Dave Barry refuses to grow up

Second installment in a three-part series.

Since I stopped writing my weekly column for The Miami Herald, people are always asking me: ``How do you like retirement?'' I explain to these people that I am NOT retired: I am doing lots of things outside of the public view, much like Vice President Biden. One of my main activities has been writing humor essays, which have just been published in the form of my new book, I'll Mature When I'm Dead. Here is an excerpt from one of those essays, a script for the wonderfully improbable TV show 24.


6 a.m.

SETTING: The White House Situation Room

The president, seen only in silhouette, sits at the head of a conference table. Seated around the table are the vice president, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and various important-looking extras. The lighting is dim.

THE PRESIDENT: I've called you together because we have received intelligence concerning a serious threat that could . . . What is it, Mr. Vice President?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Why is the lighting so dim?

THE PRESIDENT: For dramatic effect. You'll also notice that many characters in this show whisper for no good reason.

THE VICE PRESIDENT (peering at the president): Wait a minute. You're a kangaroo.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. The writers already did an African-American president and a woman president, so this season they were thinking, ``Maybe a Jewish president?'' And then they thought, ``Nah, too unrealistic.'' So they went kangaroo.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: But is that even constitutional? And where do you go to the bathroom?

THE PRESIDENT: Nobody on this show goes to the bathroom.


THE PRESIDENT: As I was saying, we have received intelligence concerning a threat that could cause the deaths of millions of Americans.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: My God! What is it?

THE PRESIDENT: What is what?


THE PRESIDENT: I'll let the FBI Director, played by a fading movie star such as William Hurt or Gene Hackman, answer that.

FBI DIRECTOR: We have reason to believe that a vaguely Middle Eastern terrorist organization has acquired a proton defrackulator.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: What's a proton defrackulator?

FBI DIRECTOR: We have no idea. But it sounds very bad.

THE PRESIDENT: Well if these terrorists think I'm going to let them kill millions of Americans on my watch just because I have short, thumbless forelimbs, then they have another think coming. General, what do the Joint Chiefs recommend?

GENERAL: We recommend an immediate tactical nuclear missile strike against Boston.

THE PRESIDENT: Is that where the terrorists are?

GENERAL: No, we just hate Boston.

THE PRESIDENT: Fair enough. But we also need to do something about these terrorists.

CHIEF OF STAFF: If I may . . .

THE PRESIDENT: Aren't you one of the Baldwin brothers?

CHIEF OF STAFF: I believe so.


CHIEF OF STAFF: There is only one man who can stop these terrorists, and that man is Jack Bauer.

THE PRESIDENT: Bauer . . . I know that name.

CHIEF OF STAFF: He's the main character.

THE PRESIDENT: Ah, right. But didn't he end the last season being arrested on trumped-up charges after he was framed by a shadowy cabal of powerful men?

CHIEF OF STAFF: That's how he ends every season.

THE PRESIDENT: So where is Bauer now?

CHIEF OF STAFF: He was imprisoned in a secret California prison facility.

THE PRESIDENT: Have him released.

CHIEF OF STAFF: He was also tortured.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, have a medical team . . .

CHIEF OF STAFF: Then he was decapitated and fed to boars.


CHIEF OF STAFF: Fortunately, he was trained for exactly that.

THE PRESIDENT: Are you saying that he could . . .

CHIEF OF STAFF: We won't know until after the commercial.


SETTING: The infirmary of a secret California prison

JACK BAUER is sitting on an examination table. There are boar bites all over his body and a bandage wrapped around his neck. A doctor has just finished examining him.

DOCTOR: You're going to experience some soreness from having your head reattached to your body. I suggest you take it easy for at least the next hour.

JACK: Give me your phone.

DOCTOR: If you need to make a call, there's a phone in the ----

JACK: Dammit, there's NO TIME!

Jack pulls a gun and shoots the doctor in the thigh. As the doctor falls to the floor, Jack snatches his cell phone and dials a number. The scene shifts to an FBI office in Washington, D.C., where Chloe, sitting at her computer, answers the phone.

CHLOE: Hello?

JACK: Chloe, it's Jack.

CHLOE: Jack? I thought you were decapitated and consumed by boars.

JACK: Not any more.

CHLOE: Thank God. I thought I wasn't getting any lines this season. Last year all I did was a PSA for Earth Day, while Janeane Garofalo got ----

JACK: Dammit, Chloe, there's NO TIME. A terrorist cell is bringing in a proton defrackulator.

CHLOE: That sounds bad.

JACK: I need a map showing the port of entry for every international freight shipment in the past 13 days weighing between 52 and 63 kilograms, overlaid with another grid showing the locations of all metropolitan areas with populations of 28,000 or more, overlaid with another grid showing prevailing wind direction and speed, overlaid with another grid showing the location of every odd-numbered Waffle House in North America.

CHLOE (tapping on her keyboard): I'm sending it now.

Jack looks at the cell-phone screen, which says ``DOWNLOADING.''

DOCTOR (watching from the floor): How are you doing that with my phone? I can't even get a signal in here.

Jack, without taking his eyes off the phone, shoots the doctor in the other thigh to silence him. The phone is now displaying a detailed map with many symbols, including a blinking red dot over Washington, D.C.

JACK: Looks like they're bringing the defrackulator into the Washington area.

CHLOE: That makes sense. All the other main characters are here.

JACK (stepping over the doctor and heading for the exit): I'll need transport.

CHLOE (tapping): I'll send a helicopter.

Jack runs outside. A helicopter immediately appears overhead.

JACK: OK, I see it.

CHLOE: What?

JACK: Sorry. I mean I have a visual on it. Have the FBI set up a perimeter around Washington, Maryland and Virginia. Don't let anybody in or out. Shut down the shipping lanes and set up satellite surveillance to detect anybody on the Eastern Seaboard who looks vaguely Middle Eastern.

CHLOE (tapping): I'm on it.

Reprinted from I'll Mature When I'm Dead by Dave Barry by arrangement with G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Copyright (c) 2010 by Dave Barry.

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    So I have to tell you what I saw on the interstate the other night. First, though, you must understand that this was not just any old interstate. This was I-95 in downtown Miami, proud home of the worst darned drivers in the world.

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