“Well?” Colmes insisted. “Do you know what time it is or don’t you? We’ve been sitting here waiting on you for forty-five minutes.”
“Sorry,” Hannity said, slinging his backpack onto the table and unzipping the top pocket. “I was talking to Mr. President.” Hannity pulled out his plastic Drudge Report lunch box and set it in front of him on the table. He opened it and pulled out his peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread and half-pint carton of whole milk.
“You talk to him every day,” Colmes said. “You can’t cut it short once in awhile? Call him back later?”
Hannity opened the carton of milk and took a long drink. “Mr. President says you’re only mean to me because you’re jealous!”
“That’s ridiculous! As though I’m jealous of you because I want you to come to work on time!”
“All right, all right,” Lefty interjected. “Sean, look here.” Lefty picked up the napkin and wiped the milk mustache from Hannity’s upper lip. “There. That’s better.”
Colmes leaned across the table and glanced at Lefty’s format. “Sean, we’ve got Paul Begala on tonight, so I thought we’d ask him for his opinion on the Live Earth concerts this past weekend and then, if we have time, maybe we can get his thoughts on—”
“GLENN!” Hannity shouted, leaping up from the table. “Glenn’s here!” He ran across the grass to the swings, where Glenn Beck had just sat down, and was kicking his feet out while gripping the chains with both hands. Beck saw Hannity approaching and broke into a grin.
“Hey, Sean!” Beck put his legs down and settled into the swing. “Push me?”
“Okay, but then it’s my turn!”
“Deal! Push me!”
Hannity pulled back on the swing and sent Beck forward with as hard a shove as he could manage. At the picnic table Colmes turned to Lefty. “Why couldn’t we have done this in the office?”
Lefty watched Hannity and Beck at the swings and shrugged. “It was a nice day. He likes being outside. Being stuck inside at the office would’ve made him cranky.”
“He’s 45 years old.”
“Maybe I should get him over here so we can get to work on this.” Lefty turned toward the swing set. “Sean! Come on, let’s go over the format for your show tonight!”
“But it’s my turn for Glenn to push me next!” Hannity protested.
“All right, five more minutes and that’s it!” declared Lefty. He turned to Colmes, who glared with annoyance across the table. “Well what was I supposed to say?”
Bill O’Reilly drove his shiny black BMW through the front gate and parked it in the little asphalt parking lot next to the main pavilion. Next to his rear license plate was pasted a bumper-sticker that read, “Ask Me About My Immigration Plan.” O’Reilly left his car with his lunch in a brown bag and sat down by himself at a picnic table far from the others. He looked up from his pastrami sandwich just before he took the first bite, noticed Colmes and Lefty, Hannity and Beck all staring at him. “I don’t usually come here,” he explained in a loud voice so everyone could hear. “I’m a journalist, okay? The park I usually eat lunch at was too busy, that’s all.” He shifted on his seat, placing his back to the others, and took a big bite out of his sandwich.
At the other end of the park, seated in the shade beneath a tall, broad-branched tree, was Rush Limbaugh. He quietly read from a book he held in one hand, and popped a snack-sized Snickers bar into his mouth with the other. He washed it down with a sip from a cup of drawn butter, wiped his hand on his pants, and turned the page in his book. “Hey, how’s it going, Rush?” he heard someone timidly ask him. He looked up to see Michael Reagan leaning over him, a pleadingly hopeful smile contorting his immense round face.
Limbaugh sighed. “Hi, Mike.” He reached for another Snickers.
“What brings you to New York?” Reagan asked. “I’m gonna be on The Fox Report tonight! They offered to just do a remote from my house in Santa Monica, but I volunteered to fly in and do it in person! How about you?”
“Meeting my lawyer to finalize my divorce,” Limbaugh said, not looking up from his book.
“Oh.” Reagan shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other, then drew in a sharp breath and said, “Rush, would you want to take in a movie tonight? With me, I mean. Since we’re both in town.”
“Which movie are you going to see?”
Reagan shrugged. “I dunno. The Fantastic Four’s playing. Doesn’t that one look like a lot of fun?”
“The Fantastic Four,” Limbaugh sneered, looking up at Reagan. “I don’t have time enough to waste on that juvenile nonsense.”
“Oh. Well, just thought I’d ask!” Reagan turned and ran off to join Hannity and Beck at the swings. Limbaugh went back to reading his Tom Clancy novel.
By the time Reagan got over there they were tired of the swings. Hannity and Beck lined up at the back of the sliding board. “Sean, time’s up,” Lefty called. “You come over here and get to work now!”
“Just let me slide down the slide!”
