Short fiction – Golf and Grandchildren

CONTEXT. Wrote this one when it happened. So not too topical. But you know, enjoy.

Golf and Grandchildren
By John Teufel

Loretta Lynch reclined in her airplane seat and allowed herself to relax. It had been a demanding day for the nation’s first African American female attorney general, and she knew she deserved to tune out the world for at least one flight. The air conditioning on her plane was good, as usual – a perk of government service, and one she was thankful for after two days’ worth of overcrowded meetings on arcane legal issues in the middle of a desert. Outside, she could see the oppressive heat reflecting off the pavement of the tarmac. Phoenix, she thought, as a shiver of disgust passed through her bones. Nothing good happens in Phoenix.

Loretta knew this job would be tough, and she was ready for that. Having grown up in the South when civil rights were on the rise and racial tensions were at their peak, and having not only survived but thrived first at Harvard College, then at Harvard Law, Loretta knew what it meant to be tough. She was a fighter – always had been, as her still-living grandfather liked to point out. But she had never expected the thunderstorm that had descended on her in recent months. The former First Lady, Jesus Christ. Loretta wasn’t on the front lines of the investigation – she was smart enough to create some distance. But the rumors were bubbling up, and she knew enough about the world to believe them. James Comey, the director of the FBI, had found something. Something big.

Comey. A smile crossed Loretta’s lips as she pictured his visage. 6 foot 3. Those arms. That one night, years ago, in Geneva. She was a young lawyer then, he an up and coming bureaucrat, almost woefully dedicated to the public service. And look at them now. About to bring indictments down on the Democratic Party’s nominee for president. The last remnants of the smile dropped from Loretta’s face, replaced by a frown of concern and perhaps, fear.

Buzzzzzz. The plane’s intercom. Must be Brad, seated in the front. He was supposed to be handling her briefing schedule in D.C. Is that what this unwelcome interruption was about? “Yes, Brad? I told you I wanted to be left alone on this flight. And why haven’t we taken off yet? Is there a-”

Brad cut in. “Madam Attorney General, you, um…you have a visitor.”

A visitor? To a plane stuck on a runway in Arizona, America’s fetid taint? And why did she detect terror in the voice of her loyal assistant? “Is it John McCain? Tell him to go fuck a chicken. He’ll get the reference.”

“It’s, um….well, it’s the former president, Ma’am. Bill, uh, Bill Clinton. President Clinton, Ma’am.”

CLINTON? What the FUCK was he doing there? Was he following her? And what did he want now, on a tarmac, in Arizona, when by all rights Loretta should be catching up on Netflix and trying to forget the immense power she wielded?

She knew of the former President’s penchant for mile-high sex, and she hoped that it didn’t extend to airplanes still waiting on the runway. But one could never be sure with Clinton. In fact, she almost hoped this would be yet another fumbling come-on attempt from the former president. That, she had been through. That, she could handle. But this….she had a suspicion what this visit was about, and it wasn’t the 12th or 13th barely disguised request for a blowjob. Good lord, Hillary, your judgment…

“Send him back, Brad.” Un-recline the seat. Time for business. The president is here.

After a few seconds came the old sing-song drawl familiar across the globe. “Knock Knock! Got time for a little visit?” The voice had graveled slightly with age, as had its owner, but even now in his weaker, smaller state, Clinton remained a force of nature. As Clinton walked toward Loretta’s seat, Brad remained in the doorway – he no doubt remembered the Justice Department memo that had gone out in 2009, when Holder was still in charge. Brad couldn’t forget the stark, alarming language: “Under no circumstances may a female between a 2 and 6 on the attractiveness scale be left alone in a room with Bill Clinton.” While Brad considered his boss a solid 8, he remained wary.

As Clinton seated himself across from his host, Loretta turned toward Brad and nodded almost imperceptibly. She knew the risks – or at least, she thought she did. Clinton had a reputation for more than just rampant, wild adultery. At heart, he was a good ol’ boy, Oxford scholarship notwithstanding. And when he felt his lady was in trouble, he wouldn’t hesitate to do what needed to be done, to whoever needed doing. Brad slowly backed out, much as it pained him to do so.

“How’s your golf game, Mr. President?” Keep it light, keep it nice. Maybe this really was just a social call.

