Card Tricks for the Clintons

Card Tricks for the Clintons

I was at home with my mother and Stone. It wasn’t a home I recognized in waking, but it had familiar elements. A long, gravel road, wide open country living, neighbors in shouting distance…

The driveway ran clear around the back of the house, where there was a glass porch on stilts high enough to walk under.

The house was set on a hill, so that the ground sloped down, starting at the front door, and was at least a story lower at the back. We were in the back porch, which was attached to the kitchen, playing cards, when we heard a car pull around the back of the house.

Before it disappeared from having circled the house, I caught a glimpse of it. It looked like a repurposed military vehicle — low and long, bolted together, with small side windows and a split front windshield, so that both front passengers seemed really close to the windows. It was painted a rust color, and looked worn down, or maybe deliberately treated to look worn. There were 4 people in the car.

A few seconds later, we heard the same sound, so I jumped up from my seat and ran out of the back door and down the steps to get a look. This time, the same car was pulling around the back, and it sped up when the passengers saw me.

I ran, chasing it around to the side of the house, and looked under the porch to the other side of the house, where I saw 2 more cars pulling around. There were 4 of them, and each had a driver, and 3 passengers.

I kept running around to the front, so that I could cut them off before they could leave, when I finally got eye contact with the back-seat passengers of the last car, and I stopped in my tracks.

It was Bill and Hillary Clinton.

The front 3 cars now continued to circle around to the front of the house, and came to a stop, men in black suits exiting and dispersing around the yard. I kept my eyes on the 4th car, as it stopped, and the Clintons got out to walk toward me.

The look on their faces was sheer terror. Hillary looked genuinely disturbed, and Bill like he was walking into a terrible threat. I strode toward them with confidence, chest high, trying to stand as tall as I could. When I got to them, Bill was still taller than me by 2 inches.
I stuck out my hand to Hillary first.

“Ma’am.”

“Mr. Jackson.” Her hand was cold, and sweaty.

“Mr. President.”

“James.” His was warm, soft, and enormous. It enveloped mine.

“It’s Meshach.”

“Fine. Can we talk?” Bill said with a combined sense of calm and urgency. No time to waste, but no need to panic… yet.

“I’ll keep your mother company” said Hillary, and turned toward the house, mobilizing half of the secret service staff, now gathering around.

“Do you have anything to smoke?” Bill asked me, making a gesture with his hands, and smirking.

“I think I can find something.”

I started walking around to the corner of the house opposite where I knew my mother would be. I didn’t want her to see me smoking.

I turned up the gravel road, where a friend of mine whom I haven’t seen in a decade must have been living, because she was walking down the gravel driveway toward me.

“Excuse me for a second, sir.” I walked up the road toward her. When we met, halfway between our homes, she had an anxiety and excitement about her that surprised me.

“That’s Bill Clinton!” she tried to whisper, but it was just a wispy-yell.

“I know. He wants to smoke.”

“What!?!?!”

“I know. But I’m out. You got something?”

“Yeah, I got you.”

As she reached into her pockets, I heard someone walking up behind us. I turned to see a secret service agent, a tall black woman in her 30’s, holding a sawed-off shotgun, and wearing a Men In Black suit and tie… She was craning her neck to see over my shoulder from a distance…

“No pictures.” I joked.

She smiled, knowingly, and turned her back to us, but didn’t leave — like we were her new detail.

“Here you go” my friend handed me a freshly-rolled spliff, and skipped away with excitement. “Let me know how it goes!” she sang into the distance.

I got back over to where Bill was standing with 3 of his guards, who dispersed to a 10 foot radius as I approached. I could feel the 4th guard (Gloria, I somehow knew was her name), following behind me.

“Can we enjoy this in privacy?” I asked.

“We can try.” Bill turned toward the wooded area to the side of my house opposite where all the cars were parked, and motioned for the guards to go ahead.

The secret service lead the way, and as we walked through a trail in the woods marked by gravel, we turned toward an opening where the path lead, which was a gravel parking lot for what looked like a really popular restaurant, or maybe an outdoor club on a lake.

There were tables and chairs set out in an arrangement that allowed for maximum space between them, but not very much privacy. Like a banquet, or a wedding reception.

The tables were stocked with celebrities. P. Diddy stood up and stopped the President to say hello and introduced his party. While doing so, Jake Gyllenhal approached and said hello, and Diddy’s table introduced themselves to me. As I said my name, I noticed their body language change, and they began to subtly roll their eyes to each other, and sit back down.
After a few of these tables (I remember George Clooney, Oprah, and Lisa Kudro), we turned back toward the gravel road, and away from the lake.

“Bad idea.” Bill mumbled to me, and we walked quickly back to my house.
When we got back, there was a table and chairs setup in the back yard of my house, as if the restaurant had spontaneously expanded. Just one setup, 4 chairs, a white table cloth, a candle on the table, and some simple flowers. The sun was beginning to set, and I could hear crickets and frogs beginning to sing.

We sat down, and lit up.

“So how can I help you.” I asked, lighting the spliff and passing it over.

“It’s funny, you don’t seem nervous.”

“Why would I be? This is the most leverage I’ve ever had over anyone.”

“You don’t even know why I’m here yet.”

“I know I didn’t invite you, and you showed up and asked me what I want. That seems like a pretty strong position to be in, to me.”

“You have a blog.”

“I do.”

“I want to know about June 6, 2006.”

666. I racked my brain to come up with an explanation, but there was nothing…

“What about it?”

“You wrote a blog post that day, did you not?” He took a pull and passed it back.

