They were portly gentlemen, pleasant to behold, and now stood, with their hats off, in Scrooge’s office. They had books and papers in their hands, and bowed to him.
“Scrooge and Marley’s, I believe,” said one of the gentlemen, referring to his list. “Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Scrooge, or Mr. Marley?”
“Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years,” Scrooge replied. “He died seven years ago, this very night.”
“We have no doubt his liberality is well represented by his surviving partner,” said the gentleman, presenting his credentials.
It certainly was; for they had been two kindred spirits. At the ominous word “liberality,” Scrooge frowned, and shook his head, and handed the credentials back.
“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute of the United States of America, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many millions are in want of common health care insurance; hundreds of thousands are in the midst of medical bankruptcies, sir.”
“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.
“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
“And the Emergency Rooms?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”
“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman.
“Medicaid in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.
“Very busy, sir.”
“Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”
“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian care of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to American legislators engaged in the reform of their health care system. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”
“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.
“You wish to be anonymous?”
“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. What good has health care reform ever done for the people of England!”
“You mean beside slightly longer life expectancy at forty percent of their health care expenditure?”
“Bah! Americans have their own institutions; and those who are badly off must go there.”
“Many can’t take time off their jobs to wait many hours in emergency rooms, and Medicaid programs have long waiting lists and shortfalls in their budgets; until they reform their system, many Americans will die.”
“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides—excuse me—I don’t know that.”
“But you might know it,” observed the gentleman. “The BBC has—“
“It’s not my business,” Scrooge returned. “It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”
Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue their point, the gentlemen withdrew. Scrooge resumed his labours with an improved opinion of himself, and in a more facetious temper than was usual with him.
(I wish I had time to write about the Spirit of Swine Flus Past)