CHRISTMAS FOR SHACKTOWN (3/3)
The final act of this drama starts several days later. While before it was the beginning of the Christmas holidays for the nephews, now it’s Christmas Eve, I’m pretty sure. Scrooge, now impoverished, has moved in with Donald the nephews. He sleeps on their couch, doesn’t clean up after himself, spends his time sobbing quietly instead of contributing to household chores, and also he eats as much as the rest of them combined.
Why Scrooge is so ruined from the loss of his money bin is unclear. I mean, yeah, it’s got a lot of cash, but the bulk of his fortune (we’re reminded over and over again, in various media) is tied up in various capital investments all around the world. The money bin is a glorified petty cash drawer. However, for the purposes of this story, loss of the money bin makes Scrooge instantly bankrupt, you just have to accept that.
Donald reflects on how implausible this sequence of events is, and there’s a quick set of flashbacks to him and Scrooge over the course of the previous week, investigating different methods to get the money out of the hole. It’s not fallen into the depths of Tartarus, after all, it’s down there somewhere. Scrooge hires some engineers to do some surveying (perhaps this is the expense that bankrupts him?) and they investigate thoroughly before giving the bad news. The money is at the bottom of a very large, very deep hole, buried under debris. At the bottom of this very large, very deep hole there is a thin layer of rock, which is currently supporting the cash, and under that is a vasty undersea ocean of quicksand. If the thin rock layer between the hole and the ocean breaks, the cash will sink down into the depths of Tartarus. Lowering mining equipment from the top would put too much strain on the rock supports, and trying to slant-drill a tunnel from the side would set up a cascade of vibrations that would shatter the thin rock layer. Scrooge’s money is unreachable by terrestrial science, the engineers say.
If this were a slightly different story, at this point we’d turn to Gyro Gearloose, right? But we’ve already had Huey, Dewey, Louey, Daisy, Donald, Scrooge, and Gladstone fucking Gander, there’s just no room left in the budget for yet another guest star. Ergo Scrooge gives up, sinks into depression, and starts eating all of Donald’s Christmas beans.
Scrooge blames Donald for all his misfortunes, I think. After all, it was Donald who gave him the dime that collapsed the money bin. Donald using Gladstone’s powers to get nine dollars created the karmic debt that cost Scrooge nine hozillion dollars. And it wouldn’t have happened if Donald hadn’t been so hell-bent on getting those stupid Shacktown kids a toy train! Not for the first or last time in this story, Scrooge reiterates how much he hates toy trains.
The nephews come in on this argument — I don’t think I need to describe Donald’s retorts. They’ve got news! Last summer they did some spelunking with the Junior Woodchucks and found an entrance to a cave system under Duckburg. They just checked, and the entrance is still there. The caves ran all under the area of Scrooge’s money bin, maybe the money is reachable that way?
So Scrooge and Donald and the nephews go caving on Christmas Eve. It’s an arduous trek, but sure enough, they eventually reach the money — nearly.
There’s a collapsed tunnel, full of rubble. It’s the same rubble that the money is buried under, they’re pretty sure. It’s unsteady in the same way the engineers described — they can’t tunnel through without bringing tons of rock down on their heads. Scrooge can smell his money, or claims to be able to. He roots around and finds a little tunnel through the rubble, what’s described as a badger hole. Scrooge is confident that his money is at the other end of that little tunnel, he can smell it.
“So, what now?” Donald asks. “We can’t fit through that tiny hole, and we can’t dig the hole any larger.”
“Just leave me here, close to my money,” Scrooge says, and lays down to die.
Donald maybe would, too, but the nephews have been putting their heads together. They ask Donald and Scrooge to sit tight while they run and fetch something. The two ducks sit and glare at one another in silence, Donald thinking about how all this could have been avoided if Scrooge wasn’t such a miser, until finally the boys return. They bring with them… a toy train! It’s an old set from the Junior Woodchucks clubhouse.
The train set has a flexible track that they can feed into the badger hole like it’s a plumber’s snake, getting all the way to the money pile on the other side, and the train can operate with remote control. They load the engine with a single car, an empty coal scuttle that might work like a scoop, and back the train slowly down the tunnel. Scrooge listens, hears it connect, tells the boys that if this works and they’re able to recover Scrooge’s fortune, he’ll give them the first load of cash. It’s just a little toy coal scuttle, he thinks, even if it’s full of dollar coins it won’t be too much.
The train slowly chugs back towards them, hauling its cargo, until it emerges into their electric caving lights. The coal scuttle has money in it!
The coal scuttle has a fat cabbage roll of thousand-dollar bills in it!
Boom! We cut to the next night, Christmas night. They are dancing in the streets in Shacktown, let me tell you. Donald, Daisy, and the nephews had less than a day to throw the Christmas feast together but they had roughly ten thousand times as much money to spend as Daisy’s initial budget required, so they were able to buy high-quality materials with little notice. Everybody gets a turkey! Everybody gets a whole sideboard of trimmings! Every kid in Shacktown gets a toy train set, and they hook them all up together and transform the slum into a child’s fantasyland of toy-train-based fun! All the adults eat themselves sick, Daisy is like “Donald Duck, you’ve done it again!” while he holds up two big sacks of Christmas cheer, Gladstone wanders in and just tucks in like it’s his personal feast and Donald doesn’t even care!
Imagine the happiest ending possible, then put four more happiest-possible S-rank endings on top of it in a big stack, that’s what you’re looking at here. That’s Christmas in Shacktown.
One of the extras turns to Donald and Daisy and says, hey, where’s Scrooge McDuck? I haven’t seen him all evening. He should be here, his money made all this possible!
“I know where he is,” says Donald, and makes up a plate of leftovers. He quietly leaves the party and treks away from Shacktown, into the wilderness outside Duckburg, to the cave entrance, into the cave, where it’s dark and cold and lonely, and there deep in the bowels of the earth he find Scrooge sitting, alone, slowly pulling his money out of the ground with a toy train set. Scrooge isn’t even happy about it, because the process is too slow — recovering all his fortune is going to take him twenty years.
You don’t have to take my word for it, somebody put the whole story up on YouTube, believe it or don’t.
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