"He's been talking again."
"You know," said Harvey. "About change."
The other man sighed, kneading his temples. "And the vitals?"
"All good. Stable. Took a bit of a knock but he's a tough goat. That's your headline right there."
"Listen, Harvey. You need to talk to him again. We can't have this whole change thing out there in the world. It won't run well."
Harvey raised his cup. "I'll drink to that."
The curtains had been drawn early this morning, and the window opened, but the air was stifling. The bed's occupant sat up a little.
"Good morning, sir, how are you? I've brought the papers, some fresh clothes, and this.” He opened a leather case stuffed with envelopes. “I’m guessing you’ll read them later?”
“You know me. I love the well-wishers.”
Harvey fussed a little with the bedside flowers, poured fresh water, then sat down.
“Harvey, I know this has been hard for you.”
“All this. I know it makes everything difficult to manage, I know you think I should jack it in.”
“Sir, I would never -”
The patient waved him away, irritated. He breathed heavily out of his nose.
“All this over goddamn gallstones. Half a day, they said. Home for tea, a little recovery time, then back in the hot seat. But that’s not what I want to talk about. I’ve used this time, Harvey, really used it. To think. My son was here the other day, you know what he said?”
“He said, ‘Dad, when are you going to get back to saving the world?’ I had to laugh, because you know, that is funny. We’re not in the saving-the-world business. We’ve been lighting a fire, waiting till it covers the whole godforsaken world, then spraying it with a little ice water for show.”
He shifted in his bed, raised himself up on his elbows. His cheeks glistened with sweat.
“Well, it changes now. You hear me?”
He explained that a draft speech would be delivered that day; how he wanted the office prepped, every reporter in town convened the moment he was fit enough. Harvey made a show of diligently noting it all. Finally, he looked up.
“You know, sir, I heard a story yesterday. They said they were hailstones the size of baseballs in France. Coldest winter temperatures they’ve ever recorded.”
There was a pause, then fury. He looked as if he might actually strike out. “Harvey, I am not your glove puppet! I will not be treated this way. I am the goddamn President of the United States!”
“Of course, sir. I apologise.”
“You will do this, and that is an order.”
Harvey nodded and gathered his things. As he opened the door to leave, he turned. “You know, sir, these things do take time.”
“We don’t have time.”
“I know, sir. I just mean, this is a challenging timetable you’ve laid out here. You may want to prepare yourself for things to slip a little.”
“Just a little. Days, not weeks.”
“Of course, sir. That’s all I meant. Just a little time for us all to adapt. In the meantime, shall I get them to bring an air-conditioner in here? Just to get the heat down a little, let you breathe?”
“Thank you, Harvey. I’d appreciate that.”