An ear, a human ear, was in the center of my breakfast plate. Dazed, I dropped the frying pan with my pancake on the table and put my hands to the sides of my head. My ears were still there. I heard the cuckoo clock strike the half hour. I could hear. It couldn’t be my ear. I closed my eyes. I must be hallucinating, I thought. I took a deep breath, then opened my eyes again, sure the ear would be gone. It was still there, as ear-like as before.
I wasn’t just perplexed; I was frightened. I trembled. I stared at the ear, a perfectly normal appendage - but no, it wasn’t an appendage any more. It was an independent object. There was no blood to show that it had been cut from a real face. I thought of fingering the ear to see how it felt. Perhaps it was a Halloween toy, like the orange rubbery pumpkin men I get at that time of year. As my hands approached the ear, I broke out into a sweat. I couldn’t force myself to touch it. I shuddered. I had to hold onto the table to prevent myself from fainting.
I must not become hysterical, I told myself. I put my pancake on a new clean plate, opened the newspaper, gritted my teeth determined to make this morning like any other, despite the fact that it clearly was not.
The headline on the front page read: "Right Ears of President Bush, Condoleza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld cut off..."
I picked up the phone to call the FBI, but before I could dial the number, the ear lifted itself off the plate and guided itself out through the open window and was gone.
My husband Hal came in for his breakfast just in time to see the ear fly away. "What the hell!" he screamed at me. "Matilda, are you up to another of your zany schemes?"
I had joined the Environmental Guerillas to save the rain forests. Along with five hundred others, I planned to chain myself to a tree so it couldn’t be cut down. Hal never stopped chiding me for that. He was 1,000 percent American; he believed in Motherhood, the Fourth of July, and Wave High the American Flag. When he heard that during the Viet Nam War protesters burned the American flag, he went berserk. He thought I was crazy for not condemning the flag burners; I thought he was a fool for not understanding their anger. I voted Democrat, he voted Republican. We had an arrangement; I wouldn’t oppose his beliefs, he wouldn’t comment on mine.
Within 24 hours after hearing the news the whole country was alarmed. Buses from all over the country went to Washington to demonstrate. They carried placards saying, "PUNISH THE VILLAINS," "DEATH TO THE EAR CUTTERS," "STRING THEM UP," "BURN THEIR HOUSES," and a few that read "FUCK THE BASTARDS."
George and Laura Bush appeared on The Today Show. George said he and Laura went to bed at llPM as usual. They both slept through the night. George neither felt nor heard anything, and neither had Laura. When he woke, he felt no pain, a little pull to the right. Laura saw the missing ear and screamed. There was no blood on his neck or on the pillow. He fainted when he looked in the mirror and saw himself sans ear. George looked upset. He wanted to appear presidential, but that was hard without an ear. From then on he and the other two walked with a definite pull to the right like listing ships.
Donald Rumsfeld refused to give an interview. He looked suspicious. Could he have been the ear cutter? On the other hand, his ear was also missing. He also walked with a definite lurch to his right side.
The next day the front page of The National Enquirer featured a picture of a sexy, young, blond woman who had, it said, slept with Rumsfeld that night. She had been his mistress for three years. When Rumsfeld was questioned about her, Rumsfeld answered that it was a terrorist who’d planted the story. His wife filed for divorce. Calls for his resignation reverberated through the land. Many had been calling for his head before; now the religious right joined in because of his immorality.
Pictures of all three left ears were published on the front pages of all the newspapers in the country. Posters were put up in post offices with offers of $1,000,000 to anyone who found an ear. A philanthropist who insisted on remaining anonymous put up the money. News leaked out that it was Halliburton.
Sightings of ears were reported. One was seen wafting through Disney Concert Hall where a Brahms concert was in progress. Another was sitting in a chair on the stage at the Hollywood Bowl on the night they presented Play It Again: The Movie Music of Woody Allen. Carnegie Hall hosted one ear when they put on a production of Candide by Leonard Bernstein.
At a news conference in Washington, DC, where Donald Rumsfeld said, "We have wiped out the insurgency in Iraq," three ears appeared, circled his head, and distracted him from saying anything else. His bodyguards dived at the ears, and then caught them, but the ears tickled their palms and got away. In true airplane formation they flew out of the room and the building. From then on, officials traveled with butterfly nets and could be seen wielding them in concert halls, at lectures, and in any gathering of people.
Meanwhile, the ears were still missing. The FBI, the CIA, and the Department of Homeland Security were assigned to find them. All police officers, detectives, and other law enforcement personnel were put on the case. There was an outcry because terrorists and criminals were no longer being targeted and people were becoming more and more frightened that another terrorist attack might take place while no one was guarding the country. Also, there was a rash of murders, assaults, and major thefts. One group of thieves entered Macy’s in New York at night and emptied everything from the store. It was a well-organized heist. The thieves had a fleet of moving vans outside of Macy’s and loaded everything in them before they took off. With all police officers hunting for the ears there were none to arrest the thieves.
The danger scale went from yellow to red. People cancelled their travel plans for fear that planes might be blown up or used to ram into tall buildings. Patrons stopped using subways thinking they were vulnerable to attack. Many who worked in high-rise buildings took leaves of absence or quit their jobs. No one showed up at baseball games and The World Series played to empty stadiums.
The noted ear specialist Dr. James Thurber, the head of the Ear and Hearing Institute of America announced that the three had never been able to hear because there was no connection between their ears and their brains. "But," he said, "the cut off ears could hear." They might be useful as spies for the American government. They were small and could be hidden in the coat pocket or the turbans of the ayatollahs in Iran to find the locations of their nuclear laboratories. "With that information, he concluded," We Americans could use shock and awe and blast them out of existence. Of course, that would release a nuclear cloud that would cover all of the Middle East."
George W. Bush assigned George Tenet to carry out the ear-spying project. Bush’s ratings in the polls went up significantly because he was willing to give up the hope of getting his ear back in favor of aiding our country to win the war for freedom and liberty. What a noble man, people said.
Three years passed in this manner. People turned their attention to other matters. The war in Iraq fizzled but not before the insurgents blew up all the oil fields in such a way they could never be used again. The ears were never found.
George W. Bush’s presidency was coming to a close. The opposing party campaigned on a platform with a banner that said, "WE ALWAYS HEARD. WE WILL ALWAYS LISTEN." The ratings in the polls showed they’d win the next election.
Peace returned to the world.