Ronnie was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial in Simi Valley was signed by representatives, senators, and supreme court justices. McCain himself signed it: and McCain's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Ronnie was dead as a door-nail.
And so it was that McCain was greatly surprised to see the face of Ronnie on the door-knocker of his Phoenix residence one Christmas eve, coming home from a round of stumping, including ingestion of the customarily inedible stump food. He muttered "Bah! Humbug!" at seeing Ronnie's visage on the door-knocker, attributing it as he did to something he'd eaten, a bit of gristle perhaps, in stump food mystery meat.
But upon going up to bed (Cindy Lou was away), McCain was startled by the sound of clanking metal and a heavy banging at his boudoir door and more startled still when the door was opened by someone or something that looked like -- no, it couldn't be -- Ronnie! Disbelieving his eyes, McCain again protested: "Humbug I say!" and reiterated aloud his hunch that the phantasm was caused by indigestion. "You may be an undigested bit of fajita I had at Hispanics for John McCain, or a crumb of chitlin's from the rally of African-American Republicans.
At this, the ghostly specter before him expressed disagreement with this conclusion by rattling a heavy chain wrapped 'round his body, a chain with life-sized bracelet "charms" attached. These included AK-47's, large tape-wrapped packs of Colombian cocaine, and VHS cassettes of Senate testimony pertaining to the Iran-Contra affair. When McCain inquired of Ronnie why he bore such burdens even in death, Ronnie replied almost angrily: "This is the chain I forged in life...." and then, he warned: "You will be haunted by Three Spirits. Expect the first tomorrow, when the bell tolls One, the second the next night at the same time, and the third the following night just past twelve," and with that, the spirit floated out the window.
McCain went to bed and, sure enough, at the stroke of one, the curtains of his bed were drawn back by a spirit. McCain squinted, thinking the figure before him bore a resemblance to someone he knew (or knew of); yes, it was the nose: long, with an odd upward curve at the end -- and the lips and chin which, despite being closely shaved, looked like they had a perpetual five o'clock shadow and glistened with tiny beads of perspiration. The spirit announced: "I am the Ghost of Christmas Past."
"Long past?" McCain asked.
"No. Your past." The spirit bade McCain to touch his robe and, with that, the two of them floated away to the senator's childhood in the Panama Canal Zone (which would, years later, be bombed mercilessly by a GOP president using capture of Noriega as an excuse)...."I see a student playboy at the Naval Academy, graduating last in his class..." Fades and dissolves to other high points in McCain's life, such as dissing America on threat of torture by his Vietcong captors (and, later, relenting on demands that the U.S. cease torturing suspected terrorists at an American military installation in another Latin American country, betraying the very ideals he claimed to stand for, the better to tow the party line and, perhaps, pass muster with the party's neocons).
The spirit went on: "I see a young senator interfering with the orderly administration of justice to help out a campaign contributor and crony named Keating...." And on: "I see a tireless advocate for the tobacco industry though he knows cigarettes cause cancer and that when Americans wake up to the fact that the industry regards them as 'nicotine delivery devices,' the multinationals will start hooking Asians and Africans on them...." And on: "I see a fat-faced, double-chinned man doing a hatchet job on a Dem candidate for president and after giving lip service to the notion that it's dirty tricks, the now-older senator lets it happen for the good of the party...."
"I see a skin cancer patient enjoying the benefits of free medical treatment as a senatorial perk but doing nothing to aid millions of Americans who can't afford health insurance...." By now, McCain was feeling a bit guilty; however, hidebound hack that he was, he smirked , but it was a nervous smirk. After all, one cannot be too careful around ghosts. "Leave me!" he asked the spirit. "Take me back! Show me no more!"
The second spirit arrived on time -- at the stroke of one the following day. It was ensconced upon a sort of throne and surrounded by all manner of cakes and ale, succulent fruit and Christmas fare: a turkey and all the trimmin's as well as a huge horn of plenty with rich candies and nutmeats spilling from it. The spirit sat atop all this, a jolly giant bidding McCain: "Come in! and know me better, man!...I am the Ghost of Christmas Present. Look upon me!...Touch my robe!"
They were now transported to New Orleans, to a house in the lower Ninth Ward. A family is having a Christmas dinner of canned Perdue chicken (processed by illegal aliens), dressing made of last week's cornbread, and some hand-out peas from the Food Bank. The family, squatting, has no roof overhead as the woodframe house has been marked for demolition. The youngest male child, Li'l Tim, has a severe cough from drafts (makeshift tarps for windows, odd bits of shredded plywood for a ceiling). The father says, "A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!," to which the family echoes, and Li'l Tim, last of all, says: "God bless us every one!"
"Spirit," McCain inquires, "tell me if Li'l Tim will live."
"I see a vacant seat in the poor corner. If these shadows remain unaltered by FEMA and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, the child will die."
The last of the spirits arrived exactly on time, but he was the most frightening apparition of all: a phantom in black whose cowl concealed his face. His presence filled McCain with a solemn dread. He tried to speak to the spirit, but it merely motioned him onward, ignoring his question, "Am I in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come?" Now, they were in the U. S. Senate during a short recess. A Dem was talking to a GOP, saying, "He had a nasty temper didn't he?" To which the GOP answered: "Beastly! When that man got in your face, his facial veins bulged, he turned red as a beet, and you could almost see smoke coming out his ears and nostrils."
The phantom took McCain to the house in Phoenix where Cindy Lou was weeping in a room adjacent to the study. There, an auctioneer was selling off McCain's personal effects. The ghost then ushered McCain to the National Cemetery at Arlington, where it pointed a finger at a particular gravestone. McCain said, "Before I draw nearer to that stone, answer me one question; are these the shadows of things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?" Still, the phantom pointed to the gravestone, which read:
JOHN SIDNEY McCAIN III (August 29, 1936 - November 3, 2008)
"Spirit!" McCain said, trembling, "why show me this if I am beyond hope? No, Spirit! Oh, no, no! Spirit, hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Your nature intercedes for me and pities me. I promise to quit pandering to the fanatical religious right, currying the favor of the neocons at CPAC. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life! I will honor Christmas in my heart. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!"
McCain thought he had grasped the phantom's robe, but he soon enough realized it was his bed curtains. He was awake and heard the sound of cathedral bells. He went to the window and inquired of a small boy passing in the street, "What day is this?" to which the puzzled boy answered, "Today? Why, it's Christmas day!"
After dancing and prancing about the room, giggling like a schoolgirl, he went downstairs, raised his undocumented Salvidorian domestic's salary from $1.50 an hour to $2.25, and, calling the broker of his blind trust, ordered him to sell all of his stock in Perdue Farms. And, with that, John McCain let go a self-satisfied sigh. He thought, at least it was a start.
Moments later, though, he said, again, "Bah, humbug!" for now he was certain the spirits had been nothing but a bit of gristle from stump food. He called his broker back and said to cancel the Purdue Farms sell order.