Ruth Rose clamped her tongue in her teeth, biting until she felt pain and until the pain squelched the hysteria giggling up from her gut at the spectacle of President Geoffrey Abercrombie Morowitz seated across from her on Marine One, the H-42 Chinook helicopter bound for Camp David.
Legs more dominant than they had any business being, knees bulging through faded jeans so near she heard the denim stretching, shins and thighs so long they formed something geometric-looking that made her think of an overturned oil derrick, at the peak of which perched this narrow, forlorn face, distant and tiny in perspective and framed between an unkempt thatch of mouse-gray hair and a crumpled, foreshortened robin's-egg-blue polo shirt. Only when they moved, when the president spoke, did Ruth notice the thin, bone-white arms waving like the antennae of an albino grasshopper. No wonder the cartoonists had such fun with this physically unfortunate politician, portraying him the more grotesque in caricature as his popularity plummeted with the populace. It was almost a blessing, she mused, that in his case the shrinking in size of his editorial depictions diminished somewhat the graphic affront of their visual pilloryings.
“We're off!” Morowitz announced over the revving whine of Marine One's twin General Electric engines and its rotors' accelerating whupwhupwhup as they lifted the twelve-ton machine from the American Enterprises helipad. The president, his face wearing an expression that mitigated its perpetual near-grimace with a half-smile, rotated his head slightly to acknowledge the three other passengers, across the aisle. Rose watched the others as they met his gaze. It occurred to her that despite his uncomfortably odd physical appearance Morowitz enjoyed a certain magnetism, which the camera lens never seemed to catch but which came through in person. A natural grace to his movements, she guessed, all the more noticeable for its incongruence with his body's architecture. The voice helped too, she knew. Resonating urbane masculine confidence, it served him well in every forum.
He said something now that completely undid that vocal persona, although coming after what had transpired the past two days the reversal was no surprise to his guests.
“I feel strange now, you know?” He was looking at Ruth when he said this, but he let his eyes drift past her toward the narrow cockpit door when he continued, in a tone less distinct, as if thinking aloud. “I mean, I can't go back now, can I. Not really.”
Ruth waited for anything else he might say. Instead, he sighed deeply and turned to the window next to his seat, brushing back the blue curtain and peering into the cotton clouds. Al Geddes did a half-shrug when Ruth caught his eye. He'd played devil's advocate all along, from the moment she told him what Morowitz wanted.