Chapter Six

Cottonwood, Arizona

His first memory, ever, was of bathing in a green and gold speckled copper scoop outdoors, a bare faucet sticking out of the ground about three feet, soft water ridging down his hair and back. He must have been about four at the time of the memory. Now forty-four, Alan Kelly lay in a very similar outdoor tub surrounded by sharp Bear grass – which the locals in this part of Arizona called, incorrectly, yucca. A cream-colored felt Manny Grammage Texas cowboy hat that lay skew-whiff on his head and a pair of well-worn rodeo boots on his size twelve feet were all that dressed him.  He held a Papago Hop Dog beer in his right hand.

Alan Kelly was nothing if not industrious in his relaxation, ignoring his cell phone (conveniently muffled by his folded jeans next to the tub) as he assiduously concentrated on finishing the last of his beer.  

Now, what had that chiming racket been about?
He wondered.

Tossing his empty beer bottle on the grass, he heard it clink on the other discarded bottles. Alan dried his hands on his jeans before fishing through the pockets of the neatly folded jeans for the annoying phone. He battled the deep tub, turning on his side and hooking his arm pits over the side of the tub. His ass skidded and he scraped his arms on the sharp metal edges, “Fuckdammitmother,” he swore. He had become a lot less dexterous since adding twenty or so pounds over the last year. He flipped the phone open and checked his missed calls. Mom, mom, that girl, that other girl, private, that girl again (what was her name?), the President, Mom.

Humh… I wonder what mom wants, he thought, as he placed the phone on the edge of the tub, more than precariously laying it on the thickest section next to his can of Skoal. He lay back carefully, trying not to slosh the water over the sides or jostle the snuff off the edge, before he realized that one of those calls was not like the others. Perhaps he shouldn’t have drunk that eighth beer, as he now began to realize that he was not as sharp as usual.

His mind played the old Sesame Street game as he reached for the phone again: which one is a different color? Or is it a different size? Nope, the difference is much more subtle, it seemed to him. It is… based on degrees of importance, so the girl with no name and the other girl are equal, his mom is equal to his mom is equal to his mom, ergo the only one that is different in any way is this President fellow.

He looked more carefully at the screen and realized that it didn’t say “president”, it says “Tom Hayward”, and his brain sobered just a bit. He stared at the phone for a little while and his mind became clearer. It sucks to sober up, he thought, and decided to exit the tub.

Exiting a tub, even an outdoor one, is typically a simple conundrum to solve, but although the getting in part had been easy, extricating himself, the hat, the boots, the cell and his Skoal all at once without causing wetness to soak his boots is no simple conundrum at all. It required skill, athleticism and oh, yes the pulling of the plug in the drain.

Alan entered his cabin and took a cold shower to sober up. He sat in the shower and let the water revive him. He had been Thomas Hayward’s best friend growing up, competing for academic honors at Hudson High School. They had both pursued law and both become Attorney General, Alan following Thomas into the position. Alan had actually arrived in Washington before Thomas became Senator, as a federal prosecutor. Alan had presented six cases to the Supreme Court, and won them all, in just five years.

Then the President had tapped him as his nominee for Attorney General, only to be rejected by a know-nothing Congress.

The drinking, they said.

The women, they cried.

The scandals that were and the scandals that will be, they proclaimed.

Fuck them. He didn’t want to be Attorney General any way.

Alan imagined that dialing The President, especially if he had just called you, would be a simple matter of dialing seven digits, but as Alan dialed he fully expected the phone to be answered by the Secret Service, who would then hand the phone to a presidential secretary, who would then hand the phone to the Chief of staff, who then might hand the phone to the President… if he was sufficiently impressed by your title, name, or nuclear capabilities.

“Hello, Alan.” Alan was shocked into silence when the president answered himself.

“Hi Tomaaah… Hello Mr. President.” Alan stammered, and fell silent again. He could not get used to the fact that his friend, a friend he had also seen as competition all his life, was now the President. How do you top that, he thought, well, He may be THE PRESIDENT to everyone else, but to me, he will always be Tommy.

“Alan, I need your help. I am sending a plane to pick you up in Flagstaff and bring you back to Washington. Will you come?”

You have got to be kidding me! You left me out to dangle in the wind... dangle in the wind naked. On a cold night. Where were you when I was being excoriated by that pack of hyenas called Congress? The thoughts raced through Alan’s mind, as he tried to choose the best response.

“Yes, sir. When?” Was the response he chose.

Chapter Seven