Allow me now to share Stave II of Jacob - A Denouement in One Act. Stave 1, which I posted last week, can be read here. If you have ever wondered, “What about poor, old Jacob Marley?” Then, this story is for you. Jacob evolved from a poem I wrote years ago, which I also posted at HP. Enjoy!
Jacob - A Denouement in One Act
(Time passes – years of time. This will be illustrated by lighting and visual cues and trick effects: Perhaps a clock’s hands begin to spin around, slow at first, then faster. Perhaps the clock’s face glows, slightly pulsating. Jacob is seen always at his desk, always stacking the same set of coins, as the light comes up and fades again to dark. Perhaps, at one moment of illumination, his coat is on; soon after, it is back off again. At points of re-illumination, more cobwebs appear, then seem to grow ever longer, thicker and more covered in dust.
Presently, a faint light appears in the corner of the one window, moving to suggest a glowing object approaching. The light shines underneath Jacob’s door. A loud, echo-filled knock sounds. Jacob, in the midst of yet another count, is visibly startled)
(Calling through the closed door)
(Realizing someone is at the door)
Who goes there!
Open the door, Marley, sir. Come now and let me in!
If you are the devil himself, you are excused! Begone, leige, my hell is complete! Have I not paid enough to stave off further visitations from the likes of you?
No, no! ’tis no Luciferian entity at your door, nor is it a godly messenger. Open the door; you will see.
What is left for me to believe of anyone, or anything of good? What reason is there to think that I should expect other than more dark and dank to seep in under my doorstep, at lowly best to wordlessly throw another seventy years’ solitary servitude at me?
For once, old man, trust. Trust what you hear and what you will see.
The irony escapes me not, for both in life and after death did I rely upon costume and deceit. Was but an eye’s blink hence that I portrayed a trio of spirits for one who still walked among men….
Oh but the fear that visits me now!
How now such an old and kindred emotion be renewed in me, peculiar to one whose carcass so long ago was swept away, left to wallow in endless longing for anything that might pass for a heart?
Oh distant God in your far-off heaven, protect this lost spirit!
Have I not earned at least the sparing of a doubly gifted damnation?
(Jacob leaves his desk and shuffles to the door, wringing his clasped hands, stumbling over the chains that drag behind him. As he nears the door, it slowly, magically swings open. There stands a regal, old man, dressed and coifed so as to reflect the Edwardian era of early 1900’s. It is the recently deceased Tim Cratchit. He is carrying a lantern)
I say to you, fear me not, Jacob Marley!
(Falling to his knees)
I am weak victim to the vestigial remains of a conscience that walked so very long ago.
I fall upon me knees – I can no longer hold ground. I am a fully broken man.
(Stepping through the door, he sets the lantern down, reaches out for Jacob’ hand and takes it. This touch lifts Jacob smoothly to his feet)
Come, stand up, man.
Stand up and see me now.
You beckon and…what heh? On my own two feet…I stand….
Rise above the boards, sir; rise above, no more to bleed shame and penance. You have poured enough of yourself into the cellars and soils below.
Is it I you address in such a gentlemanly manner? What say you? What can you mean by this?
Oh, Jacob, you have no ken as to whom you address?
Do you possess even the smallest notion? But of course, you do not. How would you?
Encased here in this tomb, decade upon decade, counting your hours with each stack of coins that you place, over and over again in tragic litany to all you wrought in life and now pay in death…
Oh, the hours, the minutes, the moments!
Each that has ever passed in this commencement of my own horrific eternity is marked like a clockwork. The cold slivers of gold tick, tick, tick away time, never changing.
For all their toil, never a one has worn thinner for it, nor lost its callous sheen. These ghastly tokens were minted to serve as wicked talisman….
… which will now lie fallow. Done. No more to be counted. You have counted long enough.
I have counted….
Wh… what are you saying?
Jacob Marley, it is I, Tim Cratchit, son of Bob Cratchit, partner to the one you called partner, Ebenezer Scrooge, the one who links us both over mystical planes and spiraling time, more so than any cumbersome chain or creaking padlock. Sir, I am the boy not only saved by Ebenezer Scrooge, Mr. Marley. I am the boy saved by you!
