After the last of the spiked eggnog was guzzled, after the last sloppy smooch under the mistletoe had been delivered, I went to sleep with thoughts of candy canes and anthrax attacks dancing inside my head. No sooner had my head hit the pillow than I was awoken by a chilling wind that swept through my bedroom. I looked up and saw an eerie blue light shimmering at the foot of my bed. I pressed the panic button, but the usual floodlights and sirens didn't go off. Something was wrong. I thought about waking the Ol' Ball and Chain, but she'd taken her usual fistful of Xanax before bedtime and could sleep through anything.
The light began to speak with a Texas drawl. "Howdy, Dick. Good to see ya again." The voice sounded familiar, but I said nothing. The shimmering light disappeared, and out of the darkness strode my old buddy Ken Lay. I grabbed the loaded Glock I keep under my pillow and fired three shots, but the bullets went right through him. "Kenny Boy. What are you doing here?" I said. "Don't you know you need level five security clearance to get in this room?"
"Fer cryin' out loud, gimmie a break, will you?" he whined. "I'm dead."
"What do you want with me? Didn't I give you enough government handouts when we drew up the energy budget? You need some more?"
Ken sighed. "Here I am, a friggin' ghost, and all you can talk about is business. Jesus, aren't you a little curious about what I've been up to?"
I felt a fleeting flush of embarrassment, so I played along with him. "Sorry. So, what's new? How's the afterlife?"
"It sucks," he replied. "People all drive Priuses and electric cars. I'm stuck on a commune with a bunch of vegans growing soybeans. Soybean soup, soybean pizza. Haven't had anything that looks like meat since I got there. They actually make me hug a tree for an hour each day. I feel like an idiot. Every night I have to go to the same concert, where Woody Guthrie sings the same boring union songs. The only radio is NPR, and the biodegradable toilet paper is givin' me a rash!"
"Sounds like hell."
"It IS hell, ya durn galoot! I ran into Jerry Falwell, and he told me when he's not canvassing for Greenpeace, he's forced to take yoga lessons in the nude!"
"Look, this is all really interesting," I lied, "but I've got to get back to sleep. I have a lot of presents to open tomorrow. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out." I said as I laid back down in bed.
Kenny Boy turned to leave, then stopped. "Oh, I almost forgot. The reason I'm here. I have to warn you that you'll be visited by three ghosts."
"What the...? I've got to go through this three more times? Shit."
"Sorry, Dick. Gotta go. I play zither in the commune folk band, and I'm late for rehearsal. We're opening for Burl Ives next week." Kenny Boy started to fade away. "Remember, don't believe what you read in the business section..."
He was gone. I leaned back and tried to catch some Z's. Suddenly I felt someone shaking my leg. Slowly I reached under my bed and grabbed the loaded crossbow I'd kept for emergencies like this. I sat up and fired. The bow went right through the ghostly figure, shattering a Tiffany lamp that was a gift from Nicolas Sarkozy.
I looked at the specter. It was my mentor, Ronald Regan. "Why hello, Dick. Good to see you again."
"Hello, Mr. President. I'm honored."
"Aw shucks, Dick, we're old friends. Just call me Ronnie. That reminds me of a story. You know, back in the day when I was at Warner Brothers, Humphrey Bogart and Betty Bacall used to give these wonderful parties. Well, one night I was at their place hanging out with Jimmy Stewart when the phone rang. I happened to be the nearest to the phone so I picked it up, and you'll never guess..."
"Gee, Mr. President, I'd love to hear another of your pointless anecdotes about old Hollywood, but I don't think that's why you're here."
He thought for a moment and then brightened. "You know, you're right. I've got something to show you. Come on over here." He motioned for me to join him at the foot of my bed, so I got up and walked into the twilight that surrounded him.
Suddenly I was back in the Wyoming plains of my youth. The old red schoolhouse I attended. A group of children romped in the playground. It was Miss Johannson's second grade class. A young me was just finishing beating up one of the weaker kids in the class. Then I shoved a firecracker up a kitten's ass and blew it up. Gosh, those were fun days. "This is all fine and dandy, but what's the point of coming here?" I asked Reagan.
He looked a little bewildered. "Gee, I don't know. I don't have my note cards. You know what I'm like if I try to go off script. I think I was supposed to say something about what a great kid you were or tell you my old Chicago Cubs wire reader story. Oh well, let's go back to your place."
We turned around and I was back in my bedroom at stately Cheney Manor. "Ronnie? Mr. President?" I whispered, but he was gone. Must have taken a wrong turn and got lost again. I shrugged my shoulders and hopped back into the sack. I was just drifting off to snoozeville when I felt someone tapping my foot. I reached under the mattress and grabbed my antique but still active WW2 German stick grenade (a gift from Prime Minister Merkel) and threw it at the ghost. It went through him and exploded, blasting a hole in the wall between the bedroom and my personal bathroom. I looked over at the Ol' Ball and Chain. She was still snoring away. I made a mental note to buy some shares of whoever makes Xanax. I looked at the blue shimmering light. It was a ghost all right, but not one that I expected.
"Bob Novak? What the hell are you doing here? You're not dead!"
"Oh yeah?" Novak replied. "My career is, thanks to you and your damn Valerie Plame fixation. This is the only paying gig I could get. CNN kicked me out on my keister, newspapers everywhere are dropping my column, and my latest book went straight to the bargain bin. Thanks for the exclusives, jackass."
"Why I oughtta..." I said as I jumped out of bed, ready to punch the ungrateful bastard in his new set of oversized dentures when I realized that since he was a ghost, my fist would just whiff the air. I decided to cut my losses. "Okay, let's get this over with. Where are you taking me?"
