From time to time, I like to feature other great work from author friends on the blog, and Ira Nayman has a very funny project on right now that could use your help. Please enjoy this free sample from Both Sides. Now!. I’ve preordered my copies. That’s right… I said copies. –Liz
Pete’s dad Jerry was a cop. Okay, he was the field agent who had been taunted by the coded messages of the Sagittarius Slaughterer which meant nothing top him because of his lack of knowledge of the Fibonacci Sequence or the life cycle of rutabagas. The Sagittarius Slaughterer, who took credit for forty-two murders, was never caught, although Jerry was the leader of a team that was convinced they had him cornered in an abandoned toaster oven canning factory. Still, Jerry lived and died a cop.
Pete’s granddad, Noah, was a cop. He was, to be sure, the cop who arrested the wrong man for the Nantucket Chum Bucket robbery, but you have to understand that there was considerable outrage, especially on behalf of the three year-old, whose injuries would ensure that she would never grow up to appreciate Van Halen, and the media circus had five rings and pressure to make an arrest was intense and unrelenting and came from the highest offices in the city. In any case, it only took forty-two years for the real robber’s conscience to get the better of him (after the money ran out), leading him to confess, so justice was done. Eventually. In the end. Still, Noah died in the uniform. In an old age home. Long after he had retired. People at the home are still trying to understand how it was smuggled in to him. Still.
Pete’s great-granddad Ezekiel was a cop. Forty-two of his cases had to be retried when it turned out that he had built a workshop in his basement where he manufactured evidence. You have to understand that that was how it was in those days, although few cops handcrafted their own used cigarette butts and lipstick-stained bar napkins. That speaks to a certain kind of dedication to duty, if nothing else. Family sentiment was split on the rumour that Orson Welles’ character in the film Touch of Evil had been based on Ezekiel, although they all agreed that it was a classic of the genre. Despite this unfortunate blot on his record late in his life, Ezekiel was one of the most decorated officers on the force.
Peter Docherty-Baye came from a long line of cops. They may not have been particularly good at their jobs, but they filled the uniform heroically, and broad shoulders and piercing blue eyes are often enough to instil confidence in a wary public unsettled by high crime rates and general social unrest.
At the age of forty-two, Pete found his level of incompetence: security detail for the President. Returning from an unsuccessful trip to Europe to try and get the British Prime Minister to wind down the War on Nouns and lower tariffs on processed American asparagus spears, Pete mused about how much his job sucked. Six hours in the air without access to ESPN or beer! This was the thanks he got from a grateful nation for safeguarding the life of the most powerful man on the planet (outside of Bill Gates…a couple of Russian oligarchs, oh, and the Chairman of the Communist Party of China – mustn’t forget the Chairman of the Communist Party of China!)? He should have gone into private security with his brother!
The President was sleeping in The Cocoon. This was not the group of like-minded politicians, staffers and media types who surrounded the President at all times and kept him away from anything approaching an original idea (something they did, all agreed, with the purest of motives: the President was a smart man who could be dangerous with an original idea, especially in these times of high crime rates and general social unrest). No, that was The Bubble. The Cocoon was a section of Air Force One set apart from the rest of the plane by a thick black curtain that allowed the President some privacy when he wanted to rest. And after dealing with British politicians for three days, he really needed to rest!
Pete checked his watch. We’ll be getting into Washington in less than half an hour, he thought. Time to wake up POTUS. (That would be Pain-in-the-ass of the United States, but Pete had never shared that opinion with anybody – it would probably get him permanently busted to traffic cop – even though he had really enjoyed the calm, measured rhythms of most daytime traffic that one week – but, it would just kill his mother – so you didn’t hear it from me.)
Pete pulled back the curtain and respectfully said, “Mister President? We’ll be landing in a few mi – WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU?”
Five hours earlier, a middle-aged black man with short-cropped prematurely greying hair (it was the office) had gone to sleep in The Cocoon. In his place, there was now a twelve year-old white girl, with flowing blond curls and achingly adorable dimples.
Pete drew his gun and trained it on her.
“What are you yelling about?” the girl woke up irritated. She wiped the sleep out of her eyes with her knuckles.
“WHO ARE YOU?” Pete shouted.
“It’s me, Pete,” the girl calmly stated. “The President.”
“The President does not have flowing blond curls and achingly adorable dimples!” Pete loudly insisted.
