This story is lovingly dedicated to two beautiful pugs named Winston and Boris.
Hover your cursor over underlined textYeah, like that. for an explanation of its meaning.
Once upon a time, there was a young muse named Jonny M. Jonny was an absolute train wreck of a human being, with a grotesque appearance, dicey personal hygiene, obnoxious personality, and a lazy, self-obsessed style of living. In fact, Jonny’s one saving grace was that he cared deeply about the people who he came into contact with and he did whatever he could to make their lives better. And this was never more true than on Christmas. Every year, Jonny inexplicably found himself in the middle of some adventure where he had the ability to help someone out during the Yuletide and, aided by his beloved pug Winston, he moved heaven and earth to try to achieve the impossible. And because Christmas stories always have a happy ending, Jonny and Winston somehow managed to accomplish their unattainable goal just as the clock was ticking midnight to welcome in Christmas Day.
But on one sad overcast October day, as it must for all living creatures, death came to take Winston’s loving soul away. Jonny was devastated. He did what he could to work his way through the tragic loss, committing himself even more tirelessly to helping his friends better their lives. Every day was a struggle filled with tears and a longing to bring back something which was lost forever. But since time is as kind as it is cruel, the weeks and months that passed managed to dull his pain just a little bit with each passing day. Ultimately, Jonny found himself able to smile and laugh again, and he even managed to achieve what would have been unthinkable to him just a few months before: he took another pug into his life, and one with as different a temperament to Winston as seemed possible. Whereas Winston was gentle, relaxed and philosophical, Jonny’s new pug Boris was aggressive, energetic and firmly grounded in the moment. What’s more, Boris had come from Korea where his history was a tantalizing question mark. Jonny grew fond of Boris, but everyone noticed that the muse never referred to him as "my" dog. That distinction was always reserved for Winston.
Boris did have one trait that was an exact match to Winston’s: he immediately bonded with Jonny and pledged his unfailing loyalty to him (even if it was plainly clear that the muse was an unredeemable doofus). Jonny tried to return Boris’ affection but while he was kind and loving to the new pug, he simply wasn’t fully able to get past his grief over losing Winston and reenter the world of the living. It was obvious to everyone who encountered Jonny that something was missing. The muse’s heart was irreversibly broken.
“If only I could see Winston one more time,” said Jonny
“If only I could see Winston one more time,” said Jonny to his girlfriend,The reality is that Ms. Fisher and I are merely good friends, no matter what you might deduce on Facebook. While there is no denying that when we are in the same room you can cut the sexual tension with a knife, our jet-setting lifestyles don't work for a relationship so we've agreed to keep things platonic. At least that's how I remember it, but I do confuse fantasy with reality a lot.
the legendary actress Frances Fisher, when she came by Jonny’s place to pick up a batch of headshots that he was autographing for her which she sent in response to the massive batch of fan letters she received every day. Most of them had to be thrown out because the dim-witted muse signed his own name to the pictures instead of hers, but the actress kindly overlooked the goof because she found Jonny to be so unbelievably hot and quietly listened. “I know that I could get past this. I just want to see Winston’s eyes one more time and be able to say goodbye.”
Frances had heard Jonny’s whining about this over and over and over but since she was an unusually kind soul (proven by the fact that she’s not kicking my ass over her role in this year’s idiotic story), she listened compassionately and felt Jonny’s pain with him as Boris snuggled in her lap. “We’ve been through all this before,” she said gently, “but there’s nothing we can do about it. Winston is in Doggie Heaven now and we have to accept that.”
Jonny listened to her wordlessly as tears welled up in his eyes. He looked at Boris kindly and felt the urge to pick the little pug up and cradle him in his arms, but he was jolted by a twinge of betrayal towards Winston's memory at the thought and awkwardly crossed his arms across his chest to resist it.
“I have to fly to Canada tomorrow to film some scenes for my upcoming HBO mega-series Watchmen,” Frances continued while consulting her MS Outlook Calendar. “Why don’t you take advantage of my time away by writing another letter to Winston and then maybe dragging your ass out and finding a job? It’s getting really irritating that your character only seems to work in these stupid stories during the Christmas rush.”
Frances let Boris have a final playful gnaw on her fingers and then had her chauffeur take her back to her Hollywood mansionAn early draft of this story had her spending the night, but that was implausible even by the standards of a Jonny Christmas story. to get the 12 hours uninterrupted sleep she required to maintain her stunning movie star beauty. But the muse laid awake in the dark that night thinking of Winston, as Boris sat his fat ass on Jonny's stomach and clawed innocently at his rib cage. In the past, Jonny would talk out his problems with Winston, who Jonny was able to understand because of the complex cocktail of medications he took to control his debilitating depression. But he didn’t have that connection with Boris, so he laid awake as his new pug chewed happily on his master’s iPad. In a desperate attempt to try and sleep, the muse retrieved the tablet from Boris' powerful jaws in the hopes of relaxing by rubbing one out to one of his favorite porn sites, when he saw that the iPad Internet browser was open to a website called ProfessorMorlock.com.
“Stop pining away for deceased friends and relatives. Professor MorlockMorlock is a character I created and became briefly obsessed with that was inspired by my friend, the great Jesse Merlin. To learn more about the Morlock saga, check out the web address ProfessorMorlock.com after you're done with this crap.
can send you to the valley of the Dead, where you can have a final visit with your loved one and then return to the Land of the Living with all your unfinished business finished. Many desire this unique service but only a handful are granted assistance. Don’t try to contact us…we will contact you.”
The muse made a mental note to visit his doctor and have his medication rejiggered, when he heard a ping from the iPad indicating that he had a new e-mail. He clicked open Microsoft Outlook and was aghast at what he saw.
“You have been granted an appointment for tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Don’t be late. Sincerely, Professor Morlock.”
Jonny was more than a little skeptical when he and Boris walked into the dark, dusty boutique that was cluttered with shrunken heads and monkey’s paws. The place appeared to be completely empty, so the muse wandered the eerie rows of mysterious objets d'art. Boris seemed unaffected by the strange surroundings and merely laid down at the counter while the muse anxiously thumbed through a book on medieval sex positions. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, he finally slid the volume back onto its musty shelf and headed towards the door, motioning for Boris to follow him. Just as he reached for the doorknob, the deepest voice he had ever heard stopped him in his tracks.
“If you leave now, you will never find what you are seeking.”
Jonny turned around to see the proprietor of the establishment standing before him. He was a sallow-skinned figure with a granite jaw, sunken eyes and a thick mane of jet-black hair. Suddenly terrified, the muse pinched his sphincter together and stuttered out the question he already knew the answer to. “Are you…Mr. Morlock?”
“That’s Professor Morlock,” responded the shadowy figure testily. “I was on the Humanities faculty of Cal State, Chino for two years.”
Morlock appeared before them
Jonny looked to Boris for support, but the little pug gazed back blankly at his master, as if to say that Jonny had to begin this quest on his own. The muse gulped, and nervously stammered “I’m here to…”.
“I know why you are here,” replied Morlock. “You wish to cross into the Valley of Death to pursue a rendezvous with a soul who is trapped on the other side.”