"Hold on a minute, Cheney," he said as he waved his hands in the air and started making ridiculous spooky sounds.
"What the hell are you doing?" I said as he went "Whooooooo" and did some kind of spastic jig around my bed.
"It's in the contract. I have to do this or I won't get paid. Whooooooooo! Okay. I'm done. Let's go." We walked into the blue mist.
When the mist cleared, we were standing in the foyer of a well-to-do home. I heard a young girl cry, "But I wanted a diamond Rolex for Christmas!" I looked into the dining room and spotted Lil' Alberto comforting his daughter while the rest of the family ate their holiday dinner.
"I told you, honey, it's been a rough year," he said. "Daddy isn't able to skim money off the judicial budget anymore. We're all going to have to tighten our belts."
His daughter continued to cry. "It just isn't fair!"
"She's right," said his shrewish wife. "They promised you a seven-figure book deal. So where is it, Mr. Big Shot?"
"Vice President Cheney said he'd take care of it. We just have to be patient. Now finish your duck l'orange."
"We can't even afford a Christmas turkey or a new seventy-two-inch hi-def TV!" his son whined.
"It's that damned Cheney's fault," moaned his wife. "I told you to stay away from that creep. Why you took the fall for him I'll never know."
"I hate Dick Cheney!" cried his daughter. "I wish he was dead!"
"Now, now. Don't say that. It's a federal offense, and I'll have to arrest you," said Lil' Alberto. "The vice president is a good man. He's diverted millions to us so we can live this lifestyle. It could be a lot worse. We could be middle class. Dick Cheney is a man of his word. I'm positive he'll come through with the book bonus, and you'll get your diamond Rolex. Now please pass the caviar."
"You're such a sap, Alberto," his wife muttered. "You're such a sap."
"Why, that bitch!" I sneered. "Let's sneak into the kitchen and screw with her appliances. That'll fix her."
"Nope, gotta go," said Novak as he spun me around.
We were back in my bedroom. "What's the rush, Novak? Got a deadline to make? Heh heh heh."
"I wish," he sighed. "Gotta run to my other job. The only steady TV gig I could score was a weekly minute of news commentary for the Food Network. You really screwed me good, you jerk weed! Whoooooooo!" He disappeared into the blue mist.
"What an ungrateful bastard," I muttered as I crawled back into bed. I tried to catch some shut-eye, but I heard another noise. I reached to my night table, grabbed my ninja star, and threw it at the figure lurking in the shadows.
"What the...? Owww! That hurts! Why'd ya do that, boss?" It was Rusty, my limo driver.
"Rusty! What the hell are you doing in here?"
"I was cleaning out the limo and found your Blackberry in the backseat, boss. I thought I'd leave it up here 'cause I know ya got all them big government secrets on it. And now I got a ninja star stuck in my arm. What gives? Jeez, boss, I'm losin' a lot of blood here. Ya got a Band-Aid or somethin'?"
"Go downstairs and get Francisco to clean you up," I muttered.
Rusty turned to leave but stopped at the door. "You alright, boss? Ya look like you saw a ghost."
"I'm fine. Now get out of here before your blood ruins the carpeting."
"Sure thing, boss. Oh, and thanks for my Christmas bonus. How'd you know I like caramel corn?"
"I have my sources. Now scram," I said as he closed the bedroom door.
I was just about to hit the road to dreamland when I heard rumblings at the foot of the bed. Instead of grabbing for the bowie knife I kept strapped to my leg, I just sat up. In the mist was a hooded figure who said nothing. His skeletal finger motioned me to join him. "Yeah, yeah, I know the drill," I said as I trudged with him into the mist.
When the smoke cleared, we were standing in front of a large, imposing building. "Where are we?" I asked. The hooded figure pointed to the building. Suddenly a young man and woman dressed in Dutch outfits, wearing wooden shoes and eating hunks of Gouda cheese, walked by. "Welcome to The Hague," said the Dutch boy. "The Hague?" I sputtered. "Then this must be the tribunal for war criminals!" My spooky sherpa nodded in the affirmative. He led me to the back of the building, where there was an unkempt graveyard. My hooded companion pointed to a mass paupers' grave. I read the names etched on the wooden grave marker.
"Here lie the remains of convicted war criminals George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Antonin Scalia, David Addington, Paul Wolfowitz, Alberto Gonzales... No! Not Lil' Alberto!" My eyes started to tear up, but I realized that it was just allergies. The stranger in the hood pointed at the last name on the marker. I cleared away the weeds and animal feces and read aloud, "...and Richard Bruce Cheney." I turned to the dark specter. "Gee, there's a surprise. I didn't see that one coming." I chuckled sarcastically. Mr. Death poked me in the eye with his skeletal index finger. "Okay, you win. I'm scared," I lied. He spun me around and I was back at home.
I awoke some time later just as the dawn was breaking. I ran to the window and opened it. Down below were Francisco, my trusty manservant, Mr. Bacciagalupe, my pastry chef, and Rusty the limo driver, all grabbing some smokes in the backyard. "What day is today?" I asked.
"Hey, whatsamatta you? It's a Christmas," said Bacciagalupe.
"Great! Then I still have some time left!" I grabbed a fistful of twenties and tossed it to the guys.
"Here you go, fellas. Buy a couple of cartons of Luckies on me! And clean the butts off the patio before you leave!"
"Gee, that's swell. Thanks, boss," said Rusty.
Feeling invigorated with the Christmas spirit, I got on the secure phone, made some quick calls, and pardoned everyone on my staff, the cabinet, and even Lil' Alberto. But not Harriet Miers. Screw her. Then I leaned back and laughed. A nice hearty laugh. I guess this year WILL be the best Christmas ever.