Jeeves and the Peeved President

I

“Jeeves!” I called through the slightly-ajar door to my private bathing area. A bracing cold shower and a run over the old corpus with the rough towel had invigorated me to the point that I thought I could carry on a normal conversation, though it was still well before eleven a.m.

“Sir?” came the immediate reply from just the other side of the portal. It gave me a start, for I had distinctly heard Jeeves in the kitchen not a moment earlier and the welcome aroma of breakfast had bullied its way through the steam of the shower and into my grateful nostrils. Jeeves is a remarkable chap who seems to suddenly materialize out of the ether at the precise place and time that I need him most. I mean, it’s a handy trait to have, but still unnerving.

“Jeeves?” I repeated, a little more quietly.

“Sir?”

“I have a problem.”

“I shall endeavour to help, sir. How may I be of service?”

“Well, you see,” I said, finishing up the drying operation and pushing myself through my dressing gown. “It’s all those insolent peasants, if that’s the word I want, who seem to be after my job. It’s annoying, I tell you, most annoying. Puts me right off my golf game, if you must know.”

“With the election season upon us, I find no surprise, sir, that there are those who wish to…”

“Depose me, Jeeves? Usurp my throne? That’s what I’m talking about. Most distressing.”

“If I may be permitted to remind you, sir, the Constitution in fact mandates you leave office after this term. I’m afraid the language is quite clear on that point.”

“Jeeves, if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times to please stop bringing up that dusty old parchment, as if it has any bearing whatever on our modern, enlightened times and most importantly, on modern, enlightened rulers like me in particular.”

“Rulers, sir? I feel it my duty to remind you that your title is ‘President’. The notion of rulers went out during the unfortunate events of 1776 and following.”

“1776, Jeeves? What’s that got to do with anything? Why do you keep harping on the past in such a bull-headed manner?”

“I prefer not to dwell on the subject, sir, as it causes painful memories in my English genes.”

“Speaking of which, I think I’ll wear the mom-jeans I wore when I threw out that baseball thingy a couple years ago. I’m feeling rather kicky today, despite the threat to my rule.”

“I would advise against it, sir.”

“Why, Jeeves? I think they make me look hip and modern and with it. It’s a look I think the peasants…”

“Citizens, sir?”

“Whatever. The common folk seem to like it. Makes them think I’m one of them, as silly as that notion may be.”

“Unsuitable, sir.”

“Unsuitable? Poppycock and rot. These are the jeans I wear, Jeeves; now produce them for me with all speed.”

“Your image, sir. The press were unkind to you last time you wore them. And if you lose the press, sir, who have you got left?”

“You make a point, Jeeves. Still, I can’t have either the press or you pushing me around when it comes to my sartorial sense. I shall ‘man up’, as they say and wear what I want, the critics be hanged. Say, that’s not a bad idea…”

“Idea, sir?”

“The critics be hanged. I think I should like to do that. Arrange that for me will you, Jeeves? Start with that loudmouth Limbaugh. Make him an example, I say, then the others will fall in line.”

“I don’t believe that is on your power to do, sir. The Constitution is quite explicit on freedom of the…”

“Again with this Constitution drivel, Jeeves! Desist, I tell you! Is there nothing you can do for me today?”

“The mom jeans, sir?”

“Yes,” I said resignedly.

II

“Breakfast is served, sir.”

Finally! I ensconced myself at table and prepared to wrap myself around a scrumptious serving of eggs and b., the aroma of which had so tantalizingly entered my nostrils as I exited the shower. Jeeves pushed through the kitchen door into my private breakfast nook, placed the tray in front of me and lifted the silver lid with a flourish.

Now, I’m made of pretty stout stuff if I do say so myself, but the vision that appeared in front of me was horrifying.

“Jeeves!” I cried, horrifyingly, “Where is my breakfast?!”

Jeeves, unflappable as always — I mean really, the man would not flap even if he were a bird, I think — inclined his head toward the plate.

Bon appétit, sir.”

“Jeeves,” I said sternly, “You know I forbid practical jokes before breakfast. Absolutely forbid it!”

“Yes, sir. I am aware of that particular prohibition.”

“Then what the deuce do you call this…this…I don’t even know what to call it??” I need not remind you of the episode of Jeeves and the dog and the particular, er, gift, said dog left on the floor of my lav. But there was a striking resemblance. “Where are the eggs, Jeeves? The bacon? Sausages? In short, Jeeves, where the merry hell is my breakfast?”

