Washington Horror Blog

SEMI-FICTIONAL CHRONICLE of the EVIL THAT INFECTS WASHINGTON, D.C. To read Prologue and Character Guide, please see www.washingtonhorrorblog.com, updated 6/6//2017. Follow Washington Water Woman on Twitter @HorrorDC ....

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Pruned and the Stunted

President Bush was sitting in the Oval Office, reading the updated draft of his State of the Union speech, circling the words he didn't like--words like "tenacity," "barometer," and "cathartic." (Words like that did not flow well when he spoke them out loud.) Then he decided to cross out a couple of paragraphs altogether--these speeches were always way too long. (Didn't I already cross that paragraph out from the last draft?) He felt a burning desire to add words like "triumphant," "destiny," and "hallowed," so he searched for places to put them in. It felt very stuffy in his office, and it bothered him that he had no window to open. He stood up again to walk over to the window, while a couple of ghosts breathed down his neck. Outside, he could see those two little kids following the gardener around again. On cue, they both looked up and met his gaze, giving him the chills, and he returned to his desk.

Reggie and Fergie turned back to the shrubbery trimmings they were dutifully picking up after Bridge's pruning passes in front of them. They had been inside way too much lately, and their mother felt they should get some fresh air today while things were a tad warmer. They quietly began discussing the president in their secret twin language--they were arguing about something. Bridge listened carefully but said nothing; he didn't know what worried him more--the idea that Regina and Ferguson might be affecting things they did not understand, or the idea that they understood all too well. He kept telling himself that, as soon as they were a little older, he would confront them about the ghosts they talked to,...but somehow, they never seemed old enough, and he never felt it was the right time. Then he would tell himself it was time to talk to their mother about it, but he would chicken out of that, as well. It grew suddenly quiet, and he turned to look at the twins behind him--they stared at him, then at the shrubbery. He turned back and realized he had cut it down almost to the ground. He looked back at the twins, and they laughed merrily. He smiled and moved on down the row--nobody would notice one stunted bush anyway, except the sparrows. On the other side of the yard, the sparrows watched the pruning nervously, worried about their protective homes, as screeching catbirds circled in the tree branches above them.

Not too far away, a cart in desperate need of wheel grease screeched its way over to a Prince and Prowling conference room with a load of fifty document boxes. A new band of contract attorneys had just started a brief assignment: somehow, there was not enough work for Laura Moreno to get any job assurance letter for her realtor, but Prince and Prowling was adding more temps. to the team. She had been training them all morning, just as she had trained the others, just as she had trained the new associates in the fall, just as she had trained the summer associates in the summer, and so on, and so forth, stretching back further into her memory than she cared to remember. Laura was writing down the requests she thought she could handle--swiping another garbage can from a vacant office, trading a broken chair for an unbroken chair when nobody was looking, finding a functioning Coke machine--and explaining that they would not be getting their other requests--internet access, catering, or a relaxed dress code. Bridezilla entered the nearby kitchen and began talking loudly to a consultant on the government relations firm, so Laura Moreno raised her voice to be heard by the contract attorneys listening to her. Bridezilla entered the conference room to tell the contract attorneys she was "of counsel" and her team needed them to be quiet; Laura told her they would be happy to quiet down if Bridezilla quieted down her own conversation in the kitchen. Bridezilla's jaw dropped, and she retreated quietly as the contract attorneys stared at Laura in amazement, but Laura had done nothing brave--Bridezilla would be unable to get Laura fired because Bridezilla still had no idea who Laura was.

Around the corner and down the hall, former Senator Evermore Breadman had his door closed, a nervous Department of Justice attorney in his office to discuss the looming threat of a lawsuit by former Guantanamo prisoners now living back in Sudan. Breadman had already finished reading the press conference statements made in Khartoum to denounce the U.S. and seek financial compensation for torture, unjust imprisonment, and consequential damages to the prisoners' families; he was now reading a brief prepared by Atticus Hawk on the possible merits of such a lawsuit. After another ten minutes, he put down the brief and reached wordlessly into his lower drawer to retrieve a bourbon bottle and some shot glasses. "You need to settle out of court," Breadman said after they had both downed their shots. In truth, Breadman had not done real litigation work in decades, and had no idea how such a lawsuit might fare in the courts, but he did know that it would fare very badly in the press, and drag on for a long time. "A confidential settlement with a gag order," he added. The DOJ attorney clenched his hands on the arm rests and told Breadman he was not sure his higher ups would agree to that, and he felt his staff needed to prepare for litigation--unless they were sure it could be handled politically. Breadman knew that "higher ups" was not a reference to the Attorney General, and he also knew that "handled politically" was a request to Breadman. How could they be so stupid? He had told the Administration from the start how to handle Guantanamo, but they had cherry-picked his advice and left themselves exposed. The only possible fix for this was to drive it out of the media. "Don't do anything right now, make no public comments on it--I'll call you in a couple of days." The DOJ attorney left in a bad mood, and Breadman called his acupuncturist to set up an appointment.

A couple of blocks away, a White House speech writer rushed into a nondescript medical office for a quick half-hour session with his shrink. "I'm losing my mind!" he blurted out, as soon as he lay down on the old-fashioned couch. "I don't even know what's real or what isn't! It's like I'm living in a dream world." Dr. Ermann Esse did not believe in psychiatric medicine, and was on a one-man quest to rid Washington of its pyschotropic stupor forever. He directed the speech writer to stare at the swinging pendulum of the grandfather clock on the east wall of the office and lulled him into a hypnotic trance to discuss the State of the Union. A half-hour later, the speechwriter returned to the West Wing ready to pull it all together, only to be intercepted by ghosts before he even got to his computer.

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