George became so engrossed in SportsCenter as he slurped his soup that he was startled, and jumped a bit in his chair when he noticed Dick Cheney, who had just come in from the library. Dick coughed, waving his hand in front of his face. “Good Christ, George, get your boy to dust in there every once in awhile . . .”
“Is it dusty?” asked George, turning back to the TV.
Dick glanced behind him. “Don’t you ever go in there?”
George shrugged. “Why would I?” He swallowed hard and pumped his fist. “Oh-ho!” He turned to Dick. “Did you see Tiger sink that put? I’m tellin’ ya what . . .”
Dick sat down at the table across from George. He looked behind him at the TV. “Those are highlights of last year’s PGA Championship.”
“That boy sure can swing a golf club, can’t he?”
“He must have some Scottish mixed in there somewhere.”
“Man, you ain’t foolin’.” George swatted Dick away, straining to see around him. “Move over, would you? I don’t want to miss the next hole.”
Dick sighed, and slid over to the next chair. “I apologize for being late, but I had trouble getting through the protestors outside.”
“There are pro—”
George put his spoon down and began slurping his soup directly from the bowl.
Dick tapped his knuckles on the table. “There are protestors outside,” he said once George had finished his soup, “to complain about the price of gas.”
“Oh, jeez,” George sniggered. “They must be pissed . . .”
“I was afraid they would overturn my Hummer.”
“I ever tell you about that time I got a hummer from that woman whose son was on death row?”
Dick sighed. “Yes.”
There was a loud crash as something smashed against the outside of one of the windows. George looked past the TV, irritated. “What was that?”
“Might’ve been a Molotov cocktail,” Dick said. “I saw them lighting them as my motorcade drove through the gates.”
George raised his eyebrows. “That fella’s got a hell of an arm.” He smirked. “We could’ve used him back on the Rangers!” He giggled.
William returned from the kitchen with an entrée of sushi and sashimi, which he placed in front of George, and took away the empty soup bowl. “Mr. Vice President, I’ll have your lunch out in just a few minutes,” William said before leaving the dining room.
Dick leaned forward and studied the entrée.
“What’s wrong?” George asked, noticing Dick’s frown. “Never seen sushi before?”
“No, I have. I just didn’t think it was supposed to be smoking . . .”
“Oh, yeah.” George picked up a fork and stabbed at a piece of California roll. “I tried it in San Francisco a few years ago, and it was pretty good! How can you not love something served to you in a boat? Now when I eat it, I just tell Roscoe to give it a few minutes on the grill first. Who wants to eat raw fish? Yecch . . .” George popped the California roll into his mouth. “You want a piece?” he asked as he chewed.
Dick shook his head. “I’ll wait for mine.” His eyes narrowed as he watched George dip a forkful of salmon into a pool of dark red sauce. “Is that . . . ?”
“K.C. Masterpiece Honey Bar-B-Q!” George eagerly shoved the fork into his mouth. “Another one of my own refinements,” he said, chewing the salmon with his back teeth.
The door on the far side of the dining room opened. A young man carrying a briefcase walked in from the trampoline room. “Mr. Vice President, Mr. President,” he said respectfully as he took a seat next to Dick at the table.
George, who had half a piece of hamachi hanging out of his mouth, regarded the newcomer with confusion. He looked at Dick. “Who’s this?” he asked as the hamachi dropped down onto his shirt.
“Tillerson J. Mulva,” the visitor said, reaching across the table to shake George’s hand.
“Tiller is my chief energy policy advisor,” Dick explained, putting his hand proudly on Tiller’s shoulder. “And the best second cousin once removed you could ever ask for.”
“Aw,” said Tiller with a bashful grin, “thanks, Cousin Dick.”
George looked back and forth at the two of them. “So . . . what can I do you for, Tilly?”
Dick cleared his throat. “George, now that you’ve publicly called for ending the ban on off-shore oil drilling, we need to start ramping up for the next logical step, which is drilling in ANWR.”
George swallowed the barbecued piece of sashimi he’d been chewing. “Right, okay, good. I’ve been talking about this ANWR thing forever, so maybe you fellas can finally tell me what it is, and why we need to drill it for oil.”
Dick exchanged a glance with Tiller. “We estimate there could be as much as four billion barrels of recoverable crude in the 1002 area of ANWR,” Tiller said. “Extracting that oil would go a long way toward quieting down those protestors outside the White House.”
