Executively Branch Out

You have been elected president of the United States. When you get to the White House, you find out that there’s a note from your predecessor. The note says “Good Luck,” but when everyone else leaves the room the words on the note disappear and new words appear: “Look in the bottom drawer of the desk. There’s a hidden compartment. You will find more instructions there.”

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271 thoughts on “Executively Branch Out

  1. PeterW

    “Thank god Obama gone,” you think,, “that guy was useless.”

    You stroll about the oval office by yourself, sometimes unconsciously reaching down to touch your self between legs. You. Are. The. President.

    Okay its not the best job. In four years you are going to age 12 years. You are going to get blamed for everything. And if anything good happens to happen, governors will take the credit. The other party is going to argue with you on everything and they weren’t aren’t even going to think or listen, they are going to argue for the sake of arguing, for the sake of being different. Hence, nothing will really get done. This isn’t Kennedy’s office. In Kennedy’s day, he had bitches by the troves coming in to suck him off. LBJ and Nixon and probably both Roosevelt too, but the bitches were so keen on them all, especially Roosevelt, he was like paralyzed or something. Now in today’s world there is social media. Clinton had one stupid secretary blow him and look what happened… someone posted to facebook and that cat nearly got impeached, damn.

    Okay the stuff from the writersdigest.com weekly writing prompt happens (you know, lights, everyone leaves, Good luck from Obama, etc.)

    You find new instructions. They say: become a lobbyist, you get paid more, you get laid more, sincerely Obama.

    But why would you listen. You are the most powerful person in the world, behind Putin. You are going to change this country for good. Not for a party, for the people, all of them. God bless. Holy shit yeah, god bless America.

  2. snuzcook

    This is the longest piece I have ever posted here, and one of the few continuations to an original post. But it is late in the prompt week, and I hope you will indulge.

    STAY THE COURSE (Part 2)

    When Stephens finally walked out of the Oval Office and I asked Sandy to hold my calls, I experienced a sensation of falling.

    I realized it was the way my body was processing the shocking revelations I had been given over the past short minutes. It was like a mental fast rewind back to the moment when I opened the envelope and read the words written by my husband. “My death was staged to allow me to go into hiding…”

    I was proud that my first reaction had been a simple, ‘thank God,’ and a sense that everything would be okay. That’s all I’d had time for. Another woman in my situation might have been blindsided by a sense of betrayal, or a desire to know all the details that had been withheld, and the why behind it.

    Now, for a few moments, I could indulge myself in these considerations. Yes, I felt betrayed that I had been allowed to go through the grueling months of public mourning; then having to steel myself to take my husband’s place in the last weeks of the campaign because the Party saw it as the only way to win. And now, finding myself in the ultimate seat of power without Roy there to guide me, not knowing whom to trust.

    Roy was one of those men whose lives translated well into print. He was larger than life, a man of principle, a man of action, a man who expressed gratitude easily but chose carefully who he allowed into his inner circle.

    It was his integrity that made those cynical men of politics and of the media distrust him, those who believed that there were no true men of principle anymore, just men who had not yet had their vices revealed. And for those cynics, the harder it was to discover indiscretions in a politician, the worse those hidden truths must be.

    Then there were the ones who knew he was the genuine article and feared him for that reason. They had no leverage they could exert, no embarrassments upon which they could capitalize. They had tried and their attempts had backfired.

    It was his integrity that had forced him to place me in this situation. He had confided some suspicions and some concerns about the shadow figures behind the scenes, but he had never given me details. He would not involve me. I assumed it was to protect me and to protect the Office. Now I saw that it may have been because he needed to be able to use me, to place me in the Presidency untainted by knowledge that might influence my behavior.

    I trusted Roy completely. He had been my guiding star. We were well matched, the media said: Two strong, powerful personalities working in tandem toward the highest goals for the good of the country. When he died, I had spoken to him in my prayers and in my pensive moments, bestowing upon him the mantle of guardian angel as well as mentor. Now it was comforting to know that he truly was behind the scenes, watching over me, not a ghost but flesh and blood.

    I sat in Roy’s chair, my eyes closed, and for a moment imagined his arms enfolding me. I must have dozed into one of my deep and sudden power naps, because when I heard Sandy’s polite reminder of my 2:45 with Labor and Transportation I came fully awake. My chest felt constricted and my arms ached, as if I had been wrapped in a straightjacket. I had a fleeting recollection that I had been dreaming of being trapped by a giant sea monster. I shook it off.

    “I’ll meet them over there, Sandy. I need to stretch my legs.”

    On my way to the cabinet offices the sensation of being squeezed kept coming back to me. It wasn’t the dream, but the sense of something not right, of some inner epiphany that my conscious mind had not yet realized.

    It wasn’t until the next morning, when I was giving a memorial address at Arlington Cemetery that the pieces fell into place. My eyes had wandered to the installation that held the eternal flame, and the phrase ‘keeper of the flame’ came to mind. Of all the connotations that phrase held, the one that came unbidden with the words raised goose bumps on my arms and the back of my neck. It reminded me of a fairly obscure movie by that name starring Tracy and Hepburn. In the movie, a beloved man of the people, a heroic figure, had died in an accident. Researching for a biographical article, a writer discovers that the hero was hiding a sinister desire for power and that only his death had put an end to what could have been a successful plot to undermine the democratic process and take over the country.

    I loved Roy deeply and sincerely. I had trusted and followed his lead unquestioning. I believed in his vision, and together we had already accomplished a great deal to improve the lives of so many people. I now held the office of President in accordance with his wishes and, I suspected, as a result of his manipulations. Could it be possible that Roy had somehow lost his perspective, that in his desire to see his own plans to fruition and to thwart the competition he had crossed the line? Was it maybe even possible—and I hated to follow the thread this direction –that he was mistaken about the nature of the opposition so that he confused people’s right to choose with a plot to foil his plans?

    I looked across the cemetery, rows of crosses marching across the lawns. Heroic sacrifices. Wars justified by politicians. History written by the victors. Perspective, hind sight, foresight, insight. All true, and at the same time, truth carefully defined.

    “Madam President?”

    As I shook hands and exchanged words with the people who had brought me here to Arlington this day, I saw myself as if from a distance, an iconic presence performing an iconic duty. Keeper of the flame, indeed, I thought. A spark had begun to glow deep in my thoughts. As I reviewed memoranda on my way to the next stop on my itinerary, that spark burned brightly enough that I could feel my cheeks flush.

    “Can I get you anything, Ma’am?” It was Lucy, one of my secret service staff.

    “No, thank you, Lucy. I’m fine.” And in that moment, I knew it was true. I felt more ‘fine’ than I could remember ever feeling before. When I stepped to the next podium for a short ceremony, it was a different Me who stood in front of The People. It was a different Me who entered the West Wing later that evening.

    It was with an uncharacteristic sense of impatience that I gave a final request to my secretary before she left for the day. “Sandy, could you put on your list for tomorrow to find me a chair that fits? I don’t think the old one’s going to work for me anymore.”

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Beautiful story snuzcook. Such wordage, I rarely have the pleasure to read. You are truly a beautiful writer and believe me, I’ve never said that to anyone’s words.

    1. lionetravail

      Great stuff here, Snuzcook- I’m so glad you were inspired to take this forward! It certainly gives us some backstory to the MC’s complex state of mind, and how she reacted to the news that her husband wasn’t dead. Your writing invokes the breadth of her reactions: hopeful, resentful, and, er, rise-above-it-ful.

      I love that she questions his judgment, even though she “hated to follow the thread..” And “keeper of the flame” certainly IS a powerful, evocative phrase to have us clued in to her thoughts and feelings. Very ‘luxurious’ work on this. 🙂

    2. Reaper

      That took a very unexpected and powerful turn. You did an amazing job of getting us into her head but also leaving it open. The possibility that the husband went bad is strong, but you just as adeptly pointed to her own doubt, that maybe he is still on the right path and this sudden power, doubt, manipulation, and being surrounded by intrigue may be leading her astray. Yet her finding her own way is good no matter which it is and the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

    3. jmcody

      You managed to create so much mystery in such a short space. The clues, teasers and possible misdirection are artfully constructed and arranged. I would not be able to resist reading this if there were more to read. I see this being the kind of mystery where you’re never really sure what is going on until the end, sort of like “Gone Girl” goes to Washington. Excellent, Snuzz.

    4. cosivantutte

      Excellent continuation! The ending paragraph is so strong you could probably leave it as The End. But, on the other hand, it would be interesting to see what would happen if he came back. How would she handle it?

      I love this paragraph -> “I sat in Roy’s chair, my eyes closed, and for a moment imagined his arms enfolding me. I must have dozed into one of my deep and sudden power naps, because when I heard Sandy’s polite reminder of my 2:45 with Labor and Transportation I came fully awake. My chest felt constricted and my arms ached, as if I had been wrapped in a straightjacket.” I love how the thought of his embrace changes from a protective hug to something constricting. It leads beautifully into her thoughts that he’s been manipulating her.

      Altogether, great job! 🙂

  3. lionetravail

    (Since a lot of people wanted to see more, and I found some time, here’s…er…. more.)

    Revelations Part 2: Echoes From The Edge

    “Thank you Bill,” I said, and accepted the glass of whiskey from the butler which came with the new house..

    “Yas sir, Dr. President,” the distinguished older man said in his unhurried drawl. “It’s that Rough Rider you like from Long Island. We stocked about a hunnert bottles in the cellar for you.”

    “Hot damn,” I said, and grinned. I glanced over at the smartly-dressed bald man in the other seat in the Library. “Scott, you’re going to love this stuff.”

    He accepted an identical glass from the butler. “Thank you Bill, “ he said.

    “Have you tried it yourself yet, Bill?” I said, and took a sip.

    “Dr. President!” the butler exclaimed, scandalized.

    “I”m only teasing, Bill, but you really should. In fact let’s make that a Presidential order; go get yourself a glass and bring back a full bottle so we can all enjoy it.”

    “Yas sir,” Bill said, a little uncertainly. He took his tray and left at his slow, stately pace.

    “We’ve got about ten minutes for him to make the trip,” I said to my Director of Homeland Security after the door had closed behind the butler, and took another sip.

