Toms River, New Jersey, 8:20 am EST.
Harvey J. Whistlebottom could smell the welcoming waft of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. The scent was laced with the love of baking that could only be provided by a secondary education home economics teacher. Harvey coveted those cookies. He would eat them all if allowed. “Hungry Harvey” licked his pudgy lips with the anticipation of an unsupervised child left home alone with the cookie jar.
Calming himself, Harvey inhaled a deep breath. Gesturing clandestinely to his Special Assistant Toby Massey, he formulated his request. The nearly doughy young man approached inclining his head to receive his orders. Using crisp consonants and vowels Harvey voiced his desires. Harvey saw Toby nod acknowledgement and set off to discreetly make Harvey’s wish come true.
Smoothing the fine Italian Wool of his impeccably pressed dark blue suit, Harvey prepared to move from this backstage area to the stage for the presentation he was about to give. He waited patiently for the Secret Service to indicate the event could begin. The area had been cleared of non-essential personnel. This left Harvey alone backstage with his party and the cookies he craved.
It is a little known fact that the President of the United States pays for the food of the first family while in residence at the White House. This left Harvey under the watchful eye of his wife who signed off on the family’s menu. Sure, state dinners are the one exception to this limitation, but they are more rare than everyday citizens think. His wife’s watchful eyes forced him, President Harvey J. Whistlebottom, to get out a lot to attend events like this to feed his stash of chocolate chip cookies.
The irony of his attendance today was that the event was to have been the launch his presidential physical fitness program. That open face betrayal was not lost on Harvey. No one would ever accuse Harvey of not doing what he needed to do to achieve his goals. No one. Even if those goals were inconsistent.
Harvey glanced out through a crack in the curtains. He could see a packed house of students, parents and faculty awaiting his entrance. His detail wouldn’t give the all clear until Toby returned, which he did efficiently and having met Harvey's expectations. Harvey and Toby conferred quietly. Through means of stealth and diligence that would have amazed and baffled Houdini, Toby managed load up Harvey’s jacket with a generous number of cookies. Feeling the almost imperceptible weight of the light, napkin wrapped baked goods in his pocket Harvey now felt complete. With his secret stash of cookies in their secure location, he proceeded onto the stage for the assembly.
The large theater boomed with applause and the snap-flash of cameras. Harvey waved thanks and appreciation. He made eye contact with several of attendees and winked his signature ‘I am here for you’ wink to each in turn before settling in to enjoy the choral portion of the assembly. As he listened to the young talents his eyes focused on a banner that declared the school to be the “Home of the Rockets”. His face broadened with a smile. Harvey hoped the grin looked liked his honest enjoyment of the performance. He was actually reflecting on his cookies and pining to enjoy them in the car. So rarely did he get a few moments to sit and reflect on cookies.
His days were primarily focused on keeping the United States running like the Roman Empire before the fall. Harvey often lamented that official United States business had little of anything to do with cookies. This made being President at times feel like a thankless job, especially when he was in residence at the White House. He loved the escape of visits like today’s event. He would, until his dying moment, be glad for the moments of quiet and cookies. Harvey’s joy became so intense he found his foot self-propelled into tapping along with the energetic musical performance.
As the ditty ended, Harvey found himself vacuum-sealed in an enveloping pocket of quiet. For the sitting President the accolades of parents to children and students to other students were shut out by the approach of a secret service agent. The agent leaned close and whispered the words Harvey had feared the most since taking office: “Sir, we have proof of an alien invasion.”
Still absorbing this information, he sat quietly. He was so stunned and lost in thought that he did not realize that he had been introduced. Principal Morgan LeMoyne reiterated her warm enthusiastic introduction. As the second round of applause faded into the realm of the inaudible, Harvey felt every eye, camera and microphone focus on him. He rose and cleared his throat. His throat cracked like desert clay.
Instinctually he started walking to the nearest microphone. Had the agent just said “…alien invasion”? He felt a taut tug on the shoulder of his sleeve. The motion snapped him back into the moment.
Toby guided him forward in a way that looked only as if the young man was accompanying Harvey. Harvey swam through the thickness of the agent’s revelation. Another burst of hearty clapping whisked him the remaining distance to the podium. Harvey bobbed his head in acceptance of their cheers.
Sneaking a quick sip of cool, previously iced water Harvey flipped on his President Whistlebottom persona and braced against the podium. He began with with a slow, confident drawl:
“My beloved fellow Americans, you are truly the reason why I get out of bed each day. Children, your song was wonderful. Unfortunately the nation’s business calls me away. Rather than telling you all of the importance of sports and staying fit, I must reveal to you that we have just learned of a confirmed alien invasion. With the arrival of this news I must now leave your company. I would ask that you return to the morning’s proceedings and know that I am deeply saddened that a terrifying event like this pulls me away from our time together. Principal LeMoyne, thank you for your hospitality. I would ask that you work with your top rate staff to see that each of these children make it home safely. Thank you and God Bless America.”
The panic Harvey had been feeling had begun to subside. He started confidently toward the exit with his detail leading the away. Harvey thought he was waving his farewells to the crowd. His blue eyes began to narrow and tear as he realized what was coming out of his mouth. He was repeatedly screaming, “They’ve found me again! Run! Run for your lives!!! Whatever you do, don’t let them probe you.”
Harvey continued to expel the details of his deepest secret as his skull attempted to merge with the floor. He never heard the life-ending thud of bone on the hard wood of the stage that would be replayed endlessly on cable news. As he passed onto life’s next adventure, Harvey comforted himself with a ghastly, otherworldly awareness that history would fail to report that he had over 25 delicious and supremely fresh chocolate chip cookies in his suit jacket at the time of his death. His wife would never know his shame.