Snake Oil Salesman
“How long has this been going on?”
“Just the past three days,” Monica replied. “It’ll be four days… well, nights, after tonight.”
Linda Tripp fell silent for a lengthy stretch. Monica knew she was still on the other end of the line due to her subtle breathing and the sound of Linda’s television mumbling away in the background. She almost said something else, but Linda then finally spoke. “And what exactly do the two of you do all night? Are you comfortable telling me?”
The innuendo wasn’t lost on Monica. “Oh, it’s nothing bad, Linda. We just talk.”
“Oh, everything. Everything and nothing. Our favorite movies, our favorite snacks, our childhood memories, what our parents were like, our hometowns, sports, music, our jobs, the political instability in Pakistan. You know, regular stuff that most friends talk about.”
“And that’s what you are? You’re just friends?”
“Why, of course! Bill’s married, Linda. There’s nothing here more than just two friends hanging out and having conversations together. It’s all just a perfectly innocent friendship.”
Linda paused again. “Bill? You’re on a first-name basis with the President of the United States?”
“When we’re hanging out, he isn’t the President. He’s just Bill. We’re just two friends eating late-night dinners and snacks together. We chat all night, and it’s wonderful!”
“And you’re sure that’s all he wants? A friendship?”
“Of course,” Monica replied, her voice showing signs of her subtly-growing irritation. “He hasn’t ‘made a move’ or anything, if that’s what you’re implying. Before he and I started talking the other night, you were the only real friend I had here in Washington.”
“What about Mr. Panetta?”
“He’s more like an uncle than a friend, you know?”
“So yeah, when he and I started talking, we both made new friends. I needed a friend, and he needed one too. Being the President is more stressful than you might think. He doesn’t really get to have friends, not the way you and I can have them. So I get to be that for him, you know? And he gets to be a much-needed friend for me. And having more friends helps both of us in our work. You might say that my friendship with the President is… it’s… oh, what’s the word?”
“That works! Yes, it’s ‘patriotic’ to be friends with the President. He needs that sort of post-work release, you know?”
“‘Post-work release?’ I thought you said you were just friends?”
“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean, Linda. Yes, it’s a post-work release. He gets to release all of that stress by talking to me and eating whatever he feels like ordering from the White House kitchen staff.”
“Well, the word ‘release’ usually means…” Linda burst into laughter. Monica had no idea what she was on about, but she giggled back regardless. “Oh, forget it. So what time do the two of you usually meet up?”
“I told him I’d be there at eleven-thirty tonight. We’ve already had our dinner orders placed in advance and everything. I can’t wait!”
“So you’re staying at the office until then?”
Monica glanced up at the “Local” wall clock in her office, which read precisely the same as the “POTUS” clock. Ten more minutes and they’d be…
“Monica? What was that?”
Monica took a second or two to collect her nerves before replying. “Someone knocked something over in the hallway, it sounds like. I’m surprised you could hear that over the phone!”
“Should you check it out? Should you call the Secret Service or something?”
As Linda asked that, Monica saw two uniformed Secret Service agents dash quickly passed the door. “Nope. They seem to be on it already.”
And on it they were. The two agents raced toward the noise — it had sounded like someone had thrown a big metal trash can down a hallway — to investigate its origins. They turned toward the lobby, where they saw three other uniformed Secret Service agents closing in on the same sound. It had come from this hallway. And together, the five men triangulated down to the office of Vice President Al Gore. They were just about ready to burst through the door, when they heard a familiar cackle.
“Missus First Lady?” The tallest of the agents asked, spotting Hillary Clinton with two other women he didn’t recognize. “Is everything okay, ma’am?”
Clinton looked the agents up and down, then burst out into cackling laughter once more. “Yes, yes, we’re fine!” She had to wipe tears from her eyes. “Oh heavens, what a riot!”
“It was a good one, Hillary,” the older of the other two women said. The third woman said nothing, looking around the room nervously. She must not have gotten whatever their joke was.
“Are you supposed to be in here, ma’am?” The agent knew it was a bad question to ask before he was done asking it.
