April 12th, 2008
â€œThis is how I test my faith,â€ says the president. â€œRemove 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 Ephesusâ€™s meaning.â€
Secretary Rice compresses her lips. Makes an effort at smiling, but drops it altogether as the President shifts to black english –
â€œI unnerstans you got you a twin sister who kin describe da bible inna new yoke minnit. Condoqueeg or somenthin?â€
â€œCondoqueesha,â€ she corrects in a chirp. Canâ€™t not forgive the Presidentâ€™s vulgar mimicry — his winking crinkliness is, as usual, just too winning.
â€œGit â€˜er on the horn.â€
â€œOh, gee, all right.â€
â€œYou donâ€™t want to hook up with your older and wiser sister? I hear she hit the bedspread a whole ten minutes before you did.â€
Condi punches Condoqueeshaâ€™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, â€œThis is Queesh. Say what you weesh.â€ Click. Pop. More classical acccordion and out.
â€œOh, I like that,â€ the president says. â€œGot to use that one. At the ranch,â€ he hastens to add, â€œbut not on this here Lincoln bedroom machine.â€
He bellows over Condi: â€œHey there, Queesh, this is POTUS. If you donâ€™t get acragroms, thatâ€™s –â€
Queesh picks up: â€œPresident of the United States. About time Condi put us in di-reck contact. How that girl doinâ€™?â€
Condi shakes her head urgently, vigorously no.
â€œHainâ€™t seen her in a week.â€ He winks at the shrinking body next to him, â€œThink sheâ€™s in Talibanstan, heh heh.â€
â€œHow can I be of help, Mr. President?â€
â€œBeen 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.â€
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 thatâ€™s a no go… â€œYou gonna have to splain that some more Mr. POTUS.â€
â€œEphesians 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 whatâ€™s inside.â€
â€œSome aide bullshittinâ€™ you. Lemme bring up Ephesians — damn this G4 Mac is gettinâ€™ slow… here we go — â€˜2,5. Even when we were dead in trespasses, we were made alive together with Christ.â€™ Then, in parens: by grace you have been saved. Donâ€™t know why King James would use a parenthetical, but maybe thatâ€™s why heâ€™s a King and you and me ainâ€™t.â€™â€
Presidential gloom. â€œYeah, maybe.â€ Then the cloud lifts. â€œYou think you could make some kind of biblical case for torture outta that thing you just read me?â€
â€œSure I could.â€
Confidence like that, POTUS admires to all hell. â€œWell, youâ€™re on board, lady.â€
â€œFitty K sound doable, Mr. President?â€
His face is a cartoon of confusion. From deep in her pillow, Condi mouths the words â€œfifty thousand.â€
Relief. â€œIâ€™ll call a Ranger. We can swing it. Get to work Miss…â€
â€œItâ€™s Rice. Just like your Secretary.â€
Condi waits, knowing, of course, her older sister will never utter the words â€œof State.â€
The President sits up straight and massages his package.
â€œThanks, Condoqueesha. Just send me your invoice.â€ He cuts the call. Then to Condoleezza, â€œThat â€˜corn silkâ€™ bullshit pisses me off.â€
â€œI told you to stop taking Reverend Haggardâ€™s calls.â€
He clicks off the bed light. â€œI should listen to you more, Condi.â€ The Presidentâ€™s voice is sweet. So sweet she tugs the satiny red teddy right up to her armpits.