“This is how I test my faith,” says the president. “Remove not the husk alone, but the corn silk as well. Ephesians 2, 5. That is if you want to eat the corn, if you get old man Ephesus’s meaning.”

Secretary Rice compresses her lips. Makes an effort at smiling, but drops it altogether as the President shifts to black english –

“I unnerstans you got you a twin sister who kin describe da bible inna new yoke minnit. Condoqueeg or somenthin?”

“Condoqueesha,” she corrects in a chirp. Can’t not forgive the President’s vulgar mimicry — his winking crinkliness is, as usual, just too winning.

“Git ‘er on the horn.”

“Oh, gee, all right.”

“You don’t want to hook up with your older and wiser sister? I hear she hit the bedspread a whole ten minutes before you did.”

Condi punches Condoqueesha’s number. The President hoists himself off the bed with an elbow, reaches over the red satiny form of Condi, and hits the speakerphone button.

A few seconds of Vivaldi on the accordion, then, “This is Queesh. Say what you weesh.” Click. Pop. More classical acccordion and out.

“Oh, I like that,” the president says. “Got to use that one. At the ranch,” he hastens to add, “but not on this here Lincoln bedroom machine.”

He bellows over Condi: “Hey there, Queesh, this is POTUS. If you don’t get acragroms, that’s –”

Queesh picks up: “President of the United States. About time Condi put us in di-reck contact. How that girl doin’?”

Condi shakes her head urgently, vigorously no.

“Hain’t seen her in a week.” He winks at the shrinking body next to him, “Think she’s in Talibanstan, heh heh.”

“How can I be of help, Mr. President?”

“Been having a debate with this well-meaning aide, and Condi, she tells me how you got the Bible down cold — how to interpret it, and like that. So I got this theory: to me, to torture is to test my faith.”

Such an absolute claim, but Condoqueesha senses the doubt in his silence. She figures the President wants a yassuh/nossuh followed by chapter and verse. But that’s a no go… “You gonna have to splain that some more Mr. POTUS.”

“Ephesians 2, 5. You know, how you husk the corn but you got to remove the silk before you eat it. Gonna make a metaphor here, you got to flay the man before you get to what’s inside.”

“Some aide bullshittin’ you. Lemme bring up Ephesians — damn this G4 Mac is gettin’ slow… here we go — ‘2,5. Even when we were dead in trespasses, we were made alive together with Christ.’ Then, in parens: by grace you have been saved. Don’t know why King James would use a parenthetical, but maybe that’s why he’s a King and you and me ain’t.’”

Presidential gloom. “Yeah, maybe.” Then the cloud lifts. “You think you could make some kind of biblical case for torture outta that thing you just read me?”

“Sure I could.”

Confidence like that, POTUS admires to all hell. “Well, you’re on board, lady.”

“Fitty K sound doable, Mr. President?”

His face is a cartoon of confusion. From deep in her pillow, Condi mouths the words “fifty thousand.”

Relief. “I’ll call a Ranger. We can swing it. Get to work Miss…”

“It’s Rice. Just like your Secretary.”

Condi waits, knowing, of course, her older sister will never utter the words “of State.”

The President sits up straight and massages his package.

“Thanks, Condoqueesha. Just send me your invoice.” He cuts the call. Then to Condoleezza, “That ‘corn silk’ bullshit pisses me off.”

“I told you to stop taking Reverend Haggard’s calls.”

He clicks off the bed light. “I should listen to you more, Condi.” The President’s voice is sweet. So sweet she tugs the satiny red teddy right up to her armpits.

(For the Condoqueesha calls preceeding this, click here, here, here, and here).

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