This is the first scene from my adaptation of the Dickens' classic.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
A street in the business district of London. The most prominent establishment: "Scrooge & Marley's Counting House." Christmas Eve. 1843. Approximately 2:00 p.m. The street is teeming with people, all in a holiday rush, greeting each other warmly. In the distance, we hear a GROUP OF CAROLERS SINGING. As the Carolers get closer to the street, the various pedestrians begin to pay attention to the caroling, and look down the street towards the sound. (It is hoped that, when the children arrive, they can walk through the audience to the stage.) As the Carolers approach, NEDDY, a boy of 16 or so, races out of "Scrooge & Marley's Counting House" and leaps into the crowd. Hot on his heels, out of the establishment, comes BOB CRATCHIT, who appears to be in a dither over Neddy's abandonment. BOB Neddy! Neddy, get back in here at once! You know Mr. Scrooge won't allow any time off in the middle of a work day! NEDDY Work day, indeed, Bob Cratchit! (to a group of revelers) Did you hear that, lads! A work day, indeed! (the lads laugh) BOB (catches up with Neddy) Get back inside, Neddy! If he catches you out here... NEDDY It's Christmas Eve, Bob! Ever heard of the day? Christmas Eve! Tell 'im, my friends! What day is it? ALL CHRISTMAS EVE!!! (they laugh; the singing children are getting closer) BOB Christmas Eve to Mr. Scrooge is no different from any other day! You've only been working for him a few weeks, Neddy! You don't know him as well as I do! NEDDY Well, I know him well enough to know he's off to Grovsner Square on business and won't be back this afternoon or this evenin'! BOB He told you that? NEDDY He did! And he told me to tell you we should take the rest of the day off! BOB Mr. Scrooge said that? NEDDY That he did! BOB That's extremely strange... NEDDY So enjoy yourself, why don't you, Bob Cratchit! You're always mopin' around with a frightened look on your mug! Be cheerful! BOB Cheerful? NEDDY Yes, Bob! Cheerful! You remember how to be cheerful don't ya? Just make yourself feel happy... (grabs passing girl, flings her into Cratchit's arms) ...and then DO somethin' about it! (he starts them dancing; Bob smiles) WOMAN IN CROWD Here they come! The group of Carolers arrive in the street, reaching the culminating verses of the carol, which they complete to the delight of the gathered throng. With the applause of the CROWD, a couple of STREET MUSICIANS BEGIN PLAYING A ROUSING TUNE, POLKA-TEMPO. (The Street Musicians can simply mime to recorded music.) The Carolers sing and the crowd erupts into gleeful dancing. Neddy swaths a path through the crowd, dragging Bob with him. He hoists Bob up on a platform, and coaxes him to dance. Eventually, Bob gives in and breaks into a lively solo dance atop the platform. The crowd watches this and enjoys it thoroughly. Then, breaking his way through the crowd, SCROOGE enters, in a rage. He tears through the people, knocking one or two folks to the ground in his haste and anger. He waves his walking stick in protest and screams at the top of his lungs, attempting to quiet the festivities. SCROOGE STOP! CEASE! STOP THIS, I TELL YOU! STOP THIS IMMEDIATELY! STOP! (he lifts himself up onto the platform where Bob is dancing oblivious to the interruption) I SAY STOOOOOOOPPPPPP!!!! The noise of the crowd ceases instantly. Bob, lost in his joy, keeps dancing away. Everything has stopped- the singing, the music, the cheer. But Bob keeps dancing and singing. Finally, after a moment, Bob turns in his dance, and ends up face to face with Scrooge. SCROOGE (CONT'D) (after a beat staring Bob down) Enjoying yourself, are you, Bob? BOB (frozen in panic) Yes, sir. No, sir. Maybe, sir. Well, sir... SCROOGE QUIET! Quiet, Bob Cratchit before I lose control of my good nature! Who put you up to this? BOB Well, Mr. Scrooge, I can't really say that I... SCROOGE Don't lie to me, Cratchit, you don't have the intestinal fortitude to participate in such an exercise in stupidity as this without some kind of provocation! It was that new apprentice, wasn't it? Ned Percival! Why, I curse the day I was talked into hiring him. Where is he? (beat; Neddy attempts to sneak away) Come, speak up, Cratchit! Where is that ridiculous boy? (sees Neddy) PERCIVAL!!! (Neddy stops) Percival, put your weasly little face in front of mine this instant! (Neddy makes his way to the platform) Now! Tell me the truth! Was it you who put Cratchit up to this? BOB Please, sir, Neddy had nothing to do... SCROOGE Quiet, Cratchit, I'm addressing his weasly face, not yours! (to Neddy) Well, Percival? NEDDY Yes, sir. I lied to him. I told Bob you'd be away for the afternoon and that you'd told us to take the rest of the day off! SCROOGE (beat; smiles) Well, then...I understand. I appreciate your telling me the truth, Neddy. NEDDY You do, sir? SCROOGE Of course, I do. And as a display of my appreciation, I am officially giving you the rest of the day off! NEDDY Why, thank you, sir! SCROOGE And while you're at it, take tomorrow off! And the next day! And the next! (incensed) In fact, take the rest of your life off! Consider yourself discharged! (Neddy, runs off; the crowd reacts negatively) And as for the rest of you, I advise you to remove your sweating, frivolous carcasses from the front of my place of business! If you remain here one second longer, I shall summon the constabulary! Off with you now! Go! Go!!! Grumbling, the crowd disperses. Scrooge steps off the platform and goes to the door of his office. Bob crawls off the platform and begins to walk away. SCROOGE (cont'd) And where do you think you're going? BOB Why, Mr. Scrooge, I assumed...I was...I assumed you would... SCROOGE Oh, you assumed, did you? Well, let me tell you what you can assume from now on, Bob Cratchit. You can assume that I expect you to stay at your post one extra hour every day for the next six months with no increase of salary. You can assume that I will not stand for any further display of insubordination or malingering from you from this day forward! And to use the word in a different but equally viable context, you can assume the office duties of one Mr. Neddy Percival, apprentice, no longer affiliated with this business establishment. (opens door) Now, get to work! BOB Yes, sir! (rushes to door) Thank you, Mr. Scrooge! Thank you so very... SCROOGE TO WORK!!! BOB Yes, sir! (he runs inside) SCROOGE (scowls at bare street) Humbug. (goes inside and closes door)