Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Up Amongst the Golden Hills of Saddle River

Richard Nixon's Hall of Fame Speech

Halloween. Plastic pumpkins filled with shiny wrappers and loose change, candy corn doomed to be tossed into the street, at passing cars or ultimately thrown into a black garbage back along with any giant juicy red apples just in case some lonely, old sociopath discovered a technique of sliding razor blades into them with out cutting them in half. 

This year however there would be none of that. This year they were going up to the rich towns. Tales of full candy bars being handed out like...well like candy made their way down to the lower suburbs and thus the plan was concocted. 
Joe and Andrew were too old to be trick or treating, Andrew camouflaged this by bringing his 11-year old cousin Frederick along, however he was ill-matched in his plastic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume traveling with two 17-year-olds in white and black makeup liberally doused in red corn syrup.
"What are you guys supposed to be anyway?" Frederick innocently enough. 

"Warlocks," Joe answered as if it was obvious.
"Well I think I'm more of just a random, demon-type. Maybe a guy who works in a castle, something like that."

"Oh," Frederick nodded seemingly more interested in putting on his rubber mask than listening to his cousin's answer.
Joe drove his white Buick, a hand-me-down from his father up the hill until he found a quiet side street. 

"This looks good. We'll park here and work our way up this road," he said, sliding the car into park and removing his keys in one motion.
"There's only like 10 houses on this street," Andrew answered incredulously.

"Yeah but they're huge, this will be like hitting 25 houses in Arlington, you realize how much stuff they'll give us? Besides there's a few more side streets ahead." 

They exited the car, Andrew keeping Frederick close to him, Joe leading the way. It was still light out when they arrived at the first house. They made their way down the long driveway and up to the glittering glass doors. Joe pushed the button and what sounded like cathedral bells rattled the door frame and a light went on behind a second floor window.

"Hello?" a voice squawked through the speaker just below door bell.

"Uh, trick or treat" Joe said unenthusiastically.

"Oh dear, I'm sorry, I don't have anything for you, we don't really get too many trick-or-treaters here. I'm sorry.

"Oh, that's okay," Andrew started.

"Okay then.." the voice concluded and the light in the window went out.

"Well so much for that," Andrew said as they made their way back up the driveway.

They made their way to the next house, an equally impressive driveway curled up the front yard with a sleek looking BMW parked next to a fiery red Porsche. 

"This one should be good," Joe assured them as he again climbed the small set of stairs and rang the door bell.

A moment later a pretty blond woman in denim shorts and a t-shirt opened the door. 

"Trick-or-tre..." Frederick started.

"Oh, right," she said as if she'd been expecting them. "Just hold on for a second," she smiled and closed the door half way.

They heard "looks like two 20 years olds and a kid, trick or treating" echo from the large house. 
She returned a moment later with three cans of Sprite in her hand.

"Sorry this is all I've got," she smiled. She handed all three to Joe and closed the door as they were saying thank you.

Joe immediately opened his and took a long sip. 

"You see what I'm saying?" he turned to Andrew.

"No I don't. Look at what just happened, she probably thought we were going to mug her or something."

"Whatever, we have to take advantage of that. They're probably going to be a little scared of us. We're like city kids to them, and it's okay for us to be on their property tonight so maybe they'll give us a little extra just so we don't toilet paper their houses or throw rocks through their windows."

"We're not going to throw rocks through anyone's window are we?" Frederick turned nervously towards Andrew.

"No, your Uncle Joe is just an idiot."

"Whatever man, you'll see."

At the next three houses they received the following:
-A zip-locked bag of stale corn chips
-A dollar bill
-A small paper bag of the dreaded candy corn.

It was not until leaving the 6th house that they had finally received the fabled full sized Snicker's bar. 

"See I told you," Joe said before taking a mouthful of he bar. 

"Told me what? You said every house would be like that," he shot back.

"You shouldn't eat that Uncle Joe, you'll have nothing left for later at this rate."

The next house they approached was the biggest one yet. It was finally getting dark and the long street was filled with leafless trees and flood lights so that all corners of the massive properties were ominously visible. Joe looked up.

"The sky is red, it's probably going to rain soon."

Andrew looked up. The trees looked like they were drawn in black crayon on the scarlet canvas sky. 

"What are you Al Roker now?"

"I'm just saying we should probably get moving."

The house, aside from being undoubtedly a mansion, was distinct in another way; a flurry of people cascaded around the doors.  Men in dark suits a few still with dark sunglasses walked in no particular pattern all over the grounds.