I? But long since gone was I, long since left a world that in haste set me free of its hateful embrace!
No, no, Jacob. Your utter lack of knowledge of any outcome is but one aspect of the punishment in which you have been mired all these years! You have no conception, that what you accomplished on a Christmas night, nigh fourscore past, was a wave of good that became not only the salvation of one man, but of countless others.
That we are all linked and part of a far different chain you later forged is as much a reality as was until now any one of those pitted coins….
(Lifting the lengths of chain)
… I have borne them as I have suffered them…. But, you say; a chain – later forged?
Indeed! The chains you alone transformed, Mr. Marley….
Jacob; call me Jacob. I have not heard my name spoken in ages….
… the chains you transformed, that until this moment you bore alone. The weight of all the grievances you labored to wear is intertwined with silver threads of progress and salvation you too carried, invisible though they were.
Jacob, the chains of events you set in motion with your unearthly visitation, when you appeared to Ebenezer Scrooge on that Christmas Eve accomplished so much more than resurrecting a still-breathing, solitary soul.
You created apparitions and played them as only Scrooge’s one, true friend could. Who else would know all there was to know of the man? You showed him the way, Jacob. And in doing so, you paved a wide path for a multitude of souls.
You are one not to shut away, but to gather in an embrace of gratitude.
But for your fantastical charade, a city’s worth of humankind benefitted, lived and thrived. Happiness was kindled; healing was crafted, in health as well in hearth. Merriness lived in the simplest of moments…
You built a wholly different kind of chain, Jacob. And it is this chain, by decree of the same nameless, formless ministers who directed your task those many Christmases ago, that brings me here tonight.
A good chain then? A chain not of these ghostly, ghastly irons?
A chain of Mankind, Jacob, as linked hand to hand, a brilliant bending of links, wrought of thought, word and deed…
No imprisoning chain but a beautiful necklace, fit for a queen…?
…a bountiful web, a net cast into rich seas….
(Tim guides Jacob to the darkened stage side, where the room gives way to the void)
Behold, Jacob Marley, visitations from a life so distant from your own, yet linked back to you, in myriad ways…
(Tim gestures to the darkened space beyond the room, which as it is illuminated, becomes a window into Tim’s own past, his life and accomplishments on Earth)
Sir, your words are music, each syllable a ray of light.
You are among spirits an angel and I am unworthy of your luminous presence.
Wretched, wretched me!
I long ago joined ranks with the lowliest shadows, not even granted leave to slink about the better corners of Mankind’s sphere!
But for the one redeeming task as commanded by forces greater than those that placed me here have I dwelt in solitary confinement…
Oh, Jacob, do you not know that angels appear in all shapes?
Winged seraphim bathed in light are but upon which the simplest minds insist.
Let us leave notions of halos and besparkled robes to a child’s theater.
Dark, dirty and downtrodden are the true choirs, blessed to serve on earth as ragtag visitors.
In their threadbare uniforms they scuttle about like beetles, barely tolerated if not recoiled at, stepped upon and crushed, dismissed as nuisances, never venerated.
The telltale wings many would rather expect are but the garb of altarpiece figures and fairy tales.
Jacob, you were spoken to and duly commanded, when given the task of redemptive consultation upon your lone and lonely friend, Ebenezer Scrooge.
You who were the only soul to know the life and times of one whose paths were in critical need of re-charting, and this you did with a quiet but hurricane force.
You who in life played the vain dandy were in death the consummate actor, tailor, stagehand and director, all in one.
You, Jacob, crafted a cast of characters that could blast beneath a hardened man’s stony hull and spark the soft matter that lay there, dormant and undeveloped.
You knew which stories to score, which scenes to play.
You knew which lines to speak, sing, and gesticulate in deathly silence.
You, sir, molded anew a man from clay that had long been formed and fired into a impervious vessel of greed and selfishness and from it crack open a fountainhead of good and giving that changed the life of one, who in turn changed the lives of my parents, my siblings and most of all, changed me.
