Debbie Does Dulles
Her instructions made it all sound so simple. Go to Washington Dulles International Airport, walk into the Washington-Dulles customs office, present the credentials she’d been given, pick up an animal carrier, load it into the back of her car, and drive to the rendezvous. When Hillary Clinton had explained all of that to Debbie, she was totally onboard. “It’ll be easy,” Hillary claimed. “In, out, ten minutes. It’s nothing at all.” But if it really were nothing, why wasn’t Hillary herself doing it? Because she’s the First Lady, Debbie reminded herself. Everyone in America knows her face. Nobody has ever heard of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.
Debbie drew in a deep breath, held it for a moment, and then forcefully exhausted it. Her clammy hands were clung to the steering wheel of her small foreign economy sedan the way a cormorant’s claws would dig into salmon. She found herself trying to figure out how and why she knew that those birds killed those fish, but a parallel voice in the back of her head reminded her in that instant that she was intentionally trying to distract herself, to come up with excuses to not do what she drove here to do.
She looked up at herself in the rearview mirror. You can do this Debbie. Do it. This is everything. This is your future. She saw her own lack of confidence staring back at her, so she screwed up her face to match her internal monologue. You can do this Debbie. You can do this. You have to.
Three fast, deep bursts of air followed, like a pregnant woman in a Lamaze class. Her hands loosened, and then they undid her seatbelt before opening the car door, functioning on their own, despite the word MISTAKE being shouted at her inside her own head. Her feet touched the ground. The door closed behind her. This was happening. The struggle within her was far from over, but in that instant, her ambition was winning the war.
Debbie made her way toward the entrance into Washington-Dulles, mostly oblivious to everyone around her. She walked through a gust of cigar smoke, and her eyes watered. She thought it was the smoke that caused it, anyway. A taxi honked its horn, and it startled her, but her feet kept moving. A couple was arguing in a foreign language Debbie didn’t recognize. The woman’s luggage was torn open, and her boyfriend or husband was clearly to blame. She wanted to know what was going on there, but her feet kept moving. And before she knew it, she was walking through the automated doors, a gust of air conditioning washing over her face and knocking around each frizzy strand of hair on her head. Her feet were unstoppable.
For a moment, she thought about looking at Hillary’s instructions, which were written down on a piece of paper in her pocket, but she found herself reciting them to herself regardless. She knew every letter on that note, verbatim. It wouldn’t help her to look. Third left, she told herself. Her feet marched as the memorized notes commanded.
After some immeasurable amount of time, Debbie found herself walking into the customs office. You can’t look nervous. Get rid of that stuff, Debbie. The young woman at the front desk looked up at her, studying her, detecting her weakness. Turn around… no… do this. Be confident. “Hi, My name is Deb…” Idiot! Stupid idiot! “My name is Francine Goldman. I’m from the Fish and Wildlife Service. I’m here to… I’m here…”
“Great!” This woman was bubbly. Debbie hated bubbly. “We were starting to worry about those little guys. Nobody here knew what to feed them or even how to. Are you bringing them out now?”
“Uh… yes… yes, I’m taking them now.”
The woman looked at Debbie suspiciously. This is over. This is blown. My cover is blown! “By yourself?”
“Uh, yes. That’s what I was asked to… yes…”
“Would you like some help getting them to your truck?”
“Truck?” Nobody said I needed a truck. I thought this was a small animal crate? “I drove here… I drove here in a car.”
“You’re taking them out of here in a car? Is that safe for them? Don’t they need, like, space or something?”
Own your role, Debbie. Assert yourself. “No offense, miss, but I’m with the Department of Interior.” Yeah! Do it, girl! “I was hand-chosen by Bruce Babbitt himself. They’ll be perfectly fine in my car.”
“Wait… I thought you said you were with Fish and Wildlife?”
“That’s a department within the Department of Interior, ma’am.” She’s young enough that calling her “ma’am” won’t offend her.
The woman smiled and nodded. Debbie could’ve told her she was from a distant planet far off into space somewhere, and she’d have bought it. “We can arrange to have someone help you to your car, Miss Goldman.”
“Sure. Thanks.” I don’t want to handle this creature one second longer than I have to.
The woman picked up her phone, said some muffled words into it, and Debbie took a seat, checking her watch. This was far too easy. She didn’t even ask to see any credentials! Someone can just walk into an airport and take stuff and leave, without showing ID? When I’m President, this is something I’m going to fix. Airport security should be a lot tougher. It’s 1995, for Pete’s sake! You should have to show ID to get something out of customs. I’ll bet I could walk out of here and get on an airplane without anyone stopping me.
“Miss Goldman? They’re ready for you.” The young woman rattled off instructions to Debbie, telling her where exactly to park. With this out of the way, they said their professional goodbyes, and Debbie’s feet were at it again, following this new set of instructions. Some time later she was back at her car, buckling herself in, and a smile crept across her face. “Almost there, Debbie,” she said to herself aloud. “You can… no… you are doing this!”
She started up her car, rolled down her window half-way, and proceeded to follow the young woman’s new instructions, driving to a lot on the far side of the airport, and parking where she was told to park. Before she had her engine off, she saw a man in overalls carrying two small animal crates toward her. Shit! Two of them?
That’s when the next man appeared. He had two crates as well. She hastily removed her seatbelt, struggling to get it past her hair, and rushed out of the car, leaving the door open. A third man appeared, and he too had two crates, followed quickly by a fourth man. Eight. That’s eight animals. She looked at her car. They’d fit, right?
“Ma’am?” The first man was standing next to her. Unlike the receptionist she’d met earlier, Debbie was old enough to be offended by someone calling her that. “Where d’ya want these guys?”
