Ever just in the weird place at the weird time? (Incomplete)
|He knew it, he knew he was already screwed. He was the last man out. It didn’t matter who it was, he just knew he was screwed. Al because he decided to work on a Saturday.
“You there!” She yelled at me.
“Yes, Mrs. Winerker.” I replied.
“What are your sizes?”
She was sizing me up for an outfit. Why was I the last one to go? She was talking to me about low long something was and what collar size I wore. I didn’t know the answers.
“Ma’am.” I said. “I have to go home.” She looked over at the co-owner of the firm and scowled.
“I think not. Now hold still.” She grabbed me and called someone in. “Put him in a tux, Gretchen.
“Wait now! I’m sorry, Gretchen is it?” I started. “I am going… home, Ma’am.”
“Oh don’t try and charm me, I need an arm, and you’re it. D.S. won’t go.” She stared at him again.
“I have other plans.” I protested glumly.
“Cancel them. This is other duties as assigned.”
The phone call was a brand of hell I hadn’t experienced.
“No, honey, I’m not going to make our dinner date. I know. I have to escort the wife of th…” I held the phone away from my ear for a minute.
“Well.” I started again after the yelling stopped. “The White House. Yes, the one with the presi… Well, okay then.”
She had hung up. I sighed and shrugged. That relationship had been doomed from the start, and this was just the final nail I was glad we’d never decided to move in together. That would have been a nightmare. I put the phone down.
“Look, I don’t want to go either. I hate political bullshit.” I pretended to scratch. “Gives me hives.”
“You will go, because D.S. refuses, I want to go, and you’re here. There is no one else.”
“My boss can’t just rent me out!” I was indignant.
“Apparently, he can.”
Just then the big boss stepped out of the office and looked at me. He gave me one of those upturned palm shoulder shrugs, like, “Why wouldn’t you go with my wife?” I held up both my hands and shook my head. I was hooked like a fish. I did not like the administration, I did not want to go. Once dressed in a new suit, I now owned three of the finest, we left by way of car service.
“A drink?” She offered from the back of the limousine.
“Are we driving the whole way?” I asked. She nodded. “Then sure. Irish in a cold glass.”
She nodded and the third member of our party, obviously the protection among other things, poured drinks. He didn’t understand “cold glass” but I’m sure hers was perfect.I had no idea exactly what I was about to attend, nor why I’d been roped into going along. I knew no amount of asking would get me an explanation any faster than she was going to give it in the first place. So, I just waited patiently. It was a good three hour drive.
“So, you want to know why we’re going?” She turned and asked me.
“It had crossed my mind.” I said drolly.
“Hmmm…” She looked at me. “It’s just some luncheon. Mind your table manners and you’ll be fine.”
“But ma’am,” I exaggerated my southern accent. “I’m jus’ a country boy! Ooo eee!”
“I know precisely what you are, I have your file.” She glanced at me sideways. “Manners., you know them and you’ll use them.”
“I’ll be just fine in a social situation. It’s just a backdrop.“ I said to her. “It isn’t like a state dinner.”
“No, it certainly isn’t.” My prodding helped a bit, but it wasn’t quite. Now I wanted to know!
“Usually these are held off premise.” She explained. “If it were, you’d be going alone.”
“Relax, if D.S. had said no from the start, we’d have had some V.P. and his wife go.” She looked out the window.
"So I can blame the big boss." I replied and she smiled an nodded.
“The Winerker Group is up for an ward.” She looked over at him. “The West Philly development?”
“Sure, I worked on that. Even some of the design.”
“It just better not rain.” She tried to get a glimpse to the southwest. “I do not want to be in a stuffy room.”
“Stuffy room, you say.” Getting information was like pulling a mule out of the mud. “As opposed to, what?”
“The Rose Garden, young man.” She glanced at his have full tumbler. “I’ve always wanted to attend one. Freshen your drink?”
“On, no thank you, ma’’am.” He smiled. “One is plenty for me.”
“Susan. My name is Susan.” She said as she craned around and looked out various windows.
“Okay, Susan.” He smiled. “I can open the roof next time we stop for a three hundred and sixty degree view!”
“Really.” She said coolly. James was still smiling, but it did kill the conversation for awhile.
It turned out the weather held. It was a very nice lunch, and even though the first family was nowhere to be found, it was good we went. The Winerker Group won their category, I was expected to be an escort, though I was introduced as on of the designers. I don’t know if it was worth the six hour round trip, but at least I could say I’d done it. It seemed to be winding down, and the sun peeked out. The smell of the water drying off the damn roses was pleasant, but nothing would keep me from real homemade key lime pie. I reveled in the sharp bite the small limes gave to the dessert while I watched guests glad hand and congratulate one another. I had one small matter which needed attending before we took another long ride.
“Excuse me.” I stood and left the table. I saw one of the staff by a door on the raised portico. “Rest room?”
“Down the hall, second door to the left, sir.”
“Thank you.” The door was opened for me, that was a new one. I headed down the hall.
“No, it’ll never even get a nod.” Three men in suits walked out of a room from the right.
“No, but it’ll be on record.” They stopped a beat. “But, hey! Give it up for the weekend!”
“It’s poker night.” He looked at me passing them. “We’re short. Think this guy's a player?”
“Say, young man. Why are you here?” I stopped and turned, a bit puzzled. “At the White House…”
“I’m an engineer from Philadelphia.” I stammered. “Award luncheon…”
“Hear that? A young engineer from your district, Cam.” He chuckled. “Of course he can play poker!”
