The whole row of crystal glasses shattered in rapid succession. Each chandelier shook, and the light-bulbs flickered and sizzled like bacon on a griddle.
Nixon was back in town.
I tented my hands in silent prayer. The smell of dampness and unnatural cold seeped into my body, it draped me in its toxic blanket. From the oppressive shadows, a silhouette shone against the boardroom wall like moonlight through cracked cellophane wrap.
Nixon was back in town.
“Nice day out,” I choked.
Quick as death, the imposing interviewer snared me with his talons. “SILENCE!”
He still wasn’t over our last encounter. To escape his massive gambling debts (I’d egged him on at the bookie’s) Richard Nixon had had no choice but to fake his own death and live a secret new life as a blacksmith in the old west. He’d become quite adept at mending wagons and shoeing horses, but the fact remained…
“You’re the last witness,” he rasped, his skin sagging like over-stretched rubber bands. “You brought them right to me!”
“No… I can’t be. There’s Ford—”
“Ford’s dead! Chuckle-head choked on his own necktie.”
I sighed. It was still hard to believe that that lovable oaf had fallen under the reaper’s sickle.
“Wait a minute… something doesn’t add up,” I puzzled, “Gerry was an expert knot-tier. How did he…?”
Nixon crack-a-lacked his knuckles. “Everyone has an off day.”
“I swear I didn’t tell anyone about you!” I professed. Nixon was unmoved. “Maybe my dentist, but he’s taken a vow of silence.”
“What’s his name?!” Nixon whipped out his infamous hit list. Every person on that list was automatically denied service at the post office. Even in “death,” presidential power is strong.
“Um… Karl… uh, Überdale. That’s who my dentist is.”
Nixon clicked his fountain pen. “How many ‘goobers’ in that?”
“Let’s get down to the meat and potatoes,” I thundered, full of confidence at his sudden absent-mindedness. “Are we here to do an interview or is Karl Überdale more important than you getting back to yer hosses an’ wagons?!”
That’s when the man hit the ceiling. His face grew paler, and red like polished iron. He dug his fingers so strongly into the table I could hear disconcerting snaps as the wood buckled.
He was more upright than I’d ever seen a man, his clenched jaw grinding those second-hand dentures into clouds of powder. Like a cobra, he snatched a wad of paper from his coat pocket.
“AROO! THIS your résumé?!”
He slammed down the wrinkled paper so hard it left a crater. I looked at the familiar handwriting. “Yes.”
(Click to enlarge)
The temperature fell as Nixon rose. “This is more impressive than Kissinger’s portfolio. The man never progressed past crayons.”
My heart beat faster. “Henry Kissinger could barely feed himself, and he was Secretary of State. I can tie my own shoes!” I smirked.
Those late-night stress-induced bags under his eyes contracted. Cogs were turning behind those scheming eyes. Grimly, he held up a blood-spattered clipboard.
“I got the most interesting ‘unofficial’ report from your doctor.”
“My note says I’m fit as a fiddle.”
Horseshoes clattered in his pockets. “SILENCE!”
“Are you calling for James Silence? I saw him in the lobby.”
Now he was purple. “This report is quite damaging. Your head cheese smells like feet. Your tongue depressors are too upbeat. Your appendix reads like a bibliography. You fell asleep at the switch at the electrical plant.”
“Guilty as charged.”
“And these notes about your personal life! You drive on parkways and park on driveways. Your house’s front door is out back. Your watchdog can’t tell time.”
“Hey, my dog is the cat’s pajamas!”
“You’ve called the water department to put out fires, and the fire department to put out waters. Your dehumidifier is all wet. And your toes are barely towing the line.”
“Well, all toe-ld…”
“Your bank says you made a deposit, but your therapist says you’ve withdrawn. You can carry an instrument — but not a tune. And your inferiority complex isn’t good enough.”
“Then it’s worse than I thought.”
“The story of your life is riddled with spelling errors. You’ve been seen sawing a see-saw by the sea shore. And your dog—”
“Quit hounding my dog! You’re barking up the wrong tree!”
The former president regained his composure, flustered and dazed. “It says here on your résumé that your last job was… television director?”
“I directed the first two seasons of ‘Paper Jam’ but I left over creative differences with those greedy muppets.”
He clucked, not unlike a chicken. “How does the season one cliffhanger end?”
“So, you’re a paper pusher after all?” I asked, smiling.
Nixon reeled. “You get bored shoeing horses.”
My smugness was only temporary. Night had fallen outside, as the twinkling starlight and mournful owl calls sounded. The janitor would be by soon to collect the day’s scraps.
If I didn’t close this deal soon, my teeth would end up in the rubbish bin and the rest of me in a ditch outside Burbank.
Facts and figures flooded my frontal lobe, my fractured faculties frantically foraging the fringes of the feasible for some faint, fortuitous fragment that could finagle this furious fool into finally forgiving my former flaws and fete my fortitude.
“My vocabulary ain’t bad.”
“Dude, I think he went home for the day.”
Nixon massaged his bulging temple. “That’s just the kind of talk I’d expect from a man who put a trowel in a washing machine and dug a flower bed with his trousers.”
“What…? My trousers are the pants!”
“Sit. Down.” Nixon’s shaking hand hovered just over my stool.
I thought I’d lighten the mood with a little ditty. So I gently caressed his dainty, sallow hand as I sang,
“What makes Gloomy Gus so gloomy? And why is he so sad? Why’s Gloomy Gus a sour puss Who thinks he’s got it bad?”
Without uttering a word he got up and walked out of the room. He’d undoubtedly gone to put a good word in for me.
Good luck was definitely headed my way — I’d pilfered his horseshoes.
Several of your favorite Heroes (or Villains) from all the Universes out there are competing for the dream job of a lifetime. Only the truly deserving will survive the boardroom, the others will be be fired. Who has what it takes to become The Company Apprentice?