Joe Manchin was absolutely sure that there were Ten Republicans who could be found to vote in support of important legislation and that, consequently, there was no urgent need for filibuster reform.

“It’s time to come together,” he said, confidently. “I think there’s 10 good people.”

“Ten Republicans!” Joe’s friends said, when he told them. “Wow, Joe! That’s a large number! Are you sure that you saw them? Where did you see them?

“I will tell you,” Joe said. “I was out hiking in the woods and I saw them there. They seemed very friendly and very real, and much taller than I would have imagined. I shouted to them in greeting. I said, ‘Stay there, Ten Republicans, and I will bring you a bipartisan piece of legislation!’ I began running toward them, waving my arms in greeting. But on the way toward them, I stepped on something that made a loud cracking sound, and it must have startled them, because when I got to them with the bipartisan legislation, they were nowhere to be found.”

“Oh,” Joe’s friends said.

“But I have some pictures I managed to take of them,” Joe said. He held up a photograph of some large trees and something blurry in the midst of them that might have been a thumb.

“But then I saw more evidence!” Joe said. “I found a little ring of 10 toadstools in the middle of the woods, arranged just so. Everyone who studies these matters knows that is the sign that the Ten Republicans have been there. So I left some bipartisan legislation for them, as an offering, but when I came back several days later, nobody had signed onto it and it had been torn in half for some reason. I am sure it was a misunderstanding.”

“Hmm,” Joe’s friends said. “What else gives you confidence in them?”

“I will tell you,” Joe said. “I was riding on a plane and I happened to look out the window and —”

“You saw Ten Republicans clinging to the wing of the plane?” Joe’s friends asked.

“No!” Joe said. “Do not be ridiculous! They cannot survive at that altitude. I saw a craft of a mysterious sort, moving by a propulsion I could not identify. It was kind of a saucer, kind of a cigar. It seemed to be covered all over in flashing lights like eyes. I shouted out the window, ‘The Ten Republicans! I know that it is you! What an advanced vehicle you have made! We in West Virginia would be pleased as punch to help you manufacture one! Flash your lights to signify that you understand me, and that you would like to work on some bipartisan legislation together that will keep the Senate functional!’”

“And then?” Joe’s friends asked.

“Then,” Joe said, “well, I think a bird may have hit their craft, or something, because — nothing happened, and all the lights went abruptly dead.”

“Oh,” Joe’s friends said.

“But I have a picture of them!” Joe said, holding up another photograph of an airplane window and something blurry in the middle that looked like a thumb.

“Is that all?” Joe’s friends asked. “We have a lot of important legislation that really needs to get through, like the Jan. 6 commission, and I wish there were just a little more proof that the Ten Republicans, for lack of a better word, existed.”

“Here I am walking on the beach with them,” Joe said. “You can tell they were there because there is only one set of footprints.” Joe reached into his pocket. “Here is a best friends necklace that I got them. They let me keep both halves of it, which shows extra consideration! Here is our text history — you can see that they’ve received every single message!”

“Well, as long as they show up and vote for the Jan. 6 commission, as you hope they will do, I will gladly believe in them.”

“They absolutely will,” Joe said. “They will not fail entirely to materialize and allow the commission to fail on a 54-to-35 vote, for which 11 senators weren’t present at all!” He sighed. “Or if they do, I’m sure they have their reasons.” He reached into his pocket again. “Here is a picture of the filibuster working as it was designed to and making government more functional at any point over the past two decades!”

His friends looked very closely at it, but, once again, it appeared to be a thumb.

Read more: