Once upon a time, there was a beautiful city called New Orleans. It was a picturesque, homey place filled with drug-inspired jazz music, monuments recalling the good-old slavery days, and a famous street where you could get a nonstop supply of alcohol, cheap lap dances, and a lifetime supply of shiny beads just for flashing your hooters to gangs of desperate drunks in the balconies above you.

Everyone who lived there hated the dump. The city had been devastated by a tremendous hurricane just a few months before, and the failure of every level of government to offer support had left it in uninhabitable, swampy anarchy. What’s more, after the Federal Emergency Management Agency head Michael Brown had been fired for incompetence the agency was in complete chaos, leaving the rebuilding of New Orleans up to whatever Hollywood celebrities felt like going down there for a photo opportunity.

“Brownie got a raw deal as head of FEMA” fumed President Bush after viewing the daily puppet show depicting world events that served as his morning briefing. “He may not have been the best at dealing with natural disasters, but did you read some of those e-mails he wrote while he had the job? The man was a heckuva snappy dresser!”

“Brownie got a raw deal as head of FEMA” fumed President Bush.

“Well, we’ve got to appoint someone new to the post immediately,” responded Bush’s top aide, a former laundromat manager who caught the president’s attention in a newspaper article detailing his efforts to build a monument to the unsung heroes who lost their lives while bombing abortion clinics. “A report that we received a year ago says that an even more destructive hurricane is about to blow through New Orleans again. If we don’t act fast, the city will be uninhabitable for centuries. I only wish I’d shown you the report when I got it, but it was just after Fahrenheit 9/11 had been released and all your time was taken up in trying to learn what the word ‘Fahrenheit’ means. Shall I line up a list of applicants from your immediate circle of friends to take over the FEMA job?”

“Just a minute,” replied Bush while a sinister smirk crawled over his face (replacing the slightly more benign smirk that was usually on his face). “When did you say that hurricane was supposed to hit?”

“December 25,” replied the aide. “That’s unusual because hurricane season usually ends on November 1, but we had to time it so that this idiotic card had a Christmas theme.”

“Here’s what we’re going to do,” replied the President. “Since Congress came down on so hard for trying to stick a member of my inner circle on the Supreme Court even though they were unquag…unkully….Damn it! What was the un?”

“Unqualified?” offered the aide.

“Unqualified!” responded the President angrily, still not certain what the strange multisyllabic word meant. “We’re going to put out a press release saying that the new head of FEMA is going to be someone that I never met before. But we’re going to make sure that he’s such a complete moron that the press is going to realize that the only people who are kwally…quoly – that word you used before – are members of my weekly Bible study.”

“But Chief,” answered the aide nervously. “Who on earth could we find for the job who is far more stupid than the people you’ve placed in high government positions already?”

At about this time, a young muse named Jonny M. was being eliminated as a contestant on American Idol. The noble muse had been an audience favorite up until the final rounds until a scandal came to light that Jonny had simply been miming singing to old Mario Lanza records. After submitting himself to a humiliating but crowd-pleasing disparagement by Simon Cowl of his live singing performance of The Theme From Shaft, Jonny left the theatre in shame and got on the Internet at the local library to find a new job. After logging onto the madbeast.com “Just for Fun” page to see how many days there were until his birthday on December 15 (and, in turn, how many days he would have to wait until the traditional gifts of alcohol starting coming in to commemorate it), Jonny logged onto CraigsList.com to see what kind of bottom-dwelling job he could find to sustain himself through the holidays. After scanning the “missed connections” personal ads to see if that redhead he had shared a meaningful glance with at a bus stop six months previously was finally trying to seek him out, Jonny got down to business in the “help wanted” section.

Having success with government jobs this time of year (or at least ever since these idiotic cards got away from straight toilet humor and became more political), the handsome muse opened the page devoted to bureaucratic listings. After looking at the dozens of “Congressional Aide” openings and rejecting them because of the inevitable STDs that came with them, Jonny’s eyes were caught by a listing reading “NEW HEAD OF FEMA WANTED.”

Jonny logged onto the computer at the library.

