Scrood felt something insistent poking at his shoulder. He turned to see a well set up young man, clad in a stylish silk shirt with gartered sleeves, trousers and a waistcoat. He carried a riding crop, and it was this which was so irritatingly poking.
"On your feet, sir!" the vision demanded. "I am the ghost of Crispness present."
"Imagine my surprise," Scrood mumbled, dragging himself erect. "Can't we just consider this done and let me sleep?"
"Not a bit of it!" the ghost insisted. "You've much to see before you sleep again."
As before, there was a blurring, and Scrood found himself in a very small flat, none too warm, but very clean and neat. A woman proudly stirred about her table, making preparations for the celebration. She had no fancy Crispness gown as had the Wysiwygs, and made do with her shift. Still, Scrood thought her rather handsome.
"Who is she?" he asked. "And what difference does it make anyhow?"
"She's Bob Crotchit's wife," responded the ghost.
"You don't say! Well, I wish his acumen was as well displayed in his work as in his choice of a wife."
The door to the flat opened and Bob Crotchit entered, a very small bottle in his hand. His wife greeted him with a hug and kiss that brought a blush to the watcher's cheek. Bob placed the bottle on the table and lifted his wife in his arms, hands working insistently at her rump. "My dear wife," he enthused, "a merry very Crispness to you. I've waited impatiently for this day."
"And I as well, darling," she assured him. "It's been a long year."
"Well it needn't be longer," he grinned at her. "Bring the strap and let's be at it."
Laughing, missus Crotchit left the room while her husband opened the wine.
"That's a very small bottle," Scrood observed. "Hardly more than a cup or two."
"It's all Bob Crotchit can afford," the ghost observed dryly.
The woman returned, breathing a bit harder, and carrying a length of leather, evidently cut down from a discarded belt, shining with oil. She laid it on the table as if it were a golden purse, and took an old cup from the pantry. Bob poured a gentle measure of wine into the cup. His wife kissed the rim and passed it to him. Smiling, he drank it off and set the cup aside.
Without needing any urging, missus Crotchit bent over the back of a rickety looking chair, her palms in the seat and legs wide for balance. "I'm expecting the best dozen of my life, Bob," she urged. "Do take your time."
"That I shall, my dear," Bob assured her, tugging her shift up. "I think my dozen, and another for Mr. Scrood's nephew Red, who wished to be remembered."
She giggled. "I think that's cheating, darling, but by all means, any excuse will do." She rose to her tiptoes, accenting the curves of her buttocks. "Do let's begin, I am feeling a bit of a chill."
As the strap began coloring the woman's rump, eliciting groans of pleasure and pain, Scrood turned to the ghost. "Why bring me here, spirit? I knew how Crotchit would spend his day."
The ghost gestured with his crop. "Did you now? See how she lifts herself? Does it look as if she is being thrashed?"
"A figure of speech," Scrood insisted.
"Yes," the ghost agreed. "One that ignores the season and demeans the event. This poor man, whom you abuse in word and deed, has never brought that anger home to his wife. She offers and he accepts the privilege of Crispness with joy, and you insult him for it. Just which of you is it who is poorer?"
Scrood blinked. "Very well, I accept your judgement. I misspoke myself. They are plainly happy with their pleasures. Now may I return to my sleep?"
"Not yet," the ghost said. "We have more to see."
Scrood found himself in a much more pleasant room, with a fire roaring and lace curtains muting the winter sun. He recognized his nephew as he rolled on his feather bed, still groggy with sleep. The door opened and a woman entered, getting Red's full attention immediately. Her gown of black lace hid no part of her, merely calling attention to her charms, which were plentiful.
"Well now," Red smiled, "wanting an early start, are we?"
Elspeth grinned, placing a bottle and cup on the bedside table and bending down to kiss him. Red laughed, gripping her pendant breasts, lifting and teasing the engorged nipples. He pinched her slyly through the lace. "You're insatiable, you know," he laughed.
"Are you complaining, darling?" she whispered, her own hands busy.
"Not a bit of it," he laughed. "I just wonder how many friends I'll need to invite to satisfy you."
"You'll do quite well enough all by yourself," she assured him, " ;if only you won't be so gentle."
Red roared with laughter.
"Last year you couldn't sit for a week. How gentle should I be?"
Red smiled and released her. "Got some birches pickling, I would guess," he asked.
"For days!" she assured him. "They're tough as leather!"
"Well then, let's open the wine and see what we can do about keeping the holiday."
He reached for the bottle and uncorked it without any undue spilling. Elspeth smiled to know that he did not waste the nectar in showoff gushes. He filled the gold goblet she held out to him, allowed her to kiss the rim and accepted it. For a moment, he merely looked at the fluid, teasing her, then laughed and drank it off.
"Alright then," he smiled, "where's the birch?" Elspeth hurried into the next room and returned, swishing the last drops of brine from a bundle of the switches. Red took it, swished it himself to verify that it had pickled properly, and grinned. "Leather indeed!" he chortled. "Someone not far from here is going to be rather raw before night."
Elspeth kissed him greedily and knelt at his feet, head to the floor between his legs, and thighs spread. Her sheer lace did nothing to hide her most intimate charms, but Red tugged it up over her head to keep it from damage.
"I see you remember well, my dear," he grinned. "I think I rather got your attention in this position last year."
Her muffled voice agreed: "I never felt anything quite like it. I've waited a year to feel it again."
Red caressed her. "You know, if my poor uncle could see you like this, it might go far to undermining his despite of the day."
"You DID invite him, didn't you?" she asked.
"Of course, as always," he assured her, "but he just humbugged, as always, and refused. I think he almost enjoys being lonely."
"Well," she giggled, "it was a thought anyway. I wonder if he's ever handled a birch."
"I doubt it," Red shrugged, then brightened, "and certainly never on such a lovely rump as yours, my dear." With the word, he swished the birch hard against her left buttock. The flexible twigs spread over the curved surface, attacking her from flank to the soft pink lips of her sex. A squeal recognized the impact, then a gasped appeal for more.
Watching, Scrood was embarrassed by the display, the more so for his own reaction of envy.
"What a foolish young man," the ghost offered with heavy sarcasm, "wasting a day when he might use it more profitably in making money."
"Yes," Scrood offered lamely, "so I have always thought. Perhaps there are 'different' profits to be made."
"Well and well," the ghost chortled, "at least we have gotten past 'humbug'."
"I will concede the point," Scrood mumbled. "Now may I return to my bed?"
"If you can
think of nothing better," the ghost said, "I suppose you might