THERE WAS A jaunty bounce in the step of my friend Grump the conservative.
"We have sent the message," he said, "and it has been received."
What message is that?
"What? Have you been sleeping all week? Not that there would be any difference. The message from Patrick the Bold."
Ah, you mean Pat Buchanan's showing in New Hampshire, where he received all but 63 percent of the Republican vote.
"Don't play games with numbers. You know very well what I mean. He scored a stunning victory, and it has been hailed as such on the front page of every newspaper in the nation, even those dominated by the liberal pinkos, which most of them are."
I suppose he did, although you should stay out of poker games if you think that 37 percent, which is what he got, is better than 53 percent, which is what President Bush received.
"Don't play dumb, although you give so convincing a performance. You know very well that in political terms Patrick the Bold was triumphant."
Yes, in the strange math of primaries, less can be more, more can be less, winners can be losers, losers can be winners, and may the best spin masters win. So your man claimed a victory of sorts.
"Of sorts? Boob. He has shaken the White House to its foundations. He has rocked Bush on his heels for his traitorous behavior to our cause. The bold message has gone forth."
So you said. But what message is that?
"Have you no ears? We are going to take our nation back."
Ah, yes, I did hear Patrick the Bold say that. But I'm not sure what that means. Who took it? And as long as they were taking it, why didn't they take the part on my block that has the big potholes?
"You know very well who has taken it."
No, tell me. The very least I can do is send them a bill demanding payment of my part. Maybe I can turn a profit on the deal. Who are they?
"The short people."
"You heard me. This country has been invaded by the short people. And Patrick has recognized the short menace and is the only candidate who will do something about it."
I haven't heard him say anything about a threat from the short.
"No, but we know what he means."
Then tell me because I don't.
"Think. Who has been swarming across our border in vast numbers, making a mockery of our immigration laws?"
Ah, you mean Mexicans.
"That's right. And have you ever seen a tall Mexican?"
I don't go around with a ruler measuring the height of every Mexican I meet.
"Well, if you did, you would find that the majority of Mexicans are short. And what has been the largest group of foreign refugees we have let pour into our country in recent years?"
I give up.
"Asians of all sorts, that's who. More short people. And who has been buying up American businesses, real estate and trying to destroy our automobile industry?"
You mean the Japanese?
"Yes, another notoriously short bunch. That's why they were so difficult to subdue in the war -- two handfuls of dirt and they had a foxhole. Even a footprint would do."
I still don't understand what height has to do with this.
"Because we are a tall nation. Tall in the saddle. Walking tall. Standing tall. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Pour me a tall one. Tallness is our tradition. Our nation was built by great men who were tall. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abe Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, John Wayne."
Teddy Roosevelt was short.
"But he carried a tall stick. And now our tallness is being threatened, and Patrick is the only candidate who has recognized it, which is why he is going to take our nation back from the short before it is too late."
Before it is too late for what?
"Before we are overrun by the short people. Our highways filled with cars that look empty because they can barely peep over the --board; tiny people giving orders to the tall, who they resent; tall people unable to buy a suit of clothes that fit. Do you want your children growing up short?"
They've already grown up tall.
"Your grandchildren then."
We'd have fewer Peeping Toms.
"You can scoff, but Patrick has seen the menace, swarming about his feet, skittering between his legs, talking strange gibberish that only they understand. Do you want your descendants talking strange gibberish?"
It was good enough for me. Besides, George Bush is kind of tall. I believe he is even taller than Patrick.
"Yes, but he stands short and he walks short and he has betrayed us to the short. I suspect that he wears elevator shoes."
But what is Patrick going to do about this short problem?
"I would think he will begin by digging a deep ditch along our borders. Let the little buggers try to hop out of that."
Well, I'm glad you clarified the issue.
"Wait, there are many other issues."
Then tell me.
"Later. I don't want to be overheard by that fellow sitting over there."
Which one is that?
"The one who looks like an Israeli."