The noble muse read the ad intently. With his romantic history, who knew more about disasters than Jonny? But reading the listing more closely, he was shocked to find that the interviews were taking place that very day! Without a moment to lose, the stylish muse hopped in his new 2006 Toyota Solara convertible and sped to the FEMA Headquarters at the Washington, D.C. Nordstrom. When Jonny got there (careful to take up two parking spaces so that no fool would scratch his car’s Lunar Mist Metallic finish), Jonny was stunned at the foul display of human scum and filth that were waiting to interview for the job. Sighing sadly because he knew he was usually only hired for the gigs in these idiotic stories because he was the dumbest applicant for the job, Jonny warily got in line behind a retarded Scientologist and waited for his inevitable rejection.

A foul display of human scum and filth were waiting to interview for the job.

After hours of seeing one feebleminded petitioner after another, President Bush was ready to despair.

“They seem dumb enough,” admitted the commander and chief. “There was one guy I almost hired because he had a vacant look on his face that let you know there was nothing going on in his head. But goll-durn it if it turned out that I was just looking in a mirror! No, none of these losers can follow Brownie. He had a flair for fashion that gave the department a little pizzazz. That’s what we need. Another snappy dresser.”

No sooner had the words left Bush’s lips than Jonny M. swept through the door. Seeing Bush’s sweaty smirk made the sensitive muse realize that this would be the warmest two-minute interview of his life, he whipped off his overcoat to get down to business.

As soon as the President got a glimpse of Jonny, he put down his copy of GQ and gave the muse his undivided attention. For having recently finished a job playing Dopey at Euro Disneyland (although he was actually employed to portray Aladdin, all the tourists assumed he was playing Dopey and Jonny didn’t argue as long as those Euros kept coming in), the muse decided to splurge with his last paycheck and get a complete outfit at the French Boutique Armée du Salut.

The President put down his copy of GQ Magazine.

“You look fantastic,” exclaimed the President. “Almost as good as Brownie did. And am I mistaken, or is that intriguing scent…”

“New Car Smell,” interjected Jonny, still chuckling to himself that ‘Armée du Salut’ is French for ‘Salvation Army.’ “It would really be something having this walk into the Oval Office for a semi-annual meeting, wouldn’t it? You just can’t tell me that Donald Rumsfeld doesn’t stink to high heaven.”

Bush studied the well-dressed muse with such intensity that Jonny was sure that he was to undergo the same ordeal that he went through when he interviewed for the post of an alter boy for the Catholic Church. Pinning his butt cheeks to the wall for protection, the muse starting edging his way out the door but before he could make his exit, a giant aide grabbed Jonny and held him for the president’s inspection.

“Fine! Have your filthy way with me,” screamed the muse. “All I ask is that you be careful of my hemorrhoid. I’m having it measured by the people from the Guinness Book of World Records next week!”

The President studied the muse’s face carefully, realizing that it was the first pair of eyes he had ever seen that appeared to have less behind them than his own. As Jonny wept and screamed for mercy, the President realized that the pathetic muse had the perfect mix of fashion sense and innate stupidity to fulfill his fiendish plot. Giving the muse a quick kick to the face and satisfied by Jonny’s stoic reaction that alcohol had killed off the last few remaining brain cells in the muse’s failing cerebellum, the chief executive stuck out his hand.

“Congratulations,” said Mr. Bush. “You’re the new head of FEMA.”

The press was outraged. After the debacle of Hurricane Katrina a person with a great deal of experience is disaster recovery was needed, and the closest thing to a disaster on Jonny’s résumé was his performance in A Cat Among Pigeons. But unlike Bush’s other appointments, they could find no social connection to ally Jonny with the President. Perhaps the repellent muse brought qualities to the job that weren’t apparent on his disturbing profile or repellent personality? The House nervously approved the appointment by the narrowest margin in history, and the Senate followed suit.

Jonny loved his new job. For the first time he could remember, he had a gig during the Christmas season that didn’t require him to head off to some far-off land or give a hackneyed speech to a bunch of losers and then collapse into a pool of his own vomit. The muse happily settled into his Washington office, and spent most of his time leading up to Christmas dictating thank you letters to the many friends who had sent him gifts of alcohol for his birthday on December 15.

Jonny spent Christmas Eve dictating just such an e-mail to his pal Ken Summers for sending him a case of Chai de Bordes Bordeaux wine (reasonably priced at BevMo) when his peace was shattered by an intruder bursting into his office. The muse was about to call security when he realized that the interloper was actor Sean Penn.