“The First Lady has directed me to monitor and modify your diet, sir. You’ll find kelp, grown in special ocean sanctuaries, at the left of your plate; a bran muffin made of all-natural organic materials by a co-op in Vermont at the top; at your right is an assortment of pesticide-free, non-processed fruit and some eggplant, fresh from the First Lady’s garden…”

“Garden, Jeeves? She has a garden? Where?”

“The former horseshoe pitch, sir. She thought it looked too pedestrian for the sophisticated occupants of this august residence, so she had it torn up and a garden planted.”

“So, fresh vegetables, planted and pruned and prepared by my loving wife?”

“Hardly, sir. She is not one to get her hands dirty working in the soil. The word in the servants’ hall is that she supervises the gardeners with some vigor, however.”

“Ah, that’s leadership! Give them a vision and watch the serfs fairly tra-la along with a song in their heart, glad to do the bidding of their betters. It’s good to sing songs while working in the fields, eh, Jeeves? Just like my ancestors down south.”

“Forgive me sir, but that bit of family history had somehow escaped my notice. I’m not aware of any of your predecessors who were in fact enslaved in the antebellum…”

“Dash it all, Jeeves! Allow me a moment of trying to be one with my people. I mean, one cannot live atop this sort of pedestal all the time. It’s tiring having to be the perfect example twenty four-seven, as they say.”

“Just as you say, sir. May I continue with the presentation of your meal?

“If you call it that…”

“…and nearest you is a sugar-free donut. The First Lady expected you would like a treat.”

“A curse upon this rubbish, Jeeves! I’m the ruler of this castle and what I say goes. Take this excrescence away and load up the eggs and b. post haste. Hop to it, man!”

“Sir, Her Ladyship, if I may call her that…”

“Oh, you may, Jeeves. She loves those noble titles.”

“Her Ladyship was quite insistent. There were certain threats implied if I did not accede to her wishes, and we all know, sir, that the wrath of…”

“No need to go on, Jeeves. I’m all too aware of her wrathful potential, especially since she’d got on this health food kick. Obsessed, Jeeves, that’s what she is. Well, let me mix it ‘round a bit and make it look like I at least tried it. Then chuck it to the dogs.”

“I would not advise it, sir.”

“What, pretending I’ve eaten it?”

“No, sir — chucking it to the dogs, as you say. I remind you of the power and influence of the animal-rights lobby. If they were to find out you’ve been feeding this to the dogs…”

“I see your point, Jeeves. It would play worse than the whole Romney rooftop kennel bit. Those animal rights people are vicious. Anyway, looking at the plate again, I couldn’t do that to the dogs. Take it away, Jeeves.”

“With pleasure, sir.”

“But I specifically detected the delightful aroma of bacon and eggs earlier, did I not, Jeeves?”

“An oversight on my part, sir. It was my breakfast and I had intended to finish it well before you had exited the bath, but I sadly miscalculated the timing.”

“Got me all worked up about nothing, that’s what you did.”

“My apologies, sir. I regret having caused you distress in that fashion. It will not happen again.”

I dismissed his apology with a wave of the royal hand, bravely masking my deep displeasure. But not being one to hold a grudge, except politically, I bucked myself up and proposed a different tack.

“How about a smoke, then, to get the old RPMs up, eh?”

“Her Ladyship has informed me…”

“Stop right there, Jeeves! If you are about to say she’s banned smoking, too, well, just don’t say it.”

“I remain in silent vigil, then, sir.”

“I’ll just have to pop over to the Congressional Club and burn one with old Pepperpot Pelosi and the other clean-air hypocrites.”

“If I may offer, sir?”

“Yes, Jeeves?”

“Her Ladyship has, in fact, offered you an alternative.”

“What’s that, Jeeves? A Cuban cigar, perhaps? Those Castro boys love me. They never let me down. Bring forth the Cubans and a sharp cigar cutter, Jeeves!”

“There’s this for you, sir.”

Jeeves produced a neatly-wrapped package with a small, autopen-written note that said: “To POTUS, Love FLOTUS”.

“Whatever can it be, Jeeves?”

“I’m sure I don’t know, sir. Her Ladyship chose not to entirely confide in me the contents of the package, but merely hinted that it may satisfy your nicotine cravings in a much more acceptable way.”

Even a sophisticated, urbane man like me still enjoys the excitement of opening gifts, and I tore off the wrapping with some considerable zest.

The paper fell by the wayside quickly and a nondescript box was left on the table before me.

“Curious, Jeeves,” I said. “Nothing giving away the game, eh?”

“It appears not, sir. I feel a sense of great anticipation finding out what Her Ladyship has gifted to you, if it’s not too personal, sir.”

“Not at all, Jeeves. Stand by for the unveiling!”

