A CHRISTMAS CAROL                 by Art Buchwald

"Uncle," said Bob Cratchit, why not come to our house tomorrow for a three-martini Christmas dinner?"

"Bah, humbug," said Scrooge. "I don't believe in three-martini Christmas dinners."

"But Uncle, if you come we can discuss business and then the dinner will be tax-deductible and I will be able to afford to buy poor Tiny Tim a bird."

"I'm against all tax-deductible dinners and lunches too. I don't believe in them even when they come at Christmas time."

"Oh, Uncle, what a terrible thing to say. Where would we all be if we couldn’t deduct our holiday lunches and dinners as legitimate entertainment?"

"Bah, humbug," said Scrooge as he went home to have a peanut butter sandwich.

Scrooge put on his nightcap and sat by the fire when suddenly there appeared before his eyes the apparition of his old friend Bert Lance.

Lance still had all his bank books, ledgers and deeds, and was holding in his right hand a diplomatic passport.

Scrooge said, "What do you want, Bert?"

"I came to tell you that you will be visited by three spirits. Listen to what they have to say, Scrooge. Otherwise you will be like me, doomed forever trying to unload my stock in the National Bank of Georgia."

This really frightened Scrooge, as he knew Lance was in a bad way.

The first spirit showed up exactly at midnight. "I am the martini of Christmas-past," it said. "Come." The spirit took Scrooge back to his farm. "Do you see that happy man behind the plow?"

"It's me," said Scrooge.

"Who paid for the plow and that land and the peanuts you couldn't sell?"

"The taxpayer."

The martini spirit said, "And you never said a word then about the tax laws being unfair and a disgrace."

Tears filled Scrooge's eyes. "They didn't seem unfair then. But getting farm rebates is different than having tax-deductible lunches and dinners."

"Scrooge, how are you going to keep them down on the farm if they don't serve tax-free meals in town?"

The second martini showed up an hour later.

"I am the spirit of Christmas-present, Scrooge. Come with me."

The spirit took Scrooge to a convention where a sandy-haired fellow was sitting on the stage drinking beer and talking about his kinfolks.

"Why, it's my brother Billy," Scrooge said.

"Yes, and do you realize where he'd be today if conventions weren't tax deductible?"

"Stop," begged Scrooge. "I don't want to hear any more."

The third martini showed up. "I am the spirit of Christmas-1980. Would you like to see what will happen to your tax reform bill by the time the House and Senate get through with it?"

"No more," cried Scrooge. "I have been persuaded."

"Good," said the third martini. "Then you know what to do."

Scrooge went out and bought the biggest bird he could find, for which, of course, he got a receipt. He then went to Bob Cratchit's house and presented him with it. "I'd like to talk to you about the Whitney Account over dinner," Scrooge said.

"Of course, sir. And I shall order a very good bottle of burgundy as long as we're at it. After all, a business Christmas dinner comes only once a year."

Scrooge chuckled and after stuffing himself until he thought he'd explode, he wrote in his little book, "Dinner with Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim. Purpose – Business - to discuss new stools for Counting House Annex."