by Gerald Swenson and Jay Badenhoop
(with apologies to Charles Dickens)

Can you find the names of the 86 elements hidden in the following story? (Or skip to the end?)

In a back street of London, we find the chemistry professor Ebenezer Scrooginger in a mercurial joy, counting his silver and gold. "Praseo- dymium, praseodymium!" he shouts as he pauses over the fees paid for broken beakers. Ebenezer is so mean, that if he ever finds a student overcome by one of his titanium chemistry exams, he never stops to be a good Samarium. Instead, he calls in a teaching assistant and has him platinum. "Are there no chem tutors, no iridium, no study sessions?" he often asked.

Meanwhile, in a stockroom, poor Rubidium Cratchet, the lab technitium, was washing dishes in ice cold water. Ebenezer only allowed him one piece of carbon paper for all the lab reports and one small candle to aluminum. A graduate of Berkelium College in Californium, Rub was no Einsteinium, but he wasn't so-dium, either. He did tend right to bismuth on time. It was six o'clock on Christmas Eve, and Rub asked to go holmium early.

"You've got a lot of gallium," replied Ebenezer. "I'll be francium, but fermium. Hafnium a day's work, halfnium a day's pay."

"That's alright," Rub replied, "I'm antimony, anyway."

Late that night, Ebenezer awoke to see the ghostly face of his de- parted colleague, Lawrencium Marley, who ironically looked worse when he was alive. "Io-dide ne-on to three years ago, and since then, I've had to go out each night, trudging around, carrying these arsenine chemistry exams, and they're heavy as lead! Mend your ways!" Thus the ghost spoke, then departed. That was ytterbium, thought Ebenezer, who had become so yttrium, his hands were shaking. Must be a case of dysprosium from a bit of underdone potato. He tried to forget it and listened to a Donny Osmium album until he eventually dozed off.

At one o'clock, Ebenezer awoke to a cold wind. A young girl with golden hair appeared before him. She waved her hand and the frightened man rose out of bed. The ghost grabbed Ebenezer by the sleeve and rhodium off into Christmas past. They first visited the Chemistry Department of Drogen Fezziwig, Ebenezer's thesis advisor. He was holding a Christmas party, but young Ebenezer was more interested in grading lab reports. "Hi,-Drogen!" laughed Ebenezer, but the spirit told him he couldn't be heard by anyone in the past. The ghost scolded Ebenezer for actinium up. As day turned to night,-Drogen and the others said their goodbyes and went home as Ebenezer sat alone. He began to remember a less pleasant time. In graduate school, Ebenezer had spent so much time studying the oxygen spectrum of the planets Uranium, Neptunium, and Plutonium, he didn't notice when his fiancee, Selenium, left him.

The spirit flew Ebenezer across the Eastern seaborgium, then all over Europium, Francium, Polonium, Germanium, and the co-Baltic states looking for old girlfriends Ebenezer knew when he was in the Americium armed forces. There was Fluorine, Ruthenium, Irhenium, and a few great Scandium blondes. They wanted to dine on stuffed boron and fried rice garnished with erbium from Indium, very tantalum. But young Ebenezer would rather work on his formula for a new fuel than have a social life. As he saw his former friends feasting, flirting, and fooling around, as only the sili-con, it occurred to Ebenezer that being a mean old chemistry professor wasn't the greatest occupation in the world.

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Later, just as his dreams were getting mildly pleasant again, another ghost, who looked a bit like St. Nickel-us, came to wake Ebenezer. "Not again," said Ebenezer, "If you don't go away, I'll call a copper!" His attempts to thallium were in vain. The second spirit took him to Rub Cratchet's hubble, where poor Tiny Tin was crippled, with his leg thorium, and no way to helium. Though he smiled with Christmas cheer, he was sulfuring with a protractinium sickness, and zincing into greater argony.

At three o'clock the most prephosphorus apparition of all (the gaunt form of Alan Cranston, no doubt) appeared and carried Ebenezer out to view all sorts of ugly things which might come to pass. First, he saw Moly B. Denum, Beryl Lium, and Van Adium, those scavenging scions of the subculture, coming out of the unscrupulous undertaking firm, Cesium and Barium. Van was carrying Ebenezer's chromium candelabra, and his prized red magic marker was stuffed in Moly's skirt pocket. The mysterious spirit then took Ebenezer to view his own fate, shining a ra-don onto a krypt-on which a familiar name was inscribed.

"E-gad-olinium! What a cad-mi-am!" declared Ebenezer, who wasn't much of an English scholar, either. And with that, he awoke a new and nobelium man. He put on a radium smile and swore to Xenon never to give a crippling chemistry exam to Tiny Tin or anyone else ever again. Lithium and with a manganese heart, Ebenezer sprang from bed, ran to the window, and caught snowflakes on his tungsten. He took out a neo-dymium, and called the doctor to go over and look at Tiny Tin's leg and curium. Tin was tellurium with joy, and said, "God bless us, everyone, even mean old chemistry professors!"

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