Joe Biden helps Merrick Garland get even.
Judge Merrick Garland walked into his living room, where his wife was sitting quietly on the couch. The television was on. Jeopardy had just ended. The Garlands liked to watch together but that night Merrick was sidetracked, assisting the child of a former clerk with her law school admissions statement via Skype.
“It’s going to be Gorsuch,” Merrick said, gesturing to the television. Earlier that day he read that the President would be revealing his nominee for the Supreme Court, game-show style, and in primetime.
“Jeopardy just ended. Don’t pay attention to it. I’m not,” his wife said.
“I mean, our resumes are the same. I suppose he has a PhD. But I’ve been a judge longer. And my Circuit is better. And more of my former clerks have gone on to become law professors.” Merrick sat down next to his wife and put his head onto her lap. “He is a decade younger than I am.”
“And taller. Nina Totenberg says he likes fly fishing.” Merrick Garland’s wife began solving the New York Times crossword puzzle on her phone and waiting for her husband to go away.
“Of course. He’s conservative.” Merrick Garland got up from the couch. “So that means he’s rugged.” He made a fist and punched it into the air, pronouncing the word “rugged” like a pirate. “Give me a break. Everything he knows about fly fishing is from reading A River Runs Through It. His hands are as soft as these.” Merrick Garland held his hands up to his wife’s face. She slapped them away, gently.
“Judge Gorsuch. You’re such a dick,” he sang. “You’ll dismantle the EPA and make us all sick.”
“I don’t know. Call Joe Biden,” his wife offered. “Last time you were like this he knew how to cheer you up.” It was true. Being around an alpha male, someone who did whatever the hell he wanted at all times had helped Merrick Garland last time.
Merrick Garland dialed Joe Biden but no answer. He texted him, “hey.” Joe Biden responded immediately, “hey champ.”
“Oh hey. I just tried calling you,” Merrick typed. “But your phone is in your hand, seems like? Maybe you accidentally sent to voicemail.”
“Hi mom,” Joe Biden texted.
“Can you call me?”
Joe Biden called Merrick Garland.
“Want to come over and watch Season 1 of the Sopranos?” Merrick Garland asked.
“That sounds fun, pal, but I don’t think I’m in D.C. anymore,” Joe Biden answered. “Jill, where are we?” he yelled to his wife who couldn’t hear because she was doing cancer research in her study. “Jill? Dr. Biden, where are we?”
“Philly,” Jill Biden screamed loudly enough that Merrick Garland could hear on his end.
“I’m just not taking this Gorsuch nomination well,” Merrick explained. “Like, we’re so similar on paper.”
“Judge Gorsuch is a real man’s man though.”
“See, that’s what I mean. He’s an elite just as much as I am. The sportsman stuff, it’s all affect.”
“Merrick, what the hell are you saying? Donald Trump is the p-word and you’re whining about affect versus effect.”
“That’s not what — ” He took a deep breath and recited a mantra softly to himself. “Last time, when I was this upset, when Senator McConnell refused to interview me — ”
“I’ll take the Amtrak down tomorrow. Meet me in front of the Senate and dress up like we’re robbing a bank.”
Merrick Garland and Joe Biden met in front of the Senate as planned. Both were wearing black sweatsuits but neither appeared very threatening.
“Merrick, what’s the first thing you do when you start writing a judicial opinion?” Joe Biden asked.
“I make my margins one inch and tell the computer not to add space between paragraph breaks.”
Joe Biden mock punched the judge. “And after that?”
“I apply the facts of the case to the law.”
“Exactly right. You apply the facts of the case to the rule. And the rule here is: no stolen seats. And the fact is they’re Goddamn stealing the seat. They stole the seat from us. So what does that mean?”
Merrick Garland shrugged because he had no idea where Joe Biden was going and wished they could instead be watching the episode of the Sopranos where Tony and Meadow visit college.
“It means we steal all the seats from all the Senate toilets.”
“That’s not applying the facts to the rule?”
“All. Of. Them.” He loud whispered, while yanking Judge Garland into the bushes. Senator McCain, on his way to decide if today was the day he’d save the post-World War II order, didn’t see them.
“Ladies first.” Joe Biden said. He and Merrick Garland snuck into the women’s bathroom where Senator Claire McCaskill was at the sink wiping tears from her eyes. They pivoted quickly into the open stall behind her and Joe Biden began unscrewing the first toilet seat. He handed the screwdriver to Merrick Garland and with his eyes asked if he wanted to do the next one.
