I'm really sorry about this one. Really, really sorry.

Once upon a time (back when that lump at the base of my brain was only about the size of a golf ball - I really gotta see a doctor), there was an enchanted little kingdom called Autopia. It was a beautiful place with rolling hills, gorgeous palaces, and these really cool plastic cars that ran on a little track. The air was clean, the water was clear, and anyone standing in any spot in the realm could turn around in a full circle and see nothing but beauty for miles.

Everyone who lived there hated the dump. Because it was ruled by a mean-spirited, iron-fisted dictator named Old King Cole. Cole was a paranoid despot who would throw his subjects in Ass Hall, the forbidding stockade of the kingdom, for so much as looking at him the wrong way. And after fifty years of Cole's sadistic rule, the dark and dank reformatory was overflowing with forgotten souls who had been hurled there at a flight of the paranoid oppressor's fancy. A walk through the tyrant's decaying Ass Hall revealed tiny cells packed with Autopians whose only crime was to cross Cole's path when he was in one of his moods. After generations of the tyrant's twisted rule, far more people lived on the inside of Autopia's prison than outside them.

Old King Cole was a paranoid despot.

It was a scandal of epic proportions, concealed to the outside world only by a massive publicity campaign conducted by a big Wall Street firm that Cole hired, depicting him as a merry old sole who loved his pipe and bowl. It was a brilliant scam, but after years of Cole's twisted rule, rumors about his cruelty began slowly surfacing. Cole was worried.

"The goddamned pipe and bowl stuff isn't working!" shrieked the despot at one of his bi-monthly meetings with his P.R. firm. "I got a letter from Amnesty International that they're coming to inspect my prison on Christmas Day! That's only a few months away. What the hell am I going to do?"

"Not a problem, K.C.," wheezed Mr. Sludge, his slick agent. "What we'll do is announce to the remaining free citizens of Autopia that, as a show of benevolent Christmas cheer, you have decided to submit a prisoner to the public on Christmas Day for release. But we'll make him the most despicable, monstrous felon in captivity, so that no one will want to let him out. That will make the Amnesty International guys think that everyone in the prison is that bad, or worse - so instead of realizing that you're a paranoid tyrant, they'll be conned into swallowing that you're a forceful statesman who believes in tough love!"

"There's only one problem with your scheme," said Cole as he peered slowly around the corner to check for specters. "Everyone in my prison is a good citizen who I tossed in there because the voices coming out of my raccoon coat told me that they were out to get me. Where are we going to find a prisoner who is really repellent enough to disgust my subjects?"

At about this time, a young muse named Jonny M. was being deloused within the prison walls. The muse had just completed a successful run as the Barber in Man of La Mancha at the Autopia Civic Arts Plaza and celebrated by getting drunk and throwing up all over the local magistrate's wife at the closing night party. He was sentenced to sixteen consecutive life sentences.

The muse felt refreshed to finally be free of his lice, but he became outraged at the shabby quality of his mug shots taken by a photographer the prison hired from an ad in Drama-Logue.

As the guards threw Jonny into a dank and dirty cell, the noble muse demanded to speak to the warden.

"You'll find no warden here," said a ghoulish voice from a dark corner of the cell.

The muse looked around in horror as an appalling old man dressed in a tattered prisoner's uniform came creeping out of the shadows. The muse's eyes grew wide with apprehension as the inmate drew close to his face, but settled as the old man broke into a friendly smile.

"Don't worry, son, you've got nothing to fear from me," grinned the time-worn jailbird as he handled Jonny a bottle of local moonshine. "But you're in Ass Hall now and have left all hope behind. And don't bother wasting your breath asking for a warden. There's only one ruler here, and that's Brown."

"Don't worry, son, you've got nothing to fear from me," grinned the time-worn jailbird.

"Wh … who's Brown?" asked a nervous Jonny as he downed the plastic bottle of Popov vodka in one gulp. But the old jailbird refused to answer, nor would any other inmate who Jonny posed the question to. The muse would have to wait until his second day in the hell-hole, as he was taking a shower in the prison's overcrowded shower room. Just as Jonny carelessly dropped his bar of Lava soap on the shower's foul floor, the muse looked up to see an immense African American prisoner dressed in nothing but a sable fedora with an ostrich feather plume.

"My name's Brown," said the intruder, playfully jabbing a switchblade at Jonny's throat. "Chocolate Brown. And your sweet white heinie is working for me now!"

"My name's Brown," said the intruder.

The astonished muse shot back a look to the old-timer for a reality check, but the ancient jailbird slipped on his plastic shower slippers and disappeared wordlessly into the shadows.

"You'll fetch a nice price in the marketplace," continued the stylish blackamoor as he placed a firm grasp on the muse's tensed buttocks. "Pale geeks like you are popular with Phillipino lepers at the moment. You're going to be a busy boy, son. You belong to Chocolate Brown now."

