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
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.