I lived and did not die, Jacob Marley.
’twas not only because of Scrooge that I lived; I lived because of you.
And as such the apparitions you conjured to show Scrooge his past, his present and his future allow me now to show you shadows of the past, but this time from my own life, a long and wonderful life which end was celebrated less than a fortnight ago.
Tears and laughter and embraces were my send off, Jacob. This you had a hand in as well…
(Vignettes are illuminated and enacted, revealing moments in Tim’s life that highlight his successes and happiest times: Vignette #1 depicts a graduation scene, where Tim gives the commencement address, suggesting highest honors. The original Cratchit family is in attendance; all adults, Tim’s siblings are now grown up. An old man stands with the family; it is the elderly Scrooge)
Witness, Jacob Marley, the things that have been, moments that live on, etched on the canvas of my history and in the memories of those I hold most dear, who shared these times with me as the very human causes behind the best hours and moments of a life fully lived, of which I would not give up one high, one low, one sideways skewed aside, one diversion, one correction….
There were achievements, testaments to learning and industry….
I graduated with honors from university, my family in attendance to cheer me on.
And good old Uncle Eb was there to shake my hand. I graduated first in my class, the first in my family to earn a degree, for as apprentice did my father enter his trade. It was only through the great generosity of Uncle Eb that he as untitled laborer was made partner in a firm by then grown venerable through honest trade and wise investment.
(The vignette progresses in scene and time….)
My eighty years on this planet surged at full steam. I earned titles of doctor and professor. I conquered mysteries in the laboratories and developed devices that would help change life courses for many. I worked with colleagues to eradicate the very disease that crippled my own limbs as child.
And then came the dedication of a hospital, in honor of my life’s work, to which I insisted the name Scrooge be affixed in stone over the entrance doors, in gratitude to the man who started it all for me….
(Vignette #1 morphs into a different, much later commencement scene, with an elderly Tim presiding over the dedication of a hospital)
Why an archangel, are you, Tim, a great man among good men, a saint! What indeed have you wrought by the grace of your goodness! What did I know of Mankind….
I too, Jacob, am but one link in the chains you with your friend forged over vast years of time and space.
It was by grace of generosity that all this came to be, grace that came to be called by all who knew him with the simplest of monikers, one that belied the vastness of his spirit. Grace was personified in Uncle Eb.
It was into his arms that I first ran without crutch or cane, for it was he who took me to the finest physicians, artists who healed me with their craft. Had it not been for Eb’s love and had it not been for the love I held in return for that dear man, I would not have walked, nay run the rest of my years as one possessed of winged heels!
…to think…non other than my partner in life, Scrooge!
Yes Ebenezer Scrooge, whose complete story I now see as clearly as you have long known it. It was he to whom I and so many others will be indebted for eternity.
Now, in this afterlife, I too share that transparency of perception, where past, present and future overlap to explain all the how’s and why’s of the lives we touched. And I now know the rest of your story, in knowing his.
Recall, Jacob, we are the sum of our deeds.
’tis not angels but deeds that possess the truest of wings, for each good deed has the power to fly and make manifest its doer.
But the best beauty? It lies in the fact that each sum can forevermore add onto itself.
When most mortals think all is over and done, there can be even then a chance!
(Vignette #2 lights up to depict the next scenes in Tim’s life, focused on love: Love between young adult Tim and the woman he would wed. The romantic encounter morphs into a wedding scene. This scene transforms then into one in which Tim’s wife presents him with his firstborn. Tim, wife and first child are soon joined by other children to suggest a growing family)
Behold, Jacob, there is more I wish to share with you…
(Vignette #2 concludes)
Uncle Eb’s deeds in life still compound, and their sum is the simplest of sainthoods. It is deification that remains unsung but for the joys and successes of the lives that are still touched by his. To this day, sir, the time-traveling legacy that is Good knows no end.
And oh, how Uncle Eb built that legacy. It is a vast house that stands forever in his name! My children and their children are its keepers, and the great grand children I knew only a short time on earth as mere babes, who I now watch from afar and protect with the eternal force of my love will keep its rooms filled for generations to come.
