[To see the first installment of this roman Ã¡ clay feet, click here:
A couple of special forces guys hauled me into the chopper like a spent marlin. With my shirt untucked and my hair scattered like a particularly knotty pick-up sticks problem, dignity was difficult to convey. I met their hard looks with one of my own meant to convey that I could slit a manâ€™s throat with with a damp cocktail napkin.
â€œYou airsick?â€ one of them asked contemptuously.
I shook my head and looked out the open side. My tomato plants were still quivering in the chopperâ€™s downdraft. At least theyâ€™ll pollinate, I thought. Tomato plants are the pandas of the vegetable world. Their reproduction is so chancy, itâ€™s a wonder theyâ€™ve survived.
â€œWhere we headed?â€ I asked.
He just smiled a jagged smile and said, â€œYouâ€™ll see.â€
The copter lifted high over the city and headed resolutely west. Despite their undeniable and irrefutable compensatory skills, my companions werenâ€™t trained in the finer arts of conversation. I contented myself with my own thoughts and the view. I wondered about this world in which you could be tending your tomato plants one minute, and abducted by your government the next. Or one in which you could be flying to see your Aunt Gladys in Van Nuys one minute, and make an unscheduled stop at the 93rd floor of the World Trade Center the next. It didn't make sense, but sense is a human affectation. Reality has no use for it.
We had left the city about ten minutes behind when we approached a small suburban airstrip. As we descended, I saw that the field was empty, except for an enormous 757, with a flag of the United States on its tail. I looked at the closest special forces guy. â€œIs that who I think it is?â€ He held up two fingers.
â€œVeep,â€ he said.
We were on the ground in a second, and I was escorted off the chopper, across a short span of tarmac to the stairs, and up into the plane. I read the words on the side carefully just to make sure: United States of America. A young man in a gray suit received me at the top of the stairs. His thinning hair tossed about freely in the breeze.
â€œGood flight?â€ he asked.
â€œNot bad, but I had to hand over my shampoo,â€ I replied. â€œAnd no peanuts.â€ My military companion shook his head, saluted, and left us.
â€œWell, if youâ€™re hungry, weâ€™re fully equiped to offer you anything you need.â€
â€œAnswers would be nice.â€
â€œIâ€™m sure they would, but Iâ€™ll let the Vice President fill you in. If youâ€™ll follow me...â€. He led me to a small but comfortably furnished sitting room. There were a few magazines scattered on a coffee table, an oil painting of a craggy mountain rising out of the plain, and the seal of the Vice President of the United States. â€œIâ€™ll let him know youâ€™re here. Are you sure thereâ€™s nothing you want?â€
â€œOn second thought, the ride did make me a little thirsty. Got any root beer on this bucket?â€
â€œRoot beer,â€ he repeated. â€œIâ€™ll check.â€
While waiting, I looked around the room. There were a few photos on walls, mostly of state visits. One picture was of a much younger VP with a hunting party. I swear one of them looked like Jimmy Hoffa.
[to be continued]