A Pontiff Retires

Bill and Hillary were finishing a late breakfast in the sunroom when Bill’s cell phone began playing the theme from Ghostbusters. Bill looked up from his crossword puzzle and smiled. “Man, I love that song.” He did the stir-the-pot dance with his balled fists in front of his chest. “Who ya gonna call?” Hillary rolled her eyes and went back to buttering her toast.

Bill noted that the caller i.d. was blocked, but answered anyway. “Yo! Talk to me.”

“Hello? Is this Mr. Bill Clinton? Um … Mr. President Clinton?”

“Yep, you got the Big Dog. Woof! Who’s this?”  He popped a chunk of cantaloupe in his mouth.

“It’s Pope Benedict. I mean, Joe Ratzinger. The Pope Emeritus.

“Benny! How’s it hanging?”

Hillary looked at Bill quizzically.  He held the phone to his chest and whispered, “It’s Rat Finger.”  She rolled her eyes again and whispered, “If he’s looking for me, I’m not home.”

“Benedicto! Or are you back to using 'Joseph'? How’s retirement treating you? Working hard, or hardly working?”

“You know, I’m able to get more reading done, so that's nice. Watching a little television. I finally get why everyone’s talking about Downton Abbey. There’s this amazing machine that records televised performances so one can watch them whenever one wants. Duh, of course you already know that. You’re a worldly man.” 

“Well I’ve been around the block a few times. Dipped my wick here and there, so to speak. Say, let’s cut to the chase. What can I do you for, your Honorableness?”

“Well that’s just it, Bill. Can I call you Bill? To be honest, I’m bored. The cloistered life is … let’s just say it’s a lot quieter than I expected. Just a week into retirement and I'm all like, 'Dude, you can still make a difference.' I know I still have more to give to the world. I try making suggestions, but those ingrates at the Vatican aren’t calling me back.”

“You’ll get used to it, Benny. Just give yourself a little time.” Bill reached for a piece of bacon and Hillary slapped his hand.

“Well, that’s the thing. I don’t think I have a whole lot of time left. I’m wondering if you might have a small role I can play in your foundation.” Now it was Bill’s turn to roll his eyes. He mimed gagging.

“It’s an interesting idea, Joe.” He caught Hillary’s eye and mouthed, “It’s a terrible idea!”  She just shrugged.

“Look, Broseph, I’d love to hear your thoughts, but you’re starting to break up. Can  you hear me now? I think I have another call coming in. It’s probably Barack. He usually calls about this time.”

 “Mr. President, please. I need just half a minute. Think about what it would mean to have an ex-Pope on the team.” 

“Look, I feel your pain, but here’s the deal: I’m worried about the brand.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I’ve worked hard to rebuild Brand Clinton. It wasn’t easy at first, but the people love me again. I’m the wise elder statesman now...though between you and me, I’ve still got that ineffable something that the ladies like.”

Hillary glared at Bill, took the pen out of his hand and scribbled on a napkin, “You can ineffable yourself."  Bill winked back at her.

“I’m gonna level with you because that's the least you deserve. You’re smart, and I know you’re a deeply caring man. You worked hard to do right by your organization. I have a lot of respect for the Catholic Church with its rich history and all those freaky saints and saintesses. Crazy stuff! I don’t know how you keep that big hat on your head, but kudos for the bold fashion choices.

"But here’s the deal. You’re kind of a downer. To be blunt, you’re lacking in the charisma department. I don't know if it's the German thing, but you kinda scare people. Then there’s the scandal stuff. Lord knows, I understand scandals. They’re a total drag. One thing I learned, though, is that you can’t just hide stuff under a rug and hope it’ll go away. You’ve gotta grab people by the balls … excuse the language, Padre … you gotta grab them by the lapels and just say, ‘fix it, goddamn it’ … again, I apologize for the language. Bottom line is that I don’t see what you bring to the table.”

“Infallibility?” Ratzinger’s voice sounded small and uncertain.

How's that?”

“I had a run of eight years without making a single mistake. I can bring my experience in being infallible to the organization. That has to count for something.”

“With all due respect, mister ex-Pope, but nobody can go that long without making mistakes.”

“I beg to differ. What part of in-fall-i-ble do you not understand. Plus I can do magic.”

“Magic? What kind?

“Transubstantiation, for one. Can you do that? When was the last time you changed wine into blood?”

“Sounds like a lot of hooey to me. You don't really believe that stuff, do you? You can be honest with me. Now if you could handle snakes, that might something I could use." Bill sighed deeply. "Look, Benedicto, this thing you’re wanting me to do just isn’t going to happen.”

The phone was silent for a long pause before Ratzinger spoke again. “Okay, I get it. I guess I’ll try a different angle. Maybe I should build houses for poor people. I’m not sure I can handle a hammer at my age, but they probably need help with the paperwork. Hey, do you have Jimmy Carter’s number?”

“Sure, I’ve got him on speed dial, but he doesn’t like me giving the number out. I’m happy to let him know want to talk and he can call you if he wants. You know what I would do in the meantime if I were you?  I'd kick back. Take up painting or some other hobby. It seems to be working for George W. Just don't volunteer to be a Boy Scout leader! Kidding! You know I love you, Ratzo."

“Thanks anyway. Say, while I have you on the line, is Hillary there?”

“Sorry, Joe, you just missed her.”

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