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The road to a New America
A morning in the life of John Kerry

(Note: the details in this piece — the canary, the cookie shop, the sapphire ring — are all gleaned from Kerry biographies.)

I awoke this morning in the throes of a terrible nightmare.

I was back in ’Nam, patrolling the Mekong River in a swan boat. In the seat beside me, Morgan Fairchild was cleaning her nails with the pin from a hand grenade. "For the love of McCain!" I yelled, grabbing my former paramour by the breasts and flinging her into the murky waters of the Mekong, only now it was the Charles, and it was green — reflecting, perhaps, my — ahem — Irish heritage. As the flash from the grenade consumed the boat and everything in it, including a copy of my Yale Class Oration, I sat up in bed, weeping and roaring, "The hair!" I looked over at Teresa, who was snoring in that polyglot way of hers: "Le zzzzzz, los zzzzzz." To my dismay, there were flecks of ketchup at the corners of her mouth — she’d been hitting the bottle again.

On days like this, the old wounds start acting up, particularly the old chin wound. "Good morning, Sunshine," I said to Sunshine, my pet canary. Teresa stirred. "Was zum teufel ist los mit dir?" she asked, apparently unaware that German is one of the few languages she doesn’t speak. With this, my lovely wife sidled up beside me, fingering a wad of thousand-dollar bills. "Time for you to make a contribution, bandant," she purred. And yet, try as I might, I couldn’t loosen up. I was too concerned about the plight of the middle classes. That and my campaign plane, which needed washing. Sensing my lack of ardor, Teresa screamed something in Lithuanian and slugged me in the Adam’s apple, which hurt her a lot more than it hurt me. I could already tell it was going to be a long day.

Once Teresa had resumed her snoring, I went over my daily schedule and winced (or maybe I was already wincing — it’s hard to tell without a mirror handy). First, I had an important Senate committee hearing on the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Deficit Reduction Act to attend. Ha. No, the first order of business was a jam session with Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, which would be broadcast on something called Music Television. Then there was lunch with Billy Crystal at Bobby Van’s, followed by a quick spin on the motorcycle at a PETA bikers rally, a duck-hunting trip with members of the United Auto Workers, a game of street hockey with underprivileged children, a Lamaze class with the Visiting Nurse Associations of America, throwing out the first pitch at Fenway Park, and a dinner meeting with Bono at the Plaza. Yipes. I was thinking about having Edwards do the nurse thing. Put those extra teeth to work.

Concerned that Teresa might stir again — she was muttering in her sleep: Estou com fome! Estou com fome! — I crept from the bed, only to step on a Purple Heart that someone had carelessly left on the floor. Let me tell you, John Kerry does not like to bleed first thing in the morning. After this, I bumped my head on the top of the door frame, as I always do, and went downstairs to have breakfast. Unable to choose between an English muffin or a waffle, I opted for both. Or neither. As it turned out, my choice was narrowed by the subsequent discovery that the muffins were in fact stale. So, with a mixture of disgust and relief, I hurled the muffins into the trash — or maybe I just hurled the muffin bag into the trash, which, as I recall it now, may not have even been the same bag as the one the stale muffins were in. A different muffin bag, I believe.

Anyway, as I bit into my waffle, which I had forgotten to toast, the phone rang. It was Ted Kennedy, wanting to know how the middle classes were doing. I told him: not so good. Then came the calls from foreign leaders, imploring me to beat Bush in November, kick his butt real good, things like that. One of the leaders — I won’t reveal his name (erhard-Gay oeder-Schray) — actually growled, or maybe coughed. Next, I went through the stack of mail that stood about three feet high on the kitchen counter: money, money, risqué card from Joe Biden, more money, death threat, money. People who think that being a presidential nominee is a glamorous affair should try reading the letters I get: "Deer Seniter Kerey, I am a unemploied mecanic ..." Sometimes it nearly brings a tear to my eye.

