Column: Don’t you know there’s a war on?

BARCELONA, Spain – I was sipping tequila from Penelope Cruz’s navel when my signature “Born To Be Wild” custom cell phone ring screamed from my jeans pocket.

“Is that the bad men who want to kill you?” cooed Cruz, her face a picture of wanting uncertainty, if there exists such a thing.

“Come on, you know English better than that, Penelope. Besides, how would Tom Cruise find us here?” Even as I said it, though, a chill went down my spine. It’s tough being with the world’s biggest movie star’s girlfriend.

To my relief, the voice on the other end was more reminiscent of George Patton than the diminutive movie star.

“Hart, I think you know who this is. Now, don’t start talking before I finish. I know you have a reputation for playing by your own rules, drinking Aquafina when Dasani is much more fashionable, stuff like that. But this time you’ve crossed the line. Where the hell have you been for the past three months? And don’t say ‘Mexican prison’ again!”

The voice belonged to none other than Joe Smith, my emergency American liaison assigned to me by the White House. Smith was to keep me informed of pressing world events during my study abroad stay in Barcelona. Smith and I have had our differences in the past, but he’s a good, dependable man.

“Joe, it’s been a strange patch for me. You see, I was sipping an expensive glass of red wine at a flamenco bar about three months ago when an old flame sauntered in (Penelope Cruz, if you must know). We both realized that we never should have gone our respective ways all those years ago, and ever since January I’ve been holed up in a Unabomber-style shack with Penelope in the Costa Brava, nursing bottle after bottle of absinthe. I’ve completely lost touch with the world. Not to mention that Tom Cruise is looking for me all over Spain.”

“You’ve been MIA because of some bimbo?” Smith growled. “Don’t you know there’s a goddamn war on, Hart? America’s reputation is taking a beating abroad, and Bush and Rummy think you’re the only person who can put things right. Actually, their first choice was Jimmy Carter, but he’s busy building houses in the Sudan.”

“Oh man, they actually invaded Iraq? I thought that whole thing was an absinthe dream. What a crazy world.”

I pondered the news for a moment, gazing at Penelope and considering my priorities.

“But you know, Joe, I don’t know if I’m the right man for the job. First of all, the world is as anti-war as I am pro-absinthe. Secondly, I trust Bush and Rumsfeld about as far as I could futilely attempt to throw them. Besides, I retired a long time ago from the world of international intrigue. My role as a very occasional GW Hatchet columnist suits me just fine. I have everything I could want in this shack, anyway.”

I playfully threw a pillow at Penelope and she giggled.

“Hart, this isn’t just fun and games.” There was a pleading tone in Smith’s voice now. “I know you quit the game some time ago, but this is code red, serious stuff. You may not like the administration, and they may have made some grievous errors, but this is about protecting your country’s good reputation. Don’t let that beautiful Mediterranean peninsula get inside your head when America needs you most.”

I put Smith on hold. His no-nonsense, Protestant work ethic-laden voice had sparked memories of my homeland, and snapped me out of the trance I had been in for so long. I thought of a warm, summer New England day watching the Red Sox on TV and sipping a cold, mediocre American beer. I stood transfixed in the doorway of the shack and got Smith back on the horn.

“Joe, you’re right. I can pretend to be Spanish all I want but my heart is truly back in the States. I’m willing to come out of retirement and repair America’s image abroad. But if we do this thing, we do it my way, you got that?”

“You’re the boss, Hart,” said Smith giddily. “Welcome back.”

To be continued…

-The writer, a junior majoring in history, is a Hatchet humor columnist studying abroad in Spain.

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