"Badge? Gee, I'm surprised to see you. I figured you were already up to Featherpine or Yellowville or some other mountain burg for the summer. Aren't you going to the hills for the summer? You always go to the hills for the summer. What's the matter, Bob? Are you sick? You haven't come down with cancer or something, have you? Oh God, Bob. Why didn't you tell me? I thought we were friends. What? Were you just gonna croak and let me read about it in the papers?"
"Cope! Shut up! You drive me f***ing nuts. No, I'm not sick. And I'm headed out to the hills as soon as I'm done here. I came to see if I could borrow your column again."
"Oh gosh, Bob, I don't know. I don't think the Boise Weekly folks appreciate me letting you do that. In fact, after the last time, I got an email thingy that said every time you write a column, they have to use up most of their monthly asterisk allotment just on your stuff. They didn't exactly order me to stop letting you fill in, but they left me with the impression they weren't all that happy when you did."
"Too f***ing bad about those asterisks, but s***, I wouldn't have to fill in for you if you'd do your f***ing job, yourself. But no, instead of going for the significant stories, you piddle around with a letter from some ignoramus cowboy, that 'Dick from Homedale' d***. Who f***ing cares what Dick from f***ing Homedale thinks?"
"Dick's in Parma now, Bob. You'd know that if you read my columns, like you cared what was in them. And you tell me what significant story I missed, mister. Gosh darnit, just in the last few weeks, I've written stuff on global warming, and ALEC, and the Republican war on women, and the Republican war on voting rights, and, the war on ..."
"You didn't write a damn word on how that big-shot pill and soap hawker is complaining about how Barack Obama's picking on him, did you?"
"Pill and soap hawker? What? You mean Frank VanderSloot?"
"Yeah, dippy. I mean Frank VanderSloot. The guy you were too chickens*** to write about when that salon.com expose came out. You read the article in the Idaho Statesman a couple weeks back, didn't you? The one with the title, 'Idaho businessman says Obama is smearing him?'"
"Of course I read it. It was hard to miss, being on the front page."
"That's right, Cope. It was the front page! That alone should have told you how significant the story was. So why didn't you write about that, instead of d***ing around with answering a dumbf*** letter from Dick from Homedale ... Parma ... whatever? Still afraid VanderSloot's going to sue your flabby a**?"
"Bob, I have something really, really secret to tell you, and you have to promise you won't tell anyone else. OK? You promise?"
"Cope, this doesn't have anything to do with why you like musicals, does it?"
"Jeez, Bob. This is serious. Now listen. As soon as I finished reading that Statesman article on VanderSloot, I was on the phone to Barry."
"Yeah. You know ... Barry. 'Big B.' That's what I call him ... 'Big B.' He gets a kick out of that and now Michelle's doing it. Anyway, I have this special phone that goes directly to him. It comes with being a minion, see? I was picked to be Big B's minion captain for Ada County, so I got the special phone. I keep it in the bathroom behind the toilet paper. And as soon as I finished reading that article, I called Barry up and told him how there's no point in smearing VanderSloot anymore because he's figured out what's happening and is complaining on Fox News about how the president's picking on him. And just to make sure Big B understands how serious this development is, I said, 'Mr. POTUS, the story was on the front page!'
"Well let me tell you, Bob, Barry was more than a little upset. He says, 'Dammit all, Willy!' He calls me Willy, see. He says, 'Willy, isn't there anyone else out there in your neck of the woods we can smear? Look, as soon as I was done forging that fake birth certificate, I set up the Idaho Division in the Billionaire Smearing Department, and you know how much I hate to close down a government agency.'
"So I promised I'd look around for another Idaho billionaire, but I says to him, 'VanderSloot is gonna be one tough right-wing nut to replace, Mr. POTUS. Maybe you ought to consider doubling down on the smear.' That's what I called it ... 'doubling down' ... because everybody's saying it any more, have you noticed, Bob? You can hardly watch the news without hearing about how somebody doubled down on this or that."
"I'm happy to hear you're keeping your cliches current, Cope. Now finish your f***ing story."
"So anyway, Barry asks me what I mean by doubling down on smearing VanderSloot, and I say, 'Mr. POTUS, I could write a column about how you're definitely not smearing VanderSloot, but if you were, there's more than enough there to smear.'
"Well, he says to me, 'Willy, I don't think that's a good idea. If this VanderSloot fellow is smart enough to figure out we're smearing him, he's smart enough to recognize a double down when he sees one.' So Bob, that's why I didn't write a column about VanderSloot's whining. The President of the United States of America told me not to."
"Cope, that's all bulls***, isn't it?"
"Yes, Bob, it is. I made it all up."
"So can I borrow your column ... or not? And I'll try not to use up so many f***ing asterisks, OK?"
"Oh, I guess so. Just don't get me sued, OK?"