Popsie Tribble came over yesterday, and I must say she was in a fretful mood. She's even given up her nicotine chewing gum and has reverted to the Balkan Sobranies.
"What are you so nervous about?" I asked. "The election is over, and you don't have to worry about your inauguration ball dress till January. I would have thought you and Dexter would have left Washington during this quiet time to go shooting in Scotland or wherever."
"A lot you know about it," Popsie replied. "Dexter says we entertained the wrong Close-Tos before the election. Not one of them has been heard of since Nov. 6. To make things worse, there's this talk about a new Powerful Job."
"What Powerful Job?"
"They say there's going to be a Czar."
"You mean the Russians are going to reinstate the monarchy?" I must say I was astonished. "Nobody sent Mr. Ambassador a telegram. I think he would have mentioned it to me."
"Don't be silly," Popsie said. "The administration, our administration, is thinking of putting a Czar in charge of the Soviets."
Popsie was talking pretty wildly, Beverly. It sounded as if a splinter group in the Pentagon or the CIA was planning a Kremlin Putsch to replace Chernenko with a Romanoff. "I mean," Popsie said, finally clarifying her thoughts, "they're thinking of putting a Czar in charge of arms control to deal with the Soviets."
"The word," I said, "is confusing, given the context."
"It's nerve-racking not knowing who he might be," Popsie said, ignoring my comment. "I want to invite the Czar to a party."
"Maybe Melvin Thistle Jr. from State knows something."
"Thistle Jr. isn't talking to us." Popsie paused and added, "Somehow, he has this notion that Dexter is lobbying for his job."
Actually, Beverly, I read that in Lionel Portant's column, but I didn't think it was polite to mention it. "I didn't know that Melvin Thistle Jr. wanted to quit," I said.
"He doesn't," Popsie said. "That's the trouble."
"I thought Dexter likes being a Roving Ambassador."
"You mean," Popsie said, "a Forgotten Ambassador. I think he was roving too far away from the power center. That's why he guessed wrong about the real Close-Tos at our pre-election parties." Popsie sighed. "Uncertainty is making me look haggard. I am booking myself in for a facial. I have to look my best because the party I'm giving is in honor of the new head of the Foreign Relations Committee. He's the one who has to approve Dexter."
"If Thistle Jr. leaves," I added. "So you know who's going to be the head of the Foreign Relations Committee?" I thought I had a tidbit for Mr. Ambassador.
"That's the trouble, Popsie said. "I don't. They say you have to be in the Senate steam bath to find out the latest in the negotiations."
"Then how do you know who your guest of honor will be?" I asked.
"There are several possible candidates," she said. "I used the traditional Washington white-lie technique. I told each senator the party was in honor of him. By the time I have my party, they should have made up their minds. How long can a senator stay in a steam bath?"
Popsie continued, "I have given many a dinner where at least three Powerful Jobs thought they were the only guest of honor. It's just a matter of clever seating. Of course, Dexter will have to give several after-dinner toasts. Just to fudge things up."
"You shouldn't be nervous," I said. "Your party seems under control."
Popsie disagreed. "Not entirely. First there's the matter of the written invitations. Each senator will have to receive an invitation with his name written on as guest of honor. And it's not only a matter of varying the text of a few invitation cards. When I told each senator that he was my guest of honor, I asked him if there was anyone special he wanted invited."
"That was nice of you," I said.
"It's part of the Washington social bargain," Popsie said. "But this time it's worked against me. The senators wanted members of their staffs invited. And you know how large those Senate staffs can be. And each senator seems to have his chief fund-raiser and 'wife of' visiting from his state on the day of my dinner. They had to be invited. Two senators wanted me to invite their mothers-in-law, who live in Washington, in decent obscurity, but would be hurt if not asked."
"You don't think anyone will compare their invitation cards?" I asked.
"I don't trust those Senate staffers," Popsie brooded.
"How many people are you having?"
"Close to 80. My dining room only seats 24. After all, I live in Georgetown."
"What are you going to do about the Czar?" I wanted to know.
"Invite him of course. But I'm waiting for all the likely names to appear in Portant's column."
"You'll have to rent a tent."
"If I do," Popsie said, "I'll send you and Beverly invitations."
"Why don't you put Beverly's name down as guest of honor on her card?"
"That's an idea." Popsie cheered up. "I'll get some credit, and she probably won't come."
Your best friend,