Part Five – Redemption
In the last instalment, Ebeneezer Ashley came face to face with his own mortality and the ruination of his company, thanks to a visit from the Ghost of Ameobi Yet to Come. We left him knelt beside his own grave, terrified of the fate that awaited him…
Ashley opened his eyes and fixed them on the alarm clock, which had started its morning melody. Flat on his back with the blanket pulled up to his chins, he slowly and nervously looked around the room. He slowly sat himself up, resting his back on the headboard. He put a hand under his pillow and pulled out a small Christmas tree decoration. As he played with it between his fingers, a large smile slowly spread across his round face.
He had a chance. There was still time. If he changed his approach now, he could save his soul. His company. He could live longer. Maybe it was a dream, but he seemed to remember that all the TV shows seemed to think Christmas was a time for miracles.
He jumped from the bed and dressed in one of Donnay’s finest tracksuits, itself a change from his usual look of business casual. He called the driver to pick him up, and ran downstairs to front door, stopping only to grab a few breakfast cereal bars.
He opened the passenger door, threw himself into the seat and pumped his hand into that of the driver’s. “Merry Christmas, my good man.”
The driver recoiled in shock. “Thanks, sir. You too. You sure you want to sit up here with me?” Ashley had never sat in the front seat before, and the driver could probably count the number of times that Ashley had spoken to him on the fingers of one hand.
“Of course, mate!”
“Ok… where to?”
“To the office!”
The driver pulled away slowly, with the sound of Ashley enthusiastically asking personal questions ringing in his ears.
“Pull over here please, Steve?” Ashley asked the driver, who he had learned the life story of over the last ten minutes.
“Sure thing, Ebeneezer” said the driver, feeling uncomfortable using the name Ashley had insisted he use.
As the car pulled to the kerb, Ashley thanked him. “I’ll walk from here, Steve”.
“Ok, should I wait at the office”.
“Don’t be a plum – go home. I’ll get a taxi.”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course! It’s Christmas – go home to your family!”
“Thanks!” shouted the driver, quickly pulling away from the kerb before his boss changed his mind.
Ashley walked down the road. It was only a short walk to the office, and he could see the Ameobi boys just ahead of him.
They turned around and smiled. They waited for him to catch up with them.
“Thanks for last night! My eyes are open now!”
The Ameobis looked around to make sure that no one had overheard that comment, which could quite easily become a newspaper headline, perhaps along the lines of ‘Ameobis and Ashley in Rude Romp’. I’m sure you can think of better ones, dear reader, but I’m trying not to swear any more than is necessary for this story.
“We have no idea what you’re talking about, boss” said Shola, his voice the seductive purr of a jungle cat. One with a Geordie accent (imagine Barry White as a lion with a Geordie accent “here, gazelle, get owwer here pet, I got a treat for you”).
“Of course not, boys!” Ashley winked extravagantly. “You,” he pointed to Shola, “You took me back to my first Christmas alone. I thank you for that. Here’s a pony.” He handed Shola some fresh banknotes. “Go buy yourself some hats.”
He turned to Sammy “And you…” he reached out to Sammy, and nipped his cheek between his thumb and forefinger. “You took me into the future, and showed me the error of my ways. Here’s a monkey.” He handed another wad of banknotes to Sammy. “Go get yourself a selection of footwear.”
He turned to Tomi. “You…”
There was an uncomfortable silence.
“You look like a nice boy. You work for me?”
“Here’s a tenner – go to the cinema, treat yourself.” He shook them all by the hand, one-by one. “You two have saved my soul. And I’m sure your mate helped somehow, also” he said, nodding at Tomi, not wanting to leave him out. “Take a week off, I’ll square it with Pardew. Merry Christmas!” He nodded at them.
“Thanks, boss” muttered Shola and Sammy, slightly nonplussed by what had happened.
“Aye, cheers” agreed Tomi, angered by playing second fiddle to his brothers once again.
Ashley smiled at them once more, then bounced off towards the office, making a beeline for Pardew’s office.
“Merry Christmas, you slag!” shouted Ashley, slapping Pardew so hard across the back that he spat coffee on his laptop.
Pardew coughed and wheezed a little, before turning back to his boss with a questioning look on his face. “Merry Christmas?”
“That’s the spirit! Now, what are you doing here. It’s Christmas!”
“I know. You told me to come in.”
“Oh yeah. Well, forget about that. Go home, spend some time with your wife, Pards.”
“Pards?” Pardew’s eyes lit up with pride. “Pards, guv?”
“Call me Ebeneezer.”
“Ok, now Pards, you’d better get home, and get that turkey on.”
“It’s Christmas, Pards! Go home, spend it with the family.”
Pardew got up from his chair slowly. “Are you sure you’re ok, guv?”
“Never better. It’s Christmas!”
Pardew shook his head slowly. He had no idea what had come over Ashley, but he much preferred this version of Ashley than the previous one. He slowly put his winter coat, hat and gloves on, all the while waiting for Ashley to change his mind. Seeing no sign of Ashley playing an elaborate joke, he headed for the door. No sooner had he stepped out of the door, however, than Ashley called him back.
“Call me Ebeneezer.”
“I forgot something – your Christmas present…”
“I left one on your desk…”
“Ah, thanks! Greatly appreciated!” He pulled Pardew in towards him for a hug. After an uncomfortable ten seconds, Ashley let Pardew go. “I meant my present to you.”
Pardew stared at his boss, unsure of what was coming next.
“Now,” muttered Ashley, “I apologise, I didn’t have time to wrap it…” he fumbled in his pockets, letting out a sigh of relief when he found what he was looking for. He handed Pardew a blank piece of paper. Pardew slowly turned it over, and then stared in shock at what was looking back at him. “Is this…?”
“Yes. A blank cheque. Pre-signed also.”
Pardew’s jaw dropped.
“Tell you what, Pards. You go out in the January sales and get whatever you think you need to improve our team and performances.”
“Really?” He asked, the only word that was capable of falling from his mouth.
“Of course!” replied Ashley, jokingly punching Pardew on the arm.
Pardew searched Ashley’s eyes for any hint of malice or mendacity. Not finding any, he jumped on Ashley like a lonely dog jumps upon its master when they return home. But with less tongue. Slightly.
Ashley’s rotund frame shook with laughter as he lifted Pardew off him and put him on the floor.
“No problem, Pards. You deserve it.”
Pardew carefully folded the cheque and put it in his inside pocket. “Listen…” he said, searching for the words. “Why don’t you come round to mine for Christmas dinner?”
“Would that not be a problem for you?”
“Not at all. I would be pleased.”
“Then I would be delighted to come. But first, I have something to do.”
Ashley left Pardew in his office and headed for the lift. He went down to the ground floor and left the building into the gently snowing morning air. He looked down on the city below him and stretched his hands out horizontally, like a tubby Jesus Christ.
“Merry Christmas Newcastle!” He shouted. “Peace in Toon and goodwill to all Geordies!”
He smiled to himself, and then turned around slowly and headed back indoors. From now on, he thought, everything would be lovely-jubbly.