“That sounds like something I’d do.”

“In your post, you listed 2 police officers, and their badge numbers.”

Ah, the night I was falsely arrested outside of my dad’s church. I suddenly felt more calm, and more powerful. Also, slightly pissed off. “And…?”

He paused, as if waiting for me to catch on. “What do you want?”

“I want Hillary to come outside, and leave my mother alone.” As I said the words, I could see over Bill’s shoulder that Hillary opened the door, and started walking down the back steps toward us. I waited until she was closer.

“What do you know about me?”

“Very little, I’m afraid.” said Hillary, pulling up a seat at our table. As she did, I noticed a dozen or so security officers standing throughout the property.

“I seriously doubt that.” I said, tuning my ear to the sound of a distant helicopter.

“We read your blog. How’s that?” Bill said.

“The whole thing?”

“The whole thing.”

“So what do you want to know?”

“Where did you get those badge numbers?”

“I believe they come printed on badges.” I said, pulling from the spliff and gesturing for Hillary to take it. She passed, motioning to Bill, and making a disgusted expression. Bill reached across the table and took it back.

“The numbers aren’t badge numbers. They’re too long, and the sequences don’t work by themselves. Where did you get them?”

“So you want to know if 1337 means ‘LEET’. That sort of thing?”

“That sort of thing.” He said, holding in the last of the smoke, and putting out the roach on the gravel.

“How many more sequences do you have?” Hillary said, leaning forward with impatience.

At this, I paused. After a few seconds, I turned to Bill, “would you like to see a card trick?” I could hear Hillary moan and roll her eyes. Bill conceded, nodding, “Sure.”

“Pick a card.”

“There’s no deck.”

I rolled my eyes and sarcastically said, “Clubs, Spades, Hearts and Diamonds. Ace through 10, and four more in silly clothes. Do you really need pictures to remember the options?”

He thought for a second, and finally said, “I got it.”

“The 3 of clubs is my card. Pick another one.”

He smiled, and turned his eyes to the sky again for a second. I could hear the helicopter getting closer.

“Alright.”

I made gestures with my hands, as if I was shuffling a deck, and made ridiculous ‘shuffle’ sounds with my mouth.

“Pthhht. Pfffft. Pthht. Pfffft.”

After a few shuffles, I held the two sides of the imaginary deck apart in my hands.

“Now put your card back in here.” He leaned forward to place his imaginary card back in the deck, and I stopped him.

“With your mind, Mr. President. With your mind.”
He sat back.

“Now tell Hillary what you picked.”

“The King of Hearts” she said, before he could. “What’s next?”

I smiled at her, and pretended to move the cards back and forth, before clapping my hands together, and motioning to throw the deck over my shoulder. When I did, there was a small crashing sound in the woods behind me.

“Now, check in your right shoe.” I said, gesturing to Bill’s feet.
Bill begrudgingly pretended to look in his shoe, without lifting his foot off the ground.

“It’s gonna be hard to see inside if you don’t take it off, sir.” I was now leaning on the table.

He took off his shoe, and pulled out a small, rolled up piece of paper. It was soggy and smashed down, like it had been in his shoe for a long time. He unrolled the paper, to reveal a King of Hearts on one side, and on the other side, instead of the normal printed pattern, there was a very long sequence of tiny numbers, covering the entire back of the card.

“How many more are there?” He said, with no surprise or ceremony.

“There are 50 more cards in the deck.”

“Without the 3 of clubs.” Hillary chimed in. No longer bored, but still unimpressed.

“Without the 3 of clubs.”

“So what do you want?” said Bill… “Money?”

“Money is fiction.” I said.

“Oh right. You’re one of those. You want, the gold standard?” His sarcasm was somehow still charming.

“I don’t do a lot of melting down precious metals anymore either. Nearly lost my eye trying to make a silver bullet a few years back.”

“You know, we could have just had you disappear.” Hillary interrupted.

“But you didn’t!” I interrupted her, slamming my hand down, and felt the rush of adrenaline from the danger of such a loss of cool. “And I’m sure coming here wasn’t your first decision, but whatever prompted that decision, it was empirical. So I don’t have to care why you’re here, do I? The situation is what it is, and now we all deal with it… right, ma’am?”
Bill, sensing the tension growing, offered a suggestion, “Why don’t I come back when you’ve had some time to think.”

“That may be the last thing you want to give me.” I said. “But I accept.”

I stuck out my hand to seal the agreement, and as I did, I noticed a small sewing needle, scotch-taped to the end of my index finger, and protruding invisibly, like a claw. I instinctively turned it slightly into Bill’s hand, to stab his palm. As he took my hand, the needle made a tiny prick, and I looked up, expecting him to notice. He didn’t.

I looked back down at his hand as I pulled mine away, and noticed a single bubble of blue ink building where blood should have been. Apparently, Hillary did too, because she made a quick motion to the secret service guards, and without even looking at me, began speed-walking back to the car.

All of the guards turned to walk with her, and started loading up, for the first time turning their backs on Bill and I.

Leaning into his cold, steely eyes, I spoke quietly but clearly — in the voice I would use if I was speaking to the automated teller on my bank’s toll-free number.

“If you do come back, I will be ready. If you do not, I will find you.”
Bill didn’t respond, as if he knew I wasn’t speaking to him, but to whomever else was listening. I focused my eyes back on the middle of his forehead — a trick I learned a few years ago for building confidence while speaking with someone in authority…

“It was a pleasure. Good evening, sir.”

“Helluva card trick” he said, and he turned, and walked away.