General Brighton waited quietly by the sofa while the President of the United States swiped the screen of his iPad and began another game of Angry Birds. Bright colors and loud noises drifted up from the screen which had completely absorbed the attention of the Commander in Chief.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had not been asked to sit down and he had learned early on that Obama was very sensitive about members of the military usurping his authority. The last time he did it, he had been asked if it was “a racial thing.”
Instead he remained standing while a fly slowly circled his head like an orbiting satellite.
“So we’re on for the conference,” Obama said, without taking his eyes off the iPad. His legs were curled up behind him on the sofa and his neck was craned over as if he were trying to physically project his body into the game.
It was a stance that Brighton often saw on his teenage boys.
“Completely.” Valerie Jarrett drifted in from somewhere. Brighton had gotten used to her appearing out of nowhere with the covert skills of a Special Forces team.
“I shake the Iranian guy’s hand and then I make a speech. Damn.” Obama winced as unhappy sputtering noises rose from the game. Something had gone wrong.
Valerie affectionately patted his head. “You’ll get it right next time.”
The Commander in Chief of the United States shook her hand away. “I know I’ll get it right next time,” he said, without looking up. “I don’t need you to tell me that.”
“Of course you don’t. You’re too smart for that.”
“I know I am,” he mumbled, swiping again.
General Brighton’s face paled. He had thought it was a bad idea when the White House first suggested it. Modernization was good and these were changing times, but there was too much that could go wrong. Still Valerie had insisted and she had gotten her way.
The general had served in Vietnam, but his stomach had never churned as much acid as when his boss had gotten an iPad because next to a dozen Angry Birds apps was one app defined by a bright red button labeled NUCLEAR BUTTON. One wrong tap could reduce the world to a cinder.
Obama paused with his finger in mid-air. “What about the military preparations?”
“Well we have one carrier in the region in case anything goes wrong,” General Brighton said. “We would have had two if not for the cutbacks.”
His boss frowned in that look which meant that he thought his failure to understand the answer was someone else’s fault. “Why do you need two aircraft carriers for a gay wedding? Are the two grooms going to come in on separate aircraft carriers that are going to dock together?”
“What gay wedding,” General Brighton said, and cursed inwardly a moment too late. Maybe he could have gotten the budget for the second carrier restored.
Obama sighed with patient impatience. “We talked about this. Didn’t we talk about this Valerie?”
Valerie seemed to materialize in front of Brighton out of thin air glaring angrily up at him with the air of a poodle pretending that it’s a bulldog. “Every branch of the service is supposed to hold a gay wedding.