Chapter 13 – Santa Monica

Santa Monica

This was the worst trip anyone could’ve imagined, and Monica felt utterly helpless to make things better. Every single thing Bill had wanted to do during his California trip had been compromised, one way or another. His childhood dream of watching a movie at the famed Majestic theater in Santa Monica was ruined within minutes of Air Force One landing at LAX, when Doug Band informed them the theater had been shut down after an earthquake a year earlier, a fact that had somehow slipped everyone’s attention before that moment. Surely the Secret Service had known, as they had to plot out every move Bill made, but that memo had never made it back to scheduling. And In everyone’s rush to find a replacement activity to fill that time slot, it was discovered that the speech Bill had prepared for the California Democratic Convention had been lost somehow, and had to be rewritten, which meant Bill had to cancel almost all of his other fun events for the day.

And that was all before Hillary showed up.

Hillary had campaign events in two other states that weekend, but had canceled them for reasons unknown. And now she was here, in California, and making Bill’s life a living hell, shifting his playful schedule around and going out of her way to make sure he had no fun of any kind whatsoever.

“You’re here to work, Bill. To work, and to fundraise, and to win reelection,” Hillary had nagged, within earshot of Monica. “You’re not here to play. You’re not here to have fun. You’re here to do what I tell you to do.”

And so Bill obeyed, the laughter that typically bubbled up inside his cheeks melting into oblivion as the chilly greyness of Washington DC filled the void left behind. He was misery personified. A walking corpse, reanimated by the necromancy of a cackling, pantsuit-robed witch.

Monica needed to do something to brighten his mood. She needed to find some way of making his California trip fun again. He had become so busy that morning that he didn’t seem to realize she was even in the room, and with no legislative work before her, Monica was free to strike out into California and find something that would cheer Bill up. She had to find a gift that would make him feel like the whole trip was worth it, for more than just the political stuff. Like he had gone to California, and was leaving with some happiness he didn’t have before that trip.

Monica headed into the elevator, and then dug into her purse, pulling out the Santa Monica map she had somehow found in Washington prior to their leaving on their trip. She studied it intently, looking for souvenir shops and shopping malls. When the elevator pinged, she stepped out of it, not watching where she was going…

Jean Houston fought to keep the bowl in her hands, but it tumbled. Somehow, the ancient porcelain didn’t crack, but the water spilled out all over the floor. “Stupid girl!” Jean shouted, looking at the doe-eyed ignoramus opposite of her. “Look at what you’ve done!”

“Oh my! I’m so sorry!” The woman replied.

“Does that map have directions to a store that sells brains?” Jean asked, while reaching down to collect the bowl. The water was all gone. What was she going to do now?

“I’m terribly sorry. Did it break?”

“You meant to ask, ‘did I break it,'” Jean insisted. “And no. It’s fine.” Jean stared into the woman’s eyes for a moment. “Be gone now… Monica Lewinsky.”

“What? You… how do you know my…”

“Be gone!”

Monica did as Jean bid, fleeing hurriedly. So predictable, Jean said to herself. They always run. They always flee. Jean looked down at the now-empty bowl in her hands, shaking her head in dismay. Well, most of them flee. But not my star pupil. Not my future Queen.

Jean mounted the elevator, taking it up to the proper floor, and then stepped out into the hall. The Secret Service agents started to approach her, but then identified her and stepped back into their stoic guardsmen poses. Without a pause in her step, Jean turned to her right and headed down the hall to room number 313, and after fiddling with the newfangled key card door handle, she swept into the room, seeing that her protégé was nowhere to be found.

She’s late, Jean thought to herself. That is unlike her. But she will be here shortly. I can sense her presence. Jean looked down at the bowl. She’d need to fill it. The water itself was of little consequence.

Three minutes later, the door opened, and in walked Jean’s student.

“You’re here,” Hillary noted, pointing out the obvious. Her eyes lit up as she looked at the table on the opposite side of the hotel room. “You brought it! The basin of Calakmul!”

“Of course I did Child,” Jean responded. “How else are we to commune?”

“And the water?”

“Soiled by the blood of Pakal, King of Palenque.” That it was tap water with a dab of red food coloring was a fact Hillary Clinton need never discover.

“Shall we begin?”

