A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story
“It’s important to remember. That public service. Is a great sacrifice.”
“Good… Good…” Manny Kant said that.
“Most of the government employees I know. Are at their desks. As early as ten every morning. And few of them ever make it home. Before three in the afternoon.”
“Yeah… That’s not so good.”
“I myself. Have given my whole life. To public service. So I know just how much. Sacrifice is required.”
Manny Kant could swear profusely with his eyes, but what he actually said out loud was nothing.
“On any given day. The typical public employee may not know. If the man he has just met. Is a peaceful villager. Or a Taliban irregular.”
“No! Madison, Wisconsin, not Afghanistan.”
“That public employee. Could lose a limb. At the slip. Of. A simple chainsaw.”
“Schoolteachers! Not lumberjacks.”
“That public employee. May have to work. In searing. Heat. For hours on end.”
“Yeah,” said Manny, well beyond frustrated. “That guy works in a foundry.” To me he said, “You wondered about the teleprompter?”
Brainstorming session to script a reaction to the schoolteacher sick-out in Wisconsin. And don’t even ask how I got there. I’ve been a lot of places with Manny Kant, but I think it was Bubba who got me in so close. There are friends and there are enemies, and then there are folks who think they might-could use you to get something they want.
And do not even think that I would ever, ever, ever even consider making fun of Our Fearless Leader. This is strictly forbidden. As is, apparently, taking notice that his wife, the Empress of Fit Living, has a really interesting back-story — a universal tale, a boundless globe full of pith and moment — even if she always seems to be trying to leave it behind her.
I went unnoticed, thankfully. Manny moves with a huge entourage by now, so no one stands out except the man himself. He’s been doing this political schtick, this image-maker crap, on and off for years. I’m thinking it must pay him well.
“What this is really about. Is unions.”
“Better. Safer ground.”
“And as we all know. No one works. Harder than a union member.”
“Eh… That’s a stretch, even for TV…”
“And no one campaigns. For me. Harder than. A union member.”
Manny didn’t even bother to stage a reaction. He just said: “Schoolteachers…”
“Schoolteachers. They struggle all through. High school. Finishing. In the bottom. Half of their class. Then. In college. They finish in the bottom third. Of their graduating class. But even then. Undeterred. They devote their. Lives. To educating young Americans. And all they ask–”
“This is not helpful…”
“All they ask–”
“Stop! Stop! This is not working!”
“All they ask–”
“Why don’t they ask for donations?” I said that. Regretted it right away, but you can’t unring the door-knocker, you can’t unbell the cat, you can’t get your foot out of your mouth when it’s all they way in there.
“What. Did he say?”
Manny glared at me, but I took my shot: “Why don’t the teachers just ask for donations from their students, or from the parents of their students? All my life I’ve had to listen to the claim that teachers are underpaid. If they think they’re worth more, why don’t they make their pitch directly to the clientele? Any good boss will be happy to tell you how the world works: If you think you’re worth more, go get it.”
“Who. Is this man?”
“He’s a reporter,” Manny lied. “He’s shadowing me for some feature thing.”
“Ask. Me. A question.”
Manny was shaking his head no-no-no-no, faster and faster, no-no-no-no-no!
You know what? Life is short. The only question worth raising is the one no one else dares to ask.
I said: “Mister President, would you agree that your wife has an enormous ass?”
The whole room burst out laughing, everyone except Manny Kant and The Man Who Must Not Be Mocked.
“C’mon, its not that big a deal,” I said. “Who hasn’t had to listen to loopy lectures about nutrition from a bossy woman with an angry face and a huge caboose? Everyone has a grandma…”
“My grandmother. Was a schoolteacher.”
“No,” Said Manny. “She wasn’t. She was a banker.”
“Banking is. A very dangerous. Profession.”
“No. It’s not, Mister President.”
“This is why bankers. Need unions.”
Manny said, “…I don’t think we’re going to do this without the Teleprompter.”
“I think I might be. More comfortable. With the Teleprompter.”
Manny looked at me and shrugged, grimaced, smiled, smirked and winked all in one barely perceptible flash. He said, “The man’s a genius…”