This is another in a series of my fantasies about things that will never happen. In some ways, fantasy is better than reality. You can fantasize anything you want. In reality, the thing actually has to happen. And it usually doesn’t. You also can’t get hurt in a fantasy. Though it’s not entirely clear sailing, as we are about to discover.
(THE WHITE HOUSE, AFTER DINNER. A CASUAL GATHERING IN A SMALLISH ROOM NAMED AFTER SOME LESSER FORMER PRESIDENT, MAYBE CHESTER A. ARTHUR. ON HAND ARE A HANDFUL OF INVITED GUESTS, THE PRESIDENT AND THE FIRST LADY, NOT THE KIDS – THEY HAVE HOMEWORK. SITTING IN THE PERFORMING AREA AT THE FRONT IS A GOOD QUALITY PIANO. THOUGH NOTHING THAT COULD RAISE EXPECTATIONS.)
SOMEBODY, MAYBE THAT PRESS GUY, GIBBS, MAKES A BRIEF INTRODUCTION. I COME OUT, AND I BEGIN.)
“Mr. President, and Madame First Lady. I am honored to be here tonight. I am very proud to be an American. Even though it took me twenty-five years to become a citizen. When I got here, Ford was president, so there was really no rush.
It’s amazing. I’m standing, like, ten feet from the President of the United States. That’s quite a job, being president of the United States. (TO THE PRESIDENT) I don’t know how you do it. I mean, you look calm and relaxed, but I know, inside, your head’s going,
I can feel it from here. (ADDRESSSING THE FIRST LADY) Is he like that all the time? Between us, does he ever come upstairs and go, “I don’t want to do this anymore!” I’m reading your eyes – he does! I bet that all did. Well, maybe not the last guy. (AS GEORGE W.) “I’m havin’ a blast!”
You know, when I got the invitation to entertain at the White House – and, believe me, that was like, “How did that happen?” I mean, I sent a few bucks to the campaign. I expected, maybe, a card on the holidays with your signature stamped on it. But, this is, like… I’m voting for you again!
Where was I? Sorry, I’m a little nervous. I usually just perform in my head.
Oh, yeah. When I got this invitation, I immediately started thinking about what song I should do. This is embarrassing, but all I could think of were black songs. Not because you’re black… Well, yeah, no, it is because you’re black. You can’t help it. It’s where your mind goes. Like when Seinfeld was dating an Indian woman, and all he could think of was “scalper” and “reservation.”
All I could come up with were black songs. “Under the Boardwalk.” “To Sir, With Love.” (SINGS) “Don’t know much about history…” I also happen to love those songs. That’s why I learned them in the first place. It’s amazing how many of the songs I happen to love turn out to be black…I’m pandering. I apologize. Wait! If it’s true, is it still pandering? (A BEAT) Mr. President?
Will you stop it! It’s starting to get annoying. (TO THE FIRST LADY) Does he wear one of those “bitey” things, so he doesn’t grind his teeth?
Okay, so I finally picked a song. It’s a black song. But it was written by Jewish people, so it’s a little bit you, and a little bit me. It’s a Blewish song.
(EARL HEADS FOR THE PIANO, THEN STOPS, AND TURNS BACK TO THE AUDIENCE.)
I know it’s not an encouraging sign to apologize before you start, but this could be a little tricky. Not because I’m not a great piano player. I’m not. I have stone fingers. And not because I don’t read music that well have to memorize everything. And not because I’m old and I sometimes forget what I memorized. That would be true with any song. But this song has a particular difficulty. To pull this song off, I have to transform myself into three things I’m not. I have to become black. A woman. And a musical instrument. Yeah, during the ‘break’, I’m a trombone.
(EARL SITS DOWN AT THE PIANO)
I’ve practiced this song a lot, but I’ll tell ya, it’s a rare thing when I nail all three. Who knows? Maybe tonight I’ll get lucky. (EARL RAISES HIS HANDS OVER THE KEYBOARD, THEN STOPS.) If I do pull this off, you’re not obligated to jump to your feet or anything. (HE PREPARES TO PLAY, STOPS) I’ll know if you’re impressed. (PREPARES TO PLAY, STOPS AGAIN) Because I’ll be impressed. Okay, here we go.
(FINALLY, EARL STARTS TO SING, ACCOMPANYING HIMSELF ON THE PIANO.)
‘I’m just a woman, a lonely woman,
Standing by the weary shore.
I’m just a woman, who’s only human
One you should feel sorry for.
Got up this morning, along about dawn
Without a warning, I found he was gone…’
(EARL CONTINUES ON AS IF NOTHING WERE WRONG. BUT HE HAS JUST HAD A SUDDEN AND SHOCKING REALIZATION. THE SONG HE HAS CHOSEN TO PERFORM AT THE WHITE HOUSE DUPLICATES THE ENDING OF THE PRESIDENT’S PARENTS’ MARRIAGE.)
‘Why should he do it, how could he do it?
He never done it before…’
(THIS IS PRECISELY THE WRONG SONG TO HAVE SELECTED. BUT WHAT CAN HE DO? EARL GAMELY SOLDIERS ON.)
‘Am I blue? Am I blue?
Ain’t these tears in these eyes tellin’ you.’
(“OH, MAN! YOU’RE TRYING TO CHEER THE GUY UP. AND WHAT SONG DO YOU CHOOSE?”)
Am I blue? You’d be too.
If each plan with your man done fell through.’
(“THIS IS TERRIBLE! THE HEAD OF STATE NEEDS A FIRM HAND ON THE TILLER. AND I’M BUMMIN’ THE GUY OUT!”)
‘Was a time, I was his only one
But now I’m, the sad and lonely one…’
(“OH, NO! AND NOW I GOTTA SAY THIS? THEY’RE GONNA HATE THIS!”)
(“THESE ARE NOT ‘LAWDY’ PEOPLE! WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING!”)
‘Was I gay, till today
Now he’s gone, and we’re through
Am I blue.’
(DYING INSIDE, BUT EVER THE TROUPER, EARL PURSES HIS LIPS, AND BEGINS IMITATING A TROMBONE)
(JETTISONING THE SECOND VERSE, EARL JUMPS STRAIGHT TO THE ENDING.)
‘Am I blue.’
Polite applause. The obligatory “Good job.” And I’m escorted out of the building.