As Jonny was dictating an e-mail, Sean Penn burst in with his photographer.

“How dare you sit here in your comfortable office while there’s work to be done?” asked the Academy Award winner as he held the door open for his photographer. “When Hurricane Katrina hit and the Iraqi War started, my photographer and I were there making sure that plenty of photos of me were sent to the press to raise awareness of the problem! What makes you think that you have the right to spend all your time doing nothing but writing self-serving e-mails?”

“Actually, it’s in the job description,” said Jonny. “Anyway, what do you care? They only need me in the event of an emergency, and there aren’t any.”

“Is that right?” asked Penn sarcastically as he threw a top secret government report on Jonny’s desk. “Then how can you explain that I was able to download this off SmokingGun.com?”

The muse was shocked by what he read. The federal government had known for two years that Hurricane Consuelo was going to hit New Orleans on Christmas Day with a destructive force 1000 times that of Katrina, and devastate its levees even if they were at their strongest. Now that they were weakened to the breaking point, the historic city had no chance.

“Not on my watch!” thundered the muse. “And certainly not on Christmas Day. If you think I’m going to let one of America’s greatest cities go down on our holiest of days, you’ve got another think coming, Jack. To the Jonnymobile!”

“Wouldn’t Air Force One get us there quicker?” asked Penn, already wanting to punch out the pompous Jonny.

“Oh, I guess you’re right,” admitted the muse. “I just look so damned sexy behind the wheel of that car! But there’s no time for that now! To Air Force One!”

It was Christmas morning when the government plane touched down in New Orleans Airport. Hurricane Consuelo had already done significant damage to the picturesque city, so after taking an hour for Penn to pose for some photos unpacking relief supplies from the airplane, the trio high-tailed it to Bourbon Street for Jonny to suck down some Bahama Mamas and reacquaint himself with a stripper named Ambrosia he knew from the Barely Legal gentleman’s club.

But when the pair got to the historic avenue, they weren’t prepared for what they saw. Bourbon Street had become Bourbon River, as a torrent of water flowed through the once-fashionable bars and strip joints.

“Okay, God,” seethed Jonny as he watched a four-foot high Styrofoam breast float by. “Now, it’s personal.”

A four-foot high Styrofoam breast floated down Bourbon Street.

“Let’s get to the levees!” screamed Penn. “It will be a great photo op!”

Flashing Jonny’s FEMA badge, the trio commandeered a rowboat from a local crawdad fisherman to survey the damage to the vital levees. It was worse than Jonny had feared. Hurricane Consuelo had submerged the Big Easy under five feet of water, and the already-damaged levees that were vital to the safety of the city were nearing the breaking point, so that if something wasn’t done immediately, New Orleans would be enveloped in a torrential flood that would swallow the city whole. After posing for a few more photos, Penn realized the danger of the situation as Jonny’s finely honed sense of smell made the muse comprehend that the liquid streaming down the actor’s leg wasn’t flood run-off.

“We’ve got to get out of here!” screamed Penn. “I’ve already posed for all the pictures my publicist asked for, and this is getting scary. I mean, when I visited Iraq, I never left the Hilton.”

Jonny sadly surveyed the desperation of the situation and was forced to agree. But just as the noble muse was about to pull anchor, he noticed some driftwood floating past him. But it wasn’t just any driftwood.

“It’s a Christmas tree!” screamed the muse.

A Christmas tree floated by.

“Great,” replied Penn. “It will give the photographer something to float on. He might get some good shots of me that way.”

“Don’t you understand?” asked the forceful muse as he slapped the Hollywood cream puff in the face. “If there’s a Christmas tree, that means that some poor soul who simply wanted to be home to celebrate our holiest day in peace could be in danger! We must find the owner of this tree and make sure that they are safe to celebrate Christmas Day today with us as a member of our human family.”

Penn wondered why Jonny was talking with such a stilted vocabulary, not realizing that this was the point in the story where the pompous muse had to save Christmas for some poor slob. Jonny pulled out his spyglass to see if he could spot the celebrants when he noticed the faint image of a desperate soul being swept out to sea.