“Um…” She looked at the other men, who started to crowd around. “Put those up front, and those in the back.”
Debbie stood back, monitoring as the four men loaded the eight crates into the car. Two small ones went on the passenger-side floor, while another went on top of those, and two more went into the seat. The others went in behind that front seat. They could’ve spread them out a little more, couldn’t they? There was a whole seat that was still empty.
That’s when she noticed that two of the men had gone back inside. Wow… that was kind of rude. No goodbye, no anything! People aren’t like that in Florida. But before she could finish her thought, the two men reemerged. They were carrying four more crates between them, two each. What the hell?
“We can’t fit the big guy in your car, obviously,” one of the men informed her. “I mean, we could, but I don’t think you want to be driving around with a… what is that thing? A tiger?”
“A puma,” one of the men responded. “Commonly referred to as a mountain lion or a… what? Why’re you guys staring at me?” The other men laughed. “I watch nature shows! Gimme a break!”
“Yeah, I’ll bet you watch ’em, Dave.” The man was about to say something only other men would find entertaining, but stopped himself when he looked at Debbie. “So, the cat. The ‘Puma.’ What should we do with him?”
“Um…” She didn’t know what to say. This wasn’t part of the plan. She was only supposed to pick up one animal. Not twelve or thirteen. And certainly not a puma. “I’ll send someone to pick him up. We should have someone here within an hour or two.” That, or he’ll live in this airport for the rest of eternity, feeding on small rodents, lost children, and Cinnabon.
“Okay then. Good luck, lady!” The men smiled at her and walked off toward the airport. She was alone now. Well… not alone. She was accompanied by twelve creatures, and not the way a cartoon princess would be.
She got into her car, rolling the windows down to a crack. The car already smelled like that part of an animal store where they keep the hamsters and bunnies and their various supplies. Other odors were entering her nose, fouler ones, but she had to try and tune those out. One of the creatures made a strange wailing sound, and then another did. And when she started the car, a few of the crates shook around. More deep breaths, another glance at herself in the mirror. Almost done, Debbie. You’re almost there.
She drove carefully toward her final destination, so as not to rile up the animals. But the lunch-time rush hour was starting, and people were angrily honking at her for keeping a slow pace. Some people even flipped her off. She had to ignore them all. She couldn’t get into an accident. She’d probably be devoured before paramedics found her.
Some time later, she pulled into an empty parking lot in Arlington, and drove right up to the large, old building the lot had once served. The windows were boarded up, and graffiti was sprawled all over the parts of the building humans could access. As she got out of the car, two men emerged. She recognized them both from television. It was Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh. Why are these two involved in any of this? They’re Republicans!
“This was supposed to be one animal,” Debbie angrily informed them as she exited her car. “Just one!”
“What? How many are there?” Rush asked.
The two men looked at each other, then back at her. They spoke together at the same time. “Twelve?”
“Yes! There are twelve animals in my car right now! And there’s a friggin’ puma back at the airport that nobody told me about, either!”
“A pair of shoes?” Newt asked, confused.
“No! A puma! An actual puma! A large cat that eats people and Cinnabon!”
The two men looked at each other again, bewildered, then looked back at her, then at her car, then at each other once more. “What’re we gonna do, Newt?”
“I dunno, Rush. Hillary didn’t say anything about twelve animals. She definitely never mentioned a puma.”
Debbie nodded at them both. “Tell me about it!”
The three of them stood around silently. No one knew what to say. But then Newt stuck his finger in the air, indicating that he was about to present an idea. “I know what to do. I know who to call.”
“Who?” Debbie asked. But he already had his mobile phone in his hand, while the other dialed a number.
“Hey, is Dick in?” He paused, listening to a response. He waited another moment. “Hey, Dick? It’s me. Yeah. Uh-huh. Uh-huh. So listen, remember when we were talking about how much you love hunting? And how you wished you could hunt endangered species, but it’s illegal? Uh-huh. Uh-huh… so yeah, I have some for you. Eleven of them. You just have to… uh-huh… yeah, you just have to get someone to come pick ’em up.”
“Wait a minute…” Debbie didn’t want them to get hunted. “Who are you on the phone with?”
“Don’t get your panties twisted up, lady,” Rush said. You don’t have any better ideas, do you?”
“We can’t just kill defenseless animals!”
“We won’t be doing a damn thing.” Rush fished a cigar out of his shirt pocket, lighting it up with a smile. “You damn liberal women. You care more about stupid animals than you care about America.”
“I never said I was a lib…”
“You’re a liberal woman. I can tell. And not just because Hillary hired you for this job, either. You’re a liberal woman. I can smell your liberal vagina from here.”
“Both of you shut it!” Newt was covering the phone with his hand, whisper-shouting at them. “Do you know who I’m on the phone with here?” He removed his hand. “Yes sir. Sorry sir. I won’t call you ‘Dick’ again, sir. No sir. No sir.”
Rush looked at Newt as if he’d just seen a ghost, the disbelief drawing the oxygen from his lungs.The cigar dropped from his open mouth as it slowly opened.
“What is it? What’s wrong?”
Rush slowly shook his head. “He called him… he’s on the phone with him…”
“Who? Who is he talking to?” Debbie had never seen someone look so terrified. Rush was growing pale. His breathing intensified. His left hand started to shiver.
“The dark one. He called the dark one…”
“The what? The ‘dark one?’ Who is the dark…”
“Thank you, sir. We’ll wait here for your men to arrive.” Newt smiled at Debbie and Rush, not realizing how mortified Rush had become. “Yes sir. It’s always a pleasure speaking with you, Mister Cheney.”