Earth Day 2017 here in Washington DC dawned cold and rainy, which was a disappointment for Cerise, who had gone to considerable trouble getting my concurrence for a proposed bike trip down the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath from Great Falls to Georgetown and back. Instead, after rising early and finding the weather dreary, we returned to bed for a breakfast of duck eggs Benedict, white asparagus Bearnaise, some of my handmade almond croissants and slices of Cerise’s legendary walnut blueberry banana bread (originally scheduled for consumption during a picnic lunch at Lock Seven), accompanied by hand-squeezed blood orange Dom Perignon mimosas and Grand Marnier cappuccinos, followed, as might be expected, by some amorous activities and a subsequent return to Dreamland. About eleven fifteen, the land line on the nightstand on my side of the king sized Tempurpedic GrandBed rang. Caller ID showed it was the cell phone belonging to my brother-in-law, Hank.
Hank: Tom? That you?
Tom: Who else would it be?
Hank: Well, at your house, it might be Cerise. She answers the phone there sometimes.
Tom: Now that you mention it, she happens to be here.
Cerise: Who is it?
Tom: It’s Hank.
Hank: And Shannon.
Tom: And Shannon. Hold on while I put this on speaker. Okay, there. Happy Earth Day!
Shannon: Screw that tree-hugger [expletive]!
Cerise: Still the climate change denier, Shannon?
Shannon: Like Trump says, it’s a Chinese hoax!
Tom: Well, actually, Trump hasn’t been accusing the Chinese of that, or much of anything else lately, you know.
Cerise: Not since Trump had chocolate cake with Xi Jinping down at Mar-a-Lago. Now they’re good buddies, because Trump’s realized that foreign policy is more complicated than he thought it was during the campaign.
Shannon: You don’t know what you’re talking about! Donald J. Trump is a genius! If he’s changed his stance on China, it’s because he has a damn good reason!
Cerise: Yeah, like needing the Chinese to exert pressure on Kim Jong-un, for instance.
Hank: Funny you should mention that, Cerise, because North Korea is kinda like the reason we called Tom today.
Tom: Really? How so?
Hank: Well, uh, it’s like here’s North Korea talking about launching a nuclear strike on America and all, so we were thinking maybe that might have got you thinking.
Tom: Thinking about what?
Shannon: About how Hank and I were right all along, that’s what!
Cerise: Oh, right, you mean, about Barack Obama being the Antichrist?
Shannon: Listen, Cerise, when a commie nuke ICBM burns you to a crisp in your yuppie liberal condo, you’ll be laughing out of the other side of whatever’s left of your mouth!
Tom: Come on now, Shannon, you’ve got to admit, Cerise has a point. You and Hank ran off to West Virginia and dug into an underground bunker because you were convinced that Obama was going to precipitate Armageddon, didn’t you?
Shannon: Just because Obama isn’t president anymore, that doesn’t mean he isn’t still the Antichrist!
Cerise: I don’t know, Shannon – judging by his first hundred days, I’d say Donald Trump looks like a much better candidate for that position.
Shannon: That “hundred days” routine is all made up by the media anyway! Like Trump says, it’s hokey and stupid! They just made it all up so they could have another bunch of fake news stories about him!
Tom: Actually, it was FDR who came up with the concept of the First Hundred Days, in 1933.
Cerise: About eighty-four years before Donald Trump claims the media made it up to embarrass him.
Tom: And eleven presidents since FDR upon whom the press have reported their performance during their first hundred days.
Cerise: Twelve, if you count Gerald Ford.
Shannon: Hah! You can’t fool me with your liberal alternative facts! The first hundred days you’re talking about isn’t the same one that the media a using to disrespect president Trump!
Cerise: Excuse me, but how can one hundred days in 2009 be any different from one hundred days in 2017?
Shannon: It hasn’t even been one hundred days yet!
Hank: Uh, technically speaking and all, Shannon’s right, you know.
Cerise: Oh, my God! I should have known better than to question the world view of a True Believer in the first place. Tell me, Shannon, what’s the difference between you Trumpistas…
Shannon: How dare you use Hispanic terminology to characterize the supporters of Donald Trump?
Cerise: Okay, sorry – between you Trump supporters and the Party members in North Korea, anyway? Looks to me like you’re both ready to accept anything your Glorious Leader says, no matter how absurd or surreal it is.
Shannon: How dare you compare the supporters of Donald Trump to the commies in North Korea? You see Tom? That’s how your liberal friends twist everything around when real patriotic Americans try to reason with them!
Tom: Well, that’s one point of view, anyway. Now – is there something I can do for you two? Because frankly, it’s a cold, rainy April day here and Cerise and I were planning on having a nice, cozy Saturday at home, reading books and magazines and drinking tea and cocoa and playing with the cat and so forth; and until Hank called, we were off to what I’d say was a pretty good start.
