Saul Friedman paced anxiously around his office.
The rather peculiar guest he was anticipating was not exactly renowned for his timeliness.
‘Well, this old schmuck ain’t no Immanuel Kant, put it that way!’ he lamented, anxiously stirring his coffee, and trying to remember if he had measured it out right this time. ‘Frickin’ 2-spoons-and-a-half-quarter, this schmuck calls me,’ Saul murmured.
All of a sudden, Saul’s face jerked upwards.
‘Oh wait, was that a redundant one? Schmuck plus schmuck, I mean, reflecting purely in terms of euphony; oh God, God help us, I’m doing it again.
‘Hm, hm, give me…
‘Hey Lucy, gimme that frickin’ cloth again, would you?’
His intern handed Lucy the cloth.
‘Yeah, yeah, yer welcome…
‘I mean, uh…
Thank you Lucy, that’s a really good thing you just done…
Heh heh heh….’
Lucy threw Saul a typically ironical look.
For there are some people in this world who can be encountered only with an attitude of wonder: not adoration or hero-worship necessarily, but with a stance midway between ironic eye-rolling and fearful awe.
And in Lucy’s eyes, the New York Senator Saul Friedman was precisely just such a person.
‘It’s my job, Senator,’ said Lucy, not knowing whether to laugh, freak out or find something to distract herself from the incessant fussing of the gawkish former professor before here; a humiliated castaway from the academy (of whom it could be said, at least, the campus was not worthy!) but hardly at ease in the world of politics either.
All of a sudden, Saul’s voice broke out in another outburst.
For as we are all well enough aware, his mannerisms had been the butt of merciless satire in the media.
And yet, as you can anticipate no less well:
Anxious and jittery as Saul was by nature, what hurt him most was not any personal slight, but the ammunition such cartoons, stories and comedy sketches gave to the increasingly militant ‘ASL’ or ‘Anti-Semitic Lobby,’ as he sarcastically named it.
For sadly, the environment for Jewish people in the USA was indeed very far from comfortable; and the only consolation Saul could find for his anxiety was the fact that at least he wasn’t in Europe right now.
Or indeed anywhere else on earth, apart from the USA.
Or at least what remained of it.
All of a sudden, a thought grabbed him by the throat, like a ferocious, half-starved tiger fastening on a helpless half-attached chunk of gazelle meat.
Of course, this was a not uncommon occurrence for Saul Terence Magilligan Friedman. ‘These bitches!’ he almost squeaked. ‘These frickin’ bitches!’
Lucy fixed her eyes on Saul in horror.
‘Come on Senator, get a grip,’ pleaded Lucy.
‘You know, there’s an election coming soon. Maybe you can convince the next President to pursue a different agenda…’
‘Agenda? These bitches! Don’t want no fuckin’ agenda, just want these bitches to mind our own goddamn business!
‘Nah-nah-nah! Ain’t none of our frickin’ concern, Lucy, I swear! These bitches…’
Lucy started shaking. Saul’s nervous fits always worried her.
Oh, now what would happen if one of his ‘sessions’ came upon him in the Senate or in a Press Conference?
Still, Lucy spoke with as much calmness and gravitas as ever she could muster.
‘Now, Senator Friedman,’ she spoke, gently and tenderly, as though consoling an old flame who had just gone through another needless break-up.
But lest there should be any doubt: in this case, this is perhaps not fully a merely figurative turn of expression.
For, Lucy genuinely loved Senator Friedman, although she knew full well that the clumsy and gawkish Senator would never suspect it in a million years.
‘Now, Senator, Friedman,’ Lucy said, as though she were a nurse lulling a fearful child to sleep.
‘The “bitches” won’t be around forever.’
Senator Friedman murmured a soft ‘Mm-hm.’
But then he sat bolt upright, quivering in terror.
‘Oh dear God, what the frickin’ hell did I just say? Did I really use that vile word to talk about….’
Lucy waved her hand, in her customary state of bewildered half-amusement.
‘Don’t worry, Senator Friedman. As far as I’m concerned, you can call these bastards whatever the hell you want! Let’s not get hung up on that one!’
‘Ohhh,’ moaned Saul, throwing his head on his hands in despair.
‘I swear, I frickin’ to swear to ya, Lucy, I didn’t mean to say that word. Women ain’t bitches Lucy, believe me. I swear, I frickin’ swear I didn’t mean to…’
Lucy started trembling.
‘Um, Senator Friedman….’
‘Saul!’ the Senator appeared to snap.
Apparently realizing that he had spoken in a manner that could be easily but inaccurately, mistaken for brusqueness (when in fact Saul was angry with himself, and not at all with Lucy), Saul murmured low:
‘Saul, Saul, Saul. Yes, that’s it. Saul, Lucy, you can call me Saul! It’s fine, yeah, Lucy, Saul, Saul is my name, Saul. But, Lucy, I mean, these frickin’ bitches, Lucy!’
Lucy was really concerned by now. ‘Um, Sen…
‘Um, Saul, I’m really sorry to say this, but have you had your…’
‘Yeah. Yeah. I think so. Think so, yeah. Had ‘em, yeah. Once today.’
Lucy didn’t seem convinced.
‘Could you maybe, you know, maybe just…
‘Like we did yesterday…’
Saul, relieved at Lucy’s concern for him, rooted around in the top drawer of his desk.
‘Second drawer,’ suggested Lucy.
‘Oh yeah, yeah! Sorry, second drawer, it’s this, uh…’
Things weren’t getting any better.
‘No, second, Saul…’
Saul finally found the second drawer.
‘Oh, yeah, sorry, I mean I thought you meant the second, uh, the…’
Lucy stepped forward to the desk.
Saul withdrew his hand, more in frustration than in anger.
‘Suppose. Yeah, yeah, you might as, you might as well, Lucy…’’
Lucy found the pills.
‘Don’t worry,’ Saul took pains to reassure her.
‘There’s ten left.’
Lucy checked inside the box of pills.
‘There are indeed.’
‘Ha! Least I’m frickin’ good for something, hey?’ grimaced Saul, with something finally approaching a smile, at long last.
Lucy almost cried.
‘Senator! Oh, there should be eight now. Not ten! But what about this morning?’
Saul’s face fell.
‘Mmm. Mmm-hm. Yeah, well yeah. Um. Hm.’
Lucy threw up her hands in despair.
‘Mm. Left ‘em at the coffee machine. Coffee machine, yeah!’
Lucy, by now, was genuinely tearful.
‘They took it away. It can’t be the coffee machine. Don’t you remember? The coffee machine, they took it away…’
Saul’s voice trailed away, almost into nothing.
‘Well I thought…
‘But why’d they take it away? But why? I don’t…
Lucy trembled, gazing tearfully at this humbled wreck of an ailing titan.
‘Saul, you said they didn’t want it any more. You had no use for it.’
Saul lowered his head in shame.
His mind drifted back to the golden days of university which seemed so long ago.
And also to one particular day, although the events on this day had actually happened long after Saul’s graduation.
Yes, Saul was dreaming of one day in particular.
The day that he grabbed his old classmate Adolph Adams by the neck, shook him to within an inch of his life, and finally persuaded AA to run for office.