"What are they supposed to be Men in Black?" Frederick asked sincerely. 

"I'm sorry gentleman, I'm just going to need a look inside the pumpkins," one of the dark suit men said in an iron voice as he stood in front of them.

"What for?" Joe asked, somewhat annoyed.

"Security," the man answered as he closely inspected the bag of corn chips.

"What does someone famous live here?" Joe asked, unimpressed.

"I'm not at liberty to say, sir," the man, now holding a flashlight to the paper bag of candy corns, answered.

After having gone through each item in their plastic pumpkin heads and giving them each a light pat down he told them they had been cleared to go up to the door.

Joe rang the bell. The trio waited with mild anticipation at who might be famous enough to require this kind of protection from two warlocks and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. 

"Yeah that's alright Pat, that's alright," an elderly man opened the door but was still facing someone inside the house, already engaged in conversation. "Trick-or-treat, huh?" he warbled. 

"Yeah," Joe said flatly.

"Well, I don't have anything here but why don't you come in for a minute and we'll see if we can find something for you," but he stood in front of the entrance and looked back into the dark house "Is that alright Bob, can they come in? Okay, yes, yes, c'mon in," he now opened the door wider.

Upon entering the large foyer the three noticed two more men in dark suits were inside the house, one no more than five feet from the elderly man another down the hallway in the brightly lit kitchen.

"Did you find anything, Pat?" the man yelled down the hall.

"I don't think we have anything Dick," a voice cried back.

"Alright, well why don't you boys have a seat over here," just beyond the foyer was a room that looked and smelled like a library with a rich maroon leather couch. The three looked around and plopped down, taking in the enormity of the house. "I'll be right back." 

The man disappeared off towards the kitchen while one of the men in dark suites remained behind his eyes blankly staring forward, arms crossed. He didn't seem to take any of them as a security risk, if anything he looked to be searching for an answer in his head at how he became assigned to this detail. 

"I think that's Richard Ni.." Andrew started at Joe.

"It is," the man in the dark suite answered robotically. 

"Are you serious?" Andrew asked.

The man held his hand out motioning towards the bookshelves where framed pictures stood of the elderly man, slightly younger, shaking hands and smiling with foreign dignitaries, other former Presidents, and perhaps most impressively, Elvis Presley.

"I'm sorry boys, I don't seem to have anything for you..."

The three rose as one expecting to be shown the door.

"No, no, no that's okay, I have Pat putting on the kettle, do you boys prefer tea or coffee?" he asked without a hint of irony.

"I'll have tea, but I think Frederick might be a little young for either," Andrew said nervously.

"Oh right, of course, well," he smiled as if an idea had just occurred to him, "we'll just have to bring him some hot chocolate then. How does that sound, Frederick?" 

Frederick nodded.
"I'm Dick by the way, I don't know if you boys might have recognized me," he grinned hopefully while extending his hand and vigorously shaking each of theirs.

"Yeah, of course," Joe said plainly. 

"Very nice to meet you Mr. President," Andrew followed.

"Hi," Frederick said in a small voice.

"I bet you might have heard some rough things about me in some of your classes. What grades are you in anyway?" 

"We're seniors, well 12th, uh Mr. President," Andrew muttered.

"I'm in 6th," Frederick chimed in.

"That's great, that's great, and then off to college I'd hope?" Andrew started to answer but he continued, "nothing more important than a good education. No matter what you might think of me I wouldn't have been able to get to where I was without a good education. My father, he was tough, he wasn't afforded any of the opportunities I was so he made damn sure that I took advantage of them."

"I'm going to Seton Hall next year," Andrew said with a slight hint of pride in his voice.

"Oh good, great school, great school. And what are you plan on studying?" 

"Business," he said flatly. 

"Great. Fantastic. You know I thought about studying business myself but I went into law, you know before politics. People who make the laws have to have a complete and total understanding of it. Do you have any political ambitions?" 

"Well, maybe on a local level," Andrew said but then realized the disappointed look on the man's face so he added to his answer, "you know, I'm running for student body president so I think that'll give me a good taste of whether I have the stomach for it." 

Joe started to question this piece of information but Andrew gave him a slight, unnoticed nudge in the ribs and he retreated. 

"Excellent, it's important to know you're limitations. Maybe running isn't for you, maybe behind the scenes. You know, it's important to surround yourself with good people, at all times, you can never be too picky about who you keep around you, isn't that right Bob?" the man laughed and patted the man in the dark suit on the shoulder. 