“We shall.”

Hillary turned and locked the hotel room door before turning off the overhead light. Jean meanwhile had closed the curtains, lit her candles and incense, and completely disrobed herself. Hillary then did the same. The two nude women came together in the center of the room, clasping their hands together, and then kissing each other on both cheeks.

“Spirits of Palenque! We summon thee here, to this place of California, to this city of Los Angeles, on this hour and on this day in June of the year 1996! We drink of the blood of your king!” Together, both women knelt down. Jean took a sip from the bowl, and then Hillary followed suit. “Join us now, so that we may reach into the spirit world! Join us here, so that the bridge between our worlds may be made whole, so that the living and the dead may dance together once more!”

The curtains flapped. The candles flickered.

“Spirits of Palenque! We welcome you to this mortal world! Return with us! Return through us!”

The candles blew out… and then mysteriously illuminated themselves once more.

“Do you feel them?” Jean asked, her eyes closed, her nose pointed up toward the ceiling above them. “Are they with you?”

“They are with me,” Hillary replied, striking the same pose. “I can feel them. They’re touching my shoulders.”

“Speak a name now, child. Speak now, and that of whom you speak shall step forth and present themselves.”

“Eleanor Roosevelt,” Hillary stated calmly.

The room fell deathly silent. A faint clicking sound could be heard from over near the bed, not far from Jean. And then, Eleanor Roosevelt spoke.

“Hillary? You again? What do you want this time, dearie?” Eleanor asked.

“I seek your help, Eleanor. I wanted to ask you to…”

“Well?” Eleanor interrupted. “Out with it. I may be dead but I have a busy schedule!”

“I want you to help me with Al G…”

“Yes yes, Al Gore. You ask the same thing every time. Why didn’t you do what I asked of you last time?”

“I tried! I heard the song ‘Africa’ playing, and I took that as a sign that I should kill Al Gore with an African snake! But the plot was foiled somehow. I don’t know how, but…”

“I will offer a new sign, Hillary,” Eleanor said. “I will tell you how to defeat Al Gore. I will tell you how to become the Vice President. But you must pay attention this time. You must give yourself time to think about the answer I am giving you.”

“I will, Eleanor. I will take my time. I will consider it carefully.”

The room fell back into silence. Another clicking sound could be heard a few moments later. “She is gone,” Jean informed Hillary. “Eleanor Roosevelt has returned to the spirit plane.”

With this, both women stood and clothed themselves. They kept the lights off, but blew out the candles and extinguished the incense. They then clasped their hands together and sat on the floor in their previous spots, silently meditating for a time. The room was purely, serenely silent. Jean could hear a faint gurgle from Hillary’s throat, the only noise to interrupt the peacefulness.

And then came a shout from the room next door. “Yes!” The man’s voice cried out. “Yes! Do it! Do it!”

And then silence. Silence for what felt like an eternity.

Suddenly, the pungent aroma of a cigar flooded their noses. “Cigar smoke. A man shouting.” Hillary paused, sniffing the air with greater intent. “Is that the sign? Cigar smoke and a man shouting?”

“Do you believe that is the sign?” Jean asked.

Hillary thought for a moment. She sniffed the air once more. “Yes. That is the sign. I will get rid of Al Gore… with a cigar?”

“What did Eleanor tell you, Hillary?”

“To take my time.”

“Yes, to take your time. Don’t rush to the answer, Hillary. Let the answer come to you on its own terms.” Jean released her grip, pulling her hands back to help her stand back up. “You know the first clues of the riddle. Now you need only to solve it.”

“I will think on this, Jean.” Hillary rose to her feet as well. “This was a much better sign than the last one.”

“Yes it was,” Jean responded. “Now let us hope you do something of value with it.” Jean glanced over at the wall. Whoever was on the other side of that wall had just foiled the rest of Jean’s act. The tape recording of a voice actor playing the role of Eleanor Roosevelt, the bowl she found at a garage sale… all of that was just a precursor, a build-up toward a performance she had rehearsed for a week, where Eleanor would come back into the room, take over Jean’s body, and then allow her to speak on Eleanor’s behalf. Now she’d have to throw the dice with yet another fake recording. Whoever the man was on the other side of that hotel wall had cost Jean Houston $75 without even realizing it.

