Dr. Harrison didn’t get drunk on fine wines at the party for powerbrokers in Washington, D.C. that recent night but did consume enough to hand the keys to his wife, after only brief debate, and rode shotgun, singing his alma mater’s fight song. At home he again acceded in gentlemanly fashion and, still clothed except for shoes, retired to the guest bedroom about two a.m. and thus had only three hours of fitful rest when his wife dashed in to announce, “President Trump needs you at the White House immediately.”
“Where’s Dr. Dillard? He’s supposed to be on duty.”
“There’s been a chemical attack and your medical services are urgently needed.”
“What the hell?”
“Get up. I’ll drive.”
In less than twenty minutes, somewhat disheveled, Dr. Harrison dashed into the Oval Office, carrying his medical bag. He at once noticed Trump was exhausted and said, “Please sit on the sofa so I can examine you. You’ve got to start getting more sleep and exercise.”
“I’m the healthiest man in White House history. You’re here to serve as ring doctor.”
“I beg your pardon.”
“Ring doctor, octagon doctor. Whatever you want to call it.”
Dr. Harrison looked at several stern men wearing uniforms or suits, recognized most of them, and asked, “What’s going on?”
“Real simple,” said the president. “I’m tired of having my ears blistered by these two blowhards, James Mattis and John Bolton.”
The secretary of defense, a retired four-star general, stepped within a couple feet of the new the new national security advisor, who retreated a few inches.
“You two settle it quick with words or some other way,” said Trump.
“You’re an academic runt who loves to advocate wars while cowering far away,” said Mattis. “The United States can’t just go in and start bombing Syria or we’ll kill Russians and potentially start a nuclear conflagration.”
“That’s the kind of timid response that caused several years of civil war and hundreds of thousands of deaths,” Bolton said.
“You don’t care about lives. You want to strike Iran, with whom we and other nations have an internationally recognized nuclear deal. You want to bomb North Korea and had no interest in even talking to them until President Trump agreed to do so. Now you want to bomb a nation that’s devastated and bleeding.”
“Last week the Syrian government used chlorine, and perhaps sarin, to kill civilians. We’ve got to punish Bashar al-Assad.”
“We need to respond with a limited and focused strike on three of his chemical weapons facilities.”
Bolton glanced at Trump before saying to Mattis, “That didn’t work last year and won’t this year. No more weak responses. We need to devastate Assad’s air force and war-making ability.”
“You goddamn fool, don’t you know there are Russians at lots of Syrian government bases?”
“They shouldn’t be there.”
“They’re there,” Mattis shouted, jumping closer and rising on toes to level his eyeballs at Bolton’s.
“We’ll force them out,” Bolton said.
“I’ve already told you ten times: by destroying Assad’s air force and other military facilities.”
“That would be logistically difficult and unbelievably risky.”
“You don’t have the guts for battle,” said Bolton, turning red as his mustache bristled.
“Listen real good, you cowardly son of a bitch. You’ve never been near combat. I’ve fought in wars and led men in lots of battles and been decorated for it. I know what combat’s about.”
“Yeah, and you say you like it.”
“Not against Russia,” said Mattis. “Against fucking chicken-hawks like you.”
Bolton stepped back, removed his glasses, and, before he could set them on Trump’s desk, Mattis kicked him in the knee and missed an eye gouge that ripped skin from Bolton’s forehead. The verbal warrior pushed out both palms chest high.
“What’s a matter,” said Mattis. “This is sissy stuff. Imagine if my strikes were bombs.”
“Mad Dog, Mad Dog, Mad Dog,” chanted the uniforms and suits.
After using his tie to dab a bloody forehead, Bolton said, “The president hired me as national security advisor because he admires my experience and intellect. He doesn’t expect me to actually fight.”
“You saying you quit?” said Mattis.
“Maybe I’ll kick your ass next time.”
Trump pointed at me and moved his finger toward Bolton.
“Mr. Bolton, please have a seat,” I said. “I better give you a few stitches so you’ll be ready for the big debates about Iran and North Korea.”