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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Trump V (Because it's the fifth one I've done)

This may be an exaggeration of Iceland.
The horses along Central Park South were  uneasy.

The Man passed each carriage, passed each horse, and imagined each animal's essence pass into him. The Man became each carriage.

As he approached the Plaza Hotel, heading East from Columbus Circle, he stopped next to a particularly virile beast strapped to a velour and dark oak carriage. The Man inhaled the horse, exhaled fire.

"Sir," a young woman in his company said to him. "We can't stop here."

The Man turned away from the horse to consider the tight group surrounding him, and addressed the young woman by scowling at her through his mask. It was a Guy Fawkes mask. His youngest son had suggested it to him.

"I'm sorry, sir," the young woman said. "It's just not safe."

"If I want to stop, I will stop. I can make magnificent stops. The best stops. When I stop, we all stop. Believe me." But The Man was wearing a mask, so what the young woman--and the company, and the horse--heard was this: "Mmmf Imf ffon ffop..." etc.

Another member of The Man's company, a tall man wearing a balaclava imprinted with the face of Bugs Bunny, leaned in close to The Man. "Sir. She's right. If this is to work, you must keep moving. We're not at the protest yet."

The Man reached out to touch the horse. His stubby fingers brushed the horse's forehead, and an electricity passed from the horse to himself. The Man recalled a recent past where he approached the horses without supervision.

Electricity traveled from the horses to The Man like lightning shooting from Eyjafjallajokull to the heavens. He needed to touch the horses. And now he was warned away, and could only mutter "Mmmfh mmust fying--" before his company surrounded him and urged him toward 5th Avenue, away from the horse. Away from the virility of the animals.

As The Man was trotted across Central Park South toward 5th Avenue, the young woman explained, "Sir, sorry, sir. But you can't stop unless we secure the area."

"MMfay," the man said. "MMfay."

"I need you to be more affirmative, sir."

"MMFAY!" The Man said through his Guy Fawkes mask.

The company and The Man jogged to the intersection.

The young woman noticed first, and said, "Okay, we need to stop for a moment."

After a rest, The Man regained consciousness. He looked at the world around him, and the past month felt like a dream. He felt like George Bailey, from 'It's a Wonderful Life', returning to Grover's Corners after a near-fatal plane-crash. Or like Blanche returning to Tara after a dreadful chifforobe incident.  Or Dorothy, returning to Nebraska.

Everything was normal again. He knew the corners--Central Park there, Plaza there, Apple Store, there, and beyond was Cartier, and over there was Tiffany, and just two blocks away, down 5th, was Trump Tower.

Regaining his breath, The Man ripped his mask from his face. While most of his company panicked, and formed a human shield around the President, Trump was delighted the young woman faced him.

"I can now speak clearly," Trump said. "So clearly. The mask is gone and I'm right here."

"Yes sir," the young woman responded. Then hiccuped. "Sorry." Then sneezed. "Jesus. Sorry, sir."

"I have felt the power of the universe."

"Sir. You wanted to go into the crowds. You wanted to understand their minds, and be a better leader," the young woman--

"No need. NO need. I have done what I said. I came down to this protest, and I've touched a horse. I will need that horse in Congress on my side."

The young woman, facing downtown at the chaos, muttered to herself.

Trump replied, "I am a gentleman of a company."

The young woman faced Trump. "A company, but you never say which one."

Sunday, February 19, 2017

That Swedish Incident

The light from outside fell like a corpse across the floor, where Trump sat. The light was dense and yellow and external.

"Melania," Trump said. "Flip on the lights."

Trump meant the overhead lights, but Melania turned on the flashlight to her phone and held it up.

"The light switch," Trump said. "Find the--"

"All lights are gone," Melania said.

Trump sighed. "We live in a house with more rooms than our penthouse. Why are there no light switches?"

"Maybe because it was built before electricity?" Melania smiled. She was standing against one wall of the Blue Room, posing as if Avedon were about to photograph her, with her phone extended at such a fashionable angle that light became impractical.  Which was unfortunate, as Avedon understood light.

Trump pulled a piece of paper up to his eyes and squinted. There was silence. The silence was as dense as the dead external light. Melania held her pose, and her phone's light fell across her shoes, but ventured no further.

"I've got to get this done," Trump growled. "I can't do it without decent light." He gestured up to the ceiling, where crystal chandeliers dangled like promises. "Those lights gotta work, Mel. There must be a switch somewhere."

Melania sighed. Her body released the pose. "I don't know," she said. "I've asked the staff. They are to not understand where the light switches are either."