For all this, dear Jacob, I thank you, for you are the one behind all of it.
Such joy! Such a gift to behold! Would that the imbeciles to whose ranks I was called could have learned while we all still breathed…. Would that I could walk abreast with the likes of you and shake your hand as equal.
No, no, do not exalt! I am no more or less than you, Jacob Marley.
Such pedestal placing is but to build a stand from which all humans must at one time fall. And verily, Man tumbles farther the higher he builds.
Let us throw aside adulation, an error of habit reward-hungry folk too often feast upon, leaving hapless creatures to starve.
Paradise is not about seating the choice few.
Paradise has her doors flung wide and serves without prejudice. Downcast eyes should be lifted, not blinded to redemptive hope; our gazes should fall full upon the face of each other in honesty, and in truth.
(Vignette #3 depicts a scene in which an elderly Tim Cratchit is seated at the bedside of Ebenezer Scrooge, who is near death)
(Turns and in affection, touches Jacob on the arm)
And as such, I look to you squarely across a table, equivalent beings, flawed and glorious in equal measure.
Oh, Tim, dare I imagine the prayers of the dead are still heard?
Know this, Jacob, there is and always has been an ear to listen to every word ever uttered into the ether, where help has been petitioned from a heart, be it living or stilled.
Your hoarse whispers were heard and your effect upon Ebenezer Scrooge was noted.
(To himself, incredulously)
Oh, all my lamentations, that infernal recitation…. I was heard! I was never as alone as I feared!
… the saddest songs of all.
Their sound carries up and into the darkest recesses of the universe, where no reasoning mind could fathom an audience.
Jacob, for Mankind to wrestle with his lot is but human.
The dead walk in life amongst the living, whilst the living wander, like the dead. ’tis not needful of the Reaper’s blade for to claim an end to the true beating of a heart.
Countless are they who have nothing but ice water in their veins and cold, still pools where instead the fires of life should glow; this I should know.
But even their prayers, syllables borne of nameless longing, fly into the heavens alongside the most fervent and trussed up sonnets.
If one studiously composed vesper calls forth a celestial being, then so does the coarsest utterance. If one thousand practiced voices call forth an ear, so does the tuneless croak of a broken spirit.
Would that the spirits I conjured have come to me in some earlier incarnation, to haunt my night and set me aright….
You speak of spirits past? Those you embodied? Intent and regret stoked the fires that bent each link you forged….
The ghosts merely manifested one hungered to the core; they resonated with the eloquence of all laureates who ever put pen to paper, knife to tablet, voice to stage….
They were as much of me as I am of them still. No pride, only shame I felt, having been thusly qualified to deliver….
As for your coins, and the cold, old fingers that counted them over and over again….
Ah, those infernal coins! Have them, take them! I fall face forward at your altar, sir!
As young man I loathed the financial realm I as lone son and eldest child was obliged, nay, forced to embrace. How I had wanted to serve the Muses of the theater instead, to recite glorious lines of the theaters’ scribes, who with quill and parchment composed the true crosses I longed to worship! Kings or paupers, Romeos or bumbling oafs dredged up from my own eccentric depths… That was how I wished my life to be lived.
The duty that first tethered, later soldered you, Jacob, to your very chair.
The desk became my anvil; profit became my prison….
Those coins became your subjects, tithes of a reluctant supplicant who in anger embraced the dark forces of ambition and greed….
(Tim gathers up the coins into a bag or container of some sort. Jacob assists)
Countless are they who for wont of free spiritedness and luxury of choice climb into saddles set upon the dreary horses of Obligation and Duty.
Innumerable are they who rather trudge life’s path than set parental angers afire with thoughtful but separatist dissent.
Infinite, Jacob, like you, are those who though in their everyday do what seems right, mete out grave error to self and in turn others, for anger wrought of non-realization is a wicked plaything of the Fates, a bouncing, binding force that can fly too easily into the laps of unwitting others whose only error was to exist in a same room, or city, or lifetime of those to whom there was formal obligation, with nothing to justify but blind allegiance.