‘How did you know that?” asked Jonny, impressed with Morlock’s clairvoyance.
The professor gently picked up Boris and cradled the pug in his chalk-white arms. “Morlock has his ways of finding things out. The question is, do you have the courage to make such a quest.”
Jonny squared his slender shoulders in an unconvincing attempt to look manly. “I’d do anything to see Winston again. Do you take Visa?”
“The journey will be treacherous,” continued the professor, not wishing to acknowledge the obvious fact that he was dealing with a total moron. “I must create a vortex in the space-time continuum, which you must pass through. You will then have twenty-four hours to locate the spirit, have your assignation and then return to the land of the living. Not one second longer, or you will be trapped in the afterlife FOREVER!”.
A clash of thunder suddenly exploded to punctuate Morlock’s rant, which Jonny thought was freaking weird seeing as they were in Southern California in August.
“So when can we do this?” asked the muse while trying to ignore the stream of warm liquid cascading down his inner thigh. “I’m free tomorrow but it would have to be after 3:30 so I can watch Judge Judy. But any time after that…”.
Morlock silenced the muse with an eruption of satanical laughter.
“The powers of the undead work in their own good time, not yours. You are proposing a degenerate act of depravity that spits in the eye of Nature herself. Therefore, you must commit this blasphemous act of heresy on the most sacred and virtuous day of the year.”
Boris finally reacted, rolling his eyes in anticipation of what Morlock was going to say next.
“That’s right,” intoned the professor solemnly. “You must enter the land of the dead on Christmas Day.”
Jonny felt an icy chill crawl down his spine. No one loved the Yuletide more than he did, and the idea of sullying it in such an abnormal fashion horrified him to the pits of his soul. Then he thought of his anguished desire to see Winston one more time, and the two overpowering emotions clashed in the core of his bowels so that he felt like he was about to explode. He was suddenly disoriented and began dizzily circling the little store, not knowing what to do. And then, just as he was about to faint from distress…just as he was about to tearfully admit defeat….
…he became suddenly calm. Jonny was blanketed by a serene wave of determination in knowing – perhaps for the first time in his life – exactly what he wanted. He knew that he was going to have to make sacrifices to get it, but he was also convinced – and he had no idea why – that it would be worth it. He took a deep breath and looked Morlock squarely in the eye.
“You never answered me. Do you take Visa?”
The next day, Jonny and Boris met with their pals for brunch at their favorite diner decorated with the headshots of the thousands of actors who had eaten there over the decades. Jonny told them of his plan to visit the Valley of the Dead on Christmas Day, the muse listened to all of them weigh in their opinions of the scheme (except for his buddies Micah and Glenn who were both out of town so they logged in on SkypeGlenn and Micah both moved out of town and we actually have tried to brunch together via Skype. It has all the technical effectiveness of the very first telephone call from Alexander Graham Bell. and with the crappy Internet reception in the diner, no one could understand a word they were saying).
Jonny and Boris met with their pals for brunch to tell them of their plan
“It’s unnatural!” exclaimed Jonny's mouthy but attractive-in-the-right-light pal Amanda. “You’re playing with powers beyond your control.”
“I disagree,” replied Amy Ball, Jonny's intrepid globe-hopping friend who had just returned from a trip to The Congo and was nursing a case of African Sleeping Sickness. “It’s an adventure that has its dangers, but it’s something that Jonny needs to go through with. If he doesn’t do it now, he’ll be haunted by regrets for the rest of his life.”
The two hot chicks debated the topic all through brunch, with Micah and Glenn frequently trying to chime in but with the awful Wi-Fi, they sounded like Neil Armstrong describing the beauty of the lunar surface from Apollo 11. Of everyone at the table, the only one who didn’t offer an opinion was David Pinion, who hung onto every word but kept his mouth mysteriously shut. So, when Amy and Amanda accompanied each other to the ladies’ room and Micah and Glenn’s Skype connection had fizzled into a snowy screen like the beginning of an old Outer Limits episode, Jonny cornered his friend to hear his thoughts.
“I knew a feller who tried the same thing you’re pondering,” said Pinion sagely. “He went off seeking the ghost of his deceased dancing career. Tom AshworthAshworth is a friend of mine and did have a huge career as a dancer before age inevitably caught up with him. If you ever meet him, ask him about it and I'm sure he'll tell you all about it. The irritating truth is, I'm sure he'll tell you all about it whether you ask him or not.
was his name.”
Pinion pointed to the subject of his story’s fading headshot on the diner wall.
“I knew him,” replied an astonished Jonny. “We acted together in The AlchemistAshworth and I really did appear in Ben Jonson's seminal comedy together in the mid 1980s, and the truth is that his excellent performance as Face got superlative reviews. But this is my website, so I can remember things however the hell I want.
many years ago. He was always bitter that I got great reviews and the critics lambasted him for his self-indulgent preening.”
“He hooked up with that Morlock feller, too,” continued Pinion. “He left just after midnight on Christmas Day, jes’ like you’re a’planning. Now, I ain’t sayin’ he wasn’t successful. Maybe he’s off in some other-worldly dimension dancing the White Swan in The Nutcracker right now. I can’t rightly say, because no one has seen hide nor hair of Ashworth since. But I’ll tell you something…”.
Pinion edged closer to Jonny to make sure that his point sank in.
“I saw Ashworth’s dancing ability at its end in a Justin Timberlake video, just before it died. It was a shadow of what it was when he was doing Pirates of Penzance at the Music Center. I can’t believe that whatever he went looking for in that Valley of the Dead was the same thing he had such fond memories of. No sir, sometimes dead is better.”
There were still several months before the plan could be enacted. Frances was once again off to Canada to appear in the film Pregnant with Mr. Darcy for the Hallmark Channel (the delightful sequel to her previous Hallmark films Unleashing Mr. Darcy and Marrying Mr. Darcy), so Jonny had plenty of free time. He got a part-time job as a night watchman at the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Arsenal (which I don’t want to take up any time on here, but I may go into more detail about in a future story) and once or twice a week, he would come by Morlock’s shop to have his skull measured or have bone marrow extracted from his spine in preparation for his journey to the Valley of the Dead. Boris would always accompany the muse and curl up quietly in a corner while the professor performed his tests.
But any time Jonny so much as winced in pain as the marrow was being drawn from his spinal cord, Boris would immediately spring to attention and growl threateningly at Morlock. Jonny noticed that Morlock never displayed any emotion during their visits but when the chubby little pug showed even a hint of aggression, the professor would drop his inscrutable façade and shrink from Boris in fear. Only when Morlock gently stroked Jonny’s head and softly spoke some indiscernible words in Korean suggesting that he meant no harm to the muse would Boris back down and return to snoozing in his corner.
These incidents always seemed to be over as soon as they began, but they made a strong impact on Jonny. Even though he never said it, it was obvious that Morlock considered Boris to be very dangerous. The muse gazed down curiously at his sweet little pug, wondering what he didn’t know about him.
Then one day, Morlock was once again measuring Jonny’s skull with calipers when a group of thugs with guns burst through the door of the shop, demanding money and the store’s inventory of hallucinogenic potions. Morlock became uncharacteristically flustered and had trouble opening the cash register. One of the thieves grabbed Jonny and pointed a gun at his head.