“I just feel if we keep saying ‘President Bannon’ eventually it will stick,” said a voice. It was Senator Amy Klobuchar.
“Yeah, but do his voters even care what we say?” asked Senator Kamala Harris. “I mean, you tell me. I’m from California.”
“Oh Claire,” Senator Klobuchar rushed over to Senator McCaskill. “What now?”
“I’m going to get primaried if I vote to confirm Judge Gorsuch.”
“Then don’t confirm him,” Senator Klobuchar said very reasonably.
“But we have to save the filibuster for when one of the liberals dies.”
Joe Biden coughed on purpose. There was only so much women’s crying he could take before he believed he ought to intervene.
“Joe, get the hell out of here,” Senator Klobuchar said without even having to look that it was Joe Biden hiding in a bathroom stall.
“Don’t mind us. We’re removing all the toilet seats in the Senate.”
“Stealing them. To protest my stolen seat,” Merrick Garland said.
“Neil Gorsuch is a real outdoorsman, my staffer told me,” Senator Harris said.
“You know, he wrote part of the Hobby Lobby decision,” Merrick Garland said.
“Of course we know that, Merrick. Do you know how many times I’ve been on the same Supreme Court Justice shortlist as you?” Senator Klobuchar asked as she took the toilet seat back from Joe Biden.
“No, no, let them continue. The resistance will take all forms. It’s good they’re doing this.” Senator McCaskill said as Senator Harris started making fundraising calls from the quiet stall nearest the window.
“Holy shit, did something die in here? Who’s in there?” Joe Biden kicked under the stall in the men’s bathroom.
“Is that Vice President Biden I hear out there? It’s Chuck Schumer.”
“Chuck, did something crawl up you and die?” Joe Biden asked, as Merrick Garland gagged into his black hoodie. “I hope Steve Bannon crawled up into you and died.”
“Ah yes, Joe,” Senator Schumer said as he emerged from his stall. “I too wish that.” He shook Merrick Garland’s hand. “Senator Klobuchar texted me that you two were doing this. I think it’s a great idea. Democrats need to start playing more three-dimensionally.”
“So do you think you’ll interview Neil Gorsuch?” Merrick Garland asked Senator Schumer.
“The skiing judge. You know, I read he was on the slopes when he found out his old boss, Justice Scalia, had passed.”
“That’s put on,” Merrick said. “And he clerked for Justice Kennedy not Justice Scalia.”
“Merrick, what the hell are you ever talking about? Eyes on the prize, kid,” Joe Biden yelled. “We’re pulling a stunt here. Not explaining.”
“Merrick, you leave the thinking to us now. Go enjoy your retirement,” Senator Schumer said as he washed and dried his hands.
“I’m still a judge on the D.C. Circuit,” Merrick said.
“Go have fun with Joe, now. It’ll all be fine,” Senator Schumer lied.
Joe Biden and Merrick Garland stood in the hallway, roadmapping which bathrooms to hit next, when Judge Gorsuch approached them.
“Oh my God. That’s him? He is a fucking cake eater,” Joe Biden said.
“He wants to gut the Chevron doctrine and help topple the administrative state. He wants to curb individual liberties unless you believe you are free to tell women when to use birth control.”
Joe Biden was not listening. He was walking towards Judge Gorsuch. “My God, he should be an athlete not a judge. Look at the size of those hands. He should’ve played hockey. I could’ve taught him how to body check. He could really check, that fucker, if he were a hockey player.”
“But the Supreme Court does check the President,” Merrick Garland said as he jogged to catch up with Joe Biden.
“No, like this.” Joe Biden checked Merrick Garland, playfully, but it was enough to knock over the appellate judge.
“Neil Gorsuch the fly fisherman.” Joe Biden extended his hand to the judge. “Why in the world didn’t you become a hockey player? My God, we could’ve transformed you into fucking tractor.”
“Vice President Biden.” He shook Joe Biden’s hand. “I would’ve loved to play professional hockey.”
“And Merrick Garland. A pleasure. Sorry I am sopping wet.” He gestured to his wet clothing and the trail of water behind him.
“We’re just pulling some pranks, Neil. Sorry about all that,” Merrick said.
“We just wanted a strong visual for our base,” Joe Biden continued.
“We’re sorry,” Merrick offered obsequiously.
“God damn it, Merrick. Don’t apologize for being right.” Joe yelled. “They stole your seat so we stole his.”