Archive for November, 2012



Howdy!  Just returned from Texas.  Why Texas?  Well, why not?  I enjoy foreign travel and Texas seemed foreign to this northerner.  It was not foreign at all, but definitely regional.  It was fun to learn about the state’s history and to visit some sites:  the State Capital in Austin, the LBJ Ranch near Fredericksburg in the Hill Country, the Alamo in San Antonio and the Padre Island National Seashore.

One of the most interesting facts I learned is that the Texans actually lost at the Alamo…and once again at Goliad before defeating the Mexicans at San Jacinto and becoming the Republic of Texas.   I also learned that Six Flags Over Texas is not the name of an amusement park.  Well, it is, but the six flags that flew over Texas belonged to:  France, Spain, Mexico, The Republic of Texas, the Confederate States and the USA.  They are still going back and forth a little on the last two.

So there was also an election a week ago.  In the run-up to November 6th, NPR ran one of their short short story contests:  write a story that has anything to do with a president in 600 words or less.  My entry not only did not win, it wasn’t even picked to be posted as a “favorite.”  That’s ok.  My story was 599 words and I think their word counter probably added wrong, making my story ineligible.  Uh, huh.

Code Shamrock

The phone implanted in her head woke the President at 1 a.m.  She nodded while she listened.  “So Alex is back in the U.S.,” she said, and paused.  “No, I want to do it myself,” she said.  “Have the Mercedes and a driver ready for me behind the White House.”

Dressing quickly, Patricia O’Brien left the White House bedroom.  A Secret Service officer stood and blocked her path to the Center Hall.  “I have to go out,” O’Brien told him.  “I’ll order a limo,” the officer said, pulling his wrist to his mouth to talk.  “Thanks, but someone is coming for me,” she replied, and ran past him and down the stairs to the Ground Floor.

As the driver raced up Constitution Avenue and neared the National Gallery, O’Brien said, “Stop by the sculpture garden.”  She got out and ran past Oldenburg’s Typewriter Eraser to the crowd of Abakanowitz’ headless bronze figures.   Just as she stepped up to the first figure, a hand clapped onto her shoulder.  She shoved an elbow into a hard stomach and flipped her assailant, wrapping him around the next bronze figure.

At the entrance to the West Building, O’Brien pushed on the door.  It swung open.  She found the lone security guard at his station near the door.  He had been disabled, along with the alarms and cameras.  As O’Brien ran through the West Garden Court, she thought, how many times have I asked myself:  If I have only one painting to save, which will it be?

After a left turn in the West Sculpture Hall, O’Brien entered the gallery where Ginevra de’Benci by Leonardo da Vinci hung.  With her porcelain skin and slightly sulky expression, Ginevra was one of the most important paintings in the National Gallery.  O’Brien watched a man start to lift the painting from its glass case.  “You can’t have her, Alex,” O’Brien said.

The man turned toward her.  He laughed when he recognized her.  “Madam President,” he said.  “I thought you were out of the museum security business, Patricia.”

“Oh, Alex, I can never resist the chance to save a good work of art,” O’Brien said.  “Do you know what it says on the back of the portrait, Alex?  It’s a Latin inscription, Virtutem Forma Decorte.  It means, ‘Beauty Adorns Virtue.’  This is for Virtue, Alex.”  O’Brien raised a boot and struck him in the forehead.   After cuffing him, she paused in front of the painting.  Smiling, she removed something from her pocket and stuck it onto the glass.  It was a green shamrock.

O’Brien ran past the immobilized guard and into the security station.  She reactivated the alarms and cameras.  Immediately, lights started to flash.  The DC police will be here soon, she thought, and ran out the door and back through the sculpture garden.  The man who attacked her was still on the ground.   She pulled a ratchet strap from her jacket pocket and secured him to one of the sculptures.  She hid in the shadow of the Typewriter Eraser to watch for a Yellow Cab.

“White House,” she whispered, getting in.  She removed her black sweater and put it around her shoulders.  She pulled pearls to the outside of her blouse and smoothed her hair.  “Go to the back entrance,” she told the cabbie.  At the security station, she got out of the taxi and flashed her Homeland Security badge.  “Madam President?” the officer asked, startled.  “National security meeting,” she answered.  “It was an emergency.”

“I didn’t know about it,” he said.

“Well, you can’t know everything the President does, can you?” she replied.




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