Boris instantaneously produced a samurai sword from out of nowhere and ascended on the tough
“Hurry up or the four-eyed freak gets…”.
The bully wasn’t able to finish his sentence before Boris instantaneously produced a samurai sword from out of nowhere and ascended on the tough. His partners didn't have time to raise their automatics when the little pug had sliced the intruder neatly down the middle from his head to his crotch, sending the two bloody halves sailing to opposite sides of the store. The other thieves made a break for it but Boris flew to the door to block their exit, grabbed some rope from a nearby torture display, and tied the robbers up before Jonny could blink. The pug began sauntering back to his corner but then noticed his master’s distress and leapt onto Jonny's knees so the muse could put him in his lap to cuddle. Instead, Jonny shrank from the little dog as he surveyed the mayhem around him, so Boris hopped back to the floor and curled up at the muse's feet as if nothing had happened.
Jonny finally looked down at his new pug and had only one thought on his mind: “Who is this guy?”
The weeks slowly passed as Morlock continued preparing Jonny’s journey to the afterlife. Summer became Autumn and soon the inevitable cycle of holidays had started. Jonny dressed as Winston for Halloween but broke into hysterical tears while giving his costume one final appraisal in the mirror before leaving to trick-or-treat, and he spent the night in bed having his temples massaged by Boris while he told the little pug for the thousandth time the story of how he and Winston saved Christmas for the 99-Seat Theatre Movement. He was unable to attend his friend Harmony Sanchez’ annual Thanksgiving dinner when he made the mistake of putting Boris in Winston’s old turkey costume and, forgetting just how fat Winston was, broke into tears at the sight of the rig hanging on Boris like a tent so that he had to spend the night in bed while Boris massaged his temples as he told the story of how he and Winston saved Christmas for Santa Claus and his longtime companion, the Tooth Fairy. The muse did manage to hold it together for his birthday party on December 15th but bored everybody by repeating the story of how he and Winston saved Christmas for a Hollywood movie star and his put-upon assistant while Boris massaged his temples.
By this time, all of Jonny’s friends knew about his scheme to visit Winston in the afterlife on Christmas Day. No one took it seriously and would gently tease the muse about it whenever they saw him, although Boris noticed that several of them would drop the name of some friend or relative who had passed away and ask Jonny to drop them a message if he happened to bump into them. But of all Jonny’s friends, the only one who took him completely seriously was David Pinion.
“A-yeah, I remember when Ashworth was about as far along in his plan as you are now,” said Pinion one day while sucking on his ever-present corncob pipe. “Everyone laughed at him and told him that he was crazy for trying to visit the afterlife. But he had faith in that Morlock feller and said that seeing the spirit of his departed dancing ability was more important to him than the dangers that he faced. I hope he still feels that way.”
“How did Ashworth hook up with Morlock?” asked Jonny.
”Years ago, when he was still a fine dancer,” replied Pinion, “Ashworth performed with the National Ballet of South Korea. Well sir, there was an ex-ninja who was in the group, and that ninja feller was the one who arranged the meeting. It seems that Morlock did his training in the far east, and those ninjas are the only one he trusts. Yessir, Ashworth always said that if you wanted Morlock to do anything for you, you had to set it up through a ninja.”
Jonny looked down at Boris drinking his caffé mocha and felt a surge of respect for his mysterious little pug.
Christmas Eve was usually Jonny’s second favorite day of the year (surpassed on by Christmas itself), but he awoke full of anxiety. For all the preparation they had made for the journey that night, he had no idea if it would work. Or if it did work, where Morlock’s bizarre calculations and measurements would actually take him. He longed to talk to someone about it but Frances was in Canada again, this time appearing a film for the Hallmark Channel, Renewing Vows with Mr. Darcy (the delightful sequel to Pregnant with Mr. Darcy). Everybody else was getting ready for Harmony Sanchez’ annual Christmas Day blow-out, which Jonny would be missing for the first time in order to make his journey to the Valley of the Dead. With no human companion to talk to, the muse clung to Boris.
“I know that you can’t talk to me the way that Winston used to,” said Jonny. “But I’m really scared. Everybody has been telling me how crazy this is, and maybe they’re right. All I know is that I have to see Winston one last time, and this is the only hope I have of doing it. I don’t know what to expect, but I know that I’ll regret it forever if I don’t try.”
Jonny half-hoped for Boris to suddenly surprise him with words of wisdom of the kind that Winston would offer in such situations, but the little pug just looked up wordlessly at his master, happily wagging his curly tail. Boris’ wide eyes seemed to hold him aloof from Jonny's panic, and the muse felt a rush of calm, much like when he was freaking out the first time he visited Morlock’s shop. He reluctantly suppressed his feelings of betrayal towards Winston's memory and held the pug closely for about half an hour before finally noticing that it was time to go to work.
Jonny welcomed the distraction of keeping the country’s idiotic president from destroying Christmas by launching the nuclear arsenal in an attack on Mexico (which I may relate in more detail in a future story), and just as the final loose ends were being tied up, he looked at his watch and saw that it was time to go to Morlock’s shop. The muse grabbed Boris, bade farewell to the friends he had made saving the planet from the moron in the White House, and jumped in an Uber that would take him to his destiny.
Jonny and Boris arrived in the little shop at 11:45 p.m. Morlock had set up a vast network of strange machinery, all of which was humming and emitting smoke at a disturbing rate. The professor locked his steely gaze upon the muse.
“At precisely 12:00 a.m., the vortex in the space-time continuum will open, and you will have exactly thirty seconds to jump through it. A worm hole will transport you to the Valley of the Dead and you will have 24 hours…and not a second longer…to find the one you seek. At 11:59 p.m., the vortex will reappear and you will have another thirty seconds to jump through it and return to the Land of the Living. If you fail to enter the vortex, both of you will be trapped in the Valley of the Dead forever!.
“Wait a minute,” Jonny interrupted. “What do you mean, both of us?”
“The machinery is calibrated to take both you and Boris through the worm home.”
Jonny hadn’t expected that. He had never discussed with Morlock taking Boris on the journey. “I’m not sure I want to mix up Boris in this.”
“There is NO TIME!” thundered Morlock as the machinery appeared to be on the verge of exploding. “Without Boris, you will not make it through the worm hole. The vortex will appear in exactly fifteen seconds. You must decide what you want to do NOW!!!” .
Before the muse could answer, the murky shop was suddenly alight with a blinding brightness. Jonny looked up to see a spectacular circle of energy suddenly appear before him.
“It is the vortex!” shouted Morlock. “You and Boris must enter it now!”.
“It is the vortex!” shouted Morlock
The muse felt a surge of terror pass over him. He simply didn’t know what to do. He had no problem putting his own life at risk, but it never occurred to him that he would be endangering his new pug. He seemed to be outside his body trapped in a web of confusion when, to his astonishment, Boris leapt in his arms and affectionately licked his master’s face. That was enough for Jonny, so he held the little pug close to his chest and jumped through the circle of light just before it began flickering out.
Within five seconds, the vortex was gone.