Hank: Yeah, sure, that – um… look, Tom, you and Cerise don’t wanna get nuked, do ya?
Tom: No, of course not. Nobody wants to get nuked.
Hank: Right, so what about North Korea saying they’re ready to nuke America? Doesn’t that worry you?
Tom: Not particularly.
Hank:You mean, you’re not like, scared or anything?
Hank: But this guy in charge of North Korea, whathisname, uh, Kimchee something-or-other, that guy?
Cerise: Kim Jong-un.
Hank: Yeah, him. He’s talking about starting World War III, and you two live right there in the Belly of the Beast, in the Washington DC metro area, right there on ground zero.
Cerise: North Korea’s ICBMs can’t reach Washington.
Shannon: They could if one of them was launched from a North Korean submarine lurking off the coast of Delaware!
Cerise: Oh, please! Any North Korean submarine lurking off the coast of anywhere in the US would be surrounded by American attack subs and under constant physical and electronic surveillance. They couldn’t flush their toilet without the Pentagon knowing about it. And at the first sign of hostile intent – not even hostile action, mind you – that North Korean submarine would go straight to the bottom.
Shannon: Hey, what’s this? Mighty tough talk from a liberal, that is!
Cerise: Well, for your information, Shannon, liberals have plenty of guts – we just don’t go around spouting idle threats and nonsense like conservative warmongers and your precious Donald Trump do.
Shannon: Oh yeah? And what “nonsense” do you claim the president was spouting about North Korea?
Cerise: Well, all right, if we’re going to start trading shots here, then I think the whereabouts of the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier battle group provides a fairly serviceable example. And Trump’s description of it as an “armada” was a real gem, too, by the way. A classic symptom of warmongering is an irresistible tendency to romanticize armed conflict, you know.
Shannon: I’ll have you know that aircraft carrier is headed straight for North Korea as we speak!
Cerise: Sure, about two weeks after The Donald said it was. Meanwhile, it was three thousand miles away and actually headed in the opposite direction. Do you think that America having a president who behaves like an ignorant fool somehow intimidates the North Koreans?
Shannon: Oh, Jesus Christ on a crutch! How naive can you get, Cerise? It’s obviously part of the president’s strategy to appear unpredictable, that’s all!
Cerise: Okay, regardless of whether Trump intended to look like a clueless idiot or not, do you think having an unpredictable, thin-skinned egomaniac on our side facing off against an unpredictable, bloodthirsty, paranoid psychotic on the other side is a formula for avoiding resumption of a war that is still going on, sixty-seven years after the psychotic’s unpredictable sociopathic mass murderer grandfather started it?
Shannon: It’s a damn sight better than having Hillary Clinton handle the situation, I can tell you that!
Tom: Hold on there now, Shannon. In all fairness, wouldn’t even you agree that Hillary Clinton would make damned sure she knew which way the aircraft carrier was going before she shot her big fat feminazi mouth off?
Shannon: Hillary’s not smart enough to think like president Trump!
Cerise: Okay, Shannon, I give up. You’re a philosophical lost cause, wrapped in an ideological hot mess, roasting in a political dumpster fire. I’m going down to the kitchen and bake cookies!
Hank: Aw, gee, I’m sorry, Tom. I know how you feel about Cerise and I’m sure Shannon didn’t want to make her angry like that, did you, Shannon?
Shannon: Hell yes, I did!
Hank: But… but… look, Shannon, you know that when Tom comes up here to live with us, he’s going to bring Cerise with him, and everyone’s going to have to get along after that and…
Tom: Excuse me, but what makes you think I would move out to the middle of nowhere with you two?
Shannon: Because before you know it, that fancy house in that upscale suburb of yours will be a smoking radioactive ruin! Damn it, I’ve had enough of this myself! I’m going into the ammo room and loading shotgun shells, Hank. See if you can talk some sense into Tom, will you?
Hank: Look, it won’t just be you and us, of course. We’ve got the bunker set up for Rose and Arthur and all the kids, too. I just don’t want to spend ten years listening to Cerise and Shannon go at it like a couple of cats in a sack while everybody waits for the radiation to go down, and I bet you don’t either, right?
Tom: Well, my cat heard that last remark, Hank, and now she’s given me a dirty look and stalked out of the bedroom with her tail in the air.
