Banish The Shakes

Paul Ryan’s Cheat Day: Shamrock Edition

Image: Maria J Aleman

Everclear’s “Father of Mine” sputtered out of Paul Ryan’s car radio. The aux cord must not be jammed into the socket tightly enough, Paul Ryan thought. Even though he knew every word by heart, the skips distracted him. It was a perfectly good first-generation iPod, so some dirt from his pocket or his bag must’ve accumulated inside the headphone jack again. He visualized himself entering his office, bending a paperclip to clear the lint from his mp3 player, and he felt strong.

His phone chimed. Representative Kevin McCarthy bragging that he Facetimed with Trump. Trump wants to know what a health savings accounts is. Can you send him one of your Powerpoints? Do you have a Powerpoint about health savings accounts, thinking person emoji, sarcastic face emoji?

He twitched and pressed on the gas.

Why would Congressman McCarthy text him that? Didn’t he know Trump messages him daily? Didn’t he know that Trump doesn’t actually care what a health savings account is? No one fucking cares what a health savings account is. They’re a fiction, a metaphor for no socialized medicine. No shared responsibility. There’s no such thing as society. Just individuals and families.

Fuming, Paul Ryan U-turned into a McDonald’s parking lot. When he woke up that morning he wasn’t planning on it being a cheat day, he even puked in his mouth during suicides at boot camp, which usually means it will be a good day. But the iPod skipping, this text, repealing and replacing Obamacare, it was all unraveling him.

“Fuck you,” he said to himself. “It’s St. Patrick’s Day.” A Shamrock Shake could reset this day, this week, this 115th Congress.

The drive thru speaker reminded him of a confessional. Fast food orders should be confessed, he thought. There’s no reason anyone has to be obese. It’s a choice. Paul Ryan was choosing to cheat that St. Patrick’s Day, and tomorrow he’d as easily choose to not eat anything. He’d choose to call Tony Horton and choose to challenge him to a box jump contest until one of their knees blew out. And then he’d choose to open a bag of Doritos and he’d choose to breathe in so deeply that the orange residue would tingle the back of his nasal cavity. He’d choose to restrain and he’d choose to transform that restraint into power.

“Bless me, Father,” he said to the drive thru speaker, feeling like a son of a bitch.

“Excuse me,” the voice responded. A thick and deliberate Boston accent. Kennedyesque in its fakeness, Paul Ryan thought.

“Bless me, Father.” Paul Ryan doubled down. “It has been five weeks since my last confession, my last cheat.” The first travel ban, Paul Ryan thought. “I’ll have one Shamrock Shake, please.”

“Three forty nine. Please pull around,” the voice said.

Paul Ryan did as he was told. When he arrived at the window, he recognized immediately the person waiting for him.

“Senator Edward Kennedy.” He said his name like he was going door to door again, campaigning for his first race. He was so terrified that he actually sounded sincere.

“I’m the ghost of Saint Patrick’s Day Past, son. We thought, God and I, if we could somehow reach you, then you wouldn’t dismantle the healthcare law I dedicated my entire life to enacting.”

Even in death liberals still talked down to him, Paul Ryan thought. “With all due respect, Senator. You died before President Obama signed the bill.”

“And so we, God and I, beat Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher at beer pong,” Ted Kennedy’s ghost continued, “and while they were drunk and passed out, I snuck down here.”

“Ronald Reagan wouldn’t drink,” Paul Ryan simpered.

“Trust me, son. If I couldn’t get elected President, do you think the American people will let you become President after all the deaths your Obamacare replacement will cause?” Ted Kennedy manifested a political cartoon, the one of Paul Ryan’s healthcare plan pushing 24 million people off of a cliff, but the paper slipped through his fingers because he was a ghost.

“They’re preventable diseases. Obesity. Diabetes. Hypertension. They’re avoidable. Why should I pay for the treatment of illnesses people don’t have to get?

“Society is individuals and families, son,” the ghost answered.

“Will the Shamrock Shake complete your order? Anything for a work wife, perhaps? An egg McMuffin?” Ted Kennedy turned to the cash register. “My work wife was Barb Boxer. Whatever happened to her?”

“Did you know we’re not supposed to say ‘work wife’ anymore?”

“What do you call the women who accompany you when you go get coffee?”

“Colleagues.” Paul Ryan imagined Hillary Clinton and one of her aides emailing about banning the use of the term ‘work wife.’ Adding the term and its definition to the sexual harassment trainings the Department of Labor mandates. Another regulation to bog everything down. Paul Ryan gripped his steering wheel like he was about to accelerate his car into the building.

A teenager in a McDonald’s uniform walked into the booth where Ted Kennedy was sitting. “Holy shit. It’s that man who works for Trump.”

The Ghost of St. Patrick’s Day Past vanished.

“I don’t work for Mr. Trump, sir,” Paul Ryan lectured. “And thank you for coming to work today. It’s an honorable choice, full of — ”

“Not full of healthcare. At this fucking job.”

He gripped the steering wheel tighter.

“Full of quiet dignity. I flipped McDonald’s hamburgers one summer during college.” Paul Ryan stumped. This is why he entered politics. To explain how work generates your own fortune. Fortune, not privilege. He smiled as he remembered he was the Speaker of the House.

“This guy works for Trump,” the employee said to his manager.

“I work with Trump. With him.” He reached for his phone. He tapped in Trump’s private email address. The subject line read “Dismantling society.” The body read, “I have ideas about this.”