Jonny and Boris felt like they fell through the worm hole for days, so when they finally came crashing to the ground with a violent wallop, they had no idea what day or time it was. They looked around and found that they were in a terrible black forest of forbidding trees without roots and countless glowing eyes that stared at them from the shadows. Jonny was confused and disoriented but Boris went immediately into survival mode, studying the moss and the bark of the trees to determine what was edible and what direction they should be heading. He was just about to pee on their point of entry so that they could find their way back in case they got lost, when he was interrupted by a withered, gravelly voice behind them.
“Welcome to the Valley of the Dead.”
Jonny and Boris turned around to see who was speaking, and they beheld a disgustingly dirty homeless guy wearing a tattered Pirates of Penzance tee-shirt. Boris assumed that he was a panhandler and quietly took out his nunchucks in case the bum made any sudden moves towards his master, but Jonny recognized the filthy hobo immediately.
They beheld a disgustingly dirty homeless guy
“Hello, Jonny,” replied the vagabond. “I see those great reviews you got for The Alchemist didn’t get you all that far.”
“Boris and I have been falling through a worm hole in the space-time continuum for days,” responded the muse, trying to overlook his colleague’s bitterness at his superior talent. “Can you tell us what day it is?”.
The question was met with a cryptic smile.
“It’s Christmas Day at 12:01 a.m. and you are the the Forest of Limbo, where nothing is alive or dead,” Ashworth responded. “Time works differently in the space-time continuum, and what felt like days to you was actually less than a second. But in the Valley of the Dead, time is exactly as it is on earth. So you’d better haul your ass to the White City and meet whoever it is that you came here to meet by 11:59 tonight, or you’ll be stuck here in the Forest of Limbo with me for all eternity.”
“The White City?” asked Jonny with a nervous quiver in his voice.
Ashworth pointed to a tiny glowing spot at the top of a billow of clouds on the crest of a distant, molten-lava covered mountain.
“The White City is where all worthy souls go when their living spirits ascend from earth after they die. Some call the place the Afterlife, some call it Elysium, some call it Abraham's Bosom and some call it Valhalla. But to spend eternity there, you must take the Stairway to Heaven. Anyone who breaks in through a worm hole is neither living nor dead and must endure a tortured infinity here in the Forest of Limbo.”
“If it’s so bad here,” replied Jonny, “Why didn’t you leave when you could?”
“You underestimate the seductive powers of the White City,” snapped Ashworth. “When I got there, I had a joyous reunion with my deceased dancing ability. We tangoed and Watusied deep into the night, with the same skill and dexterity that we had in the long-long ago. I loved it so much that I never wanted it to end; so that when the vortex opened at 11:59, I just kept dancing. But when it snapped shut, my visa to the White City was expired. I was immediately whisked away to the Forest of Limbo to spend eternity.”
“It sure seems like an awfully long hike to the White City” said Jonny as he looked at the fuzzy glowing dot in the distance.
“It could be worse,” replied Ashworth. “For a while, they were talking about building a wall between the Forest of Limbo and the White City and having Mexico pay for it, but fortunately everybody finally realized how stupid an idea that was. You’d better get started.”
“It was nice to see you, Tom,” said Jonny. “And for the record, I thought the critics were unfair to you in The Alchemist..”
A single tear fell from Ashworth’s face, and he suddenly lunged at the muse and held him in an affectionate clinch.
“Merry Christmas. And whatever you do, jump into the vortex when it appears to you!”
Jonny and Boris began the long, dangerous trek to the White City. Frequently the muse would cast a bitter thought towards his brother Joe, an elite member of the Junior Rangers who could do this kind of hike in his sleep. But for the out-of-shape Jonny it was tough- going and he never would have made it without Boris’ survival skills. Several times, gruesome bandits jumped out of the shadows to beat them up and run off with the few meager possessions they had on them, but Boris countered every attack with his astonishing ninja skills, leaving the would-be marauders in a pile of shattered bones before they knew what happened.
It was midday when they finally arrived at the forbidding golden doors of the White City. The entrance was flanked by a couple of carefree-looking cherubs flying around, but one could tell at a glance that they were only there to give the illustrator a chance to plug some of Jonny's pals into a picture and would be of no use in gaining anyone entry. Boris had mapped out an elaborate plan to scale its wall and wander its streets undetected, but since he was unable to speak with Jonny and the muse was so out of shape that he was on the verge of passing out from the physical exertion of climbing to their destination that he was barely able to stand upright, the pug was aghast to see his master announce their arrival by grasping an enormous golden door knocker and pounding it against the entrance in the hopes of gaining admittance.
A uniformed guard (easily the most intimidating man Jonny had ever laid eyes on) opened the door and grimly looked down on the muse.
An enormous uniformed guard opened the door
“What do you want?”
“If you please sir,” replied the muse, his withered heart still throbbing from doing anything more physical than walking from his TV to the kitchen for a bag of M&Ms. “I am Jonny, the meek and small. I am here with a surprisingly badass dog named Boris to gain access to the White City.”
The guard snorted and retrieved an enormous notebook from out of his back pocket.
“When did you die?”
“Wha..what?” responded Jonny.
“This is the White City,” barked the guard. “If you want to come in, that means that your body has passed on and your soul ascended here. So tell me when you died so I can check the paperwork and process you.”
“Uh…I’m afraid that I’m not dead.,” the muse gulped. “We’re here to visit my pug Winston.”
The guard went silent and his thick brow furrowed. Boris was about to heave a throwing star down his trachea when the sentry's hardened face melted into a welcoming smile.
“Well, why didn’t you say you were here to see Winston? I have your temporary visa right here! Come in, you two!”
Jonny was awestruck at the beauty that surrounded him when he entered the hallowed grounds. He had seen his share of breathtaking Yuletide displays before, but every corner that they turned looked like Macy’s on Christmas Eve after ingesting a tab of acid. The guard, who had dropped any pretense of intimidation and was now a jolly teddy bear of a man, chuckled at the muse’s reaction to his surroundings.
“J.C. takes his birthday very seriously,” he smiled as they passed one of the countless statues of Jesus that decorated the city, “and he expects all of us to as well. The festivities start in mid-October and go on well into February. It’s pretty exhausting if you ask me, but the Big Boss lets J.C. have whatever he wants."
Jonny saw an angel who looked like his buddy Jerry Winsett
Jonny was fascinated and wanted to hear more, but his attention was suddenly diverted by an angel who looked almost exactly like his buddy Jerry Winsett, and Jerry was one of Jonny's friends that wanted him to pass on a message to a loved one in the afterlife. Could this be the relative that Jerry wanted to contact? While Jerry had a decidedly Rubenesque physique, this guy looked like a bodybuilder; but otherwise their resemblance was uncanny.
“Excuse me,” said the muse, “but are you Jedediah Winsett?”
“Who wants to know?” replied the spirit gruffly after taking one look at Jonny's paunchy physique and realizing immediately that he didn't belong there.
“I have a message from your nephew Jerry,” said Jonny nervously. “He asked me to say that he discovered your secret stash of gay porn in the basement after you died. He wanted me to reassure you that he destroyed it before your son found out about it.”
