problem with the internet is that any jackanapes can sit down and
make an ass of himself before the whole world, as I showed last
week with my re-write of Bush’s acceptance speech. "Puerile,"
one person (my mother, in
wrote. "Inane, boorish-like a hell," complained another.
Flames poured in from all points on the compass, including one from
a fellow who signed himself only ‘Ramboot.’ "You mealy- mouthed
lump of uncloneworthy ectoplasm," he wrote. "How dare
you insult our new President? You, sir, are a mangey cur, and a
discredit to this great nation of ours."
? Whatever. Couldn’t the man see I was just unwinding a little,
after a tense coup de dimple? Ramboot, indeed, I sniffed. What kind
of nickname was that, anyway?
that two can play this game, I plugged his name into my Google machine.
A web page came up: ‘Ramboot’s Karate and Deadly Arts’ school. Okay,
so the guy’s a black belt. Big deal. I read further: former Special
Forces, worked in the Pentagon, secret ops in Laos, highly decorated,
yada yada. How predictable, I thought. I noted with amusement that
he described himself as head of the Chevy Chase chapter of something
called "Thumbsuckers Anonymous." Still, infantilism or
no, this was clearly someone to steer clear of. I deleted the message
second e-mail came an hour later. It was more Begalesque: maligning
my manhood while cleverly insinuating that I was not only a mass
murderer, but an environment-damaging mass murderer. I felt vexed.
Who was this guy? He challenged me to meet him, at a saloon I’d
heard of in a rough part of town. He wanted me to prove my loyalty,
as he put it, "to the cause." What cause? I wondered.
Heck, I voted for Bush, but that didn’t mean I had to regard him
as the Sun King. It only meant I had more fear of Albert "The
Reptile" Gore. The e-mail said to be there Saturday, at 10pm,
"if I had the chad." I’d be there, I grunted solipsistically.
night rolled around. I had done a few push-ups in the morning, and
was feeling spry. The bar was called The Mullet Lady, and it was
the kind of place where men studied the characteristics of work
boot treads the way others study the commodities markets. Action
photos of monster trucks graced the walls. The place smacked of
arrived early, to size the joint up, like Mannix would have done.
Jauntily swinging open the door, I stood a moment, accustoming my
eyes to the requisite gloom. A few disconsolate hard cases nursed
drinks at the bar. One fellow, dressed in tree-branch camouflage,
was a dead-ringer for Dick Cheney.
knew just how to act in this sort of androgenic environment: after
all, I had gone to public schools. I ambled over to the jukebox.
Hmm. No Backstreet Boys. "That’s odd," I said to myself.
camo Cheney was beside me. He stank of beer nuts and loneliness.
like martial music?" he asked.
martial music?" I stammered.
slammed a coin in, and some Johnny Sousa started up. A satisfied
smile came to his face. "Can’t beat Sousa for getting a man’s
blood pounding, can you?" he called out. At the bar, no one
stirred. I nodded dumbly in agreement. What the hell, I thought…play
along, get to know these people, find out who this Ramboot fellow
was before he arrived.
Cheney doppelganger did a sort of soldierly shuffle, inviting me
to join in. I demurred. "Come over to the bar, I’ll buy ya
a George Walker," he said, with some jollity.
never heard of it. "What is it, whiskey?" I asked.
organic carrot juice. Hahaha." I didn’t know if he was kidding
a look of real horror came over his face, and I became aware of
a hubbub at the door. "Damn-it’s that Clinton woman again."
He turned away and scurried like a beetle back to his bar seat.
recognized her from TV. She was the home-ec instructor for the terminally
snooty. Or was that Martha Stewart? I could never keep them straight,
what with their pantsuits and hair bobs and permafrosted ghastly
walked right up to me, flanked by a brace of serious-looking men
in puppy-crushing suits. Her face glowed with a look of millennial
serenity (or was it merely insouciance?) and she held out a tray
of pastries to me. "Holiday cakes?" She asked. "They’re
homemade." Her blue eyes grew ever larger, and her smile cut
through the barroom gloom like an interest-rate cut through an economic
slump. There was something…fetching… about this woman. I felt
within me an urge to hand over my parental rights.
down at the platter, I saw…green, amorphous lumps of dough. "What
are they?" I asked.
cookies," she beamed. I reached for one, but a suit arm uncoiled
like a cobra, seizing my wrist in a grip of steel. "Hold it,
maggot." he said. Miss Clinton beamed and beamed. "Now,
agent 2," she smiled. "You know what I always sa-ay,"
her voice lifting in an imperious interrogative. Her teeth gleamed
Hollywood bright. The brace of security men chanted in unison: "Yes,
ma’am-always let the commoners have their cookies and eat them,
with pride, she glanced toward the back of the bar. "Oh, look-there’s
Antoine now!" She waved, and, leaving the cookies on the bar,
said "help yourself," as she swept away, her goons in
tow. I rubbed my wrist.
Cheney nudged my elbow. "Your George Walker’s getting cold."
He helped himself to one of the cookies, munching thoughtfully.
