At the close of George W. Bush’s news conference after the Republican sweep of Congress last month, a reporter asked what the president had given his wife for their 25th anniversary, Nov. 5, which the couple celebrated at the White House. Mr. Bush, who was by then out of camera range, responded with a lascivious wink, prompting startled laughter from reporters who had no trouble figuring out what he meant. –Elisabeth Bumiller
New York Times Book Review, December 1, 2002
(Three children in pajamas and bathrobes sit in small chairs in a neat row. Behind them, an angel is standing. Before them, facing them, a large comfortable armchair, unoccupied. Beautiful light.
The angel is, and remains throughout the play, unfailingly kind and polite.)
Dear Children. Please rise and give a warm welcome to our distinguished visitor, the First Lady of the United States, Mrs. Laura Welch Bush.
(The children rise, wave their arms excitedly, open their mouths to cheer. The only sound they make is the bird music from Olivier Messiaen’s Saint François d’Assise.
Laura Bush enters, dressed in a purple plaid ensemble, carrying a book. She speaks with a gentle Texas drawl. She is a very nice lady. The children cheer and cheer.
She stands in front of the armchair. She motions for the children to stop cheering and sit.)
Why thank you children. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a more beautiful welcome, really really lovely. But… May I ask?
Most of the kids I meet when I visit for a reading program–and I do so many of these, I love reading to kids, I meet so many kids–but most of the kids are, are wearing—-
They aren’t usually wearing pajamas?
No, they aren’t! They…well, they wear uniforms! Or if they go to a school that doesn’t require uniforms, they wear, well of course you like to see them dressed neat, I do, but you know they’ll wear all sorts of things. Except PJs. I just never saw that before. It’s sweet.
Perhaps this is the first time you have read to dead children, Mrs. Bush?
Perhaps it is! And I have to admit, children, I’m nervous. I’ve never met actual dead children before. Nor actual children from Iraq. Before I met my husband I traveled all over, children, all over the world, and since we moved into the White House I have also traveled, but never to Iraq. So you are the first Iraqi children I’ve met and you look real sweet in your PJs. And I’m sorry you’re dead, but all children love books. All children can learn to love books if you read to them. That’s why I’ve come–to read to you, to share one of my favorite books with you, because when a parent reads to a child, or any adult reads to a child, even if that child is dead, the child will learn to love books, and that is so, so important. (To one of the children:) How did you die, darling?
In 1999, an American plane dropped a bomb filled with several tons of concrete on the power station near his village. He was already malnourished; he had been malnourished since birth, because of the sanctions. The power station that was crushed by the bomb was believed to be supplying power to a plant suspected of producing certain agents necessary for the development of biotoxins. We do not know if it did. We do know that it supplied power for the water purification system for his village. He already had gastroenteritis and nearly chronic diarrhea, for which medicines were unavailable. Then the water purification system failed and he drank a glass of water his mother gave him infested by a large intestinal parasite. He died of dehydration, shitting water, then blood, then water again, so much! Then a trickle, everyone was sad, there was no food, he shook so hard the screws holding his bed together were loosened. It took three days to die.