FOR the past eight years, John Morningsir has been the least busy man in Washington (not an insubstantial accomplishment, my friends), for it was his task to be the presidential waker and shaker. This job, a GS 9 position initiated during the Coolidge administration to make sure Cal didn't miss any meals, has atrophied over the years. But it's never been struck from the White House staffing roster. And a good thing, too. Mr. Morningsir is from a fine, old family with a long history of government service, sending their men to Washington in a variety of important jobs that have helped keep the keel of the ship of state underwater. Now, young John, finishing eight years in the job during the Reagan administration, has been asked to stay on. He's rather happy about this, since he has never, over the last two terms, had anything to do. In fact, nobody told him anything about anything, ever.
But these are new times. George Bush wants to be shaked and waked about everything.
1:30 a.m. - the presidential bedroom
``Sir? Sir!'' [shake-shake].
``Wake up, sir!''
``OK... OK... I'm awake. What is it, Morningsir?''
``There's a mouse, sir. In the White House kitchen. The cooks are all excited!''
``You woke me for that?''
``You said to wake you - shake you.''
``Good Lord, it's one-thirty. Don't wake me for something that unimportant!''
Morningsir slinks away chastened.
``Sir! Wake up!''
``Wha...? OK, I'm awake.''
``Sir, something's happened. The premier of Manitoba is missing!''
`` Mani..., where?''
``Manitoba. In Canada, sir.''
``Morningsir! I'm the President of the United States! Not Canada!''
``Yes, sir, but you said to wake you - shake you.''
``Not for things like that!''
``Sorry, sir, I just thought...''
``Creeps! I gotta get some sleep ... zzzzzzz.''
``The dollar is falling against the yen on the Tokyo exchange!''
``Fourteen forty-seconds of a penny!''
``Morningsir! YOU ARE OVERDOING IT!''
``I am, sir? But you said...''
``Now read my lips: OUT! I'VE GOTTA SLEEP!''
And so at 4 o'clock, when our carriers in the Mediterranean begin shelling everyone in sight because they've mistaken an earthquake for a global nuclear attack, Morningsir sits outside the presidential bedroom rendered immobile by doubt and fear.
The door opens at 6:30. Mr. Bush steps out rubbing his eyes.
``Good morning, Morningsir, anything going on?''
``Yes, sir, World War III.''
``Holy mackerel! Why didn't you wake me?''
``But you said...''
``But World War III is important!!''
``Well, look on the good side, sir.''
``What good side?''
``At least you're bright-eyed and bu ... er ... nothing, sir.''
Quick thinking, Morningsir.