Overhead, the Drew Carey show came on, and I could hear the poignant
bleat of the laugh track. He popped another quarter in the juke,
and "The Mellow Foes of Texas" started up, drowning out
was about to ask him if he knew anyone by the name of Ramboot, when
the door burst open, and an august figure stood framed in the street
light. Colin Powell!
one of you pukes is Davenport?" he asked.
raised my hand, tentatively. He strode over and pushed me into a
seat at the bar. "I’m Ramboot. Screen name. Keeps the flowers-and-tea
set off my back. Listen, young fellow, don’t be afraid…I’m not
going to beat you to a pulp." Seeing the cookies, his eyes
narrowed behind those famous wire-rims. "Those yours?"
yourself," I said.
He knocked the tray to the floor in one swift movement, and, with
his hand crushing my trapezius, leaned in close. "Don’t be
dissin’ my man W., hear? The People Upstairs don’t appreciate your
humor," he said, employing the playful argot of the infantryman.
I stammered, "it was…it was all just in fun."
thumped me in the sternum. "You have an issue with the man,
you come to me. I hear you’re going around telling people he’s boring,
and ineffectual. A middle-of-the-roader. No fun."
I began, but he cut me off.
have some problem with boredom?" He eyed me carefully. "Boring’s
good. You want excitement, go rent a video. We like boring. Sometimes
the long putt is fun, but me, I’ll take the short game anyday."
quite following the meta of his fore, I nodded.
knock dull. We need dull to be effective. Anyway, wait and see.
Alex Rodriguez is going to be named Treasury Secretary. Tell me
that’s not fun."
why not? Rosie’s agreed to be Press Secretary. Yeah, she’ll have
her own point of view, but in the end she’ll play along. They all
do. Alec Baldwin’s agreed to be Transportation Secretary. We’re
letting Jesse Jackson be Secretary of Education. And, get this-we’re
gonna make Gore ambassador to the UN."
are?" I registered genuine surprise. "But what about all
the post-vote ugliness, his attempted theft of the election…"
Powell grinned, focusing on Drew Carey. "That was just Al being
Al. Don’t worry about it." An avuncular smile crossed his face,
and he chuckled at the tasteless on-screen antics.
was a likeable fellow, really, and I ventured to ask what his plans
were as Secretary of State. "Me? Oh, I don’t know." His
eyes stayed on the TV. "Maybe a war with Iraq. Maybe Serbia,
maybe Russia. We’ll see." He turned to me, and grabbed my arm.
"You like paying two bucks a gallon for gas?"
uh, not really…"
let go of the arm. "Time we taught Saddam another lesson. This
time, for real." He smacked his fist in his palm, and his smile
"Isn’t that kind of harsh?" I said. "I mean, didn’t
we do enough to that country last time? Isn’t there some other way?"
slammed his fist on the bar. "What the HELL are you talking
about?" He stared at me. "Power isn’t power unless we
USE it! We must be strong to be charitable. Strength IS charity.
but what about the children? Aren’t we hurting them more than Saddam?"
put his hand on my knee. I could feel the power of the New World
Order passing through my patella. "You civilians are all alike.
You don’t understand the Burden of Leadership, the Will to Power.
Real politick ." (he said it the fancy way.) "Hell, son,
charity isn’t simply puking your guts out every time someone gets
hurt. No broken eggs, no MREs, my man." He slapped me so hard
on my shoulder I winced. The general’s voice lowered to a somber
whisper: "Sometimes a man is found guilty, and someone needs
to be there to pull the switch."
these aren’t murderers-they’re CHILDREN, for crying out loud!"
leaned over and poked me in the ribs. "Don’t be so fussy."
He smiled and looked away. Miss Clinton was laughing with the bartender,
who was busy ordering from Antoine some curtains (a sort of Keith
Haring-motif) for the bar. She stepped over to Colin Powell, the
smile encrusted on her face. "How about it, General? Some new
chintz for the State Department?"
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs looked sternly at her. "As
long as it’s a manly chintz, Ma’am." They both laughed, somewhat
ominously, I thought, and then they walked, arm in arm, out the
door. The suits followed, one of them stooping to grab a green cookie
off the floor, stuffing it in his mouth before stepping outside.
they had gone, Camo Cheney sidled next to me. "Have another
Walker," he said, passing me a bowl of hot roasted chad. He
stifled a yawn with his hand. "Get used to it," he said.
"This ain’t your daddy’s zeitgeist no more."
sipped the drink-not bad for carrot juice. "What do you mean?"
boys are slick-marketing experts. They’ve got Bread & Circus
down pat. They make Riefenstahl look like a piker. It’s Oceania
in constant conflict with Eurasia; football doesn’t end with each
Superbowl, does it? The war must go on. What’s wanted is the firm
hand of Ward Cleaver."
he was a great dad," I sighed.
he was," Camo Cheney smiled. "Relax. Have fun with it.
That’s what George Bush expects."
both yawned satisfied yawns, and munched a few of the Holiday treats
that lay strewn on the bar. They were quite good.
Davenport is a physician trapped, behind the lines, in New York.