August 30, 2000
2:30 p.m. Washington State Capitol
Washington Governor Gary Locke, the nations first
Chinese-American governor, introduces me as "the next
President of the United States." I graciously thank
him but note that the electorate will have the opportunity
to make that decision in November.
February 13, 1971
Stewie is on the Royal, which is a rickety beast. The shift
key can jam up on you like that. Hes handling it okayhes
a tough swing state kind of kid whos capable of anything
he sets his mind tobut the bell is busted. If he doesnt
pay close attention his lines will run clear off the page.
In other words, powerful forcesin this case, the typewriter
conglomerates and others who colluded to develop the alphabetare
putting up obstacles in his path and limiting his opportunity.
Ive seen too many words already become casualties
of this war: "truth," "honor," "chow,"
"assembly," and, most frequently, conjunctions.
Stewies polishing a piece on a mandatory meeting to
be held the next day, and he has a deadlineironic,
that word, because people are dead here in Vietnam, and
the line they are dying over was drawn on maps as the border
between North and South Vietnam. Hes a passionate
young man with a real knack for emphasis, so he typesand
the sound is kind of like fire from a tiny machine gun that
could hurt a really little person. "All G.I.s are to
report PROMPTLY at 8 a.m. SHARP for a ROLL CALL." The
emphasis helps the others understand.
Hes hitting carriage returnironic, again, because
so many of us want to return, and there are only so many
carriages to take us backwhen his face freezes up,
and it happens.
He screams, "A gook done locked my shift! A gook done
locked my shift!" Theres fear in his eyes, and
all of us in thereBig Jim from California, Taylor
Phipps from Florida, Ron Kovic from the movie, an African-American
senior citizen from another placeknow that its
not the typewriter thats locking. The war is locking
Stewiehis eyes, his fingers, his grammar, his soul,
his boundless talent for emphasis. The war is locking the
shift key in Stewies mind.
"Calm down, Stewie," I say. I sigh, which is how
I react in times of stress and straina reflex designed
to calm my nerves and summon my resolve. "Take note
of my leadership qualities and calm down! Gook is an offensive
term! I dont see any gooks here. There
are a number of non-American Vietnamese delivery boys in
the office today, and your shift key is locked. Lets
not confuse correlation with causation."
But Stewie wont calm down. "A gook took my ribbon!
A gook took my ribbon!" He is getting angrierviolent,
perhaps, and the musics growing tense. I approach
him when suddenly he pulls a staple gun out of thin fucking
air. Its like all those girls in the villages who
turn out to have grenades tucked in their clothes. Ive
read about that.
"Whoa, whoa, Stewie. Hey. Take it easy. Im not
gonna lose you. Remember ma and pa in your key swing state
back home. Remember how theyre trying hard to make
ends meet with the help of targeted tax credits. Remember
how much they value Social Security and Medicare, and how
happy you were when your girlfriend back in your key swing
state went out and got that abortion she was entitled to.
And that other onethird trimester, right?" I
can sense his panic starting to break. "Take it easy,
Stewie. The ice caps are thin, man. I know. Theyre
40% thinner than they used to be
I know. But its
okay. Were going to fix it. One day well have
universal health care and universal pre-K. Lets see
if shes still stuck, okay?" I touch the shift
key and it comes loose beneath my finger.
"Yeah," Stewie says. "Thanks, Albert."
He returns to the announcement. But he just types exclamation
points, row after row like white crosses in a field.
"The horror," I say. "The horror. Pass me
the correcting tape."