The elegant digital clock on the mantel struck one but Ebenezer Scrooge was not asleep. He was considering his options, none of which looked promising. How could the ghost of dead John McCain have the nerve to interrupt his slumbers with political nonsense? What was his meaning about three visitors and their gifts? Or that if he failed to heed their warnings something very bad would happen to him? What could he do? There must be something!
He was, after all, Ebenezer Scrooge, Teapublican from Down There. He was a powerful man with enormous personal wealth, all ill-gotten, but whose enormous wealth isn't? You can't hold that against a man, not in America. He had seen to it, personally, that the narrative of the American Dream was all about the accumulation of wealth, and as a result most poor and working class people wanted nothing more than to be rich. So they voted against their own interests, and had over the years supported shipping their own jobs overseas and converting what had been a manufacturing nation (and the source of their growing middle class prosperity) into a lesser nation of something called "service providers." They were, truth be told, little more than wage slaves, mortgaged to the teeth during the bubble he financially engineered so they would be further indebted to him, to the megabanks, and to Wall Street. He was their master. This ideological move alone had made him multiple fortunes, money he now counted in the hundreds of billions rather than mere tens of millions of dollars.
Because of his wealth, he had vast political influence. He had moved from buying things to owning people and favors. He had learned that an arched brow could move markets and even a small objection to something like social security could lead to a call for its immediate reform. So he was a man who always had options. What was all this nonsense about ghosts?
Ghosts, indeed! He farted. It must have been indigestion.
The clock continued to move, but its movement, like that of money through a banking system, was an electronic illusion. It digitally ticked. It digitally tocked. But there was, in reality, no tick and no tock because it was, after all, a digital clock. It was the age of the hyperreal, the simulacrum , the image of the thing itself that was not the thing itself but that consumers wanted to own. That thought made even an edgy Scrooge smile.
And then, just at ten minutes past the hour of one in the morning, there was a knock. A real knock. Not a tick or a tock. Scrooge started to rise in response to it, but thought better of it and feigned sleep instead.
A second knock reverbrated through his chambers, this one much louder.
"Come in!" he finally called out. "Come in, damn you!" He waited. His eyes were fixed on the door like sights on a rifle in an old Western movie.
"But I'm already here," came a whisper from his bedside.
Scrooge screamed and felt his heart leap into his throat. The apparition beside the bed was none other than the ghost of Ronald Reagan!
"I've come to take you down memory lane," said the ghost, as honey-toned as always, looking like a paler version of his younger self, back when he was an actor. Reagan was attired in his customary blue suit, or at least what passed for a blue suit, but the suit had a bullet-sized hole in the chest area that passed through what would have been a lung.
Reagan grimaced. "Hickley. That's where he shot me when I was alive," he said. "Like I told Nancy, "I forgot to duck.'"
"And you must carry it in, in " the other world?" Scrooge asked, gently.
"Oh yes, yes indeed I do," came the reply. "As will you, my friend."
"But," Scrooge protested," "There must be some mistake. I haven't been shot. I don't even go hunting with Dick Cheney."
The ghost of Ronald Reagan smiled benevolently at him. "That's true. But it is not just the physical harm done to us that we carry into eternity." Reagan shook his head. "We also carry who we were, all that we stood for, and what we did to others ."