The invitation made it seem is if the event was some sort of charity benefit and, I apparently, would be an honored guest. I deduced that from envelope, as it was intimately addressed to “Dear Occupant.” I figured, well, Kellyanne or George were targeting those of us with deep pockets (containing up to $100 or more) for a good cause. But when I arrived at the Conway house, I learned otherwise.
“Welcome,” Kellyanne said, as she opened the door to the house on Embassy Row. I glanced around and saw so no other people in the enormous living room, but on one entrance wall photos of Herbert Hoover, Joseph McCarthy, and Gordon Liddy. The wall opposite displayed glossies of FDR, Barack Obama, and AOC who in real life, Kellyanne added, is “a fucking bitch, to quote one of our Congressional Shakespeares.”
George met me in the living room, and said, “So glad you could come.”
“No problem,” I opined. “But where is everyone else?”
“What do you mean?” Kellyanne said. I noticed that she was wearing that hideous red, white and blue outfit – how could I not notice? – that put on for January 20, 2017 event that was viewed by the largest audience ever to see anything anywhere, period. The end.
“I thought this is a fundraiser,” I said.
“Actually,” Kellyanne said, “It’s not.” I noticed that George wanted to say something but Kellyanne subtly smacked him in the mouth and kept her hand over it.
“Mmmmmm,” George explained.
Kellyanne said, “My dear husband hasn’t been himself lately.”
I said, “Who has he been?”
She said, “If you must know he’s been sounding a lot like Benedict Arnold. I’ve been considering divorcing him on the grounds of mental cruelty and treason.”
“Oh,” I responded with eagerness.
George must have picked up on it as he again said something like, “Mmmmm.”
“We don’t mean to rush you,” Kellyanne said, “but we’d like to sit down to dinner. Do you mind skipping the cocktail hour?”
What could I say? I’d had my heart set on a martini, having prepared all sorts of chitchat in the language of Capitol Speak. I had practiced my furtive glances, eye-rolling, sarcasm, knowing smiles, snappy retorts, irritating smirks. I had been feeling, to use a word often in the news, perfect.
At that point, George broke free of the hammer lock Kellyanne had on him and pronounced, “We’re having Kellyanne’s favorite tonight, Boiled Biden Burgers. I had pushed for Stable Genius Salad, garnished with dollops of Spam. But, alas. Truth is, my wife, if you can believe it, or even if you can’t, is a little annoyed with me.”
“Really?” I responded with relish.
Kellyanne said, “George has put aside his lawyering in order to spend twenty three and a half hours a day on Twitter.”
I said, trying to cool the temperature, “How about those Washington Nationals?” And “the gridiron gang, the Team Formerly Known as the Redskins, what of them?”
“Yes,” George was permitted to chime in. “But let’s sit down and we’ll talk it over.”
The dining room featured one of those tables you see in films set in Elizabethan England, with the king sitting at one end of a long table and the queen at the other. As there was no other chair, I sat on the floor.
Kellyanne rang a bell, and the downstairs staff, which had just returned from the set of the film “Downton Abbey,” having served as extras, appeared with platters of appetizers and bottles of Maryland wine.
George said, “We used to serve French wine, but my dear wife is of the opinion that France is not contributing enough croissants to NATO breakfasts.”
I kept the conversation flowing with an abrupt, “So why is it you asked me to come to a private dinner tonight?”
Kellyanne said, winking, “You, of all people, know how Washington works.”
“Well, I confess I do watch it every day on CNN. I’m a big fan of Wolf Blitzer’s monotone. And Chris Cuomo. Well, his show is unwatchable but he gives me a reason to switch to Rachel Maddow, who is smarmy and so sure of herself and uses the time to peddle her books.”
“Exactly,” said Kellyanne.
“And so,” George picked up, “we know of your skill at ghost writing political books that sell like hotcakes – a dollar a stack.” George smiled as I took in his meaning. I confess my tenth such tome, the recollections of the deputy mayor of Schenectady who had visions of running for school board chair but his campaign was upended when he was discovered to have worn black face in middle school. Which was odd because he’s African-American.
“So,” Kellyanne said, “as I’m sure an astute person such as yourself has anticipated the whole reason we’re doing what we’re doing is so that we accept a mere trifle from Random House, say, a $20 million advance, for our book once the Stable Genius is hoisted on his own petard.”
It was George’s turn to wink. “By his own dotard.”
Kellyanne winced, got up, walked over to her husband, and kicked him in the place that gives baseball catchers the most pain.
Then she said, turning to me, “And we’re offering you a full one percent of net proceeds after deductions for the publisher’s costs, staffing at bookstores, travel expenses for our book tour, the consequences of cutting down whatever trees remain in the Brazilian rain forest in order to provide the paper for the book, and other unspecified but extravagant costs.”
Well, as you may have expected, I jumped at the deal. How could I not? George and Kellyanne seemed quite pleased. Then she rang the bell again and a few seconds later, I found myself over-indulging in a nice dish of Pencemeat pie.