Disclaimer: Glee belongs to Ryan Murphy and Fox. A Christmas Carol belongs to Charles Dickens. Neither belong to me.
Mollie was dead to begin with.
There is no doubt whatever about that. Burt Hummel never forgot it. In fact, there were some days that that was all that he could seem to remember. His wife of eight years died, quite suddenly and without his permission, leaving him alone save for a small shy son of very little consequence and far too much resemblance to his late wife. He buried her on a cold snowy Christmas day, and while the church brimmed over with mourners on the day of her funeral, he was sure that no one felt her loss as keenly as he did.
The mention of Mollie's funeral brings me back to the point I started from. There is no doubt that Mollie was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.
Burt Hummel was not a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone. He was not a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, covetous old sinner. But he was a stern man, a silent man, hard and sharp as flint, secret and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. He worked every day of the year, clocking his time in and out of his impeccably maintained garage with astonishing regularity, kept to himself without petty conversations with his clients or employees, and held a well-polished reputation of being quite a grimly terrifying specimen of humanity.
Nobody ever stopped him in the street to ask him how he was. No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him the time, no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such-and-such a place. Those foolhardy souls who attempted these questions in the earliest days following his wife's death were met with a brief grunt and a withering glare.
But what did Burt Hummel care? It was the very thing he liked, to edge his way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep its distance. Some remembered the days prior to his wife's death, a vague distant memory of a kind man full of shrewd wisdom, but no one recalled it to him. No one spoke to him at all, in fact, unless it was strictly necessary.
Once upon a time, in the year of our Lord 2020, it was Christmas. Well, to be precise, the day before Christmas.
This happy day was met with no acknowledgement to our Mr. Hummel, who continued his work with a steadfastness both admirable and alarming. Holidays meant nothing to him. Halloween and Easter, New Year's and Thanksgiving, and yes, most especially Christmas, he arrived at his garage at six in the morning and work till seven.
His employees were forced to do the same; for example, at this very moment, one of his employees, a lanky young man in his late twenties, was shivering as he attempted to replace a transmission with nearly frostbitten hands. He tried to pull on his threadbare gloves, but it rendered his already clumsy fingers downright dangerous, and he gritted his teeth to carry on. Mr. Hummel didn't notice, or simply did not care. Heat was a luxury, and he didn't care much for luxuries. Thus, with its often-opened doors and drafty windows, the garage was quite chilled on this December day in Ohio.
Our Mr. Hummel was elbows-deep in an engine when he was approached by a young man. Fair-skinned and blue-eyed, dressed in a simple but well-cut red winter coat and pinstriped trousers, he would be considered quite handsome if it wasn't for how skittish he seemed. He approached Burt Hummel carefully, his polished knee-high boots making little sound on the dirty concrete floor, but he was not acknowledged.
The young man cleared his throat, squaring his shoulders and taking on an air of false merriment. "Merry Christmas, Dad," he said, his voice light and fakely cheerful.
Mr. Hummel straightened, leveling his gaze at the blue-eyed boy. "What the hell, Kurt?" he said.
The cheerfulness ebbed, but Kurt rose up on his toes, hands deep in his pockets, and smiled. His cheeks were rosy with the cold and his eyes were bright. "Blaine and I are in town for Christmas," he said.
This exchange had the air of an often-fought battle; the employee with the frozen hands glanced up from his tires to see if it would go any further. It did not.
"Why are you wasting money on traveling to Ohio for Christmas?" Mr. Hummel asked. "You're poor enough."
"Why don't you celebrate Christmas? You're rich enough," Kurt retorted.
Mr. Hummel scowled. "Waste of time," he said.
Kurt sighed. "Don't be cross, Dad," he said.
"Well, what do you want from me?" Burt asked. He waved at the cars amassed around the garage. "The only thing about Christmas is that people travel during snowstorms and tear up their cars. I make twice as much in winter as I do in the summer. And you and your…you waste your money renting a car and driving down from New York City, just for a holiday invented by greeting card companies." He gestured broadly with an oil-stained wrench. "You know, if I had my way, every dumbass who goes around shouting about a 'Merry Christmas' should baked into his own overpriced turkey and buried with a stake of holly through his heart."
"Dad!" Kurt said, horrified.
"Son," Mr. Hummel said. "You do whatever the hell you want for Christmas, and I'll do whatever I want for mine."
"But you don't do anything for Christmas," Kurt said, perplexed.
