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 ....

Friday, February 22, 2013

Slithering

Charles Wu presented "C. Coe Phant" with a Year-of-the-Snake souvenir from Hong Kong:  a platinum silver cobra of a paperweight, decorated with ruby eyes and a stream of orange sapphires trailing out of its mouth in the shape of a forked tongue.  A hidden camera the size of a grapefruit seed was lodged carefully in the back of its throat, but the feature pointed out by Wu was the slight curvature of the tongue.  "You can keep paperclips there."

"That's a beautiful work of art," said the State Department bureaucrat. "Thanks a lot, Charles."  He placed it back in the gift box and turned back to his F Street Bistro soup.  "How was your trip to China?"

Wu was not going to tell him about the four different attempts at arranged marriage his mother had made for him, nor the three women he had secretly spent time with, nor the repugnant Indonesian shipping mogul who had offered money to purchase Wu's gorgeous baby girl as a gift to his barren third wife, nor the story he had made up about the tragic death of his American wife to save face with conservative government officials, nor the unexpected emotional breakdown of his nanny upon her first return to Asia years after being trafficked out of it.  "Excellent trip!  Delia had a wonderful time, spoiled constantly by my mother.  Her nanny had not been back to China in years, and also had a wonderful time."  Wu did not tell Phant that he had left them all in Hong Kong during his quick side-trip to Beijing so that he could also do the secret third trip to the Tajik base where Project R.O.D.H.A.M. still operated.  "I met with the new president of China," he said, in a quieter voice.  "Turns out we have some mutual friends."

"That sounds promising," said Phant, with a Cheshire grin.

"And the ladies naturally wanted to know what will happen with Project R.O.D.H.A.M.  They will probably run out of money in three or four months."

"Ahhh, Project R.O.D.H.A.M."  Phant finished his soup with a silent slurp and regarded Wu carefully.  "Clinton didn't tell you?"  (Phant had been out of the loop for quite some time, with Wu reporting straight to Clinton ever since the State Department Wikileaks.)

"She told me she was retiring from Project R.O.D.H.A.M., but was hopeful that Kerry would continue it eventually." 

"Kerry's an excellent man--excellent man," said Phant rather loudly before dropping his voice, "but I believe it might be a little too early to brief him on that particular project.  Naturally, he has his own priorities."

"And the President's priorities," added Wu.

"Hmmm?  Oh, yes, of course.  I dare say the President's perspective on the world is not exactly the same as it was four years ago, or even two years ago.  We are all feeling our way slowly."

Wu doubted that very much, but volunteered some additional news out of Beijing to start shoring up his position at State.

Meanwhile, over at the State Department, the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Hope was busy shoring up his own position.  The key component of his strategy was that he was going to be the one that told the new Secretary of State all about Project R.O.D.H.A.M. and its success stories--or, more precisely, his ex-girlfriend, Eva Brown, a Project R.O.D.H.A.M. alumna, would.  (She didn't know what had shocked her more--the fact that her ex had found out about Project R.O.D.H.A.M. or the fact that he wanted Clinton's pet project to continue into the Kerry years.)  This would serve the purpose of tricking Brown into spilling everything she knew about Project R.O.D.H.A.M. to Kerry as well as to himself, thereby making him Kerry's chief liaison to the project.  (What the A.D.A.f.H. did not know was that his radical ex had been at John Kiriakou's pre-prison farewell gala the night before, and was also planning to talk to Kerry about that.)

Several miles to the east, U.S. Attorney Atticus Hawk was briefing his boss on the National Security Agency tapes from John Kiriakou's pre-prison farewell gala at the Hay Adams.  "You would have liked it," said the Justice Department lawyer.  "Good music, good food, good cocktails, and lots of liberal women."

"Ha, ha, ha, ha!"  (Hawk's boss had never seen his high-strung underling joke around before and wanted to encourage it.)  "But, seriously, how many speeches about enhanced interrogation at Gitmo?"  (Hawk's boss never used the T-word.)

