"You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can fool all of the American people all of the time."
MALIBU -- Ever since arriving in the United States, I have had to fend off accusations that I was somehow involved in the untimely, tragic death of the BBC's Alistair Cooke. My accusers have relied on nothing but circumstantial evidence to indict me. They point to the fact that I had a motive: Cooke filed a "Letter from America" for BBC radio's Worldwide Service, and I was set to resume my own rival "Letter from America" for the eXile. Two "Letters from America" could not possibly go on existing at the same time. One of us had to go.
And they point to the timing: isn't it odd, they say, that Cooke, a mere 95 years old, just "happened" to die on the very day that I arrived in the United States?
Now that I'm out of reach of the New York authorities, safely hidden in an undisclosed location in Malibu, California, I'll tell you the real story about the sad and tragic passing away of Alistair Cooke.
First, "they" are right: I did want the old gasbag to die. I didn't care how, but I wanted him dead, and fast. And yes, I did travel from Moscow to his hospital room in Manhattan with the intention of... how shall I put this?... assisting Cooke's journey into a better and more peaceful world than ours.
When I pushed open the door to his private hospital room, I expected to see a barely-functioning corpse, like how my grandmother looked after one of her many heart surgeries and strokes. Instead, I found a sprightly Cooke twisted in a yoga position, with yoga master Rodney Yee namastya-ing on his TV screen.
"Exhale...Good, now bring your right ankle back behind your left shoulder blade, and curl your lower lumbar so that your ribs touch the back of your neck...Good, now inhale, and hold that position for eighty-two minutes..."
Cooke managed the position with ease, sucking on his dentures as he rearranged himself -- and then suddenly, after catching a glimpse of me out of the corner of his eye, he fell back on his hospital bed, clicked the TV station to the Oxygen channel, and posed like a dying old man.
"No more games, Cooke. It's over, time to go home," I told him.
"Who... I don't know what you're talking about," he moaned.
"Logan's Run, Cooke. Logan's Run."
"But...I'm just propped up here against my usual three pillows, reluctantly having finished a favourite bed book -- the collected, ribald musings of an old friend, Charles Mc-mmmm! Mmmm! Mmmm!"
That was when I took one of his usual three pillows, and slowly, deliberately pressed it to Alistair Cooke's face, squeezing it hard against his mouth.
"Just let go, Cooke," I said. "Let go..."
I craned my head as far back as I could, preparing for the inevitable outstretched claw to start scratching at my eyes. And then it happened: a liver-spotted arm reached up from the bed, fingers clenched, extending towards my face...but then the hand turned. The BBC commentator cocked his arm at the elbow, angled his hand away from my face and down towards the pillow. Then his hand grabbed my hand, squeezed it tightly... and pressed the pillow even more forcefully into his face. He was helping me suffocate him!
I tried pulling my hand away. But he wouldn't let me. Cooke forced my hand tighter into the pillow, and the pillow into his face. I tried clawing at him with my free hand, pushing and slapping the liver-spotted top of his head, trying to pry myself free, but it was useless. He was determined to die. I was merely an agent in his nefarious plan. So this was it, his last letter to America: TAKE MY LIFE, PLEASE! America is a horrible place indeed, and the worst thing about it is, you can live forever here.
As I write this, President Bush has just finished his live, prime time press conference, only the third of his presidency. It was the most excruciating public performance I have witnessed since Sophia Coppola's legendary role in The Godfather 3. It wasn't just that he couldn't hold a thought or answer a question without rambling on like a tweak in the depths of psychosis -- one minute babbling about "The Almighty" commanding him to conquer "brown-skinned people," the next minute shaking and darting his eyes around the room like someone suffering an acute panic attack -- it was the fact that the media treated the event as if it was entirely normal.