Gladys Alabi and Anthony Cromwell stared aghast at the flat-screen TV on the wall in the conference room. They were watching President Morowitz come unglued, ranting about how WACKO was “the real government, the shadow government”, and that he, Morowitz, was a figurehead, a joke.
“How long you suppose before WACKO shuts them down?”
“They can't crash the bunker, Gladys. That would be too obvious.”
“Do they even know which bunker?”
“Shouldn't take them long to figure it out, but they'll wait at least until he's done speaking.”
“What about the signal?”
“You mean cut it off?”
“Yeah, wouldn't that be the best way? Blame it on the weather, terrorists?
“Oh, I'm sure they're trying.”
“I wish Randy was here with us.”
“Yeah, I know. He likes to work alone. I still wish he was here.”
Just then, Randy Newgate appeared in the conference room with his laptop.
“They're not doing anything. Didn't even try to keep us from co-opting the satellite feeds. Makes sense. The more that asshole rants the less his credibility, what's left of it anyway.”
“He looks pretty good up there, actually,” said Cromwell.
“That's true, but a president's not supposed to talk like that. Most people are convinced he's gone over the edge.”
“Finally grew a pair of balls, is what he's done.”
“Too little, too late, Gladys. I just hope Ruth doesn't go down with him.”
“She won't, Anthony. She's too smart.”
“Then that dimwit Kudlow will be president. Holy shit.”
Hearing Cromwell use profanity quieted the other two. They turned their attention back to the screen in time to watch Morowitz break into song.
“These assholes are gonna wanna kill me now, you know. Ohhhhh, they're angry. Ooooweeee, as my roommate Cedric at Harvard would say. Ooooweeee, WACKO is pissed. Well, lemme tell ya, I mighta been afraid of the bastards before...mighta been? That's a chickenshit thing to say, isn't it. I was afraid of the WACKO bastards. They're evil, scary bastards. Kill anybody who gets in their way. Anybody!! But I'm not scared now, ya know? No longer scared. I even wrote a song to show you and those bastards that I'm not scared of them anymore. Wanna hear it? Well, you're gonna hear it. Here I go.”
He pulled a scrap of paper from his jacket, cleared his throat and roared at the camera in his deep Nixon baritone:
“WACKOHHH...WACKOHHH...Double-yew A C-K O, da dump da dump da dump da,
WACKOHHH...WACKOHHH...Double-yew A C-K O da dumpety dump,
Oh, who are the ones who really run the show?
The ones who will kill you if too much you know?
Oh, Lordy, WACKOHHH...motherfuckin' WACKOHHH...Double-yew A C-K O –
Those evildoers –
Double-yew A C-K O, da dump da dump bump.”
“What's that tune?”
“I don't know, Gladys, Jeezuz...”
“It's called Ja-Da. An old jazz tune,” Newgate said. “Silly thing. My folks used to sing it around the house when they'd had a few. Ja-da ja-da zing zing zing. Something like that.”
“Jeezuz.” Cromwell's voice was subdued. He stared at the screen as if watching news coverage of the zombie apocalypse.
“It is that, Gladys. I feel like singing along with the president – almost.”
“Oh, c'mon, Randy. He's gonna keep singing it until he has a heart attack or a stroke.”
And Morowitz did sing his little ditty again, this time stepping from behind the lectern, flapping his elbows like uncoordinated wings and shuffling into a sort of hybrid mix of soft-shoe and strut, almost falling from the dais in doing so.
“You know, I'm starting to get really worried, for Ruth and Joan and Liz and Al,” said Cromwell. “I kinda wish this would end.”
“I'm surprised they haven't tried to get him down from there.”
“Maybe they're not even in the room anymore, Randy. Maybe he's locked them out.”
“That's possible, Gladys, but I don't think so. He keeps looking at someone, when he's not looking straight into the camera. I think everybody's in there with him. He's not really acting nuts, either. I mean, yeah, he's acting nuts for a president, but he looks pretty comfortable up there, like he's having the time of his life.”
“Time of the end of his life. This isn't going to end well, guys.”
“This could be the best thing ever happened. No matter how it ends. He's calling WACKO out. We can never go back from this.”
Newgate's voice trailed off as Morowitz switched gears, walking up to the camera so his face filled the screen. His face had gone serious from the snarky grin it wore during the singing performance. He spoke calmly.
“My fellow Americans. I know most of you must be thinking, this guy has lost his marbles. And you know something, maybe I have. But, then, all the polls have been telling us you don't really care one way or the other, whether I'm nuts or not or wise or stupid or mediocre or alive or dead. You just don't care anymore.
“You've come to disregard not only me but the office of the presidency. Ordinarily that would be a tragedy for this country. But you know something? You, the people, have caught on to the problem I've been talking about tonight. The presidency, not just this president but the office itself has lost your respect and that's because deep down you've come to see it for the sham that it's become. You haven't known about WACKO, but you have come to see, to understand in your hearts, that somebody else, not me or any of the people you've elected to represent you in this government, but somebody hiding from view, somebody no one has elected to anything, is really running the show.
“None of us – most of us, anyway – has wanted to admit this, even to ourselves. We've gone along pretending things are the way the Constitution says they should be. We have our elections. We get all excited about the debates and the issues and then we vote. Some candidates win and take their seats in office and we think everything is running along the way it's supposed to, that our government is still the best form of government in the world.
“Well, I'm pulling the mask off that dream tonight, my friends. I'm telling you how things really work, and it is not the way our Founding Fathers hoped it would be. It is not the way the document they hammered out prescribed how things should operate, that you the people shall govern yourselves through representatives you yourselves elect.
“I've been telling you tonight, and now I'm going to show you.” He stepped back from the camera and motioned to someone out of view. “We're going to play for you a short video that's going to change your view of this country forever. It's a video that was delivered to me shortly after I was inaugurated as president. At the time, I was not able to determine who made this video available to me. I was afraid to tell anyone about it, much less show it to them. It shocked me to my core, just as it will shock you to yours. Pay close attention, now. Go ahead, Bradford. Play the video.”
The screen went blank.