What if Mrs. Murphy had been there?
by David Benjamin
“… Trump’s senior advisers fear leaving him alone in meetings with foreign leaders out of concern he might speak out of turn. General McMaster, in particular, has tried to insert caveats or gentle corrections into conversations when he believes the president is straying off topic or onto boggy diplomatic ground…”
— The New York Times, 17 May 2017
MADISON, Wis.— I picture her as short, plump and huggable, in a print dress with support stockings rolled down to just below the knee. Her hair, gray and frizzy, is constrained with rubber bands in a disorderly bun. Her eyes are cloudy and she suffers from her feet, but complains only a few dozen times a day. Her demeanor is tirelessly sunny and sympathetic. She makes lovely tea and always has cookies.
Her name is something like Mrs. O’Toole or Mrs. Murphy. Nobody is quite sure of her first name, or even if she has one. Ideally, she was hired from one of Boston’s timeless proletarian enclaves — Jamaica Plain maybe or, even better, Southie — where her sort of woman is still abundant.
She would have been appointed, ideally, before her rambunctious ward was inaugurated, so she’d be waiting for him at the White House, telling him to wipe his feet and for Heaven’s sake, sit up straight. “Why are you crouching like that, with your arms hanging down? You look like an overgrown chimp in a blond wig.”
We couldn’t call her the Presidential Babysitter. Although accurate, this would offend his eggshell sense of manhood. The transition team would have chosen a title less obvious, like “handmatron.” Better yet, he would probably love being waited on and watched over by a “factotum,” because it’s Latinate and multisyllabic — and he has no clue what it means.
She would be a paragon of kindly solicitude but with an adamantine air of motherly authority. To her, after all, would fall the responsibility of babysitting— during his every waking hour — the most capricious prince to ever wander the White House corridors. She would have a certain way of saying his name, in her Boston brogue, that freezes him in his tracks — a heavy emphasis on the first syllable and the hint of suspicion in the question mark at the end.
Of course, as a widowed granny with a sentimental side, she would often call him “Donny.” She would know him by no other name, nor by any title other than her precious little darlin’.
A few scenarios come to mind.
It’s past midnight in an eerily empty White House. The uproar of a television, accompanied by the beep of a cellphone, breaks the silence. “Oh, dear Lord.” With an audible “oof” (Oval Office Factotum), Mrs. Murphy rises from her bedside chair, sets aside her Bible, puts on her slippers and waddles off to see what the little rascal is up to now.
“DAWN’ld? What are you doin’ in the window? Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Without even a bathrobe to cover y’self? What if one of those darn, nosy shutterbugs sees? Oh, I know you’re proud, little guy, but I ain’t the one to be showin’ it off to. I raised six strappin’ boys of me own, y’know. Now, tuck it in and — what’re you doin’ with that phone? You know what I said: no tweetin’ ’til after breakfast. And turn OFF that darn TV. It only gets you aggravated, especially that sharp little lesbian gal on… oh, what is it? MBTA? And another thing. Where’s your homework? No, don’t you try to pull the wool over my eyes, young’un. I know your teachers! You were supposed to be readin’ the AHCA weeks ago. No, I don’t know what it is, but neither do you. And you won’t know it if you don’t study! Well then, have someone read it TO you. It ain’t as though this big ol’ barn isn’t just full of educated folks without much to do all day long except beat their gums and leak wild stories to the Washington Post! How about asking that nice, quiet Reince boy? No, not Stevie. I tell you, sweetie, that one’s up to no good. And I wish to the Lord Jesus that he would just get a haircut. He looks like something the cat dragged in after the dog peed on it. That boy! I swear, he’s a worse influence on you than Micky Flynn was, you poor little thing. Oh, I know, you miss him. Mick was a hot ticket, bless his heart, but crazy as a mouse in a toaster. No, you can’t tweet him. DAWN’ld! Give me that phone!”
“DAWN’ld? How many times I have t’tell you? Get that girl off your lap! I know she’s your daughter, but — Vanka, honey-bun? Go play with Jared on the lawn. He’s trying to hit the croquet balls with the wrong end. Donny, darlin’, look at you now. You’re all warm and damp now. What WAS she sayin’ t’you?”
“DAWN’ld? Who’s that with you now? Where do you pick up these strange boys? Who let them in? Well, I don’t care what the Secret Service says. Aren’t I the one who bakes your cookies and tucks you in? Sergey and Sergey? Really? You couldn’t even make up two different names? And where’re you boys from? Really? Well, that does it. Does nobody around here remember Joe Stalin and that Cuban with the beard who gave poor sweet Jack Kennedy so much grief? Okay, let’s go. I’m sure you mean no harm, boys, but if you think you’re gettin’ you into Donny’s office, after what Khrushchev did to the Hungarians, you’re whistlin’ up the wrong skirt. Lord knows my little darlin’ is lonely since they sent him here. Breaks my heart. The poor dear just wants everybody to love him and whisper sweet nothins in his ear and tell him he’s just the best thing that ever happened since St. Patrick drove out the snakes. But I can’t just let in any ol’ riffraff that comes in off the streets from Moscow. I’m the one who drives out the snakes here. So, let’s go, boys. Out, out, out! And Donny, you go sit down over there. Don’t you move an inch ’til I get back. Sit. Up. Straight! And not a word — to anybody… DAWN’ld! Give me that phone!”
“Comey? Is that an Irish name? Well then, I’m sure his mother brought him up right and she’s proud as punch. Don’t be silly, Donny. Jimmy can’t do you any harm at all, long as you tell the truth and wash between your toes. He’s a nice young man from the neighborhood, and you’re just gonna get yourself in trouble if you start pickin’ on — DAWN’ld! What now! Jesus, Mary and Joseph! What on earth are you tweetin’ now? Honest t’God, you’re gonna be the death of me. Who gave him that phone? STEVIE!”