“Oh yeah, I saw that,” responded the angel gently. “That was nice of him, but since then I've learned that Junior has most of the same magazines in his own basement. But tell Jerry that I appreciate him trying to save the family some trauma.”
Jonny wanted to know how Jedediah knew that Jerry had destroyed his porn stash and how he was suddenly aware of his son's own collection of gay erotica, but the guard directed the muse and Boris to a female angel on a nearby bridge, gazing quietly at one of the countless Christmas parades passing below.
“Mary will be your guide,” said the guard.
Jonny had never seen such a perfect body in his life. The angel wore a painted-on white body stocking and stiletto pumps, with only a halo and fluffy wings to announce what she was. The muse stared at her with a slackened jaw, enjoying the view before the inevitable sadistic rejection that came to him from any woman who was more than a 6. But when the angel turned around to cast an eye on him, she displayed a warm, familiar face that could turn the world on with her smile. Jonny could scarcely believe who was standing in front of him.
“Aren’t you…Mary Tyler Moore?”
“Hello, Jonny,” replied the beloved TV star as she enveloped the muse in a loving embrace. “Winston can’t wait to see you but as soon as he got into the White City, he immediately became a part of J.C.’s inner circle and that makes it nearly impossible for him to break away on Christmas. They start with pre-dawn yoga, then do sunrise horseback riding and continue on with nonstop activities until late afternoon the next day. I warned him not to get mixed up with that crowd because once J.C. puts you on his A-List, you’re at his beck and call from then on. But Winston is just too sweet to fly under the radar, so that’s where we are. But as soon as he heard that you were coming, he made me promise to look after you until he could sneak away.”
”But I don’t understand, Ms. Tyler Moore,” stammered Jonny as Boris tried to ignore the overpowering Christian ornaments that surrounded them, being a life-long Buddhist. “When you were ending your days on earth, your years of over-indulging in cosmetic surgery had made you look like a shrunken head. But now, you're even more beautiful than when you were inflaming my teenage libido with carnal lust every Saturday night on CBS.”
“That’s the beauty of heaven,” Mary replied. “As soon as you’re processed, you’re given a head that approximates your appearance at its most attractive during your lifetime, and they stick it on a rockin’ body with six-pack abs and buns of steel. You have to have been a spiritually sound person to get into heaven but once you’re here, God likes the angels to be hot!”
“You know,” admitted Jonny as his face blushed a crimson shade of red, “you were the first celebrity that I ever pounded my pud toTrue story, as creepy as it may sound. When Mary wore this dress on an episode of her self-titled sitcom, my teenage mojo nearly has a heart attack.
. And I say that with all due respect, because we've got this thing on earth now called #metoo which has made me realize just how big a douchebag I was until my sex drive withered and died during my late 40's.”
“Why do you think Winston asked me to be your guide?” replied Mary, her voice betraying just the slightest hint of repulsion. “Just don’t get any ideas. You look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame compared to even the most unattractive angels around here. Anyway, sex in heaven is so intense that everything below your hips would explode if you tried it with a human body.”
The TV star erupted into sympathetic laughter when she beheld Jonny’s stupefied expression.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “Everybody is freaked out by heaven at first, but it doesn’t take long to really love it. Let me show you Winston’s workstation.”
Jonny was puzzled at the idea of angels having workstations, since he assumed that anyone who got into heaven never had to toil again. Yet Mary led them past row after row of efficient little desks containing only a keyboard and a mysterious button labeled “Help.” Each station overlooked a series of monitors, with some containing only one or two while others has as many as ten. Every monitor was displaying someone from earth going through the mundane activities of their day-to-day life.
“This is where we look down on the people who we cared about most in life,” explained Mary as the trio passed though the rows and rows of nearly unmanned desks. “All the angels are required to have some contact with their loved-ones and offer whatever assistance they can in time of need.”
“Wow,” said Jonny. “You mean to tell me that angels are looking down on us twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week?”
“Good god, no,” replied Mary with a condescending chuckle. “In heaven, you get to do anything you want. Most of the angels spend their time screwing and eating fatty foods because the sex is unbelievable and our bodies stay perfect no matter what debauchery we put them through. But the workstations are here for us and we spend as much time on them as we choose to. Here’s Winston’s.”
There were dozens and dozens of monitors set up
Jonny was taken aback. Whereas all the other workstations looked over just a handful of people, Winston’s had dozens and dozens of monitors set up. They were all directed at the friends that they knew on earth and the largest monitor of all, placed immediately in front of the desk, was focused on Jonny himself.
“That little pug loved everyone he came into contact with,” said Mary with a sigh. “Most of us check in on earth once every two weeks or so to make sure everything’s okay. But Winston is here every day for hours to see if there’s anything that he can do to help.”
The muse could barely hear her, he was so fascinated by what he was seeing. Everyone he cared for was on camera, no matter what they were up to. He saw his friend Harmony Sanchez prepping for her annual Christmas bash. His buddy Dave Eck was taking a selfie with Latin singing star Charo after years of submitting her as an entry in the Suggest a Celebrity to Appear in the Jonny Xmas Extravaganza contest. Jonny’s girlfriend Frances Fisher was flying in from Canada to surprise him with a Christmas visit.
“It sure looks like there’s a lot going on on earth right now,” observed Mary without judgment. “It’s kind of a shame that you have to miss it all by being here. Frances flew all the way from Canada to see you on Christmas, and you won't even be home.”
But Jonny’s attention was focused on his southern hayseed buddy Eddie Frierson, who was drunkenly opening Christmas presents. Eddie suddenly broke down in tears because he got a pair of socks instead of the new “Make America Great Again” cap that he’d been hinting for.
“Poor Eddie,” observed Jonny. “He wears that MAGA hat so much that it’s falling apart. All he wanted for Christmas was a new one. I wish that there was something I could do to help.”
“There is,” answered Mary. “That’s the whole point of us looking down on them. Just type his name into the keyboard and then press the ‘Help’ button.”
Confused, Jonny did as he was told. He was astonished to see that as soon as he clicked the button, Eddie stopped his wailing.
“Now that I think of it,” Eddie’s southern drawl was heard saying through the monitor’s sophisticated speakers, “I'm going to the Trump rally next week and they sell much better caps than the ones anyone could have gotten me online. On the other hand, I ain't never owned no socks before. This is the best Christmas ever!”
Jonny was stunned. He thought back to when he was freaking out when he first met Morlock or when he was in a daze of confusion the night before, wondering if he should endanger Boris by taking him into the vortex. He realized that Winston was looking down on him and gave him the angel’s touch that allowed him to navigate through the moment.
“This is awesome,” said the muse as he fixed a concentrated glare at the monitors. “Who else can I help?”
Jonny lost track of time as he became obsessed with helping his friends through difficult moments. Bro Joe went bananas during his Christmas hike when he got lost in a swamp and was about to be devoured by deadly alligators. Jonny helped Joe maintain his calm, so Joe was able to use his outdoor skills to fight the beasts off. But one of them managed to chomp the Junior Ranger’s right hand off, and Jonny knew that the incident would turn his brother into a vindictive freak, obsessed with revenge against the gator who took his appendage.
