Dreadful things come in the mail at Christmastime. Not bills. It's that menacing Christmas card with a sheet of paper folded inside.
You know it's going to be a single-spaced printed report on the sender's 2006 activities and those of the spouse, children and in-laws.
The unwanted narrative is the gateway to a holiday guilt trip. You won't read the thing; yet you know some day you'll be expected to recite it by heart.
Here's what Rep. Culpepper Bullfeathers, a typically haggard survivor of November's elections, might send to special friends and family:
"Is this a great country, or what?
"You saw in the papers I just made it for another two years. We're dickering for $165,200 a year, and after working less than the 'do-nothing' Congress of 1948.
"My pension, the cutest golden parachute this side of Enron, is still bubbling.
"You remember Tom DeLay, the Republican House majority leader from Sugar Land, Texas. He had to leave Congress when he was indicted on felony charges in Texas.
"Still, it looks like Tom gets a pension of $120,000-plus for life. Our pensions carry cost-of-living allowances. Does yours? Our pension fund can't fail like the steel companies' did, unless the whole national government goes belly-up.
"At this time of year, it's nice to know this town has a heart. Rep. 'Duke' Cunningham, the Republican from Southern California who traded his pinstripes for an orange jumpsuit, will get his congressional pension when he leaves the pokey. So will former Congressman Bob Ney, the Ohio Republican, when he walks out of prison.
"This session was really educational. For one thing, we learned new ways to duck our jobs.
"Even though the House wouldn't look at the Iraq War or why 9/1 1 happened, there was a good supply of bored, old white guys to form commissions, box up reports, feed them to the press and, you know, take the heat off us entirely.
"We learned a trick from Hollywood, too; like the way Mel Gibson ran to a drunk tank after those wild rants about Jewish people. Democrat Patrick Kennedy, the member from Rhode Island, did rehab after cracking up his car one night near the Capitol.
"Kennedy smelled of booze. Not only didn't the Capitol Police arrest him, they chauffeured him home.
"Mark Foley, the Republican from Florida, went into rehab after the come-ons he made to male pages for maybe a decade were made public. They said he 'voluntarily' committed himself just before election. It was so reporters couldn't get at him.
"People who talked Foley into running panicked and made him quit. Seemed unfair. Foley was the first one to get caught at this, a kind of pioneer.
"Although Nancy Pelosi of California, the next speaker, is a Democrat, she's for togetherness. I think she worked with Republicans so that nobody in the Foley scandal got hurt.
"Maybe it's because there are at least four Democratic House members that ought to be investigated, too.
"Pelosi doesn't seem interested in cutting down on the ways we raise money, or fuss over where it comes from. We have three kinds of treasuries now: Campaign funds, political action committees and a kitty sanctioned by the IRS called a '527.' We're like Fort Knox.
"Nobody really asks if we spend this money on ourselves. Mainly we donate it to make congressional friends for when we go into the lobbying business so we never have to go home. No offense.
"Win or lose next time, we're staying here. My wife, Effie, works for the Congressional Felons Caucus, and my son, Bo, is already a lobbyist for the auto importers.
"Happy holidays. Another day, another dollar."