The President, sitting up in the bed, looked at her hands. They were small. Dainty. And very white. “What the hell…?” she said.
The Chief of Staff appeared next to Pete. The Chief of Staff was a pleasant, slightly roly poly man with a crown of white hair that gave people the impression of a halo. It was a misimpression of a halo, of course, given the thirty plus years he had spent as a political fixer, but that was one of the main qualities that made him so good at his job. “Hey, hey, hey,” he calmly stated, “What’s all the shouting abou – HOLY MOTHER OF CHRIST, WHO ARE YOU?”
“Not you, too, Dave,” the President sighed. “Say – why is my voice so high?”
The Chief of Staff ducked out of entryway to The Cocoon for a few seconds, then returned with a mirror, which he handed to the President. She studied herself in it for a minute or more, reflected this part of her and that. Finally, setting the mirror aside, she told Pete, “I can see how this could be awkward for you.”
“Thank you for your understanding,” Pete replied. “Now, who the fuck are you?”
“I’m the President.”
“All due respect, ma’am,” Pete insisted, “the President of the United States does not look like Shirley Fucking Temple.”
“Pete,” the Chief of Staff, who had quickly recovered, “is the drama really necessary? And by drama, I mean primarily the gun, although the language and shouting are a part of it, too.”
“All due respect, sir,” Pete replied to him, “yes. The leader of the free world has turned into a beloved children’s entertainer! Yes. Yes, I would say that, under these circumstances, the drama is necessary. I can’t think of a situation in which the drama would be more fucking necessary!”
“Pete,” the President coolly asked, “do you think of me as the Pain-in-the-ass of the United States?”
“Who told you that?” Pete roared. (I didn’t tell the President! Did you tell the President? How could you tell the President? I told that to you in confidence! How am I supposed to trust you if –)
“Joe Rigoletto, who was on my first security detail, told me that’s what he thought of me,” the President said with a smile. “I’ve asked all of the men and women who guard me if they think of me that way, and all of them, every single one, said they did.” (Okay. Phew. Dodged a bullet, there. I…I’m sorry I doubted you.)
“Lucky guess,” Pete said, never taking his gun off the little girl in front of him. “It doesn’t prove shit.”
“Okay,” the President thoughtfully nodded. “Do you remember when you were first assigned to me? You nearly shot me because I was in the White House kitchen after midnight looking for cookies.”
“You always did like your chocolate chips,” Pete almost smiled. Then, he shook his head. “Okay, in the first place, I am a highly trained, highly decorated peace officer. I would never shoot the President by accident in the middle of the night.”
“Never said you did,” the President stated. “I –”
“Second,” Pete continued, ignoring her. “How did you know that? It’s not possible that you could know that.”
The President stared at him with a level gaze. “Think this through, Pete. What makes more sense? That somebody found a way to access Air Force One in mid-flight and replaced the President with a young girl, one that seems to know everything that the President knows, or that, for reasons we have yet to determine, while he was sleeping, the President was transformed into a little girl?”
Pete didn’t particularly care for either option. Before he could express this opinion, though, the Chief of Staff said, “I believe you, Mist – uhh, what should we call you? Under the circumstances, Mister President doesn’t seem entirely appropriate, and Mistress President has…unfortunate connotations.”
The President considered this for a moment. “POTUS still works,” he finally said.
Yeah, that sounds like something the President would think, Pete thought.
“Hey, guys, what’s going on back –” the Press Secretary started to ask. The Chief of Staff quickly drew the curtain on the scene, turning to face her.
“Oh, hi, Linda,” he cheerfully greeted the Press Secretary.
“Okay,” she said, “what’s going on?”
“The President is…changing,” the Chief of Staff stated. “His clothes, I mean. He’s changing his clothes. He’ll…need a couple of minutes to…make himself presentable.”
“Sure,” the Press Secretary responded. “Only, I thought we should talk about the trip before we land. There will be reporters at –”
“NO!” the Chief of Staff exploded. “No reporters! Not now!”
“The trip was a disaster,” the Press Secretary reminded him. “Reporters will have questions – gleeful, gloating, hurtful questions – that they will demand the President answer.”
“Tell them the President is tired from the trip, and will hold a press conference in two days.”
“How are you gonna get the President past them?”
“Oh, she’ll…uhh…no, I meant –”
“Sheila? Who is Sheila?”
