"Mr. President, sir, Mr. President!" The nervous but earnest young reporter catches up to George Washington as the statesman is about to step into the Erstwhile Inn for an appointment with John Adams.
George Washington had just delivered a sound thumping to Adams in the nation's first presidential election and is eager to shore up his partnership with the sometimes brooding and self-persecuted Adams, who would serve as his vice president.
"George!" "John!" "I feel like we are making history together!"
The two exchange back pats and arm squeezes but no hugging. It is 1789, when men were men.
"Say, John," George says, "do you mind if Deadline Danny sits awhile? Sit down, son, and let me give you some advice. This newspaper thing isn't going to catch on. You need to get behind the plow. But beef up first. That pen seems to be a little much for you."
John Adams has gone into a serious funk. "Newspapers!" he growls. "If you ask me, that guy in Virginia said it all. Remember, George?"
George chuckles. "Yes, that Byrd guy. William Byrd it was. It was something like '…I thank God there are no free schools nor printing and I hope we shall not have these for a hundred years, for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy, and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them, and libels against the best government. God keep us from both.'"
"Well, you are here, Poison Pen, so let's do it. You might as well get a quote to impress the Franklins over at the New England Courant. I've seen you sucking up to those guys. This is history, boy, and you've got one chance. Fire your best shot!"
"What I want to know, Mr. President, is if Mart … I mean, Mrs. Washington, has she started to wear bangs?"
The sound of silence engulfs the Erstwhile Inn premises. Other patrons drop their heads, embarrassed for the boy, avoiding his glance. Washington is totally nonplused. "Here you sit with the very first president of what is to become the greatest nation on earth and all you ask about is my wife's bangs?"
The encounter has become so sad as to border on humor. George Washington smiles to comfort the young reporter and gives him another chance. "OK, son, one more and it better be good."
Danny glances at his notes, wisely decides to pass on "find out who designs Martha's dresses!"
"Sir, that amendment everyone is talking about, the one that says 'A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.' "
"Well, of course," the president says, "our freedom is hard won and we will fight in the mountains, on the prairies, on our very streets to beat back the enemy."
"But, sir," the reporter persists, "I met a time traveler from a place called New Mexico and he told me his state will fight forever to guarantee gun rights. They are talking about their right to take guns into bars, and to own semi-automatic attack rifles that can mow down innocent people in a matter of seconds."
President Washington looks perplexed. "Young man, assure your time traveling friend we, indeed, will pass an historic and cherished Second Amendment but it certainly is not our purpose to protect the type of weapon you describe. We're talking muskets."
Scribbling wildly, the young journalist bolts for the door.
The president looks pensively at Adams. "John, this free press stuff could get out of hand in a hurry."
Ned Cantwell — email@example.com — is in the market for a gently used bazooka.