By Lily Sincere
“You were right, Ike,” Jack said ruefully, looking out across the shimmering pool to the desert beyond. “The military-industrial complex really does have a stranglehold on our economy. Look at that guy.” Jack waved to the New York ad man. “Tried to sell Nixon, trying to sell aviation….”
“Hung like one of Harry’s horses,” Ike interjected. Jack looked at the ad man, then looked at Ike.
“Well, yeah, but….” Jack let his voice trail off.
“Used to be we were men in battle,” Ike said grandly. “Men were men and the sheep weren’t nervous because we had each other. It was a beautiful thing, the band of brothers.”
“Okay, I can see how….”
“And sometimes people would get a little handsy. Just because, well, that’s how it was. Later, when you had your own command, you’d get in a WAC you liked, but before then…well, you made do, Jack. You made do.”
“I suppose,” Jack said.
“Oh, don’t be so missish,” Ike said. “We all know about the Navy. A ship leaves port with three hundred sailors and returns with a hundred and fifty couples.”
Jack squirmed uncomfortably. Some days there just weren’t enough injections in the world….
“And it’s just us presidents together,” Ike said. “Plus your brother-in-law puking in the bushes.”
“Fuck,” Jack said. “That fucking Hollywood fuck.”
“English, too,” Ike said. “But more Chamberlain than Churchill, if you catch my drift.”
Jack caught it all too well. He sighed. “I’m pretty sure Crosby’s slapping his kid around.”
Ike shrugged. “Maybe it’ll toughen him up, but a mean drunk’s as useful as a garter snake in a toolshed.”
“That…was surprisingly profound,” Jack said. Maybe the injections, plus the martinis, plus the pills….
“So,” Ike said, clapping Jack on the shoulder. Jack barely winced. Oh, yeah, the stuff was definitely kicking in now. “This band of brothers thing….”
Jack let Ike pull him closer. “It’s just us, now,” Ike said.
“Harry,” Jack protested.
“Busy being broke. For fuck’s sake, throw that sorry bastard a pension. And get him a dog. He could use a friend,” Ike said.
“Herbert,” Jack reminded Ike.
“Looks like a baby got run over by a Sherman,” Ike said. “We’re the only standing presidents, so let’s salute each other.”
“Oh, look,” said Pat distantly. “My husband’s being sick in the roses and yours is…kissing Eisenhower?”
“Trust me,” said Jackie in her airy, insubstantial voice, “if that’s the worst he gets up to….”
“I hear Marilyn’s going to be here tonight,” Pat said maliciously. Jackie lowered her sunglasses to look at her sister-in-law.
“Who do you think asked for her?” Jackie said, making her voice even more breathless than usual. Jackie settled her sunglasses back over her eyes and sprawled back further into her deck chair. Palm Springs wasn’t exactly Newport, but it would do for now.