I – Ka-Ching-a-Ching
anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so many floating bells down) (1)
And how the Smirk hated Anyone, and how he hated pretty How Town! And there were how so many How Towns in Dis-United States of America. It wasn’t fair.
What reason did Anyone have to be merry, for he was poor enough? And what reason did the Smirk have to be sad, for he was rich enough? How rich was he? Well, he was born not only with a silver spoon in his mouth, but he was born also with silver fondue forks and golden oyster knives and ivory-trimmed platinum corkscrews in every orifice of his body, that’s how rich he was.
It was the night before Christmas, and he was deep in the frozen heart of Texas, near Waco, where the Wackos live. It was the state of Dis-Union that believed in revolving credit, and revolving cylinders for guns, and revolving doors for its lethal injection chambers.
It was Christmas Eve, and the FBI surveillance showed that Anyone in How Town was far too happy. The people were joyful and the coloured lights were dancing and even some ecclesiastics were gay. But what really bothered him was the noise.
THE NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! The clink of coins on collection plates, and the ka-ching-a-ching-ing of the cash registers, and the swish of visas on the card swipes. It was all about Christmas, and the Smirk, well, he hated Christmas, 165 days a year, or maybe it was 635 days a year, for the Smirk had no head for numbers.
But the Smirk had a very photogenic head, perfect for Mount Rushmore, and he often pictured it up there, carved in stone, with a magnificently low brow, a granite gaze, and a lip so crooked you could hang a skunk from it.
But the NOISE! Oh the NOISE! For it was the noise of people giving and forgiving, of meeting and greeting, of blessing and redressing. And how he hated that! For the Prez (which was the Smirk’s official title) was the master of taking and raking, of holding and hoarding, of grabbing and of stabbing.
So he ran to his vault and he pawed through his outfits. There was the tall ten-gallon hat, which held 430 litres Canadian, for so had he calculated. There was the cutesy vest trimmed with whooping crane feathers and spotted owlskins and parts of other soon-to-be-extinct animals. And there were leggings made from the lovely skins of reindeer, the one chap called Rudolph, and the other, Vixen.
And then the Smirk had a WONDERFUL, just AWFUL IDEA! He had fooled millions of Dis-United people. He could fool Anyone!
He could be Santa Prez!
1 Apologies to e e cummings and to all the other authors and lyricists I plundered.
II – Ring-a-Ding
So Santa Prez hopped into his armoured Humvee and was away like a flash! He whipped up the horses and he spun the wheels in a whirly way and the wind whistled through the longhorns strapped on the hood. And he chanted, “Here comes Santa Prez, Here comes Santa Prez, Bringing you Santa Prez pain.” And in howtime he was in How Town where Someone and No One and Everyone ran about clinking and chinging and swishing.
Oh what a NOISE! What a NOISE! The kids they were caroling and the bells they were chiming and the snow chains were jingling. And the chestnuts were roasting and people’s toeses were toasting and the snow it was glistening, so glistening it was hard on the ears.
And the policemen were smiling and the merchants were chuckling and the lovers were laughing, and Santa Prez hated them. He just HATED them! For in his 58 years (2)2 he had managed a snicker, and he had now and then squeezed out a snigger, and had once forced out a chortle, but the height of his mirth was a smirk.
Now, he had spent his years wisely, for at Yale he had learned to pick locks, and at Harvard business he had studied to pick pockets, and in his first months in office he had perfected the art of picking his nose.
So Santa Prez ran through the malls and he snatched up the purses, and he emptied out cash boxes, and he cut up the credit cards. He was on the point of stuffing the last ATM into his Humvee when a small voice spoke to him, but when he whirled about there was No One. There was only an Old Man, begging a penny for his hat, and good King Wenceslas, with faggots for the fire slipping through frozen fingers, and a Mary and a Joseph looking for lodging. So he was right ̶ there was No One.
Then Someone spoke. It was little Sally Ann, in her pretty blue bonnet that she got from the margarine company for sending in three box tops. And in her hair were scarlet ribbons, scarlet ribbons for her hair, woven from the breadman’s twist-ties.
“Please, Santa,” said Sally Ann. “Please, Santa,” she said, “you forgot these.” And she tipped the few coppers from her kettle into his loot sack.