I opened the box and removed a silvery cylinder thingy, somewhat reminiscent of the apparatus I once used at university for the enjoyment of the leaf of choice we students of open mind favored.

“What is it Jeeves? Something legal only in Colorado, by the looks of it, eh?

“I believe you’ll find it is an e-cigarette, sir.”

“A what, Jeeves?”

“An e-cigarette, sir. The most modern of devices used to safely mimic, as far as such can be done, the experience of smoking a cigarette without the harmful side effects, if we are to believe the marketing campaigns.”

“So, it’s not really a cigarette?”

“No, sir.”

“Or a bong?”

“Decidedly not, sir.”

“Well, how does the bally thing work, then?”

“If I’m not mistaken, sir, one uses a flavored liquid in it that turns to water vapor, leaving the user to inhale the steam, which contains nicotine, and exhale it without ingesting the tars and other carcinogens contained in the more traditional smoking material. It’s all the rage with today’s youth, I’m given to understand, sir.”

“So, no actual smoke, then?”

“No, sir.”

“Just flavored water?”

“Essentially, yes, sir.”

“Well, what kind of flavors do we have?”

Jeeves examined the box as I continued to give the device the old East-to-West. It seemed to allow one to smoke without, you know, actual smoke.

“Wintergreen, sir. And Apple Orchard. There is also Sea Breeze and Mountain Morning Dew.”

“Nothing, you know, smoke-flavored, then?”

“No, sir.”

“Nothing clever like Tobacco Road or Marlboro Man or something similarly rugged and masculine?”

“No, sir.”

“Well, then, load me up with some Wintergreen and fetch my lighter, Jeeves. Not going to let My Good Lady’s good intentions go to waste. At least not until I can bum a real smoke from those lobbyists we meet later on the links.”

“I should point out, sir, that no lighter is necessary. There is a switch on the side…”

“No lighter? These rummy things will put another time-honored industry out of work. Bad for the economy, these things, Jeeves. I mustn’t be seen with this infernal device in public. Sets a bad example.”

“As you say, sir.”

Jeeves activated the device and I took a large drag. The sweet steam that filled my mouth was a shock, though not unpleasant. Not bad at all, really. I began to think I might actually like it. But still, there was an image to uphold in the domicile.

“Send a message, Jeeves,” I commanded. “Tell the First Lady I appreciate the gift, but it’s nothing like the real thing. Mustn’t let her think she can get away with changing all my habits, eh, Jeeves? Must be assertive as the man of the house, the lord of the manor, the king and ruler of all I survey, the…”

“I shall deliver your thanks to Her Ladyship, sir.”

“And Jeeves?”

“Sir?”

“Be sure to pack this with my clothes whenever we travel. Just don’t let her see it.”

“Very good, sir.”

III

Having completed my dressing ritual, barely eaten something that only remotely approximated breakfast and had a smoke that was not really smoke, I was ready to face the day and all the royal duties it entails.

“So, what news today, Jeeves?”

“News, sir?”

“You know, the daily whatzit. The big brains come in and throw a lot of incomprehensible rot at me, as if I’m supposed to know what to do about all these world problems.”

“I remind you, sir, that you are a Nobel Peace Prize winner. People look to you for guidance.”

“And who do I look to, Jeeves? You, of course. Although no one outside this room must ever know. If word got out that you were really the brains behind this operation, well…house of cards, Jeeves.”

“Your secret is safe with me, sir.”

“Thank you, Jeeves. I can always count on you, can’t I?”

“At all times, sir.”

“Very well, then. Tell the big brains I’m all up to speed and no need to bother me today. We have bigger issues than that annoying Middle-something-or-other problem.”

“Middle East, sir?”

“Yes, that’s the thing. Annoying, Jeeves. If only they’d just listen to me, what?”

“Indeed, sir.”

“Well, that’s all dispensed with for the day. On to the important business. The usurpers.”

“The who, sir?”

“The usurpers. The ones after the throne. The rebels, the pretenders, the disloyal…”

“Presidential candidates, sir?”

“Steady on, Jeeves. No need to make them seem more legitimate than they are. Still, if you insist on addressing them in such terms…”

“Merely in the popular vernacular, sir.”

“Right, then. Let’s start at the top with the foulest of them. What news of The Pill?

“Pill, sir?”

“Don’t be obtuse, Jeeves. I can’t believe you’re not following the rhyming scheme here you English Johnnies seem to favor. Pill…Hill…and so on and so forth.”

“If you refer to the street-level rhyming patter favored by the Cockney, I have indeed made a study of the patois, but find its use unsuitable for the subtlety and shades of meaning I require when dispensing advice to an elevated one such as yourself, sir.”

