It's always been my dream to be the interim Prime Minister.
And now here I am.
It feels...unreal. It feels...not quite real. But what is reality? How do we measure it? How do we know we're alive?
Suddenly I felt a terrific thump on my back. I turned, and there was Paula Bennett.
"Well," she said, "best hold our first press conference together! Mustn't keep them waiting! Everyone wants to look at the brand new deputy Prime Minister!"
"Certainly," I said. "But have you considered the meaning of our progress through life's narrow corridor? What does it mean, do you think? These issues are often in the back of my mind and now I find they've pushed their way to the front."
She stared at me. Finally, she said, "What?"
"It doesn't matter," I said. "It's just that I can't help thinking that ... "
"Stop right there," she said. "I don't want to hear any more about thinking. Don't you dare say it out loud. We're the National Party. We don't want people to see us thinking. They expect more from us than that."
"Perhaps," I said. "Well. Let's do this press conference."
She said, "What's that you've got under your arm?"
"A book of poems," I said. "I thought I'd quote from it in my first press conference as Prime Minister."
I looked into her eyes and saw the strangest thing. I saw her being dragged down with me into a lake of fire.
Minister of Local Government and MP for Maungakiekie Sam Lotu-liga called.
"I'm out of here," he said. "Quitting. Love you and leave you. Bye. All the best with the new job. Nothing personal. Nothing against you at all. You have my complete support. Anyway, bye, have a good Xmas. Talofa. Hoo-roo. Ta-ta. Okay? Nothing you can say will make me change my mind, so save your breath."
There was a pause.
He said, "Are you there?"
"I thought the line had gone dead."
I said, "I was saving my breath."
Minister of Veterans' Affairs and MP for Tukituki Craig Foss called.
"I'm done," he said. "Leaving. Had enough. I wish you well. Nothing personal. You have my complete support. So, cheers, and enjoy the break. Alright? See you around. Cheers. Bye."
There was a pause, and then he said, "You're saving your breath, aren't you?"
Murray McCully called, and I said, "Wait. I can guess. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and MP for East Coast Bays wants to let me know that he's quitting, that he's had enough, that it's nothing personal, and that I have your full support."
He said, "You got the first part right. I'm leaving, yeah."
I said, "What about the second part?"
He said, "It's entirely personal. Put it this way. I've been in politics for a very long time and every step of the way I've behaved like a cunning, self-interested little rat. And now I'm deserting the sinking ship."
The line went dead.
Later that day I went to assess the earthquake damage in Kaikoura with Gerry Brownlee. He got into a spot of trouble with one of the locals. It didn't make us look very good and we left behind a kind of bitter taste.
I wish Gerry would make one of those calls.
"Mate," said John, and poured a glass.
"Mate," I said.
"Here's to next year," he said.
We sat back in my office. He put his feet up on my desk. I said, "Do you ever wonder about existence, and its shocking brevity? 'The light gleams an instant, then it's night once more.' Life is so short, isn't it?"
"Is it?" He yawned, and refilled his glass.
"It's as though," I said, "we're only here for the interim."