A Chris-Spin Carroll: With Apologies To Charles Dickens

By John Gustafson, The Ghost of an I minus J Past

After a late December evening filled with too much pickled herring, eggnog and spiced cider, Ebenezer Hildebrand fell asleep in front of the fire, his Code falling to the floor as he nodded off.

He woke to the rattling of a bag of Goo Goo Clusters, and saw, standing before him, a ghost in a bowling shirt.  It was embroidered with “Ghost of 341s Future”.

Ebenezer grumbled: “You’re completely butchering the story.”

“Come” said the ghost.  “You are required to appear and observe what will be.   Motions for continuances are not viewed with favor.”

“Alright.  Alright.”  Ebenezer said as he rose from his chair.  “Where are we going?”

“To the gates,” the wraith said.  “Upward, to the gates.”

The floor fell beneath them, and they seemed to go right through the ceiling and roof before coming to a golden gate perched upon a billowing cloud.

The ghost left Ebenezer gawking and walked up to a harried woman drinking a large cup of McDonald’s coffee.  “Your 1:30 is here.”

The woman looked up, raised her right hand and stated: “Do you swear, or affirm, that the testimony you are about to give in this proceeding will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, as you shall answer to the laws of perjury?”

Ebenezer looked around and asked, “Aren’t you supposed to be St. Peter?”

The woman looked at him tiredly.   “I’ll need a yes or no answer please.  We are recording.”

“I do.”

“OK, I am St. Peter’s staff attorney and I will be conducting this examination. “

“What is going on here?”

“This is a 341 Meeting.  Do you own or operate a business?”

“Yes, I’m a Chapter 13 Trustee.”

“Or records show you may have a partner – a Joseph Marley?”

“I don’t know what the Dickens you are talking about.”

“How much does your business gross?”

“It depends how you look at it.”  Ebenezer considered carefully.  “One way to look at it is that I gross several million dollars.”

“And what is your gross profit margin?”

“I suppose you could say it is about 4%.”

“Could you increase that gross profit margin?”

“Only by gross mismanagement.  Say, what is this all for?”

“Other than filling space on The Academy website during a slow period?  This is an examination of your life, as you have examined the lives of others.”

“I don’t like the sound of that.”  Ebenezer looked around quickly for an exit.

“I’m sure they weren’t exactly thrilled with your 341 examinations either.  Do you have any other assets?”

“I’m not sure how to answer that.  Right now, I think my only asset may be one harp.”

“Your petition says: one pitchfork.  See here, on Schedule B.  Is that your signature on the declaration at the end of the Schedules?”

“It looks like my signature.”

“Are you sure you want to try to get into heaven without a lawyer?”

“Oh.  Maybe I should get one.  I just assumed there wouldn’t be any lawyers up here.”

The staff attorney unfurled a scroll and looked at the listed names, “There are several lawyers who never blamed errors on ‘their girls’ and they are licensed to practice here.”

“No, I think I’m going to go forward pro se.”

“Those almost never work.”

“That’s my plan.”

“I’m not sure I understand.  What IS your Plan?  What are you proposing?”

“How about if I wake up in my chair, consider this a valuable moral lesson learned, and go on with my life a better person for having had this unsettling experience?”

“So, you’re not proposing a conduit?  That could be a problem.”

“Think of it as a ‘forward-looking approach’.”

“Are you talking about the Lanning case?”

“We call it the Hamilton case.”

“Hamilton?”  The staff attorney runs her finger down a parchment scroll.  “I don’t see Hamilton on my list.”  She looks up, trying to retrieve an almost forgotten memory.  “There was a Hamilton, before his dog attacked one of our angles.  Little pieces of white feathers everywhere.”

“So, you can just send me back, right?  I wake up and chalk it up to some bad Goo Goo Clusters, OK?”

“You trustees, always looking to negotiate your way out of problems.”

“I just want a shot at redemption.”

“That’s only available in Chapter 7s.”

“Fine.  Have it your way.  I’m just looking for confirmation.  Do we have a deal?”

“Well, alright.  On one condition.”


“You don’t challenge the claimed exemption for Tiny Tim’s crutch., Ebenezer.”

“But, under Tennessee law . . .”

“Uh uh uh!”

“OK, deal.”


John was appointed Standing Chapter 13 Trustee for the Northern District of Ohio, Western Division on October 1, 2007

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