Trump, crosslegged, shifted his expansive ass so that he could look at his wife. In doing so, he knocked over a pile of wooden sticks. The sound ripped through the silent house, and attracted no attention.

"Goddammit, Mel," Trump exclaimed. "Look what you made me do!"

Melania dropped her phone--which continued to shine--and put on her best apology face, which wasn't helpful in the dark Blue Room. "Oh, Donnie. I'm so sorry. Let me help--"

"I don't need help. I need light."

Bits of a futon were spread out before him like what would become Frankenstein's Monster. He only needed to assemble the pieces into a whole. The absence of true light made Trump angry. Melania sensed his anger.

"Donnie. Look. I can ask the help to--"

"I don't want the help." He lifted an allen wrench up to his temple.

"But they may know where the light switches are! Donnnnie." Melania spread her lips in a way she knew was beneficial to humanity.

"These lights are the worst lights. Horrible lights. I will not deal with these lights. I will assemble this futon without any lights." Trump removed the allen wrench from his temple and stabbed it in the general direction of fake wood, and missed.

Some days later, Michael Flynn wandered into the Blue Room. Light no longer fell thickly like a corpse--it flowed into the room like water. At midday, there was nothing to fear and nothing to dislike. It was a beautiful room and Flynn took a seat on a newly-installed sofa.

Flynn took a moment--he consumed the new atmosphere as one would consume a new country. The Blue Room: where Grover Cleveland married, where he could view the south lawn, where he...

In the dwindling light, Flynn caught a gleam shining out of the shag carpet. He bent over and reached out.

Just before the futon collapsed, Flynn asked, "Is this a missing screw?"




Phone to Bind Them All

Paul Ryan, twirling a rubber-coated dumbbell through his fingers, leaned back in his office chair and said, "Hm."

He said the "Hm" to no one, as there was no one in his office. As the dumbbell--a twenty-pounder the color of Gargamel's dreams, the color of Ryan's eyes--shifted from one finger to another, Ryan heard himself say "Hm" and felt the need to respond to himself.

"Ugh," he answered. He dropped the dumbbell to the office floor.

The loud thunk of the weight smashing into the aged wood elicited another required response from Ryan. "Oof," he said. Again, to no one but himself.

The initial 'Hm' beginning this strange self-contained conversation had, of course, begun 77 minutes earlier, when, curious, Ryan had turned on his television--framed nicely in an Ikea shelf put together by his wife--to watch Donald Trump's impromptu press conference. He watched the President approach the podium as if he were stalking wounded prey, and for 77 minutes Ryan was transfixed.

20 minutes in, he wished he were a smoker like his predecessor.

40 minutes in, he reached for the dumbbell.

50 minutes in, Ryan was certain time had stopped entirely, and there was nothing left to do but wait for the contraction of the universe to compress him into a tight ball, then rip his atoms from his other atoms.

A minute after the press conference, all that was left was: "Hm."

Ryan was the only man left on earth. Then phone on his desk rang.

He answered. "Hm," he said.

"Mr. Speaker," his assistant responded. Ryan always found it odd that his assistant--whom he could clearly hear behind his door--never simply shouted out to him. "I have... you know. He's on the line."

"I don't know who." Ryan stared at the numbers of his phone. "Not... surely. I mean, he just left the..." Ryan gestured to the television. "It's still live. He--"

"He's on the phone."

"But he just left the--"

"I don't know, sir. We don't have a TV out here. But we do have a phone, and the President is on it. Shall I put him through."

Ryan did not say the things the President should be put through. Ryan did say this: "Hm."

Which the assistant took as an affirmation, and suddenly there was a voice bursting into Ryan's tidy ear.

"Paulie. Man. Paulie! Did you see--"

"Hm." Then: "Mr. President. What can I do--"

"Paulie, I just gave one helluva presser. That's what it's called, right? Presser. And I pressed and I pressed and didn't confer with anyone. ANYone. I just pressed. So pressed."

Ryan checked the television screen. He could see the podium, and he could see the curtain--a strange yellow embroidered curtain reminding him of his grandmother's house. To the left of the screen, the color of the curtain, was The Hair hovering above the outline of a suit.

"Sir," he said, "part of you is still on camera."

Ryan saw The Hair shift, followed by a bit of the suit. "I'm still on?"

"Yes sir. Yeah."

The Hair moved off camera, and the camera cut to Wolf Blitzer.

"You're now.... Hm." Ryan leaned down, picked up the discarded dumbbell. He began to lift it up to his face over and over, occasionally framing his face with both the receiver and the weight as if his face were between parenthesis.

