“Honeybun,” said the next president, “I expect the press to ask some questions about how you handled the 3 AM calls during your administration.”
“I don’t know why my prostate needs to become an issue in this campaign,” said the last president.
“Not those 3 AM calls. The ones where national security was at stake.”
“You should know,” said Last. “The smartest thing we ever did was put the phone on your side of the bed.”
“That’s because half the time when the phone rang at 3 AM it was you calling,” said Next.
“And the other half the time it was Boris Yeltsin drunk-dialing or Tony Blair needing to talk to someone about the Church of England. I wish I knew how to hang up on people but I don’t. You were totally remorseless.”
“I just said, ‘Do you realize what time it is? It’s 3 AM!’”
“And slammed down the receiver.”
“Blair would always call right back and apologize. It drove me crazy.”
Last chuckled. “Do you remember when it was the prime minister of Canada and neither one of us recognized his name and we told the FBI to trace the call. Good times!”
But Next wasn’t much for nostalgia. “Boris was worse than a telemarketer,” she brooded. “You couldn’t hang up on telemarketers either.”
Last wanted to keep it light. “I bet the press couldn’t guess in a million years that the real reason you won’t release our tax returns is you’re so embarrassed about our time-share investment in Branson, Missouri. Lordy, that gal was persuasive!”
“How persuasive did she have to be?” Next snickered.
As he’d long since learned to do when these intimate conversations took a familiar turn, Last refocused. “Anyway, the problem at hand is to demonstrate that I was cool and collected in a crisis and you learned from the master.”
“Even better,” said Next, “is to demonstrate that I was cool and collected in a crisis and you leaned heavily on my clear thinking and resolve.”
“Let’s not push it,” said Last. “I’m trying to remember just what crises did rear their ugly heads at 3 AM. Rwanda?”
“We probably don’t want to belabor Rwanda,” said Next.
“Anyway,” said Last, “I think that call came in after lunch.”
“What about the bombing of the Cole?” said Next.
Last thought and thought. “Decisive inaction might be hard to explain in a presidential campaign, when nuances get lost,” he said. Then he brightened. “There was that time Chelsea stayed over at her friend’s house and didn’t tell us. That was a crisis at 3 AM and I was the one blubbering ‘Something terrible’s happened to our little girl’ and you said ‘Don’t be silly.’ I’m not ashamed to tell that story.”
“It’s not what the press is looking for,” said Next.
“They’re unrelenting,” Last agreed. “What if we tell them that every time I had to make one of those 3 AM calls, I appointed you acting president. Between the prostate and the hemorrhoids, I could be gone a long time. You had an awesome weight on your shoulders.”