There is no second day of the testimony of William Barr because William Barr has decided not to appear before the House Judiciary Committee. So, to him, it comes as a surprise to find himself in a limousine on his way to testify.
“Testify where?” he asks, sounding a bit snitty. It is dark in the car. The figure in the front does not turn, but Barr thinks he sees something red and luminous — like eyes, but not quite like eyes — glinting in the rearview mirror. “I told the House ‘no.’”
“After seeing your performance yesterday,” the driver says, “my boss wanted you to come testify on his behalf, as well.”
“Call him Individual-0, if you like.” He holds up a tiny plastic bag with what look like some dirty coffee grounds in it. “Here, do you want the remnants of the credibility of the Justice Department? If not, I’m going to toss it next to the little chunk that is all that remains of John Kelly’s soul.”
Barr chuckles nervously. “Now, look, uh, nobody’s been eating anybody’s souls, no matter what that showboat Comey says in the New York Times.”
“One of the best tricks Individual-0 ever pulled,” the figure says. “Ensuring that people who are right are often also extraordinarily annoying. Enough. Just do what you did yesterday. It was perfect.”
“Who is the client?”
“What would you say if it were the Night King?”
“I would say he was within his rights to try to protect himself and that the creation of an army of wights was well within the scope of his power and a logical step for a man who believes he has done nothing wrong.”
“Then you should have no trouble.”
Barr then is in another hearing room. It is about the same as in Congress, only the light all feels artificial, as though it is deep underwater, seen through feet of smeared glass. Perhaps deeper than that. The walls of the room seem to heave and breathe and perspire.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, is still running the hearing, but he looks a little more concerned, and hotter. Barr is in the midst of talking. There is a Bible in front of him, but for some reason he does not wish to touch it.
The words begin. They do not cease. They are drawn up and out of him, like something stuck to the bottom step of an escalator.
“I have not read the full evidence,” Barr says, “but I am confident this so-called Good Book largely exonerates my client. The serpent did no wrong.”
There is a noise like a thousand flies buzzing with satisfaction, and like Reince Priebus trying and failing to swat them. The words continue to come.
“There isn’t any law against offering people free apples. Though it could be argued that those apples were planted there by his opponent and, thus, any attempt to use them to indict him is fruit of a poisoned tree. In fact, the real question is why a nude woman was trying to take ownership of a garden. The real question is what she was trying to cover up afterward.”
All around, a thousand pig heads nod on the ends of sharpened stakes. In the stalls, a dog begins to howl.
“Tormenting a righteous man and covering him with boils and demolishing his cattle, some would call that Job creation. That’s what I call it.”
Pandemonium ensues. Much flashing and flapping of wings and gnashing of teeth. The testimony does not halt.
“Did he try to lead people into temptation? I am struggling with the word temptation. I will spend up to 40 days struggling with it. Tempt? Did he tempt people? I’m sorry, I do not know what the word means. I am confused. Did he suggest that people do bad things? What are words? What is bad? I am sorry, I have forgotten the meaning of all words.”
The room seems to be getting darker. The buzzing is louder now. The darkness is nearer to where he stands, and from it comes another crunch, and a satiated hiss. The light is gone. His voice echoes. “Where are we?”
If this were a nightmare, the sound would wake him, but it has not awakened him yet. He meant well enough. He knows where he is.
Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter @petridishes.