by Ross Eckler
Word Ways, 1976


Ivan held up the short piece of magnetic tape with scepticism. "You say that this is the missing ten seconds of the notorious Watergate tape?"

Boris stared at his chief in surprise. "Of course--didn't I tell you how KGB agent Nikolai Ripoff stole it from the files of Professor Esty of the Cornell Linguistics Department? And isn't it well-known that Professor Esty was one of the blue-ribbon panel that analyzed the original White House tape, using highly-sophisticated techniques of noise suppression and message enhancement to recover the missing words?"

"But why," asked Ivan, reaching for an empty tape reel, "was there never any public report of the recovered message?"

"That's obvious," replied Boris. "The message was so sensational in import that political pressure was brought to bear on Esty and his colleagues to keep it quiet--to pretend, in fact, that they were unable to decipher the tape at all. I'll bet the U.S. Government will pay us a pretty kopek not to reveal its contents."

By now, Ivan had expertly spooled the tape on the reel and was placing the reel on the Ampex. "That remains to be seen," he said dryly. He flipped the switch on, and both men leaned forward expectantly.

A BEE.... Ivan turned the machine off to ponder the import of this phrase. "A bee? But of course--there must have been a bee brought in with the vase of flowers that always sits in the Oval Office, and Nixon interrupted the meeting to warn the others of its presence." Satisfied with his interpretation, Ivan turned the machine back on.

SEEDY... This demanded a second halt for assessment. "Hmmm," mused Boris, "no doubt the bouquet was picked and arranged many hours earlier. By now, the bee has exhausted the nectar and is slowly starving, resulting in a debilitated appearance and sluggish movements."

EEEE!... This sudden scream caught both men by surprise. Clearly someone, lulled into a sense of false security by the bee's torpidity, has tried to remove the bee from the room and has been stung.

IF, GEE, A CHI-... The two Russians looked at each other in bewilderment. If this were Nixon speaking, clearly his mind had been affected by the bee sting. This slurred, rambling phrase was not Nixon's usual crisp incisive style. Had he gone into anaphylactic shock? Was he about to say that the china vase holding the bouquet concealed the bee, and in the future it would be better to use a cut-glass vase instead?

JAKE, A YELL... Someone in the next room hears Nixon's scream, and is telling an associate about it.

AMEN. O, PEEK... By now both men were thoroughly perplexed. "Could the others, believing that Nixon has been killed by the sting, are praying over his body?" asked Ivan. "And why should they have to peek at him? I'll never understand the American way of death."

(YOU ARE ESTY)... Since it is most unlikely that Professor Esty was present at the time of the bee sting, this tape must have been inadvertently overwritten during the reconstruction experiments in Professor Esty's laboratory, perhaps at a time when he was distracted by the entrance of a visitor verifying the professor's identity.

YOU'VE--EEEE!... Back on the original tape, it is apparent that a second bee in the bouquet, heretofore unnoticed, has stung another Oval Office conferee in the middle of a sentence.

DOUBLE, YOU!... This cryptic exhortation is apparently directed at Nixon's doctor, as he prepares an anti-venom shot, alerting him to the fact that two doses would now be needed.

EGGS... "I must confess," said Boris, "bafflement at this one-word statement. Was it a breakfast conference in the Oval Office? Or was this an oblique reference to the anti-venom serum being administered to the President? Our virologists tell us that many vaccines are grown in unfertilized chicken eggs..."

WHY'S HE... The tape ended abruptly at this point, in the middle of a sentence. Still, Ivan was able to reconstruct the situation. "Nixon's secretary, attracted by the commotion, entered the Oval Office. Seeing her boss on the floor with a doctor bent over him, she cried in a startled voice 'Why's he lying there?' but we hear only the first part."

"So," mused Boris, "the reason for suppressing the tape is clear. The men around Nixon couldn't let the country know that the President had been crippled by a bee sting and was temporarily unable to govern, so they attempted, as part of the cover-up, to erase the relevant part of the tape. Remember, Ivan, that the American people have been unusually skittish about presidential health ever since Woodrow Wilson lay paralyzed for many months after World War I. Secrecy must be maintained for the good of the country, a principle which we Russians have honed to perfection, but which the Americans are still learning to apply."

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