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A Canny Christmas Carol J

(With apologies to Charley Dickens)


Jay R. Cavanaugh, PhD

Christmas 2002


The light was fading on a cold Christmas Eve in Washington, D.C. Oblivious to the time or the season; Attorney General John Ashcroft labored at his desk signing detention orders and authorizing Christmas Eve raids and searches. He worked diligently not even pausing to look up to the window where the White House Christmas Tree was ablaze in a rainbow of lights. Several subordinates in the Department of Justice had put on their overcoats and mufflers and were preparing to leave to spend the Holiday with their families. Ashcroft insisted that all stay until the last moment and the Attorney General let the Staff know they were expected to return for a brief tour of work on Christmas Day. “Terrorists buying suitcase nukes with the profits from medical marijuana means we must all take our work seriously”, declared Ashcroft as he took out his handkerchief and polished up his American Flag lapel pin.


A lowly deputy staffer, Bob Crotchless, approached his boss with trepidation and timidly asked if he could now leave. Ashcroft waved him off with a gesture. The last thing Ashcroft wanted to hear about was Bob’s sick son and how his family was struggling. The Attorney General had heard the rumors that Bob’s son was autistic and that all other medicines having failed, the Crotchless family had resorted to pot to quell the boys’ violent tantrums. As soon as the Holiday was over Ashcroft would send his elite team to take down the Crotchless family and end this hint of scandal. Despite the menacing scowl Bob thanked the Attorney General and kindly asked him to come over to the Crotchless home on Christmas to share the families’ meager meal. “We’d love to have you sir, Timmy’s always glad to see you, Merry Christmas”, shouted Bob to Ashcroft as he pulled his coat tight and dashed off into the snow to be with his loving family.


With the building now dark and nearly empty, Ashcroft rose to leave and paused briefly in the Staff room where the remains of the office Christmas Party sat on the table. The General often worked through the day without a break even for nourishment and Ashcroft was hungry. Among the empty cups and crumbs on the table stood a large untouched chocolate brownie with a bright green bow and a tiny card that read, “For the Attorney General, Merry Christmas”. The brownie had a deep green tinge to it but it smelled like it had just come out of the oven. A hungry Ashcroft devoured the brownie noting only briefly that the brownie was moist and sweet with an exotic flavor that he just couldn’t place.


Arriving home after dark, John Ashcroft kissed his wife Janet hello and waved to the kids before retiring to his private upstairs study remaining fully clothed as running the heat in his private sanctum would only make him soft and less able to fight the demons he was sworn to go after. Little did the Attorney General know just how terrible that fight was going to be this very evening. He poured himself a stiff cup of Chamomile tea and sat huddled before a small sputtering fire in his large stone fireplace. He opened his latest issue of Southern Partisan as he sat below his large black velvet portrait of his hero of the War Between the States, Nathan Bedford Forrest. He glanced over at his hand sewn Confederate Flag emblazoned with the slogan “Lest We Forget”. Then he picked up and lightly shook his clear plastic toy with Jesus in the snow.


As he watched the tiny flames dance before him he took a pull of his tea and thought how lucky he was to be chosen to fight against drugs and just how he was going to crush Bob Crotchless. If only he could get rid of those darn holidays that interfered with his work bringing the suffering masses to justice. Slowly the flames seemed to dance more than usual and Ashcroft felt sleep irresistibly tugging at his baggy eyes. He’d only close his eyes for a moment then turn on his lamp and write memos detailing the raid he was planning on the hapless Crotchless family including their pothead son Timmy (probably named after Leary he thought as if through a fog…)


John Ashcroft was startled awake by a chill wind blowing snow through the open window. The snow bounced around the room back lit by a now roaring fire. He was confused, frightened, and looked to his watch to see the time. It was late, very late. As he looked up from his watch he saw a ghostly apparition. A tall black man with long and elaborate dread locks holding a large smoldering hand rolled cigarette stood before him.


“I am Bob Marley, Rasta man, and the ghost of Christmas past”. Ashcroft tried to rise from his chair to confront the intruder but his body felt like lead. “I shot the Sheriff, but I didn’t shoot the deputy, not that it would matter to you and I know the time on the streets though I didn’t graduate from BJU”, declared the ghost. Ashcroft thought he knew all about ghosts having been beaten by one in that terrible Senate election but he had never confronted anything as frightening as Marley. The ghost took Ashcroft by the hand and in ways Ashcroft didn’t understand they floated through the window and flew over the quiet, dark, snow covered landscape. In the distance a small Missouri farm house stood dark except for a single light in the living room. Sitting on the floor were John’s parents and himself at the age of eight, the same age as Bob Crotchless’ son Timmy. The parents and young Ashcroft were singing hymns and opening their Christmas Eve presents. They laughed and joked as Mrs. Ashcroft related the Christmas story and how lucky Mary and Joseph were to find shelter in a manger.


John smiled at the old family scene but the smile quickly retreated when his father finished a pint of bourbon fished from his pocket and slapped the boy for opening his presents too slowly while his mother sat stony faced, her mouth taught holding back the shout she knew would only enrage her husband more. “You’ll learn to do things as you’re told because I love you enough to punish you”, declared the senior Ashcroft. “Some day you’ll thank me and maybe even write a book about me”. The small boy was shaking now as Marley led him away into the night.


“You remember how tough it was on you and now you make it tough on everyone else but most of all yourself”, stated Marley as they flew back to Ashcroft’s lonely Washington upstairs bedroom. “It’s a hostile world and you’re going to get even” rapped Marley. “What do you mean, Dad loved me”, implored Ashcroft. “He even took me up in his plane when I was eight and let me fly”. Marley sat with John before the fire and spoke quietly, “Don’t you remember he gave you the stick and you plunged the plane into a downward spiral scaring the daylights out of you?” “Yes”, that’s true replied Ashcroft, “but Tough Love is the only way we of corruptible flesh ever learn”.


Marley ghost took a large drag from his spliff and holding his breath offered the joint to the Attorney General. “Get behind me Satan”, screamed Ashcroft as Marley exhaled a huge cloud of gray green smoke into Ashcroft’s face. The General fell abruptly into his chair. Marley, eyes blazing like a camp fire sat beside Ashcroft and staring into his eyes declared, “You will tonight meet the ghosts of Christmas present and Christmas future. Watch listen and learn for your ass and your soul on the line this night bro.” A green mist formed before Ashcroft’s eyes and fight as he could, sleep once more overcame him.


(end of Part One)

Go to Part II



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