I was sipping coffee at Avogadro's when Paige Turner walked up. She's someone I met at a writing workshop who writes exciting, fast-paced fiction, but only has a tenuous grasp of reality. "I see you're staring at a blank sheet of paper," she said. "I've been there." She sat down beside me. "You should write a column about the conspiracy to destroy Bill Clinton," she whispered.
"Paige," I said, "you know all that conspiracy stuff is garbage. People cannot keep secrets. Those two teen lovers at the Air Force and Naval Academies couldn't keep quiet about a murder that would put them in jail for life. Politicians can barely keep their mouths shut long enough to sleep. Do you really think the Trilateral Commission and UN committees can keep secrets?"
"They're out of the loop on this one." She sank deeper into the booth. "Gimme your hat." She tilted the brim down low over her eyes.
"There's no conspiracy," I said. "Granted, Clinton's a big target and many reporters, lawyers, and politicians want a shot at getting him for a trophy. But they aren't in cahoots. They're just individual maggots feeding off the same rotting body politic."
"Aha," she said confidently. "You've already figured out the Democrats and Republicans are identical and the only difference between politicians is which Commandment they break." Before I could say anything, she was off. "I'm good friends with the psychic advisor to the president's veterinarian. She said they told him the new dog, Buddy, had rabies 'cause he bit Hillary, but the vet discovered the dog didn't have rabies, but some kind of brain disease he'd caught from biting the president's wife. The vet realized Hillary had gotten that mad cow disease somehow. The Secret Service and CIA investigated and found that a radical sect of Shiva loyalists has been working in secret Iraqi biological labs to develop a virus to eradicate heathen cattle munchers. They sneaked it in the country in special diplomatic sausages. The NSA tried to quash the story until we can bomb Iraq into the Stone Age, but the vet wanted fame and fortune. First he called Oprah, on the advice of the psychic who really knows her stuff let me tell you, but she'd sworn off animal topics so he called up the special star prosecutor but before he could explain the situation, a militant Hindu electrocuted him with a modified cattle prod."
"That is classic paranoia, Paige. Just because it links up a few of the important stories of the day doesn't mean anything. This friend of yours is probably more psycho than psychic."
"Oh yeah," she said. "Well can you tell me why Hillary hasn't gotten a divorce now that the kid has gone away to college?"
"Sure. For one, he is the president so that makes her the First Lady. And maybe they've got an understanding."
"She's a lawyer," said Paige. "They don't 'understand' anything. Oh no." She stared wide-eyed at a wizened man hobbling past on a cane. "That's no cane, it's a cattle prod." She jumped up and ran off.
It was an odd cane, but so were many of the hats and earrings worn near campus. Speaking of which, maybe it had all been a conspiracy to take my hat. Yeah, right. There are much simpler ways to steal apparel. Of course, assuming I was a victim of a conspiracy would be a lot easier than rationally analyzing the facts.
I stared at the blank sheet of paper and wished I had a cattle prod that could fire up my imagination.