'Twas a cold and windy night, and George Bush awoke with a start. Standing before him, icicles hanging from lean fingers, was an apparition that looked very much like himself. The wind blew into the room and Bush, scared, pulled the covers up over his head.

"Who are you?" he asked, peeking out.

"The Former George Bush," the apparition thundered. Bush pulled the covers over his face.

The Former George Bush stepped closer to the bed. "I understand that you are going to be the keynote speaker for Jerry Falwell," the apparition said in a cold voice. "I read that you will speak today before his newly renamed Liberty Federation. Is that true, George?"

There was no answer.

"Is that true?" the apparition insisted. A weak "yes" came from under the cover.

"George, this Falwell is the man who called Bishop Desmond Tutu a 'phony.' He insulted a Nobel Peace Prize winner, a leader of black moderates in South Africa, a man with a wide following in his country and throughout all of black Africa, a man who is, need I add, an Anglican. How could you, the vice president of the United States, endorse Falwell?"

"I want his support for 1988," Bush whimpered.

"George!" the voice boomed out. "Listen to me. You're not even being a smart politician. Look at Falwell's negatives. In the recent Virginia gubernatorial race, all the candidates steered clear of the man. He's the most unpopular figure in the state. What kind of trade is this, George? You get his negatives and he gets your respectability. George, George, think this over."

The apparition raised his voice. "George, what has happened to you? Has ambition blinded you so that you never see moral principles? This Falwell is the man who has urged members of Congress to overlook an occasional human rights abuse and get behind Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos 'with unswerving support.' This is the same man who is a demagogue on the issue of homosexuality, using words in his mailings like 'pervert' and terms like 'gay conspiracy.' Do you think there's a gay conspiracy, George?"

Bush cringed and pulled the covers even higher. At the bottom of the bed, his feet stuck out. The room seemed colder and he wondered where the Secret Service was. Gosh and golly, he said to himself. He was scared.

"Go away," Bush pleaded. "Darn you. Go away, please."

"I will not!" the apparition shot back. "I'm just warming up. How about that testimonial for William Loeb, the late editor of the Manchester Union Leader? You spoke at it to show conservatives you were one of them. But you honored a man who was without honor in his own profession. He said terrible things about you when you ran against Ronald Reagan in the New Hampshire primary. Oh, George, you licked the boot that kicked you."

At that, Bush sat upright in the bed, and his nightcap fell off.

"Why me?" he yelled. "Why are you picking on me? Jesse Helms switched his position on Israel. Go pick on him. And Teddy Kennedy, that great liberal, voted for Gramm-Rudman. You can find him in McLean, Va. And, golly gee, how about Mayor Tom Bradley of Los Angeles? Because he's running for governor, he's reversed himself on gun control and finally taken a position on capital punishment. It's wildly popular, so he's for it. Take a trip to the coast, ghost."

"Look at that," said the apparition, smiling, "a display of temper. Just like the old days. Just like when you did the math for Reagan on his economic program and pronounced it 'voodoo economics.' Oh, that was wonderful -- and, as the deficit proves, true to boot. Back then, you said what you believed, but later you denied saying it. Now you don't even have your own position on abortion. You changed your mind on the Equal Rights Amendment. The principle here, George, is that you no longer have any."

The blood rushed to Bush's face. Rage colored his eyes. "Why, of all the unmitigated gall," he hissed. "I'm just doing what Ronald Reagan did. He hasn't repudiated Falwell. He accepted William Loeb's endorsement . . ."

"Yes," said the apparition with sadness. "But Ronald Reagan has always been Ronald Reagan. You, on the other hand, used to be George Bush." With that, The Former George Bush stepped out of the window into the night. No one has seen him since.