"Unbelievable," Larry said.
Balki looked toward the counter where Larry was sitting and watched him reading some mail. "Bad news, Cousin?"
Larry put the paper down and ran a hand over his face. "Bad? No, Balki, not bad news." He paused and tossed a direct glare at him "Awful news. Apparently, the airline lost record of the deposit I made for our flight to Madison."
"What does that mean?"
"That's the last time I pay cash." He paused. "That means we won't be getting to Madison for the holidays, again."
"How about--" Balki began.
"Of course I had to let Jennifer and Mary Anne borrow my car for their trip."
"We could--" Balki tried again.
"If we took the bus, I might as well just buy two more plane tickets for the price they're charging," Larry ranted.
"Okay, I'm sensing some negativity here."
"Balki, this is two years in a row now. Two years that I could've spent the holidays with my family, but can't simply because I just can't get there." He ighed.
"Cousin, everything is going to be okay. Last year we finally did get to Madison--"
"At the end of January!" Larry interrupted. "And I know that you wish you could be back in Mypos. The problem is, things have gone wrong ever since I began planning this trip. It's a Christmas jinx. It's me. I just can't have one small thing go may way, like a holiday." He stood up and glanced at the tree to his right. "Maybe it's a sign. I might be better off catching a cold, take some of your Mypos cure, and sleep through the holiday." He went toward his room, still muttering.
Balki stood from the couch. "Cousin, I do'n think..."
Larry topped in the doorway and turned. "Or maybe it'd be better if I was never born."
"Cousin, you do'n mean that."
"I don't?" Larry paused, looking like he would agree with him, then shook his head. "Well, let's see: first, if it wasn't for me, you'd be with your family in Mypos and I wouldn't be going through this." He went in his room, slamming the door after him.
Balki sat back down on the couch, a distraught look on his face. "Po po," he muttered and shook his head.
"Mom, I know..." Larry said, shifting the receiving, while leaning on the counter, "but it's just... yes, I know that, but... it's the idea... that's the whole point to the holiday!" He paused, almost beginning to whine, and listened. "...Bye, mom." He hung up, keeping a dull stare fixed on the phone.
Balki came in and gave him a wary look. "Cousin?"
The stare remained unwaivered. Larry didn't even acknowledge that he heard him come in.
"Oh-kay, now you're making Balki mad." He crossed his arms.
Larry still didn't move, but simply raised his eyes to glare at Balki. "Just come in January again. It's like they don't care if I'm there for Christmas."
"Of course they care, do'n be ridiculous."
"Yeah, sure." A look of defeat crossed his face. "I'm going to bed. Wake me on New Year's Day." he stood and moved towards his room.
Balki caught his arm as he walked by. "Cousin, do'n do this. Everything will be okay."
"Tell me that when you know for sure." Larry removed Balki's hand from his arm and continued to his room, this time closing the door quietly after him.
Balki remained where he stood and sighed.
* * * * *
Something woke Larry in the middle of the night. He sat up in bed and glanced around the darkened oom. "Balki?" No response. He swallowed and kept glancing around. It felt like he wasn't alone in the room, yet he saw nothing unusual. Finally, he attributed it to the darkness and laid back down, turning his back to the door.
Larry had just about gotten back to sleep when the door opened. His eyes opened wide, but he didn't look toward the door. Suddenly, he felt a light tap on his shoulder. He slowly turned until he saw someone leaning over him. He squinted at the figure. "Balki?"
He smiled at him. "Of course I'm not, do'n be ridiculous."
Larry sat up quickly and moved away. "Really, Balki, this isn't funny."
"I'm not Balki and this isn't meant to be funny," he said. "I only look like Balki so I do'n scare you."
"And sound like him?" His brow lowered.
"Okay, you can call me Balki if it makes you feel better."
Larry shook his head. "I'd feel better if you weren't doing this."
"But I have to." Balki moved closer. "Earlier, you said you wished you'd never been born. So, I'm here--"
"To show me what life would be like if I wasn't born. I've seen It's A Wonderful Life, thank you. I'm not falling for any of this, Balki."
Balki crossed his arms over his chest. "Well, would you rather be visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past Presents and Future?"
Larry rolled his eyes. "No, I just want you to let me go back to sleep."
"No way, uh uh. You're too miserable. it's funny, and I thought Jacob Marley had a tough time."
Larry frowned and muttered, "I am not worse than Ebenezer Scrooge."