"Just the usual bleeding heart nonsense," replied Hawk.  "What's the American way, what's a true patriot, my Republican grandparents would be rolling over in their graves if they knew the CIA was involved in this, yadda yadda.  I think Kiriakou was the only actual operative there."

"What about his wife?"

"Not a problem," said Hawk.

"Who was there from Code Pink?"

"The usual suspects.  Honestly, the whole thing was bizarre--like an Oscar night party.  The guy's going to prison, and he's acting like he won an award."

"Well, we should've nailed him for more," said Hawk's boss.

"Absolutely," said Hawk, who didn't mention that a poorly disguised Ava Kahdo Green had also been at the party.  (He owed her that much.)

A few blocks away, John Boehner was stealing glances out his window, searching for more snowflakes while pretending to listen to another lobbyist talk about the danger of The Sequester.  ("The defense industry alone....")  LA LA LA LA LA LA continued playing in Boehner's head as he tuned out her words until her lips stopped moving.  "Not my problem," he said, rising to his feet with a sad shake of his head.  He shook her hands, then slumped back into his seat while his Chief of Staff showed her out. 

A minute later, he returned to tell Boehner the next lobbyist was different.  "They donated heavily to your campaign."

"What?!" asked Boehner, genuinely confused.  "I thought you never let anybody in who hadn't donated to my campaign!?  What do you think this is:  a public library?!"

A couple of miles to the west, an annoyed Henrietta ("Button") Samuelson was walking into the upper conference room of the Brewmaster's Castle for an emergency session of the Heurich Society.  "This better be short and sweet!" she growled.  "I have a lot of clients on Friday afternoons!"

The Good Ole Boys rolled their eyes at her pathetic excuse for a career (real estate), and the former Chair told her they could not risk further delay on choosing the next Pope.

"Excuse me?"

"Well, naturally, we don't choose the next Pope, but we have enough Cardinals in place that we should be able to sway it if we get them acting together."

"Why the Hell do we have Cardinals, and why the Hell do we need to be involved in that?!"  (Samuelson was beyond dumbfounded.)

"Power, money, influence:  you really don't understand what the Heurich Society is about, do you?!" sneered the former Chair.

"What else is on the agenda:  fixing the Oscars?  Freeing Pistorius?  Choosing Donald Trump's next apprentice?"

(The former Chair had, in fact, fixed a few Oscars in his time, but that was more of a hobby.)  "The power of the Pope is something you need to understand, Madam Chair.  In the history of Western civilization, few institutions have stretched their influence into as many corners as the Papacy."

"Is this where you start whispering about the Knights Templar, the Freemasons, and the DaVinci Code?" asked Samuelson, sipping her power smoothie.

"What do you think this is?" demanded the former Chair, pointing to a crucifix the group always used as a paperweight.  "It was taken from Pope John XXIII during his reinterment in 2001."

"That is really gross," frowned Samuelson, shoving aside the remains of her smoothie.

The former Chair pressed a hidden mechanism on the crucifix, which then opened up to display a secret message written inside.  "The message is written in an angelic language that pre-dated all recorded human language.  Only an elite few are ever allowed to read it and pass it on."  (He didn't tell her that the Heurich Society was not originally on the list.)

Samuelson shuddered, reluctantly waiting for the translation.

Out in the river, Ardua of the Potomac laughed as Coast Guard officer Marcos Vazquez rescued Dubious McGinty from his most recent "fall" into the frigid waters.  A flock of infected ducks looked down silently from the bridgeman's quarterdeck high above the river.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Slow Simmer


[NOTE:  The climate rally today was held on the National Mall, but Washington Water Woman took poetic license and placed it at the White House.  For the real story, see, e.g.,:  http://www.wtop.com/109/3227635/Thousands-rally-on-National-Mall-for-action-on-climate-change]