“Sheila? Oh, Sorry. Woman I met in London. Long story. I meant, he – he – the President, will leave the plane by the back door. It’s the middle of the night. Reporters will never know he’s left until it’s too late.”
“Your plan is to sneak the President past the reporters?”
The Chief of Staff glanced at the curtain. “Honestly, that’s going to be a lot easier than you think.”
The Press Secretary gave him a penetrating look. Then, deciding that there was nothing to be gained by fighting it, that she would find out what was going on when she needed to know, she said, “Tell him that we really need to get out ahead of this thing, okay?”
“Couldn’t agree with you more,” the Chief of Staff agreed. He watched the Press Secretary walk away for a couple of seconds. Then, he parted the curtain just long enough to walk through it.
“…through the rotunda and halfway up the stairs before he realized that he still had the chicken on his head!” The President laughed. Pete, his gun still trained on the young girl, almost allowed a corner of his mouth to tic upwards a minimally small amount.
“Mister Pre – POTUS,” the Chief of Staff firmly stated, “we really need to get out ahead of this thing!”
“What would you suggest?” the girl responded.
“Well, to start,” the Chief of Staff suggested, “you should fire all idiot Secret Servicemen who train guns on you.”
“I don’t believe she is the President,” Pete responded, “so she does not have the authority to fire me.”
“You could authorize me to fire his ass on your behalf.”
“Don’t worry too much about it,” the President said. “Pete would be almost as embarrassed about shooting a little girl as he would about shooting the President, wouldn’t you, Pete?”
“I hope not to have to shoot anybody,” Pete answered.
“There you go, then,” the President said. “So, what was that about getting ahead of this thing?”
“Okay,” the Chief of Staff started. “First: we need to convince the public that you are the President. I would suggest that you tell stories of your childhood…”
“You know I’ve never liked to do that,” the President mildly objected.
“I know that,” the Chief of Staff continued. “But, I think you can appreciate that it will be an uphill battle to convince people that a young white girl is actually a middle-aged black President. Even the low information voters.”
“I’ll try to come up with some stories that I would be comfortable telling.”
“Good. Next, we have to do something to show that you’re up for the job, that you’re still tough. I would suggest invading another country.”
“Hmm…you know I don’t approve of unnecessary military interventions.”
“That’s the great thing about the War on Nouns,” the Chief of Staff argued. “Any military intervention can be justified as necessary!”
“Can’t we just wait for the next budget crisis?” the President insisted. “I can be tough.” The Chief of Staff rose an inquisitive eyebrow. “I can be tough!” the President pouted. She was adorable.
“Putting that question aside, a budget crisis might not come soon e –” The Chief of Staff was cut off by the squawk of the plane’s intercom system. “Uhh, this is your co-pilot speaking,” the co-pilot spoke. “We’re about to start our approach to – WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?” The intercom quickly cut out.
The Chief of Staff looked at the two men for a moment, then said, “I’ll be back.” He ran past the curtain, through most of the body of the plane to the cockpit. He tried the door – it was ajar. So, he opened it and walked in. Co-pilot Simon Turklington, a good looking young blond was sitting in his chair. A bombshell brunet, a little past her prime but with still enough good looks to cause forest fires to smolder, stood awkwardly next to him.
“What’s going on here?” the Chief of Staff demanded.
“I…I don’t know,” the woman, a little dazed, said. “I laid down to get an hour’s sleep before we landed, and I woke up like this.” She swept an arm down her body.
“Captain Johanson?” the Chief of Staff asked.
“Yes?” the woman responded.
The Chief of Staff laughed. “What’s so funny?” Turklington asked.
“It could be that something strange is happening on the plane,” the Chief of Staff told him. “I prefer to think, though, that it is a worldwide phenomenon that will sooner or later happen to everybody.”
“What is?” the woman asked.
“Men turning into women and women turning into men,” the Chief of Staff informed him.
“And you hope that will happen to everybody?” Turklington asked.
“I like to think I’m an optimist.”
© 2014 by Ira Nayman
If you would like to read more of Both Sides. NOW! go to the Inkshares Web site(https://www.inkshares.com/projects/both-sides-now-). If, after reading the excerpt there, you would like to help make this book a reality, please preorder the book (you’ll find a handy button on the right side of the page), then share news of the existence of the book with your friends.