Like little stars.
Debbie Delaware, J. Junior Inferior Jr.’s senior advisor for the campaign and special projects, found him in his study. She had bad news, and knew that Junior did not like bad news just shoved into his face.
He didn’t want to read it in a newspaper or see it on TV. He didn’t want to hear it over the phone or see it on a fax. He wanted to hear it faintly, as if it were an orphan, hooded and scared, wandering through the woods toward him. As if it were an echo of an echo, something vague and possibly not real. That way he could ignore it if he chose to.
Debbie Delaware found a place across the room and behind a loveseat. She crouched down and spoke as if she were the loveseat, as if the loveseat could speak. And she did so in a Chinese accent, for this cracked Junior up and made the bad news go down easier.
He was already chuckling.
“I have-a some-a in-fo-ma-shun about duh campaign.”
“Oh?” His voice had already been drained of some of his mirth.
“It-uh, not so good, sah.”
“No-suh. Not so good at all, sah.”
“Why? Do we know?”
“You can talk normally, Debbie. I feel strong today.”
Debbie got up from behind the loveseat and walked over to the president and sat on a chair. Her knees ached.
“Our information indicates that there’s a perception–”
“Oh no. Don’t tell me.”
“Excuse me, sir?”
“I hate perceptions! They’re so hard to put your finger on.”
“I need something concrete.”
“OK, there are some polls–”
“Nope. Nope. You know how I feel about polls.”
“I got the information … in a letter from a constituent?”
“Well, you’re apparently falling behind because some people, Mr. President, see you as a Washington insider.”
“But I hate Washington insiders!”
“Yes, Mr. President.”
“Why would I be lumped in with those guys?”
“I can find that out.”
Debbie Delaware went to back to her desk, made some calls, typed some keys on her computer, and returned a few minutes later with the information.
“Sir, it has something to do with the idea of your meeting with members of Congress, with foreign dignitaries, with your instigating policy–”
“But I never do any of that stuff!”
“Yes, sir. It does seem unfair.”
“It’s so unfair!”
He kicked the coffee table, spilling his fruit punch.
“This sucks! So just because I’m the president, I’m some kind Beltway insider or whatever? That’s so prejudiced.”
“Doesn’t prejudice make you mad? You’re black.”
“I mean, that’s why I hired you.”
“Gah! I’m so mad! What can we do about this?”
“If I may address that, sir?” It was Bill Daniel. He’d opened the door to a nearby cabinet and was speaking from his place inside it. Bill Daniel, the vice president, was a man of very small stature, only 31 inches at the shoulder, and thus he fit comfortably into Junior’s desk and lectern and in the cabinets of the White House. Each of the places where Junior spent time was equipped with a cubby and door for Bill Daniel. Between the rooms of the House ran innumerable passageways, much like a hamster’s, through which Daniel could travel without being seen. This afforded Daniel the chance to listen, unobserved, to the goings-on, while also giving him the opportunity to jump into discussions quickly when necessary.
“Just because you’re in the White House doesn’t mean you can’t run as an outsider.”
“No, sir. On some maps, the White House isn’t, in fact, in Washington.”
“Then where is it? Where are we?”
“Well, it might as well be Maryland.”
“Maryland seems very much like outside Washington. It seems very far away.”
“In a manner of speaking, yes, sir.”
“Good! Then it’s settled.”
“Wait a sec. Let’s do that one better.”
“Is that possible?”
“What if I said I was thinking about riverboat casinos?”
“I’d say that sounds fun. You wanna go? I have a chopper.”
“Sir, many cities and states permit gambling if it takes place off the actual land that the cities or states occupy. They put the casinos on the rivers, where technically they could be construed as passing through, and not subject to the laws of the land, as it were.”
“What does that mean? ‘As it were.’”
“I’m not sure, sir.”
“It sounds good, though. I want to use it myself, but I’m never sure where to use it.”
“At the end of a sentence.”
“So the riverboat casinos might be near a city, or like in St. Louis, where they’re actually right there in the middle of the city, but somehow the city doesn’t get pegged as a gambling kind of city.”
“I like that. So we’re gonna allow gambling in the White House? We’ll be rich!”
“No, sir, I was talking about the river part.”
“Oh. We’re going to move the White House to St. Louis?”
“Why don’t I draw up some plans and get back to you?”
“Sounds good, as it were,” said the president, glowing.
And with that, Bill Daniel retreated back into his cubby in the cabinet, and then traveled via hidden Habitrail-like hallways to his study, which was located in the Oval Office, in the president’s desk, where the middle-left drawer would have otherwise been.
He got on his phone, which was like a regular phone but designed for a 31-inch man, and called Luis Latino, who worked in the White House and was Latino.
“You’re going to run the president as an outsider?” Luis asked.
“Yes, Luis,” Daniel said, for that was his name.
“I know,” said Luis Latino, whose voice betrayed his simultaneous astonishment, glee and dismay. “I know it will. I know I know I know.”
“And while I have you: I need anything you can get about Tunica, Mississippi.”
Within the week, Bill Daniel had convinced the nation that the White House was, like the landlocked casinos of Tunica, not technically on the land of Washington, D.C. — “I had a feeling about that!” the good people of America said — and just after that, he’d conjured a new campaign slogan:
TAKE BACK THE WHITE HOUSE
REELECT J. JUNIOR INFERIOR JR.
The polls jumped by eight points.
Dave Eggers is the author of "You Shall Know Our Velocity" and "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius."More Dave Eggers.
Like little stars.
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