by Jonah Begone

The grey-bearded gentleman described a perfect arc from the diving board into the sparkling water of the swimming pool, and with powerful strokes swam over to the steps. The wake he left on the surface of the water lapped into the shot glass and watered down the whiskey of the younger, bearded and somewhat unkempt-looking man floating on the air mattress. Surprised, he removed the cigar from his mouth and accidentally allowed the burning end to melt a hole in his vinyl mattress. "Dammit, Lee!" he growled, as the air rapidly escaped. He imperiously waved his right hand, the one with the cigar. The hole in the air mattress disappeared, the shot glass miraculously refilled itself with Jack Daniels and a new cigar materialized in Grant's mouth. "Pardon me", said Lee, who climbed out of the pool and took up position at a table under a large Cinzano umbrella. Grant muttered "I thought I did!" and tossed his old cigar past the surface of the deck, where it fell a very great distance and landed on a dry hillside in Southern California, where it caused a major brush fire.

Lee grabbed a large terrycloth towel decorated as a Confederate naval ensign and dried himself off. Suddenly the sound of distant musketfire could be heard. "What's that?" asked Grant. "I believe it's another reenactment", replied Lee. Balancing his glass of whiskey in one hand and the cigar in the other, Grant got up from the air mattress and emerged from the pool. Clearly, the celestialization process had been kinder to Lee: whereas the southern gentleman appeared trim and fit and had a body that defied his years, Grant appeared slouched and a bit overweight. He dried himself off with a towel decorated as a map of Vicksburg and donned a tee-shirt which was emblazoned with "Lee Surrendered, I Didn't!" and asked, "They're not doing the Crater again, are they? It was less painful to watch the real one than the reenacted one!"

A pair of field glasses materialized in Lee's hands, and he peered down through the clouds. "No," he said, "this is just the annual First Manassas event." "Are you sure? It looks like my team has yours in rout!" replied Grant, who was now peering through field glasses of his own. Both generals looked at each other quizzically. John B. Hood appeared, doing a credible Z.Z. Top impression in a dirty slouch hat, a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses and helpfully commented, "Well, it's Saturday - you Yanks win the tactical and our southern gentlemen win Sunday's battle reenactment."

"Yeah, I forgot," said Grant. "That's what they call fair: they only reenact Southern victories and give the Federal reenactors an occasional win in Saturday's tactical." "...When they don't perform what they call a `scenario violation' and overwhelm the Yanks with their superior numbers and resources!" added William T. Sherman, who appeared in a jogging suit. Hood glared at Sherman. "If only I had those kinds of numbers..." Lee said wistfully and gazed off into the distance.

The volume and intensity of the reenacted battle reached a peak, which caused other Civil War generals to cluster around the poolside bar to argue over old times. George B. McClellan, using the current reenactment as an example, was debating with Henry Halleck and could be overheard saying "...I told you there was hundreds of thousands of 'em! Just look!" George G. Meade tried in vain to point out that the current fracas was merely a reenactment and not the real thing, and disgustedly uttered "You're as bad as those redneck `Rebels' down there!" A malevolent Nathan Bedford Forrest appeared in a "Hatred not Heritage - Try It!" tee-shirt and demanded to know "Whatsamatter with Rednecks?" The sound of bickering generals was beginning to rival the reenacted battle in intensity.

Just then a tall, bony man wearing a stovepipe hat and sweating profusely in a formal black wool coat with tails appeared and cried "Gentlemen, gentlemen! Let us have peace!" in a beseeching tone of voice. (Grant thought this sounded unusually presidential, then recalled it was the sound bite from the campaign for his second term in that office. He refrained from mentioning this to his former commander-in-chief, however.) "Please, remember where you are - there can't be anything going on down there that should cause all this disunity!", Lincoln continued. "Yeah?", asked Bedford Forrest, tugging on his nanny goat beard, "Well, look down there yerself!"

Lincoln - who had no need for field glasses due to his superior vision - peered though the clouds at the reenactment below. One Lincoln impressionist, exiting a porta-potty, knocked his stovepipe hat off his head and into the mud. Nearby members of the public gleefully took photos. Yet another Lincoln impressionist, in a "What if" scenario, was taking part in a battlefield conference with an ersatz Irvin McDowell (the reenactor portraying him was realistically immense) and demanding to know why the men weren't drilling. Another Lincoln was in line at a concessionaire's stand, waiting to order a steak-in-a-sack. Old Abe could also be seen fielding questions from a journalist representing the local paper. Clearly, the Lincoln Impressionist Union had failed to coordinate its resources for this event.

"Thunder in the Outhouse!" bellowed the enraged chief executive, who picked up a nearby Hibachi and hurled it below. Shish-kabob rods impaled people sitting in lawn chairs. Sizzling steaks and hot charcoal briquets landed among the spectators, causing confusion and mob panic. Many had packed into their cars and tried to escape down the single dirt road leading away from the event site, causing an enormous traffic jam. "Watch out for the `Black Horse Cavalry!'", an amused P.G.T. Beauregard taunted from above. For a First Manassas reenactment, it became commendably authentic.

By the time Lincoln had calmed down and the reenactment officers had started shouting "Start taking hits, guys!" (the sure signal to wind down the battle), the generals returned to their previous leisure activities of sunning, swimming and watching Belle Boyd caper about in a string bikini. Peace once again reigned supreme in Elysium.