    The bald man drank too. “Nice!” he exclaimed. “I love the vanilla tones in this- it’s from Teddy Roosevelt’s estate or something?”

    “Nah, just from the location in New York he and his Rough Riders made famous… kind of a tribute thing,” I said.

    He relaxed back in the chair. “So what’s this all about?” he said, and examined the liquor in the glass.

    “How long have you known me, Scott?” I asked.

    “A year, plus, but it feels like longer; we met when I had to assign you servicemen during the campaign. We had drinks together a few times after that, and then you gave me some good advice for my kid when he got diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.”

    “And now you’re running the Secret Service for me, right?”

    He nodded. “Yep. They gave it to Homeland from Treasury in oh-three, which makes it mine. Why’re you asking?”

    “I’m going to need your help, Scott, and I’m going to need you to trust me,” I said.

    “Why wouldn’t I trust you?” he asked after a moment’s thought.

    “Because you’re going to think I’m crazy until I prove to you that I’m not, for one thing. For another, once I actually convince you that I’m perfectly sane, your life will be in more danger than it already is at seventeenth in succession to my office,” I said.

    He sat up in his chair and put down the whiskey. “Go ahead, Sir.”

    “I’m not, strictly speaking, human,” I said in a low voice.

    A smile began on to spread on his face. “Uh huh,” he began.

    I interrupted him by holding up my lowball glass extended on the palm of my upturned hand. I threw my head back to inhale, and then began focusing the sound from deep inside me, starting with a low rumble of a tone.

    “What the hell…?” I heard him begin.

    I scaled the sound abruptly up, and up, and further up until the glass sitting in my hand suddenly shattered.

    “Jesus Goddamned Tapdancing Christ, whatthefuckwasthat?!” he shouted as he sprang to his feet. I heard his chair fall backwards with a thump just as I stopped singing the Ineffable.

    I said nothing, but held my palm out to him as crystal fragments fell tinkling to the wooden floor. It was scored by cuts and slashes from the violently exploded glass, and yet all that ran from the wounds were trickles of sand. He watched it silently, his mouth gaped open, his eyes wide enough for me to see the whites all the way around.

    “Not, strictly speaking, human,” I repeated calmly.

    He licked his lips. “What are you?” he asked in a breathy whisper.

    “Humanity’s best hope,” I said. I rubbed my palms together and hummed. I held out my undamaged hands to show him. “Please sit, Scott, and finish your whiskey. Bill will be back in a few moments and we’ll tell him that the glass slipped and fell when you made me laugh at one of your jokes, okay?”

    “O, o, okay,” he said, shakily. He got his chair up and sat again. We exchanged a look, and he went for the whiskey and drank it straight down.

    “Let me begin by confirming that Einstein got the first law of thermodynamics right: energy can neither be created nor destroyed, simply transformed. The energy of the sun grows trees, which we can cut down and burn to extract new heat energy, right? But where does the energy of the millions of neurons which make up a human being go when they die? Even I don’t know the answer to that, Scott, but I do know that there is an entity made up entirely of energy which can attract similar patterns and harmonics to itself at the moment of death. It grows by bringing new mind-patterns, ‘souls’ for lack of a better term, into itself, and has been around for at least millennia.”

    “What are you saying?” the Director said.

    “I call it The Echoes, Scott… it carries the echoes of people it’s brought into itself, and has become ever more sophisticated with each addition.”

    “This is preposterous” he exclaimed.

    “I wish it was,” I said. “The souls it has melded with have included some of the absolute worst monsters in all of human history: dictators, sociopaths, murderers.”

    “My God,” he breathed. “It, it would be…”

    “The most dangerous thing, Scott.”

    He was silent for a moment. “Why tell me all this? Show me all…this?” He waved his hands at the mess of glass on the floor between us.

    There was a knock at the door. I glanced at him. “Because I can’t do this alone, and after five weeks in office, I know you’re the only person for the job,” I said quietly. Then, louder, to the door: “Come on in Bill, we had a little accident in here…”

    1. snuzcook

      Fascinating, lionetravail!
      I must confess, I had problems with the initial lines portraying Bill. I couldn’t decide if you were going for humorous satire, were drawing from stereotypes for atmosphere, or if my personal West Coast PC tendencies were just being tweaked. I decided on a mix of 2 and 3.

      I liked the initial introduction of Dr. President with a non-traditional trajectory into the Oval Office in the initial segment, and you have really deepened the separation of your MC from any assumptions of how he will behave, guaranteeing that I will stay intriqued. The interview and revelations with Admiral Rogers were well written and very entertaining. The visual of sand instead of blood is compelling. You’ve got me hooked.

      1. lionetravail

        Thank you so much for the kind words- they mean a ton (as you well know :))!

        I hope that the difficulties with ‘Bill’ were only your west coast PC-ness coming out: the ‘yas sir’ and drawl was meant to merely convey someone from the southeast US, nothing more on race or culture. The butlers of the White House, as portrayed in both literature and historical context, have typically been classy people who were honored to offer their service to the Office- I certainly meant no disrespect, and hope none actually came through when my character invited his to join him for a drink 🙂

        I am sure I could tighten up the above passage quite a bit, but I’m immensely gratified that you’ve been hooked- I really spent some time considering how to go about looking for something that wasn’t an overused trope, and I think I came up with one in the MC, and another in the villain known only as “The Echoes”… I’m sure there’s more story to come; when I read the piece to my wife today, she said “OMG, that sounds like a book I want to read.”

        (She’s also the one who, when I started my first novel and read her the beginning of it, had the amazingly amusing response: “Wow, you sound almost like a real writer!” I swear that’s going into the forward/Thanks of my first novel if/when it gets published.)

        So thank you so, so much.

    2. Reaper

      Definitely still interested in this story. Funny thing was I almost read your butler as British and then assumed Maine. Only in reading your exchange with snuzcook did I realize there might have been more. Guess that’s the curse of being anti-PC, I never really see those things unless they are very blatant. I like it and felt all of the characters were nicely compelling. Loved the twists on classic ideas you presented here. I have also decided from your comments that your wife is pretty amazing.

    3. jmcody

      My goodness, where to start with this…

      First, just… wow. WOW. At the risk of gushing (I don’t like gushing), I think your imagination is at least as large as your intellect. I am constantly amazed at what you are able to pull out of a prompt, and I would love to hear more about your creative process and how you do it.

      This idea of “The Echoes” is fascinating, and strangely, sort of corresponds to my own idea of what happens when you die, only in my mind it’s all good. The fact that you turned this concept upside down and made it something evil plays into some pretty universal fears and desires. I can see a lot of people wanting to read this. This has the potential to be (quite literally) scary as hell.

      The conversation about the butler is important not because of political correctness but because characters should be distinctive. At first I read him as British, and then he suddenly became Southern. There was a movie a couple of years ago called “The Butler” which may be causing people to jump to the racial stereotype… All the more reason to steer clear of the trope altogether. (Please just don’t make him Irish… 😉 ). Actually, you probably didn’t even need to spend that much time on the butler unless he becomes an important character later. (I bet he will…)

      I was grabbed by the phrase “Ineffable song.” Could make a good chapter title if not a book title. See, it’s already a book in my mind. 🙂

      Fantastic, L’Travail!

      1. lionetravail

        All I can say is wow, thank you, and please gush Jean! This is such a great site because of the community.

        Reaper, my wife was very appreciative of your comments as well 🙂

        On the subject of the creative process, I’d hate to sound like I really know stuff. Short version: I try to think of internally consistent stories, and what should be in them as far as what I can visualize. Often a word or phrase will direct the story, or I’ll consider how to explain things in a way that hasn’t been used over and over again. Words like “Ineffable song” are powerful, and conjure for me a different mythology than typical ‘magic’ or other fantasy, and that sense of mystery/new territory often informs the rest of the story.

  4. darren.white58

    Maybe it was how normal it seemed, the bright yellow post it note in the center of the empty rich mahogany desk that caused me to pause. As the tour leader herded the last scheduled “lucky” tour group out of the oval office I hung back loosening my tie knowing full well that I couldn’t loiter here even though it was my office. Did they do that here, just leave the president a post it to call back Vlad P about that Ukraine thing? I mean I am new but that just seemed out of place. Checking over my shoulder as the last of my aids shuffled out behind the tour group, I moved around behind the desk running my hand along the plinth on which every pillar of legislation holding our lumbering country aloft for the last hundred years had been built. The simple little piece of yellow paper sat alone and I hesitated for a moment before pealing it free from the desk.

    “Good luck” The simple blocky print read, with a huff of disappointment I slumped down into the Corinthian leather office chair of power and looked around for the grinning staffer trying to be cool with the new boss. Griping the arms of the chair the unmistakable outline of a switch jabbed me in the palm as I tried to rise.
    What the hell flashed across my mind as I flipped the little toggle, without a sound the public door though which I could still hear the nasally jabber of the tour guide trailing down the hall swung closed seamlessly blending into the office bookshelf.

    “I’m sure the ladies loved that one JFK” I said to the empty office when the bright afternoon sun reveled writing on the post its opposite side.

    “Look in the bottom drawer of the desk. There’s a hidden compartment. You will find more instructions there.” I am always one for a good joke and prepared myself for the punch line sitting back down in the soft leather chair. I gave the left hand bottom drawer a tug and was surprised when the handle pulled away from the drawer like a pinball launcher and when I let go it snapped back into place with a sharp hiss. The large windows behind the desk started to darken, casting the office into a deepening shadow and a distant mechanical whir emanated from somewhere below the desk. As the trap door opened I barely had the time for the obligatory “No way” before the chair seat dropped out sending me flying down the steeply inclined slide. The darkness only broken every couple of seconds by a band of florescent light.

    Hitting the carpeted ground in a heap I sprung to my feet not knowing what to expect and was shocked to find myself in an exact replica of the office above complete with windows looking out onto a simulated east lawn. Turning to the desk I noticed the office differed in one more aspect. Sitting centered on the gleaming wood was a leather bound book, a golden 2016 lustrous in the artificial sunlight. Flipping through its heavy pages the same blocky print found on the notes above filled every inch of the paper in neat measured lines with no though for punctuation or paragraph. Page after page recounted the darkest days our country had experienced over the past year. As the foreboding narration reached today’s date I nervously flipped forward and found every page was filled from margin to margin to the end of the year. In shock I left the book open and sat down exasperated behind the large desk, when my gaze fell on the book shelf snaking along the far wall filled with hundreds of identical leather books the bright golden years on their spines burning in the artificial glow.