Far too many, I regret, are they who were forced by my hand to play along, who suffered for the folly of my angry manifestations.
This I understand with a clarity that kills in its sharpness.
When I thought I played the man, I was but an angry, vengeful child, fodder for destructive inspiration.
But your deeds of salvation for a man you knew in life and remembered in the after are all that count now.
You willingly labored with the lowliest of miners to find the one bit of coal that could warm a heart so petrified that nothing before it could kindle even the smallest particle of heat. My father, who suffered first hand, would later bask in the very phoenix that arose in one so singled out, thanks to your endeavors. The warming fire in the counting house, in time, lit up a city block.
That cursed, lump of coal; I know it far too well!
How cold we kept our rooms, how like ice I recall even my own bed!
Oh, the cold chill I slugged through in life and more so in death embraced. And the cold in which my old friend Ebenezer resided, both in home, in hearth and in the depths of his heart were but the hallmark of all forgotten graves before him.
Scrooge invoked me by the force of his everyday.
Which in your death, Jacob, was brought to life. You turned the very tides….
You brought life in death, and joy in fear’s dark face. You gave of a banquet that lives on to this day. As Ghosts of Scrooge’s life past, present and yet to come, you transformed not only yourself, but also a friend in dire need.
Ah, the Ghosts of all Christmases were but the undertakings of a vain, old fop who in life affected miserly pride, who sought great achievement to mask a realm of wrong!
The facades I employed in life served my decrepit countenance even better in death. ’twas destiny, this trinity of spirited roles I played.
The three fantastical beings were nothing more than magical contrivances created in the very subconscious of the man who would be taught by them, and I, their thespian deliverer.
I am no Ghost of Christmas Past, Present or Yet to Come; I am the servant of a far greater Spirit, who by force of reflection alone knew what story mandated its telling in hopes of sparing my friend, Ebenezer.
And teach him, you did, Jacob. You planted the seeds of Mankind in his soul. And they flourished. Your ghostly apparitions will forever be revered, and you, in exchange, will live forever more.
What, Tim, do you mean?
The salvation of your friend and the lives he in turn touched, thanks to your great deed of a Christmas night so long ago, were never discounted.
What you did was never to go unrewarded.
What say you?
(focusing directly on Jacob, to emphasize)
Jacob Marley, your penance is paid! You are square with the house.
Paid in full? You mean to say I am complete?
Revelations and miracles!
Your circle, sir, has come forthwith. And on the strength of that balanced scale, I have come here for you to carry out the one thing with which I have been entrusted….
’tis a gift of grace, and one upon whom I am to bestow it.
(Putting his hands on Jacob’s shoulders)
…a gift of after-life redemption… for you….
(sinking back to his knees, looking up)
Tim! Tim Cratchit! Dare I believe my eyes, my ears?
I know her beauteous name – dare I speak of Hope?
Speak her name!
Jacob, Hope borne of Faith.
It is what holds us all together.
’tis the divine thread that harnesses the universe.
Time and tithes collected are worthy of effort and endeavor. Believe you can believe and it is simply so. As Hope is eternal, it is and was never too late.
Oh Lord in heaven! I cry! And such joy I feel! In death I have never felt so alive!
(The men rejoice, embracing. Jacob’s demeanor transforms his form to reflect the grace he realizes he has been granted)
By the sum of my endeavors I was given this one gift. And in the names of all spirits of all Christmases that were and ever will be, I place with your redemption. Your price, Jacob, having been paid, sends me here to gather you up. Up from here, and out, and far beyond this small space…. you will never need look back….
Dear man, I accept this miraculous gift. I will place complete trust in you and call myself your humble and unworthy recipient!
Indeed! Trust and follow; your journey has only begun….
(Pauses, changes his tone)
But first, Jacob, there is someone I want you to meet. Traveling companions make for a merrier journey….
End of Stave II
To be continued....
Text & story by Kimann Schultz, copyright 2017, all rights reserved
Published by Dakeha Taunus LLC 2017