George and Barbara Bush are seated at either end of the banquet table in their Kennebunkport dining wing, where they have just finished their toast and soft-boiled eggs.
"George, you know I don't allow the Gameboy at the breakfast table."
"Mmmm. Just a sec. Ak-ak-ak-ak, hooboy, got 'em! Sayonara, amigos!"
"George, I'm worried. It's 43 again."
"Which one, which one? Where is he?"
"George, you're not listening. It's about George. Junior. Your son..."
"Heh heh, what's the little nipper up to now?"
"Little joke, Barbara. Bad form. So what is it? Back on the bottle? Weed?"
"Be serious, George. You know it's not that>. That's the one thing we can thank Laura for."
"Aren't you over that Laura thing yet, Mommy? After all, she's given us granddaughters, and . . . "
"She's a nice girl, but she's just not '" one of us. I can't bear how she still carries on about the rain in Maine. And those twins . . . "
(Clicking sounds of Gameboy keyboard.)
"Take that, Mr. Al Q-Aida! Multi-tasking, Mommy. Good for the old noggin."
"According to the report from his day program, 43 tried to run down reporters in Peoria with a gigantic earth mover."
"* SNORT *"
"It's not funny, Poppy."
"Sorry. Rude. Given that 43 isn't much of a reader, maybe it follows that he seems to like play-based learning. Isn't that what they call it?"
"It is. And his day program people do say he prefers doing activities in the make-believe room to learning from books, but what really concerns me is that he doesn't play well with others. They say he's a bully. And . . . GEORGE!"
(She waits for him to look up from the Gameboy.)
"They say he's a . . . a bit of a fibber. That he doesn't seem to know the difference between truth and lies."
"Oh, pfaw. He knows. Bush men are born knowing. Aren't we?"
(Barbara closes her eyes and massages her temples.)
"Poppy, they say 43 makes fun of your friends behind your back."
(George looks up, incredulous.)
"No, no, the others. The CIA bunch. The Rescuers."
"Oh, them. You know, that reminds me that I owe Jim and the others a little thank you note for all their time on that Iraq study thing. Really good of them to do that for George."
"Poppy! Haven't you been paying attention? Forty-three isn't much of a reader. You just said so yourself. He didn't read their report! He didn't listen! They didn't rescue him!"
(She now has 41's full attention. It's not like Mommy to lose her cool.)
"Another thing. Did you see that vulgar woman kiss him, for all the world to see? It bore the stench of Clinton, Poppy."
(She is close to tears.)
"Well now, Mommy, hold up a bit. Bill Clinton is a friend of mine, and I will tell you that 43 is no Bill . . ."
"Stop! Not another word about you and Bill! That Bachmann girl is nothing more than a . . . a little Minnesota chippy!"
"Well, now, Mommy, we know some good people in'"which M state did you say it was?"
"Minnesota, George. Remember that terribly rude little Jewish senator? He was from Minnesota."
"Oh right, Wellstein. Got a lot of flack for calling him a chickenshit."
(Barbara sucks in a deep breath. She fingers her pearls and stares into the middle distance.)
"Poppy, do you think . . . do you think we're somehow responsible for little George's behavior?"
"Of course not. The tough love thing. We did that. Helped him through all his tough times. Messy stuff. The draft, the ball team, the oil company. We were there for him, Mommy."
"So . . . we can help him out of this one, too?"
(She breaks down again. Her voice goes all trembly.)
"Poppy, I simply can't bear it when nobody likes our boy."
(George can't bear it when Barbara cries.)
"There there, Mommy. I still have a few good ideas in the old noggin. I'll think up something."
(Tranh, the Vietnamese house boy, comes in to clear away the eggshells and crusts, and Barbara tries to collect herself. George picks up the Gameboy and fires off a few rounds. Sounds of explosions and whining bullets nearly drown out the sound of Barbara snuffling into her hanky.)
"Take that, bin Laden! Ak ak ak ak ak!!"
(A virtual light bulb flashes on. George quickly puts the game down.)
"Tranh? Bring me that blueberry phone thingie, would you?"
(Tranh complies. Barbara looks up hopefully as George pokes and prods the device, finally succeeding in placing his call.)
"Henry? Yes, yes, it's 41. Listen, it's about my boy. (pause) No, he's not the brightest. Seems he's gotten himself into another flap-doodle. I was wondering, Henry, if you'd get out there and -- say something . . . I don't know . . . something positive about the Iraq thing. Maybe something about a secret victory plan. (pause) Of course they'll believe you. (pause) Different war, Henry, different times. And can't we get a little more stirred up in Iran? Send a few more of their boys over the border, give 'em some materiel so we can, you know, apprehend 'em? You're on it? Henry, you're a peach of guy. Appreciate it. Owe you one, buddy. Adios."
(He hands the Blackberry to Tranh, leans back into his chair and heaves '" no, not that! '" heaves a great sigh.)
"Good job, Poppy!"
"Thank you, Mommy."