    1. Reaper

      Okay, I admit it. I feel like a bit of a dullard here. Is this book telling him the future? Seems like a statement on the president not being able to change/do anything but I could be lost. Loved the language and the set up. The story was good, I just got lost in that one detail.

    2. lionetravail

      I think it’s exactly a prophetic guide for the president, Reaper, with the past spelled out to prove the future record will be as accurate. It’s an interesting choice for story 🙂

  5. dedewitt

    I didn’t belong here, but they made sure I didn’t end up anywhere else. Speeches mysteriously showed up at my desk before my debates, reporters were paid to ask only certain questions, other candidates suddenly had dark secrets brought to the public eye that shamed them out of the competition.

    I ran my hands over the cold wooden desk in the Oval Office. I couldn’t even name the three branches of government. How was I going to run a country?

    Easy answer – I wasn’t. They were.

    My bodyguard met my gaze. “Are you missing anything, Mr. President?”

    I cringed. No one should call me that. I shouldn’t have been standing in this room. This was all a set up. All of it. Even this guy here, he knew something I didn’t.

    “No,” I said, eyeing the gun at his hip. “Everything seems to be in order.”

    He smirked and nodded, then disappeared out the door. I slumped in the chair, loosening my tie. I had to get out of this. I couldn’t handle one more fake smile. I couldn’t handle my fake wife hanging on my arm. And I couldn’t handle the consequences that would come with being a fake president.

    I picked up the letter on the table. All that was written was “Good luck!” with positive annotations, and the optimistic, honorable signature of the former President of the United States. Fake. Fake, fake, fake.

    I turned on the lamp, holding the letter up to the light. The white space on the page began to bleed into a soft black paragraph:

    Look in the bottom drawer of the desk. There’s a hidden compartment. You will find more instructions there.

    I crunched the paper in my fist, opening the drawer and feeling around. I smacked the side. A little door embedded deep in the drawer opened, revealing a silver ring box.

    So they had found it.

    The interior of the lid was a mini-television screen, while a key lay in the soft felt a ring would have slid into. I pulled the key out. The television screen popped on, showing a video of the former president.

    “Welcome to the White House,” he said, a friendly smile chiseled into his face. “Think of this key as a symbol of your freedom, Vincent. The sooner you fix the problem, the sooner you can get back to your science lab and tv dinners.”

    I rubbed the key between my fingers.

    “We made sure no one could tamper with the dates in the machine, so don’t get any of those silly ideas of yours. Just go back and fix what happened. Don’t let me fail this time. After all, correcting my failure also corrects yours, doesn’t it?”

    The key disappeared in my clenched fist.

    “You have three hours. Don’t mess this up. Neither one of us can afford it.”

    The screen went black. Sure, I’d fix my mistake. And I’d make sure he never even had the chance to make his.

    1. Reaper

      Definitely like this as a beginning to what sounds like a very action packed time travel story. I also love the start because, human nature being what it is, I wonder how many presidents have the feeling of I don’t belong here. It makes your character very relatable.

  6. Kerry Charlton

    PERCIVAL AND BOOB

    Percival Shortstack Snotluster, the newly elected President of the United States looked around the oval office, settled into a comfortable swival desk chair and propped his boots on top of Thomas Jefferson’s desk. His vision began to clear from the moonshine he consumed along his inaugural parade. His blood chilled as his wife approached him,

    “What do you think Boob?”

    Amaryllis Boob Snotluster grinned a snaggle tooth reply,

    “I’ve found the perfect spot in the basement for our still.”

    ‘Idontgiveadamn’, a new political party had split the Demonic Democrats and the Train Wreck Republicans down the middle and had captured the majority of the fifteen percent of eligable votors who bothered to show up at the ballet box. Chester Glitch caught the coat tails and was elected Vice President. Few knew he was the illegitimate son of Boob. Those who were aware, were offered high level offices in the new adminstration to keep their yappers shut.

    The Dust Bowl from the 1930’s had nothing on the devestation caused by twenty four years ofdoldrum. First was Hillary for eight, Jeb Bush for a double term disaster, Chelsea for a pitiful four followed by George what’s his initial Bush, IV.

    The White House had to support itself to pay the light bill. Part of the South Lawn had been converted as a supply yard for forty yard roll-off dumpsters. Large trucks picked up refuse from littered Washington streets and dumped it in a large landfill dug out at the rear of the White House. Summer breezes made the stench unbearable but no less than the odor of Congress in session.

    A pot-bellied, baggy eyed sloth entered the oval office.

    “Good morning Chester,” Perc uttered the lilt of disdain laced each word. Chester ignored his greeting,

    “Where do I sleep Momma?”

    “You can’t sleep here baby. You have the Vice President’s residence.”

    “You mean I’m in charge of vice?”

    “No dear, I am and don’t mess with me. Now run along and amuse yourself.”

    “I swear I don’t know what I’m gonna do with him.”

    “He’s in the perfect job,” Perc said. “No one will ever ask.”

    “By the way, where are my maids,” Boob said.”

    “Look in the mirror, you’re it. There are no funds in the budget.”

    “Shit Perc, I ain’t gonna do it. Why don’t you sell Monticello?”

    “No one wants it, the staircases are too narrow.”

    “I suppose I have to do my own cooking.”

    “You’re learning fast Boob. Noe here’s my idea for the rose garden: We’ll grow our own vegetables, line the garden with half-buried truck tires and paint ’em white.”

    “Geez… I’m outta here,” She slammed the door on the way out and Perc was alone. He preferred it that way. He noticed a note lying on the desk corner and picked it up. Two words appeared, ‘Good Luck.’ The note dissolved into a message,

    ‘There is a hidden compartment under the right side of the desk. Push twice to open it.’

    Perc did so and found an ancient letter inside. He started to read,

    ‘Never put off tomorrow, what you can do today.

    Never trouble another, for what you can do yourself.

    Never spend your money before you have it.

    Never buy what you do not want, because it is cheap, it will be dear to you.

    Pride costs us more than hunger, thrist and cold.

    We never repent fo having eaten too little.

    Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.

    How much pain has cost us, the evils which have never happened.

    Take things by their smooth handle.

    When angry, count ten before you speak, if very angry, a hundred.

    Signed, T. Jefferson

    Perc let out a stifled yawn, crumpled the old letter and aimed for the waste basket. As it hit the rim and dropped im, he shouted, “Three Pointer.”

      1. Critique

        On second read I thought the use of the Ancient Read was the perfect contrast to the flagitious (a new word I discovered 🙂 ) ‘leadership’ Perc dispensed.

    1. Reaper

      Amazing Kerry. The seething anger of the commentary both about the imperialistic trends, both parties, and the someone else will do it mentality at the beginning was palpable. That flowed amazingly into a feeling of desperation and lost hope. You told a funny and yet very emotional story that by the end had me upset in a way that I wanted to fix things again. Very nicely done. This is also outside of your normal style but very much in your voice, which I have come to hear as the wizened shaman extolling the greatness of what was while also warning of the dangers that were in the past and warning of a very real possible future. Maybe that’s just me, but the departure of style was amazing and impressive.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Reaper. Such kind words from you. Yes I am mad. I do remember the American Spirit of WWII, even though I was nine when Japan surrendered. I also watched the newsreels on the death camps in Germany. I wanted to turn away from the horror of it, but didn’t. Look for more of these kind of stories from me, someone has to do it. Someone has to warn…………

    2. lionetravail

      You had me at the title “Percival and Boob”, Kerry! Then you had me again at Percival Shortstack Snotluster 🙂

      Great work here! I love this- it’s totally got shades of “Idiocracy”, but with far more pizzazz and intelligent story/commentary. I love how surreally funny this is 🙂

      1. swatchcat

        Dear Kerry,
        It was a pleasure to read your story. Most all of the other’s comments I agree with. Why does it take a bit of silliness to pull a reader in? It was the names your characters that intrigued me as well. At first I felt you were speaking to me or some of my generation, because I have lost interest and it doesnt surprise me that this could actually happen. But, on a side note, take a look at the line following Boobets morning greeting. Something is amiss.

      2. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you David, I shook with anger writing this, finished it, proofed it and only changed a half-dozen words. Next one will be light hearted, ’tis the season you know.

    3. jmcody

      I laughed, I cried, I got drunk (not really), I laughed and cried some more and beseeched the heavens “Why?” This is a hilarious exaggeration of the very real mess we are in. Twenty four years of Clintons and Bushes? You are killing me, Kerry…

      The names were very fittingly absurd, and I was also reminded of “Idiocracy” which was ridiculous, yet a little too close to the truth for comfort. That was some biting satire, and some excellent button-pushing you did there, Kerry. Bravo.

  7. Hiba Gardezi

    Hi everyone! i know i didnt post last week an d im late this time but i have my exams going on…so yeah, im a bit busy 🙁 i probably won’t post next week either but i hope you guys enjoy this one 🙂 It has a few urdu words( im Pakistani so i decided to talk about my country this time) so i’ve given their translation here:
    Han : yeah
    kaise ho: how are you
    main Taliban ka badshah hoon :I am the king of the Taliban
    yaar : dude
    pagal hogaya : has/ have become crazy

    Pakistan? President?
    Might as well make the best of it.
    So …he told me to ruin this country…and now I get to be president?
    Ahhh …if I govern it I can destroy it too.
    Lol ! I get those wads of cash first! Ima gimme a cruise ship.
    All these thoughts flood into my mind as I walk up the steps of the parliament house. The trumpets blare on either side with all these fools marching beside me.
    ‘Mr. President…Mr. President!’
    ‘What?’
    ‘We need you to give a short speech’
    ‘Shohaib…do I look like I’m in the mood?’
    He looks surprised
    ‘But…’
    ‘What?’
    ‘You need to’
    ‘You want a speech?’
    ‘Sir, that’s kind of what I’ve been saying’
    ‘I’ll give you a speech’
    I jump onto the highest step and snatch a microphone from the nearest guy.
    ‘Pakistan! ‘I laugh at the word ‘how are you guys han? Kaise ho?’ I fall onto the step and sit eying the camera which has lowered.
    ‘You’re stupid all of you!’
    I look at the confused faces of all my colleagues.
    ‘I’m president!’
    ‘Duh’ I hear someone in the crowd
    ‘You idiots!’
    ‘Umm…Mr. President?’ the camera man speaks.
    ‘Yes peasant ,what is it?’
    ‘Are you sure your okay?’
    ‘Yeah, I’m awesome. Why would you ask? …as I was saying…I’m president. But now let me tell you all this: I’m no ordinary president’…Main Taliban ka badshah hoon!
    The camera man shuts his camera.
    ‘What’s wrong?’ I say ‘I was just getting to the good part’
    He doesn’t answer and turns on his phone ,dialing a number
    ‘What are you doing?’
    He puts the phone to his ear ‘yaar … president pagal hogaya…yeah please ask the rehabilitation centre friend of yours to get here now!
    I get up angrily and shout. ‘I am from the Taliban! I am your leader. And now I will destroy you! Destroy all of you!’
    I jump off the stairs and kick a guy in the groin and head butt another. Then someone injects me with something and everything goes black.

