Bush is escorted into an ornate, opulent, and heavily curtained room by two aids and a translator. His eyes swim around the room before settling on the dozing figure of the Pope, who is sitting in a specially made burgundy and gold Lazy Boy with the foot rest up. He is dressed all in white except for the Pope hat. Bishop Moscelli is trying in vain to wake him.

Bush <to Aid1>: Jeez, you sure he was expecting us?

Aid1: The Pontiff is very old, Mister President. He tires easily.

Bush: You aren't kidding about the old part. Man oh man. He's so old his blood type has been discontinued.

Aid2: Hee, hee.

Bush: He's so old he could have been a waiter at the last supper.

Aid 2: Hee, Hee, ho ho huh, stop it Mister President.

Bush: He's so old that when he orders a three minute egg, they ask for the money up front.

Aid 1 & 2: Hahahaha, hoo he ha ha, hee hoo ha ha...

Pope <stirring>: I hear laughter. Ahh, glorious. Moscelli, are there children near by?

Moscelli: It is the President of the United States. He is here to pay his respects.

Aid1 <whispering>: Sir.

Bush: I know, I know.

Aid1 <whispering>: Go ahead and do it, sir.

Bush: I know, goddamnit. But why is he sitting down?

Aid2: Because he's very, very old. He's so old...

Bush <annoyed, silencing Aid2>: I can't very well kiss his butt if he's sitting on it!

Aid1: His ring, sir, his ring.

Bush: Oh. The ring? Sounds kind of pagan to me... <reluctantly moving to the pontiff> Good morning, your Holiness, so good to see you again. How are you feeling on this fine, fine day.

Pope: There are snipers on the rooftops.

Bush: Well, yeah...

Pope: These are times of great unrest.

Bush: Not sleeping too well, your highness? You looked like you were catching a good forty winks when we walked in here. Nice place you got, by the way.

Pope: Mr. President, your visit to Rome takes place at a moment of great concern for the continuing situation of grave unrest in the Middle East, both in Iraq and in the Holy Land.

Bush: Tell me something I don't already know. But don't worry about it John Paul, we're gonna stay the course. You don't mind if I call you John Paul, do you?

<Pope whispers something into his translator's ear. The translator turns red.>

Translator: Yes sir, he does.

Pope: You are very familiar with the unequivocal position of the Holy See in this regard, expressed in numerous documents, through direct and indirect contacts, and in the many diplomatic efforts which have been made.

Bush <whispering to translator>: What the fuck is the Holy See? And what's his position and why should I care.

Translator <whispering>: The Holy See is the Vatican, sir, and in this context, the pope is referring to himself. His position is that you have not taken steps that are fruitful for world peace.

Bush <grumbling to himself>: Big sissy.

Pope: "In the past few weeks other deplorable events have come to light which have troubled the civic and religious conscience of all, and made more difficult a serene and resolute commitment to shared human values. In the absence of such a commitment neither war nor terrorism will ever be overcome."

Bush <steaming>: Okay, now your getting into Aby Grabby, aren't you? Well let me tell you something Pope-boy, the United States doesn't need a lecture from you. At least we're not all running around in dresses and diddling alter boys, are we? And you answer me this: You still think the world would be better off if Saddam was still in power... <raves on>...

Pope <to Moscelli>: Should we call in the Holy bodyguards?

Moscelli: No, Your Holiness, I don't think he'll actually harm you.

Bush <continuing>: ...and let's not forget which side the Italians were on in the Big War. Now I just came here for a nice little visit, okay?

Moscelli <whispering>: Try and placate him.

Pope: Okay, Mister President. We are sorry to have upset you.

Bush <calming>: Apology accepted.

Pope: Now, may we offer you and your aides some wine. It is a very good wine, produced only a few miles to our south.

Bush: No, no thank you. I wish I could. I sure wish I could. But I appreciate it. Yes I do. I'm sure that it's some mighty fine wine. <to Aid1> Hank, bring the briefcase. Your Holiness, we've brought you a little gift from the American people. They're just crazy about you.

Bush: It's a Slinky! <The Pope looks at the translator, who shrugs.> And not just any slinky, it's a solid gold Slinky.

Aid1 <whispering>: Gold-plated, sir. <Bush brushes him away.>

Bush: This is America's favorite toy, your highness, and it's not just for kids either. <demonstrating> See, you can flip-flop it from one hand to the other, or you can hold I up in the air and kinda let it drizzle down... It's very relaxing.

Pope: Oh.

Bush: And it walks! You can put it on the Vatican stairs, and it will walk on down, flipping one side over the other till it gets to the bottom. It's a lot of fun.

Pope: Slinky.

Bush: Yes sir. Solid gold. I don't even have one of these babies myself.

<Pope whispers to Moscelli>

Bush: You know the Slinky was commemorated on a United States postage stamp?

Moscelli: Mister President, the Pontiff is very tired now, and must rest.

Bush: Too much excitement, huh?

Moscelli: Yes sir.

Bush <whispering to Aid1>: Do I need to kiss him goodbye? <Aid1 shakes head no> <Bush looks over at Pope, who is feigning sleep.> <Bush reluctantly hands gold-plated Slinky to Moscelli> Well, tell the Pope we really appreciated his hospitality.

Moscelli: I will, sir.

Bush: And if he wants to say a few nice words about me...

Moscelli: I understand.

Bush: Arrivederci.

Moscelli: Journey in peace.

Bush <sadly>: Okay...

<Door closes slowly>

Bush <muffled, in the distance> He's so old that when God said 'let there be light', he's the one who hit the switch...


2004, Mark Hoback