George’s eyes got wide. “Four billion barrels! So that would drop the price of gas to like, what, fifty cents a gallon or something?” A far-away look came over George’s face. “I’d be the greatest president ever. They’d change the Constitution just to re-elect me . . .”
“Well . . . actually, sir, the first barrels from ANWR wouldn’t hit the market until 2018,” Tiller said. “And at its production peak, it would only be able to drop the price of a barrel of oil by about seventy-five cents.”
The air seemed to have been let out of George’s balloon. “Still,” he said after thinking a moment, “that’s a pretty good discount, right?”
“A barrel of oil costs $130, sir.”
George stared blankly at Tiller.
“That’s not much of a discount.”
George turned to Dick, perplexed. “So what’s the point? Why am I talking about this all the time like it’s a big deal?”
“George,” Dick said, leaning back in his chair, putting one arm on the table, “you like football, don’t you?”
“You know it,” George said, raising his fist in the air, his index and pinky fingers extended. “Go Longhorns! Whooo!”
“Well, this ANWR thing, it’s a political football.” A smile spread from one side of Dick’s face to the other. “Don’t you want to score a touchdown?”
George clicked off the television and turned to Tiller. “Show me what you’ve got.”
Tiller pulled a report from his briefcase and held it out to George, who didn’t seem sure what to do with it. Dick shook his head, and Tiller put the report away. “Well, nevermind that,” he said. “The main thing is, Mr. President, we’re prepared to go in and start work on extracting that ANWR oil immediately. The sooner we start, the better the odds that you’ll still be alive when that oil starts flowing.”
“Well, you make a pretty good argument there, Tilly, but — Oh! Wait a minute . . .” George reached into his back pocket and pulled out a folded slip of paper. “Someone told those fellas in Congress we were gonna talk about this, I guess, and Charlie Rangel — that boy from New York? — he slipped this to me so I’d remember it during our meeting.” Bush unfolded the paper. He held it out at arm’s length and squinted at it, then brought it in close. “Okay. ‘What about the . . . crib a yu?’” George looked up. “What’s that, some kinda gang talk?”
Dick reached out and took the paper. “‘Caribou,’” he said, tossing the note onto the table. “It says ‘What about the caribou.’”
“Couldn’t read his writing,” George said with a shrug.
“Anyhow, what about the caribou?” George asked.
Tiller smiled and flipped open his report. “Don’t worry, I just want to show you a picture,” he said, noticing the cautious expression that had come over George’s face. “Caribou rely on the coastal plain of the refuge to birth and raise their young in the summer, but it’s not just caribou — the ANWR area is also home to thousands of seals, polar bears, geese, eagles, falcons, squirrels — you name it. The bad news is, environmentalists see every one of those little critters as an excuse not to drill. But here’s the good news.” Tiller found the page he wanted in his report and tossed it onto the table in front of the president. “We’ve developed a way not only to extract the oil that already exists under the ground, but also to make perfectly good fresh petroleum by rendering the indigenous wildlife.”
George examined the graph on the page. “Wow, you just feed ‘em in there horns and all, huh?”
“Antlers and hooves and fur and eyeballs,” Tiller said with a proud nod of his head.
“But . . . won’t the environmentals have a problem with this, too?”
“Why would they?” Tiller took back his report and returned it to his briefcase. “Caribou and polar bears die of natural causes or fall to predators every day. They just lay there on the ground rotting and going to waste. This way, at least their deaths won’t be in vain. Plus, Mr. President, this is totally natural. The Earth makes oil out of dead things — it just takes billions of years to do it! We can cut out the middle man, snatch that seal off the beach and put him right into your gas tank. What reason is there not to do it?”
Dick ruffled Tiller’s hair. “Is this guy a whiz kid or what?”
William came out of the kitchen with Dick’s lunch. He turned to Tiller. “Can I get you anything, sir?”
Tiller shook his head. “No, thanks, I don’t think I’m hungry.”
“You sure?” George asked. “You oughta eat something. You want some sushi?”
“No, that’s all right.”
“Oh, no, it’s okay — we cook it here.” George turned to William. “Roscoe, get this fella some sushi, would you?”
William took George’s empty platter and returned to the kitchen.
“Know what kinda sushi ol’ Roscoe’s the best at?” George asked, holding back a giggle. “It’s niggery sushi!” He threw back his head and guffawed at the top of his lungs. The sound of automatic gunfire was barely audible outside.
Dick tore open the bag of blood on his plate and squeezed it into his wide open mouth.
“Get it?” George asked, still laughing, wiping his eyes with the top of his hand. “Niggery . . .”