Chapter 11 – The Shutdown

The Shutdown

“This is how they’re going to remember me. I’m a big fat failure.”

Bill’s eyes were watering. Monica had seen a great deal of his sensitive side in the past few months, but she’d never seen him cry. She wanted to move over to his couch and console him, but she held herself back. She knew what it would lead to if she did that. “You’re not a failure,” she insisted. “This isn’t your fault. The shutdown isn’t your fault.”

Bill sniffled like a young child who scraped his knee. Monica knew that he was fighting back the urge to cry with all of his willpower. “They didn’t give me no choices. I didn’t have nothin’ I could do. My hands were tied.”

“They wanted you to gut Medicare, and the environment, and education. They didn’t give you any choices. It’s entirely their fault this happened, Bill. You’re not the failure here, it’s Republicans over on the Hill who are to blame for this.”

“I just don’t understand.” He had to stop to wipe his cheeks. “I thought things were going better. Why are they throwing this at me now? Why are they threatening the whole country with a default?”

“A default?” Monica still didn’t fully understand all of the debt ceiling talk. She knew House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the Republicans had demanded that Bill sign off on a bunch of their budget cuts, and threatened to not raise the debt ceiling unless they did. And with how stressed out Bill had been since that threat was made, Monica knew it was pretty serious. She just didn’t understand how or why.

“The debt ceiling is basically how much money the government can pay out on our loans. It’s sorta like having a budget for your cable bill. You have the money to pay it back, but it’s like, what if you decide you’re only going to spend so much on cable in a month, but the bill is higher than you thought it would be. You’ve gotta put more money toward the bill, or no more Gilligan’s Island.”

“So, if we don’t raise the debt ceiling, we can’t pay back the people we borrowed money from?”

“Right. And Republicans are the ones that did all the borrowing in the first place. Reagan was like that one friend Popeye has, the one whose always asking for cheeseburger money. I really want to balance this budget before I leave office, but there ain’t no way I’m gonna do that if I can’t even win reelection, and I ain’t gonna win if Republicans keep shuttin’ down our government.”

“I wish there was something I could do to help. I wish there was a way to make the Republicans stop acting like children.”

Bill’s damp eyes wandered off across the Oval Office, observing everything and nothing. He let out a sigh, and slowly shook his head back and forth. “I don’t know what to do, Monica.”

Monica got up and stepped around the coffee table between them, sitting down next to Bill, all but entirely forgetting that she didn’t want to get too close to him, for fear of what might happen, and knowing she would enjoy it if she did. He turned to look at her, their eyes locking and freezing time for however many hours or minutes or seconds had gone by. She knew what was about to happen. Ever since Bill had been bitten by that snake three months earlier, this was happening almost every night. When it first started, it was therapeutic, to be certain all of the poison was gone. Then it became exciting. Then it became romantic. And now, it felt like something so much more. It felt like love. And love was wrong for them in so many ways. She had to say something to break that building tension. She didn’t notice that her hand was subconsciously moving toward his lap. “Stand your ground, Bill. Be firm. Hard. Unbending.”

“Firm… hard…”

“Don’t let them bully you, Bill. Don’t let them kick you around. This is a tug of war. You need to tug harder than them.”

“Tug harder…”

“You can’t rest on your laurels. There’s no time to feel sorry for yourself. There are too many people counting on you right now, Bill. This government shutdown is hurting people. Real people. They need a hand. They need their jobs back.”

“Hand… job…”

“It’s not going to be easy. It might take a stroke of genius to get them to cave, but you’re at your best when your job is challenging. You’re smarter than them, you’re faster-witted than them, and that’s a fact!”

“Stroke… faster…”

“Think about all of those great Americans who’ve stood up to the challenges blocking their paths! George Washington crossing the Delaware! Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves! Teddy Roosevelt building the Panama Canal! MLK crossing that bridge in Selma! JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis! Muhammad Ali fighting George Foreman in Africa and knocking him out when nobody else thought it was possible!”

“ALI, BOMAYE! UHHHHHHHRRRRR!”

It wasn’t until that moment that Monica realized what she had been doing to Bill — or rather, for Bill — for the past few minutes. Her blouse cuff escaped easier than his shirt, pants, the sofa, the carpet… and the coffee table? How did that even get all the way over there? “I hope that was a rousing speech, Bill. I hope it gave you the confidence you need right now.”

“It was definitely arousing,” Bill replied, while cleaning himself up with a napkin. “And you’re right. I need to be tougher with these Republicans. I can’t let them get away with whatever they want. I can’t let Hillary do that, either. I’m sick of being pushed around, damn it! I’m not gonna sit here and let them boss me around no more!”

Just then, the phone on his desk rang. He shot up, closing up his trousers as he darted toward it to answer, leaving Monica to clean up the rest of it, as was Bill’s tradition. When he answered, the flushness in his cheeks fled like a burglar from a crime scene. His sudden paleness came over him so quickly that Monica looked around the room to see if they’d been suddenly visited by Dolley Madison’s ghost.