“Don’t patronize me, Jeeves.”

“Never, sir. It is unbecoming.”

“So, The Pill, then…”

“I assume you refer to Mrs. Rodham-Clinton, your former Secretary of State, the former senator from New York, the former First Lady of the United States and of the reportedly beautiful state of Arkansas, the…”

“Desist, Jeeves! You’re giving her more titles than the Library of Congress. For the sake of brevity, we shall refer to her by the mildly disparaging Irish epithet ‘Herself’.”

“Very good, sir.”

“So, what infernal treachery is Herself up to? She seems particularly keen on deposing me, as if it were some birthright. The birthright is mine, of course.”

“Indeed, sir?”

“Don’t make me explain once again the Divine plan that ensconced me on the throne, Jeeves. It’s getting tiresome, telling the story over and over, magnificent as it is.”

“I merely meant, sir, that the Constitution…”

“Jeeves, I’ve warned you about this before.”

“…mandates an election every four years. And by the same document, your term in office…”

“My reign, Jeeves.”

“Your term expires at the end of this quadrennial period. A suitable replacement must be chosen by the people.”

“By the people? Don’t make me laugh, Jeeves. We all know it’s my Chicago cabal that chooses the president. Look at me, Jeeves — Exhibit A: attractive and polished, if entirely unqualified. But when has that ever mattered to the proles?”

“The people look to their leader for competence and confidence, sir. It inspires them.”

“Jeeves, you know the respect I have for your intellect…”

“Thank you, sir.”

“…and I know full well that the old bean atop these narrow royal shoulders is more suited for ornament than actual thinking, thus my reliance on you for advice on all things of practical import.”

“I am grateful for that trust, sir.”

“But when it comes to politics, Jeeves, I think I’m quite justified in saying you are a Grade-A ignoramus in the execution of winning campaigns.”

“I shall endeavour to make a better study of the process, sir.”

“It’s all marketing, Jeeves. Nice smile, good handshake, a few zippy platitudes, all style and as little substance as possible — substance gives your opponents too much to pick at, don’t you know — and voila! Next thing you know you’re picking up the mail at old 1600 P. Ave. Really, Jeeves, I don’t what’s so difficult to understand about that.”

“It is becoming more clear, sir.”

“Good, then that’s settled. Clearly, none of the usurpers…”

“Candidates, sir.”

“Whatever. Clearly none of them have my skills in that arena.”

“Clearly, sir.”

“So, The Pill, then…”

“Herself is campaigning in the south, sir, and is attempting to affect the speech patterns of the native southerners, by the last report. Attempting to ‘get down and get real’, I think was the phrase employed by her press people.”

“Successfully, Jeeves?”

“Apparently not, sir. I am informed that the late-night television hosts are having a great deal of jocularity at her expense. It seems her machinations to seem authentically southern have been badly handled. A grave miscalculation in her strategy, by all accounts. Those who analyze such things theorize that she is trying to emulate the successful tactics of her husband’s victorious campaigns, but that she lacks the certain je ne sais quoi he possessed.”

“In spades, Jeeves. The man was a great actor on the campaign trail.”

“In a word, sir. And it seems she lacks empathy, sir — another trait her husband exploited to his advantage.”

“I remember. ‘I feel your pain’ and all that rot, what?”

“Precisely, sir.”

“I see no good coming from that camp, Jeeves. That Pill will be a tough one to swallow, so to speak.”

“’Swallow’ is a word I have been advised to avoid when talking of the Clintons, sir.”

“What? Oh, yes, that.”

“No matter how much we try to forget, sir.”

“Indeed, Jeeves, indeed. Well, what of the others? That crazy communist from the Ben and Jerry’s area? Which reminds me, Jeeves, I’m still hungry after that non-breakfast. Do you think you could arrange some…”

“Nonfat yogurt, per Her Ladyship’s instructions, sir?

“Never mind.”

“Senator Sanders, is an admitted socialist, not a communist, sir…”

“No, I suppose he’s not quite that committed to the cause.”

“Cause, sir?”

“Never mind. Go on, Jeeves.”

“Thank you, sir. He has been drawing large crowds and is creating considerable excitement on the fringes of the Party.”

“Fringe, indeed, Jeeves! I can hardly believe he’s really that far left of me. Me! The silly sod — doesn’t he know that you run a campaign from the center, disguising your real objectives, but ready to spring them on the unsuspecting masses after your coronation?”

“Inauguration, sir?”

“Whatever. He hasn’t got a chance, running as an out-of-the-closet socialist. The deluded American masses will never buy it. They still believe in that whole American self-made man, rugged individual tripe. Bunch of McCarthyite holdovers, the lot of them.”