"Paulie, I just did what you guys told me to do. FANTASTIC. I told them, fantastic. Told them I wasn't interested in what they had to say. What they write. They're wrong. You guys were right, you know that. I should've done that two weeks ago."

Ryan cleared his throat. "Good, Mr. President."

"Russia my ass. I'll show them Russia."

"I don't know about that." The words slipped out before Ryan could stop them. So he countered himself before Trump could respond. "Not sure Russia is the main point here. What matters is that you." Ryan searched. Found. "You put them on notice! You put them on notice, sir. Reagan called press conferences 'feeding the beast' and you slayed the beast today!"

Ryan waited but nothing came back to him. After a moment, he heard his assistant shout--finally, simply shout--from the outer office: "He hung up! Want me to call him back for you?"

"Hm," Ryan muttered to his empty office. Then, louder: "God, no."


The One

No matter how insular, the moment Air Force One accelerated down the runway to liftoff it was impossible to ignore the engines screaming, straining, pushing toward the moment where the wheels slip from the asphalt and rest on air.

Trump did not hear the engines. Fastened loosely in a recliner near a port window, he heard the Florida crowd cheering each word slipping sharply from his soft lips. His eyes were closed though his face was turned toward the open plane window--all the better, as he hated watching the earth sink away from him. He hated liftoff.  Loved the race down the runway, loved the final push against gravity, but hated the moment where things went from Earth to nothingness.

"Raaaaaaaaaah!' Air Force One's engines screamed. And in his mind, Trump heard the crowd of Florida.

"The media lies to you," he'd said. "But I will tell you the truth!"

"Raaaaah!"

Once the plane had leveled and the engines--the crowds--became silent, Trump opened his eyes to see the blankness of the universe from his window. He lifted his tilted head from the recliner's headrest, touched his hair back into place. Inhaled. Popped off his seatbelt, which split apart like a broken rubber band.

"Look at this shit," he mumbled. Melania, a few chairs up and reading a fashion magazine, glanced back at her husband, then followed his gaze, a gaze more general than direct. "Look at the beige. The blue. The leader of the Free World needs bold colors. No wonder we've been so soft for decades. For decades." Trump stood, one hand on the back of the chair before him. "For decades. It's psychological, Mel. The Presidents have for years been forced into dullness. I want bold."

Melania returned to her magazine. She hadn't the benefit of hearing the Florida crowds nor the plane's engines. She certainly wasn't listening to her husband's words. In her ears were earbuds. She was listening to Beyonce's Lemonade at the suggestion of her new Chief of Staff, someone named Reynolds.

Trump lumbered into the aisle, turned away from his wife to the back of the plane. A steward lunged out of nowhere to catch him as he stumbled. "Not yet got my sea legs," Trump joked, taking the young man's hand and pulling it toward him, almost sending the steward into his own stumble.

With some effort, the steward--who was named Eduardo, not that Trump ever asked--assisted Trump on the unsteady journey from the main cabin to the Presidential cabin. The Presidential cabin was Trump's term for the area of the plane where there was a bed, desk, and television. After three weeks with Trump, Eduardo knew to steer Trump toward the bed. He helped lower Trump stomach first onto the mattress, then left without a word.

Trump lifted one hip and shoved a hand into his pants pocket, fished out his phone, and brought it up to his face. The screen popped to life. Icons of apps swam in a blue sea. He selected the one most resembling a bird, and waited for a moment.

Then he began to type, a letter at a time, first one thumb then another punching against the alphabet as if he hoped to crush each letter.

Eduardo, meanwhile, walked along the aisle to Melania's chair. He stood beside her for a moment, waiting, watching her flip through her magazine. He cleared his throat, first politely, then pointedly. Sighing, he bent a bit and, careful not to touch her directly, waved a hand against the air near her face. Melania jerked a bit, then plucked the earbuds from her ears. Beyonce's diminutive voice could be heard, bitter and sweet.

"Sorry to--" Eduardo began.

"Yes, please, to have a Diet Coke." Melania forced a smile that seemed more of a sob. "Do not of course tell President. He is to sleep."

"Yes, ma'am." Eduardo, and all the staff both grounded and airborne had learned that "He is to sleep" was Melania's way of asking if her husband was now monitoring social media. "He is very much to sleep."

Melania's smile became less of a sob and more of a relief. "Good. He... needs to sleep."

