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 Donald sent to me
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, 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. 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.
* * * * * * * *
A smirk in the hand is worth two bushes anytime.
* * * * * * * *
1 Apologies to e e cummings and to all the other authors and lyricists I plundered.
From the author’s latest book, The Annals of Goshen