    1. Dennis

      Hiba, welcome back and good luck with your exams. I like your use of Urdu to give it a more realistic feeling. There is definitely an air of craziness so you reflected that well.

    2. Reaper

      Definite insanity feel. I am assuming, and correct me if I am wrong, that this is set in Pakistan and the US put the MC up to this? Or is it the other way around? This evokes a lot of emotion and comes across as very believable. I feel like there is an even deeper message that I am missing which makes me ant to read it again, and again.

  8. cosivantutte

    Sorry. I couldn’t help myself. 😀

    My temper has always been my worst failing. When I was in sixth grade, I punched the lunch lady for putting the mysterious gray slop on my dish. I told her very clearly that I wanted the mysterious blue slop, but no. Splat! I got mysterious gray slop. So, I punched her. So, of course, she punched me back. We both wound up in the principal’s office that day.

    Ever since then, I’ve tried to keep my temper squashed down. Guy cuts me off on Fifty-Fifth and Vine? Hey, not a big deal. Someone spoils the ending of Silence of the Lambs for me? Pfft. No need to get angry about such a little thing. Baby screaming bloody murder throughout my yoga session? “Idiot woman! Why’d you bring your screaming-faced baby to yoga?!” But, hey. It’s all cool. I’m cool. The whole stupid world is cool.

    When I became a congressman, well. That was the supreme test of my thin patience. Idiot jerk senators! They killed all of my bills on purpose. They’d see my name on the bill and chuckle inanely as they killed it.

    I eventually caved in and bought a punching dummy. I wrote one word on the dummy’s face: Congress. Oh, it worked such wonders on my temper. I’d smile pleasantly as they killed bill after bill. Then, I’d go home and punch the dummy until my fists hurt.

    All of that self-control paid off when I ran for President. After dealing with Congress for so many years, the debates were a piece of cake. I almost cracked when President Schmeelin brought up the lunch lady incident and tried to say that it was proof that I hated women. I launched into an eloquent appeal for better food in schools so no child would ever again have to choose between blue slop and gray slop. Oh, how the audience applauded. I won the debates and the Presidency by a huge beautiful landslide.

    After all of the election rigmarole and post-election interviews and post-election ribbon cuttings and first ball pitchings and on and on, my patience was thinned to almost nothing. I did not want to deal with any more nonsense. I wanted to drop face first into bed and sleep.

    But no. As soon as I entered the White House, a perky intern with ribbons woven into her hair greeted me with, “Oh, Mr. President. There are a stack of papers on your desk in the Oval Office. Please review them before lunch.”

    I snarled something unpleasant at her and dragged myself into the Oval Office. I schlumped into the Presidential chair and stared bleary-eyed at the paper mountain on my desk. No one ever told me that being a President would be this much work.

    I picked the first sheet off the pile – a blank piece of dingy, not quite white paper. A bleached out yellow sticky note stuck to it. Both were obviously recycled paper, which irked me. They looked recycled and felt recycled – all shabby and gritty. I read the message on the sticky note:

    “Good luck and look in the bottom drawer. There’s something really good in there.

    Sincerely,

    President Schmeelin”

    Oh, how nice. My predecessor took the time out of his busy schedule to get really cheapo paper and write me a good luck note. How generous.

    I whipped the sticky note off the paper, which was easier than I’d expected. Cheapskate stuff barely had any sticky stuff on it. I tore the note into little shreddlings and then moved onto the sheet that it was attached to.

    I threw the whole shredded mess into the garbage can. “There! That’s what I think about your message, Mr. EX-President.” I kicked the can for additional emphasis.

    ***

    Ex-President Schmeelin practically glowed with anticipation as he watched the new President sit down at his desk. “He’ll see my note and follow my directions and then!” He laughed so hard he snorted. The snort caught him off guard. “I haven’t done that since sixth grade.”

    His secret service man, Gentleman Jenkins, refrained from making any comment. “He picked up the paper, sir.”

    Schmeelin leaned forward. “Come on, Mr. President. That’s it. Read it and then open the—What? Jenkins. What is he doing, Jenkins? Why is he tearing it up? What? What? Isn’t he going to open the drawer?”

    “Apparently not, sir.”

    The new President picked up the next sheet of paper and started to read.

    Schmeelin slouched back in his seat. “Well, isn’t he the fun-killer. Jenkins, as soon as he leaves the room, be sure to retrieve the banana cream pie from the secret compartment. I may not be President any more but I don’t want the Oval Office to reek of spoiled banana cream pie.”

    “As you wish, sir.”

    1. Dennis

      Good fun Cosi. It’s amazing how many don’t get past the maturity level of six grade. I am trying to imagine what it look like seeing a president actually pop someone. 🙂

    2. jmcody

      Oh no you didn’t… Ok, you did, and it was great. Aside from the antics and the laugh at the end, the flow was smooth, absorbing and entertaining, and the character development was inspired. I loved how your Pres just could not get past the cheapo recycled paper, and his internal monologue was hilariously lowbrow. This was fun and well written.

      1. cosivantutte

        Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I had way too much fun writing it.

        In reading over the other stories for this prompt, I noticed that all of the presidents followed the note’s directions. That got me thinking. What if he didn’t want to follow the directions? And it just sort of flowed from there.

  9. gp24

    You have been elected president of the United States. When you get to the White House, you find out that there’s a note from your predecessor. The note says “Good Luck,” but when everyone else leaves the room the words on the note disappear and new words appear: “Look in the bottom drawer of the desk. There’s a hidden compartment. You will find more instructions there.”

    I open the drawer and find a form and a hand gun. I take both out and lay them on the desk at which I am seated. The top of the fill-in-the-blank and circle-the-answer form reads “Step 1: Plan Your Executive Funeral” I quickly fill in the blanks and circle whether I want a horse drawn hearse or a car to carry my remains. Car. It’s the fastest way to the cemetery. Where do I want to be placed in state? The Library of Congress because nothing else is coming to mind. Looking over the paper, I nod satisfied with my choices. I press the button on my executive phone, ringing for the secretary.
    “Yes,” a male voice calls over the speaker.
    “Could you come in here a minute,” I say, and then as an after thought, “and bring some paper towel.”
    “Right away.”
    I check the chamber of the hand gun. One bullet is all I need.
    The secretary enters with a roll of paper towel under his arm. He is young, maybe in his 40s with dark hair and light blue eyes. Seeing the gun on the desk, his face clouds.
    “Don’t worry. It’s not for you,” I say. “Here.” I hand him the form.”
    Tentatively he takes it, reads and looks up in time to see me press the gun to my temple.
    “I never wanted to be elected president. It’s just something my mother wanted.”
    I squeeze the trigger. Lightening shoots through my head. For a moment my body screams as electrical currents shoot through me then numb blackness.

  10. Karinh

    Executive Branch Out: You have been elected president of the United States. When you get to the White House, you find out that there’s a note from your predecessor. The note says: “Good Luck”, but when everybody else leaves the room the words on the note disappear and new words appear: “Look in the bottom drawer of the desk. There’s a hidden compartment. You will find more instructions there.”

    Well, it’s nice to find a “Good Luck” note on your desk. It’s odd though the former president used scrap paper which is already a bit yellow with age, and a pencil. Anyway, I shook the secretary’s hand, and she followed the others who had already left. Before I chucked the note in the garbage, I had another look at it and, instead of “Good Luck” I read an enigmatic message: “Look in the bottom drawer of the desk. There’s a hidden compartment. You will find more instructions there.”

    No way I would not obey my former running mate! Although I remembered his vehement opposition regarding the new law about witchcraft – he didn’t find it suitable as a High School subject, whereas I wanted everybody to be able to at least know the basics – I had never found him to be mean or capable of malice. A bit mischievous, yes. And very boyish. After all, he was a man. And he seemed to remember I love surprises.

    I stooped down and pulled the bottom drawer out. It slid smoothly. Empty. Now where was the secret compartment? I looked and searched, slid my fingers in the far corners, got my torch and shone it inside. Nothing. On my hands and knees I checked underneath the drawer, using the torch and my bare hands. Again, nothing to be felt or seen.

    There – a tiny lever in the centre of the outside of the back wall of the darned drawer. Must have cost him some effort to set it up. It only took my pinky to push it to the left.

    Something hit my forehead. How can such a small lever cause such a vehement blow? I grabbed the glass paperweight with my predecessor’s initials on it and pushed it on the swelling on my forehead to ease the pain and prevent more swelling. Wasn’t I lucky nobody had seen this. I’d be the laughing stock…

    You just wait, my friend. I’m already planning my revenge. Two can play this game. I know you love your chocolates like I love surprises. I can fill your favourite pralines with some mustard – or chilli sauce – or castor oil. All it takes is a little syringe and maybe ten minutes to wrap everything up nicely…

    1. Reaper

      I like the premise of this, though there are a couple of things I would like to know more about. The witchcraft thing, it seems important but it is not really explored. Also, why does the new president not trust the old running mate? What happened to cause the two who were theoretically close at one point to grow apart? I can assume it is too many practical jokes but would love to read about what happened there.

  11. M'Óv

    „Dear newly invested President of the United States of America,

    First of all I want to congratulate you for becoming the leader of our beautiful nation. I wish I could’ve said this to you in person, but I had to leave the country for a more…permanent matter.

