July 3, 1776. A tavern across the street from Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
John Adams couldn’t bluff at poker if his life depended on it. Thomas Jefferson knew it. Benjamin Franklin knew it. Old Stone Face, George Washington, sitting across from Adams, knew it.
Ben and Tom folded. Neither of them had any kind of hand to play. But Adams was staying. He didn’t believe Stone Face had a winning hand.
“I call you,” Stone Face said to Adams across the table.
John Adams, a big smile on his face, threw down three aces. Stone Face threw down his full house, then reached over and pulled the wad of English pound notes toward him.
Adams’ face dropped into a frown. Lost again. Here he was doing the very thing Abby warned him against. Playing poker with Stone Face. Washington always won. Over the course of the last two months, he had just about wiped out all the delegates of the Continental Congress of their cash. But he had done it for a good cause. He needed a new set of false teeth.
Adams said, “I give up. I’m broke. So what are we going to do about John Hancock?”
“We should shoot the son of a bitch,” Stone Face offered. Washington seldom lost his cool but John Hancock had gotten under his skin in a way that British General Howe never did.
Jefferson followed up with, “That’s what we’d do in Virginia.”
“Now, boys,” Ben interjected, “let’s be serious. But not that serious.”
Washington said, “I can’t believe I came back to have to deal with this. My guys at Valley Forge are going to mutiny if we don’t get this settled once and for all.”
“Why don’t we just get him drunk?” Franklin suggested.
Jefferson said,” That is your answer for everything.”
“Just about,” Franklin answered. “How you think I survived that thing with the kite? Remember the old saying, ‘Three strikes you’re out.’ When that lightning bolt hit the kite, I was as drunk as Gulliver must’ve been the day he saw those Lilliputians. The lightning struck me three times, and yet, here I am.”
John Adams knew Hancock too well for that. “He’ll just fall asleep.”
Jefferson was miffed. “All I know is that I am not letting him put those words into the Declaration of Independence.”
Stone Face put in his two pences. “I agree with Tom. I mean, Hancock and his ‘when in the course of human events, it becomes necessary to kick King George’s butt because he is, and ever shall be, a pantywaist’ is a little too much. Even for this Congress. We all don’t like the king but that is a little too much. The British will never take us seriously.”
“Totally destroys the mood,” Jefferson added, “don’t you think?”
The Virginia delegation was unanimous about its approbation against John Hancock. Either the Continental Congress gave Hancock his walking papers or they would be walking. But everybody knew what would happen if Hancock went home. The whole New England bunch would leave with him.
From the beginning, Hancock had been cause for alarm. First he wore that pink outfit. Oh, my gosh. And the chicken costume. It looked like he was trying to out-Elton-John Lady Gaga. Then his proposal that the country use “We are the champions of the world” for its national anthem. It had taken months for John Adams to get his friend to calm down and be reasonable. Now this.
Ben had an idea. “Bet Betsy Ross could get him to go along with the program. After all, she’s his tailor.”
“You know what she’s going to charge?” John Adams inquired.
Stone Face, always a pragmatic man, said, “Yes, but can she get results. When she threatens him, he’ll cry uncle. After all, she’s the one who turned him into a fashionista. Says she has a flair with the silk pajamas”
“Ben,” Adams asked, “have you been able to get her price down? Last I heard she was charging an arm and a leg.”
Jefferson said, “Yeah, just look at Long John Silver.”
“On this one,” Ben said, “she knows she has us over a barrel. She wants the flag concession.”
“Can she get the job done?” Tom asked.
“I believe so,” Franklin said. “She has a long history with Hancock. Something about babysitting with his kids when they were just knee-high-to-a-grasshopper.”
Stone Face was satisfied. “I say we give it to her.”
Jefferson and Adams nodded their heads in agreement. But Franklin was not finished. “In perpetuity.”
“What?” the other three said as a chorus.
“No way are we going to go along with that,” Stone Face said. “John, can’t Abby help in this department?”
“When Hancock puts his mind to a thing,” Adams said, “he puts his mind to a thing. I’m afraid Betsy is our only option. If we want Hancock, we are going to have to give in to her demands.”
“Then,” Stone Face finalized the discussion, “Betsy gets the flag concession in perpetuity. But you tell her that I want a free ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ for each of my Regiments, and according to my specifications.”
John Adams breathed a sigh of relief. He was going to get his revolution, after all. The other three had given him a big thumbs up with their agreement on the Hancock Matter. “So, Tom, looks like you’ll be able to do a press release.”
Jefferson took out his pen and pad and began to write. Then he looked up at the others. “I just realized we have another problem.”
“”What now?” Stone Face was just about fed up with all the back-and-forth going on at the Congress. Why didn’t folks just do what they were told? It would be so much easier.
Jefferson thought so too but he didn’t say anything out loud. “It’s Tom Paine. He’s going to insist on editing my text and publishing it the way he wants.”
Adams was now in the fray. He didn’t like Paine. “Please. No more ‘These are the times that try men’s souls’ crap. God, that man has an ego.”
“Yeah,” Ben agreed. “He gets a fifth down him, and there is no telling what he will write.”
Stone Face had an answer. “We could just draft him. I need a good secretary and he does take shorthand.”
The others smiled. Stone Face once again came to the rescue. Guess that was why folks were calling him “The Father of the Country”.
“Glad we’ve got all that settled,” Stone Face said. “Now I have to go and kick some British hineys.”
“Don’t forget,” Adams requested, “to take a piece out of Cornwallis for me.”
The four men gathered up their things and made for the door, then John Adams said, “I just remembered. Just one more thing.”
“No,” the other three said.
“’Fraid so. It’s Paul Revere. Every time we get ready to attack the British from behind some trees, guerilla style, Paul shows up on his horse. He lets the Brits know where we are by yelling, ‘The Americans are coming. The Americans are coming.’”