Dr. Devi Rajatala was led to the front of the Forward Climate Rally outside of the White House--not because the National Arboretum scientist was a scheduled speaker but because of the crowd's enthusiastic response to Rani, her donkey, who was double-signboarded with the message "DON'T BE AN ASS ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE".  It was Angela de la Paz's boyfriend, Major Roddy Bruce who had come up with the idea.  ("It's gotten so bloody hot down under, kangaroos are hanging around tree branches beggin' koalas to piss into their mouths!")  If Henry Samuelson were still alive--and in charge of the Heurich Society--Angela would never have had the nerve to attend a political rally of any sort.  But Samuelson was dead--not exactly gone, but certainly dead enough.  And after Angela's trip to the Clinica de Moron in Argentina, a climate change rally was the last thing on Henrietta Samuelson's mind.  "How is your friend Button doing?" asked Dr. Raj, while the crowd was awaiting the next speaker.

"I think she's OK," said Angela.

"I dunno," said Bruce, wearing a ski mask so that none of his coworkers at the Australian Embassy might recognize him on news feeds.  (And, in truth, the rough and tough commando was a bit of a pussycat when it came to cold weather.)  "I think she's on slow simmer."

"Well, it was her brother who was adopted illegally, not her."

"And you think she's happy about that?  I think she was hopin' you'd find a file on her.  Her brother's already in Buenos Aires giving his saliva to the DNA matching database:  he could have a brand new family any day now and leave her to deal with her father's legacy on her own."

"He's not gonna ditch her!  They've gotten closer since Henry died."

"I'm just saying, don't assume Button's grateful for your efforts in Argentina.  She's not one to overshare on feelings--who knows what's going through her head." 

"I agree with Roddy," said Dr. Raj.  "Don't make any assumptions.  But you've been a good friend to her."

Angela hadn't really thought of Button Samuelson as a friend, but more as a coconspirator in taking down the old boys' network at the Heurich Society.  Do I really have a boyfriend and two friends?

A block away, former Senator Evermore Breadman looked out from his Prince and Prowling office window and snickered with contempt at the so-called biggest climate rally ever.  "Get over it!  Oil's here to stay!" he said out loud, unaware that Bridezilla had just entered his office.

"Actually it's not here to stay," she said, as he wheeled sharply around (narrowly missing spotting Liv Cigemeier and her P&P Partner husband in the crowd).  "And we spend half a trillion dollars a year to maintain military forces in the Middle East in order to protect our oil allies.  Maybe it is time for us to move beyond oil and develop a national energy policy that will actually sustain our country at least until it's 300th birthday."  She dropped a file on his desk and left without awaiting a reply. 

Breadman knew this could only mean one thing:  she had a new boyfriend, and he was an environmentalist.  "Jesus Christ!"

"I heard that!" she called back from the hallway.  "Don't blaspheme--especially on Sunday!"  Bridezilla shook her head in disgust, having already been to church with her new boyfriend, Colonel Alexander Wolfbugler [a national security specialist--not the tree hugger Breadman assumed him to be].  She would see him again later for supper unless some emergency came up, but she had already noticed that sometimes he turned off his Defense Intelligence Agency beeper when he was with her--not that he wasn't dead serious about his job, but ten minutes here or there constituted a very nice romantic gesture.  She sighed, quickly losing herself in a reverie of remembrance about their first few dates--starting with their meeting at a Valentine's Day happy hour in Arlington.  He had already taught her so much about what was going on in the world--not at all reluctant to talk about his work (like all those self-important CIA operatives who thought they were God's gift to the world--but could never tell you why!).  She entered the handicapped stall in the ladies room, set her iPod to "Midnight Sonata", grabbed the ballet barre, regarded herself in the mirror, and started going through her elegant (and happy) positions.  Tonight Alex is going to explain to me what's wrong with Syria, she thought, and a warm fuzzy glow came over her, thinking about the tall, handsome man out there analyzing security threats to protect their loved ones.