“Most distressing, sir.”

“And how about that Red Indian woman?”

“Senator Warren, sir?”

“Yes. That’s the squaw I’m talking about. She’s in heap big trouble with that ruse, eh?”

“It has not proven an effective strategy, sir, posing as a genuine oppressed Native American. It inspired more ridicule than solidarity. Again, the late-night hosts were only too happy to take on…”

“And Crazy Uncle Joe?”

“You refer to the Vice-President, sir?”

“That’s the chap. Keep your enemies, close, eh, Jeeves?”

“Sir? The Vice-President is your enemy?”

“Well, he’s after my job, isn’t he? Got to keep an eye on devious schemers like him.”

“I point out, sir, that it is a time-honored tradition for a vice-president to seek to continue the policies of his esteemed predecessor. ‘Stay the course,” to borrow a successful phrase. It may be considered a tribute, a high compliment by some. Think of John Adams as an early example.”

“The beer guy?”

“I believe you refer to Samuel Adams, sir. John Adams was the vice-president for George Washington, who was the first, and many consider the greatest, president of the United…”

“Again with your ancient history, Jeeves. Do stop that at once! It has no bearing on me, personally, so it has no relevance in our discussion here.”

“My apologies, sir.”

“So, is he out actively scheming to stab me in the back, like that Bluto fellow?”

“Bluto, sir? The character from the Popeye cartoon films? I did not understand that he was any sort of assassin. A malevolent character, to be sure, but…”

“Don’t be obtuse, Jeeves. You know perfectly well who I mean. The one who wrote the Odes to March and all that.”

“The Ides of March, sir? You refer to Marcus Brutus, who infamously stabbed Julius Caesar, the scene which is immortalized in Act III, Scene I of the tragic drama ‘Julius Caesar’ by William Shakespeare, believed to be published in 1599, and contained the line, ‘Et tu, Brute?’ as the dying emperor recognized his former friend as assassin. The play was one of the first performed at the Globe Theatre in…”

“Do stop prattling on, Jeeves. It’s most annoying.”

“My apologies, sir.”

“We were saying? About Crazy Uncle Joe?”

“He is in seclusion, sir.”

“Seclusion, Jeeves? Whatever for?”

“He apparently was let out in public relatively unsupervised, contrary to your specific orders…”

“And for good reason, Jeeves!”

“Indeed, sir. He attended a soiree of some sort and drank an intemperate amount.”

“This can’t end well, Jeeves.”

“No, sir, it does not. He reportedly become overly amorous toward a woman not his wife, and who was, in fact, the mistress of a — shall we say, unelected? — ruler of a sub-tropical African country. The man is known to be somewhat assertive upon those who cross him, according to his reputation.”

“Not the Butcher of Benin?”

“The same, sir.”

“Deep waters, Jeeves. Very deep waters.”

“Indeed, sir.”

“I shudder even to ask the question, Jeeves, but how did it end?”

“High words were exchanged, sir, and a great many vigorous adjectives employed. The Secret Service detail surreptitiously stunned the Vice-President and made medical excuses on his behalf, something to the effect of a lack of his prescription medication. They spirited him away to a safe, undisclosed location, where he remains, pending your orders, sir.”

“Let him cool his heels a while, Jeeves. Then send him on vacation again. The less time he spends around here, the better I feel. Anything else?”

“A general observation, sir, but I hesitate to bring it up.”

“Go on, Jeeves.”

“It may wound you, sir.”

“Jeeves, we monarchs…”

“Presidents, sir.”

“…are made of Grade-A tough stuff and are not prone to getting our feathers up over mere hearsay. Out with it, man.”

“Very well, sir. It seems that there is one common theme among all the various campaigns.”

“And that is?”

“They all seem to be distancing themselves, from you, sir, to use the phrase the media favor.”

“I should jolly well think so, Jeeves. I mean, if they think they can hold a candle to my accomplishments, well, they’re just setting themselves up for disappointment.”

“I’m not sure that’s the precise meaning of…”

“Of course. Well, better to set their sights low. No chance of them reaching these lofty heights, eh, Jeeves?”

“No, sir.”

“Well, I think that settles all the important business of the day, Jeeves. When is my tee time?”

“Whenever you wish, sir, as always.”

“I think I’ll play Andrews today, Jeeves. Only one round, though. I’m exhausted by all this deep thinking.”

“I should imagine so, sir.”

“And Jeeves?”

“Sir?”

“Thank you for all the help. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“Thank you, sir. I’m pleased to have given satisfaction.”