    Secondly, as tradition dictates, I am honored to inform you that from this day onwards, you are part of a very select and exclusive group of people, a group which will shape, build, improve or destroy the world. It is called ‚B.I.G. 5’ and it includes the 5 most powerful people in the world: the Presidents of the US, France and Russia, the Prime Minister of the UK and the German Chancellor. The group gathers twice per year to set the political course for the world in that respective year or period or to discuss other important administrative issues. For a decision to be official and applicable by all, it must be approved by 5 votes. If anyone refuses or goes against, the vote falls…and here is where our problems start…

    For the last two years, the Russian President kept voting against all our plans on purpose. He is trying to create his own alliance in the East to compete against the West. Nothing new here, but, as time passed, we started losing our patience with him and we have reached a very delicate point…now he threatens us with war! And he means it this time.

    Normally the group can exclude a member if everyone else agrees, but we chose to keep Russia close to us so we can trace its moves…keep your enemies closer, right? Plus, there’s no point now, as it is too late anyway.

    The even bigger problem is that your life, mister President, is in danger. During my last six months at the White House there have been two attempts on my life…they were kept behind closed doors of course, but our informants can confirm that both attackers were Russians. The other three know about this, as I’ve sent them similar letters. So far, there are two different views over this critical matter…there’s France and the UK who propose an eye for an eye approach and sending someone to…replace the Russian President and then there’s Germany who proposed engaging them directly, on all fronts, as we have better military technology…

    I am assured that you are capable of making the best decision in this situation, but what I recommend is to keep your calm and be rational, try to solve this peacefully! You will not have too much authority from the start, but gain their trust and solve this!

    I wish you the best of luck!
    B.O.

    P.S. the next meeting is on January 15. You will receive another letter the following days with the location.”
    * * *

    – Secretary! Please call in the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Internal Affairs and the National Security Director! Oh and, send a glass of water as well, I feel a bit…dehydrated.

    1. Reaper

      Mov, I’m so wondering where you’re from. Because the Big 5 reference is hilarious if you’re from the states. Beyond that, good writing and it gave me chills. This is a conspiracy theory, inside of another, wrapped in a riddle, draped in an enigma, and served on a taco shell. It was at the same time over the top and obscenely believable. Nice job and your ending line was a perfect clincher.

      1. M'Óv

        heh, thank you so much for the feedback Reaper. Actually the Big 5 reference is one that I’ve heard on a news report(in my home country which I’m not willing to disclose…yet 😀 )…as for the conspiracy…considering today’s political context, anything is possible :)). Cheers!

  12. Critique

    I craved solitude. Months of suitcase living on the campaign trail had rewarded us beyond our wildest dreams with a majority victory. My lifelong dream had come to fruition and I, the newly elected President of the United States was jubilant and bone-weary.

    The Oval Office was jammed with well wishers and White House staff.

    “This was couriered in just now with instructions not to open it until you were alone.” The White House Press Secretary, Shirley Macpherson’s botoxed lips widened in a fake smile as she handed me an envelope.

    The addressee on the envelope was from the past President, Julio Maldonado. Intrigued because our relationship was strained at best, I slit it open with my fingernail.

    Inside was a single sheet with bold letters reading: Good Luck. A prickly sensation scattered down my spine. Was this some kind of joke?

    Sensing the scrutiny of eyes I slid the paper back in the envelope, walked over to my Chief of Staff Michael Harris and whispered in his ear.

    “Thank you everyone.” He said loudly calling everyone to attention. “The party is officially over.”

    When the room emptied I sank into my chair, kicked my heels off and leaned my head back. Strange that with the magnitude of my responsibilities the uppermost thought in my head was Julio’s note. Curious, I slid the paper out of the envelope and then sat bolt upright. A thaumaturgic quill transcribed a new message in front of my eyes, each word disappearing before the next: Look in the bottom drawer of the credenza on the east wall.

    In my rush to reach the credenza I knocked my chair over. Yanking the drawer open I snatched up the envelope inside and ripped it open spilling a single sheet out onto the floor.

    Words replaced one another on the page as I fell to my knees. Before the page turned blank I’d memorized the message. Terror squeezed my throat. Alerting security could mean certain death for my eight year old twin boys.

    There was one person I could trust but first, I needed to leave the White House. Undetected.

    Changing my attire in the White House bedroom took five minutes. Then I checked to make sure my precious boys Matthew and Riley, were in their respective bedrooms and kissed them good night, hugging them tightly.

    I waited to be sure the kitchen staff were off duty before slipping through their service door, down a flight of stairs and into a garage that would exit through a secret tunnel. Surveillance no doubt had captured my strange behaviour but I had no recourse. I could think only of my boys. They were my life. I alone could protect them. Seven years ago their father had never returned from the Middle East apocalypse.

    Requisitioning a vehicle without raising suspicion was impossible but I used every acting skill I possessed. Jeff Baker, a young chauffeur I recognized from previous duty, succumbed to my persuasive demeanour and against protocol and no doubt his better judgement, jumped at the chance to provide service. After an hour and a half of silent driving we were on the outskirts of Baltimore.

    “Jeff, take the first exit to Druid Hill Park and go through to the Maryland Zoo.” I instructed.

    Twenty minutes later Jeff pulled over beside the deserted zoo entrance.

    “You will return to the White House immediately as I won’t need your services any further.” I said.

    “But. Madam President.” Jeff shocked white face peered at me from the driver’s seat. “I can’t leave you here alone.”

    “Yes you can. That’s an order.” I warned. “It’s in your best interest to keep this in the strictest of confidence.”

    There was little doubt that was going to happen I thought cynically as I slammed the door shut behind me. The moment he drove away he would be alerting security. I had no time to lose.

    Pulling the sleeve of my jacket up to reveal the translucent cellphone bracelet I tapped in a coded sequence of numbers. Then, I waited. The lights at the zoo entrance were motion sensitive – Daniel had warned me about that – and I stayed back in the shadows out of range. The moments ticked by.

    “Come. On.” I muttered fiercely. “Daniel where are you?”

    The temperature had fallen with the darkness and a brisk wind had me shivering uncontrollably. I peered through the fence straining my eyes to see what wasn’t there. I heard the distinct sound of approaching vehicles.

    Panic threatened to send me fleeing when suddenly an arm clamped like a vice around my chest and a hand mashed my lips into my teeth.

    ***********************************
    To be continued….

      1. Critique

        I know, nasty of me. But thanks for the affirmation.
        Alas I’m going to make things worse… I’m in a time clinch and thus not sure when the sequel for this brilliant story will be revealed ;( 🙁

    1. Reaper

      Very nice critique. Funny thing is, this is so fast paced and yet the first part seems so methodical. An interesting and difficult combination to be sure. I like where this is going and am waiting for the continuation. I’ll be the one sitting here tapping my foot impatiently. 🙂

  13. Daydreamer57

    Presidential Pardon

    “Mr. President, the red drapes over the Rose Garden windows have got to go.”

    “I kind of like them.”

    “They’re so bawdy. I’m thinking off-white drapes with shutters.”

    “Jesse darling,” the president said, “the way Mr. President rolls off your tongue is magical.”

    “Oh, Edward, I’m so proud of you.” Jesse planted a soft kiss across the new president’s lips.

    The president pulled away. “You’re going to make a great First—”

    There was a knock at the door.

    The president put one finger to his lips and walked behind the huge desk.

    “Come in Linda.”

    “Sorry to interrupt, Mr. President. This just came for you. It’s from the former President.” She handled a folded piece of stationary across the desk.

    “No need to apologize, Linda. As my secretary, you have complete access to me at all times.”

    “Yes sir, Mr. President. Sir, I know it’s been almost a year but I’d like to extend my condolences about your wife.”

    “Thank you Linda. The war on cancer will be a top priority in my administration.” The president read the note and smiled. “The old curmudgeon wished me good luck. What a surprise.”

    “That’s very kind of him,” Jesse said, “considering how nasty the campaign—”

    “Oh, I’m sorry, Linda Smith, this is Jesse Roberts. He’s on my Transition Team. Mr. Roberts will be also be redecorating the Oval Office. Could you escort him to his new office?”

    “Yes sir, Mr. President. Right this way, Mr. Roberts.”

    President Edward Stanton sat behind his desk and took a deep breath. He was not the kind of man to keep secrets. Would the country accept him if he—? He wondered if there would come a time in the next four years he could—. He pushed the thought from his mind.

    He glanced at the note again. The words had changed. “Good Luck,” was replaced by the words: “Look in the bottom drawer of the desk. There’s a hidden compartment. You will find more instructions there.”

    When he located the hidden compartment, he removed a sealed, legal-size manila envelope and a cell phone. Bold printing on the envelope read: Review the contents inside. When you’ve made your decision, dial the number in the phone.

    “What the hell is this all about?” he mumbled under his breath, as he opened the envelope and removed a stack of color photographs of various women. He counted twelve. Typed on the back of each photo appeared to be a personal “bio” indicating age, weight, height, measurements, ethnic and religious background, and profession.

    Each woman was stunningly beautiful and educated, each graduating near or at the top of their class from prestigious schools. His hand trembled as he dialed. After two rings, a voice answered.

    “Have you made your decision, Stanton?”

    “Who is this? What decision?”

    “The one who is be your wife?”

    “This is absurd. I…I’m not selecting a wife.

    “Stanton, we know about Jesse Roberts.”

    The president sunk in his chair. “I won’t be blackmailed.”

    “You don’t have a choice. It’s all planned. You will meet your future wife at an Inaugural event and after a very public engagement you will wed in a lavish White House ceremony seen around the world.”

    “Whoever you are, I will do such thing. I love Jesse Roberts and I plan on spending the rest of—”

    “Stanton, this country will not accept a gay president.”

    “I was elected President of the United States.”

    “Under false pretenses. You are not—”

    “Human?” the president said, raising his voice.

    “No. I mean—”

    “That I’m incapable of serving my country, or expressing sympathy for the sick, or compassion for the dying, or courage against our enemies, or…or love for another human being?”

    “Stanton, you have no idea the chaos you’re about to unleash on this country.”

    “To you and those you represent, your world is not the kind of world I choose to live in.”