“You have any clearance here?” The third one, a tall sandy haired fellow asked.
“I don’t think…” I held up my pass. “It’s all I have.”
“Well, that won’t do it.” The Pennsylvanian said. “We’ll have Charles check you out and get you something.”
“Wait. Hold on. I’m here with someone. “ I told them. “I can't just disappear.”
“Neither, actually.” He shrugged. “I’m more of an arm for the owner of the firm.”
“It looks like it’s breaking up. Can you get free?” Cam asked.
“Probably. I think I’ve done my duty.” I smiled and he called over a big Secret Service agent.
“Charles, would you go with…” He looked at me and I said James. “James here, explain he’s been invite to a private gathering.
“Yes, sir.’ He looked at me and held a hand out. I still had to pee, but it would wait. “After you, sir.”
I wandered back down the hallway and the doors open. I stopped on top the the five steps leading down into the garden area. I eventually picked out my boss in a small group. No doubt congratulating one another. I nodded at the rather large Charles and headed down. I tried to explain what had happened, but I wasn’t doing a very good job. Particularly since I wasn’t exactly sure myself. The agent saved me by telling her I had been invited to a small gathering by our local congressman, who she knew fairly well.
“Well, young man. I suppose you’re old enough to find your own way home.”
“We’ll make sure he’s fine. Ma’am.” The agent said.
He led me off in a new direction. I was more being driven like cattle than led anywhere, he was right at my elbow. We took a different door and a hall. This one was not nearly as ornate, and smelled mildly of disinfectant.
“Where we going, Charles?” I asked.
“Agent Simmons.” He said. “We’re going to check you out.”
“Okay then.” We entered a room with a utilitarian desk and some odd equipment.
Agent Simmons asked me plenty of questions, scanned my fingerprints, apparently called several agencies known mostly by their initials. It wasn’t a lengthy process, and the agnt seemed neither hostile nor inviting. He just had a job to do.While he was on the phone to someone, Cameron, my guy from back home came in.
“Here you go.” He handed me folded one hundred dollar bills. “If you work for D.S., you need this.”
“Are we really playing poker?” I asked. “And why so early. It isn’t even four.”
“Yes.” He gave me the campaign winning smile. Now I knew who he was. “And people had thing to do!” Just a little early fun to begin the weekend.
“I suppose so!” I said, and the agent handed him a pass on a lanyard.
“He’s ready to go, sir. Would you like me to escort?”
“Nah, take a load off, Charles. He can come up with me.” We left Charles, who looked like eh never took a load off. And headed out.
Maybe it’s just politicians and staff at that level, but damn they move fast. It was up one corridor, and this corner, say hello to someone, then down a different hall. He asked me if I preferred the steps or the lift, but by the time I realized he wasn’t asking if I wanted a drink, we were trotting up a staircase. I had to admire it. For a guy nearly three times my age, he was spry!
When we got the the top of the stairs, we went across a lovely red carpeted hall to a door with two more obvious security personnel. They took a look at my pass, then nodded, and one opened the door.
“Gentlemen!” He said to the group of five men and one woman. “And I do mean that in the most general terms..”
“Of course, you do, Cam. Now sit down and lose money to me.” She saw me and grinned. “Grandson?”
“Oh no, just a poor Irish lad from my district.” He went on with a lilt. “Rescues from social secretaries in the Rose Garden!”
“He have a trust fund?” She smiled at me. I knew her face, but no way I could place it. Others, yes.
“Give hima break and let him find a chair!”
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.” That one I knew.
“It’s first name at the table, son.” He said solemnly. “If we use titles, people would think we were all cheats!”
“That’s right!” One laughed. “We’d be naked because of people hiding cards!”
“Heaven forbid.” She rolled her eyes.
I was shown a seat two left of the dealer and one in front of the button, so I’d pick up the next big blind. I liked it. I could keep a left eye on the door, and only one person was over my shoulder.
“What’s the game?” I asked the dealer.
“Texas Hold ‘em. No limit. Blind are $20 and $40, sir.” he replied.
“Changing $2,000 he intoned.” Then slid me my chips. “You are on the big blind.”
I anted up, watched a cheap flop, and folded. That happened for a bit, then I got a decent run of cards and added a bit to my stack. Once I’d been called a few times and won the hand, I also added a few wins on the bluff. It wasn’t like I was going to empty these wallets, or have them owing me favors, but it would be fun to have them remember me. Some seemed like they played often and stayed, other came and went. They were faces I recognized and many I didn’t. Still, it was first names at the table. For awhile we played Omaha for one fellow who loved it so much, but once his money was gone, it was back to Hold'em.
“Hey, what’s Philly Boy there drinkin’?” One of them asked.
“Less than you, Lester, that’s why he has your paycheck.”
“Oh, I wish.” I said. “I know what you folks make!”
They all laughed. Then, when the door opened, it ceased. Everyone stood, and not missing the obvious. I did as well. I was waiting for the punchline when I realized there wasn’t one, and the most powerful man in the world walked in.
“Sit, now. If everyone doesn’t just sit, it’s no fun.” He motioned everyone to sit with his hands. “I’m in!”
“Yes, sir!” The dealer took a big stack from under the table. “Here you are, sir.”
“Good evening, Mr. President.” I said since I was closest to his seat. This was not unnoticed by armed people.
“To you, as well…” He left the pregnant pause very well.
“James, sir.” I nodded.
“Well, James. I’m not sure how these old goats roped you in here, but take their money.” He sat and waited a tick. “Not mine!”
“If you win all these, it could pay out better!”