Back at the climate rally, Glenn Michael Beckmann was pulling together a hastily assembled Hunter-Gatherer Society counter-rally.  He had originally planned to be at home in Southwest Plaza, blogging a bed-in (like John and Yoko Ono) with a live video feed, but the prostitute he had hired for the job had drawn the line at performing a live webcast, so here he was.)  "What do we want?"  ("Oil!')  "When do we want it?"  ("Now!")  "United, we drill!"  ("Drill!")  "Divided, we crawl around gathering twigs for firewood!"  ("Divided we--")  He cut off their confused repetition and motioned for his devoted followers to be silent for a few moments.  "Let us bow our heads in silent prayer for the men who have died to keep oil tankers coming out of the Persian Gulf."  (Some of the climate rally attendees bowed their heads, as well, sending Beckmann into a fury--a fury being monitored by Secret Service officers watching video screens in the bunker below 17th Street.)

At the other end of the crowd, the Warrior watched the proceedings carefully.  He had lived through 400 winters and 400 summers.  He had seen the great felling of the forests by the White Man, the devouring of the Chesapeake's once teeming shellfish, the damming and silting of the rivers (even the Great One), and the near disappearance of the buffalo.  He had seen the day the dried-up prairie gathered itself up like a hundred-mile-wide flock of ducks to fly angrily across the plains, and many days when the White Man smoke gathered over the Blue Ridge and rained acid on the trees.  But until now, he had not understood that the White Man was powerful enough to shrink the winter and grow the summer, that it was the White Man who caused flowers to come early and seeds to come late, that it was the White Man who confused the northern geese into forgetting their winter home in the south, that it was the White Man who could cause the hurricane of summer and blizzard of winter to arrive on the same day in the lands of the Poospatuck and Mohican.  Even his great hope, Angela of the Paz, could do nothing about this.  Surely it was too late for anybody but the Great Spirit?

Up in the attic of the White House East Wing, butler Clio was curled up on a couch under a blanket, looking out the window at the climate rally.  She had given her twin pre-schoolers permission to go with Bridge because there was nothing that delighted Regina and Ferguson more than large crowds; she didn't know they had persuaded him to take them up on the roof, instead, where Reggie and Fergie were planning to set off firecrackers to scare the sharp shooters.  Outside her window, a catbird on the sill was mimicking, "Drill, drill, drill, Drill," in an eerie voice that disturbed her greatly.  She gathered up her blanket and moved to another seat, wondering when the President would return from Florida.  Two loud pops made her jump up again, and she scanned the crowd anxiously to see what was going on, but a flock of starlings swirled outside and messed up her viewpoint.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Girl Hurl


"Next item:  girls!"  Augustus Bush clicked to the next slide of his PowerPoint presentation in the International Development Machine conference room.  "Girls are very trendy right now, and we need our own Malala."

"You want a girl that got shot in the head by the Taliban?" asked Momzilla.

"Yes, exactly!" said the IDM president.  "No, I mean, not literally--but we need that sort of branding in the girlasphere.  Our social media consultant has drafted an entire campaign for us, and Liv is going to be in charge."

"Me?" asked Liv Cigemeier.

"You're the closest thing we have to a girl," said Bush.

"She's older than me!" protested Momzilla.

"She doesn't have any kids," said Bush, "so she's still girly."

"Girly?" asked Cigemeier.

"Girly!" exclaimed Bush.  "You're going to set up a Facebook page, blog about girls, and send Twits."

"You mean Tweets?" asked Momzilla.

"No, it's Twitter, so it's Twits," said Bush.  (He clicked to the next slide.)  "By June, you should have 20,000 Likes on Facebook, 200 hits/day on your blog, and 40,000 people following your Twits."

"40,000!" exclaimed Momzilla.  "Hillary Clinton doesn't even have 40,000!"

"That's not really Clinton!"  said the website manager.  "I told you:  you're following a fake Twitter account."

"What am I supposed to blog and Tweet about?" asked Cigemeier (who had never Facebooked, blogged, or Tweeted in her life--nor, in fact,  been good at getting anybody to pay attention to her ever).

Bush clicked to the next slide.  "This is our memo," he said.

"Meme," said the website manager.

"Girl Hurl," said Bush.  (The social media consultant had borrowed liberally from the United Nations "Girl Up" campaign.)

"That sounds like bulimia," said Momzilla.