Jonny fell to his knees in dismay as Brown strutted towards the doorway, chuckling fiendishly.

"Get used to being in that position, boy," said the swarthy pimp as he stopped at the cell door to study the kneeling Jonny. "You're one of Brown's bucks. Anal eroticism is your entire life, now!"

Jonny could feel his butt cheek ripping apart already as Brown swept out of the cell.

"We all work for Brown here," intoned the old man as he reemerged from the shadows. "He's the chain gang boss and instead of taking us to bust rocks, he herds us to the provincial leper colony and the locals have their way with our posteriors. Your buns get pretty sore after a while but after enough lepers have had at you the things start falling off anyway, and you get to retire. It's not that bad."

The muse slept only sporadically that night and the next day was led in shackles with the other pale, boyish prisoners to the leper colony by Chocolate Brown. It was a gloomy place, reeking of disease and despair. After the other prisoners were distributed to the horrible denizens of the accursed island, Brown marched Jonny into the tent of the community's leader. The muse heart skipped when he beheld the mutated face of thee leper who sat staring at him.

"Hi, I'm Phil McKrakin," said the pariah, offering Jonny a hand to shake. "Nice to meet ya!"

"Hi, I'm Phil McKrakin," said the pariah, offering Jonny a hand to shake.

The muse relaxed a bit and clasped McKrakin's hand, but recoiled when the appendage came off in his fist.

"Damn!" said the leper. "I hate it when that happens. Oh, well. My wiener's still connected, so bend over and let's get this over with."

"Buh…but why don't you try this with women?" asked Jonny hopefully as McKrakin spun him roughly around and began applying K-Y Jelly to his quivering backside.

"Face to face intimacy intimidates me," replied the leper as one of his eyeballs rolled out and rolled across the clay floor. "Anyway, it seems so much dirtier this way!"

Jonny found that he liked the work (it reminded him of when he did The Caine Mutiny Court Martial at Actors Lab Arizona) and the muse's romantic banter and limber gluteus muscles endeared him to Brown's clients. He became fast friends with the lepers, and looked forward to celebrating the holidays with his new pals. As December approached, Jonny began decorating the colony's giant spruce tree with decorations made from the locals' fallen fingers and toes. He couldn't wait for Christmas.

But Brown had other ideas. Jonny was an invaluable asset to the prison chieftain, and the savage pimp had plans for the young muse.

"I've had it with this pigsty," confided Brown to the muse as Jonny carefully handed over his earnings, mindful of the massive procurer's brutal beatings if he held out an a body part to stir in his nightly stew. "I'm busting out of here tomorrow night and going back to the hood, where I can live large. And since you're my most profitable bitch, you're coming with me."

The muse's eyes glazed over in terror.

"Buh…but tomorrow is Christmas Eve," said the muse. "I promised some customers that I'd come to the colony tomorrow and sing carols and bob for noses in the community bathtub!"

"Christmas don't mean nothing to me, boy!" screamed the vicious Brown as he pulled out an automatic pistol and thrust it in Jonny's Adam's apple. "I said we're breaking out tomorrow, and tomorrow it will be!"

The muse's heart sank as he watched the sun set in the Christmas sky. Looking at the heavily armed guards in the prison towers, Jonny knew that escape was madness. The noble muse picked up the bottle of gin that he had been sharing with the lepers that morning, and after digging out Phil McKrakin's upper plate from the neck, took a sad swig. But before Jonny could even swallow the cheap hooch, Brown burst into the cell armed with more automatic weaponry than you would see in a typical Steven Siegal flick.

"Let's go," hissed the vicious pimp.

Ruefully, Jonny got up and followed Brown out of the cell. The pair didn't get four steps into the exercise yard though, before the guards in the tower opened fire on them.

"Jesus Christ!" screamed Brown as he tossed the guns to Jonny amidst the hail of bullets and ran back into Ass Hall. "You're on your own, kid!"

The muse was caught in a hail of bullets.

Before the muse could respond, a battalion of guards swarmed on Jonny and began beating him to a pulp. Just before the muse lost consciousness, he heard the captain of the guards give an order:

"Let's take him to the king!"

Old King Cole was sweating bullets as he nervously followed the inspectors from Amnesty as they scrutinized the squalid prison conditions. The tyrant had observed the group shaking their heads and making red marks in their little notebooks as they passed through the torture chamber, and just about gave up hope for a U.S. grant to improve the kingdom's inflatable love doll factory now.

"This is the worst prison facility I've ever seen," said the leader of the watchdog task force. "Unless you impress us with your people's decision to release a prisoner, I'm putting you on our black list of countries where Barbra Streisand won't perform in! Where is he?"