Clinton cocked his head, looking amused. “My golf game? My golf game is fine, Loretta. Maybe not what it once was. Ya see, ah don’t play as well when I’m distracted. All these, these headlines.” He waved his hand in the air, as if to buzz off an errant fly. “Emails this, servers that. Ah’m old enough to remember when a server was a young colored boy, brought you food at the country club! Hehe, he.”

Loretta kept her gaze. She recognized the reference and the coded insult both. Not a social call. She wouldn’t sink. “Mr. President, this is not an appropriate conversation for us to have.”

The stiff, insincere laughs coming from Clinton’s throat stopped. He glared. “Is it now? Is it inappropriate for me to bring up my, my very legitimate concerns? Maybe you want to discuss my fucking golf game some more, Loretta. Or maybe you thought this was something else entirely, maybe thought ah came up here to give them Harvard Law titties a squeeze. Do not flatter yourself, counselor.”

Loretta ejected from her seat, standing ramrod. From this angle, the president looked insignificant. Weak, even. Was this tactics? Did he coil himself like a snake? She doubted his ego would allow it. “You do not scare me, sir.”

Clinton didn’t miss a beat. “Oh sit down, Loretta. Sit, sit. Didn’t mean to offend, didn’t mean to frighten. Let’s talk, now, like friends. Fellow public servants, hehe.”

She sat, slowly. Just get through it. Let him make his threats. They underestimated you at Harvard, too. Where are they now?

“You know, ah’m a grandfather now. Can you imagine? Chelsea gave Hillary and I such a gift, a precious gift. She sends us pictures all the time. Here, let me see if ah have one to show you.” He reached into his pocket. Instinctively, Loretta leaned into the .38 she had kept strapped to her ankle since June of 1985. She hadn’t had occasion to use it for some time now, but old habits and the like.

It was a phone. Just a phone. Cool it, Loretta. He wouldn’t do it on a plane, on a tarmac, in Arizona. Clinton fumbled with the phone and casually continued his carefully crafted small talk. “You have grandchildren too, don’t you Loretta? Little gifts, aren’t they? Young Sarah, I believe, is your newest. She must be going on five now.” He looked up quickly, and she wondered if he could see the fear in her eyes. “How’s she liking that preschool? Ah think Edward and Kia have her in D.C. Friends, isn’t that right? 9 AM sharp, every morning?”

Finding what he sought, Clinton turned the phone toward Loretta. “Now here we go, here’s that picture. Oh, wait a minute. Now wait one minute here. This isn’t my little grandchild…it’s yours.”

Silence. On the screen, Sarah in her going-to-school clothes, holding her father’s hand, smiling. A surveillance shot from…across the street? A car window? What the fuck was Clinton doing on a tarmac in Arizona, anyway? How long had he planned this? She stopped breathing and didn’t even notice.

With a quick swipe of the hand, Clinton pulled the phone away. “Well, I think that’s enough chit-chat for today. I know you’re a busy woman.” Loretta stared straight ahead and didn’t dare to meet his gaze. Clinton pulled himself up, that old creaky body concealing a mind as depraved as it was agile. As he walked toward the door, he turned around once more.

“You like to play golf, Loretta, so ah’ll speak to you in a language you understand. You, Comey, Barack, whoever the fuck else think they got Hillary in a box. Ya’ll take a fucking mulligan on this one.”

The door slammed. More silence. Finally, she breathed – Jesus, how long had she been holding that in?

Where is the phone? Where is the motherfucking phone?

She punched in the numbers she knew by heart, her hands shaking so much that she only gave herself a fifty percent chance of hitting the correct buttons. Answer, goddamn it. Answer and tell me it isn’t too late.

“Comey.”

“James. James, we have to stop it. Shut it down.”

“Shut it down? What the hell is this, Loretta? Now you’re getting cold feet?”

“Shut it the FUCK down, James. Whatever chain of events you put in motion, you cut it off right now. For both our sakes, or he’ll do us both.”

Comey exhaled sharply. “And what, Loretta? And they win? This woman built a server in her basement, deleted god knows how many emails, top secret, classified, and we let her walk? Her and that goddamn hillbilly win again?”

“Only for now, James. I promise. Only for now.” Loretta gripped the phone so tightly that it would leave bruises on her hand for days, though she couldn’t feel a thing. “I’m having mine served cold.”

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