"What!?" exclaimed Bush (who was from the U.S. Virgin Islands branch of the Bush clan, where bulimia had never been fashionable).  "No--it's about hurling girls to the stratosphere.  The social media consultant's contract runs until the end of the week, Liv, so feel free to contact her this afternoon for additional guidance."

A couple miles away, U.S. Attorney Atticus Hawk looked up as his boss walked into his Justice Department office and closed the door behind himself.  "They want additional guidance," he said, tossing a file in front of Hawk and sitting down in the guest chair.  "As of today, you're officially back on this."  (Hawk opened the file and saw that it was about the now infamous legal guidelines for Predator drone kill orders.)  "That damned memo is killing us," Hawk's boss said.

"And killing the targets," said Hawk sardonically.

"Hmmm?  Look, you saw what Code Pink did with the CIA Director hearing?"  (Hawk nodded.)  "That's because the memo had circular reasoning:  a one-L could have torn apart the logic in that.  The big guys want a new memo tightening things up.  I told them unreservedly that nobody could justify counter-terrorism measures better than you, so you're off probation.  Well, I mean, you were never on probation, but you know what I mean.  Get me a first draft by COB Monday--it can be rough, just get me something then.  Sound good?"

"Yes, sir," said Hawk, who had nightmares two to three times a week about a Predator drone strike hurling his old girlfriend, Basia Karbusky (currently ranked 13,893 on the FBI Most Wanted list), into the stratosphere.  "Thank you, sir."

Just down the street, Judge Sowell Ame was a little disappointed there was no equivalent of a Code Pink rabble that he could clear out of his hearing, but the dozen people in Courtroom Five at Superior Court were, in fact, silently in rapture at the peculiar proceeding.  First of all, there had been the curious sight of Marcos Vazquez's attorney admonishing her client for approaching the plaintiff's attorney, and Vazquez had still been chatting with the plaintiff's attorney while the presiding judge was entering the courtroom.  ("We saw him at the Kite Festival," Vazquez whispered as he rushed back to his own attorney.  "He had an Osage vision of a prophecy--my wife understood it--it was shamanistic.")  Then Judge Ame gaveled for order and glared at Vazquez and his attorney, who bowed his head meekly to the judge.

"John Doe, rise!" commanded the judge, turning to the (shamanistic) plaintiff's attorney.  "You filed this case as 'John Doe', even though that is not the name you were admitted to the Bar with.  You are making a mockery of our legal system."

"No, your honor--"

"I didn't say you could speak!" sputtered Judge Ame.  "Summary judgment for defendant, AND I'm dismissing this case with prejudice, so don't try to file something else!"  (Silence, except for the confused guttural utterances of Libra, the plaintiff.)  "Well, do you have something to say?!"

"I can speak now?" asked John Doe.

"Don't be impertinent!" hollered Judge Ame.  "I have never seen such nonsense in thirty years on the bench!"  (Judge Ame had only been on the bench 23 years, but he rounded up.)

"Your honor," wailed Libra, getting to her feet, "he doesn't remember the attorney he was before the life-altering brain injury!  His work now transcends the legalistic confines of a linear trajectory working for The Man!  The galactic life forces are out of balance since I have been cheated out of my home, and John is the one anointed to fulfill the Prophecy!"  (She hadn't heard anything about the Prophecy until three minutes earlier, but she now believed in it wholeheartedly.)

"Restrain your client!" bellowed Judge Ame, as he gaveled four more times (and restrained himself from hurling the gavel at the hippy chick).  "Clerk, enter into the record that Ms. Libra whatever-her-name-is is barred from bringing a civil lawsuit in the District of Columbia for ten years.  This hearing is adjourned!"  With that, he rose abruptly and stared at the audience, half-expecting them to erupt into some type of frenzy, but the small audience shuffled slowly to its feet and stared at him quietly in befuddlement.  "Adjourned!" he repeated more loudly, then he remembered to bang the gavel before turning back towards his chamber.  (His law clerk tried to head him off with a reminder that Judge Ame had two more hearings scheduled, but Judge Ame shoved his law clerk aside and went out the door with a dramatic flourish of his robe.) 

