“Well then fuck the Prime Minister and cancel the State dinner. No, wait! We’ll have the State dinner but let’s invite that idiot from North Korea instead. That oughta piss off all of those pussies in Europe.”
“But Mr. President, there’s international protocol, we can’t just dis-invite the Prime Minister of Britain because he didn’t agree with you on the whole Greek Reformation thing. I mean, they really can’t fire all their workers when the people doing the firing are protesting as well. And we can’t invite the leader of a nation that we’re imposing sanctions upon.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake! International protocol my ass, this is the Greatest Nation on earth, we can change the protocol.”
“I’m sorry Mr. President but we really can’t. This is a matter of National interest and prestige. It’s not just about the US, I mean there are leaders all over the world watching how this visit goes down, especially in light of your, a-hem, the disagreement between yourself and the PM. I mean, this is fucking Britain we’re talking about and we really have to kiss their ass sometimes to keep our sway in Europe.”
“Goddamn he’s such a prick though. Can’t I just send the Vice-President then? Make up some excuse that I’m sick or something.”
“I, uh, really don’t think that’s in our best interest sir, we have to be seen as setting a high bar, as it were, in keeping a solid relationship with Britain. That means the dinner must be perfect.”
“Whatever. Just have your guys communicate to his guys that I don’t want any chit chat at the dinner table, and put some one cool and good-looking on the other side of me, I dunno, like Cindy Crawford and what’s-his-name her husband.”
“Yes sir, I’ll get right on that.” Jamie, the President’s Chief of Staff, closed the door of the Oval Office and took a swig of his Starbucks. He was grateful for the Cognac he added earlier to the remaining latte. It’d at least get him through the morning. The State dinner was only ten days away, he had no idea how he was going to keep this together. He sent a text to his secretary to get the number for Cindy Crawford’s agent along with a prayer muttered under his breathe,”Please let her be available on such short notice. Christ this job is killing me.” He took another swig and practically ran to the other side of the White House to find out if Bruce Springsteen would play the dinner even though he’d asked five times already and been turned down each time without hesitation. “God, what can I do to bribe the son-of-a-bitch. And, why Bruce Springsteen? He could’ve chosen a hundred other ass kissers to do the gig but he chose the one guy who would be a problem.”
Cindy Crawford was available (thank god), Bruce never did say yes (fuck ‘im), but Jamie convinced the President during an opportune moment that maybe Coldplay would be an acceptable substitute. Their agent had tentatively agreed, they were British so it was a brilliant nod to the visiting Prime Minister, and they were cool with the mainstream since they just released their biggest album ever. As far as Jamie was concerned, it was a win-win-win.
The next few days were a blur. Once the final pieces were in place Jamie immediately forgot about the dinner as he ran around, spiked Starbucks cup in hand, defending the President’s comments: “No, he wasn’t endorsing bankruptcy as a solution to the national debt problem.” “What he meant was that China should pursue the right policy for their nation and if that means no more petroleum based engines imported from the US then we of course regret the loss of their business, but I assure you we will continue to engage in other trade with them.” “I’m sure the President didn’t mean the comment literally, it was a figurative reference that the President of Russia was a momma’s boy. He meant that Russia appears to sometimes hides behind the skirts of the EU or China.”
The dinner went off without any trauma and Jamie was close to letting his guard down by the time dessert arrived. The Prime Minister was happy to oblige the request to ignore the President and Cindy Crawford was even more beautiful in real life than he could imagine. The President flirted with her all evening long and drank lots of champagne. Jamie sensed that his wife was getting a bit pissed at the ordeal; she kept shifting in her chair and giving him horrible looks. Jamie thought if the President didn’t realize he was in trouble with her, he was a complete idiot.
Finally the call came for the first dance which required the two to be ‘alone’ in a loose sense of the word; they were in front of powerful world leaders, A-list celebrities and a zillion staff and press. As Jamie watched them dance to the first few measures of some sickening sweet love song, he could well discern the forced smile on both faces and imagine the conversation taking place behind the masks; he’d heard them personally more often than he’d care to recall, her accent was burned into his memory forever. “Get your shit together, you are starting to cross the line and get everyone pissed. Her husband is getting angry too. He looks like he’s about to hit you. We’re almost done here, keep it zipped in every conceivable way, do you understand me? The entire fucking world is watching you, act like a grown up!” Jamie figured the cue for other couples to join on the dance floor came at a fortuitous moment. They couldn’t speak with others around and their silence saved everyone from an escalating, longstanding argument.
Jamie took a long swig of his bourbon as he watched the President sit in his seat when he returned from the first dance and the brief conversation with his wife. He knew the pose, the look, the rhythm of the breathing of his chest: shit was about to happen.
He saw it unfold with such perfect consistency it put a knot in his stomach. First the harsh snap at the poor waiter…as if he should have read his mind and switched the drink from champagne to scotch. Then the invisible line crossed…ever so slightly with just a nod and tilt of the glass to the Prime minister. A short comment, the lure of perhaps a fragile but sociable conversation, and then the bombshell. The pent up, misdirected anger so beautifully put together in a short quip guaranteed to upset even Jesus himself.
The Prime Minister was visibly shocked by the remark when it was finally delivered. Jamie’s first instinct was to look around the room and determine what the press was doing. Thankfully he saw that they were all enamored with Cindy and her dance moves as she worked it to the newest, hippest Coldplay tune. He finished his bourbon, grabbed another and turned to see the Prime Minister, always polite, whisper in his wife’s ear. He saw her expression as it morphed from disbelief to horror to disbelief and then to hardened rage. She put her napkin on the table and intimated that she was ready to leave for the evening. It was early, tongues would wag, there would be explaining to do.
Jamie felt when the press turned their attention to the exiting couple. A short span of silence was followed by a rustle of voices and texts and pictures and motion at the horror of Britain’s early exit from the dinner. The President was alone at the table for the moment. Jamie watched him squirm a bit then he drank his scotch in one go and nodded for another. As he waited for the blessed waiter to reappear he caught Jamie’s eye and motioned for him to come sit beside him. He couldn’t refuse, he knew the press were watching so he went to the table and sat down with a confidence he knew he didn’t possess.
“Those Brits are such sensitive babies, the guy can’t even take a joke.”
It was going to be a long night, Jamie asked the nearest waiter for a pot of coffee.
“What was the joke?” He was beyond any attempt to imagine what might’ve been said. After two years as Chief of Staff, Jamie knew he should just be prepared to be shocked and count on working his ass off for the next seventy two hours addressing damage control.
“I told him I had a great idea for a new reality show, we could pitch it as promoting international relations: World Leader Wife Swap. But I told him it wouldn’t work out very well, I’d end up with both chicks cause his sure as hell wouldn’t wanna leave me once she was in my house!”