    “You will not survive this, Stanton.”

    “What, an assassination? Impeachment? I’ll take my chances. Now, if you pardon me, I have an announcement to make.”

    The president disconnected the call and summoned his secretary. “Yes, Mr. President?”

    “Linda, have our communication’s people contact the major media outlets around the world. Tell them I’m going to give a speech from the Oval Office this evening.”

    “Yes sir. The context of the speech, sir?”

    “Tell them I’m…I’m having a ‘coming out party’ of sorts”

    “Yes sir, Mr. President.”

    1. snuzcook

      Interesting scenario you have created here, Daydreamer57. I like it. The idea that the MC is spurred to take action by the very people who hope to control him is delicious. The introduction of his amore as an interior decorator may be a bit of a stereotype, but it works as shorthand in sh-sh-fiction. I like your sparse style of prose–nicely paced and clean. Well done.

    2. Reaper

      At first this felt a little heavy handed, not that doing a story that way is always bad, but then my mind manufactured a scenario. It told me the people on the other end of the phone were not the people he thought. Rather, with the interruptions and the playing into the the inherent personality they became a group that actually wanted the president to out himself and manufactured just the situation it would take to spur him into action. Probably not where you were going with this but that it could inspire such a thought brought a subtle feeling to it and made it wonderful for me.

  14. jmcody

    STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

    President Clooney ran a manicured hand over the burnished oak of the Resolute desk and imagined his famous forbears – none of whom were as good looking as himself, he realized with a grin.

    “It’s good to be the king,” he said out loud and propped his Gucci boots on the storied desk.
    Funny, he hadn’t noticed that before. Under his left heel was a thick, creamy notecard engraved in formal calligraphy with the words “Good Luck.”

    Perhaps the maid had left it? Highly irregular, but who could blame her with a star of George’s radiance in the Oval Office? He would send her an autographed photo. The thought made him feel magnanimous.

    On the reverse side of the card he found more loopy script:

    “Look in the bottom drawer of the desk. There’s a hidden compartment. You will find more instructions there.”

    Amal. His eyes twinkled at the thought. Of course. An inauguration day gift. George sat up and tugged opened the hefty drawer. Amal had great taste and he couldn’t wait to see what she had gotten him.

    George ran his hand along the edges of the empty drawer until he found a spring loaded panel which opened to reveal a giftwrapped package.

    Amal, you little minx, George thought as he tore the wrapping off the telltale blue Tiffany box. A crystal decanter, perhaps? Or a sterling silver desk set? George lifted the lid in eager anticipation.

    Inside, a black plastic orb gleamed up at him. George grinned his famous, chiseled-granite grin. Okay, I’ll play along. He gave the Magic Eight-Ball a shake and watched as the triangular placard floated up from the inky depths.

    TIME
    TO PAY
    THE PIPER

    What was that supposed to mean? George gave the ball another shake.

    YOU WILL
    DO EXACTLY
    AS I SAY, GEORGE

    This was not like any Magic Eight Ball George had ever seen before, and it wasn’t exactly Amal’s style. Maybe it was Pitt, or that jokester Damon. George gave the ball another shake.

    THE CONSEQUENCES OF
    NON-COMPLIANCE
    WILL BE
    ANNIHILATION

    Okay, this really wasn’t funny. Even Fallon wouldn’t do this. None of his friends would. Except…

    George picked up his phone and punched in some numbers.

    “Malarkey!” he barked into the phone, “Get in here, now!”

    Vice President Malarkey slunk into the Oval Office and closed the door behind him.

    “You rang, boss?”

    “I got your little gift, Malarkey. Very funny.”

    “Why, I don’t know what you mean,” Malarkey said, studying the presidential seal overhead.

    George held up the eight ball. “I can take a joke as well as the next guy, but seriously, Malarkey, sometimes you go too far.”

    “If I were you,” Malarkey’s voice dropped unnaturally low “I would do exactly as it says.”

    “Oh, really?” George gave the ball another shake.

    GET
    PUTIN
    ON THE LINE

    “I don’t get it,” said George tossing the ball to Malarkey. “Do me a favor and get rid of it.”

    “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” said Malarkey, a sardonic smile curling the corner of his lips.

    “You know, I could have picked Damon or even Affleck for my Vice President, but I picked you because you were so… accommodating. Maybe I should have gone with Affleck.”

    “I’m just saying… you should listen to the ball.”

    “Whatever, Malarkey. Just get rid of it.”

    “Okay, boss. As you wish.” Malarkey bowed slightly, and looked up at George’s face.

    “Boss, what’s wrong with your face?”

    George’s face had gone slack, and a string of drool hung from his lip. He raised his hand to his face where it stopped, seemingly frozen. George’s entire body had gone completely rigid.

    “It’s a stroke, boss,” Malarkey said, jumping up and down and clapping his hands. “I’ll call an ambulance.”

    * * *

    Acting President Edwin Malarkey reveled in the media coverage of his meteoric rise to the highest office in the land. The people adored his rugged good looks and his remarkable resemblance to Hollywood superstar Robert Downey Jr. The media gushed about his humble beginnings as a struggling screenwriter and personal assistant to Downey and later as Downey’s look-alike stunt double. He had everything the public wanted in a president – good looks, Hollywood connections, an underdog persona and a heartwarming rags-to-riches narrative.

    Now there was just the matter of that Magic Eight Ball to reckon with. Edwin picked it up and gave it a tentative shake.

    I’LL SEE YOU
    IN HELL,
    EDWIN.

    The sorceress had warned him. She always did. But he knew better, as he always did. And just look at him now…

    😉

      1. jmcody

        You simply must get one right away. I don’t know how you get out of bed in the morning without one, let alone make life altering decisions.

        Thanks, Bilbo

        😉

    1. snuzcook

      Sniggering all the way through, JM. What fun! I love the way you so effortlessly weave these personalities together, giving the reader a sense of being privy to all the inside scoop. And Edwin is nothing if not consistent. Poor guy, I see no happiness in his future.
      Imaginative, well executed and loads of fun. Thanks for writing yet another delightful tale!

    2. cosivantutte

      😀 This was 100% awesome and hilarious. I love Edwin’s last name. Given the bizarre situations he’s gotten himself into, Malarkey is the perfect last name. I just feel bad that he’s gone so long without one.

      By the way, great job on nailing George Clooney’s overly smug attitude.

      Only one question: Where does Edwin find all of these sorceresses/gypsies?

      1. jmcody

        He just kind of attracts them. Maybe it’s his stench of desperation.

        Oh my, I am cracking myself up.

        Don’t know if you know that the term “Malarkey” will be forever linked with Vice President Joe Biden who used it in a debate with Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan. I think Biden and Malarkey might be just be related somehow…

        Also, interestingly, the online Urban Dictionary lists “summoning Satan” as an example of kinds of Malarkey. Now there’s a thinker… 🙂

    3. Nicki EagerReader

      Nice! Once I got the idea of Sexiest Man Alive loafing around the oval office this exchange was just too realistic- Edwin is a sinister character indeed!

      1. jmcody

        Thanks Nicki. Yes, he’s sinister, yet bumbling. That’s kind of his charm.

        Oh let’s be real — I write Edwin stories when I can’t think of anything else. 🙂

    4. lionetravail

      So much fun, and so well written, Jean! I saw what you said to Nicki, and it probably says something that Edwin is your comfort zone 🙂

      What a wonderful send-up, channeling the earlier prompt so smoothly into this one. Loved it!

    5. Reaper

      Very fun. I know these are your light stories when you are blocked as you have mentioned. However, they are always amazing. This one has a special fondness for me, mostly because it dropped Downey and he Edwin going after an actor that I respect in their craft but kind of despise as a person. Or maybe it was just him ruining the nineties batman franchise. The world will never know! Enjoyable story and writing, and as I said before, I really do love the switch up.

      1. jmcody

        Clooney sure seems like he is gearing up to enter the political arena, although he has said he won’ run for office because of all the public drugging and partying he did in his youth. Somehow I think he’d get elected anyway. It seems that’s where we’re at in this country.

        Glad you enjoyed this little bit of frivolity.

    6. Dennis

      Another fun one JM. I could actually picture Clooney as president with a recording of his mother singing There’s No Business Like Show Business at the Inauguration. 🙂 Edwin certainly is making the rounds. Not sure what’s left for him after being president though.

      1. jmcody

        What’s that? Do I hear a gauntlet being thrown down? I could think of lots of places Edwin could go after the presidency (none of them good). Plus, I don’t see him as being long for the presidency. No doubt he will leave the office in disgrace.

        “There’s No Business Like Show Business” would be an incredibly perfect inauguration song. Brilliant, Dennis!

        Thanks for your comments. 🙂

  15. asclepius

    This certainly wasn’t what I expected. After all the trials and tribulations of the last three years, I was finally in the most powerful room in all the world, quite possibly the most powerful room in the history of mankind. But I didn’t feel powerful. I didn’t even feel relief. All I truly felt was a profound sense of fatigue.

    There was one last photo to be taken, one last fake smile, a few more handshakes and corny jokes, and then I would finally be left in peace to get settled into my desk in the Oval Office.

    Finally the last of my staffers left, the door was closed and all was quiet.

    I sighed and sat behind the large, ornate desk. It was bare on its surface except a lamp, a telephone and a small note. It was a farewell note penned by my predecessor. On it were two words:

    “Good Luck!”

    I grinned as I saw it, knowing what this office had done to him over eight long years.

    But as I looked at the note, I noticed something odd. The words were beginning to fade. And as they faded, new words began taking their place. After a moment, the message read differently:

    “Look in the bottom drawer of the desk. There’s a hidden compartment. You will find more instructions there.”

    Puzzled, I put the note back down on the desk and looked around the room. Was this some sort of joke?

    I leaned over and slowly pulled out the bottom drawer. It was completely empty. If the compartment is hidden how am I supposed to find it?

    Feeling around the edges of the drawer, I felt what seemed to be a latch at the far end. I curled my index finger around it and, as I pulled it back, there was a click and the bottom of the drawer came open, revealing a deeper compartment.

    Reaching inside the dark space of the hidden compartment, I pulled back a scroll of paper. Intrigued, I unravelled it and read the first words out loud.

