"Bong! Bong! Bong! . . ." The grandfather clock in the foyer of Mar-a-Lago pealed twelve times. The digital clock on the kitchen stove said that it was actually ten past midnight, but the grandfather clock denounced that as fake news and said that the digital clock was a disloyal product of Silicon Valley.
"Trump!" a baritone voice boomed out. "Trrrrrump! PRRRRRRESIDENT TRUMP!!!" The President had fallen asleep on the couch in the den while watching re-runs of The Apprentice. Blearily he opened one eye, and saw a grinning Barack Obama, wearing the traditional djellaba worn by millions of Kenyans, standing in front of him.
"C'mon, Donald. Wakey, wakey."
Trump sat up and looked at the 44th president.
"Obama? What the hell are you doing here?"
"Hey, man, I've come to warn you that you will be visited by three spirits this night."
Trump fumbled for his phone to send a tweet to the Secret Service agent on duty, but his phone wasn't on his hip. He turned and started pulling up the cushions on the sofa to look for it.
"Oh, yeah?" he said over his shoulder. "Who are you to give me a warning? I'll give you a warning, and it'll be huge . . ."
"Donny. Stop that. Sit down and listen, it's for your own good."
"Guards! Guards! Where the hell are my presidential guards?"
Obama shrugged. "Okay, man. If that's the way you want it." And he walked into the enormous fireplace and disappeared.
An hour later and President Trump had just finished firing the last of his secret service detail, and was alone once more.
"Bong!" The grandfather clock pealed the hour of one o'clock.
A small man walked out of the fireplace, fashionably dressed in the style of 1817, with a small powdered wig on his head. He stood only 5'4" and looked as if he weighed no more than 100 lbs, and his voice was frail and piping. Trump, at 6'3" towered over him, but the smaller man did not seem intimidated.
"And who the hell are you," Trump growled.
"James Madison, Jr." The 4th president gave a slight bow. "At your service."
"What do you want?"
"I am the ghost of presidents past, and have come to tell you that the Executive Branch must observe the independence of the judiciary."
"Why should I care?"
Madison shrugged. "Sir, I do not have time to instruct you on the necessities of constitutional government, but you would be well advised to heed me, for it is the judges who ultimately will decide the legitimacy of your administration, and everything it does."
"Oh yeah? Well, I know how to deal with judges."
Madison shrugged, and bowed again. "As you will. I will take my leave, sir." And he vanished.
Trump spent the next hour tearing the room apart in his hunt for his phone, muttering tweets to himself as he did so.
"Bong! Bong!" The clock pealed two.
"Don-ald. Tovarisch. Please to turn around. It is I, Vlad."
"President Putin? How . . . I mean . . ."
"Yes, is strange you have no guards. You must terminate man in charge security."
"I already fired him."
"No, I mean terminate."
"But what are you doing here?"
"Am ghost of presidents present. Is that how you say it? I am warning you. Beware of free press. Beware of enemies. Beware of everyone. Family most of all. Better you terminate them."
"But . . . "
"Must go now."
Putin turned and walked into the fireplace, and vanished.
Trump spent the next hour laboriously writing out in block letters the text of all the tweets he wanted to send, once he found his phone.
"Bong! Bong! Bong!" Three o'clock.
"Don-ald. Tovarisch. Please to turn around. I am here again."
"Putin? Why have you come back? Did you find my phone?"
Putin shook his head. "I am now ghost of presidents future. Was to be Al Franken, but you terminated him. Have come to thank you."
"Thank me? For what?"
"For making America strong again, like Russia. No dissent anymore. Police and military make protests disappear. No free press. No independent judges. No more interference with my country. Maybe you change name from America to Nova Rossiya. Good job you did. Dosvidanya. Goodbye."
And Vladimir Putin grinned, and disappeared.