INT. “THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT-ELECT” — CHICAGO — NIGHT
A dark room, overlooking the El tracks. From behind the half-drawn shutters, a flickering neon signs signifies that we are in darkest film-noir territory.
The room is filled with men in suits, all of them standing except for one man who reclines in his chair, his feet up on the desk, smoking a cigarette and aiming a Nerf ball at a basket a few feet away. As we watch, he shoots — and the ball bounces harmlessly off the rim.
One of the men moves forward to pick up the ball. He’s a big man, mustachioed, who looks like a cross between a gangster and a communist, although for some reason his fedora has a worn “Press” tag still sticking out of the band. His name is “BIG DAVE.”
BIG DAVE: So, Barry, about this pardon business.
The man called Barry barely looks at him. Instead, he fires another Nerf ball shot. No good: air ball.
Barry holds out his hand and a flunky named PLOUFFIE puts another Nerf ball into his open palm and lights the boss another cigarette. He doesn’t acknowledge Plouffie, either. He doesn’t have to. He’s –
BARRY HUSSEIN JUNIOR THE SECOND, the PEOTUS.
BARRY II: Why? What’s in it for me?
The men in suits shuffle their feet, look at the ceiling, whistle snatches of Kander and Ebb.
BIG DAVE: Maybe we should let the boys speak for themselves.
Barry shoots again. The ball bounces off the door, ricochets and hits Big Dave in the head.
BARRY II: O.K., who’ve we got?
Big Dave signals. An older man shuffles out of the darkness, wearing handcuffs and leg irons. He’s former Illinois governor GEORGE RYAN.
RYAN: I am the Ghost of Felons Past –
BARRY II: What’s the charge?
RYAN: Corruption, bribery, fraud, the usual occupational hazards.
Barry shoots an angry look at Big Dave:
BARRY II: Since when are those crimes in Illinois, even for Republicans? What the hell has this country come to under Bush? Luckily, I am the change we have been waiting for.
A meek metrosexual-type with a soft, high-pitched voice steps out of the shadows. This fellow is “LITTLE DICK,” a senator from Illinois:
LITTLE DICK: I think I speak for all of us when I say that George has suffered enough. After all, he’s already done more than a year in the can. Plus, he’s old. Plus — and this speaks to the brutality of the Guantánamo-like system of justice right here in our own country — “he has, at an advanced moment of his life, been removed from his family. He has lost the economic security which most people count on at his age. And he is separated from his wife at a time when she is in frail health. To say that he has paid a price for his wrongdoing, he certainly has.” My speechwriter wrote that last bit.
Barry ponders, shoots. This time the Nerf ball hits the net and limply falls to the floor. Plouffie hustles over to retrieve it.
BARRY II: Who else we got?
Big Dave nods and another shade shuffles forward. This guy is bald, Middle Eastern-looking, with dollar bills falling out of his pockets: “TONY THE FIXER.”
TONY: I am the ghost of Felons Present.
BARRY II: Tony, old buddy! Great to see you! Where you been, fella? And how much you got for me?
Tony looks shiftily around the room, nods to various acquaintances. He seems to know everybody.
TONY: In federal custody. Look, Barry, I don’t know what you’ve been hearing, but these stories what say I’m singing like a canary, lemme tell ya, they’s just fairy tales what’s bein’ spread by that paddy prosecutor, Fitzgerald. You know I’d never –
BIG DAVE: Watch yourself, Tony. Remember what they said about Abe Reles back in my home town of New York after he went out a high window at the Half Moon Hotel on Coney Island: “the canary that could sing but couldn’t fly.” He was in custody, too.
Tony grows very agitated –
TONY: No, Big Dave no! I’m not tellin’ those dirty coppers anything. Honest! I swear!! All that stuff you hear about how I’m giving up Blagojevich and Da Mayor, and the rest of the Combination — you believe me, Barry, don’t ya? Don’t ya?
