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Fiction #400
(published September 18, 2008)
1600 Pennsylvania
by Kirk Ort
The President looked out over the garden, absentmindedly tracing a tic-tac-toe on the window pane with his fingernail. The roses were in full bloom, fresh and vivid. The sun shone bright from a cloudless sky. What a beautiful day, the President thought.

"What a waste," he said aloud.

He sighed and turned back to his desk. It was a magnificent, hand-crafted piece of Americana, yet to him it was as ugly as a rusty, barnacle-encrusted anchor. The magisterial oval-shaped office was a dank and gloomy prison cell that entombed his body and smothered his spirit.

How he longed to be back on his ranch bouncing over rutted roads on his ATV, whacking at armadillos with his polo mallet. Soon, he promised himself. Only a few months to go. He made a mental note to call his ranch foreman with a reminder to lay in a good supply of mesquite chips.

He sighed again, long and low, like the wind over the Panhandle, then seated himself at the hated desk.

The President looked down at his yellow legal pad and re-read the words he'd written there. Just a few notes, really, but they made him feel better. The sparse lines were just the beginning of what would become a great speech—a speech he would deliver to thousands, perhaps millions of people. After all, a former President could make a ton of money on the lecture circuit. Poppi said so.

He leaned close to the paper and read what he'd spent the morning writing: Good morning (afternoon or evening) ladies and gentlemen. It's a great pleasure to be with you here today (tonight).

The President smiled, pleased with his introductory remarks. He sat with pen poised above the paper, searching for his next line. He thought he might tell a funny story before launching into the main subject of his address. Nothing like a little humor to show you're a man of the people. He knitted his brow and tried to remember a good joke. Someone told a real side-splitter at yesterday's Cabinet meeting. . . but, no, that was a Polack joke. Wouldn't be prudent.

The leader of the free world thought and thought but his mind refused to provide any suitable humor. If I were Jewish, he mused, this wouldn't be a problem. He picked up his pen and scribbled, Ask Joe Leiberman! on the yellow pad.

Satisfied, he put the pad and pen away in a drawer and leaned back in his chair. It was almost nap time and God knows he'd earned it, but it was his habit to check in with his secretary before checking out. He pushed the intercom button.

"You got anything for me, Margie?"

"Yes sir, Mr. President," said the secretary. "I've got Congressman Landrew holding for you on line one."

"Landrew? Is he one of ours?"

"He's the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee."

"Blow him off," said the President. "Tell him I'm in the Situation Room and can't be disturbed. What else?"

"I've got General Wilcox for you on line two, sir," said Margie.

"Which one is he?"

"He's the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mr. President."

"Oh, yeah. Right," said the commander-in-chief. "A good man, Wilcox. And a great American. But I don't want to talk to him either. Tell him I'm—"

"General Wilcox is calling from the Situation Room, sir."

"I see." The President scratched his head and screwed his face into a quizzical expression. "Tell him. . . uh, tell him. . . "

"I'll think of something, Mr. President."

"Good girl, Margie. Is that it?"

"Not quite, sir. Reverend Josiah Wanker wants to see you. He's been waiting for two hours."

"Wanker? Sounds familiar. Do I know him?"

"Yes, sir," said Margie. "Reverend Wanker is the president of the Right Thinking Christian Coalition for Righteous Government."

"Oh, sure," said the President. "Great bunch of folks. How much did they pony up for my re-election?"

"Nearly twenty-four million, sir. And they were instrumental in delivering three key states."

"Okay, send him in. And Margie?" The President grinned and winked at the telephone. "If he's not out of here in ten minutes I want you to come busting in to say I'm late for an urgent meeting with. . . with. . . um, let's see. . . "

"I'll think of someone, Mr. President."

"Good girl."

The President met his visitor at the door and pumped the minister's hand enthusiastically. "Good to see you, Reverend. Have a seat."

