Steven Denlinger: Sir Knavely and the Great Stimulus Package

“I’m bitter,” Sir Knavely told me.

He raised his glass and drank. His furry chin went deep into his Tiger’s Milk. Then he set it down.

“Why are you bitter?” I asked. I wondered why Sir Knavely had demanded this secret meeting with me. I looked around at the peeling wallpaper and ancient gaslights lining the walls of this seedy bar just off Sunset Blvd. Apparently, a lot of people thought this place was hip. Outside the broken-down door in the twilight, Hollywood was roaring, full-throttle.

Maybe Sir K just needed to vent.

“Why?” he repeated my question. “Because I voted for President Obama.”

I looked at my feline friend, seated on the cracked, worn vinyl of the barstool beside me. I didn’t even know that he had registered.

“And that’s my problem, why?”

“I have a prediction,” he said. Sir Knavely’s waxed, white whiskers quivered with sadness. “President Obama’s dream will fail because of The Stimulus Package.”

His half-empty glass looked like it was about to fall off the edge of the bar. I subtly reached out and pushed it ever so slightly to the left, out of danger.

Bartenders HATE it when they have to come out from behind their bars to clean up after Sir Knavely’s messes. And I always get blamed.

“Why?” I asked. “That’s a damn good package. Loaded with great programs: roads, schools, bridges. And it’s going to bring down the deficit. Eventually.”

Sir Knavely looked annoyed.

“Surely you realize that the Stimulus Package is a Red Herring?”

Okay, now I was getting angry. This cat that I had rescued from Lebanon, who thought he was Socrates Reincarnated, was talking nonsense, again.

“The American People gave Obama power,” I said. “He used it. The Republicans just need to get used to that.”

Sir Knavely sighed again, as if he were talking to a child.

“The Stimulus Package isn’t what it was promised to be,” he said. “It’s a menagerie of programs Democrats couldn’t get passed through Congress at any other time in history.”

My cat wasn’t Socrates. Not even close to Reagan. He was an idiot. Why did I listen?

“How can you fault government programs that help people?” I asked. “Surely that’s a good thing. Right?”

“Not so much,” Sir Knavely said. He was staring across the half-filled room at a bleached blonde who had just walked into the bar. I heard him begin to purr. Like any good Republican, he has a thing for blondes.

“The President gave away all his power to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. He thought they were interested in bipartisanship. They weren’t.”

“So what do you think he should have done?” I asked him. I was annoyed. Next thing you know, he was going to pull out his mirrored sunglasses and disappear with her, leaving me and my evening shot to hell.

He glanced at me, then returned to watching the Blonde. She was now standing at the end of the bar. His whiskers quivered as he watched her order a Tiger’s Milk, just like his.

But she was paying no attention to my handsome-looking, black and grey and white tuxedo cat. Sir K gestured for another drink. But no one noticed, so I gestured to my cat’s glass. The Bartender gave me a thumbs up. Apparently, even he couldn’t see my cat.

“I thought you were in favor of the Stimulus Package,” I said. “Now you hate it, just because Obama’s popularity ratings are starting to flush down the toilet?”

“Assuming it stimulates,” Sir K said, still watching the Blonde. “But it doesn’t. Stimulate, that is.”

“It will,” I said. “Once the money is released.”

He drained the last few dregs of his glass. His green eyes glowed as he watched the Bartender pouring milk into a small glass, mixing it up into that lethal cocktail of rum, brandy, and sugar that Sir Knavely so adores.

“Think about it,” Sir K said. “Obama tells me, the taxpayer, that he plans to stimulate the Economy. Great! But then he signs into law a collection of programs that don’t stimulate anything. Except all the Special Interest Groups who gave money to vote the Democrats into -“

He stopped and accepted his drink from the Bartender, pushing a $100 bill forward. I saw the Blonde’s eyes light on the cash. She took another look at me.

I knew what she was seeing. Beaten-up tennis shoes, too-young face, stonewashed blue jeans and grey hair, drinking a Scotch. Just like every other middle-aged writer in Hollywood, I’m a dime a dozen. Who gives a damn? No woman with a face and body that delectable is going to give me the time of day.