“Why are you still in the Oval Office, Bill?” Hillary asked, sporting a tone not heard by human ears since the Spanish Inquisition. “You need to be in a budget meeting at six in the morning. It’s almost two right now!”

“I was… uh… I was…”

“You were up playing Nintendo games with Al again, weren’t you?”

“Uh… yeah! I’m sorry, Hillary. We was playin’ that Nintendo, and I lost track of the time.”

“Unbelievable! What have I told you about those video games? How many times are you going to make me explain to you that presidents don’t play with children’s toys?”

“I’m sorry Hillary. I’m sorry. I…”

“Tell your friend it’s time for bed, and you get your butt over to the Residence right now!”

“Are… are you there?”

“No, idiot! I’m out of town, remember? The fundraiser with the retarded kids? How many times do you need to be told the same things? Those little mouth-breathers I met today might be covered in their own slime all day but at least they fucking pay attention when I’m speaking!”

Hillary slammed the phone down with so much force that it could’ve hung up on other people on entirely different phones. “Worthless! I’m surrounded by worthless idiots!”

“Hey! I’ve done everything you’ve asked of me!” Newt Gingrich was getting fed up with Hillary and her attitude, but he didn’t want to overstep. He knew what could happen if he did.

“Have you, Newt? Have you really?” Hillary stopped talking just long enough to kick Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the chest. “When I say ‘rub my feet,’ I mean actually rub them. Worthless idiots… every one of you people is a worthless idiot!” Debbie rose back up and moved back into her previous position, but Hillary’s death glare told her to not even bother trying.

“So what’s next, then?” Newt asked, hoping to shift Hillary’s mind away from physical violence.

“With the shutdown in place, the answer should be pretty obvious. I shouldn’t have to explain this to you. Please tell me someone in this room understands how and why the shutdown is beneficial to us?”

The room fell silent for a moment. Hillary’s eyes began to boil as she prepared another salvo of verbal missiles, but then Rush Limbaugh spoke up from his otherwise silent corner. “Newt will tell Bill to replace Al on the ticket?”

“Finally! One of you fat idiots isn’t a waste of their father’s sperm!” Hillary lit a cigar, chugged some of her brandy, and leaned forward to explain her plot. “Bill is fighting for this environmental bullshit because of Al Gore. So Rush, on your radio show tomorrow, you’re going to insist that Newt should push Bill to get rid of Al Gore from the ticket. That way the idea came from you, so Bill can’t tie it back to me somehow. That’s when Newt will go to Bill with the offer, and say the Republicans will agree to his terms and end the government shutdown on the condition that Bill kicks Al off the ticket. Bill will feel like everyone in the world suddenly wants him to get rid of Al. And that’s where Debbie comes into play.”

“This doesn’t involve wildlife again, does it?”

“Shut your dirty Florida whore mouth when I’m speaking!” Hillary tried to kick Debbie again, but missed her. “You’re going to go to Bill the next day and tell him that Al made unwanted sexual advances toward you. That’s going to shut this down for good. Bill will have no choice but to get rid of Al Gore once and for all. And when it’s time to pick a new running mate, I’ll make sure he doesn’t have any other choice. It’s me, or it’s nobody.”

“How are you going to convince him to pick you?” Newt asked.

“That’s easy… I’ll threaten him with a divorce. He’s not going to win reelection if his own wife wants nothing to do with him. I’ll make up some bullshit story for the media about why I’m getting a divorce, and then he’ll be done, and I’ll be the heroic, brave woman who stood up to her husband. He’ll cave and add me to the ticket, but if doesn’t, I win anyway. This plan is foolproof!”

What story will you tell about Bill?” Rush wondered. “Maybe I can help spread the rumors around.”

“I don’t know… Anything really. I’ll claim he cheated on me?” Hillary burst out in laughter, prompting everyone else in the room to do the same. “Bill… cheating on me! HAH! Like that would ever happen!” It took another minute or so for the laughter to quiet down. “So anyway, that’s the plan. Bill can’t end the shutdown unless he gets rid of Al. I get named as his running mate. We win reelection against our patsy, Bob Dole, and then, once the election is over and I’m officially the Vice President, we’re ready for the final stage of the operation.”

“The final stage?” Debbie asked.

“Yes… the stage in which I become the President of the United States of America. The stage in which I, a republican posing as a democrat, reclaim my party’s former moderate glory and become America’s first woman president, and our greatest Republican ruler. The stage where we kill Bill Clinton.”

Newt and Rush raised their drinks, and Hillary raised her glass with them. But Debbie found herself wishing she could be anyplace else in that moment. She felt sick to her stomach. Did Hillary Clinton justdid she just suggest… Debbie raised her own glass, not in salute, but to her lips, and she drank harder and with greater purpose than she had since college.

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