But Jonny didn’t have time to think about that because more people needed help. His pal Steve Green lost his shit when his wedding ring slid off his finger and into his sinus cavity while he was absent-mindedly picking his nose. His buddy Dr. Marcus Ringer panicked when he momentarily forgot his safe word while indulging in some rough trade. His friend Julie Carruthers awoke after a night of intense partying and freaked out to find herself in bed next to legendary male model Fabio. In each instance, Jonny noticed their distress and kindly pushed the “Help” button so that they could mellow out and get through the moment.
Mary and Boris passed the time waiting for Winston by playing Mystery Date, although Boris found it disconcerting how much "The Dud" card looked like Jonny. Every once in a while, an angel (each one hotter than the last) would come in with a bottle of Christmas cheer which Mary and Boris greedily drank from. But since Jonny had quit imbibing since his heart attack and he was afraid of everything south of his hips exploding if he even thought about sex in heaven, he kept his mind on helping his earthly friends. He was enjoying himself so much that time seemed to stand still.
Except that it hadn’t. The muse had completely forgot about the dire consequences if they didn’t return to earth at 11:59 p.m., but Boris was well aware of them. Every once in a while the little pug would glance at his watch and try to alert his master to the precious moments inevitably passing, but Jonny would be focused on helping his friend Glenn Simon get through another episode of trapped gas after eating too much holiday fruitcake, and shush Boris until the pug had nothing to do but return to his Mystery Date game.
Jonny’s attention was finally distracted from his do-goodery when a deafening church bell could be heard clanging from the central square of the city.
“What the hell is that about?” asked the muse.
“That’s the alert for everybody to haul ass to the square so that J.C. can make his annual midnight Christmas speech, thanking everyone for their hard work through the year,” responded Mary. “It’s supposed to be required attendance but to be perfectly honest, it’s pretty dull and self-serving. I mean, J.C. is an okay speaker but his jokes are terrible. I may give it a pass this year. I’ve got half an hour to decide.”
“Half an hour?” asked Jonny.
“The bell lets you know that you have half an hour to get to the square,” replied Mary. “You know, I should probably go after all. I need to pick up a few brownie points after telling J.C. that I thought The Passion of the Christ was just a snuff film for pervs with a religion fetish. It was really nice meeting you two. When you come back to heaven as an angel, Jonny, be sure to look me up. Just think about investing in some deodorant before you do. You reek.”
With that, Mary opened her feathery wings and soared away into the Christmas night sky.
“I can’t believe it,” said Jonny. “It’s already 11:30. Christmas is almost over and we have to get back to earth in less than half an hour. I’m so sorry that I wasted your time, Boris.”
“I wouldn’t call it a complete waste of time,” said a gentle voice from behind them.
The pair turned around and Boris dropped his jaw at the buffest, most physically perfect pug that he had ever laid eyes on walking confidently into the office. The superb creature sported a chiseled physique and a dashing countenance that made Boris thrilled to be a dog because it meant he was able to get incredibly turned on by somebody of his own sex and not feel uptight about it. But Jonny had a different reaction. He didn’t notice the pug’s ripped muscle tone or perfect bone structure. He even looked past the dog’s expansive wings and glowing halo. He saw only the kind, loving eyes that he couldn’t mistake for anyone else’s in a thousand years.
The most physically perfect pug that Boris had ever laid eyes on walked into the office
“Hello, Daddy,” replied the pug with a shaking voice that was overcome with emotion. “I’ve been trying to get to you all day but every time I was about to sneak off, J.C. would bring out another birthday piñata that he’d want me to take the first swing at.”
Jonny and Winston stared at each other in silence for an awkward moment, and then rushed to one another and wrapped themselves in a loving bear hug. There were no words as the two blanketed themselves in the warmth of each other’s bodies, and Boris tactfully backed away to let his master have a private rendezvous with his beloved late pet. The pair finally managed to peel themselves away and cast an affectionate gaze into each other’s face.
“I’ve missed you so much,” said Jonny, his eyes brimming with tears.
“I haven’t missed you,” countered Winston with a smile. “I look in on you every day.”
“I know!” replied the muse excitedly. “You helped me out after I freaked out meeting Professor Morlock. And I don’t know what I would have done last night if you hadn’t guided me through jumping into the vortex.”
“What do you mean?” replied Winston. “I remember chilling you out when you met that freak Morlock, who I’d advise you to stay as far away from as possible from now on. But I was with J.C.’s birthday party when you jumped through the vortex.”
“That was me.”
Jonny and Winston turned to see Boris looking shyly up at them.
“You can talk?” sputtered a stunned Jonny. “I’m used to being able to understand Winston because I was always medicated out of my mind when he was around, But you? Why haven’t you uttered a sound in all the time I’ve had you?”
“Haven’t you seen Men in Black?” asked Boris. “All pugs can talk.”
Jonny looked to Winston for confirmation, and the angel-pug nodded his head.
”It wasn’t just because you were medicated that you could hear me talk,” said Winston. “We only said that in the Christmas stories because we thought it was funny to make you a pill-popping lunatic.”
”I haven’t said anything up to now,” said Boris, “because I’m a trained ninja, and the first thing they teach you in ninja school is to be silent as the grave at all times. With all the noise you make, I’m surprised that you aren’t attacked by marauders every five minutes. Anyway, I could see how distressed you were when we were about to jump through the vortex, and I sent out some loving vibes to help you through it. You would have done the same for me.”
“It’s true,” said Winston wisely. “Everyone thinks that when their loved ones ascend to heaven that they acquire special powers that they’ll use to help them through any situation. But angels don’t have any special powers, except for the ability to fly and have mind-blowing sex for days at a time. Oh, we’re able to help our loved ones. But no more than we were able to when we were alive on earth. In fact, the ability to help the living is the one power you have that’s stronger when you’re on earth. I have no doubt that Boris got you through that moment better than I could.”
Jonny looked at Boris as if for the first time.
“What a fool I’ve been,” cried the muse histrionically . “I’ve spent so much of my energy lamenting the love that was lost to me that I failed to recognize love that was right in front of me. Every time I held Boris, I felt as if I was betraying Winston’s memory.”
“That’s silly,” replied Winston. "Love isn't a commodity you have to dole out in sections lest you run out. The more love that you share, the more that comes back to you. It's a well with no bottom."
“I see that now,” admitted Jonny. “And it’s a mistake I won’t make again.”
The muse paused for dramatic effect as Winston and Boris doubled their attention on Jonny, since their dog super-hearing was now picking up the faint sound of J.C.’s speech deep in the distance. But with all the hyper-concentration going on, no one noticed the vortex opening slowly behind them.
“Winston was my dog, and I’ll cherish his memory for the rest of my days,” continued Jonny, now playing to the rear gallery. “But Boris is my dog, and we have years ahead of us to make new cherished memories so long as I give myself the power to live in the present and not in the past. Christmas is a time of redemption and fresh starts and I while I promise on this day of days to honor Winston’s memory and keep it vibrant, I further vow, to make my living relationships the focus of my remaining days”
With that, Jonny sank melodramatically to a praying position.