"That's right Mr. President," he answered glumly. 

"Oh I think the kettle is ready, I'll be right back boys, you just make yourselves comfortable."

He hurried towards the kitchen. Joe looked at Andrew, careful not to speak too freely in front of Bob. 

"So this is pretty cool, huh?" Joe said even though it didn't sound like he believed it.

"It's really cool," Frederick said. "That man was really the President?" he looked towards Bob.

"That's right, 1969-1974," Bob answered.

The man returned and placed a cup in front of them and poured hot water into each with their specific drink. 

"Now, you young man," he motioned to Joe, "what field are thinking of getting into?" 

"Law enforcement," he said quickly.

"Oh honorable profession. Can't have enough good men ready to sacrifice themselves for others. You know as President I had to call on the service of the National Guard several times, unfortunately, as you probably know the most unfortunate time was
obviously Kent State, but you know, in times of unrest there is nothing more important than capable committed law enforcement," he leaned over and heartily patted Joe on the shoulder and then fell back into his leather chair turning his attention back to Frederick; "How is your hot chocolate, young man?" 

"Good," Frederick took a quick sip off his mug and looked up, "Sir," he began "what was it like being the President?" 

Andrew seemed a little taken aback but Joe leaned in to listen.

"Well," the man sighed deeply while Bob quietly rolled his eyes behind him, "it was the best job in the world. It was also the worst job in the world." 

"What do you mean?" Frederick followed up.

"Frederick I don't think you should bother Mr. Ni.." 

"No, no it's perfectly alright, nothing wrong with a little curiosity," the man smiled fully, his face turning into putty,  hard features disappearing into a dimpled rubber mask. "Little fella," he began.

"Frederick," he interrupted.

"Frederick," the man corrected himself, "sometimes when you want something so bad, when it's within your reach, when it's taken from you and then you finally get it, let's say it's something as simple as a toy, maybe one of your video game systems or something like that, or if it's a lifelong dream of showing everyone that you're not weak, that just because you weren't born with a silver spoon, that you can make something out of yourself. To achieve that, to get to the top of the mountain is without a doubt one of the best feelings a person can have. To have arrived, but eventually that wears off and the job is still there. I liked doing the work, but eventually when you're on top the only place to go is down." 

Frederick watched innocently as the man squirmed a little in his chair, obviously wanting to say more but not sure if he should. He finally crossed his legs and looked back at Bob, "Make me an, uh, apple juice, would ya? You boys want anything?" 

Both Andrew and Joe waved him off and Frederick sat fixated, waiting for more. Bob quickly returned with a large tumbler, ice dancing against the walls of the glass.

"Ah, thank you Bob," the man took a long sip off it, "now where was I? Right the downfalls of the job, you see it's like I was saying to your friend here, you have to trust the people you have around you, and maybe, to some degrees, I was too trusting of the people I had around me. I trusted them and they trusted people, people, not bad people mind you," he took another long sip and jangled his glass for a refill, Bob obliged and he continued, "but people who thought they were doing the right thing for their country but didn't go about it perhaps in the best ways, now if you go back to the 1950's Eisenhower for instance had his guys around at all times..." 

The man went on like this for some time, Frederick continued to listen intently whereas the other two were getting dizzily hypnotized by all the circle talking. Finally, as he began to trail off a little bit Bob stepped in.

"Mr. President, I think maybe that is enough conversation for one evening."

"Perhaps you're right, Bob," the man said sadly and looked wearily into his empty tumbler "I do appreciate you boys stopping by, feel free to come by any time if you want to chat about anything," and suddenly his demeanor turned sunny again. "I'll let you get back to your ahh" he seemed to be searching for the right word, "trick and treating." 

He escorted the three out and stopped them before they left to let Andrew know that if he needed any advice on his school election to feel free to come by but that if he was serious about running he had to 'run the other guy through before he did it to him'. 

They walked up the driveway, it was far too late to continue trick or treating up a dark road with blind curves while they were dressed in black. 

"That was weird," Joe finally broke the silence. "Are you really going to run for class president?" 

"I wasn't but maybe if I could get an official endorsement," Andrew answered with a smirk.

"You really think that would help?" Joe shot back.

"I thought that was kind of cool" Frederick said, "but he didn't give us any candy."

"Oh yeah," and Joe finally realized maybe this wasn't the best area for trick or treating. 


Evan Toth said...

I'll be damned if that was apple juice!

T Howe Manager said...

Face turned to PUTTY.