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The President's Meow
It’s hard to say when the changed actually happened. Other than his wife and children, I am probably closer to the President than anyone else is. Before I go any further, I should probably introduce myself. Then again, maybe I shouldn’t. Let’s just say I have been with the President since his political career began. I have worked with and advised him through good times and bad. If you really need something to call me, let’s make it Michael.
In all the years I have known the President, he has always been a bit peculiar. In recent years, he has had to deal with personal issues and the scandals that have occurred during his time in the White House. Then again, name a President who hasn’t had to deal with those to one extent or another. Americans love scandal and gossip, and they seem to expect it from their political leaders. Still behind the closed doors of the Oval Office, he was an intelligent and capable leader. You didn’t necessarily have to agree with his political views to agree with that.
The first time I noticed something unusual was the day the Heads of State, and their entourages, arrived from several Middle Eastern countries for a series of meetings with the President and other Western leaders. Introductions went smoothly enough, although I saw a slight scrunching of the President’s face as he shook hands with the members of the Egyptian delegation. I couldn’t help thinking when I saw this expression, that if he had whiskers he would have been putting them forward. Fortunately, our guests didn’t seem to notice or at least they didn’t take offense at the gesture. He finished his prepared greeting, glanced at me then turned his back and left.
There were a few raised eyebrows at this, but no one commented on his behavior. Of course, they may have assumed other matters were distracting him. As I handed out the information and welcome packets then introduced the VIP’s to their Secret Service escorts, I noticed the Egyptian Ambassador’s aide, an elaborately gowned and jeweled woman, almost reminiscent of ancient Egypt, was smiling softly as she followed the President’s departure with her bright blue eyes.
The next obvious incident came the next day, following a meeting with his advisors and various members of the delegations to work out the final schedule for the meetings. He insisted on sitting in on the meeting and had invited the other Heads of State to do the same. I wasn’t at the meeting, having to handle several points of protocol with the Egyptian Ambassador. Thankfully, nothing like what I saw went on during the meeting; or least not that I ever heard. With the number of people in the meeting, someone would have said something if anything had happened.
I was gathering the papers and notes left behind in the room, when I heard what sounded like purring coming from behind one of the larger chairs. I briefly thought about calling one of the Secret Service agents in from the corridor, but rejected that idea. After all, it was probably only one of the White House cats—right? Wrong! It was the President.
Lying in a patch of sunlight behind the brown leather chair, the President of the United States was playing with a piece of thread hanging from the bottom of the chair.
I shook my head as I watched him batting at the thread. What would cause him to act like this? I knew he was under a lot of stress recently, with the meeting and the press blowing the latest scandal out of proportion, as usual, as well as his upcoming State of the Union Address. However, this . . .this made no sense. This was also an election year. News of his strange behavior could not be allowed to get past these doors. There’s an old saying: Three people can keep a secret, but only if two are dead. No place is that more true than in Washington where gossip and scandal are the stock in trade of so many. If I didn’t want any of this to get out to the media, I would have to deal with it myself.
I stepped back over to the desk and coughed loudly. After a moment, he stood up from behind the chair and smoothed his suit jacket.
“I didn’t hear you come in,” he said holding something in his hand.
I nodded politely. “My apologies, if I disturbed you. Should I come back later to take care of these papers?”
“No, go ahead. I was just looking for my pin.” He held up a small cat-shaped lapel pin. The brushed silver figure seemed to stare at me with eyes the same color as the Ambassador’s aide. He dropped the pin into his pocket and headed for the door then paused for a moment. “Make sure I get a copy of the compiled notes as soon as they’re ready,” he said.
“Yes, Sir.” I turned my attention back to gathering the papers. On a small scrap of paper, someone had doodled a sketch of a cat pouncing on a small mouse. I glanced at the doors behind me then placed the sketch in my pocket. Was this the work of someone bored during the meeting who liked cats? Or, did it indicate how someone in the meeting or someone they were working for felt about the President’s dealings with the Middle East? Recent events in the Middle East made these talks precarious, they could help stabilize the situation or tip the scales toward a war that would sweep across the region. Many felt the United States was trying to manipulate events so they could have a stronger hold on the area and they had become vocal in their resentment.