"Well, Mr. Carter," stalled the king as sweat poured down his face. The worst prisoner he could find was a local football hero who had brutally murdered his wife, and Cole knew the crown would demand his release in a heartbeat. "The thing of it is, Jimmy…"

Before the despot could finish the sentence, some guards swept into the room carting the pummeled muse. Giving a sadistic laugh, they threw him at Cole's feet.

"We found this prisoner trying to escape, your Majesty," said the surliest of the guards. "What should we do with him?"

The king looked at Jonny and nearly puked. Not only had the guards done a hell of a job pummeling him, but also Jonny was wearing a necklace of the lepers' detached body parts they had given the muse as a Christmas present. The monarch was revolted, but suddenly had an idea. Swallowing quickly to catch the bile that was coming up at the sight of the muse, the tyrant turned to the Amnesty International guys and smiled.

The guards had done a hell of a job pummeling Jonny.

"Gentlemen," said Cole in a satisfied voice that will come as no surprise to the readers of this stupid card, "after looking far and wide for a prisoner that I believe the public will have compassion for, this is the man I have decided on."

The king chuckled inwardly, knowing full well that the assemblage would take one look at the hideously battered muse and demand that he be stuck in some dark corner of the tower, so that his unsightly appearance wouldn't detract from the kingdom's Christmas parade with Grand Marshall Dennis Weaver. The members of the task force raised heir eyebrows as Jonny coughed up his spleen. Undaunted, Cole grabbed the muse and dragged him out to the balcony where a throng of Autopians had gathered to decide the fate of the proffered prisoner.

"Merry Christmas, good people," began the hollow tyrant as he tried vainly to keep Jonny standing. "As a demonstration of my kindness and benevolence, I have decided to submit to you a prisoner from our great stockade for possible release. This being Christmas day, the one day of the year when we should show aid and understanding to our fellow man, I offer you to release, if you so choose…this guy!"

The king grabbed Jonny by the hair and held him up to be seen by the crowd. The muse's face was swollen and bloodied from his beatings, and one of the ears from his necklace had become embedded up his nose. The throng stared at him in horror.

"He's hideous!" screamed a young dung scraper.

"He's the most hideous thing I've ever seen!" shouted the village aroma therapist. "Stick him back in prison where he belongs!"

The crowd began rioting as they shouted curses at the battered muse. King Cole turned to the Amnesty International task force and shrugged his shoulders.

"Well, I guess that's it," said the king. "If the masses feel that the prisoners belong in jail, I guess that's where they should be."

The leader of the task force smiled sadly in agreement and picked up his cardigan to leave. But before he could take three steps, he was stopped in his tracks by a cream from Jonny M.

"Auuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuggghh!!!" exclaimed the muse with such passion that the entire crowd was silenced. "You people make me sick! Here it is, Christmas day, a time representing tolerance and acceptance, and you want me stuck in a hole forever because my bludgeoned face is repellent to you. Why, I just came from an island where people may not be your idea of pretty, but they grasp what the day means enough o make their dismembered eyes and noses a symbol of love and friendship!"

Jonny held up his leper necklace as the crowd hung their heads in shame.

"And you," continued the muse, turning to the astonished king, "using Christmas as a P.R. gimmick to try and make the free world swallow your tyranny! A token gesture on this day of days doesn't mean diddly! To accept the true meaning of Christmas, you must extend charity and love all of the days of the year!"

With that," Jonny fell to the floor in a massive seizure. Wiping away a tear, King Cole gently stuck a pencil in the muse's mouth to keep him from swallowing his tongue.

"The boy is right," said Cole, sweeping aside an imaginary bat. "To truly celebrate Christmas, I must observe its precepts in my heart all of the days of the year, no matter what those damned voices might tell me! Therefore, I order the release of all of the prisoners in Ass hall immediately. So let it be written! So let it be done!"

The monarch smiled broadly as the crowd roared its approval. The members of Amnesty International task force looked at each other in concordance, happily threw their notes in the trash, and started the gathering in a verse of Frosty, the Snow Man.

So all was happiness is Autopia. King Cole was prescribed lithium and elected attorney general of California on a "tough on crime" ticket, Phil McKrakin found fame as the host of the HBO series Tales from the Crypt. Chocolate Brown made a fortune from a huge racial discrimination suit against the author of this story. And the kingdom of Autopia was forevermore regarded as a happy, law-abiding place before being wiped out by a combination of leprosy and syphilis six years later.

But happiest of all was Jonny M. Looking around at the joyful ex-cons who were reunited with their loved ones, he felt an inner glow in the knowledge that he had contributed to it. So, with a final, happy salute to his new friends in Autopia, he made a bee-line back to the leper colony where he had finally found a lifestyle where he felt he belonged.

And happy holidays to you, my friend. Whether celebrating Christmas with loved ones, enjoying Hanukkah with family and friends, or experimenting in alternate lifestyles with some randy lepers, always remember that you have a loving friend in Jonny M.

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