Suddenly, Big Dave SLAPS Tony across the face.
BIG DAVE: Settle down, Antoin. I’m just sayin’, is all.
Barry fires another shot. This one brushes the net, bounces off the wall, shatters a window and flies onto the El tracks, where it’s squished by a passing train.
BARRY II: Damn, Tony, now look what you made me do! I lost my best Nerf ball. Match me, Plouffie.
Plouffie whips out a lighter and lights Barry up.
BARRY II (calming down): O.K., time for one more.
A third man emerges from the shadows, semi-boyish, full head of hair, wearing a sharkskin suit. This is PUBLIC OFFICIAL A, aka “Big Rod.”
BARRY II: Do I know you?
BIG ROD: I am the ghost of Felons Future. Plus, I’m totally innocent. I never tried to shake down that movie producer, Tom Rosenberg, for a couple a mil. No way.
BARRY II (looking around): Is there anybody in this room who isn’t a crook?
Dead silence. Then a lithe little man with the grace of a ballet dancer prances forward. This is Barry’s trusted consigliere, “MANNY.” He picks up one of the many Nerf balls on the floor, without even looking, tosses it over his shoulder and right into the basket. Nothing but net.
MANNY: Barry, can I have a word with you?
Barry looks into Manny’s eyes and sees his soul. He likes what he sees, and nods to Big Dave.
BIG DAVE: O.K., all youse bums out.
Herded by Big Dave, the men in the room shuffle along. As the light from the hallway strikes them, we see they are Republicans like Ryan and Democrats like Blagojevich, plus members of the dreaded “Daley Machine” and a host of downstate Illinois legislators from both parties, each carrying little tin cups.
The room is now empty. Manny takes up his accustomed position next to Barry’s right ear and whispers softly.
MANNY: I hate to break the news to you, but you’re not president yet. Not until January 20. You can’t pardon anybody right now.
BARRY II: I can’t? But this is the Office of the President-Elect, and I am the Kwisatz Haderach. I read all about myself in Dune.
MANNY: No, Barry, it isn’t. It’s the Headquarters of the Combination — you know, the racket we run here in Chicago with members of both political parties. All for one and one for all, enriching each other, hiring each other’s idiot relatives…
BARRY II: And they let us get away with this stuff? In public?
MANNY: Of course they do. That’s why we call it the Combination.
BARRY II: And we can do this, you know, in America, too? I can put Republicans and Democrats in my cabinet and then just let business-as-usual run its course? While I sit in the Oval Office, shooting hoops and smoking cigarettes?
MANNY: Of course you can. You may be Change, but we’re the Combination. O.K. so we didn’t roll Chambliss in Georgia, but once we steal the election for Franken in Minnesota, we’re close enough for government work. And you know what the really good news is?
Manny drops his voice even lower:
MANNY (cont’d): Jeb Bush is thinking about running for the senate in Florida in 2010! Which means . . .
Barry nearly jumps out of his chair –
BARRY II: I can run against Bush in 2012! Just like that guy, David Kahane, predicted!!
MANNY: Four more years! Four more years!
An excited Barry fishes around futilely for a cigarette. Manny snaps his fingers and one materializes from thin air, already lit and ready to be smoked. Manny smiles a diabolical smile as he hands it over:
MANNY: After all, if Chicago ain’t ready for Reform, why should the USA be any different?
At that moment, the door swings open. Bats hiding in the corners of the room suddenly fly out the broken window as the room fills with the smell of brimstone and a hideous CACKLE rends the air…
FEMALE VOICE: I’ll say it ain’t, and boy do I ever know Chicago.
MANNY: May I introduce you to your new secretary of state?
… and into the room steps: HILLARY CLINTON.
HILLARY: Meet the new boss, Barry, same as the old boss.
— David Kahane is the nom de cyber of a writer in Hollywood. Any resemblance in the Constitutionally protected satire above to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental. If you think otherwise, you can write to him at [email protected].