That man was Leon Panetta.

“This is one cheap ass cigar,” Leon grumbled.

“It’s the only cheap thing in this room,” his prostitute replied, as she peeled away the costume Leon had made her dress up in. “The shit I do for money.”

“Hey, most guys probably make you do way worse stuff!”

“Making me dress up wearing another girl’s clothes? Making me call you ‘Uncle Leon’ while I sit in your lap? That’s pretty fucked up.”

“Yeah, well, at least I don’t pee or poop on you.”

“Right,” the young woman said. “Because you have standards.” The woman stopped talking while she put her own clothes back on. “Shit. You ruined your friend’s dress.”

“What?” Leon got up and walked over to the bed. The stain was pretty obvious. “Son of a… how am I supposed to get this back into her closet now? She’ll notice a…”

“Hold up! You said your friend let you borrow these clothes!”

“Semantics,” Leon angrily fired back.

“Did you just call me Jewish?” The girl asked. “That’s racist, old man.”

“What? Will you shut up and tell me how to get this out of clothes?”

“Why are you asking me?”

“Like you’ve never had this problem? If anyone should know how to get this stuff out of fabric, it’s a hooker.”

“Hey! I’m not a fucking hooker, okay? I’m an ‘escort.’ There’s a difference!”

“Yeah… a few hundred bucks’ worth of difference.”

“Whatever. Sorry about the dress.”

Leon didn’t respond. He just stared at the dress, wondering how he’d fix this. Maybe he could buy another one? How would he find that exact dress?

He was so caught up in the predicament that he didn’t even notice when the “escort” left the room. And a few minutes later, she walked passed Monica, without realizing she had worn her clothes not twenty minutes earlier.

Monica boarded the elevator, beaming with joy as she rode up to the President’s floor. She had found the perfect gift. Something that would make Bill’s whole trip worth it again. And when the elevator doors opened again, she darted out, running right into…

“You again,” Jean gasped, struggling to keep the bowl in her hands. This time, the water didn’t spill. “What are the odds?”

“I’m sorry! But wait… how did you know my name earlier today?”

“That doesn’t concern you,” Jean replied.

“You couldn’t wrap your tiny brain around it,” Hillary Clinton explained. Monica hadn’t even noticed her standing there. “Now move along.”

Monica stepped off the elevator as Jean and Hillary stepped onto it. “Hey, sorry again about what happened earlier. I didn’t mean to spill your water bowl.”

“It spilled?” Hillary asked, unable to hide her shock.

“Only a little,” Jean replied. “It was nothing.”

“It looked like the whole thing dumped,” Monica said. “I mean, it was upside down and everything!”

Jean didn’t know what to say. “It… it was… I…”

The elevator doors closed. Monica shrugged and skipped off toward Bill’s hotel room, where she waited two whole hours for him to finish up his work. After eating dinner together, they stepped out onto the room’s balcony, overlooking the sea, and that’s when Monica gave Bill his present.

“They’re ticket stubs from the Majestic Theater,” Monica explained. “And they’re all classic movies, see? Casablanca, and Gone With The Wind, and The Wizard Of Oz, and North By Northwest… there’s two-dozen in all.”

Bill lit up excitedly. It was the first time she’d seem him smile all day. Suddenly the life was flowing back into his face. The sparkle in his eye reignited. he was a man reborn. “This… this is beautiful, Monica!” His eyes were watering up, but he fought back the urge to cry. “How… how did you get this? this must’ve cost you a fortune!”

“Don’t worry about that.” Monica had spent over $3,000 — nearly all of her savings — on the gift. It had set her back considerably, but that was love. “You like it?”

“Like it? No… I love it. This made my whole trip worth it.”

“That’s all that I was hoping for!”

“This is a truly great present, Monica. You’re like Santa Claus, spreading joy everywhere you go.” Bill giggled to himself. Then he laughed out loud.

“What is it?”

“Santa Claus. Monica. We’re in Santa Monica… you’re ‘Santa’ Monica. This is a city named after you, and they didn’t even mean to do it.”

Monica laughed at Bill’s silliness, right up to the moment he kissed her. And in that instance, all of the comedy in all of Hollywood couldn’t interrupt them.

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