A Day in the Life of the Dick Cheney Presidency

By Christopher Ketcham

Recent events in the career of our outdoorsman vice-president recall an encounter I had with the VP several years ago. It was during the short-lived Dick Cheney presidency on Saturday July 29, 2002. On the dawn of the day of the Cheney ascendancy, the day on which at an unknown hour George Bush would be explored for ass polyps and sedated into a babbling stupor and power would be briefly transferred to Mr. Cheney for the sake of “national security,” I was passed out very drunk lying on a pile of sand and rubble at the edge of a broken-down pier off Buttermilk Channel, which is part of Lower New York Bay. Buttermilk Channel was so named for the cows that 250 years ago used to cross the mud-flats at low-tide, trundling their teats along the channel floor.

A fisherman came to the shore, a large narrow-eyed balding man in gaiters. At that point, I was busy trying to drag a steamer trunk floating in the surf up the rubble bank and into the street by the pier. “Hey, man, morning,” I said cheerily, “you give me a hand here a sec?” The man said nothing. He looked at me like I was a dog-fish: you know how the ugly and inedible dog-fish barks when it gets beached?

I figured what I had actually said was “Ey ma’ awning oo eeve m’a han hersec?” I wanted to make contact; but I needed to enunciate. So I stared out to sea for a moment the way the man was staring out to sea. Profoundly. I concentrated. “Ketch th’ good fish here?” I finally said.

“Not much,” the man said. He was a grim dude.

“Dick Che’y’s president t’day, y’know?” I said, and proceeded to tell him about the polyps and how the sand-niggers would use this moment of weakness to hit us all over the country. I thought this was hilarious and belly-laughed and went into a coughing fit, the guttural seeing-stars kind.

The man said nothing. I kept tugging at the steamer and staring out to sea, then staring at the fisherman, who would alternately fade into a blur and then seem to shed a preternatural light. “Poison fish in th’ bay,” I said. “Pol’ooshin. You eat ‘em?” The man grunted and went about casting his line.

I got back to work; I pulled at the trunk like a weakened monkey and got my shoes squishy-wet in the oily water. “Diiiiick. Cheney,” I said.

“Jesus,” the man said. He shook his head.

I was having a hard time with that trunk. It was huge and heavy and waterlogged and felt like it was full of rocks. But it was a beauty, an art-piece, with false-gold clasps and carven whales on its sides. I hauled the trunk a few inches over the shattered masonry, making a godawful clatter, and every so often I looked up at the fisherman with tears in my eyes (I was very happy about the trunk).

Having at last gotten it out of the surf, I sat down and after two minutes of silence and the sea lapping, I turned to the man and said, “We split the treasure, whattaya say?”

“Jesus,” the man muttered.

I gave the trunk a real go; put my weight into it, both hands on the leather strap. “C’mon, DICK,” I barked. “’his steamer trunk ‘s coming wi’ ME!” I dragged and heaved and cursed, and got it halfway up the rocky bank, my feet slipping, but the wet strap broke and I flew backwards into sharp jutting rocks and yowled in pain.

“Oh! Gimme a fuckin’ break, will ya?” the fisherman now cried out, casting at me a hateful snarled look. “Jesus! Je-sus! Take your steamer trunk and shove it up your ass!”

“But I can’t carry ‘his ‘hing alone, man,” I cried. “I can’t do it!” And now the guy moved off a little ways along the pier, enough distance to make it clear that there were miles between us.

So this is how it would be with Dick Cheney president. A lonely and savage world: every man for himself. No pity for us poor drunkards. Not even a little hand for a steamer trunk full of treasure. Not even some friendly banter.

The Dick Cheney Presidency went badly after that. The sun rose high and white; fear and confusion behind the wheel of my car. Had a six-minute drive home, but I knew the police would get me this soused – straight to jail. Kept stalling out in intersections, the car jumping then drifting; very bright blurry streets, like heavy rain in klieg lights. Paranoia. Dick is just the kind of guy to get my license plate and call the cops with his cellphone and make a TIPS report, he left here drunk, officer, he had seaweed on his leg. That put the fear in me – he would do it, Dick would. I parked the car in a quiet lane and hid in the backseat like a sick cat and passed out. Woke up four hours later, refreshed, and went back to get the trunk. Dick Cheney was gone. I pulled that bastard trunk up to the road and opened it. And Dick, you know what I found among the sea-garbage and the stones? You won’t believe it: A fish-head. A rotten little fish-head with its mouth open.

(Originally published in “Notes from Sept. 11: Poems and Stories,” by Christopher Ketcham)

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