Bill O'Reilly opened his eyes once the make-up girl had finished powdering his forehead, and looked quickly from one side of the studio to the other. "Margo?" he yelled when he couldn't find who he was looking for. "Margo? Where the hell are you?"
"Two minutes, Mr. O'Reilly," announced the stage manager, pressing one hand to his headset.
"Bill, for Christ's sake," shouted O'Reilly at the stage manager. "Not Mr. O'Reilly. What am I, the King of Australia over here? You fucking numbskull. I'm just a normal guy like everyone else!" Bill took a mirror from the make-up girl and examined his face from all angles. He handed the mirror back and turned again to the stage manager. "You like your job? Get your act together!"
Margo, his personal assistant, appeared beside him on the set. "Yes?"
"Bill," he said, still looking at the stage manager. He glared for another second, then turned to Margo. "Have you heard anything from Obama?" he whispered, glancing at the crew from the corner of his eye.
Margo shook her head. "Not yet."
"You called his campaign manager?"
"You talked to him personally?"
"Yes, Bill, I spoke to him personally."
"And they'll get back to us."
Bill swiveled in his chair and leaned over his desk, massaging his temples with the thumb and fingertips of his right hand. "Did you give him my personal cell phone number?"
"And told him to call any time?"
"One minute, Bill," said the stage manager.
Bill dug into his jacket pocket and pulled out his cell phone. "Get lost," he told Margo. He flipped open the phone and thumbed through his recent calls. "Goddammit," he said after a few seconds, and stuffed the phone back into his pocket.
. . .
"Now joining us in-studio on The Factor, Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain. Welcome, Senator."
McCain smiled and nodded graciously, his hands clasped at the ends of his stunted arms in front of him on the desk. "Thank you for inviting me, Mr. O'Reilly."
"Hey - Bill. Come on, Senator, we're not fancy here."
"You can relate to that."
"As can the media who travel with me, who have either grown quite fond of Dunkin Donuts donuts and coffee, or learned to disguise their dislike for them very well."
Bill leaned back in his chair. "You saw my interview with Senator Clinton, of course."
"I did watch it, yes."
"Was that or was that not the toughest interview she's ever been subjected to?"
"Well, Bill, I think that you-"
"Was that or was that not? The toughest interview she's ever given?"
"I'm hard-pressed to think of a tougher one at the moment . . ."
"But it was fair, Senator, you've gotta admit that."
"Oh, certainly it was-"
"We treated her right on The Factor."
McCain nodded patiently. "Absolutely, and I think this perception that some people have about you being a-"
"So it was a tough-but-fair interview, in your opinion."
"Uh, yes, I believe it was."
Bill turned over to the next page of his notes. "Do you speak much with Senator Obama?"
"You heard from Senator Obama lately?"
"Actually, we haven't had much of an opportunity to talk during the campaign, we've both been busy doing-"
"Because he promised to come on The Factor, Barack Obama. Remember when I went up to New Hampshire? You see that?"
"You saw it on national television, he promised to come on The Factor. Have not heard a word out of him since."
"Well, Bill," McCain explained, "you may not realize how demanding of your time a campaign like this is. I'm sure Senator Obama has every intention-"
"You came on. Senator Clinton came on. What's Obama's problem? Why would he promise to come on and not come on?"
"Well, Bill," McCain chuckled, "you've put me in the awkward position of defending my likely opponent in the fall election. But I think Senator Obama has shown himself more than willing to engage the media, he's appeared on Meet the Press and The Today Show-"
"NBC, Senator," said Bill, shaking his head. "Everyone knows NBC's in the tank for Obama. He's not gonna get challenged going on there. Come on."
"We can each make our own assessments, but I've always found Tim Russert in particular to be a very tough and insightful interview-"
"NBC News is one of the most evil organizations on the planet. Did you know that? This guy, Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, the head honcho over there? Most repugnant human being on the face of the Earth."
"I've never met Mr. Immelt, so I will reserve-"
"That's the reason I'm in this business, Senator McCain," Bill said, tapping his finger on the desk. "That's my job, to take down the evil people in this world, like Hugo Chavez, and George Soros, and Jeffrey Immelt, to hold those people to account!"
"Well, Bill, you and I certainly agree on the necessity of confronting evil in the world when we find it, which is something I think that shows the greatest contrast between the two sides in this elec-"
"All due respect, Senator, there's only so much you can do. I mean, I've got four million people watching me every single night. You're a United States Senator. You know what I'm sayin'?"
"I don't, Bill, no."
Bill took a long sip of water from his "Don't Be a Pinhead" mug. "Has the Reverend Wright issue hurt Obama, you think?"
"He seems to have finally moved beyond it, at least at this point. But Bill, as you know, there is still a long road between now and November, and Senator Obama himself has acknowledged that this Reverend Wright controversy is a legitimate issue in this camp-"
"Couldn't he put this issue to bed for good by coming on The Factor, though, Senator?"