"Thank you for seeing me, Mr. President." The clergyman lowered his bulky frame into a soft leather chair opposite the President's desk. "I come on a matter of utmost importance."

"What can I do for you, Mr. Wanker?"

"I. . . I mean we. . . " The preacher cocked an eyebrow and fixed the President with a stern look. "And by 'we' I mean, of course, millions of right-thinking Americans."

"My kind of people. Say, do you know any good jokes?"


"Never mind. So how can I help you, Parson?"

"We want you to bomb the Republic of San Gordino, Mr. President."

"I see." San Gordino, thought the chief executive trying to conjure a map in his mind. Hmm. Sounds Spanish. And Spain is in. . . South America? No, Central America. No, that doesn't sound right either. . . Let's see, Spain is. . . Oh, fuck it.

"Santa Gordino," he said, steepling his fingers and affecting a solemn look. "These are Muslim extremists, I take it."

"Well, no, sir," said Wanker. "I believe they're mostly Catholic. But they're just as bad, you know. They worship a whore!"

"You don't say. Well, we can't have that, now can we?"

"And that's not the half of it, sir! Surely you're aware of the situation in that vile country?"

"Well, I've been so busy lately I haven't had a chance to—

"If you'll allow me, Mr. President," Wanker interrupted, "I like to describe for you—

The POTUS cut the preacher off with a presidential wave of his hand. "Actually, Pastor Wanker, bombing other countries is a task usually handled by the Vice-President's office."


"Oh, sure. The President took a sheet of his official stationary from a drawer and wrote, Give this guy anything he wants. He's one of ours. (24 mil). He signed his name to the document, folded it and sealed it in an envelope.

"Do you know the Vice-President, Pastor?"

"Uh, no sir. I haven't had the pleasure."

"You'll like him. He's a swell guy."

He handed the envelope to Wanker and, taking the minister's arm, led him to the door.

"Tell the VP I sent you, Parson," said the President. "And give him this note. He'll straighten out this Santo Gordo thing pronto."

"Thank you, Mr. President. I knew we could count on you."

As he pushed the clergyman through the door, the President called out to his secretary, "See that Reverend Wanker gets a set of those cufflinks, Margie. And a handful of pens."

He strode back in to his office humming Hail to the Chief. Pleased with his adroit handling of this latest crisis, he marched twice around his desk, knees high, arms swinging. He opened his mouth, ready to break into song, then stopped abruptly.

"Shee-it," he said.

The President reached for the intercom. "Margie? Get me a copy of Hail to the Chief. I've forgotten the words."

"Right away, sir."

"No. . . Scratch that, Margie," said the Prez. "I've got a better idea. We'll re-write the song."

"Um. . . you and I, Mr. President?"

"No, no. We'll hire a professional." Faced with a daunting challenge, the President threw off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, dropped into his chair and put his feet up on his desk.

"Do you know the words to Hail to the Chief, Margie?"

"No, sir."

"Well, I do. Most of the time, anyway. My Dad made me memorize it when I was a kid. I had to sing it every morning at breakfast." He frowned at the grim memory. "Let me tell you, Margie, the lyrics really stink. Must have been written by some kind of tooty-fruity. Know what I mean?"

"Well, I. . . "

"The American people deserve better, Margie. The President of the United States deserves better."

"If you say so, sir."

"This is America's song, by God," said the President. "It should have snappy, memorable lyrics that can be sung by the American people. . . and their President. So they can sing it together. . . or when they're not together they can. . . um. . . in the shower, for instance or. . . And then there's official functions and they. . . Of course, nobody has to sing if they don't want to. After all, we're not Communists, right?"

"Huh? Oh, yes. You're absolutely right, Mr. President."

"Good," said the President. "It's settled then. Call Nashville, Margie. Find me a songwriter."

"Yes, sir. Anyone in particular?

"Anybody but the Dixie Chicks," the President decreed. "Call me when you've got somebody. I'll be upstairs watching Bassmasters."

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