“It’s a good thing they have those flotation devices,” said Penn as he squinted to make out the faint image of the poor victim being sucked into the force of the water.

“Those aren’t flotation devices,” corrected Jonny. “Those are the massive hooters of my friend Ambrosia the stripper!”

The muse tried to dive into the torrent, but Penn stopped him.

“You’ll never make it,” said the actor. “Her only chance would be for us to throw her a line, but we don’t have a rope that’s long enough.”

Jonny looked desperately around the boat for something to throw to the desperate exotic dancer, but found nothing. But just as he was about to despair, he noticed the photographer still wading in the freezing torrent.

“You!” screamed Jonny. “How many exposures of film do you have on the roll in you camera? Twenty-four or thirty-six?”

“With Penn as my client?” snickered the photographer. “Thirty-six. I can use up twenty-four shots just shooting him punching me out for taking his picture.”

“That should be just long enough!” declared Jonny. “Unroll it so I can toss it out to her to grab.”

“Are you kidding?” screamed Penn. “I came out here just so I could pose for those shots. There’s no way I’m going to let you ruin them!”

“Oh yes you are!” responded the muse, realizing he’d better lay this speech on thick because this moronic story had less to do with Christmas than any other Jonny Card to date. “This is Christmas, a day when we can’t just think of our own needs. One of God’s souls in suffering out there, and we have the ability to relieve her burden by giving up something that may be irreplaceable to you, but is far less sacred than a human life. Isn’t Christmas truly about sacrifice and giving so that we can make this world a better place for others? We must be prepared to give of ourselves on this day of days, as a reminder that such selflessness should be our goal throughout the year!”

Penn shed a silent tear at the power of the muse’s words, and stepped aside so that there would be no barrier between Jonny and the photographer. The noble muse lunged at the camera and ripped out the film, carefully unspooling it so that it made a long and sturdy line. Knowing that he only had one chance, the muse looped the end of the film, aimed carefully at Ambrosia and desperately threw the makeshift lariat towards the sinking dancer. The would-be rescuers felt their heart skip as the erotic entertainer was swallowed up by a whirlpool just as she grabbed the line, but the trio gave a furious pull at the cord and were relieved to find that the full-figured maiden was able to hold on and climb into the raft!

Despite the fact that Ambrosia never lost consciousness, Jonny, Penn and the photographer took turns giving the dancer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until they were satisfied that she had recovered from the ordeal. The violated adult entertainer finally opened her eyes and looked up at Jonny gratefully.

Ambrosia looked up at Jonny gratefully.

“No need to thank me,” said the muse as he helped Ambrosia up. “For this is Christmas, a time when we should only think of others, and be willing to lend a hand whenever a hand is needed. Not only when times are most dire, and in our everyday lives when such charity may not yield such dramatic rewards. For the true reward is the enlightenment that we carry on our soul, of knowing that we are a powerful force in the world, not only on this day of days, but all the days of the year.”

With that, Ambrosia brushed past Jonny and made a beeline to Sean Penn.

“Hey, ain’t you Tom Cruise?” asked the dancer. “Could you help me make it in Hollywood? My last two johns both said I had what it takes to be a movie star!”

So all was happiness in New Orleans. The city weathered the storm and was rebuilt by several hundred billion dollars in government aid that was provided by the Hilary Clinton administration. Sean Penn made five box office duds in a row, for which he was paid a total of a hundred and six million dollars. And Ambrosia the stripper went to Hollywood to have a brief fling at being an actress before being spit out of the bottom of the porn industry.

But happiest of all was Jonny M. As he looked around at his friends living in peace and happiness on this Christmas Day, he felt a surge of pride in knowing that he had contributed to it. So, with a song in his heart he returned to Washington intent on making the world a better and safer place for all Americans, until six months later when he was fired from his FEMA job and served a fifteen-month prison term for taking kickbacks from the Halliburton Corporation.

And happiness to you, dear friend. Whether you are celebrating Christmas with friend, Hanukkah with family, or commemorating the season by sending gifts of alcohol to Jonny for his birthday on December 15, know that you, too, are an indispensable member of the human family who has an inexhaustible supply of opportunities to make the world a better and safer place each and every day of the year. And know that you always have a loving friend in Jonny M.

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