His face flushed, his cheeks puffing half-syllables of super-heated air, Sen. Porkbelly Fishbottom was about to swallow an aneurysm.
I threw water on his face, trying to cool him. It just sputtered and sizzled.
I tried quietly talking to him, trying to calm him down. He wasn’t listening.
After five minutes, I was about to call 911 to report a stroke victim, when he said his first two-syllable word.
“Bama?” I asked. “Something wrong in Alabama? Is the school cancelling its professional football team?”
“Bahma!” he said, spitting out both syllables. His fire-red cheeks drained into his neck, leaving a pasty-white face. He was returning to normal, and there would be no need to call out a $2,500 lifeflight helicopter to take him to the nearest hospital. “Bahma!” he shouted again.
“Bahma? You want to bomb someone? Afghanistan? Syria? Connecticut?”
“Bahma, you fool! Pres’dunt. Traitor. Commie.”
“Oh, you mean President Obama,” I said.
“Bahma’s the problem.”
“What problem?” Fishbottom was close to speaking in full sentences, so I didn’t rush him.
“Killed the music. Lied to the people. Impeach him!”
Since Fishbottom and many of his colleagues spent most of their time sitting on their thumbs, while they figured out newer and better ways to obstruct necessary legislation, I assumed this was similar. It wasn’t. The rotund Senator was furious, but now coherent. At least as coherent as he had ever been in his 30-year political career.
“What is it you think the president did this time?” I asked calmly, so as not to further excite him.
“Did you hear what he did at the inauguration?” he asked.
I had watched the swearing-in, the speech, the parade, and several hours of empty commentary on different networks about Michelle Obama’s dress and hairstyle, but couldn’t see anything that rose to the level of impeachment.
“Special investigative committee. I’m calling for a congressional committee to investigate the president, render an objective report. And then impeach the SOB!”
It was obvious something was interfering with Fishbottom’s blood flow to the brain, but what?
“He killed the music! Our National Anthem. The most important song in the world. I’ll live and die by that song. God Bless America and the Stripes and Stars!”
“You mean Beyoncé’s version of it?” I asked. “I thought she did a great job. She hit every note. It was clear. It was—”
“Fake!” he shouted. “Fake! She didn’t sing it. It was a recording. That’s un-American, and Obama did it.”
“Look, Senator,” I tried patiently explaining, “it was freezing, and the recorded music was used only because her vocal cords were affected by the cold. But it was her words. Her music.”
“Her lies! Investigate her and the Lier-in-Chief! Investigate the Marine Band. In fact, when I convene the committee, I’ll subpoena the entire Marine Corps. Every jarhead will be sworn in under oath to tell the truth that Obama interfered with our National Anthem. It’s a conspiracy, I tell you. A conspiracy, and that godless Muslim who was born in Kenya is behind it.”
“The Marine band,” I said, calmly trying not to further excite him until he could be evaluated by mental health professionals, “was also affected by the cold. You ever try to blow a French horn in 20 degree weather? Slide trombones don’t slide. Clarinet and sax reeds become so brittle, even with a gallon of spit, they crack.”
“Crackpot prez-dunce!” he said. “This was the inaugural. It was too long. It was overpriced. That tax-and-spend phony took money out of our poor, overtaxed constituents to pay for his tribute to himself, and raised the deficit another trillion dollars.”
“It was paid for out of private funds,” I corrected him.
“Doesn’t matter. He was dumb enough to have it in January! I smell even more conspiracy here!”
“President Obama didn’t arbitrarily pick a date. It used to be March 4, but was changed to January 20. If the 20th is on a Sunday, he’s still sworn in on that date, precisely at noon, and the next day is when the festivities are.”
“Since the passage of the 20th Amendment. That’s the facts.”
“What do facts have to do with anything!” Fishbottom retorted. “I’m a U.S. senator, and I say what the facts are. I’m going to convene a special investigation, gather evidence, find him guilty of treason, and impeach him for messing around with our National Anthem. Him. Beyoncé, the Marines, and Michelle, too!”
“You can’t impeach the First Lady. And even if you could, what would be the charges?”
“She’s too tall. Women are supposed to be shorter than men. It’s God’s Law. Says so right there in the Bible. Somewhere.”
When I last saw Fishbottom, he was calmer, chatting with a couple of dozen of his congressional colleagues, not planning to do anything other than convene a hearing that he hoped would lead to the end of recorded music—and an impeachment.
Walter Brasch’s latest book is Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution which, he claims, was not pre-recorded. The book is available at amazon.com, greeleyandstone.com, and most bookstores.