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The shakeup in the Bush administration reached the highest levels today, as President Bush took the largely unexpected step of firing Vice President Cheney, who, incensed by the decision, fired back at a pigeon that happened to alight on the windowsill just behind the President’s desk.

“You can’t fire me,” Cheney reportedly told the President, “or I’ll shoot that pigeon right off the windowsill.”

The President had every reason to believe him, because he had shown up in the Oval Office, as he often has while hunting pigeons on the grounds of the White House, dressed in camouflage and toting a shotgun. Security had grown so accustomed to his unusual proclivity that by now the guards considered that his outfit and shotgun signified nothing more than pigeon plinking as usual. Second, he did clearly state that his goal was to bag the bird.

“Dick,” the President replied, “I guess that means what you’re really saying is that the pigeon has absolutely nothing to worry about.”

“My, oh, my,” Cheney sighed, “I just can’t live down the quail-hunting thing.”

“That’s part of the reason you have to go,” President Bush said. “I need a vice president who, when he aims at a quail, he hits it. In a time of war, we can’t have the world knowing the vice president is a lousy shot.”

“How about when the vice president aims at a pigeon?” Cheney retorted. And with that he raised his shotgun and advised the President, “Step aside, friend. I’ll show you I’m a much better shot than you think I am.”

President Bush showed remarkable agility, immediately taking quite a few steps aside.

Cheney aimed carefully at the offending pigeon and squeezed the trigger of his prized 20-guage shotgun. Unfortunately, for his employment prospects, the shot went its usual wayward way and the pigeon, as well as the entire window it was perched behind, remained untouched. The volley did, however, blow off a chunk of molding.

“Doggone it!” Cheney exclaimed, “Missed again.”

When security heard the blast and hurried in, the Vice President immediately assured the guards, “You know me. I was just pigeon hunting.”

The President confirmed the truth of his long-time friend’s statement, pointing to the pigeon, which was still placidly perched on the windowsill, strutting and cooing. “The proof is, he missed.”

President Bush also confirmed that he had been given plenty of time to stand aside and was really the one to blame for any misinterpretation of the incident, because, if he had shown better judgment, he would have left the room before Cheney indulged in his beloved habit of frightening small birds.

Security promptly accepted their version of the incident.

After the guards departed, Cheney admitted to the President, “I guess you’re right after all. I’m just not a good enough shot for the job.”

“I’m sorry, Dick,” the President commiserated. “If you had hit the pigeon, I might have changed my mind and kept you on.”

Then the two shook hands, glad that, despite their mutual firing and misfiring, they were still good friends.