"Well, then let me leave it alone, then," Mr. Hummel retorted. "Hasn't done me much good. Hasn't done you much good either."
Kurt squared his shoulders. "Dad, I know things were never the same after-"
"Don't say it."
"-after Mom died," Kurt kept on. "But you can't keep living like this. You're working yourself into an early grave, you don't have any friends, you barely even have any-"
Here he cut off, but I imagine he was about to say "family."
Kurt clenched his fists in the confines of his pockets. "Neither us have particularly good memories about this time of year," he said. "But even though we've had some bad years, I've always thought that Christmas is an amazing holiday. A good, kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time, when people actually stop acting like idiots and spend time with their families and treat people around them like valuable human beings. And that's why, Dad, I still think Christmas has done me good, and will do me good, and if I wasn't an atheist, then I wish that God would bless it."
"Amen!" piped up the frozen-fingered mechanic, and our Mr. Hummel, sorry to say, shot him a glare that sent the poor young man in a hasty frenzy of work, in order to somehow make up his impropriety.
"Hudson, I hear another sound out of you, and you can celebrate Christmas in the unemployment line," Mr. Hummel retorted. He turned back to his son. "You're quite a speaker. Pity you didn't go into politics instead of fashion."
He spat that word out of his mouth, like one would say "slaughtering puppies" or perhaps "laughing at small children in a cancer ward."
The rosiness faded from Kurt's cheeks. "Don't be angry, Dad," he implored. He sidled up closer. "Blaine and I are celebrating Christmas with his family tomorrow, and…we have sort of…some good news, and we'd all really like it if you were there."
He was promptly ignored.
"Dad, please," Kurt said. "Why-"
"Why?" Mr. Hummel interrupted. "Why did you get married?"
Kurt blinked. "Because I fell in love," he said, simply and unadorned.
"Because you fell in love," Mr. Hummel mocked. "Kid, let me tell you, it's not gonna do you any good. Trust me." He turned back to the car's engine. "See you later."
Kurt edged closer, not to be dismissed so easily. "Dad, you never visited before I was married," he snapped. "Why use that as a reason now?"
"See you later."
"I'm not asking for anything. Why can't you just come and eat dinner with us?"
"See you later."
Kurt took a step back, his face drained of color; his vibrantly red coat only served to make him look even more bluish and sickly. "I'm sorry that you feel like this," he said, his chin jutting out in stubbornness and his voice trembling only the slightest touch. "I've never picked a fight with you before, and I don't know why you hate me so much. But I thought…I would at least try." He took a step back, feet planted firmly. "Merry Christmas, Dad."
"See you later."
"No, you won't," Kurt burst out, his temper getting the best of him, and he stormed out, nearly knocking into the hapless mechanic working by the door. "Bye, Finn. Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas, Kurt," Finn Hudson offered.
Mr. Hummel rolled his eyes. "Not quite thirty, three kids and no wife, and even he goes around talking about a merry Christmas," he muttered to himself.
He ignored his son as he left the garage, but another person let himself in, offering a warm smile to Finn Hudson and approaching Mr. Hummel's workbench with an air of confidence. "Mr. Hummel, I believe?" he said.
Mr. Hummel grunted. "You here to get that muffler of yours fixed?" he asked, pointing with a derisive finger at the man's ancient blue sedan.
The man, a pleasant-faced man in his forties, continued undaunted. "At this festive time of year, Mr. Hummel," he said, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts." He cleared his throat and looked up from his clipboard. "I am the director for the local high school glee club. We're hosting a fundraising concert to benefit a foundation that assists homeless runaway teenagers."
"Don't they still have juvie?" Mr. Hummel asked.
The glee club director blinked. "Of course there's still juvenile detention, but-"
"And work camps?" Mr. Hummel asked. "They've still got those."
"Oh, well, from the way you were talking, I was scared they got shut down," Mr. Hummel said, turning back to his car. "I pay taxes. My taxes go to those. There we go, I contributed."
The glee club director stared at him, dumbstruck. "But it's Christmas," he stammered. "Won't you give just a little bit? What can I put you down for?"
The pen was poised upon the page. "You wish to remain anonymous?"
"I want you to leave me the hell alone."
The man in the threadbare scarf stared at him, mouth agape in astonishment. "But sir, I-"
"I don't pay to celebrate Christmas myself, and I'm not gonna pay for a bunch of punk kids to celebrate it either," Mr. Hummel snapped. "I pay taxes for all of those places, and if they're homeless, they can go there, or they can go home."
