The Governor looked at the members of his cabinet and began to speak.
"As you know, a few months ago we commissioned a sculpture of the Ten Commandments to display in front of the State Capitol."
"Based on yesterday's Supreme Court ruling, I thought we should reconsider that decision. However, Mr. Caron over there," he gestured towards a disheveled artist slouched in the corner "claims our payment is non-refundable and that he's already carved the tablets. It also seems that he spent most of the money on course entitled 'How to Pick Up Women By Looking Like a Tortured Genius.'"
The artist looked away, slightly embarrassed by the revelation.
"Fortunately, he hasn't started engraving the Commandments, yet, so here's what we're going to do. I'm going to read them out one by one, and we'll decide which ones we should include. Hopefully, this will help us weed out the ones that would violate the ruling."
"Any questions before we get started?"
There were none.
"The First Commandment: 'You shall have no other gods before Me.'"
"That one seems pretty obvious." said the Governor. "I mean. This is all about the separation of church and state, so there's no way we can include it, right?”
He paused and looked around the room. “Any objections? No? Great."
"The Second Commandment: 'You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.'"
"Okay. No statues of saints and the like. I say we keep this one. That stuff has no place in government offices. Objections?"
The Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director raised his hand.
"Um, sir? In my office I have a painting of a landscape and a seashell sculpture. My wife made them for me. They're hideous, but she'll kill me if I don't display them. You're up for re-election this year and the last thing you need is some dumbass from the religious right telling you that I'm violating the Second Commandment."
"I think the intent is to prevent the worship of graven images, not paintings and sculptures, Tom." said the Revenue Director.
"Well, I'm, uh, also thinking about those novelty saints that I picked up during my trip to Italy last year -- the ones that do the little dance and then turn around and moon you. I'd hate to have to get rid of them."
"I hear you, Tom," said the State Lottery Director, "but if I were you, I'd worry more about those animal sex DVDs that you have in your office."
"Those are for a mating ritual study we're conducting!" cried the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director as the others looked at him skeptically.
"In the interest of group morale," the Governor said, "we'll strike the Second Commandment."
"And Tom," he added, "I want you to get rid of those DVDs and get some counseling."
"The Third Commandment: 'You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.'"
"Given the number of 'goddammits' and the like I hear around this office every day, I don't think any one of us wants that one hanging over our heads, do we?" he said with a chuckle.
The others smiled and shook their heads.
"Strike it." he told the artist.
"The Fourth Commandment. "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.'"
"Anyone here want to work Saturdays?" The Governor looked around the table and saw a bunch of shaking heads. "Didn't think so."
He felt a flash of sudden inspiration. "Hey, artist guy," he said "Why don't you go ahead and add 'and Sunday' to that."
"Friday afternoons would be nice, too" added the Administration Director who constantly seeking new ways to sneak out of work to play a round of golf.
And thus began the most spirited discussion of the day. By the time they were done, the Fourth Commandment read:
'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Don't work Sundays either. While your at it, take Friday afternoons off and have some fun. Coming in late on Monday is okay, too, especially if you're still fighting a hangover.'Which the cabinet members agreed was probably closer to the Lord's original intent.
The Fifth Commandment, 'Honor your father and your mother', was considered a no-brainer and included with no debate.
The Sixth Commandment, 'You shall not murder', seemed headed in the same direction until he Agriculture Director spoke up.
"I’m not so sure that we want to keep that one.” he said. “I mean, hasn't anyone ever strangled a stranger who stopped to ask him for directions and then buried body in his backyard only to have the idiot neighbor's dog constantly try to dig it up? So you go out in the middle of the night, throw the body into your trunk, and drive out to the country only to be pulled over by a well meaning cop who tells you that your taillight is out? So then you hit the cop with a tire iron and leave him laying on the road while you drive away? Then you go off into the woods, dig a shallow grave, and dump the body in it only to realize that a camper nearby saw the whole thing, so now all of a sudden you have two bodies to get rid of? And so you dig another shallow grave, bury the camper, and then drive home only to wake up the next morning to find that a man walking his dog found both bodies and that you’re now the subject of a statewide manhunt?"
The room grew silent as the Governor and other Cabinet Members looked at him in horror.
"Uh, I was just speaking hypothetically, of course. Never mind."
And so the Sixth Commandment was included - much to everyone else's relief.
The Seventh Commandment: 'You shall not commit adultery' was next.
Because of lingering bad blood from a recent incident in which the Environmental Quality Director came home from work early to find his wife, the wife of the Labor and Industry Commissioner, and the Budget Director engaged in a threesome, the Governor chose to cross it off the list without debate.
The Eighth Commandment: ''You shall not steal' was agreed to in short order.
The Commerce Director spoke up, asking, "Does this mean that a certain person who I won't identify, but who's name rhymes with Dill Bonohue, will stop stealing my lunch every day? He does it on purpose. I know because I put my name it to make sure everyone knows it’s mine."
"I've had it!," hollered the Natural Resources and Conservation Director. "You've insulted my integrity for the last time. Apologize right now, or I'm gonna put my foot up your ass."
"Knock it off you two." said the Governor. "And Bill? For future reference, your indignation might be more believable if you weren’t eating from a bag labeled ‘Tom’s Lunch’."
The Ninth Commandment, 'You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor', was quickly approved as everyone agreed that they had enough dirt on each other that they didn't need to resort to lies.
"And finally, the Tenth Commandment: 'You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.'"
"Okay, let's hear the objections," said the Governor.
"I’ll start” said the Chief Business Development Officer. " My neighbor’s wife is pretty hot. I mean, I'm pretty sure that Jesus himself would covet her."
The 78 year-old Transportation Director chimed in. "My neighbor's 19 year old pool boy? Well, let's just say that I covet him at least three times a week...if you know what I mean."
The others in the room shuddered and gagged, thus demonstrating that they knew exactly what she meant.
"Uh, I have a similar issue with my neighbor's maid." said the Corrections Director.
"And I definitely covet my neighbor's house and car." added the Public Health and Human Services Director.
"Okay, that takes care of the wife, the male servant, the female servant, and the possessions." said the Governor, "At least we get to keep the ox and donkey part."
Everyone chuckled and they prepared to move on to the next order of business.
"Erm, Sir?" said the Military Affairs Adjutant General. Twenty heads slowly swiveled towards the man they all considered the most straight laced of the bunch.
"Perhaps now is a good time for me to clarify what I mean when I tell y'all how much I love oxtail."