Gregson felt hammering on his forehead, and an inability to think. His symptoms might’ve been demons knocking, but it was the Hot Tamales he ate last night. In the Middle Ages, he would’ve consulted a priest. His reaction was so bad, he wanted to die. Now, Gregson knew he had to eat healthy, which put his fat in jeopardy. Losing weight, made him fear, he might lose the best part of himself. His doctor would be happy though—and his mother too—he might out-live them both. That’s why Gregson had to test his life, like a thousand-pound test, to catch the criminals in the dark water.
He dressed for travel—putting-on his trench coat and galoshes, reaching for his wide-brimmed hat. Gregson glanced at his apartment. It was clean. Over the holidays, he had organized, while watching murder mysteries on TV. It was cozy now, with books arranged on his shelves. A personal library is different than a public one. A city library isn’t read—only checked-out. A private library holds sacred knowledge. A guest can look at the shelves and tell who lives there. That’s why, great thoughts are hidden, like secret light, locked away, in a forbidden study.
It was raining.
Gregson didn’t really want to talk to the President. Presidents are always acting presidential, like school principals… After talking to them, it feels like getting raped by a used car salesman, who tries to sell you on how good they are, but for some reason, you are sore, afterwards.
Gregson got onto a plane to D.C. The stewardess gave him 3 whiskeys because he begged. He was not going to visit the president, sober. The thought that an 80-year-old man could end the world with a push of a button…
Gregson got to the White House and sat in the red waiting room.
“He’s in the hot tub with two girls from Vegas,” a woman said.
“Are you the President’s secretary?” Gregson asked.
“I’m the president’s secretary’s secretary.” She looked plain, like a copy of a copy of a copy, in her black pants, and ironed top.
“Well, I need authorization.”
“Who made the request?” She asked.
“Murphy. I don’t know his rank or title.”
“Oh—we’ve been expecting you. Make your mark, and I’ll stamp it.”
Gregson did. With all the initials on the page, he wondered what else was going on in the world.
“That should do it,” she said.
Gregson felt like a checkmark. It’s the feeling one gets from working in a bureaucracy. At any moment, you can be erased.
Gregson collected his package, and promptly left for the airport. It didn’t make any sense, for everybody in the world to know where the president lived. Each president must have a body double who pretends to be the president. He’s the guy soaking in the hot tub with the prostitutes, and playing golf on the best courses. The real president gets into wars, gets his teeth cleaned (on a good day), and screws-up the economy. All the kids in elementary school want to be that guy. Gregson never understood it. Sure—your assassination risk is higher, if you’re the body double, but each day, you get to pretend to be the most powerful person in the world—without any responsibility.
Gregson checked his flight plan. It was South America—an island he couldn’t pronounce. It looked like a tourist trap, colonized by the French. The French put their name in front of everything, because they are egotistical assholes—French Fries, French Dressing, French Kissing—nobody complains. Without the French, there would be no one to make fun of.
Gregson listened to Chopin on the airplane. Each composition—a dream. Chopin was so shy, he performed in the dark. Gregson admired that—cowardice becomes courage, when it finds a way.
When he landed, it was hot. There was a man holding his name by a black limousine.
“Gregson? Me—no English. Me—drive you.”
The PI nodded, and got in. His driver was about four feet tall—barely able to see over the dash. When they got to the dock, there was a charter fisherman, waiting.
“So, you’re the fool, stupid enough to visit this island?” The man said. He reminded Gregson of Hemingway, but more macho.
“Stephon.” They shook hands. “The island is by invitation only. Let me see it.”
Gregson pulled his papers from the manilla envelope.
“Okay—I’ll drop you off, but you’ll have to walk into shore.”
Stephon didn’t talk very much. He seemed nervous, so Gregson didn’t pry. You just never know about people—ever since the advent of the postal service. We are all trying to survive. Before there was mail, we had to fend-off wolves. Now, it’s boredom. You pray, the guy working next to you, has a reason to live—a wife, a family, or at least a hobby. That’s why people at the office ask, “What did you do over the weekend?” They are terrified of someone who can’t answer that question.
Stephon, looked at the horizon. “There it is…” he said. It was the source of his anxiety. “Take a life vest. I’m going to let you swim for it.”
Gregson didn’t complain.
“Don’t worry—the water is warm, and I haven’t seen a shark in two weeks.”
Gregson jumped, and swam for the beach. There was something moving on it. When he surfaced, he saw what it was—several naked women.
The blonde was wearing sunglass. The red-head was wearing sunscreen. There was a black-haired goddess with green eyes, wearing nothing. She saw Gregson, and puffed-out her chest.
“Did Stephon drop you off?” The red-head asked.
“He doesn’t come around here anymore. We think he’s shy. What’s your name?”
“Gregson—and I’m not shy.”