A few miles to the west, Bridezilla left her Prince and Prowling office, headed to the ladies room in the hallway, and entered the handicapped stall with a dramatic flourish of her merino wool skirt.  She selected the Tchaikovsky ballet suite on her iPod, inserted her ear buds, and approached the wooden barre she had installed over the weekend in place of the steel rails that had been there before.  She looked into the 4x7 mirror (also installed over the weekend) and began running through the five positions on both sides.  Then she did demi-plies (not full plies because the floor was too dirty to brush her skirt on), followed by attitudes, arabesques, and developpes--all part of her new approach to living the beautiful-life-she-was-meant-to-live  (But she thought randomly about J.P. Morgan's damage control campaign while she was doing it so that she could bill her trips to the ladies room.)

Out in the river, Ardua of the Potomac was hurling herself out of the water like a humpback whale, sending wave after wave of cold water flying up at Dubious McGinty as he cursed her from the railing of the 14th Street Bridge.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Groundhogged

Luciano Talaverdi was still recovering from his official date with Obi Wan Woman.  It was the first time the Italian economist had ever seen her outside of the Federal Reserve Board headquarters.  She had invited him to her condo to watch the movie "Groundhog Day" (because he had never seen it), and she had served him take-out Chinese food on the most hideous set of mustard yellow plates Pottery Barn had ever sold.  Her furnishings were a mix of Ikea, Georgetown Flea Market, Craigslist, Marlo, and maternal grandmother inheritance.  She had a large ficus tree in the corner of the living room, but it was fake.  Her artwork was a mixture of museum prints, Eastern Market originals, and jazz singer paintings purchased during a Federal Reserve conference in New Orleans.  The kitchen smelled like cilantro, and the bathroom smelled like pickled lavender.  The entire experience was so aesthetically revolting that he had been forced to make excuses in order not to see how dreadful the bedroom might be (and risk performance problems).  Now he was back at his FRB desk, admiring the timeless (but timekeeping) elegance of his Rolex, the tasteful artwork he had hung on his office walls, and the "Pagliacci" soundtrack playing in the background.  "No, she is a better woman in the Research Library," he said to himself.  "Our love nest is the round table; our muses, the musty books and ghosts of economists past."  He scratched the permanent rash under his cursed Rolex, briefly pondered making another appointment with his psychiatrist, and pulled up the latest figures from London.  "They are heading into recession again--just like that Bill Murray who wouldn't learn his lesson."  (Talaverdi had already reread all his 2008 emails about Lloyd's of London, Barclay's, and the Bank of England.)  "Those who will not learn from history will be condemned to repeat it."  Then he got an automatically generated message telling him that Glenn Michael Beckmann had just mentioned the FRB in a blog post, and Talaverdi pulled up the website to see what the latest threat was.  (So did Homeland Security, the FBI, the National Security Agency, and Ron Paul.)

A few miles to the south, Beckmann was blogging away in his Southwest Plaza apartment.  "Moreover," he continued, "today is Boy Scout Sunday, a day sacred to people like me--once a Scout, always a Scout."  (Beckmann was never a Boy Scout:  he just had confused memories of his father dropping him off in west Texas scrubland with a knife and compass, and telling him to find his way home.)  "Ben Bernanke--the Serial Creditor, Serial Predator--has already set in motion his secret plan to defeat the Sequester and bully the Republicans into going soft on defense.  He is spreading salt all over Washington in order to melt the snow so that the people don't see how much snow there is, so that the government can keep telling us global warming is real, so that the government can take away our cars and our guns, so that the government can force us to borrow more money."  He paused for a minute to reread his last few sentences.  (Sometimes his dizzying logic made him get ahead of himself.)  "Bernanke was never a Boy Scout."  (That was the point he had almost lost.)  "Bernanke doesn't know anything about truth, justice, and the American way."  (Beckmann stopped to shove the rest of his breakfast burrito into his mouth.)  "What good does it do to help a little old lady cross the street if her Social Security checks are going to be worthless because our President is a Moslem socialist?  The British have the right idea:  pull out of the European Union and go back to pirating on the open seas!  The Hunter-Gatherer Society is the only institution that will still be standing after everybody else falls, and we'll burn those useless dollar bills in our campfires when we're roasting the groundhogs and warthogs of Washington."  (Luciano Talaverdi, Homeland Security, the FBI, the National Security Agency, and Ron Paul continued to monitor Beckmann's blog for another quarter-hour, but Beckmann was finished for the moment--he had to go stake out a seat at Clyde's in Gallery Place six hours before the Super Bowl was to start.)  (John Boehner and Dick Cheney would soon be busy posting petulant comments on Beckmann's blog, but he would see those later, after he pulled out his laptop in the bar.)

