Great (and maybe even yuge) Ghosts of Presidents Past
In tonight’s episode of “Down a Future Looking Glass,” we examine the fanciful case of one Orson Smithson, 62-year-old aviation magnate and the new American president. Despite four successively younger wives and a mammoth fortune that funded his brutal ascent to the presidency, Smithson is often wracked by doubt and fear, doubt and fear that usually surfaces in the night.
Of course, it’s a funny thing about the night. You never know what might surface.
It’s been another maddening day in the short presidency of Orson Smithson, what with almost all of Congress opposing his plan to purchase military aircraft from Smithson Enterprises. The country always bought from him when he wasn’t president, because he was the most brilliant developer the industry had ever seen. Wasn’t he?
With his 29-year-old wife away in the separate quarters she required, Smithson poured a large Scotch before turning off the lights. What in hell made him think he would want this job, living in this scary old house, with his own staff and those in Congress he thought were his aides deigning to tell him what he could and could not do?
Smithson stretched out against his pillows. Suddenly, he swore he heard clinking ice cubes.
He crept over to his dressing room bar and dropped his glass. He thought he was going to faint.
“Well, hello there, Orson,” screeched a being that looked just like Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th U.S. president. “It’s fine to drink but be careful when you spill Scotch on these carpets. This is government property.”
Before Smithson could pry his mouth open to respond, he felt a tug. When he turned around, there was what appeared to be John F. Kennedy, who had made himself a gin and tonic. “I usually drink daiquiris but I couldn’t find any fresh lime juice,” Kennedy said. “Dick, come on out, he knows we’re here.”
“Pleased to meet you, Orson,” said a presence that was, indeed, something that resembled Richard M. Nixon. “Lyndon’s right about the booze. You’re the president. You must always be in control.”
Smithson immediately thought he had been drinking tampered Scotch. Because he had not had any marijuana in at least 30 years. Make that 25.
“What the, this cannot be going on,” Smithson yelled as the three long dead presidents looked at him as if he were as deluded as many pundits and citizens believed. “How did you get in?”
“We’re dead, boy,” said Johnson. “Doors don’t matter anymore. We’ve been watchin’ you and we don’t much like what we’re seein’. We figured the three of us would scare you the most, since you knew who we were, you’re afraid of more than you admit, and because Dick said this would be kinda like ‘A Christmas Carol’.”
“So here we are,” said Kennedy. “Are you scared? You should be. You’re acting as if you’re still the dictator of your corporation, which, by the way, could lose a ton of money next year when that new airplane is found to be full of problems. For God’s sake, didn’t you learn anything from what Dick and Lyndon did?”
“Now hold steady there, Jack,” Nixon said as he helped Smithson back to his bed. “We agreed we wouldn’t make this about all that, especially as you’re the one who has to be nice to Aristotle Onassis.”
“I don’t need warning,” Smithson said as he forced himself to sit upright. “My airplanes are fine. This country is in a mess you three could only dream about, Mr. Vietnam and Mr. Watergate. And when I screwed around, Jack, I married most of them.”
“Oh, you’re a real savior, and a man of HIGH virtue” Johnson shouted as he slapped Smithson’s thigh while Kennedy laughed the laugh Smithson’s mother adored. “But you need to learn what we learned. You’re not God. Or even one of us.”
“You must realize you are the people’s servant,” said Kennedy. “You serve all of the people, including those who don’t like you.”
“Jack is right,” said Nixon, who glanced at Johnson while tapping on a watch that emitted an ethereal purple glow. “If you don’t wise up fast, we see big trouble. Worse than what I faced.”
“Dang, we can’t stay for another drink,” Johnson screamed as the glow moved to surround the three men. “But be warned, Orson. We’re watchin’ you!”
“Goodbye, President Smithson,” Kennedy said softly as the men began to disappear into the mist. “Just remember: ask not what you can do for yourself. Ask to put your doubts and fears to work for your country.”
That concludes tonight’s program. We’ll let President Smithson try to find some probably quite fitful slumber.
And when doubts and fears surface in the night or the day, mind where you keep any clinking ice cubes.