It was a glorious summer day and the sun was beaming down upon the whole world; opening gentle flowers with its golden fingertips; making the waters of lakes and rivers glisten and shine and warming the hearts of everyone.
But there was one person who wasn’t outside enjoying the sunshine; an old Miser called Crotchety Bill who was sitting alone in a candle lit room with heavy curtains drawn, counting up his piles of golden coins.
“Gahh! What a fool the Sun is”, he said to himself, admiring the glitter of his gold in the candlelight, “Giving away all that sunlight to people for free. If I was the sun then I’d charge everyone a hefty sum and make a tidy profit. I’d only shine on the houses of the rich and leave the poor in shadows and freezing cold; give the lazy no goods some incentive to work harder and make more money”.
Unfortunately for Crotchety Bill, however, he had been too miserly to have his curtains mended and there was a hole in them that was just large enough to let a slender sunbeam shine through and, entering his room, the sunbeam transformed itself into a beautiful young woman with long blonde hair and sky blue eyes wearing a golden bikini.
“What are you doing indoors on a wonderful, beautiful day like this?”, asked the Sunbeam, confused, peering over the misers shoulder, “Are you playing a game of hide and seek?”.
Understandably, the Miser was pretty shocked to see the young woman appear in his room.
“Madam”, he yelled at her, angrily, “What are you doing in my house and why on Earth are you dressed in that indecent way like some sort of African native”.
The sunbeam looked down at the golden Bikini she was wearing, “Well, I’m a Summer sunbeam. What do you expect me to wear? A fur coat?”.
But the Miser wasn’t really listening. He was too worried about his gold which he hurriedly began
placing inside a strongbox which sat upon his desk, “Don’t think you can fool me! I know exactly what you’re after, you gold bikini wearing hussy. You’re after my money. Probably thought you could use those pretty girlish charms of yours to steal it away from me. Well, I’m nobody’s meal ticket, I can assure you”.
The Sunbeam just laughed, her laughter like the bright sun as it glistens upon water, “Silly old man. I have no interest in your money”, she said, “I just wanted to know why you’re not outside enjoying the sunshine. Haven’t you heard all the pretty birds chirping outside your window? All the beautiful flowers growing beyond your door? Or the happy children playing in the orchard nearby”.
The old Miser cast her a sideways glance and scoffed in derision, “Hah! I haven’t got time to waste on such trivial things as birds and flowers and childish games. Time is money, don’t you know that?
Every hour a pound and every minute a penny and I don’t intend to throw good money down the drain”.
Hearing the misers words, the Sunbeam sadly shook her head, “Oh dear me, no”, she said, “Time is far more precious than money. Time is life and life is for living and living is to be part of life; part of the world, experiencing things like beauty, friendship, love and joy”.
“Friends!”, replied the Miser, smaning, “I’ve had friends. Bunch of scroungers and freeloaders. Don’t trust them and don’t want them. As for fun and joy; there’s no fun and joy in being poor believe me”.
Now the Sunbeam did something which is very uncharacteristic of Sunbeams, she started to frown,
“Oh dear, you poor man. You do not know how wrong you are. Money is no more than a tangled web that men have woven and become stuck upon. It only seems the be all and end all because greedy men make it so and only because they don’t understand the true worth of greater things.
What you need, my friend, is to let a little sunshine into your heart, see something of the real joys of Summer, the joys that cost nothing”.
And then, taking the misers old wrinkled hand within hers, it glowed as brightly as a thousand days of summer and, in a flash, she transported them both to a field far away where a silver stream trickled and children in ragged clothes ran about, laughing as they played.
“Look at how happy those little Children are”, said the Sunbeam, gazing at them with affection, “And yet they have no money at all but they’re bright and they have joy in their hearts and they make up games to play or make toys out of whatever they can find”.
Crotchety Bill looked up at her, wondering why she had suddenly grown so tall and he so small; when, looking at his left hand, he realized that he had been transformed into a child.
Yet, even though his grey whiskers and thin wrinkled face had been replaced by freckles and puppy fat, he still maintained his usual miserly scowl and, in a little boys high pitched voice, complained,
“Gahh! They’re just children, what do they know about how hard life is. See them in another ten years when they’ve had some experience, they won’t look so cheerful then”.
“All the more reason for them to enjoy their youth. Youth is like the bright Summer of life; it will not last forever and so while we can we should make the most of it”, replied the Sunbeam.
And then the little Children, not seeing the Sunbeam but seeing Crotchety Bill in his child form, stopped their playing to ask if he would like to join in their game but he only shouted at them, “Away with you. You juvenile delinquents!”, he said, “I’m no child and I have no wish to waste my time in Childish games”.
And then, turning to the Sunbeam at his side added, cynically, “Besides which. Take me to houses of the rich and the playing fields of public schools and I’ll show you happy children but they’re all the happier because they have wealth and status and comfort”.
The Sunbeam frowned again to see that not even a little sunshine had managed to creep into the Misers heart but, just as the Sun comes up every morning and fights its way through the blackest of clouds, a Sunbeam never gives up and so, taking his hand in hers once more, in a bright flash of golden light, she transported them to another faraway place; a lake with shimmering water
and white swans gliding upon it, beside which a young man and woman were standing, holding hands and gazing longingly into each other’s eyes.
“Isn’t love just wonderful?”, sighed the Sunbeam, her eyes growing slightly misty as she looked at the young couple, “They have no money at all but they have love and hopes and dreams and don’t they look happy?”.
But the Miser who, looking at his reflection in the sunlit lake, saw that he was now a young man of 19 or 20, wasn’t convinced.
