Senator Kerry exchanged a knowing glance with the world leader. Here is a man, Kerry thought, I can do business with. Or, more correctly, with whom I can do business. Kerry liked the look of gravity about the man, a somber, nuanced gravity, tempered by a jaunty self-confidence. And cultured, too; earlier on the telephone, they had discussed their deep-seated respect for Fellini films and Marilyn Monroe.
But that wasn’t why they were here, in this secluded place. Their discussion was one of enormous import for the nation. No, not just the nation, but rather the entire world. The subject was one in which Kerry was well versed: Why it was critical that he be president of the United States. Yet, until this world leader, this true man of the world had asked for this meeting, Kerry had not realized just how important it was that George Bush be defeated.
Previously, he had thought that rescuing the Bill of Rights from the depredations of the Patriot Act, saving American workers from rapacious, outsourcing corporate chieftains, and sending that uncultured Texan back to his ranch to clear brush was reason enough to be elected. But, now, now he knew that the presidential election had global implications, that the world was watching. The very idea at once thrilled him and concerned him, taking him back to the days when he skillfully–heroically–commanded that patrol boat in Vietnam. And again, just like back in 1971, when he let Congress know about how horribly the U.S. military conducted itself in Nam (himself excluded, but of course), the whole world was watching him make history. But could he live up to the world’s high expectations of him? Would the world realize how great of a burden he now bore?
He sighed heavily. Fulfilling one’s destiny is never an easy thing. Doing so when you’re carrying the hopes and dreams of the world, when not just your country, but when every country in the world is counting on you and only you to make things right again was, however, almost too great of a burden to bear. But, like his stature as war hero (he could still hear the sounds of his crewmen begging him to save them), it was a burden he had to bear. No one else could. Too much was at stake
Kerry smiled broadly. No lugubrious face now. He must be the Happy Warrior. He smiled and thought to himself, bring it on. The leader smiled back. Kerry began, “Thank you for coming here. I know it could not have been easy, traveling so that no one knew you were coming.”
The leader smiled back, just as broadly. “En francais, s’il vous pilat.”
Of course, French. It made perfect sense. The lingua franca of international diplomacy in a bygone golden age. It spoke of culture and breeding and education. All that Bush lacked. It was a great security measure, too. If Karl Rove or John Ashcroft had bugged the place–and in this climate of fear you never knew how low the Republican Slime/Slash/Burn/Attack Machine would go–they would be at a loss to figure out what was being said. He’d love to see the vacant, puzzled look on John Ashcroft’s face when he listened to the tape. Well, he’d soon be back handling snakes or whatever it was he did before he became attorney general. “D’accord,” replied Kerry with a shrug of the shoulders that fairly reeked of a smoldering Gauloise.
The leader was about to start speaking when a fierce rapping came at the door. “John!” A woman’s voice. “John!” The senator shot a look at the leader. “Ma espouse.” He gave another shrug that spoke volumes as only one who knows firsthand how expressively the French can shrug.
“Plus ca meme chose,” the leader replied with the wryness of a worldly man. Switching back to English, he said, “Another time then? But soon. We must talk. Because you are needed. By me, a world leader. By many other world leaders.”
Kerry nodded gravely. The world leader left the room as soundlessly as he had come. Kerry opened the door. There stood his wife, arms crossed, and looking none too pleased. “Are you going to be in there all morning?”
“Sorry, dear, I was just…”
“And who were you talking to in there?”
“Well, uh, no one…just myself.”
Teresa rolled her eyes. “Well, come on, I need to get something in there. Out you go!”
Before he left the room, Kerry stole a glance back at the leader who also had paused at the door. To his relief, the man gave a nod of recognition at the same time Kerry did. They would talk soon again.
His wife suspected nothing. She bustled by him, muttering. “Would you stop looking at yourself in that mirror?!” She sighed. “And they say that women take forever in the bathroom….”
–Scott Belliveau is the director of communications for the VMI Foundation and an adjunct instructor in political science at the Virginia Military Institute.