The Second Of The Three Spirits
The clock tolled in the study that Christmas Eve, and Prime Minister Harper understood that he was about to encounter another of the Spirits the spectral Preston Manning had warned him about. He felt a peculiar coldness, closed his eyes, preparing himself to meet the spectre… and then opened them. Standing there before him, clad in black, wearing black sunglasses, was a small woman with dark hair, smoking a cigarette. She held a torch, a most peculiar object in such hands as hers. He knew her to be a former cabinet minister, one whom had been forced out of office months ago when her extravagant expense claims became publicly known. It surely could not be her, though, not after the way she got turfed out of office. She seemed annoyed with him. Of course, she had always appeared annoyed with anyone.
“You cannot be Bev Oda, unless I’m mistaken,” Harper told the visitor warily, approaching, smelling the distinct flavour of Marlboros tobacco in the air. He stared at her, saw the eyes hidden behind the sunglasses.
She took a long drag from the cigarette, breathed it deeply, and blew smoke in his face. Harper coughed. “No, for I have been around much longer than her, Stephen. Or much less. It’s a matter of opinion. There have been some two thousand of me these many years, so you could say I’m the latest to come along, or I just keep turning up every single year. It’s all rather metaphysical and philosophical, and really, when it all comes down to it, it could just be the inner mental workings of the fellow who’s writing all of this. You see, there’s this man at a computer….”
“I’ve heard quite enough of that. Who are you?” Harper demanded.
“I’m the Ghost of Christmas Present,” she told him, lighting another cigarette. “And we have so many places to go, and such little time, Stephen.” She grabbed him by the ear, dragging him towards the wall, and through it. He howled in protest at the pain of having his ear yanked, but she seemed to ignore him. They found themselves in Ottawa on Christmas morning, houses decorated around them, citizens leaving homes to go off to church, to visit loved ones, other citizens welcoming visitors, everyone looking cheerful.
“I take it they can’t see us?” Harper asked the Spirit.
“Of course not,” she told him, finishing her cigarette, lighting another. “Look at their faces, Stephen. See the light and the joy and all of that Christmas merry making. And you spend your time plotting the political demise of your enemies and consolidating power.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
|Bev Oda: chain smoker, extravagant spender, Ghost of Christmas Present|
The Spirit sighed in exasperation. Harper supposed she might have rolled her eyes, though he couldn’t be sure; the sunglasses hid them well. They moved on, passing from home to home, finding themselves seeing Christmas gatherings, dinners with family and friends. Even in the homes of the most humble, there was merry making to be found, some effort to mark the occasion. The Spirit seemed to sprinkle incense from her torch, casting lightness and joy at the dinner tables of all as she went, and Harper was curious.
“Is there a particular flavour you sprinkle from your torch?” he asked.
“There is. My own, and it’s given to any dinner kindly given this day. To a poor one most,” she said, lighting up yet another cigarette, inhaling, and blowing smoke in his face.
“Why a poor one most?”
“Because it needs one most, you dimwit.”
“Because it needs one most, you dimwit.”
“That’s not a very nice thing to say, you know.”
“I’m not a very nice Ghost of Christmas Present.”
“I know, you keep dragging me by the ear, which by the way really hurts, not to mention blowing smoke in my face. I mean, honestly, have you ever heard of manners? Now look, if you can make their dinners at least a little more festive on this day of all days, why can’t you do that for them all the time?”
The Spirit sighed. “Stephen, there are those in this world not unlike yourself who have lost sight of their own responsibility to the community around them, and to the world. They govern themselves by passion, pride, ill will, envy, hatred, or selfishness, and then claim to be the most upright citizens of all. Instead of working on solutions to problems in the world, they ignore and dismiss and obstruct. They say things like, what was it you said? Oh, yes. Are there no prisons? No workhouses? No debtor islands I can banish them to? Are there no monuments to me they can build? Then let them die. It would decrease the surplus population. Which, for the record, are really thoughtless things to say, you clod. Tell me, Stephen, is anything that I’m saying to you getting through to you, or are you really this callous and cold hearted?”
“Um, did you just call me a clod?”
The Spirit shook her head, lit another cigarette, and yanked the Prime Minister by the ear, dragging him on. They passed as if by magic through the home of a veteran of the Afghan War, seeing the man fitting his Christmas decorated artificial leg and joining his wife and children. They passed by a ranger station in a national park, where the staff still made merry this cold Christmas Day, singing a Denis Leary Christmas song while drinking hot chocolate. They came to a hospital, where the very doctors and nurses, working this day to take care of anyone brought in to their hospital, had given up their time with family and friends to do a service to their community. And they saw for themselves Christmas cheer wherever they went, always unseen by the residents.
|The Minister of National Defence and his commanding officer|
At length they came upon the Ottawa home of the Minister of National Defence. There they found the weary Peter MacKay with his new wife Nazanin, having Christmas dinner. Harper felt as if he was intruding on a private moment, but the Spirit assured him they would not be seen or heard. “Look at them, Stephen,” she urged. “You run the poor man ragged, you took away his party and his prestige, stole it from under him, and you always watch everything he does…”
“Hey, he knew what he was getting into when we agreed to merge the parties. Besides, I don’t have a choice. Do you realize how much political capital he cost me with that whole calling a military helicopter to pick him up from a fishing trip stunt? Covering that up by saying he was observing a training exercise only held up for so long, you know…”
The Spirit shook her head, and lit up another cigarette. “Stephen, he tries to keep his spirits up, but he’s miserable inside. He should be happy. After all, the man is married to a really fetching woman, after all. To be honest with you, if I were an actual person instead of the Ghost of Christmas Present, I’d be all over both of them right now.”
“That’s probably too much information, you know.”
“Right, right. Look, all I’m saying is that miserable politicians are just the sort of politician who end up doing things to sabotage the person who is making them miserable. And that person, Stephen, is you.”
They watched for a moment, as the Minister’s wife spoke quietly to her husband. “Are you sure this is what you want to do?” she asked, reaching a hand across to touch his arm.
“It’s what I have to do, no matter the cost. It’s gone on too long,” MacKay replied. “At least this way I’ll be able to get a good night’s sleep. It seems as if it’s been too long since I could say that.”
Harper frowned. “What does that mean, Spirit? I get the impression that’s some vital bit of information.” The Spirit shrugged. “If he didn’t like what he was getting into, he should have never sold out the Conservative party name to me, but he understood the consequences, and even if he does sabotage me, what’s the worst that can happen? I’ll just pin the blame on whoever I can use for a fall guy. Maybe one of the senators. The drooling electorate couldn’t care about the Senate, and my core supporters, which are really the only members of the public that matter to me, hate the Senate.”
The Spirit shook her head. “Don’t say you weren’t warned, you clod.”
“Hey! Stop calling me a clod!” Harper insisted. A clock bell struck, and Harper looked around him. He was back in his study at 24 Sussex, and he was alone. The Ghost of Christmas Present had faded away. The Prime Minister shook his head, and said to no one, “Bah, Shawinigan! I am most certainly not a clod!”