"I'll be right back. Sure you don't want anything else?" Eduardo returned upright. "We do specially stock--"

"Diet Coke. And do not say words." She nodded firmly, then returned the buds to her ears.

Eduardo moved to the front of the plane, passing random people not in his charge. He got to the kitchen, opened one of the refrigerators, and found one of the three cans of Diet Coke left in stock. As he brought out ice and a water glass, another steward, Pen, entered.

Pen assisted the flight crew. She'd been a part of Air Force One for almost as long as the first wing had been affixed to the fuselage. During the first Bush administration--the father, not the son--she'd been offered a promotion and refused. "We see what you do," George I had said during a particularly long flight to Geneva. "Barb and I would love you to come work for us back here."

"Thank you sir," Pen had said then. "The most important thing to me is to take care of the person flying the plane. And all due respect, but when you're in this plane, you're just a passenger. I can better serve you by serving the cockpit."

So Pen, for years, was the steward who made sure the cockpit was served. Eduardo, in 4 years, had only seen her three other times.

She always made him nervous. Her history with the plane was, to him, a marvel.

"Hey kiddo," she said.

"Hi." He smiled, and wondered if his smile, too, seemed more of a sob.

"Hard times." Pen wasn't asking a question. "I know. I'm sorry."

"They're okay for now."

"The times?"

"No. My family. They're--"

"Okay for now. Good."

Pen reached into a cupboard and retrieved a bag of chips. "Glad to see you." She stood for a moment, looking at him. Pen was a sharp woman--sharp features, sharp uniform, sharp voice. But she softened for a moment and whispered, "Very glad."

Eduardo watching Pen leave the kitchen, heading back to her duty. Then he cracked open the can of Diet Coke, poured it into the water glass. Cracked the tray of ice and dropped cubes in. Listened to the fizz, which sounded like a crowd of people cheering him on.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Robe

It was after 6:30 in the evening, and no one was fast asleep.

Trump stood at a window, watching a fountain spurt again and again, reminding him of his youth. Behind him, on a makeshift TV stand constructed from the remains of the Resolute Desk, a television blared the evening's news.

Donald J. Trump, alone in one of the most crowded houses in the United States, sipped from his tumbler of water, scratched himself through his terrycloth robe the color of freshly-crushed red grapes, and stared at the fountain. The spout pushed higher, then lower, then higher, and each spurt shattered into a white foam like melted snow.

Beyond the fountain was the fence. Trump admired the fence. Sharp, rigid. Upright. It reminded him of a Sunday morning at military school, where all students were upright, rigid, and sharp before reveille.

Trump imagined snow falling, and falling faintly, upon that fence. Then he imagined the blood. And the fountain began shooting out blood, and the lawn outside his new residence was bathed in a bright red light. The light was from an ambulance passing the residence, silent like his mother's hugs, erratic like his father's support. The fence and the fountain vibrated red lights, and Trump tightened the belt of his robe. Turned away from the window. Turned toward the flickering blue light of his television.

There was a knock at his door. His eyes were settling, finally, on the television, but now his ears were pushed into service, followed by his voice, which barked out an exasperated "What!"

His eyes dimmed a bit. Whatever was on the television slipped away as he slammed his glass onto what happened to be his bed. The glass hit the softness of the mattress, overturned, and leaked itself onto the cotton duvet.

"Mr. President." The voice, muffled by the Grant Door, donated by the Daughters of the Something. Every piece of this residence, in this house, was donated--there was not one corner owned by the Trump family, and it annoyed him. Fumbling with the overturned glass on the Roosevelt duvet, Trump yelled, "I'm standing on the goddamn carpet Betsy Rossini carved out of her own pubic hair! What?!"

Silence.

Trump loosened his belt. Exhaled. Flipped the robe like a drowning penguin, brought it closer to his body. Secured the belt again.

"...Bannon has gone silent..." the television said.

Trump glanced at the bed, wet but unstained. And un-wived. The bed was empty, and would remain empty until he crawled into it, which he did not want to do. He missed his normal bed. "I make hotels," he muttered to himself. "Now I'm staying in one."

Trump realized the next two spots he could live were Club 33, and then the apartment at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

A tentative knock at the Grant Door. A careful voice. "Mr. President."

"Yes. I am Mr. President. The President." Trump worked his toes into the Betsy Rossini carpet--unaware with each toe-flex that it was a rug Mamie Truman had selected--and scraped his fingers into the terrycloth of his own robe.

"Mr. President, it's your nightly snowcone. Made fresh, sir."

Trump moved toward the door, almost knocking down the makeshift Resolute Desk television stand.

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