    “We the people…”

    1. snuzcook

      I applaud the reminder that history has provided our leaders with instructions, asclepius, that all too often seem to be overlooked in the constant barrage of impending crises. Short, to the point, and effective. Well done.

    2. lionetravail

      This was a nicely written piece, which invokes the idealism that our politicians SHOULD actually have, and the nice part is you piggybacked it onto the MC’s own cynicism. Great job 🙂

  16. snuzcook

    STAY THE COURSE

    “Sandy, I’m going code 6.” The efficient, middle-aged woman who was my gate keeper nodded and put her hand on the door knob. This was my tongue-in-cheek way of saying I needed some alone time. “Mr. Stephens has asked for ten minutes at your earliest convenience, Ma’am.”

    “I’ll see him at 2:00. Emergencies only before then.” Sandy pulled the door shut, closing out the hushed frenzy of activity in the outer offices. This was the first time I have ever been alone in the Oval Office. I felt far from alone. The room was crowded with the ghosts of events of the past six months.

    I sat back in the too big chair. I hadn’t had the heart yet to trade it out for one that fits me. Maybe I’d been hoping I ‘d grow into it, that somehow I’d come to fit the contours that so recently held my husband’s six foot two frame. I curled my fingers around the ends of the padded leather arms, imagining Roy’s hands fitting the same contours, my hand and his, the same. But I knew we were not the same, no matter what the Party convinced the voters in the election that my husband had campaigned so hard to win before his death, the election that eventually put me in his place.

    I indulged in a moment of self-doubt. It had been an unprecedented succession of a strong, popular president by his equally popular widow, a nightmarish slide into dynastic rule according to our opponents. But Roy had been the closest thing to popular royalty since JFK, and I knew I was the only one who could continue the work he had hoped to complete in his second term.

    I had been given a thin, sealed envelope that I was told Roy prepared while he was in office, part of long held protocol in preparation for succession. Block printed on the outside were the words, “Good Luck,” which struck me as an unnecessary attempt at humor. Had Roy written that, or was it one of Stephens’ little touches? I presumed the envelope would contain codes and insights he had felt would be appropriate for whoever might fill his shoes.

    When I opened the envelope, a piece of nearly transparent tissue fell out. “Look in the bottom drawer of the desk. There’s a hidden compartment. You will find more instructions there.” I touched the paper to reread it, and it immediately disintegrated, like a cobweb dissolving into thin air.

    I searched both bottom drawers of the old wooden desk without success. I looked up at the clock. It was 1:53. I knew Sandy wouldn’t let Stephens in before 2:00 short of a national crisis, but it did not leave me much time. It was on the third attempt feeling my way along the rough back margins of the drawer that I tripped a tiny lever and a panel sprang open. Inside was another envelope containing another piece of tissue paper.

    “My death was staged to allow me to go into hiding. It is worse than we had suspected. I will contact you. Stay the course.” This tissue paper also disintegrated shortly after it was exposed to the air.

    ‘Stay the course’: An old GOP rallying cry that was an old joke between us. Those were Roy’s code words to let me know the message was really from him.

    I had barely closed the desk and composed myself when there was a knock on the door and Sandy opened it.

    “Madam President? Mr. Stephens is here. “ I stood and moved from behind the desk. My Chief of Staff walked in, his usual brusque but cordial self. “Madam President.” We moved to the less formal seating around a low table. Stephens looked at me in a very pointed manner. “Pardon me for asking, Ma’am, but is everything all right?”

    “I’m fine, Jeffrey, thank you. Now, what can I do for you?”

    I heard him out, all the cogent, clear points of fact and suggestions and requests for authorization that he had to report to me as Chief of Staff. I heard him, and I responded to him, but I wasn’t truly listening to his words. I was watching, listening to his presence. I knew that Roy had had his suspicions about Jeffrey Stephens. I could see that Stephens was trying to manage me now. How much of that was Chief of Staff doing his job, and how much of it was for some ulterior motive? I was conscious of the visual and audio recordings being made of every gesture, every word. I wondered if Roy could also, somehow, see us. I wondered what Roy would say.

    But no, that didn’t matter. The only thing that could be real in this moment was that I am now the President, and I need to find my own way until such time as other options present themselves. That’s what the voters asked for, regardless of the reasons why. I intended to give them what they wanted and more.

    1. snuzcook

      Argh! Rereading I see that lazy punctuation made the start of my story confusing.
      Try this on for clarification:

      STAY THE COURSE

      “Sandy, I’m going code 6.”

      The efficient, middle-aged woman who was my gate keeper nodded in response and put her hand on the door knob. This was my tongue-in-cheek way of telling her I needed some alone time.

      “Mr. Stephens has asked for ten minutes at your earliest convenience, Ma’am.”

      “I’ll see him at 2:00. Emergencies only before then.”

      Sandy pulled the door shut, closing out the hushed frenzy of activity in the outer offices. This was the first time I have ever been alone in the Oval Office. I felt far from alone. The room was crowded with the ghosts of events of the past six months.

      1. cosivantutte

        Okay. That makes a lot more sense. I was kind of confused about who was calling who Ma’am. 😀

        This is an intriguing story. You didn’t answer any questions, but the ending was still satisfying.

        For the record, I’d be suspicious of Stephens too. After all, he asked for ten minutes. There’s no way that this -> “I heard him out, all the cogent, clear points of fact and suggestions and requests for authorization that he had to report to me as Chief of Staff.” took only ten minutes. 😆

        Also, I love these two lines -> “I felt far from alone. The room was crowded with the ghosts of events of the past six months.”

        And the disintegrating paper is a great way to get rid of the paper before Stephens came in. Besides that, it’s just so cool.

        1. snuzcook

          Thanks, Cosi!
          Good observation: never trust someone who is always understating how much they plan to impose upon your time–it is a form of manipulation.

      2. snuzcook

        Author note: And of course, tense mismatch PP2 and a couple of repeated words in later paragraphs. Can’t seem to shake the WOD syndrome. I guess my inner narrator believes if a word is good used once, it’s even better twice. Note to self: I would have caught it if I had read it aloud before posting!

      3. snuzcook

        An observation on phrasing being repeated: I just read Brian’s commentary this week on the WD homepage re the term “denouement” and guess what phrase he used, which I just don’t hear all that often :
        …you want to save the juiciest revelations for the end, rewarding readers for staying the course.‘ It never ceases to amaze how a given phrase or vocabulary word will pop up repeatedly by mere coincidence or collective consciousness on this site.

    2. Reaper

      Excellent story. I would love to see where it goes. This is tense, intense, and very intriguing. Loved the wording throughout. The thing I noticed that really struck me is you are the first I have seen on this prompt who really focused in on that idea of the MC being in over their head. You did it very well in a couple of lines that felt casually added in which only added to that mood and had such an affect on the rest of the story.

    3. jmcody

      Wowza! This is a real winner — intriguing and suspenseful, with enormous human interest. I could easily see this as a mystery/political thriller. The disintegrating tissue paper was ingenious, as was the way you somehow managed to turn this kooky prompt into something realistic and compelling. Bravo, Snuzz!

    4. lionetravail

      What a compelling opening chapter this would make for something longer, Snuzcook! It’s got the intrigue, the secret agenda, the navigation of treacherous waters by Madam President… it’s got it all. As I was reading, I thought you might bring the story to a close with a quick sign-off indicating those treacherous waters after she saw the “‘stay the course’…. really from him” paragraph, and hit our emotional levers with her sudden understanding that her husband wasn’t dead. I was intrigued that you continued, and wondered a little at the choice at first, but then you brought home her desire to serve the people in the last paragraph which was very, very strong. Nice work with this.

      1. snuzcook

        (second attempt at responding–I must not have hit ‘submit’ last time)

        Astute observations, Lionetravail! I was drawn to create an emotional cameo when the MC discovers that Roy is (or may be) still alive, but I decided against it because that aspect really provided much more fertile ground to explore and in a different trajectory than I was choosing for this piece. It would be an intriguing additional segment in and a great way to further explore the characters’ relationships.

    5. Dennis

      Another great one Snuzy. I am enjoying all of the women president’s being used on this prompt. Is it a foreshadow of things to come? You have begun a very intriguing thriller.

  17. Amy

    The scanner hides on the ceiling of the drawer, away from prying eyes. I run my palm across it, feeling the familiar tingle of my newly upgraded chip being recognized. New title means new clearance. There is a tiny click and the drawer pulls out farther than before. Inside, an unassuming, dusty brown book stares back. Not a tablet or any other digital reading device I’ve seen, but an actual book with pages you turn by hand. The words don’t disappear to make way for new ones on the page; they’re forever etched into the paper like scars.

    I pick it up. It’s heavier than I thought it would be. The dust probably adds a pound. I glance back at the closed door of the office, its steel surface reflecting halogen light back at me like a weapon. They’re probably just outside the door, as usual, I think. Best to stay quiet for now. I resist the urge to blow the dust away, wondering exactly whose dead skin particles I would send floating around my office, and lift the cover.

    A History of the United States Presidency, Vol. IV.

    On the first page, someone has scribbled “Survival Guide haha” in a drippy excuse for penmanship. Probably someone before the dark days. Survival isn’t really a laughing matter, now. I sift through the first few pages, all neatly penned in black script, all recounting the drawn out Constitution this country was founded upon. It would be contraband in a citizen’s hands. Probably even in mine.

    I turn to the middle, where more recent events are listed: the riots, the closing of the borders, the Third War. Detailed accounts from the leaders before me, back when they actually did the leading. I won’t be doing any of that in my term. We’re made perfectly aware of our job before we get it: we are the face and the voice, nothing more. Every detail of my life is handed to me, from my suit in the morning to my sleep aid at night. Meticulous planning has built my world and I am its product, ripe for harvest. I am the President.

    I flip to the last written page, the subsequent pages all blank and faded. There are only three words, sloping down toward the corner in a language I can neither discern nor decipher:

    Iacta alea est…

    I stare at the words, my eyes willing the unfamiliar lines to bend in different ways, ways I can understand. Their tone, at least, is quite clear. They are heavier than any words I have read, like they carry the weight of past transgression. I hear the soft warning chirp of my earpiece, then the dispatch comes on.

    “Sir, you’re needed in the press room.”

