Roy Cohn was dead, to begin with.
There will be nothing remarkable in the tale which I am about to relate unless you are entirely convinced of that.
And the door-knocker was a perfectly ordinary knocker. It was, indeed, not even the sort of knocker at which Donald Trump — of the counting house Trump & Trump — was accustomed to stare. Which made it all the more remarkable that on the night before Christmas, as he halted at the door of Mar-a-Lago, Trump discerned in this perfectly ordinary large knocker no knocker at all — but Roy Cohn’s face.
He halted — blinked — and it was gone.
“Sad,” he murmured to himself. “Loser.” His voice echoed off the six chandeliers, caromed between faux-marble pillars, and bounced back to him from a large painting of himself in an immense brass frame. This reassured him slightly. Yet he was not altogether quiet within himself. Melania was still away. The house felt too large without her.
He settled down to his hamburger and milkshake and a comforting pile of press clippings about himself when the door creaked open.
“Kellyanne?” Donald asked.
But instead he found himself face to face with none other than the insubstantial ghost of his old mentor. Cohn looked much as he had in life, but he was dragging a lengthy chain of playbills for “Angels in America” ingeniously linked together.
“What do you want with me?” Trump asked. “Nice chain, by the way.”
Cohn merely scowled in answer. “You have a chain of your own, Donald,” he said. “You have forged it link by link. It is even longer and heavier than mine.”
“That’s bad,” Cohn whispered.
“Oh,” Trump said.
“There is still a chance to escape my fate,” the ghost went on. “I have procured you this chance! You will be visited by three spirits. Expect the first upon the hour!” At this, clanking his chains, he vanished. Had Trump glanced out the window then he would have seen many ghosts peopling the streets, but he was not curious any longer and had thought of something good to tweet:
“Only a failure shows up many years post-death to send confusing messages! Very bad, disgraceful!”
But as he typed he found that he had been lifted up and was being borne up out his window and into the past by a beautiful, luminous, perfect being — almost like Ivanka as he only dreamed of her, as he only had imagined she might be.
“I am the ghost of Christmas past,” the spirit explained.
They alighted at the edge of the New York Military Academy where a young cadet was being hazed and crying. “Loser,” Trump murmured, “I remember him.” He nudged the spirit. “Do you want to see the yearbook? They called me the Ladies Man.”
The spirit seemed a little fazed. “Hang on,” the spirit said. They found themselves in the 1970s facing a suit for housing discrimination.
“We never settled that,” Trump pointed out, beaming.
The spirit produced a clipping of Trump’s full-page ad demanding the death penalty after the Central Park Five were arrested.
“Seems right,” Trump said.
The spirit cycled through Trump’s past in rapid succession: a weeping beauty queen he was humiliating for her size (“Ah,” Trump muttered, “Piggy”), his mocking a disabled reporter (“Heh”), his remarks to Billy Bush (“What happened to that loser, anyhow?”).
Suddenly Trump felt himself in a vise-grip flying over the city. He felt pretty sure this was the ghost of Christmas Present. The figure vaguely reminded him of Rosie O’Donnell, but, then again, many figures did.
Trump sighed. The figure showed him many things. There are the Clintons eating a meal in silence. There is Chris Christie with a tear sliding down his cheek. There are women and religious minorities and people of color across the country feeling unwanted and frightened.
Trump shrugged. “Not really seeing what the point of this is.”
“I give up,” the Ghost of Christmas Present said. “Good luck, Future.”
Then a ghastly skeletal hand issuing from a long black sleeve seized Trump and flew with him — up, up — over the city, into the future and darkness. First its finger pointed out the border with Mexico. There was no wall.
Then its finger pointed out the Trump Post Office pavilion. But there was nothing there. Something that looked like it had once been a lobbyist was huddled in the ruins but it ran off on three legs as they passed. “No,” Trump murmured.
They flew over a giant patch of water. Trump felt ashes filling his mouth. “That was Mar-a-Lago,” he murmured. “I could swear it! Where is Florida? Where is Mar-a-Lago?”
The spirit shrugged. The spirit began flying toward New York, and Trump became more and more nervous, clinging to his hair with both hands. He looked down at where Trump Tower ought to have been. The building was in ruins, and there was no sign on it at all. A giant “P” lay in a puddle in the middle of the road.
“What has become of this place?”
Trump tried to drag the spirit to a newsstand. It always reassured him to see himself in a headline. But there were no newspapers. There was nothing. There was a printout of something from Breitbart.com, and a sick-looking old rat with three eyes was trying to drag it down the street.
“Where is everybody?” Trump asked. “Where are my crowds?” He began to feel something like remorse. Encouraged, the spirit pulled back its robe to reveal two horrifying gaunt children: Ignorance and Want, wearing “Make America Great Again” hats.
At this Trump sighed with relief. “I understand,” he said. “This means that children are the future.”
The clock struck midnight, and the spirit vanished with a deep groan.
Trump sat awake a long time. He felt that the symbolism and message of the spirits had been a little unclear, but it seemed like the message was that children were the future and he had done nothing wrong in his life. Still, he resolved to ask Ivanka about it in the morning. He drew the curtains around his bed and fell into a calm, untroubled, dreamless sleep.