Flash Fiction Story 052: Wise Willy Wombat’s Last 18 1/2 Minutes On Earth: The Tragedy of Watergate

When one thinks of the great, unsolvable historical mysteries, several examples come to mind. Who was the second gunman on the Grassy Knoll? What is housed in the Top Secret military facility at Groom Lake, Nevada, better known as Area 51? How did Reagan keep his hair like that, and is the product he used still commercially available?

The greatest of these mysteries is no doubt the fabled erased 18 1/2 minutes from June 20th, 1972 recordings of an Executive Office Building meeting between President Richard Nixon and White House Chief of Staff H.R. “Bob” Haldeman. Although the administration—even when confronted with other material from the tapes that eventually doomed them—insisted that the erasing was accidental, few viewed these clams as even remotely credible.

Many have speculated about what material may be included in the erased portion. More in-depth admissions from the President regarding his involvement in the Watergate coverup? Admission of some heretofore undiscovered crime conducted at the behest of the Nixon Administration? Or, perhaps some sort of embarrassing illumination of an unrevealed aspect of the 37th President’s personality?

Attempts to recover any of the audio have been fruitless, and so historians have long since made peace with the conclusion that the tapes would never be heard.

This was until a Dictaphone tape labeled “6/20/72 - EOB - IF SUBPOENAED, EAT*” was discovered in the attic of what had once been the Clearwater, Florida atelier of Bebe Rebozo, longtime Nixon friend.

While the newly discovered tapes are of relatively poor quality (the beginning is still completely obscured), this new discovery sheds an uncompromising light on a still debated about historical period, and, more importantly, why parties still unknown saw fit to erase the original tapes. 

Here now is a transcript of the recovered section:

HALDEMAN: (unintelligible)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you’ve got to understand that there isn’t much else to do in Dallas on a Thursday at lunch.

HALDEMAN: Didn’t that happen on a Friday?

THE PRESIDENT: Hell if I know, Bob.

HALDEMAN: Just so I have my notes straight…. 400,000 to Liddy?

THE PRESIDENT: Rebozo can find the money…

HALDEMAN: And then Liddy will distribute it to the others how he sees fit.

THE PRESIDENT: Goddam right. That’s how it was all going to go down in the first place, why change the plan now? Christ, Bob, there’s no way in hell that I’m going to lose this election to any of those damned Democrats, let’s not get caught up in the penny-ante stuff.

(A loud popping sound is heard at this point in the tape. Audio experts at the University of Florida have determined it is an actual sound in the room, and not any type of damage to the tape.)

THIRD INDIVIDUAL: Well, hi there, Dicky!

THE PRESIDENT: No, it can’t be… I haven’t seen you since—

(Someone pounds on a nearby door)

HALDEMAN: Somebody help-

THE PRESIDENT: You can see him, Bob? This is—

THIRD INDIVIDUAL: The name is Wise Willy Wombat, and imaginary friendship is my game! And of course he can see me, Dicky! You always thought you were the only one who could see me, but I can—

(Another pop)

THIRD INDIVIDUAL: (hereafter referred to as “Wise Willy”) —disappear—

(Another pop)

WISE WILLY: —and reappear at will!

THE PRESIDENT: Mother tried to have me committed to a sanitarium because of you…

(Wise Willy giggles)

WISE WILLY: But that’s the good news! I’m not a figment of your imagination! I’m a being a from another world!

HALDEMAN: A Martian?

WISE WILLY: I’m from dimension 347-Sigma-Alpha, but sure, Mars, if that helps.

HALDEMAN: And, sir, he’s your imaginary friend from childhood?!

WISE WILLY: And, of how we did have some fun times, didn’t we? Remember when we used to play Cowboys and Communists?

THE PRESIDENT: I still don’t know why I had to be Karl Marx—

(Wise Willy giggles)

THE PRESIDENT: —every goddam time!

WISE WILLY: —or when we used to pick imaginary fruit from the Yorba Linda orchard?

HALDEMAN: Should I still be taking notes?

THE PRESIDENT: No, goddam it!

WISE WILLY: Remember the time we went to Jolly Old England, and you almost became the drummer of that band…

THE PRESIDENT: The Beatles…

WISE WILLY: Yes! What was the fake name you used that day?

THE PRESIDENT: Wiggles McBiggles.

(Wise Willy giggles)

WISE WILLY: Oh, man! 1962 was one fun year!

HALDEMAN: ’62? Sir, you had already been Vice-President!

THE PRESIDENT: It was a dark time. I was trying to re-invent myself.

HALDEMAN: You were running for Governor of California!

THE PRESIDENT: I just wanted to be cool, is that such a crime!?

(Wise Willy giggles)

THE PRESIDENT: Willy… It’s… uh… It’s good to see you again, of course… But why are you here?

WISE WILLY: Oh, Dicky, Dicky, Dicky… You have lost your way! Vietnam—

HALDEMAN: Yeah? Try asking Kennedy about that one!

WISE WILLY: —Cambodia—

HALDEMAN: Well, hard to argue with that one…

WISE WILLY: And now these burglars sent to mess with those silly Democrats. What happened to that special little guy I used to sing to sleep?

(Unintelligible)

WISE WILLY: Hey little Dicky… Don’t look so sicky… You’re my best pal in the whole wide world!

(Unintelligible)

WISE WILLY: Why are you choking me, Dicky?

THE PRESIDENT: I love you, Wise Willy… But I’ve got to be a big boy, now.

WISE WILLY: Urk… I love you… Urk… Too, Dicky…

(Another popping sound)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, now that I’ve taken care of that, Bob, remind me to erase the recording of this meeting.

(Both are silent for several seconds)

HALDEMAN: Wait, you’ve been recording all of your meetings?

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, why? Do you think that will be a problem?

HALDEMAN: Na, I don’t think so…

*Thought to be either a reference to “Executive Action Termination,” an order for Rebozo to consume the tape, or both.

Art by Eris O’Reilly

Art by Eris O’Reilly