It was Christmas Eve, and a light snow was falling outside of Jim Kenney’s window. This annoyed the mayor of Philadelphia because the only snowflakes he liked were the ones he pandered to. The ones who become triggered at troublesome words and improvident newspaper headlines. As he sat at his desk, brooding over the unwelcome holiday snow and diminishing soda tax revenues, trying to eat a slice of vegan fruitcake without removing his mask, Jim heard a rumbling at the door. Before he could get up and see who it was, the door flung open and the Ghost of Frank Rizzo burst in amidst a flurry of snowflakes, dragging behind him the statue of his likeness that had been unceremoniously removed from its place of honor at the Municipal Services Building.
Jim went pale with fear and shouted, “Geez, dreadful apparition, why do youse trouble me?”
The First Ghost
The Ghost of Rizzo replied, “Me trouble you? I gotta be here you, crumb-bum. My penance for whatever those idiots at the Inquirer say I did wrong in life is to come and warn youse and that face of yours. Not that I give a damn. But I’m sick of dragging around this statue, and I have to bear its weight until you’re aware of your fate. So, listen up…”
Kenney, petrified, said “Frank, is that you Frank?”
The Ghost of Rizzo roared “Who did you think it was, Vince Fumo? I know youse did everything you could to stab him through the heart after he made you what you are, Jimbo. But he’s still breathing. I think.”
Kenney, still petrified, became white as the snow as he slumped down in his chair.
The Ghost of Rizzo continued “You will be haunted by Three Spirits, and I ain’t talking about the kind you usually drink when your staffers make you hand over your phone to them. I mean, you know, dead people.”
Kenney stammered “I-I think I’d rather not.”
The Ghost of Rizzo laughed heartily. “Yeah, well, without their visits, I have to keep schlepping this statue. So it’s a go. Expect the first tomorrow, when the Liberty Bell tolls one.”
Kenney, still petrified, became white as the snow as he slumped down in his chair.
Kenney ripped off his mask and took a shot of whiskey, and then another, and fell asleep.
The Ghost(s) of Christmas Past
A crack of the bell sounded through the office, and the next thing Jim knew, he heard a booming voice with an Italian accent saying, “I amma da Ghost of Christopher Columbus, the Ghost of Christmas Past, otherwise known as da baby killer, otherwise known as da guy of the scapegoat statues, otherwise known as da guy you slandered. Mascalzone!”
Kenney began to stammer an explanation. He had to calm the nerves of the poor progressives who were actually all rich, but who tweet so many mean things and even make signs and walk around Center City. But the Ghost of Columbus simply roared back: “When you attack da good people of Philadelphia, da people who voted-a for you, your a-neighbors, da Italians who built-a da city, da people who never hurt anyone, just because a bunch of PC loudmouths who never read George Orwell decided their feelings were hurt, you look like a coward.”
Kenney, who realized that boxing up statues in wooden coffins might not be such a good idea after all, pleaded with the Ghost to leave him in peace. As the Italian dissipated, he murmered:
“Being a leader takes guts. Do things because you’re worried about how you look, and face the terrible consequences…”
As he disappeared, Kenney could see a new stream of spirits entering the room: ghosts of young men and women who had been killed on the streets of Philadelphia. They all raised their haunted voices together and said, “If you cared about us, the children of this city, you would fight back against your rogue District Attorney, who they call ‘Uncle Larry’ Krasner… He has ignored us as our bodies piled up, he won’t hold our killers accountable, and he lets dangerous people out of the jails to satisfy some twisted agenda of ‘social justice.’ He worries more about the predators than the victims.”
One by one, they stepped up into the light and forced the now-wide awake Kenney to hear the stories of how they had been killed.
Then, one by one, they stepped up into the light and forced the now-wide awake Kenney to hear the stories of how they had been killed. One young woman told the cowering mayor that she’d been murdered by her ex-husband, who had violated an order of protection that no one enforced. A young boy, no more than 5 years old, told the mayor that he’d been beaten to death by his mother’s live-in boyfriend, a man who’d been released on bond the week before. And when a young father started explaining how he’d been stabbed to death while walking the dog with his baby daughter, Kenney bellowed: “Enough, Ghosts, no more!”
They vanished, each one, into the night – but not from his memory.
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The Ghost of Christmas Present
At that moment, the Liberty Bell tolled a second time, and Kenney watched as another figure, dressed in an apron and carrying a reservation book, pass through the walls. It spoke:
“I am the Ghost of Marc Vetri, the Ghost of Christmas Present.”
Kenney blinked twice and said, “Uh, you’re not dead.”
And the Ghost of Marc Vetri said, “No, I’m not dead, but my industry is. YOU killed it, with your arbitrary rules that make it okay to protest and riot en masse but that forbid regular people from dining out and celebrating life’s small joys.”
Kenney, who couldn’t help noticing that these Italian ghosts were paying him back for screwing the good folks of South Philadelphia, took a deep breath from behind his mask and rambled excuses:
“I put those restrictions in place to help people! I don’t want anyone to die. Like a good progressive, I presumed I could just save them with the stroke of my pen. Who cares if the restaurants close and the employees lose their paychecks?! Who cares if everyone is evicted except the ‘unhoused’ people injecting themselves on the Parkway?! We’ll be getting a bailout from the Biden Administration, or something! We can all just sit around and not work! It’s a win-win! At least, that’s what Helen Gym told me.”
The Ghost of Marc Vetri opened the reservation book he was carrying and showed Kenney that page after page was blank, empty, yellowed. And he said, “I may survive, because any guy who charges $25 for a slice of pizza with a one-hundredth of an ounce of truffle on it will always have a chance. But so many others won’t. Look at your city, Mayor. It’s boarded up, dirty, dark, and desperate. You did nothing to stop this. You.” And Vetri pointed his ghostly finger at the mayor.
Kenney was infuriated by these accusations, because he knew that you could avoid this whole thing simply by going to Maryland for crab cakes, but this time he kept silent. And the Ghost of Marc Vetri, realizing that nothing was likely to change, retreated, accompanied by the entire Ferko String Band playing a new version of the classic Mummer’s tune, “Oh Dem Golden Slippers are Gonna Stamp All Over Your Back You Bum.”
The Ghost of Christmas Future
Then, Kenney heard the Liberty Bell toll for a third time. Looking up, he saw a man dressed all in black, except for the MAGA hat on his head, pass through the wall.
“I am the Ghost of Christmas Future, you idiot,” said the figure, sounding an awful lot like Donald Trump. Kenney blinked twice and noticed that the figure had orange hair. Realizing that his ordeal was almost over (perhaps because this figure wasn’t an Italian), he found some defiance and courage at the bottom of what we might assume was his soul:
“If that’s you, Donald, you’re done. We beat you in the election. Put on your big boy pants and get the hell out of my city. That blue wave washed you out of town!”
And the Ghost of Christmas Future pointed his hand at Kenney, and in his hand, he held what looked like a mail-in ballot. He said not a word, but pushed the envelope at the mayor, who took it. Slowly, he opened it up. And all of the color drained from his face when he read what it said:
“2024, Jimmy. We ain’t going nowhere.”
And that’s when Jim Kenney vowed to never again eat vegan fruitcake.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and lifelong Philadelphian. @flowerlady61