eight. There was something oddly familiar about the boy to Ebenezer Zack, but he wasn’t sure what it was. The boy seemed to be reading an encyclopedia, while at the same time organizing into rows and columns small cards with pictures of men in strange uniforms apparently engaged in some sort of sporting event. “Remarkable,” said Ebenezer Zack.

The boy suddenly looked up at the man and asked, “Dad? Can I get a pocket knife for Christmas?”

The man replied, “Not this year, son. You’ve already asked for Transformers and baseball cards.”

“Gibberish!” thought Ebenezer Zack to himself.

The man on the sofa continued, “perhaps if I were an Eagle Scout who had planned a project to erect a flagpole, I would know the right kind of pocket knife to get you. As it is, you’ll probably have to wait until you’re 34 until you can get a proper pocket knife.”

“Okay, dad,” the boy replied, and went back to his cards.

“We are finished here,” David Bowie announced. Ebenezer Zack grasped David Bowie’s sleeve once again, and they soon found themselves back in Ebenezer Zack’s bedchamber.

“Is that all, spirit?” Ebenezer Zack asked. “Will we not visit more scenes from the past — perhaps of my own past?”

“No time,” said David Bowie, who, now that Ebenezer Zack looked at him/her, looked rather harried. “This is the spirit of Holiday Season past to ground control,” Ebenezer Zack heard David Bowie just before disappearing.

“Hah! Bumhug!”

. . . .

Ebenezer Zack was rather worked up after that and couldn’t sleep after his visitation. Fortunately, he didn’t have to wait long until his bedchamber was once more alit and his second visitor made his appearance.

“Ebenezer Zack! I am the ghost of Holiday Season present!” his second visitor announced. The second visitor basically looked like Santa Claus, except with a brown beard instead of white and a green robe instead of red. Ebenezer Zack had always thought this spirit looked like Santa Claus but had never heard anyone comment on this. Ebenezer Zack thought he might be taking crazy pills.

“I say,” Ebenezer Zack began, “but you bear a striking resemblance to Santa Cl. . .”

“SILENCE!” Green Santa Claus bellowed. “Take my sleeve, and I shall reveal to you a vision of holiday season present.” Ebenezer Zack again did as instructed and again found himself transported to a strange location. It was another house or living quarters, very like the first he had seen, but then again different. He saw a youngish man with his wife that Ebenezer Zack immediately recognized as his sister and brother-in-law. “Remarkable,” Ebenezer Zack said aloud.

His brother-in-law turned to his wife, Ebenezer Zack’s sister, and asked her, “what do we want for Christmas from your brother, babe?” Ebenezer Zack’s brother-in-law always called his wife, Ebenezer Zack’s sister, babe.

“We could use some garage shelves,” she replied, “to store things in our garage.”

Ebenezer Zack winced a little because his sister pronounced garage guh-RODGE, rather than GARE-edge. “Barbaric,” Ebenezer Zack said to himself.

“That is all, Ebenezer Zack,” Green Santa Claus proclaimed in his stentorian voice. Ebenezer Zack touched Green Santa Claus’s sleeve and, soon enough, found himself next to his bed.

“Spirit,” Ebenezer Zack said, “when last we met you had two children with you. Pray, spirit, what became of them.”

“Want and ignorance?” Green Santa Claus bellowed in his aggressive manner. “Oh, they’re doing quite well. See, since you’ve become so generous, they’ve changed their names to Tristan and Emily, and they will each be matriculating at Cambridge next fall.”

“Hah! Bumhug!”

. . . .

Despite his intention to stay awake, Ebenezer Zack drifted into a light doze before his third visitor arrived. He was dreaming uneasily. It was with not a little dread that Ebenezer Zack was anticipating his next visitor. The last time they had met, Ebenezer Zack was faced with the image of his own gravestone, learning that he was destined to die unloved if he did not repent of his miserly ways. More than that, though, Ebenezer Zack was dreading having to hear the third spirit’s awful banshee-like wail. So, Ebenezer Zack was quite shocked when he heard a brusque cockney accent in his room.

“Allo, guv-nah, Chop chop, then. Cheerio,” the third spirit said, rousing Ebenezer Zack from his slumber. The spirit was dressed in his long black robe as last time, but his hood was back, revealing a middle aged man with a shaved head, black goatee, and bushy black eyebrows. “Top o’ the morning to ya! Blandolf the Black’s the name.”

“Blandolf the Black?” said Ebenezer Zack, “now really, that’s just lazy storytell. . .”

“SILENCE” said Blandolf, momentarily losing his accent. “Sorry ’bout that, and sorry about all the wailing and the grim reaper business last time. Bad case of the collywobbles, you know.”

Ebenezer Zack had no idea what the collywobbles were, but he was relieved he would be spared from any more banshee wails. Ebenezer Zack reached out to Blandolf’s sleeve, and they were transported to a house much like the second house he had visited that night, though larger. He again saw his sister, though she looked like she had aged 10 or 15 years. His brother-in-law came into the room also looking as though he had aged. “Just enjoying our wonderful garage shelves,” his brother-in-law announced. Ebenezer Zack winced.

“They really do have an amazing amount of storage space,” Ebenezer Zack’s sister replied. “By the way, here’s your pocket knife back. Thanks for lending it to me.”

“Yep. That’s one great pocket knife. Sure was a wonderful Christmas when we got this pocket knife and these garage shelves.”

“Remarkable,” said Ebenezer Zack.

“That’s enough of all this, then,” said Blandolf, and he and Ebenezer Zack returned to Ebenezer Zack’s bedchamber.

“Spirit,” Ebenezer Zack said after they had returned, “I say, surely the visions you showed me on your previous visit have changed, given . . . recent developments.”

“Can’t say, mate,” Blandolf replied, “Not my department no more. Outsourced.”

“Hah! Bumhug!”

. . . .

After the three spirits made their second visitation to Ebenezer Zack, his reputation grew, and it was said that, if anyone in London, indeed in all of England, knew the secret of keeping Christmas all year round AND of giving the most thoughtful and appropriate Christmas gifts, then it was Ebenezer Zack. As Tiny Tim Cratchit said in his commercials for Under Armour, “God Bless Us, Every One.”