"I think he's done a fair job of addressing the concerns of voters through other forums, such as Meet the Press, and I'm sure if he does appear on your-"
"He's gotta come on and talk to the folks, Senator. Bottom line."
McCain nodded. He looked down at his hands, picked at a hangnail on his left thumb. "Yes, Bill," he said, looking back up.
"We're out of time, Senator, but I'll give you the last word."
"Just . . . vote for me, I guess."
"Thank you, Senator." Bill turned to the camera. "We'll be back after a short break - but first, the results of this week's poll at Bill O'Reilly.com, where the question was 'What would the outcome of a fist-fight between Bill and Chris Matthews be?' Ten percent of you said 'Bill knocks Matthews out with one punch,' thirty-three percent said 'Bill kills Matthews with one punch,' and a whopping fifty-seven percent chose the answer 'Matthews soils his pants and dies of fright before the first punch is thrown.' You're watching the number one show in all of cable news. The Factor will be back right after this."
. . .
"Joining us now for our weekly Body Language segment, our resident body language expert Tonya Reiman. Good evening, Miss Reiman."
"So, awhile ago you analyzed my body language. And you said I was, you know, aggressive and confident and intimidating and virile, all that stuff, right?"
"Something like that, yes."
"Well, why don't you repeat what you said for any of the folks who may have missed it?"
"My analysis of your body language indicates that you, Bill O'Reilly, are an aggressive, confident, intimidating, and virile man."
Bill checked his notes. "You said 'impressive' last time, as well, did you not?"
"I may have, I can't recall precisely," Tonya Reiman said with a wave of her hand.
"But you see that, right? That I'm impressive?"
"Oh, yes, very much."
"And what about Keith Olbermann?"
"Cowardly and impotent."
"We have like five times his audience, you know."
"That MSNBC show he does where he's always making fun of me, making me out to be some kind of jerk? Nobody watches it."
"I'm sure that's true."
"You'll get no argument from me, Bill."
"And he's impotent and weak and probably a homosexual, right?"
"Sure," Tonya said.
"Almost definitely a homosexual, wouldn't you say?"
"Oh, yes, absolutely. I'd say there's no question about it."
Bill turned to the next page of his notes. "Now, Miss Reiman, if Olbermann and I were dinosaurs . . ."
. . .
The stage manager counted down to zero and pulled his headset away from his ears. "Okay, Bill, we're out. That's it." He turned to the rest of the crew. "Nice job, everyone!"
Bill got up from the set and headed for the door. He pulled out his cell phone to check for messages, but he had none. "Why doesn't he call?"
Margo appeared beside him. "He said he'd come on after the primaries, Bill."
"So the primaries aren't over yet."
"Hillary came on . . ."
A young sound tech who had just started with the show a few days ago approached Bill cautiously from the other side. "Excuse me," he said, "but I just wanted to thank you for the opportunity to work with you, Mr. O'R-I mean, Bill!" The sound tech offered his hand.
Bill smiled and shook the kid's hand. "Good to have you on board."
"Oh, and I wanted to ask you," the sound tech said as Bill started to walk away, "could you get me Shepard Smith's autograph?"
Bill froze. Slowly, slowly he turned to face the sound tech. "Shepard? Autograph?" Bill took a deep breath. "FUCK YOU!" he bellowed, driving the startled sound tech back several feet. "You ask me for Shepard Smith's autograph? You want me to get you his autograph? No! No, I can't get you Shepard Smith's autograph, you miserable little ingrate! You little twerp!" Margo tried to tow Bill toward the stage door, but he pulled away, never taking his eyes off the sound tech. "Your sister ought to get raped by a murder gang! A house should fall on your mother's goddamn head!"
The sound tech held up his hands and backed away. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he said over and over again.
"Get lost! You're fired!" shouted Bill. "Pack your stuff and blow town, asshole, because if I ever see you on the street I'll fuck you like a sand spider!"
Bill took a moment to compose himself, then turned to Margo.
"Call Obama's people again," he said. "Tell him he doesn't even have to come on for the whole hour if he doesn't want, and I'll buy him lunch afterwards. I know a nice place in Harlem."
. . .
Bill walked into his living room and sat down on his couch. He took off his shoes, loosened his tie and unfastened the top button of his shirt. He breathed a long sigh.
Into the room came his two young children.
"We missed you, Mr. O'Reilly!" said his little boy.
"Did you have fun on TV today, Mr. O'Reilly?" asked his little girl.
Behind them came his wife into the room. "Welcome home, Mr. O'Reilly," she purred, smiling and winking her eye at him.
"Thank you," Bill said with a self-satisfied grin. "It's good to be home."