Prompt: Vice


Spiro was late getting into the office, which was unlike him. But it was not everyday that Frank breezed through Washington and hosted one of his irresistible private parties. Who knew who would be there or what would happen?

There were some beautiful young women there, to be sure, and that was what the jackals in the press would concentrate on, if they got wind of it. But there were also congressmen, actors, lobbyists, artists, and television stars. Spiro wasn’t one to get star struck, but for goodness sake, Columbo was there. And The Fonz!

Fran breezed into his office, after allowing him time to remove his jacket and put it on the coat tree, settle in his chair, and admire the clean, polished bare surface of his mahogany desk. He ran a tight ship, desk-wise. Everything seen to and disposed of by end-of-day. Or at least, put into an appropriate folder and tucked into a drawer.

“Golf,” said Spiro, leaning back and putting his hands behind his head.

“Two-twelve,” said Fran, flipping through the pages of his diary. “A foursome including Mr Sinatra, Mr Lebowitz, and Mr Spalding.”

“Have a seat, dear,” said Spiro. Fran eased into one of the small leather chairs in front of his desk. “What about this morning?”

“Well, you are clear until 9:45, then a meeting/photo op with that Boy Scout troop, 15 minutes set aside. Then, ironically, nothing until 10:30, meeting in Haldeman’s office, required attendance… then you speak over lunch at the Water Carrier convention: topic Freedom of the Press Ha Ha, and then… cocktails, golf, more cocktails, then dinner….” She smiled. Spiro believed Fran was too thin to be truly sexy, too old to be truly pretty, but she had a mischievous way about her which, combined with her blind obedience, Spiro found immensely charming. And she was smart, usually.

“What about the Maryland mayors?” asked Spiro. “I thought that was today.”

“Oh drat,” said Fran. “I forgot. “That should have been half an hour ago.”

“Call them now, and tell them I was called away by The President. Urgent, confidential consultation. Reschedule, tonight is ok, but tomorrow morning better. …Now, Fran.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Send Felix in.”

“Yes, sir.”

Spiro went to the cabinet and got out the box that contained the chess board and all the pieces, beautiful black and white marble. He set it up on his desk.

Felix popped his head in the door. “Everything ok, Mr Vice President?”

“Of course, no security problems when you boys are around. Feel like getting whomped at chess? It is good training for you, you know, protecting the king and queen. I’ll let you play white this time.”

“White? Ok, Mr Vice President.”

“Only until 9:30 though,” said Spiro.

“Check,” said Felix. He chuckled to himself. He made his moves almost as quickly as if it were blitz chess. It was the Vice President who mulled and stalled, humming, moving pieces around without taking his hand off them, before finally settling on where to set the piece. And then erupting in a fury if Felix promptly took his man.

“What happens if the pawn gets to the other end, again?” Spiro asked.

“They become another queen.”

“See Felix? That’s where hard work can take you. A pawn to a queen.”

“Yes, Mr Vice President.”


5 o’clock Shadow

Prompt: Shadow


Cyril pushed his way in front of Pat, with a new white shirt, still in a plastic bag, in his hand. “Excuse me, Mrs N,” he said, and Pat turned sharply to Richard, to see if he would react to this intolerable rudeness. But Rich was in some kind of personal haze. He’d been campaigning hard, and too long, without a break. He’d wanted to call off this “damn” debate and attend a casual fundraiser with Pat, but his team, including Cyril, urged him to meet with the kid and show him who was boss.

But his eyelids were heavy, and the dark circles under his eyes simply would not disappear, despite the efforts of the make-up girl, a skinny young thing with stringy blonde hair. Cyril dismissed her with a wave of his hand. “He looks worse,” he snarled at Pat, as if it were her fault. He took out a white cotton handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed at Richard’s eyes, an unexpectedly intimate act that made Pat inwardly cringe. Rich was strangely passive under these ministrations. Exhaustion oozed out of his pores. Cyril dabbed.