After breakfast, I spent some time thinking about foreign policy. I took notes, as I always do when I think, lest I be called on someday to write a best-selling memoir. Today, I’d be focusing on terrorism. I took out my official Senate notepad and started writing: "Tough on Terror ... Hammer the Hidden Enemy ... Defeat the Danger ... Immediate Danger ... Imminent, Insidious Danger ... Deplorable Danger ... Drub the Despicable Danger ... Drub ... Kerry Drubs Bush ..." As I wrote, I could feel destiny welling up around me. I looked at my reflection in the refrigerator door, squared my shoulders, and lifted up my chin as best I could. There before me sat a president — a stark-naked president with a nasty welt on his forehead, but a president nonetheless. It was time to get dressed.

Dressing, for me, has always been something of an ordeal. As I stood in my closet, racks of blue shirts and khaki pants stretching out before me, I could feel a rising sense of unease, not unlike the sense of unease I felt in ’Nam, where I was decorated for my heroism. The problem was, the shirts were varying shades of blue, ranging from pale to sort of pale. Moreover, some pants had cuffs and some didn’t. What to do? I went to find Teresa, who was at her dressing table tweezing her eyebrows. "Are these too ... Democratic?" I asked, gesturing at my loafers. Teresa regarded me with an expression of contempt mingled with derision and addressed her response to Sunshine: "Ninny." I took this as a "No." Heartened, I picked up a pair of Teresa’s diamond earrings, which I figured I could convert into jobs for ordinary hard-working Americans, and slipped them into my pocket.


Despite my extraordinary wealth and my years of distinguished public service, I am at heart a common man, just like the millions of hard-working Americans who have been left behind by this administration. I have my hopes and fears. I have my passions. As an Irishman, I am capable of being roused to terrible anger by having a hairbrush clatter into the back of my head, even when this hairbrush has been hurled by my lovely wife. Before I could compose a short oration advising Teresa of my impassioned state, however, the doorbell rang. Outside stood Mary Beth, my campaign manager. Behind her, the KERRY/edwards bus idled at the curb. I could see my running mate’s wide grin flashing back at me from one of the windows. Jesus, Mary, and Moses! I hate riding the bus.

"Morning, Johnny!" Edwards chirped as I climbed aboard. The bus smelled of stale coffee and hair cream. Ignoring Edwards’s outstretched hand, I made my way to the back and shoe-horned myself into a seat. "I’m concerned about Iraq," I said to Edwards, who had trotted over to me, still grinning inanely. "And Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters has canceled our jam session." The news seemed to have no effect on my running mate, whose hair, I noticed, seemed to be getting thicker by the minute. "Sit down, Edwards," I said finally. "We have work to do." As we sat and discussed our strategy for ridding the White House of those lousy crooks and liars (a phrase I would never personally use, by the way), my mind drifted back to an incident that, for many years now, has both haunted me and served as a guide for my actions.

It was the mid 1970s. A comrade and I had taken an enormous risk in opening our own cookie shop, Kilvert & Forbes, in the heart of Quincy Market. The incident in question occurred on a steamy July afternoon. I remember we were all exhausted from a night of baking our famous extra-large macaroons, but still we kept plugging away. To this day, I have yet to encounter such grit, such devotion, in the face of adversity. At around noon, however, a man came into the store and said, "I’ll have a congo bar." My employees shot each other nervous glances. One, a young icer named Skippy Jackson, slipped out of the back door, never to be seen again. It was left to John Kerry to deliver the bad news. There were no congo bars that day.

"Edwards," I said, snapping back into the present. "Have you ever been disappointed, I mean really disappointed?" My running mate gazed back at me with a quizzical expression, his grin fading ever so slightly. "Why, yes, John," he said. "I believe I have." At this moment, I knew that our destiny was sealed. I knew, also, that four long years in which the congo bar of happiness had been withheld from this great nation were finally coming to an end. "Here," I said to the future vice-president, clapping him on the back, "have a sapphire engagement ring." And with this the bus drove on, moving inexorably toward a New America.

Chris Wright can be reached at cwright[a]phx.com

Issue Date: July 23 - 29, 2004
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