“Okay, but only once!”
Hannity saw O’Reilly sitting by himself at the far table. “Bill! Hey, Bill, you wanna slide with us?”
O’Reilly shook his head.
“Come on, Bill,” Hannity insisted, “it’ll be fun!”
“Sean, I don’t see you going down that slide . . .” said Lefty.
“I’m just seeing if Bill wants to play!” said Hannity. “Come on, Bill! Get in line, it’ll be fun!”
O’Reilly got up from the table and jogged over to the slide with the rest of them. “Oh, all right, you convinced me!” He got in line behind Reagan and watched as Hannity started to climb up the back of the slide. O’Reilly’s cell phone rang in his jacket pocket. He pulled it out and looked at it. “That’s my producer, I have to take this,” he said, and stepped out of line. He pushed SEND and held the phone to his ear. “Hey there, sexy . . .”
Reagan spotted Arianna Huffington strolling into the park and waved her over. “Arianna, over here! Stand next to me! Slide down the slide!”
Huffington ran over and stood behind Mike in the line. Hannity stood up at the top of the slide and gave a loud holler: “Woooooooooooo!” He looked over at his picnic table. “Lefty! Alan! Are you watching?”
“We’re watching, now go ahead!” Lefty yelled.
“Whatever you do, don’t fall,” Colmes deadpanned.
Hannity slid down the slide, holding his hands over his head and shouting “Weeeeeeeeee!” all the way down. He flew off the end of the slide and landed hard on his ass in the middle of the sandbox. “Ow!” he cried, standing up, rubbing his behind. “I hurt myself!” He ran crying across the grass to Lefty, who embraced him and reassured him that everything was all right. “You’re much nicer than a liberal,” Hannity sniffed, looking up at Lefty through tear-drowned eyes. “Why do they call you ‘Lefty?’”
“Probably because I was born without a right arm,” Lefty replied.
O’Reilly returned to find Huffington in his place in the line. “Hey!” he said, walking up behind her and shoving her into Reagan. “I was here first! You stole my spot!”
Huffington turned around. “Bill, you weren’t here when I came up, I had no idea it was your spot!”
“You stole my spot!” O’Reilly shouted. He gave her another shove. “You stole my spot! You deliberately stole my spot!”
“Bill, stop it, that hurts! I’m sorry if I—”
O’Reilly shoved her again, pushing her down in the grass. He climbed on top of her, swatting her in the face while she struggled to get her hands up, pulling her hair. “You S-P’s are all the same! You can’t beat me playing fair, you can’t beat me in the ratings, so you have to fight dirty to try and tear me down! Well look at you now! Are you sorry?”
Huffington shoved O’Reilly in the chest, tried to push him away. “I’m sorry!” she said, crying.
“Are you sorry?” O’Reilly asked again, slapping her in the face with first his left hand, then his right. “Are you sorry?”
“Say, ‘I’m sorry I stole Bill’s place in line!’”
“I’m sorry I stole Bill’s place in line!”
“Say, ‘I swear I’ll never do it again!’”
“I swear I’ll never do it again! Let me go, Bill, please!”
O’Reilly got up and brushed himself off. Huffington stood and ran sobbing out of the park. The others at the slide stood staring at O’Reilly in slack-jawed amazement. O’Reilly shoved past Reagan and Beck and started up the back of the slide. “Get outta the way! It should’ve been my turn by now anyway!” He reached the top and slid down to the bottom. He hopped off into the sandbox and pulled his phone out of his pocket and dialed his producer. “Hey, it’s me,” O’Reilly said. “Get someone with a microphone and a camera down to Arianna Huffington’s apartment building. Wait for her to come out and then stop her and ask her why she stole Bill O’Reilly’s place in line at the sliding board. And ask her how come she was crying, if it was because she knew she didn’t do the right thing. Get over there fast, I want it for TV tonight.” O’Reilly shoved the phone back into his pocket, walked back to his car and left the park, squealing his wheels on the way out.
Hannity watched him go. “That sure was a pretty car,” he said.
Lefty tapped his fingers on the format. “Sean, Mr. President called while you were on the slide, and he said if you don’t help me and Alan get tonight’s show ready, he’s not inviting you the next time he calls a meeting of conservative radio hosts at the White House.”
“Oh, no, he has to invite me!”
“Well then I guess you’d better get to work then, hadn’t you?”
“But I don’t want to!”
Hannity pounded the table with his fists and began to cry. Colmes quietly excused himself and left through the park’s front gate. He walked back to his office at the Fox News studios. He stopped at a liquor store on the way to buy the biggest bottle of bourbon he could find.