Excerpts

From Chapter 2  The Greater Dum Dum Theory

Although a rope line theoretically separated arriving passengers from those awaiting them, the stanchions had been pushed to the ground, the rope had disappeared underfoot, and Sean was immediately engulfed by the waiting mob. Because of his height, he had some perspective, but, even so, the swirling mass of humanity was almost overwhelming.

Sean had been told that he would be met by a driver, but he couldn’t spot his name on any of the dozens of signs that were thrust towards him. As he pushed through the line of sign-holders, he was accosted by scores of men offering him limousines, taxis, foreign exchange, hotels, guest houses, mysterious snacks, custom tailoring, cosmetic surgery, dental implants, and help with his luggage. He had just about decided to hire one of the taxis, when he realized that a nearby sign he had dismissed as “Ocean” in fact said “Osean.” He approached the sign-holder, an exceedingly skinny and dark man wearing a chauffer’s cap at a jaunty angle, who was studying his nails while smoking a cigarette.

“Er, hello. Do you speak English? My name is Sean O’Brien, and I’m going to Serenity Woods. Are you maybe waiting for me?”

The driver perked up when he heard “Serenity Woods” and turned his attention from his cuticles to Sean. As he fixed his gaze on Sean’s face, his sleepy eyes widened dramatically and the cigarette fell from his open mouth. He immediately dropped to the ground and embraced Sean’s feet. “Oh, Your Excellency! I am so honored to meet you! I am Mahendra Gopal, but everyone calls me Tuk Tuk.”

Thoroughly embarrassed, Sean attempted to free his feet from Tuk Tuk’s fervent embrace. “Please stop that and stand up!” Eventually, he yanked him to his feet, but when Tuk Tuk again looked at Sean, he crumpled back to the floor, grabbing his feet once more. This time he appeared to be sobbing.

Sean wrestled him up again. “Please stop that, and stop crying!”

“Oh, Your Excellency. I am just so happy. My brothers will not believe it! Oh, yes, I forgot.” He pulled out his cell phone and stretched out his bony arm in an attempt to take a photo of himself and Sean. When that proved unsatisfactory, he grabbed a nearby man and asked him to take one. By now, a part of the mob had begun to pay attention, and several of them were pointing at Sean, shouting excitedly in various dialects and snapping his picture with their phones. A number of them had emulated Tuk Tuk and had locked Sean’s feet in an enthusiastic embrace.

Sean was near panic. “Tuk Tuk! We need to get out of here now!”

Tuk Tuk sprang into action. He skillfully pried the crowd off Sean’s ankles, snatched back the shoe souvenir claimed by one aggressive supplicant, and replaced it on Sean’s foot. He then grabbed Sean’s two large suitcases and legal document case and hoisted them up onto his head. Even in his haste to exit the terminal, Sean could not help but be impressed with Tuk Tuk’s ability to maintain his balance—especially since his eyes had now disappeared behind the squashed brim of the chauffer’s cap. But when Tuk Tuk attempted to also hoist Sean onto his skinny shoulders, the entire top-heavy mess collapsed to the floor. Which gave the mob another shot at Sean’s feet and resulted in something resembling a deranged session of Twister.

After what seemed like an eternity, Sean and Tuk Tuk emerged from the jumble. Sean was wearing the chauffer’s cap, but was missing both shoes. Tuk Tuk had retrieved the right shoe again and clenched it by the laces in his teeth, while frisking the crowd for the left one. Soon he gave up, slipped the shoe back on Sean’s right foot, hoisted the luggage up onto his head again, and this time he plowed through the crowd like an NFL pulling guard, with Sean crouched low and limping along in his wake.

Sean was thrilled when they burst out through the terminal door and into the morning air. But only until he got his first full dose of the morning air. What he had noticed inside the terminal as an odd odor, was now a full assault on his senses. The hot, sticky air was drenched with the essence of motley vehicle exhaust, but it opened with a bold top note of cloying incense and finished with lingering, robust hints of smoldering coal, kerosene and cow dung. And the air looked as bad as it smelled. Sean was desperate to get into Tuk Tuk’s car. Which turned out to be not exactly a car—it was, in fact, a tuk tuk.

From Chapter 7  Should Have Seen it Coming

As he sat at his table in the empty cafe and thought back on his confrontation with Eena, Sean was somewhat surprised at how quickly he had come to Obama’s defense. For a long time now he had been deeply angry with the former President—viewing his fall from grace as almost a personal betrayal. Hell, it was personal! Who could deny that Sean’s recent run of misfortune had been attributable in no small measure to the strong headwind generated by Obama’s current unpopularity? Worse yet, Sean had to suffer this indignity in silence—since his unsympathetic friends and family seemed to feel it was simply payback for having had it too good for too long.

He had also been a little angry with himself, because he hadn’t seen it coming. Looking back now, with the benefit of hindsight, it probably should have been clear, even in the heady days of late 2012, that Obama’s triumph in securing a second term was a hollow victory. Most second terms in modern American history had been disappointments, and there was ample reason to anticipate that Obama’s would follow this trend.

The first two years of his second term had been mired in gridlock and bedeviled by intractable problems at home and abroad. And with the Republicans emerging from the 2014 Congressional elections in an even stronger position to thwart him, prospects for Obama’s final two years were even dimmer. Yet through it all, even though the President’s job approval ratings fell precipitously, Barack and Michelle’s personal popularity somehow continued to defy gravity. Eventually, of course, gravity caught up with them.

The first push down the slope came from the Congressional investigative committees, and their relentless search for Obama Administration scandals. While most of the investigations had proven to be minor distractions at best, they finally hit pay dirt in early 2016 with Skittlesgate.

Fittingly, it began with Bob Woodward, but the path was circuitous. In an aggressive attempt to uncover inside information for his next book, Woodward had hired a team to comb through a year of White House trash—but had been frustrated when it yielded nothing of significance. The one item of passing interest merited only a footnote buried deep in his book: it seemed that someone in the White House was pounding down some serious junk food. That was more than enough to catch the attention of House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, who immediately scheduled hearings.

Initially dismissed by most commentators as a sideshow, the hearings took a different turn with the introduction of an affidavit from a California surgeon that he had performed a secret gastric bypass on Michelle Obama—reportedly when she and Valerie Jarrett were on a “girls’ weekend” in Palm Springs the previous year. This bombshell was followed by the sworn testimony of a retired Secret Service agent, that he had witnessed many evenings in the White House where Michelle had “pigged out on Little Debbie Frosted Fudge Cakes, Twinkies, and Skittles, while laughing her…head off about all the people she was browbeating into eating broccoli.”

There were some reasons to doubt the testimony—both the surgeon and the retired agent were reported to have Tea Party connections, and Mother Jones had released videos showing both on high-roller junkets at Sheldon Adelson’s Venetian hotels in Las Vegas and Macau. And both the First Lady and the President vigorously denied the charges. However, their decision to challenge the subpoena of Michelle’s medical records on grounds of executive privilege only fanned the flames.

Then came the watershed event. It began innocently enough, with the plan to feature President Obama in a segment of the popular PBS series Finding Your Roots. Everyone involved was excited when a researcher for the show uncovered a long-lost sample of DNA from the President’s deceased father, Kenyan economist Barack Obama, Sr., because it promised to provide interesting new information. And that promise was more than fulfilled, when analysis of the DNA proved conclusively that Barack Senior was not the President’s father!