“Yes, yes, it’s fine, it’s fine,” Clinton assured him. “We won’t break anything, we promise.”
“Well… okay. We’ll leave you to it then, ma’am.” And with this, the uniformed agents left the room.
“Damn, that was a close one,” Madeleine Albright said after the door was closed. “This one almost pissed her panties!”
Hillary looked at Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was as nervous as nervous could possibly be, and joined Madeleine in laughing at her. “Yes, well, we have important work to do. Let’s get to it.”
Debbie nervously rose up from the couch, doing all she could to control her shaking, and walked around to the other side of that couch, where she had hastily dropped the box she’d brought into the White House. The box shook a little as she approached, which made her jump out of her skin. But after some heavy breaths that bordered on hyperventilation, she reached down and picked it up.
“Now, we need to make sure it eats the sedative,” Hillary instructed. “We can’t have this thing roaming the halls of the White House. Did you read the instructions, Maddy?”
“Yeah. One pill should do the trick,” Madeleine replied. “This little guy should sleep for a few hours, then he’ll just lie around for a few hours after that.”
“How do we know he’ll bite the Vice President?” Debbie asked as she set the box down on Al Gore’s desk.
“I saw it on a nature show,” Madeleine explained. “He won’t move around or anything, but if he feels threatened, he’ll lunge out and attack to defend himself.”
Hillary took the pills from Madeleine, laughed to herself, and then approached the box. She took a single pill from the container, peeked into the box’s air holes, and then dropped the pill into a different hole on the top. “There. He’ll be sleeping for a while now.”
“How do you know if he ate it?” Debbie felt compelled to ask.
“You didn’t feed him today, right?”
“Right,” Debbie answered. “Not since last night.”
“Then he’s definitely hungry enough to eat just about anything. Don’t worry about it. He ate the pill.”
“If you’re sure.”
“Debbie, I’m going to be the next President of the United States. If I say I’m sure, I mean I’m definitely sure.”
Hillary’s confidence was infectious enough that Debbie felt reassured. She picked up the box, noting to herself that the dangerous, venomous snake inside had not moved as she did, and proceeded to slowly open the top lid. The snake inside seemed motionless, even lifeless, and when she poured the creature into Vice President Al Gore’s chair, it didn’t stir.
“There… done and done,” Hillary said, brushing her hands together as if she’d just done all the work herself. “Now let’s get out of here.”
“We’re just going to leave him here alone all night?” Debbie asked.
“You can wait here with him if you want, Debbie,” Madeleine joked. “Have fun explaining to the Vice President of the United States why there’s a poisonous snake napping in his office chair.”
“The three of us are going,” Hillary instructed her cohorts, deploying her bossier tone. “This plan is as simple as plans get, okay? The snake will be waking up just before everyone shows up here tomorrow. Gore will come in, sit down, get bitten, and boom, dead as a doornail.”
“Gore getting gored! All up in his ass, too!” Madeleine joked.
“My idiot ‘husband’ will need to replace him, and I’ll make sure it’s me who gets the job. And once I’m Vice President, I can start my run for the real presidency in 2000, and everything will fall into place… get it?”
“Yes,” Madeleine and Debbie replied in unison. Hillary laughed. Madeleine joined in, and Debbie tried her best to muster a giggle, even though she wasn’t feel too good about any of what the three of them were doing.
With this, Debbie grabbed the upper lid of the box, flipped it over, and started breaking it down for easier transport, all while Hillary and Madeleine started talking about Hillary’s future cabinet appointments. None of the three women were paying much attention to the snake, and they certainly weren’t watching Debbie. None of them saw when the pill Hillary had dropped in for their reptilian friend had fallen out of the box, bounced off of Al Gore’s desk, and dropped down onto the carpet. Debbie also didn’t notice when she stepped on the pill, crushing it up. And none of the three women had checked Al Gore’s chair, either, before they turned off the office’s lights and headed out. Had they done so, they would’ve seen that the snake had no intention of staying seating in that chair all through the night. In fact, he had left Al Gore’s office before the three of them did.