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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Phone home'




Sometimes we forget things. Pete Singer had forgotten he had a mother who happened to be living in Moscow - in sin, presumably, with the U.S. ambassador, but he made a point of forgetting to think that far. Whether Nancy Singer forgot about her son's existence within the same ring road is a matter of some debate, but one doubts that she could have, considering the frightful regularity with which her little boy made the headlines.


And here he was again. Buying a seat in government. Using dollars to grab hold of Russian sports. Insinuating his American self into the part of life every Russian man holds dear - even, or especially, when he forgets his wife and children. Anyhow, this was what the papers said. Pete Singer, formerly underqualified American hack, currently overwhelmed Russian politician, had had the bad luck to be appointed sports minister just as a leading opposition politician claimed Cabinet seats could be bought.


Initially the papers' reaction was split: The Communist papers got ready to defend their allies in government, while the liberal papers bristled at the insult to the one and a half democrats in the Cabinet. Then they remembered they could all gang up on Pete.


Nancy Singer was generally a decisive woman, a woman who didn't dilly-dally, didn't beat around the bush and didn't burden herself with excessive doubt. This was what had made the ambassador fall in love with her. But now, as she sifted through the ambassador's news digest, she felt torn. Should she believe what she read? Could it be her son was so far gone into his rebellion that he would stage these kinds of tricks to embarrass her, or their country, or its ambassador? Most to the point, should she call him?


It didn't help that the ambassador thought her son was a brat and a troublemaker. "Your son is a brat and a troublemaker," he said, walking into the breakfast room and finding her poring over the press digest yet again.


"I think he has made some very impressive accomplishments," she said formally, exhibiting the mother in herself.


"If you call coming into a country on a lark, keeping questionable company, wreaking havoc, and having to be bailed out all the time -"


"If he hadn't, we never would have met," Nancy Singer said, conciliatorily.


"I'd forgive just about anything for that," the ambassador softened, lovingly.


"I think we must have him over for dinner," Nancy said, using the soft spot in the conversation to her immediate advantage. The ambassador started and, being a diplomat in love, acquiesced. Nancy Singer had the ambassador's secretary phone the Duma.


"He is busy. I'm his assistant," Alexei growled into the phone. Reporters, voters and Jew-haters had been calling all day. Alexei was sitting at Pete's desk fielding calls. Pete was sitting in the corner of the small office, playing solitaire on the computer.


"But I am calling from the U.S. Embassy," the secretary explained.


"But I am answering you from the Duma," Alexei countered.


"The ambassador would like to invite Mr. Singer for a dinner at his residence."


"I think we've had enough of that sort of thing. Mr. Singer has all the official appointments he can handle. Tell the ambassador he can't become first secretary because he is already the Russian sports minister." This wasn't technically true. No one was quite clear on whether Pete was still a Duma deputy or already the sports minister. After the decree came out, Pete, Alexei, Lena and the 64 legislative aides waited for someone to tell them where the sports ministry was and when Pete should show up for work, but no one told them. They wondered when, strictly speaking, a person stopped being a deputy and became a minister. When does anyone stop being one thing and become another? We forget.


"The ambassador is simply requesting the pleasure of Mr. Singer's company," the secretary insisted sweetly.


"You can tell him that's a pleasure he'd probably be better off without."


"Listen, I think he is aware of that," the secretary could no longer keep up the pretense.


"What?"


"I think there is no love lost between your boss and mine. But his mother is insisting on it."


"Whose mother? The ambassador's?"


"No. Pete's. What are you, dense? Pete's mother lives with the ambassador and she wants to see her son."


"No shit!" Alexei placed his hand over the receiver and called out: "Hey, Pete! Didn't know your mom was boinking the U.S. ambassador!"


Sometimes we forget that there are certain things we should never do or say. We also forget that computer monitors are plugged into walls. The monitor, with the solitaire dissolving on it, flew toward Alexei's head, dragging with it the power back-up box, the surge protector, the CPU, the mouse, the keyboard and part of the wall socket. Pete Singer damaged parliamentary property. That would surely make the headlines.