She turned away. I glared at Sir K. He had downed half his drink and was wiping his whiskers with his paw, then licking it. I felt the vibrations of his purr through the bar.

“Well,” he continued. “A rational person might think the Democrats were using the Stimulus Package to pay off all the lobbying buddies who elected them.”

“That’s not what Obama did,” I said. The insanity was creeping up on Sir K, the more he drank of that milky liquid.

“Really?” His voice squeaked. The bar was no longer vibrating.

“It sounds a lot like what Bush and Cheney did,” he said. “Remember right after the Iraq War? Yeah. They gave all those billion-dollar contracts to companies who donated to the Republicans.”

“Calm down, Sir K.”

He breathed, several times. I wondered if he was going to have a panic attack right here in this ancient bar. I looked around. Was there a veterinarian in this crowd of middle-aged men, each fighting off the approach of Death by seducing young women?

“Here’s what I can’t figure out,” he said.

“Yes?” I was still thinking about Sir Knavely’s PTSD. Ever since he moved here from Lebanon, where he was rescued from the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War, he has gotten a little stressed when someone disagrees with him. He fears abandonment.

I looked around for the Blonde. She was hitting up a stockbroker in white Dockers and cream polo shirt. I saw him here a lot. He was the wrong market for her in so many ways. And maybe she didn’t realize he wasn’t a movie producer.

“You know,” Sir Knavely said, “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the way to create jobs is to cut taxes for small businesses. That gives them more money to hire people. Their new employees then spend the money they’re making at the Mall. And the economy booms.”

“You’re such a Republican,” I said. “That’s just stupid, trickle-down economics.”

Sir Knavely ignored me.

“Why is that so hard to figure out?” he repeated.

“Because it’s nonsense,” I told him. Again, he ignored me.

“You know, when you cut taxes, you don’t have to pay people to collect the money and figure out who to give it to. There’s no money caught “between the cracks.”

He raised his paws to give the universal “quote” sign.

“It’s just 100% pure money. And it stays with the people who make it. Who deserve to use it.”

I hated him for being so bloody irrational. He was going to draw his own conclusions, no matter what I said.

With his right paw, Sir K adjusted his wire-rimmed glasses, bringing them down on his nose so that he could see over them.

“You know what it’s all about,” he said.

“What?” He was getting drunk.

“The Democrats are doing with the Financial Crisis of 2008 what the Republicans did during the National Security Crisis of 9/11. How did Rahm Emanuel put it? “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

“That’s not fair,” I protested loudly.

I suddenly realized that I had gotten the Blonde’s attention again. Only she was giving me that look people give me when they think I’m a Crazy Man.

I wondered why the Blonde still hadn’t noticed Sir Knavely. Maybe she didn’t see him. People never did. I wondered if he really was invisible. I lowered my voice to a dull whisper.

“That’s not what Obama’s chief of staff meant. You’re so taking him out of context.”

Sir Knavely’s gravelly voice droned on.

“No, it’s in context,” he said. “And it’s ironic. It’s like Bush telling people we’re going into Iraq because Saddam has Weapons of Mass Destruction. Then we get there. No weapons. But he still gets to take out the man who tried to kill his father.”

Now I was pissed.

“There’s no comparison,” I shouted. The bar went silent for a moment, people staring at me. Sir Knavely gave me his full attention. His green eyes blinked. His glass was at his mouth, held by his grey-furred paw. Finally, he set down his drink. Around us, the sounds of the bar slowly increased to normal.

“No,” Sir K finally said. “The comparison is apt. The Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader did EXACTLY what they accused George W. Bush and Karl Rove of doing: they took advantage of a crisis to increase Big Government’s power. Only this time with the Economy. It’s the same damn crime against the American People.”

With that, Sir Knavely slid off the bar stool. Apparently the secret meeting was over. I looked at him. He was such a libertarian.

“Jesus. You really believe this?”

“Just asking,” he said. Then he disappeared into the crowd of middle-aged men and young women, all hoping to score something they needed.

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