The Model President. By J.B. Pick.
It was an accident, of course. I've never done anything clever in my life. All I've got to offer are the best legs in Washington. If I did the President an injury it was because he failed to appreciate them as he should.
The President was a pattern of all that a President should be. He never offended anyone, he never despised anyone, he never gave anything away. He reacted to each event as if oiled and waiting. Nothing surprised him, nothing disturbed him, no one ever outwitted him. You could see him finish the race before the others were lined up at the starting gate.
"He is superior in perceptiveness and resource to any President this great country of ours has ever known," Secretary Schlogumber said when the President had been in office for a month, and Schlogumber has never been known to admire anything other than his own suits until that day. "He negotiates with skill and patience,"Schlogumber said. "He's courteous, smart, punctilious, accurate, and decisive." That just about sums up the President. He was also a creep.
I've got to admit he had courage. He took risks. When the United States of Europe got into that tangle with China over Turkish oil our President offered the Turks a deal which brought Chinese and Europeans to agreement so fast it seemed like magic. When accused of failing to get the oil concessions himself the President smiled and looked courteous.
He knew when to move fast and when to move slowly. When the fight broke out between the Federal Government and the State of Ohio he didn't do anything until Governor Paul made that weird and wonderful speech, then he invited Paul to the White House and although no one knows what was said there was never a cheep out of the guy again.
Of course I didn't give my views on these matters; I was only a secretary, not a Secretary. It wasn't the fact that I was such a good secretary but the way everyone appreciated my legs that enabled me to get around. That is, everybody except the President. It offended me that a friendly, masculine personage like this President never found time nor inclination to give them the suggestion of an approving glance.
So one day when it fell to my lot to take in the President's papers for signature I determined to make things as difficult for him as possible. I approached with a sinuous but delightfully natural kind of walk, not sultry but a trifle slower than the occasion demanded, and gave him a smile that would have charmed an armadillo.
He looked up with that amiable, keen, tooth-displaying response which seemed to say, "Now I'm really pleased to see you and to recognise your pleasantness and goodwill. I'm sorry I haven't the time right now to chat about your delightful hobbies and interesting family but if I had, why, you bet I would." What it didn't say was, "I'm a bit unnerved by your disconcerting attractions and have begun to tingle in embarrassing places." That, in my opinion, is what it should have said.
Now the next thing that happened is pretty extraordinary so you'll just have to get ready for it and remember that I am not the sort of phenomenon which planners would imagine to cross the President's line of flight. The complete shiny-eyed amiabiality of this person in front of the modest charm that I was parading for his benefit put the notion into my head that I would utter my supersonic cry.
When I was ten some girl-friends and I had been practising to see which one of us could hit the highest note, and I hit it. They didn't realise I had hit it because they couldn't hear the note, but they got disturbed in a strange way, starting to scratch and shift about and wear crazy, introverted looks. I have experimented frequently with this little shriek ever since. It affects dogs all over town in such a way that they develop a great desire to bound about and bark and tear strips out of people's pants. It causes men in bars to go glazed and gloomy or wild and uncanny. It seemed to me when I gazed upon this model President that it would do him good if he developed a crazy, introverted look, and got taken with the urge to scratch his leg or pull at his collar or become glazed, gloomy, wild or uncanny. I therefore gave him a soulful glance and opening my lips just a teeny bit I let out this interesting and dog-exciting type of cry.
The effect on the President was very marked. He was about to say, "Thank you, I appreciate -" and this is what he said, but he not only said it once he said it again and again after that and went on saying it like an ancient phonograph record bouncing back off a crack and while he was saying it went on swaying back and forth, over and over again, like an electrical toy in a store window.
After a while he got me deeply worried and when I'd tried a few interruptions both polite and less so and had bent over him and shaken him and thrown water in his face from a glass I grabbed the telephone and shrieked into it that the President had got stuck, which maybe wasn't the best way to put it, but was intriguing enough to bring a whole convention of bald men at the run, and even the physicians couldn't get him to stop swaying and appreciating, so that's how they found out that the President was a robot programmed by the most advanced computer in the world.
Mind you, it didn't get out - it wouldn't, would it - and they announced to the populace that the poor fellow had passed away with a stroke and he was buried with impressive ceremony and everybody mourned like crazy. Of course Secretary Schlogumber then took to describing the President as the worst disaster of the Century and saying that we were well rid of him, but you can understand his embarrassment and I didn't blame him.
The whole thing must have deeply disappointed the Porgrax Corporation, even though they had acquired during his term of office enough contracts to last them for a decade. Perhaps their success isn't surprising when you consider how smart they were at electronics, and perhaps their failure isn't surprising either when you consider their incompetence in human relationships. I mean, you can't put a guy like Schlogumber on the payroll if you want to stay ahead of the field.
Of course I shan't say anything about it. They know that. After all, they can see with one look at my legs that I don't know anything, and I don't need to worry personally because I shall make the best use of what assets I've got, which don't include brains. I think it likely that in due course I shall get a pretty major post with the Porgrax Corporation provided that I've first established that their boss is not a robot. I may not have to use my little shriek at all.
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