Hank: Oh, [expletive], Tom, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…
Tom: Never mind. Look, I know you and Shannon mean well, and I suppose this isn’t exactly the best time to attempt convincing you to come back to your families in Fairfax, what with this North Korea situation validating all your eschatological conspiracy theories, but I am genuinely and sincerely unconcerned about the prospects of two pathetic jerks like Donald J. Trump and Kim Jong-un blowing up the world in a thermonuclear holocaust. You have to realize that I’m well acquainted with the old-timers who were here in Washington during the entire Cold War in general and the Cuban Missile Crisis in particular. Bottom line, they knew John Kennedy, and Donald Trump is no John Kennedy; and they knew Nikita Khrushchev, and Kim Jong-un is no Nikita Khrushchev, either; and and they tell me that compared to the real thing, this North Korea business is just a couple of juggalo clowns farting in the wind.
Hank: You really think so?
Tom: I know so. Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un deserve each other. They’re a perfectly matched pair of incompetent, incoherent, ignorant imbeciles. And the real irony is, the Kim Jong-un Trump thinks he’s dealing with probably isn’t even the real one.
Hank: Huh? Could you explain, please?
Tom: Well, I met Kim Jong-un a couple of times when he was in school in Switzerland, so I know what his voice sounds like; plus, he speaks pretty good English and he’s a huge NBA basketball fan, so I think I’d know if I was talking to him on the phone.
Hank: You’ve talked to him on the phone?
Tom: Either him or somebody who does a damn good Kim Jong-un impression.
Hank: Holy [expletive]! What’s up with that?
Tom: I suspect that the North Korean regime locked up the real Kim Jong-un years ago in a luxury villa hidden in a remote part of country, because sometimes, a person who sounds just like Kim Jong-un calls me. He says he’s using an ancient satellite telephone he managed to smuggle into the well-upholstered prison where the regime is holding him, but the phone’s in pretty bad shape and he has trouble getting fresh batteries for it. I haven’t heard from him in quite some time though, and wouldn’t be surprised if he’s dead by now. So in my humble opinion, there’s a strong possibility that the Kim Jong-un Trump’s dealing with at the moment is one of several doubles the real Kim Jong-un made the mistake of recruiting when he first came to power.
Hank: So wait a minute here – maybe the fake Kim Jong-un might not be an incompetent, incoherent, ignorant imbecile after all, then?
Tom: That would be completely irrelevant, actually.
Tom: Because the people behind him obviously are. Look how they’ve been running North Korea for the last five years.
Hank: So there’s no chance you’re going to need a place to escape getting fried by a North Korean nuke?
Tom: You’d have better odds if you spent your life savings on PowerBall tickets next week.
Hank: Oh, [expletive] it!
Tom: “Oh, [expletive] it?” What’s that supposed to mean?
Hank: It’s just that, hell, Tom, Shannon and I have been up here for years, making ready for the End Times, and I just thought this North Korea thing was going to be it, you know? At last, we’d be able to say, We told them so! And Rose and Arthur and the children would come live with us in West Virginia and we’d arm all the kids who where old enough to hold a gun and all of us would go out and shoot marauders and starving strangers from the bombed-out cities together, fighting our way through The Tribulation as one big happy family. But now, you’re saying it’s just going to be more waiting and waiting and waiting…
Tom: Hank, please stop sobbing – you know I can’t stand to hear a grown man cry.
Hank: Sorry, sorry… I just… it hasn’t been easy, living in the woods, building underground shelters, stocking up on freeze-dried food, acquiring firepower and crates of ammo, blasting a two hundred thousand gallon water cistern out of solid granite, and then, this North Korea thing happens and I’m like, Yes! This is it! All that work means something! And now…
Tom: Well, cheer up. I could be wrong – maybe the world as we know it is about to end in an Apocalypse of flame after all.
Hank: Oh, boy, really?
Tom: Sure – could be – why not? Look, it’s springtime and the woods up there in West Virginia are really nice this time of year, so next weekend, provided the weather is sunny, how about Cerise and I come up to visit you?
Hank: Oh, gee, thanks, Tom! That would be terrific! And oh, yeah – could you bring a few thousand dollars with you? We really need the money up here.
Tom: Okay, sure, I’ll bring, oh, how about five grand?
Hank: Cash. Like you give us when we visit you down there in DC.
Tom: Yeah, sure, cash, as always. Send me a text with the directions.
Hank: Um, yeah, that’s right – you’ve never actually been to… the compound… before, have you?
Tom: No, not yet.
Hank: You know, I think Shannon will want to transmit the directions using some kind of encryption, for security reasons and all.
Tom: No problem. Tell her to email me the protocols in a password protected PDF and we’ll work out something to her satisfaction.
Hank: And I’ll talk to Shannon about fighting with Cerise and you talk to Cerise about fighting with Shannon so you and I don’t have to listen to them all weekend, right?
Hank: Okay, then, deal!
Hank: Thanks! I feel much better now! ‘Bye!