Sunday, September 18, 2005

Sluice Tundra: The Case of the Missing President

Latest Newspaper Column . For those of you unfamiliar with my hardboiled sleuth Sluice Tundra, other columns featuring him are available here, here, and here.

Outside the window, a heavy rain was falling. I took another sip from the bottle of Old Overshoe I keep in my desk for medicinal purposes and looked out the window, watching the rain.

There was a knock at the door. “Come in,” I called out.

There were three of them, dressed in suits and ties. They were classier than the usual run of client that came through my door. Older, better dressed. “Are you Mr. Tundra?” one of them asked. He looked to be the oldest.

“Could be,” I said, “depending on who wants to know.”

“We’re clients,” the old guy said. “Paying ones.”

“Then I’m Sluice Tundra, Private Eye,” I replied quickly. “An honest gumshoe, out there on the mean streets, where the hot lead flies and justice is dispensed at the end of a fist …” I trailed off. They were looking at me expectantly. “Yes?” the old guy said.

“Sorry,” I said sheepishly. “Most people don’t let me get that far. I don’t really have an ending to it.”

“Yes. Well.” The old guy said, “My friends and I have a job for you. We want you to find out what happened to this man.” He placed a photograph face up on my battered desktop. I picked up the photo and wiped the batter off.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “This is George W. Bush.”

“That’s right.”

“The president of the United States.”

“Exactly.”

“Well … have you looked in the White House?”

“Mr. Tundra,” the old guy said heavily, “that man in the White House is not the man we voted for.”

“What do you mean?”

“We voted for a man who would be a strong and decisive leader in times of crisis. We voted for the man who we thought would keep us safer. The man in the White House dithered around for days on his vacation, eating cake with John McCain, pushing his Medicare plan, and playing a guitar some country singer gave him, all while a massive hurricane trashed the Southern U.S. The man we voted for was honest and forthright. This man in the White House let his people claim that the delayed disaster response was because the governor of Louisiana never asked for help until it was too late.”

“Which as it turns out,” I said helpfully, “was a total lie, according to the Congressional Research Service.”

The old guy didn’t seem to hear me. “The man we voted for,” he went on, “was going to be a wartime president who would lead us to victory over terrorism. The man in the White House has us bogged down in a seemingly endless operation that keeps producing more casualties and creating more terrorists.

“We voted for a man who had a clear vision. The man in the White House keeps telling us to ‘stay the course,’ but he won’t tell us what the course is, or when we can say we’ve arrived. We voted for a Republican, because the Republicans were the party of fiscal responsibility. The man in the White House spends money like a drunken sailor in a Bangkok brothel and keeps running up huge deficits while cutting taxes.” He slammed his hand down on the desk. “This can only mean one thing.”

“You were duped by the most shameless con man since P.T. Barnum?”

“No. The man claiming to be the president of the United States is not the man we voted for. Somewhere after the re-election, he was replaced by an imposter.”

“Sorry, pops,” I said. I turned back to the window and took another long drink of whiskey. “I can’t help you. Some of us tried to tell you all through the last election that the Emperor George had no clothes, that he was a mean-spirited hack whose only real agenda was creating power for himself and his party. The guy sitting in the White House is exactly the guy you voted for, because you thought it was funny to wear fake purple band-aids to mock John Kerry for not being wounded badly enough in Vietnam.”

I stopped. The three men couldn’t hear me. They had put their hands over their ears and were chanting, “Liberal. Jane Fonda. Michael Moore. Liberal. Jane Fonda. Michael Moore.” As one, they turned and began marching out. I sighed and turned back to the window. After a moment, however, I heard the door open again. It was the youngest of the three guys who had just left.

“So…” he said hesitantly, “what can we do?”

I shrugged. “There’s an election next year,” I said. “You can elect people who’ll stand up to him, who won’t rubber stamp everything just because it’s demanded by King George.”

He thought about that for a moment, then his face brightened. “Thanks!” he said.

“No thanks necessary,” I said, “I’m just Sluice Tundra, an honest gumshoe, out here on the…”

But he had already left. It was just as well. Some day, I’m really going to have to figure out an end to that bit.

1 comment:

MMTHRM said...

Loved it. Although he still should have pulled out his gun and shot them all - not to kill just to suffer - perhaps squarely in the b*&&s. Because, after all, it was their stupidity that put us all in this position now.