Deep in the hold of the ship, this rustbucket, this groaning mass of timbers and sheet steel that no one expected to float, much less clear the harbor on its perilous journey, the rats are growing restless.
From one angle, the voyage looks like a success. They’re making progress, but near-constant storms have most of the crew pale from nausea, and the captain’s equally constant stream of bile and abuse has dispirited all of them, although the first mate, a young man with an old man’s hairline and the dead eyes of a shark, seems just fine. The eyes of the other officers sink deeper into their skulls and even routine encounters in the passageways between their cabins tend to degenerate into shouting matches with the thin edge of hysteria.
The charts and navigation aids tell the story: The ship is moving. Enthusiastic communiques are arriving from shore, urging them on. The captain likes this.
But belowdecks, among the vermin that live on all ships, subsisting on nibbles stolen from the galley, from the hold, from the seemingly inedible leavings of any human gathering, things don’t seem…quite right. Even allowing for all the rest of the craziness. This last storm is still raging; it’s only started in fact, and unlike many of the others, this looks like no squall. It could be a hurricane, followed by another hurricane, and they’re not halfway through the journey.
One rat sits mournfully in the corner, whiskers a-twitch, when he feels it, under his paws. Not the ever-present moisture of any ship, from condensation or the rain. No, this trickle tickling the soft pads of his feet has the tang of salt. This is it — the first leak that will be followed by a breach, a rushing in of seawater, listing and the inevitable sinking.
No rats will be welcome in the lifeboats, and will there even be any, by the time this storm is over? The tradition for this animal is for it to jump into the water and take its chances, which are good; few species on earth are as hardy and adaptable as rattus rattus. One might think drowning is inevitable after such a move, but all it takes is a bit of floating debris to climb on, a favorable breeze, and this rat could be washed ashore in a new place while the humans in the lifeboats are still fighting over a tinned biscuit.
But this rat has resources, skills and connections unknown to previous generations. He knows someone at the New York Times. And so, after yet another day of screaming, of doors slamming into bulkheads, of despairing officers pacing at the stern rail with suicide in their eyes, he boots his personal laptop and begins his cri de coeur:
President Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader.
It’s not just that the special counsel looms large. Or that the country is bitterly divided over Mr. Trump’s leadership. Or even that his party might well lose the House to an opposition hellbent on his downfall.
The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.
I would know. I am one of them.
The rat smiles at the work so far. He knows he’s going to be just fine.