Ebenezer Draghi sighed. These bank books would never come out right, and it was Christmas Eve already. As he struggled, the numbers began to swim before his eyes. So many hundreds of billions of euros, so many classes of security, collateral, refinancings…He started to doze. He found himself back a decade, in that glad, confident morning when the world was fresh and new, and the first currency to be entirely illustrated by pictures of fantasy bridges was sprung on a delighted world.

How wonderful life was then! Those perfidious Brits had, predictably, declined to join the euro, but we’d show ’em! The single currency would be the cement that held Europe together, financially as well as symbolically, and would soon threaten the greenback as the world’s premier medium of exchange. Knocking the Yanks off their perch while leaving Britain in the slow lane. What’s not to like? Within a decade the economies of north and south would have converged into one magnificent powerhouse. The euro would have become a deutschemark with a suntan.

Ebenezer couldn’t smile at the thought for long. He was jolted awake by noises outside. There were two men at the door, a Spaniard and an Italian, in dire need of money. In the spirit of Christmas, couldn’t Draghi tide them over in return for a promise to mend their spendthrift ways? Bah! Humbug! Be off with you! Did they think he could just print money? That was for his perfidious rival in another counting house, and was the road to ruin.

Draghi began to doze again. But it was fitful, and curious visions of a tiny Greek boy, whose parents were not allowed to give him the medicine he desperately needed, kept flitting through his head. He decided that this was just his mind playing tricks, a distraction from the task of finding a way to balance the books. More than once he thought he’d found the money he needed, only to jerk awake to find that the discrepancy was even bigger than before. If only we’d tackled this problem when it first arose, he thought wistfully, we wouldn’t be in this mess now.

It was no good. He had to go home. It was late, and he slumped exhausted into bed. Almost at once he was dreaming. There was the tiny Greek boy again, and his parents, dressed in rags, were grieving. The boy had died, as if he was merely a character in some penny-dreadful melodrama! This can’t be happening, thought Draghi. Then he saw the date: December 24, 2015. He was seeing into the future. If only he could see the stock prices page of that day’s paper, he’d make a fistful of euros.

Pulling himself together, he started thinking about the boy rather than his wretched currency. If Tiny Timeus did not die until 2015, there was still time to save him. What was the problem he had to solve? The medicine was there, and had been tried many times. Although it was not a sure cure, and needed big efforts from the patient, it had usually worked. There was nothing else for it: if the tiny Greeks were to be saved, they would have to be allowed to leave his precious euro and (dread word!) devalue.

As he started to work out how to do it, he dozed off again. There was Tiny Timeus! How happy and healthy he looked, playing on the beach. Behind him were thousands of tourists enjoying sunshine and ouzo at bargain prices, courtesy of Ryanair’s new routes to the Greek islands. He might even go there himself, he thought, as he fell into a wonderful sleep and did not wake until Christmas morning.

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