"But…Mr. Hummel, these kids have already left bad situations," the teacher stammered. "Many of them would rather die than go back."
"Well, if they're gonna die, they'd better do it, and decrease the surface population," Mr. Hummel said. "Now get the hell out of my shop."
The glee club director was clearly stunned into silence. He left the shop with many a backward glance, but Mr. Hummel just smirked to himself as he went back to work.
Regrettably, the pale afternoon sunshine faded into darkness, indicating the end of a long and pleasant workday. Mr. Hummel kept on with his work, intent as staying on as long as possible. But, alas, his employee began to slowly and quietly pack up his tools, and Mr. Hummel was forced to close up as well.
"I guess you want tomorrow off, don't you?" he grunted.
"Uh…yeah," his employee said, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. "If it's okay."
"It's not okay, and it's not fair," Mr. Hummel said. "If I was to dock your wages, you'd think yourself ill-used."
The young man smiled awkwardly. "It's only once a year," he offered. "And the kids are so excited to have me home, they-"
"I didn't ask for a life story," Mr. Hummel interrupted. "It's poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty-fifth of December." He sighed. "Be here an hour earlier the day after."
"Yes, sir," Finn Hudson said eagerly. "Thank you, sir."
He gathered up his things and left swiftly. Mr. Hummel didn't ask him where he went; the young man took a forty-minute bus ride to his little house at the edge of town, where the doors didn't close all the way and the windows let in a terrible draft, but three little children ran to greet him on the stoop and his mother waited with his held-over dinner and a welcome home hug.
On the contrary, Mr. Hummel drove down the quiet melancholy streets to a small melancholy diner and had a melancholy dinner of third-rate pot roast. After catching up on a handful of sports scores and balancing the shop's finance book, he headed to his house.
Now, it is a fact that the knocker on the front door, except that it was very large. It is also a fact that Mr. Hummel had seen it night and morning for the past thirty years. Let it also be borne in mind that while Mr. Hummel had dwelled upon the death of his beloved wife since the moment of her passing, he was a practical man, not given to flights of fancy nor leaps of the imagination. And let any man explain it to me, if he can, how it happened that as Mr. Hummel put his key to the lock of his front door, he saw in his knocker not the plain brass, but his wife's face.
Mollie's face. It was not shadowed, but lit and bright. It was not angry nor ferocious, but looked as she had had in life. Her hair was curiously stirred, as if by a soft wind, and though the eyes were wide and very blue, they were motionless.
As Mr. Hummel stared at this phenomenon, it became a knocker once more.
To say that he was not startled would be a lie, but as he was a man of plain fact, he turned the key and stepped resolutely inside.
He did pause to look around as he stepped in, and he did look cautiously behind the door, but as there was nothing there to alarm him, he scowled and tossed his old denim coat over the rack in the hall. He didn't turn on the lights, for dark was cheap, and Mr. Hummel liked it. But before he made his way up the stairs, he stopped to look warily through the rooms of his home- tomb-like kitchen, silent living room, barren unfinished basement.
He locked himself into his bedroom and prepared for the night. The room was cold, for paying for heat was too rich in his taste, but he turned on the lamp at his bedside table.
His wife's old vanity stood untouched beside the window, its coating of dust thick across the mirror. He kept a photograph of her on the counter, framed in shining silver. For a fleeting moment as he dressed for bed he thought he saw the picture move, the breeze catching the hem of her dress and her mouth drawing down in a frown, but that was most certainly impossible.
As he sat down upon his bed, shaking his head to clear the image from his mind, a bell began to chime.
At first, he thought nothing of it- the grandfather clock in the hall chimed every hour on the hour. But it continued to toll, bright and clear.
Mr. Hummel shifted his weight, unpleasantly unsettled. "It's nothing," he told himself. "It's crap."
He turned his head, and there was his wife.
"Burt Hummel, what the hell are you doing?" Mollie demanded.
Welcome to my Christmas special, ladies and gentlemen!
I got this idea after last Christmas last year, but I didn't want to write it when it wasn't, you know, Christmas. So I saved it for this year! It's my Christmas present to everybody. You get a chapter every day from now to Christmas! Huzzah!
I'm a huge lover of A Christmas Carol- I've read it so much I can actually recite large portions of it! So this story is sort of a cross between a pastiche of Dickens' style and my own writing style.
I hope you enjoy this! I'm in the middle of writing the Ghost of Christmas Past chapter and oh man, will there be tears...