“I swear this on my knees. On my knees! And I further testify that … oh, shit.”
The muse suddenly stopped his diatribe as he noticed the vortex slamming shut. As soon as it disappeared, the guard marched sternly into view. His kindly demeanor of earlier was now replaced by an unsympathetic scowl.
“Well, well,” said the officer. “It looks like we have an earth dweller here who’s stayed past his 24 hour-visa. It’s off to the Forest of Limbo with you!”
Jonny shot a desperate look towards Winston but the pug responded with a helpless shrug, indicating that he was powerless to do anything to help.
“Do what you want with me,” said the muse resolutely. “But my pug is blameless in this. Let him go.”
“Winston won’t be brought up on any charges,” said the guard while taking out some iron shackles. “But you’re going down.”
“My pug’s name,” replied Jonny, “is Boris.”
The guard looked over towards the little dog but Boris was finally so overcome with lust for Winston's perfect body that he was busy burying his snout into Winston's bung hole up to the small intestine, and was unable to come to his master's assistance.
“No one can help you now,” said the guard sternly.
“Oh, I think that I can help.”
A gorgeous woman appeared before them
A magnificent staircase of billowy clouds had magically descended into the office. Standing at its foot was the most gorgeous woman that Jonny had ever laid eyes on. The muse knew that he was forbidden to think about sex until he got back to earth, but this creature’s feminine characteristics were so overwhelming that his fickle wang suddenly became hard enough to chisel diamonds with. The guards had a very different reaction, and inexplicably dropped to their knees.
“We weren’t expecting to see you here, God,” said the head guard. “What can we do for you?”
"You're God?" Jonny asked incredulously. "I didn't think you'd be..."
“A smokin' hot babe?" interjected the Creator. "If you could make any body you wanted to house your omnipotent badass self, wouldn't you make it the most awesome one you could? Or maybe you just assumed that only a man was capable of creating all this. No offense, but you boys are way too emotional to take on that job. I only created you to give the girls some eye candy. To be frank, I didn't come up with the idea of lesbians until about three thousand years ago. If I'd thought of that in the beginning, I probably never would have cranked you guys out at all."
Jonny placed his hands nonchalantly over the crotch of his jeans to hide his bulge.
"I have been watching Jonny and his devoted pug while they’ve been in heaven,” said the unexpectedly sexy Holy Deity as a kind smile crossed Her face. “Whereas most living creatures who visit heaven are only interested in their selfish quests, he concentrated on helping others. After putting up with J.C.’s narcissistic obsession with his birthday all week, I found that refreshing. I grant Jonny and Boris a pass to return to earth.”
“I can’t do that,” replied the muse.
The entire assemblage shat themselves ever so slightly at the response. No one had ever turned down such an offer from God before.
“I appreciate what you’re saying about me,” said Jonny, “and I’m ashamed that I’m standing before God trying to conceal an erection like when I was twelve years old and being called to the blackboard to solve a math problem. But the truth is that I’m no better then anybody else. If you’re going to let Boris and me return to earth, I’m going to have to ask that you let everyone who is trapped in the Forest of Limbo to go back.”
“Even Ashworth?” asked God. “He’s such a tool.”
“Even Ashworth,” said Jonny.
“Well, okay,” replied the deity. “I’ve been getting a lot of pressure to get all the crazies out of Limbo anyway. This will go a long way to doing that. Now, all you need to do is click your heels together three times and say, ‘there’s no place like home.’”
God was suddenly silenced by a collective groan from everyone around Her.
“Don’t give me any shit!” thundered the Supreme Being, “or I swear I’ll get all Old Testament on your asses. That is a great movie, and no one will convince me otherwise!”
Jonny cast a final loving glance at Winston. “I’ll never see you again, will I?”
“Not while you’re alive,” replied the pug sweetly. “But I’ll be checking in on you all the time. Anyway, it’s okay. Something tells me that my replacement has everything well in hand.”
“I love you,” said Jonny.
“That’s something that never dies,” replied Winston with a sly smile. "It's a well that never runs dry. I'll love you forever, Daddy."
With that, Jonny scooped Boris up in his arms for the journey home. The ninja pug noticed that his master’s grip seemed firmer and more affectionate than it ever had before. The muse took one final look at Winston, closed his eyes and clicked his heels together three times.
“There’s no place like home… there’s no place like home… there’s no place like home…”
The muse opened his eyes to behold the fuzzy image of Professor Morlock shrieking at him.
“There is NO TIME!” thundered Morlock as the machinery appeared to be on the verge of exploding. “Without Boris, you will not make it through the worm hole. The vortex will appear in exactly fifteen seconds. You must decide what you want to do NOW!!!”
“You know what?” said Jonny as he looked at the clock and saw that it was still 11:59 on Christmas Eve, “I think we’re good. My dog and I are content to let the past be the past. We’re only interested in the present now.”
Morlock was dumbfounded. He had never failed to bully anyone into jumping into the worm hole before. The vortex opened right on schedule and beckoned for Jonny to enter it, but the muse stood his ground and happily massaged Boris’ rolls of fat.
“You do realize that there are no refunds,” said the professor.
“It was money well spent,” replied Jonny as the vortex inevitably snapped shut. “Now if you’ll excuse me, my beloved little dog and I have a lot to do.”
With that, Jonny and Boris scampered up the stairs of the laboratory and disappeared into the night. But just as Morlock broke out some eggnog and was about to take a swig, the pair stuck their heads through the door and smiled warmly at the professor.
“Merry Christmas!” they shouted, and ducked away into the darkness.
Jonny and Boris didn’t get home until 2:00 a.m. and Boris was exhausted. Their adventure in the afterlife apparently never took place but his body definitely felt like it did. He stumbled into the bedroom and with the last vestiges of energy that he had, he hopped onto the bed that he slept in with Jonny.
“What are you doing?” asked the muse as he dragged the pug off the bed and into their shared office. We aren’t even close to being ready for bed. Brew a pot of coffee. We have Christmas presents to make!”
The sun was barely appearing over the horizon as the pair applied the final dab of hot glue to their pile of gifts. Boris looked on their handiwork with satisfaction.
“These will make for a wonderful Christmas,” yawned the pug. “We just have time to catch a few hours of shut-eye before we drop them off.”
“There's no time for sleep, lazybones.” answered Jonny, his entire body trembling from the gallons of coffee he drank to stay awake. “Eddie Frierson's shack is miles from here, and we need to get started for it now.”
Eddie was still fast asleep when Jonny and Boris knocked on the front door of his cabin deep in the woods. The muse's stomach churned when the door opened and his hayseed friend was leaning on his pet goat Rudolfo, an unnaturally close relationship that no one in Eddie's social circle liked to discuss.
“We’re sorry to come by so early,” said Jonny. “But you’re always hammered on moonshine when we come any later and we wanted to give you your Christmas present when you were sober. It’s a print-out of all of Donald Trump’s tweets in chronological order since he was elected president. We thought you could read them before you had your first drink of the day.”
It was the first time Eddie had read any of Trump’s tweets when he wasn’t hammered out of his mind
The southern hayseed studied the print-out through foggy eyes. It was the first time he had read any of Trump’s tweets when he wasn’t hammered out of his mind, and he was appalled at what he was seeing.