"Oh, no? Then let me show you the world without Larry Appleton," Balki said.
"I don't know why you're doing this to me," Larry said, but got up, grabbed a robe, and followed him out the door.
They entered what had been the apartment, which was now in shambles.
"Oh, my Lord, what happened here?" Larry said, then moved to straighten a dust covered picture frame.
Balki placed a hand on his arm. "Please do'n touch anything."
"Sorry," Larry mumbled, then raised his voice and repeated, "but what happened here?"
"The apartment's empty. Remember when Twinkacetti was the landlord?" Balki said. Larry nodded. "Well, Ritz Discount never did good business, so he didn't take good care of the apartment building."
"Well... Twinkie wasn't exactly the nicest person I ever met," Larry commented, a bit absently, then added, "but his wife was a sweet woman."
Balki nodded. "She left him. Remember, he kept forgetting their anniversary. You weren't there to help get them back together, and they divorced."
"That's awful, even for him."
"It is, isn't it?" Balki agreed. "Okay, on to our next stop." He moved to the door and Larry followed. He opened the door, and they stepped into the gym, 'Reuben's Perfect Body'.
"Why are we here?" Larry asked. "And why is no one here?"
Balki pointed. "Look over there."
Larry followed where he was pointing and saw Jennifer and Mary Anne sitting at two exercise machines, looking extremely bored. "Don't tell me, business sin't good here, either. but why? I didn't make that much of a difference here."
"But you did make a differnece to Jennifer." Balki watched a slightly surprised look cross Larry's face. "The poor girl hasn't been on a date for almost for a year."
His brow lowered. "You have got to be kidding. I mean, look at her: what guy wouldn't want to ask her out?"
Balki shook his head. "She's been asked out, but she hasn't accepted any dates. She's waiting for who she thinks is Mr. Right. Well, I've got news for you, she's in for a very long wait."
Larry frowned. "You know, you're starting to bother me."
"Then we'll just have to hurry this up. Follow me."
They left the gym and walked into the mailroom of the Chronicle.
Larry watched people mill about, doing their jobs. "The Chronicle seems okay."
"It does seem that way, do'n it?"
The door to what had been Gorpley's office opened andWainright came out, mailbag in hand.
"Oh, no..." Larry muttered. He watched as Gorpley stepped out of the elevator.
He turned back to Harriet. "And next time don't stop for anyone else until I get off!" He walked away and over to Wainright. "Haven't finished sorting the mail yet? What's the matter?"
"I'm going as fast as I can, Mr. Gorpley, sir."
Larry turned to Balki. "Gorpley runs the paper?" He placed a hand on the side of his head. "This is too much."
Balki held up an index finger. "Just one more."
"Fine," Larry said, then sighed.
They left the Chronicle and stepped out into a field.
"Now, where are we?" Larry asked.
"Mypos," Balki replied.
"What? Why? I thought you... uh, Balki came to America to look for my family, not me."
Balki pointed again. "Please look."
Larry sighed again and looked, then knelt in front of the stone marker. His eyes widened as he read and began to shake his head slowly. "No... this can't be right. Balki..." He looked up, then around and found he was alone. He jumped up and looked around frantically. "Balki?!" He looked at the stone again. "He can't be dead," he mumbled, then called out, "Balki?!" No response. "I don't want this to happen! I want to live!" He droped to his knees in front of the stone and shook his head, repeating qetly, "I want to live."
* * * * *
"Cousin!" Balki shook Larry, trying to wake him.
Larry sat up quickly, moving away. "Balki?"
Balki looked dwon at himself, then looked up again. "Last time I checked."
Larry sighed. "Wow. I had a heck of a dream. It was awful."
"Did it have something to do with missing Christmas in Madison again?"
"In a way. I guess January isn't that bad. Maybe next year we should invite friends and go to Madison in January," Larry said, then paused, glancing at the clock, which read three-thirty in the morning. "Balki, one thing how did you know to wake me up now?"
Balki shrugged. "I do'n know, Cousin. I had a dream about me cleaning up the apartment."
"Cleaning the apartment..."
"Well, we wouldn't want Jacob Marley to visit a messy apartment," Balki commented. A look of surprise crossed Larry's face, but Balki missed it. He went to the door. "I'm going back to sleep." He reached for the light switch.
"Uh, Balki? Could you maybe, um..." Larry tried.
"Sure, Cousin." Balki switched on the nightlight before turning off the other light and left.
"I don't know how he did that," Larry said, quietly, shaking his head.