Taft in the Tub (a short story)

Lucas Gardner
6 min readJan 19, 2018

The startled Secret Service agent ran full-sprint towards president William Howard Taft’s private presidential bathroom. The agent had just been passing by outside in the hallway when he heard his boss crying out for help there in the bathroom. Knowing that President Taft wasn’t exactly in the best shape physically, he feared that the worst might have happened in there. Perhaps the leader of the Free World was having, god forbid, a heart attack, or a stroke, or something awful like that. But when he burst into the presidential bathroom to make his rescue, he found the Commander in Chief soaking leisurely in the bathtub, a big billowy mountain of bubbles popping pleasantly around his large body. There didn’t appear to be an emergency.

“Hey buddy, how’s it going?” President Taft asked cheerily.

The Secret Service agent was confused. “Are you okay, sir?” he asked.

“Yeah, man, of course! All good, all good. Doing really good,” said Taft with strained casualness. It became immediately apparent to the Secret Service agent that President Taft had something he wanted to say, but couldn’t quite bring himself to say it yet.

“Do you need help with something?” asked the Secret Service agent.

“Yeah, yeah… Could use a hand if you don’t mind. It’s no big deal, though,” Taft insisted. He was clearly trying to play it cool, but his face was at odds with his words — he was blushing so hard that he was red as a beet, which sort of tipped the fact that he was embarrassed about whatever it was that was going on with him.

“What’s the matter?” asked the Secret Service agent, still not getting the picture.

“Oh, it’s nothing. It really, really is not a big deal at all. It’s just — and we’ve all been there — I’m sort of stuck in the bathtub,” said President Taft.

“You’re… stuck in the bathtub?” asked the Secret Service agent, not believing his ears.

“Heh heh, guilty as charged!” said Taft with a chuckle, playfully throwing up his hands in an “I surrender!” motion.

The Secret Service agent stepped forward to help squeeze Taft out of the tub, but Taft stopped him dead in his tracks when he nonchalantly asked him, “Hey, what’s going on with you, man? Everything good?” It was pretty clear that he was only asking the question to ease into a larger conversation about the sensitive matter at hand.

“What?” asked the Secret Service agent.

“Oh, you know, it’s just, we never get to talk, so I figured we could shoot the shit a little bit. How you been?” asked Taft.

“Uh, fine I guess,” said the Secret Service agent.

“Aw man, that’s really great,” said Taft. “Anyway, let me ask you a question: do you think I’m a good president?”

“Oh, of course, Mr. Taft,” said the Secret Service agent, feeling obliged.

“Yeah, yeah…” said President Taft, staring off into space with his brow furrowed. “Yeah, I’ve done some pretty big stuff, huh?”

“Yes, absolutely,” said the Secret Service agent.

“Like I implemented a lot of anti-trust legislation, remember that?” Taft offered.

“Yes you did, sir. That was huge,” the Secret Service agent conceded.

“Yeah…” muttered Taft under his breath. “Yeah, people are gonna remember that, for sure. That’s probably gonna end up being my main thing.”

“Yes, absolutely,” said the Secret Service agent, instead of what he was really thinking, which was: “Your main thing is definitely gonna be getting stuck in the bathtub.”

“Yeah,” Taft went on, “yeah, people are definitely gonna be talking about that anti-trust legislation 100 years from now. That’s gonna be my legacy, big time.” He was pretty much just talking to himself at this point.

“Right,” said the Secret Service agent half-heartedly as he stared down at the floor.

“Good, good,” said the solemn president.

He still hadn’t quite put himself at ease. There was an extended, painful silence as the two men just kind of quietly existed there in the room together for a minute, both extremely uneasy for different reasons. Then finally Taft said, completely out of nowhere, “And when you think about it, this whole thing with me getting stuck in the bathtub, or whatever, it’s like, ‘Who cares?’, you know?”

“Oh, yeah, it’s totally not a big deal, sir,” said the Secret Service agent. By now he wished his boss would spare him the anguish and just come right out and say, “Hey I’m worried this bathtub thing is gonna ‘stick,’ please assure me otherwise.”

“And it’s like, if you think about how fast the world moves, it seems like this bathtub thing won’t even be a blip on the radar,” Taft quietly insisted, a war raging in his head. “People will forget about it in, like, literally two seconds, I bet.”

The Secret Service agent nodded in agreement. “Mmm hmm.”

By that point, Taft had begun to just completely spiral: “Because honestly, speaking only for myself, it is seriously so not a big deal. If I heard someone got stuck in a bathtub, I’d be like, ‘So what? Why’re you tellin’ me about it?’” he rambled. “It probably happens every day. It’s not like you stop the presses every time someone gets stuck in a bathtub. It’s like, ‘Hellloooo? Can we focus on something important, please?’ I mean, this’ll blow over. This is nothing, this is barely gonna make a splash. And honestly, when you really think about it, this whole thing is so not a big deal that you shouldn’t even tell anyone about it.” He was fully out of breath.

“I won’t tell anyone, sir,” said the Secret Service agent.

“What if people ask you what your experience working for president Taft was like?” Taft asked.

“I won’t tell them you got stuck in the tub, sir,” the Secret Service agent assured him.

“Okay, let’s just role play it then. You be you, and I’ll be a friend of yours, and I’m asking you about what it was like working for President Taft. Ready? Here we go: Hey man, so what was it like working for William Howard Taft?” Taft asked, in character.

“Uh, good,” the exhausted Secret Service agent said.

“What’s he like?” Taft asked.

“He’s nice,” the Secret Service agent barely mustered.

“Did anything funny ever happen while you worked for him?” Taft asked.

“Uh… No,” the Secret Service agent said.

“Are you SURE?” Taft asked.

“Yes,” said the Secret Service agent.

“Nothing embarrassing involving a bathtub, for example?” Taft asked.

“No,” said the Secret Service agent.

“And if you had to pick one thing from his reign as president to be his legacy, what would it be?”

“Anti-trade legislation.”

“Okay great, aaaaand scene,” Taft said, ending the role play. “That was great, I felt really good about that. So if anyone ever asks about your experience working for me, you say exactly that, okay?”

“Yes, okay,” the Secret Service agent said.

With the issue finally settled, the Secret Service agent ran down to the White House kitchen, found a tub of butter, brought it back to the presidential bathroom, drained the tub, greased up the body of the most powerful man in the world and helped him squeeze out of the tub.

“Ha ha, well this has been a trip, huh?” Taft said with a dismissive chuckle. “I’ll tell ya, there are days and then there are days. Ha ha! But seriously, let’s keep this between you and I. This could be really fucked up for me.”

“Yes sir.”

Later that night, the Secret Service agent and some of his old college buddies went out for a few rounds at the bar after work. Naturally, they began asking the Secret Service agent, the sole witness to the William Howard Taft bathtub incident, about work. “Oh, it was uneventful today,” he said. But he wasn’t such a great liar. His peers could tell he was withholding something juicy. They pressed the issue for nearly 20 minutes before, finally, the Secret Service agent caved.

“Okay,” he said, “but you have to promise not to tell anybody…”