The scene: A cold winter’s evening in Washington, D.C. The city is awash with holiday cheer, but for two men, there is no Christmas joy.
They are Barack “Ebenezer” Obama and John “Jacob Marley” Boehner. Our little drama finds both men bending over their ledger books, squinting in the light of their meager candles, their brows furrowed with worry.
The men are working against a deadline, trying to keep the nation from stumbling over the fiscal cliff that will plunge the economy back into recession and put thousands of people out of work.
It is the evening of Dec. 20. The next day is the last before Congress breaks for Christmas. Negotiations remain at a standstill, so the two men decide to do what bitter political adversaries always do in situations like these — they decide to have a sleepover (work with me here, people).
So Ebenezer invites Jacob to spend the night in his big White House. The men have shared dinner and a couple of glasses of the White House’s own special ale, have donned their nightgowns and caps and gone to bed.
Suddenly both are awakened by a terrible moaning sound, accompanied by a rattling, as if of heavy chains, emanating from the hallway. Both spring from their beds and seek the source of the terrible noise.
They converge on an apparition, a ghostly figure in a $5,000 suit, weighed down with gold chains. It is the ghost of Donald Trump.
“Trump!” exclaims Ebeneezer. “What are you doing here? How’d you get past the Secret Service?”
“Are you kidding?” says the ghost, “they’re all out partying with some attractive young professional women, if you get my drift. And as for what I’m doing here, I’m here to warn you. Get off your butts and make a deal. The decisions you make in this life will stay with you in the next.”
“You mean death?” says Jacob. “And do you wear the chains you forged in life?”
“No, private life,” says the ghost Donald. “And the chains are from Tiffany’s. No, I’m talking about my hair. You don’t think I like wearing it this way, do you? Make a deal, change your ways. You’ve only got four more years, Ebenezer, but Jacob could be out among the great unwashed in two years.”
“Begone, foul spirit,” says Ebenezer. “I don’t believe in you. I think we must have gotten a bad batch of ale or something.”
“Don’t mock me,” howls the ghost, shaking his chains, not to mention his frightening head of hair. “Before the night is out, you will be visited by three spirits. Each one will be more frightful than the next. They will show you the error of your ways.”
And with that, the spirit vanished.
Shaken, both men return to their beds. But when the clock strikes one, both are awakened again. Once again, they leave their beds to find the source of the noise.
In the hallway, they find three spirits. One resembles former president Herbert Hoover, another looks like ex-Lehman Brothers chairman Richard Fuld, and the third is a figure in a long hooded robe, his face deep in shadow.
“What are you, terrible spirits, and why are you here?” says Ebenezer.
“I am the ghost of financial crises past,” says the Hoover spirit, “Richard is the ghost of financial disasters present and our silent friend is the ghost of financial foul-ups future.”
“We know your story, Hoover,” says Ebeneezer, “and Fuld, your firm helped spark the 2008 collapse. But what’s the deal with the boy in the hood?”
“That’s Tiny Tim Geithner,” says Fuld. “He represents all the future generations who will be saddled with mounting debt and financial woes if you two bozos don’t work out your differences soon.”
“You mean we’ll be shown an empty crutch sitting by the fire?” asks Jacob.
“More like an empty financial portfolio, but yeah, you get the drift,” says Hoover. “Just touch his robe, and he’ll scare the living bejeezus out of you.”
So they do. In an instant they are transported to a future America, with double-digit inflation and unemployment, filled with hollow-eyed children and out-of-work accountants.
And they see a line of people stretching outside the door of the White House, waiting for an audience with the president.
“What do they want, and why do so many of them look Chinese?” asks Ebenezer.
“Those are America’s creditors,” says Fuld, “and they want their money.”
“And who are they going to see?” asks Ebenezer.
“Why the president, of course,” answers Hoover.
And the hooded spirit holds out one arm, and points with a bony finger. The two men look in the direction of his gesture, and they suddenly drop to their knees, sobbing in horror.
“Oh, no spirit, say it isn’t so,” wails Ebenezer.
“Are these visions things that will be, or simply things that might be?” cries Jacob.
There, sitting in the Oval Office, is Donald Trump.
Instantly, both awaken, and run from their rooms. Ebenezer finds he is still president, and Jacob still house speaker. It is the morning of Dec. 21.
I’d like to tell you both men were so filled with the spirit of the season that they worked out their differences, kept the country from toppling off the fiscal cliff and walked off together into the cold morning crying, “God bless us, every one,” but my feeble imagination stretches only so far.
Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.