Uit: After America
“No siree, Mister President, you do not get these from pettin’ kitty cats.”
James Kipper nodded, smiling doubtfully as the slab-shouldered workman flexed his biceps and kissed each one in turn. His Secret Service guys didn’t seem much bothered, and he’d long ago learned to pick up on their unspoken signals and body language. They paid much less attention to the salvage crew in front of him than to the ruined façades of the office blocks looking down on the massive, rusting pileup in Lower Manhattan. The hard work and unseasonal humidity of Lower Manhattan had left the workman drenched in sweat, and Kipper could feel the shirt sticking to his own back.
Having paid homage to his bowling-ball-sized muscles, the workman reached out one enormous, calloused paw to shake hands with the forty-forth president of the United States. Kipper’s grip was not as strong as it once had been and had certainly never been anywhere near as powerful as this gorilla’s, but a long career in engineering hadn’t left him with soft fingers or a limp handshake. He returned the man’s iron-fisted clench with a fairly creditable squeeze of his own.
“Whoa there, Mister President,” the salvage and clearance worker cried out jokingly. “I need these dainty pinkies for my second job. As a concert pianist, don’tcha know.”
The small crush of men and women gathered around Kipper grinned and chuckled. This guy was obviously the clown of the bunch.
“A concert penis, you say?” Kipper shot back. “What’s that, some sorta novelty act? With one of those really tiny pianos?”
The groan of his media handler, Karen Milliner, was lost in the sudden uproar of coarse, braying laughter as the S&C workers erupted at the exchange. That did put his security detail a little on edge, but the man-mountain with the kissable biceps was laughing the loudest of them all, pointing at the chief executive and crying out, “This fuggin’ guy. He cracks me up. Best fuggin’ president ever.”
John Birmingham (Liverpool, 7 augustus 1964)