Happy Birthday to You Excerpt

He awoke from a nightmare and tried to catch his breath. He stared up at the ceiling, blinked, then rubbed his forehead with the palm of his right hand. He started breathing frantically through his nose, worried that in the final seconds of his terrifying dream he had screamed out for help: he didn’t need his Secret Security team knocking the door down and tackling him to the floor with the worry that somebody was trying to hurt him.

He sat up and stretched his arms out, knowing that he had another packed day. Turning to his left he noticed that his wife was already up and out of bed, probably eating a nutritious breakfast in the foyer and perusing through the newspaper. He was hungrier than normal, given that he hadn’t had a chance to eat a proper dinner last night. He also needed a giant glass of water, given that his throat was dry enough to make his occasional tonsillitis flare up again.

But before he would meet his wife for breakfast on this overcast Saturday morning, he knew that first there was something very important he had to do.

The President of the United States really had to pee.

He sat up, yawned, and glanced at the clock to see that it was a few minutes before 6 A.M. He slipped his comfy pair of slippers over his aching feet and started making his way across the bedroom, enjoying this rare moment of silence.

He stepped into the giant, beige bathroom and closed the door behind him. He had to step past a sink, a tub, and his wife’s scented candles to get to the toilet. He did his business and let out a long, satisfying sigh. His urine splashed against the toilet seat, but he wiped it up with some toilet paper and flushed.

The President yawned as he put on his silky black robe and headed into the kitchen, where he poured himself some coffee. Then he made his way into the small foyer, where his wife, already dressed up for the day, wearing a pink dress to match her bright lipstick, sat on the right side of the table drinking tea and enjoying a bowl of granola.

“Dressed already?” the President asked.

“I told you last night,” the First Lady said, “I’m headed to New York this morning. For the rest of the weekend actually.”

“For the—”

“The Women in Entertainment dinner. I won’t be back until tomorrow morning.”

“Why not until tomorrow? That’s just a two-hour dinner, is it not? And why were you even invited? I wouldn’t necessarily call your position in this country a source of entertainment.”

“I don’t know, honey,” the First Lady said. “Oprah invited me. You don’t say no to Oprah.”

“I guess you don’t.”

The President didn’t notice that while he had been talking to his wife, a plate of scrambled eggs, hash browns, and assorted fruit had been laid out in front of him. He took a giant bite of cantaloupe, then slurped down most of his morning coffee.

“Are you feeling all right?” the First Lady asked. “You look a little tired.”

“I got three hours of sleep, maybe four.”

“Sorry. Last night went a little long.”

“It did,” the President said. “I enjoyed that show, though. Down at Misner.”

His wife didn’t answer him for a few moments. Then she said, “Oh, yes, it was fine.”

“Those young musicians were excellent. I was impressed.”

“Mmm hmm,” she said. She took another sip of her tea. “Are you going to be OK without me here today?”

The President laughed and leaned in close to her, his mouth full of hash browns. “I think I’ll manage.”

She smiled and stood up from the table, grabbing her cell phone and handbag. “I should get going. Lots to do.”

“You’re telling me,” he said, and his wife leaned over and kissed him, tenderly, on the lips.

She stood back up and looked down at her husband, and he saw her smile disappear from her face. She looked at him for a moment as if his kiss had disgusted her.

“What?” he asked. “What is it?”

“Honey, you really need to start getting more sleep. Do you have any time to rest this weekend?”

“Today’s pretty well packed, a lot of meetings. Sunday’s a round of golf and a birthday dinner downtown.”

“Whose birthday?”

He shrugged. “I don’t remember.” He brought his hands to his sides and pursed his lips. “So what are you trying to say, honey? Are you saying I don’t look my best this morning?”


“I haven’t taken a shower yet. You’re one upping me already.”

“It’s not your face,” she said. “It’s your hair. It’s…”

“No. Don’t say it.”

She nodded. “I’m sorry, honey. It’s grayer.”

The President leaned back in his chair and sighed, trying with all his might not to bring his fists down against the table. “Before I was elected, I had no gray hair. By the time I leave, I’m gonna look like Santa Claus.”

The First Lady gave her husband another kiss, this time on the cheek, and just shook her head. “No. For that to happen, you’d have to get fat. And you better not gain another pound, mister.”

“Or what? You’ll leave me?”

“Try me.” She winked at him and started walking out of the room. “I’ll call you later tonight, OK? I love you.”

“I love you, too, honey. Have a safe flight.”

The President looked down at his plate and pushed it forward. He suddenly, though not inexplicably, didn’t feel hungry anymore. He had a new mission at the moment, one that didn’t involve his slowly dwindling hunger pains. He stood up, nearly knocking his chair down, and marched out of the room.

“Mr. President,” he heard someone from an open doorway whisper to him as he made his way to his bedroom.

He placed his hands up in the air and said, “Not now. In a minute.” He knew he had a lot to get done today, many goals to accomplish. But before he would go any further with his busy Saturday, he needed to see something for himself.

The President stepped back into his bedroom, locked the door, and moseyed on over to the massively large mirror on the right side of the room. He stood there for a few seconds, checking out his stylish bathrobe, before diverting his attention toward the mirror. He didn’t look different at all in the face, and for that he was grateful. 

But then he took a step forward and pressed his fingers against the top of his head. His wife had been right. While he had been starting to go gray in the last few months, his hair in the mirror now emulated a fuzzy snowball. His hair had never been this gray before; in fact, it looked like his hair had doubled in grayness since he had gone to bed late last night.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said. 

Then he looked down at his bathrobe again, wondering about something else. He knew for sure it couldn’t be. But he had to see, anyway.

The President dropped the robe to the ground to reveal his belly. It was flat and toned as always—no problem there. But there was definitely something different about his chest hair, which before now had always been as black as the color of his skin. 

His chest hair had turned gray, too. 

“Oh my God,” he said. “It’s like I’m growing a year older by the minute.”