Several miles to the west, Charles Wu already had his laptop open in the bar as he waited for his flight out of Dulles.  He stole a quick peek at his daughter playing with her toy groundhog under the watchful eye of Nanny Mia (12 feet away), then turned back to examining his bank account balance--something he freely did when a beautiful woman was seated next to him at a bar.  He was tired of people assuming that young Mia was his wife and the mother of Delia, and Wu was determined to score more action in the New Year.  He stole a glance at the beautiful woman next to him, but she was not looking at his bank account balance--she was winking and wrinkling her nose at Delia.  Wu closed the laptop and returned to his gin and tonic.  He was well aware that babies in general--and the astonishingly beautiful Delia in particular--were babe magnets, but he had no interest in hooking up with a woman who was going to want any sort of domestic relationship that would further complicate his espionage affairs.  Wu shook his head, already dreading the line-up of eligible brides his mother had undoubtedly lined up for him to celebrate the Year of the Snake with in Hong Kong.  He stole a glance back at the beautiful woman next to him and finally admitted to himself that if he hadn't solved his love life problem after a year with little Delia in his life, he needed to change his approach.

Back in the city, John Boehner was sitting stiffly on psychiatrist Ermann Esse's couch, wondering if he needed to change his approach.  "I don't know if this counseling thing is really for me, Doc," he said.

"Only one way to find out, Congressman," said Dr. Esse, agreeably.

"It's just...I feel stuck in a rut, like nothing ever changes, like I'm carrying the same burden every day and never getting anywhere."

"You are feeling like Sisyphus, hmmm?"

"I didn't say I feel like a sissy!"

"No--"

"It's like that 'Groundhog Day' movie," said Boehner.  "No matter what you do, tomorrow is the same as today."

"Yes--"

"Paul Ryan told me he had a dream that the Tea Party were the modern day Suffragettes, and they marched on Washington with Ryan atop a white horse at the front of the parade.  I tried to tell him, 'that's never gonna happen, son,' and then he asked why I was leading the party if I had no vision for it, and I realized, he's right, I have no vision for it!"

"Hmmm--"

"I'm like that kid in Amsterdam with the finger in the hole in the dike--is that all I'll ever be?"

"Well, that's an important job.  In fact, it's more important than riding on top of a white horse at the front of a parade."

"You're right!" exclaimed Boehner, pounding a couch cushion with his right fist.  'It is more important!  Why am I listening to that punk kid anyway?  What did he ever do?"

"Perhaps he reminds you of yourself when you were younger?" asked Dr. Esse.  "Sometimes young and idealistic people remind us that we used to have a different outlook on the world, but it is quite natural for your viewpoint to change with experience."

"But I feel like my viewpoint is changing now, but it's amorphous--it's in flux and won't take shape."

"You are in a transitional period," said Dr. Esse.  "Change can be frightening--"

"I didn't say I was scared!"

"No, no, of course not--you are simply impatient for the changes to become coherent and instructional."

"What about a National Day of Prayer for the national debt?" asked Boehner.

"Ummm...."

Out on the river, Ardua of the Potomac watched in amusement as The Beaver evaluated his own shadow to make a deranged prediction about the fate of winter.  "The fate is in my hands, you puny little runt!"  (The pink dolphins disagreed with the demon, but remained silent for now.)