“Gahh! And how long will their love last? Once the spell of love wears off or she has a child or starts getting old or some other pretty girl comes along”, he said, “Then you’ll see this same woman standing by the lake alone and she’ll be pouring tears into the lake”.
“You don’t know that for certain!”, argued the Sunbeam, slightly irked by the Misers constant negativity, “They may grow old together; live happily ever after”.
But the Miser just seemed to find the Sunbeams romantic idea nauseating; his heart still stoney cold and black as a room in darkness and this just made the Sunbeams frown droop further downwards;
a tiny tear trickling from her right eye.
“Oh dear”, she said, wiping the tear away, “Anymore of this and I’ll turn into a raincloud”.
And yet, the Sunbeam thought that she would give the old Miser one last try and, taking his hand again in hers, with a bright flash of burning amber, she transported him to yet another faraway place, this time to a joyous, colourful summer carnival where ordinary people were dancing to music and laughing and partying; some of them even dressed in bright carnival costumes with glitter and feathers.
“Now isn’t this fun”, said the Sunbeam dancing about, moved by the rhythm of the music, “All these people are poor but they get together to celebrate the Summer and have fun and make music and dance, which is what Summer is all about”.
“Gahh!”, said the Miser, turning his head away from the brightly dressed crowd of revellers, “What else can they do. They’re so miserable with being poor that they have to do something to take the sting out of it, not to mention quite a lot of it is just an excuse for alcohol consumption and lewd flirtatiousness”.
The Sunbeam blew a trumpet in the Misers ear which made him jump, “And what’s wrong with that?”, she said.
Then she seized hold of the Misers hand and tried to get him to dance with her to the music but he was having none of it and just pulled away from her, looking even more gloomy and irritable than before.
Sighing unhappily, the Sunbeam said, “Alright. You win.” and then, in a flash of bright orange light, the Miser found himself back in his cold, dark room with the curtains drawn, all alone.
“Ha!”, he said to himself, smirking, “I win!”.
But, just at that moment, there was a flash of lightning and a burst of thunder outside of his window followed by a slow, ominous, booming knock at his chamber door.
“Who can that be?”, Crochety asked himself, slightly unnerved by the thunder and lightning, “Who ever it is they can go away and leave an old man in peace”.
And, taking a blunderbuss out from under his bed, he shouted, “Whoever you are, you’d best go away. I’ve got a gun and, by gad, I’m not afraid to use it!”.
But then, to the old man’s horror, the door started to creak slowly open; a thick, black, curling mist pouring into the room.
Shivering and shaking, the Miser backed away into a corner and in came a thing dressed all in black; floating upon a carpet of mist, a ghostly figure in a long black starched, dress of lace and crinoline with a coal-scuttle bonnet upon its head that shaded its face completely and then, speaking in an eery, croaking voice like that of an old witch, the figure asked, “Are you the one they call Crotchety Bill? The meanest Miser in town?”
Terrified and with chattering teeth, the old Miser nodded, “Y-yes”, he stuttered, “T-that’s m-me a-and w-who might y-you be”.
Then, reaching out a skeletal hand, the creature pointed a long, bony finger towards him, “I am the Grim Reaperess and it’s time, Crotchety Bill!”, she rasped, “Time you came with me”.
“No!”, shrieked the Miser shaking his head and sinking to his knees, “It can’t be. I’m not ready to die.
I’ve got so much left to do”.
“Oh?”, asked the creature in black that now seemed to tower over him like a tall shadow, “Like what?”.
“Well..um..”, thought Bill, “I’ve got so much more money to make”.
The black bonneted grim reaper shook her head, “Oh, I’m sorry but I’m afraid that’s not an important enough reason to let you live”.
“Well..err..?”, said the Miser, thinking quickly, “Not make money…I mean, there are so many other things I’ve never done that I’d really like to..like play games with children and fall in love and go to a party and just have fun”.
“You’ve never done any of those things?”, asked the ghoulish creature, now with a bemused voice, “That is odd. You’ve really wasted your life”.
“Yes”, agreed the kneeling Crotchety bill, nodding frantically, “You’re right, I have but if you just let me live, maybe a few years more, or maybe even nine or ten, then I’ll be able to do all those things”.
Reaching under a knitted black shawl, the lady reaper pulled out a thick black, leather bound book with the words ‘Book of Rules’ embossed upon the cover in gold and then, flicking quickly through the book and examining one of the pages with a long bony, forefinger, the creature
replied, “Alright, the rules say that I can grant you an extension but only on the condition that you do all the things that you’ve promised to do; that you give up the life of a crotchety old Miser and embrace the joys of life…oh and also, it says that you’ve got to start giving away your money”.
“What?!”, said Crotchety Bill, angrily, shaking his head, “Never!”.
“Those are the rules!”, said the reaperess, prodding the old man’s stubby nose with one of its fingers and making his face turn from bright red to pale white, “And you will obey them or else you’ll have to come with me”.
“Okay, okay”, said Bill, nodding reluctantly.
Then, rising to his feet, the old Miser rushed out of his room and out of his house into the sunshine to start living his life anew.
And then, once it was quite alone in the darkened room, the strange creature undid and removed its bonnet, shaking loose long golden hair and revealing the happy, smiling face of the sunbeam.
“Phew”, she said, it’s awfully hot and stuffy in this old dress, “I really prefer my golden bikini”.
But then, opening the curtains of the Misers window wide, she turned herself back into a ray of light
and shot back up to the sky, to become part of the bright Summer sun once again.
And, from that day onwards, Crotchety Bill became known as Generous Bill; Loving Bill and Happy Bill, the life and soul of the party, enjoying many pleasant summers to the full and never wasting another precious moment of his life.