“I’ll send you a receipt,” said Santa Prez. But he lied. For that was the third thing he was good at. And as he lied, he scooped the penny from the Old Man’s hat, and he kicked the faggots off the sidewalk, and he directed the lodge-seekers to the Holiday Inn, because he knew it was full.
Oh he was a scraping, scroogey, covetous old sinner, was Smirk, and hard and cold as flint. The cold within him froze his heart and nipped his humanitarian impulses and shriveled his magnanimity. No warmth could warm him, no words could move him, no laughter heal him.
But, enough flattery. He had finished the job. He had extracted all the Cheer from Christmas, the Joy from dish soap, and the last Glad from garbage bags.
He had pulled the plug on happiness.
And after he had visited all the other how towns, he looked upon his Creation, and he saw that it was real good.
And silent night came down on How Town, and the sleep of heavenly peace.
2 Coincidentally, George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States, turned 58 on July 6, 2004. But he wasn’t counting.
III – Sing-a-Ling
As the Smirk raced for his ranch, it came upon a midnight clear, and he could hear a noise, a sort of nice noise, a reverential noise, like angels singing, touching their harps of gold which, it seems, he had overlooked in his hurry.
How Town was behind him, its dark streets shining, in everlasting light. He should’ve bought more shares in Con Edison.
And to drown out the singing, he chanted his soul song:
On the twelfth day of Christmas
Dick and Donald3 sent to me (3)
Twelve oil fields pumping . . .
Eleven pipelines piping . . .
Ten tankers leaking . . .
Nine sheiks a-dancing . . .
Eight maids a-mopping . . .
Seven swans a-dying . . .
Six geese a-praying . . .
Five . . . golden . . . rings . . .
Four oily birds . . .
Three frenched hens . . .
Two mourning doves . . .
And a market in a money tree.
Over the Continental Divide and down the Mississippi Valley and up the Texas Panhandle he raced, thirty-three thousand miles he raced with his load, and it was a quarter past dawn when he dumped it.
Then the Commander-in-Thief consulted his intelligence, which he had done twice before, with mixed results. There was the time he was reading a children’s book, which he never got to finish, because some towers were burning (4). Then he tackled more challenging material, such as the fiction generated by his disinformation agencies, and more recently, Archie comics.
The electronic bugs recorded a new sound in How Town, but the sound wasn’t sad. It was glad. After all he had taken and raked in and grabbed, could there still be cheer in Christmas?
He had to see it for himself, so he whizzed back in fright through the bright morning light, and he saw it, boy oh boy oh boy!
In pretty little How Town with up so floating many bells down there was JOY oh JOY oh JOY! The rich and the poor and those with real jobs were embracing One Another as if money didn’t matter. And churchmen were joining temples and templers were visiting mosques and mosquers were plucking banjoes in the subway. Races were blending colours and cultures were breeding harmony and linguists were speaking in tongues. And worst of all, WORST OF ALL, the Republicans and the Democrats were supporting Each Other’s resolutions. It was a NiGhTmArE!
Then the Smirk knew he had missed Something. He hadn’t taken Everything. He had thought they didn’t mean Anything. He had failed to capture all the hearts of Re-United States of America.
The hearts had been on offer, but he had taken only the mean ones, the flinty ones, the ones as small as ice cubes.
And he sensed a change in the air, the peace in the wind, the goodwill settling around him, and some of it touched his cold, cold heart, and thawed it three degrees.
Now, if you think the Smirk gave back his load, if you think he would part with even one sack of his loot on this special day of the year, you’ve been watching too much Disney. This is no fairy tale.
But, as he was leaving, he did put a penny back in the Old Man’s hat.
3 Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld acted as key players in President G.W. Bush’s war on terrorism. Cheney, as Vice-President, fully supported the initiative, and will forever be associated with “enhanced interrogation” techniques against prisoners. Rumsfeld, as Secretary of Defense, helped launch the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan which are still playing out today.
4 On September 11, 2001, President G.W. Bush was actually reading a book aloud, which exercise he reluctantly gave up when he learned of the aerial attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York City.
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[Republished from The Annals of Goshen by this author. This story originally published in December 2004.}