Chutney Bowles

(This originally ran in the Weird Spells series, in July of 2005)

The Vice President was consulting with the Secretary of War and the Attorney General. "He's obviously deranged," he said in his dry, expressionless tone. He sat still as a bag of rice, his eyes pale blue and cool with bloodless logic. "Besides, I'm already sworn in. I was going to tell him this morning but he canceled our prayer breakfast."

"What were you going to tell him?" the Secretary of War asked with blunt disbelief. Lester Vodkanabitch was a bear in a suit. He was a big bear in a big suit. "You were going to say, 'I was sworn in as President because we couldn't find you for awhile?' He just says, 'Well, I'm back, so go fuck off.' What would you do? As far as anybody outside the White House is concerned, he was missing and then he showed up again. He's still the President."

"Lester's right." The Attorney General said carefully, like he was defusing a bomb.

Chutney Bowles looked at Joey Silver with such a cold hatred it threatened to break out in rage. He couldn't stand to see him anymore. Joey could feel Chutney's disgust with him and he fingered his wig nervously for a moment and smoothed his skirt over his knees, his face flushing behind the carefully applied makeup.

"I was a prisoner of war," Joey said. His voice broke. "It was hell in those camps."

The other two men looked away, out the window, lost in their private guilt for what had happened to so many men in the war. Forced to wear women's intimate apparel and dance together, they came back home with scars that were not at first visible. Initially, they seemed ordinary victims of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. But they couldn't reintegrate. They were confused and sometimes hysterical. They couldn't find their keys. And some of them, like Joey, were classical victims. They began to do to themselves what the enemy had done to them.

"Why is he right?" Chutney asked. His lids lowered to half-mast. He looked like a crocodile impersonating a log, waiting for something to get in his striking range.

Joey took a deep breath and regained his composure. He smiled and crossed his legs, flashing a thigh at Chutney, who recoiled like he'd been struck by a snake. "He's right because it makes no difference about the legal argument to anybody outside the beltway. The only thing that matters, ultimately, is how the media reports it. I've talked to public relations and they say we have to spin it so that the call for Johnson to resign comes up from the people, or appears to come up from the people. Otherwise it looks like we're staging a coup."

"I'm sworn in," Chutney said again, almost to himself.

"So's Johnson," Lester boomed. "You're both sworn in. Twiddle De Dum and Twiddle De De. Now let's get down to the real problem. Where did he go when he disappeared? We read an unknown field of unknown origin penetrate the White House, and then he disafuckingpears from the face of the earth for three days. That soldier he was fighting with ..."

Joey squelched a laugh and Chutney frowned darkly at him.

Lester continued, " ... Cannon is missing. He's nowhere on the premises. Johnson claims they were both abducted by a flying saucer and Cannon was eliminated in an experiment. The best thing we can do is play along with the story and enthusiastically support the President. All we need to do is drop in a slight reservation, such as, 'We have no indication from the President's doctor that he has suffered any lasting trauma.'" He glanced at Joey and his face reddened slightly. "Goddamnit, Joey, how long do these spells last? This is the third time this month you've pulled this."

"I'm just doing what my therapist said I should do to recover my sense of reality. It's a control issue."

"Pissing's a control issue but I don't piss in the fucking living room. Can't you do that in private?"

"You think this is bad, you should experience the nightmares," Joey said.

"Use liquor," Chutney said. "That's what I do."

Lester continued: "Anyway, the suggestion that there might be something wrong with Johnson's sanity is implied, carefully, by denying that there is any problem with it. The more we deny the problem the more it becomes the issue. We'll shape a call for his resignation."

"Okay," Chutney said. "But how long is this gonna take?"

"Give it two weeks," Lester said, "and he'll be the laughingstock of the nation. Who would believe some cock and bull story like that? Do you believe it?"

"That Wood Johnson was in a flying saucer? God no."

"Do you believe it?" He turned toward Joey, who was gloomily cleaning his face with cotton balls dipped in some clear odoriferous substance.

"My intuition says it's true," he said.

"Jesus Christ," Chutney mumbled. "This is supposed to be the White House, not the Nut House."

Lester said, "Personally, I suspect the French are behind this."

Posted: Tue - December 19, 2006 at 12:30 PM