The President lay on the king-sized bed staring at the ceiling. The first two days of his state visit to Japan had been a nightmare.
Somebody must have slipped something into my drink, he thought as he lay there struggling to cling on to his sanity, surely I must be imagining this bizarre chain of events. It can’t be real.
There was a knock at the door. The President looked around to see where the sound had come from. The knock came again, a little louder this time; then a voice called out: “Mr. President are you OK?”
“Fuck off!” screamed the President.
There was a moment’s silence, then again the voice: “It’s me, Mr. President, the Secretary of State. Can I come in?”
The President hauled himself off the bed and plodded over to the door. He hesitated a moment, then opened it to let the Secretary of State enter.
“You look tired, Mr. President, why don’t you lie down,” said the Secretary of State.
“I was lying down,” said the President, “until you started banging on my door. What’s up now?”
“I’ve just been speaking to the ambassador about tomorrow’s schedule. He suggests a breakfast meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss the balance of trade.”
The President looked incredulously at the Secretary of State and said, “Discuss the balance of trade at breakfast with the Prime Minister? The last time I had a meal with him, and that was dinner this evening, in case you don’t remember, it was like the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party!”
“Yes,” said the Secretary of State, “the Prime Minister is quite a character!”
“Quite a character?” said the President, “You can say that again without any fear of hyperbole! “
The Secretary of State was just about to repeat the statement when the President stopped him. “His tailor must be quite a character, too! I couldn’t believe my eyes when he walked in wearing that red coat with the silk collar and black satin breeches with the matching stockings and patent leather pumps. I was so transfixed on his lower attire that it was a good few minutes before I noticed his white butterfly tie and white gloves. He looked as if he were off for a night in the Moulin Rouge in nineteenth century Paris rather than a formal dinner in the twenty-first with the most powerful leader on earth.”
“Yes,” said the Secretary of State, “his sense of dress code is rather idiosyncratic.”
“More like idiotic than idiosyncratic!” shouted the President. “If my tailor decked me out like that I’d send him to Texas for a lethal injection.”
“Well, you know that he’s a fan of Le Petomane, don’t you?” asked the Secretary of State.
“No, I fucking don’t!” snapped the President. “I’ve never heard of the Pederast or whoever he is!”
“Le Petomane was one of the great vaudeville entertainers in Paris at the fin de siecle. He used to play to packed houses every night at the Moulin Rouge. Even members of the complex mix of European royal families turned up to see him. Apparently his live shows were so explosive that women frequently fainted from laughing fits—they wore tight corsets in those days—and one man is rumored to have died of a heart attack brought on by laughing so much.”
“What was his party trick?” asked the President. “Did he dress up like a transvestite and tell heterosexual jokes?”
“No,” said the Secretary of State, “he farted?’
The President sat down slowly and stared at the Secretary of State. “Did you say he farted?” he asked.
The Secretary of State nodded. “Yes Le Petomane was not his real name. That was Joseph Pujol. Petomane is French for fartiste. You see, he was what we could call anal ventriloquist.”
The President shook his head and looked blankly out of the window at the neon Tokyo skyline. He jumped and looked around when the he heard the Secretary of State start speaking again.
“According to the ambassador,” said the Secretary of State, “the Prime Minister is an anal ventriloquist with an awesome repertoire. “In fact,” he continued, “the ambassador was telling me of an official reception he attended at which the Prime Minister unveiled his talent.”
“I have also experienced the Prime Ministers party tricks,” growled the President, “and that was just yesterday.”
The Secretary of State ignored the Presidents ire and continued, “The ambassador said that he can produce an amazing range of sounds through his rectum. He can quack like a duck, bark like a dog, meow like a cat, neigh like a horse….”
“And he can fart like a horse, too,” interjected the President. “Pass me that bottle of valium. I had better get to sleep before I go mad.”
The Secretary of State handed him the bottle and then looked on in amazement as the President gulped down a dozen tablets.
“And as for the fucking ambassador,” said the President, “where the hell did he come from? Which nincompoop had a lapse of sanity long enough to appoint him?”
The Secretary of State coughed. “Eh, you did, Mr. President.”
“Me?” screamed the President, jumping up too quickly for a man who had just taken an overdose of tranquilizers. “What was I doing at the time, sniffing glue?”
“Not as far as I could see,” said the Secretary of State. “In fact, I clearly remember you telling me that you thought the ambassador was a genius.”
“Well,” said the President, “there must be some truth in the maxim that there is a thin line between brilliance and madness. You weren’t in the car with him yesterday on the way in from the airport. I was! The buffoon never stopped talking about his birthday presents. He even had a catalog with him and he asked my opinion on what present he should choose.”
“Mind you,” said the President, struggling to keep his eyes open, “it is probably just as well he waffled on about his birthday presents because it distracted my attention from his necktie, which was one of the most ridiculous neckties I have ever seen in my life. And believe me, I have seen quite a few ridiculous neckties in my life. In fact, when I was young, spotting ridiculous neckties was one of my hobbies.
The Secretary of State raised his eyebrows and looked hard at the President, who was starting to lapse into sleep. It must he the medication, he thought, he doesn’t normally talk like this.
“By the way,” said the President, squinting at the Secretary of State’s purple and pink necktie, “where on earth did you get that necktie? I’ve been meaning to ask all day.”
The Secretary of State turned crimson and nervously fingered his necktie. “It was a present,” he answered.
“You are not a poof, are you” asked the President.
“Good Lord, no.” said the Secretary of State.
“Well, whoever gave you that necktie obviously thinks you are,” said the President, and then he fell asleep.
© Charles R. Pringle 2007
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