"THE BIG CLUTCH"

“I didn’t vote for him, never cared for his policies or what came out his mouth, but tonight that […] Bush proved himself.” – Thurgood Shenk, political author

The morning of October 30 President Bush stood on his Oval Office desk and, gesturing with a phonebook in his hand, described a motivational speaker-cum-bodybuilder he’d recently seen.

“…it wasn’t just his words. He’d talk, but then hammer the message home like this…” With both hands he gripped the phonebook and torqued it. His face reddened.

A Secret Serviceman sprang, two fingers on his earpiece. “Mr. President…”

“Wait…almost…YARGH!” Something popped. He clutched his shoulder as the yellow tome, barely crinkled, fell to the floor.

***

He was tired of words, those fickle little critters. At times he needed them the most they’d scurry away. Skinny swarthy men with turbans and beards had come into his country and knocked down two of his finest buildings. He countered with words, but it felt like bringing a rolled-up newspaper to a knife fight.

Instead he had faith only in the “Big Clutch,” an entity that aides and interns claimed he’d pray to under his breath. No one dared ask what it was.

He first discovered the “Clutch” riding the John Deere as a boy in Midland, his left foot pressing the pedal that could suddenly stop time and allow for all necessary adjustments. Now the tractor was gone but the “Clutch” survived inside him. When called upon, it’d empty his head, tickle his gut, and suddenly produce…the answer. Operation Frozen Pizza was one such answer.

***

“That saying ‘home of the brave’ that we say…it never meant much to me until tonight.” – “Curtis,” MTA employee

At 35,000 feet, the President lunched while an officer outlined Operation Frozen Pizza.

“We’ll have snipers here and here, Servicemen around the perimeter. A special consultant, code name ‘Mr. November,’ will meet you…Yes, Mr. President? You don’t have to raise your hand.”

“Oops! No question, just testing this darn shoulder. Messed it up real good this morning.

“We’ll alternate hot and cold compresses. Now-“

“A fake…”

“…”

“I bet that motivational strong-fella used a fake, a phony phonebook.”

“Very possible. Now, nota bene, you’ll wear a windbreaker to conceal the Kevlar-”

“Matthews…”

“Sir?”

“Is this whole thing, Frozen Pizza…is it crazy?”

The officer stiffened. “It’s what needs to be done, sir.”

***

Stretching and sweating, the President waited in his holding quarters. An hour earlier he couldn’t raise his right arm without intense pain. He wouldn’t try again until he had to.

Mr. November entered. He was tall and chiseled and his pin-striped attire made the Servicemen look drab.

“I heard the plan, and about the shoulder. Are you really doing this?”

The President snapped the flaps of his Kevlar vest like suspenders. “Why wouldn’t I?”

“Alright, but if you come up short they’ll kill ya.”

“Doesn’t matter. I have to send a message to my people, the American people.”

***

 “Good command. Real smooth delivery. What impressed me most was his accuracy.” – Dale Dollar, scout, Arizona Diamondbacks

Over the radio someone said “engage.” The President walked to the pitcher’s mound at Yankee Stadium, a baseball in his left hand. He waved, smiled. He felt no pain, only the “Big Clutch” clanging within.

He looked like a monument of unshakeable strength, one TV commentator noted.

Standing on the mound—not in front of it, as suggested—he fired a strike to the catcher. Fireworks erupted, the crowd boomed.

Mr. November trotted toward him. They shook, embraced, and he whispered into the President’s ear: “Mr. President, that was the bravest thing I ever saw.”

The President beamed. “Thanks. That means a lot coming from Derek Jeter.”