“Why, these are the rantings of a madman,” Eddie said while crumpling his Make America Great Again cap into a wad in his fist. “What did I ever see in this maniac? I’m throwing this cap right into the garbage and if anyone tries to give me a new one as a Christmas gift, it will meet the same fate. And what am I doing with this goat? It's all because of my addiction to that cursed moonshine. I pledge to never touch another drop from this day forward!”
The next stop was Bro Joe’s. The Junior Ranger was surprised to see Jonny’s dilapidated jalopy pull up into his driveway before the sun had even come up.
“Merry Christmas,” said Joe. “I’d invite you to stay but I’m about to leave for my annual Christmas hike. I’d ask you to join me, but the last time we tried that you couldn’t walk without assistance for a week.”
“I know,” replied Jonny with a smile. “I just wanted to give you your Christmas present.”
The muse handed Joe a spare compass that the Ranger had lent him on that ill-fated hike.
“Why, thanks,” laughed Joe with a condescending smirk. “But I already have a compass. It’s right here in my pock…”
The Junior Ranger reached around with his still-attached right hand, only to find lint and a condom he kept for when he encountered female hikers with daddy issues on the trail.
“Son of a gun,” said Joe. “I could have sworn I had my compass in my pocket, but I guess I was wrong. I would have strayed off the trail without it for sure. Thanks, Jonny.”
“And here’s some alligator repellent to go with it.”
Now Joe was really confused. The only possible way he could encounter alligators on the hike he was taking was to get so lost that he strayed into the uncharted swamp, miles off his path. Only the most rookie of hikers would make a mistake like that. But he didn’t want to hurt his brother’s feelings, so he stuck the cannister in his back pack and feigned appreciation.
And so it was for the rest of the morning. Jonny and Boris made surprise visits to everyone he had assisted during their rescinded trip to heaven and gave them just the thing they needed to get through their predicament. Every gift was met with bewilderment by the recipient, but Jonny refused to leave until he had seen them place it exactly where they would need it.
“Can we please go home and take a nap now?” pleaded Boris.
“Yes,” replied the muse looking at his watch. “We have just enough time to make it.”
Jonny usually drove like a disoriented old man who went 30 MPH in the fast lane, so Boris was perplexed when the muse put the pedal to the metal all the way home. They screeched into the garage and Jonny breathed a sigh of relief for reasons that the pug didn’t understand. They made it to the living room and Boris had just enough time to collapse from exhaustion when he heard a car pull into the driveway. He didn’t need to wait long to see what was going on, as Frances opened the door and ran into Jonny’s arms.
“I wanted to be here for Christmas,” she said. “Did I surprise you?”
The muse gave Boris a wink and then responded to Frances with an enigmatic smile.
“You’ve made me very happy.”
Jonny, Frances and Boris appeared at Harmony Sanchez’ Christmas party at about 6:30. As the other guests staggered in, Frances noticed that they all fawned over Jonny with appreciation over a Christmas gift he had given them that morning which turned out to be exactly what they needed to get through some emergency earlier in the day. The muse mischievously refused to answer any of his girlfriend’s questions about what was going on and always changed the subject to what she and the many friends who surrounded them were up to. But the muse was finally silenced when a lanky, balding figure with a clown’s face approached them. Jonny simply stared at him until Frances broke the silence.
“Hello you two,” replied Ashworth. “You know, I’ve been thinking about Jonny all day because I feel like I have something to thank him for, but for the life of me I can’t think of what it is.”
“Are you still looking for dancing work, Tom?” asked Jonny, his eyes flickering an amusement that only Boris seemed to notice.
Ashworth responded with a confused grimace. “Good god, no. I haven’t danced in years. That’s a young man’s game. I’m into painting now. You should check out my work on my Facebook page. Some people tell me that my paintings look like drop cloths you’d see at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”
The party went on for hours
The party went on for hours. Ultimately, Frances took an Uber to the airport so she could catch the red eye back to Canada. Their other friends trickled out until Jonny and Boris were the last ones there. They finally bid an affectionate goodbye to their hostess and went out to sit on the curb to watch the night sky. Jonny looked at his watch and smiled.
“It’s 12:01 on the morning after Christmas,” grinned the muse. “This is the time we were supposed to be banished to the Forest of Limbo for all eternity. Yet I feel an inner tranquility unlike any that I’ve ever felt before. Is that Winston looking down on me? Or God? Or is it just because I’m alive and sitting next to a pug that I love to the depths of my soul?”
“How about all of the above?” replied Boris. “But I just realized…we spent so much time making presents for other people that we never got anything for you. What would you like for Christmas?”
Jonny put his arm tenderly around Boris and gazed dreamily into the night sky.
“I have everything that I want right here.”
So all was happiness in Jonny's world. Frances Fisher tolerated Jonny referring to her as his "girlfriend" and including her image in the idiotic illustrations he posted on Facebook, as long as he stayed 500 yards away from her at all times as mandated by the restraining order she took out against him. Professor Morlock became a beloved character in a series of ghastly horror movies. David Pinion was banned from the diner after so many patrons complained about his giving them weirdo unsolicited advice. Ashworth became a multi-millionaire artist after one of his paintings was purchased by the Louvre Museum in Paris, although it took five years before anybody noticed that it had been hung upside-down. Mary Tyler Moore continued to be countless teenage boys' first fantasy lover whenever her TV series were shown in reruns. Winston became God's most trusted advisor and finally talked Her out of throwing so many inexplicable tragedies at humankind whenever J.C. did something to piss Her off in heaven. And Eddie Frierson became head of the Democratic National Committee and was instrumental in the political comeback of Al Franken, who handed Donald Trump his ass in the 2020 presidential convention.
But happiest of all was Jonny M. As he held his beloved pug Boris close to his body and the little dog snuggled up to him in kind, the muse cast a loving gaze at the North Star and took heart in knowing that he was loved and looked after both in this life and the next. So he playfully rubbed his pug's belly and thought of all the love in his life, knowing that he was drawing water from a well that could never run dry.
And know you always have a loving friend in Jonny M.
(and a team of ghostwriters)
Angel Financial Backer
Anything in Jonny's refrigerator with an expiration date of 2010 or later
Soul lost in Limbo
Soul lost in Limbo
Soul lost in Limbo
Bust at White City gate
Bust at White City gate
Mary Tyler Moore
Dr. Marcus Ringer
Donna Manus Susskind
Person in monitor
Person in monitor
Person in monitor
Person in monitor
Person in monitor
Person in monitor
Person in monitor
Person in monitor
Person in monitor
Person in monitor
Asshole in political poster
Smokin' Hot Chick at Party
Tall Dude at Party
Ashworth's Beatnik Date
Mary Kay Dean
Tim "Fish" Polzin
Sheeler & Sheeler
Thomas W. Ashworth
Dan E, Campbell
Thomas W, Ashworth
Joseph "Crispy" Bacon
Consuelo Aduviso Brennan
Joseph L. Mullich
Steven B. Greenberg
Mary Tyler Moore
Dr. Marcus Ringer
Donna Manus Susskind
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