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On the Couch

4+4 Fiction


Published November 30, 2005 at 5:00 a.m.

"TALK ABOUT TEMPTATION", the President's analyst instructed.

George shifted uncomfortably on the couch. "You want me to talk about temptations? Sure, I get 'em all the time in my job."

Out of the corner of his eye, George watched the doctor put down his clipboard and open up a desk drawer, then another.

George started to talk about his temptations.

"Mr. President, I have to interrupt . . . you got any ChapStick on you? My lips are raw." The doctor had slammed closed the last desk drawer. He was touching his lips gently with his fingertips. He started making "ouch" sounds each time his fingers met his lips.

George drew in a deep breath. He recognized what was happening. Whenever this doctor became slightly thwarted or frustrated -- about anything, anything at all -- his questions to George would turn difficult and probing. And leading. Oh, how George hated that. The doctor would keep poking at him and poking at him. George didn't know why they kept making him come to these stupid sessions anyway.

It never ended well when the doctor got upset. A few years ago, he had run out of TicTacs during a session, and George had invaded Iraq.

"Go ahead," the Doctor instructed. "What kind of temptations do you get? It's good to talk about them. Oh, wait, maybe you could see if you have any kind of lip balm on you? Anything at all?"

"No," George said. He didn't even make a pretense of checking his pockets.

Once, the doctor had burned his tongue on a Starbucks; that had led to George nominating Pat Sajak to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court.

"Jeez, even straight Vaseline would do me at this point. Anyway, so I bet the temptation was strong to pay back that guy with the mustache, wasn't it? He tried to kill your Daddy, didn't he?"

George nodded. Oh, he could tell where this was heading, all right. This ChapStick-less doctor would probe and bait and instigate, ticking him off until George would again wind up doing something he didn't want to do.

Sometimes Condi could help. Once, after the session when the doctor had broken his nail file, George had decided to outlaw mothballs. The doctor had convinced him that such a move would appease the environmentalist lobby. Good old Condi had talked him out of it. She always seemed able to calm George down after these sessions. But now Condi was off somewhere at an international conference studying ways to dispose of used-up CEOs.

"My lips, they're like sandpaper," the doctor was saying. "They hurt like hell. Hey, I bet you could squash that North Korea like a bug if you really wanted to, couldn't you, George? Didn't that guy up there try to kill your Daddy one time? That could really tick a guy off, couldn't it? Aren't you tempted to do something about it?"

George said, "I don't remember that."

"Yeah, I think so," the doctor said, pursing his dried and sorry lips. "I think I remember that he tried to kill your Daddy with an H-bomb one time. Or maybe it was your mother. Jeez, some guy tries to do something like that to your mother, what's a guy supposed to do but react, right? No one could blame him. The temptation would be there, all right."

George just sighed and laid his head back on the couch. He decided this was just another lousy day at the White House.

George's analyst was out of ChapStick.

George's Secretary of State was out of town.


Jim DeFilippi has published two novels, Blood Sugar and Duck Alley, and is currently finishing work on a third, Good Lies, Bad Lies.