Cyril. Of all the people for Richard to be loyal to. Richard, who checked under the bed each night for conspiracies, trusted this nobody who had insinuated his way into the campaign. He was short, stocky and balding, and dated a stream of beautiful women who seemed to see something in his sneering, somehow shadowy persona that was completely invisible to Pat. She saw a man simultaneously unctuous and contemptuous.

She was taking the white shirt out of its wrapper. “It’s the wrong size,” she told Cyril, leaving out the phrase, you idiot. “It’s too big.”

“It’s fine,” said Cyril, leaving out the phrase, you bitch.

Pat silently put the shirt on a clothes hanger and then on a hook on the door of the room. “Does he have time for a quick nap?” she asked.

“No,” said Cyril. Richard did not seem to mind that they were speaking of him as a child, or as someone not in the room with them.

Pat had to go; Doris was waiting for her. She opened the door to leave. “At least make sure he has one last shave before he goes on stage,” she said.

“I’ll see what I can do, ma’am,” Cyril said. He sounded so polite, but oh, what an ass he was.


Prompt: Crossroads

adam and eve

Kelly Bak was joining Pat for a private lunch at the White House. They’d become quite close during Rich’s run for governor of California– both wives to powerful, and in Kelly’s case, very wealthy men. They could talk freely about their travels, their servants, their possessions, the famous people they knew, without sounding pompous or pretentious. All these things were incidentals, elements of their daily lives.

They both knew that the Mellon family didn’t eat shellfish, that coats made from the fur of female mink were lighter in weight but just as warm, and the first name of the owner of the hidden hotel near the Spanish Steps. They could share concerns about temperamental cooks and valets, discuss which make-up artists were the most competent, or when to wear the real jewelry and when to wear the paste.

On this day they met in the small family dining room, where Constance had laid out sandwich triangles of egg and ham, fruit salad, and slices of chocolate chiffon cake, along with pots of tea and coffee, on a smooth white linen cloth.

They chatted briefly about their daughters, Julie being only a few years older than Kimmy, when Pat noticed a shadow cross Kelly’s face. “What is it?” she asked.

“I think,” said Kelly, “that Kimberly made a mistake.”

“A mistake?”

Kelly hesitated. She lit a cigarette, a Virginia Slim, and inhaled deeply. Feathers of fawn-colored smoke swirled in the air around her.

“There was something going on with her riding instructor,” Kelly said at last, setting her cigarette on the rim of a cut glass ashtray that Pat had thoughtfully moved closer.

Pat didn’t smoke or drink in public, but she looked at the cigarette cradled in the Vallon ashtray with longing, and fought an impulse to smoke, herself, as she always did when conversations or feelings became too intense.

“Oh dear,” said Pat.

“He’s gone, but…”

Pat said nothing. She clasped her hands in her lap. An image of Julie and Kimmy as small children, splashing about in a turquoise blue wading pool, popped into her head. She remembered the bathing suit that Julie wore, her favourite, a pale pink and yellow plaid with a skirt frill.

“She made an appointment with a doctor,” Kelly said slowly. “A different doctor.”

“Perhaps it’s nothing– a teenage thing,” Pat said.

“No,” said Kelly. “I don’t think so.”

Pat wanted to say, Why don’t you ask her? But she knew what happened when you asked questions. They both knew.

“Would you like more coffee?” Pat asked.

Kelly set the china cup on the table and Pat poured from a silver carafe. “How is Richard?” Kelly asked.

“Richard is just fine!” Pat said. “As always.” And she smiled, and poured a second cup for herself.

Fade to Black

Prompt: Tricky




RMN sits lounging in his executive leather chair, tapping the top of a desk with a pencil. His wife PAT tidies the top of his desk, which is already tidy.

If only Checkers was here.

Checkers has been dead for years, honey.
Can you not put this pencil sharpener in
your desk drawer?

I like a sharp pencil.

Are you ready to make your little speech?

Henry says I shouldn’t mention the war.

Well, just do what Henry says.
And don’t mention Checkers.




Reporters gather in front of RMN and PAT. Lightbulbs pop. [Director’s notation: yes, I want the pops.]

RMN looks distracted, nervous. PAT takes his hand.

Smile, Richard. You have such a lovely smile.