Hillary has hands full trying to keep hubby in line

As Bill works on The New York Times crossword puzzle, Hill tugs on the sleeve of his black shirt.

Hillary looks over at her husband.

He's in a pretty good mood. He just finished a grilled chicken sandwich from the Dairy Queen in Grinnell, and as a reward for eating healthy, she gave him a bite of her Snickers Blizzard. Crowds all over Iowa have been clamoring for him. Here in the privacy of their black SUV, driving through flat Iowa farmland with the press bus trailing, she senses an opportune moment to iron out a few wrinkles.

As Bill works on The New York Times crossword puzzle, Hill tugs on the sleeve of his black shirt in what she hopes is a playful manner.

"Sweetie," she says, smiling brightly. "Everything's going really well. You abide by your five-minute limit and talk only about me. You're still having a little trouble getting that adoring smile down. In fact, on our first stop you actually looked bored and fidgety while I was talking. But I think we solved that problem today by having you leave the stage as soon as I start speaking. If you can just refrain from looking so longingly at the microphone, our pas de deux will be perfect!"

Bill looks dolefully at her, his pen poised in midair. "What's a seven-letter word for ball-and-chain," he asks. "Hillary?"

"You know, hon," Hillary says, shaking off his hand. "Hillaryland has some ideas about Billville."

"I have ideas, too," he interrupts, excitedly. "I can redecorate the family quarters, get Kaki Hokersmith to come by with some leopard-skin swatches, get rid of all that boring stuff Laura Bush brought in after we left. Put up my Salma Hayek poster. Maybe have an open bar in the Lincoln Bedroom. Call it Club Mandela.

"I've been the first black president, the first female president and now I'm going to be the first man who's First Lady, with my own staff of ladies - "

"BILL!" Hillary shouts. "Enough! Hillaryland has spoken. You're not going to have your own office in the East Wing or your own staff there. And don't even think of pulling a Cheney and destroying the visitor logs. We're going to set up a desk for you in the Oval. In Hillaryland, we say: Keep your friends close but your husband closer. You'll have a nice little room of your own in the pantry. You were, after all, the guy who put the pant back in pantry."

"That sounds great, my little Arkansas watermelon," he coos. "I love the time I spend with your big gang of chicks. But alas, I'll have to be out of the country a lot of the time as your roving ambassador."

"Speaking of roving, don't even think about going on your Hollywood rat pack's planes after I'm elected," she snaps. "Strictly Air Force for you, mister, with extra federal marshals. You promised me two terms after your two terms, and I'm not going to get that if you're caught Burkling or Binging. And Hillaryland wants you to use the title Mr. Ambassador after the corona - I mean, inauguration. Two presidents in one White House will be too confusing."

Her voice softening, she asks, "Do you know what your First Lad project will be?"

"'Just Say Yes?"' he proffers. Going back to his crossword puzzle, he asks, "Do you know an eight-letter word for 'loving wife?' "

"Overlord," she replies, smiling lovingly.

Maureen Dowd, a columnist for the New York Times, can be reached at: New York Times, editorial department, 229 W. 43rd St., New York, NY 10036.