    The steel door clicks open and I have a fraction of a second to shove the book back in the drawer before my armed escorts step into the room. My advisor, one of so many I haven’t yet memorized his name, appears behind them.

    “Ready?” he asks, his eyes fixed on the tablet in his hands.

    He doesn’t wait for an answer, but turns back to the hall at a brisk pace. I follow, trying in vain to wipe the dust and ink from my fingertips.

    1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      I must say, I got good goosebumps soon as I read the Latin. Basically, everything you lead up to is perfectly explained by that one line. For a while I’m thinking, where is this going? Future? What? Little hints here and there give way to something but then, “Iacta alea est.” First thing that came to my mind? Dystopia. The moment where the world ceases to exist as we know it, and our own problem compounded to make our lives worse. Finalized by the realization that the things “we’ve” done has destroyed our way of life to a point that it can no longer be recovered. All we can do is look to the future and hope we don’t muck it up more than it already is, and perhaps if we’re lucky, we’ll find a way to make it better.

      Fantastic job, Amy! Glad you came back!

        1. madeindetroit

          I love dystopian tales with a twist and this was exceptional.
          You drew me in immediately. I like the style you write with and then the reveal comes out of the of nowhere. This makes a great trip for the reader and the setting is realistic and maybe one day, certainly plausible,

          Clever story

    2. Reaper

      So many great lines in here, the latin and the ink like scars being two of my favorites. When I started reading this it seemed like a simple social message on machines and devices. Then, as others have mentioned it turned into more, and dystopia was a strong part of it. So I was reading through and thinking, I would like to see more, this seems like the beginning of something amazing. As I kept going that feeling stayed there but something different hit me. This is also the perfect ending to something even more epic. Either way I would like to read what comes before or after.

    3. lionetravail

      What a wonderful dystopian flavor from the very first paragraph, and impeccably written. This is great work, Amy!

      Love the nostalgic feel and the evocative flavor of the words ‘etched into the paper like scars’, and the ‘dust and ink’. I think this piece has lots of power to it, and is the start to something long and special if you decide to run with it.

    4. jmcody

      I agree that this is really outstanding writing. I was so drawn into your MC’s meditation on the book and what it symbolized — the permanence of words etched on paper like scars, as opposed to disappearing electronic text, the centuries of dust that might contain the very skin cells of the MC’s historic predecessors, the heaviness and musty physicality of the book in a world dominated by shiny steel and glaring halogen lights. This is the kind of writing that makes me sit up and take notice. If I downloaded a book sample and read this, I would buy the book. Very, very impressive.

    5. snuzcook

      Great concept, Amy. And your prose is densely packed with memorable descriptive phrases and historical references so it is fun to savor. I love the emotions evoked by the ‘die is cast’ reference–the MC is unaware but the entire story is so deliciously about what the reader knows that the MC doesn’t and what the MC knows that does not yet exist in the reader’s world. Excellent.

    6. Nicki EagerReader

      This is great, Amy. I loved the dystopoan future and iron atmosphere you created in a few words. In contrast, the MC’s voice sounded touchingly child-like and demure- lovely!

    7. Nicki EagerReader

      This is great, Amy. I loved the dystopian future and iron atmosphere you created in such few words. In contrast to its surroundings the MC’s voice rang out touchingly child-like and demure- lovely!

    8. Dennis

      Amy, I echo the other comments. I really enjoyed the atmosphere created. There was a definitely heaviness to it, but not depressing, sort of an ominous feeling. Great writing.

  18. Bilbo Baggins

    IN OUR PLACES

    What they never tell you about being president is how hard it is to take it all in. From the first calls, the sign-making to the caucuses and election day, it was all a blur, a dream really. To fix the problems. Rise up and be a leader.

    Or to follow in the steps of a father who I respected, yet hardly knew.

    The inaugural speech is brief, the crowd huddled in coats and gloves in the February chill. I’ve been here before, you can see it in the photographs. I was the ordinary little boy in the blue sweater until my parents decided to charm the snake of politics. Before, I worried about toys, recess, not pirates in Somalia, the stock market. Before, I was… normal.

    As soon as I step out of the limo, I’m mobbed by reporters with flashing cameras and annoying as hell questions. The secret service men push the tidal wave back as my secretary of state informs me on current bills in Congress. Senate seats, reps have been shuffled around like playing cards– all the usual.

    They take me to the Oval Office right away, the first time alone I’ve had since glancing in the mirror this morning. My suit’s disheveled, and I rub my cardboard face with my hands, trying to look alive. It’s hard since four years ago, even on the other side of the desk. I try to drink coffee, feel the satisfying warmth.

    Setting it down on the wood, I notice the sticky note. Good luck. Yeah, I could use some of that, I think as I rip it off. Probably a joke from some disgruntled Democrat on the staff. But there’s a note on the bottom: “Look in the bottom drawer. You’ll find further instructions.”

    I hadn’t even thought about the drawers until now, I was in such a daze. Leaning over, I looked for any signs of a secret opening. Maybe it’s like in the movies, where each drawer’s part of a combination. But I find the false bottom in the third file on the left. Slightly curious, also half-expecting a bomb, I decide to investigate.

    The dusty compartment opens with a creak after years of disuse. Inside I see a baseball, a toy plane, a coconut, a pipe, and numerous other small objects. What, is this some storage device for presidential good luck charms? I dig around in it until my hand abruptly stops.

    I pull out a rusted model of a 1950 Plymouth, and know immediately it belonged to my dad. I try to shake the thought away, but, holding it in the light of the windows, his name’s clearly written on the bottom, in wobbly child’s penmanship. It was the car he’d always wanted. Why it was here, I had no clue. But it was him, a part of him, and suddenly my eyes grew misty.

    Alone, I could remember the headlines. Assassinated just a year after the election. Small bomb, lethal shards of glass. Hospitals couldn’t help. Joseph Tedder, 46, reclusive paranoid, arrested days later. But the facts didn’t matter. It was the sense that he’d been ripped from me, that the office had taken him from us in the first place, the arguments with mother. Why’d he even do it in the first place? I still carried the second watch on my other wrist, the hands stopped forever, the numbers singed. But now, sitting behind the desk, with a family of my own, I start to understand, even though I don’t want to.

    My father was in his place, and now I am in mine, despite my numerous enemies and the global turmoil and pain that swirls around this office. There are lines I can’t change. I must somehow fulfill my duty, shake off the phantoms. There’s a nation waiting for me.

    I take the watch off my wrist, glance at it for the last time. I’m hoping it will burn into my mind, that I’ll somehow remember it forever. Placing it in the drawer, I slide it shut. It closes with a permanent metallic thud, and I abruptly stand, pacing along the carpet.

    “Tell the Secretary I’m ready for the press conference,” I say into the phone.

    The guards come again and take me down past the halls and the paintings, past the hallowed rooms of the White House. Oddly enough, I feel a shivering calm descend on me. I breathe a silent prayer for my successor, and surface into the crowd.

    It’s well known that we inherit the most dangerous job in the nation.

    But what they never tell you about being president is how, even if you survive, you’ll never be the same.

    GH

    1. Reaper

      Very nice Bilbo. I’m so used to being moved by the action and intensity of your stories. This one you did something different and just plugged me in to your character. This was nice and intense in its own way and I loved it.

    2. jmcody

      Shades of John Kennedy Jr., had he lived long enough to fulfill his party’s ambitions for him. This was a poignant meditation on inherited duty, the heaviness of the responsibility of leadership, and the reverberations of a family tragedy that will be felt for generations to come. Haunting and moving, Bilbo, with your usual flair for history. Very nice.

      1. Bilbo Baggins

        Funny you mentioned Kennedy, the 1950 Plymouth and the coconut fit right in with that. Yeah, you’re right, the story centered on the inherited, heavy duty of the presidency. James Buchanan’s quote got me thinking. He said the White House was like a prison to him, and that contrasted directly with what most kids think, you know, that being president would be great. Really it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

        1. jmcody

          It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting that job. There are only two motivations I can think of — sheer lust for power, or a genuine calling to lead combined with a rare kind of hope and optimisim. Call me jaded, but I think the latter is in short supply on either side of the aisle these days.

    3. snuzcook

      I enjoyed this immensely, BB, and the thing that I most enjoyed was the way the final line invited me to reconsider the entire story again with a slightly different POV, knowing the symbolic impact of sacrificing or relinquishing something of one’s self as part of the price of holding the office. Thought provoking and well written.

  19. Dennis

    Best Laid Plans

    Ted sat at his desk, at least his for the next four years, and chuckled at just how easy it had been to get to this place, the Oval Office, as the next President of the United States. “They are all idiots,” he thought to himself. He even thought that about his predecessor who left him a “Good Luck” note on the desk. “Who writes something like that,” he wondered. Someone who didn’t have the balls to get anything done.

    He reached for the note to look at it one more time before tossing it into the garbage but looked at it in dismay. It no longer said good luck but told him to find a new note with instructions in a secret compartment in the desk drawer. Reaching down he opened the bottom drawer and felt around. He discovered a small button and pushed it. A flat platform slid out and on it was taped a note.

    “Meet me in the bedroom at 1pm,” Ted read aloud. He smiled. “She wastes no time. Nothing like a nooner the first day on the job.”

    Down the hallway Ted walked and up the stairs. He was already loosening his tie as he approached the bedroom. In one brisk motion he swung the door open and quickly shut it behind him.

    “I’m here my little pussycat.” Ted looked around the front room but didn’t see her at first and then caught sight of her leaning against the opening to the bedroom. She was dressed in lingerie, stockings and high heels.

    “I never get tired of looking at you, Mrs. President.”
    “Well come a little closer and you’ll get to see a lot more of me, Mr. President.”

    Ted scurried over and the two embraced while savoring a deep kiss.

    “I was surprised by your note, thinking you wouldn’t be able to get away so quickly.”
    “I was the same about yours.” The two gave each other a look of bewilderment and then spoke simultaneously.

    “I didn’t leave you a note.”

    At that moment, as if on cue, the TV turned on and the two jumped slightly. On the screen stood a dark hooded figure whose face could not be seen. The voice was modified, as is done on programs where they want to protect the person being interviewed.

    “Forget any plans you thought you had for abusing your office. You work for us. We have controlled the actions of the president for decades. You will be debriefed later but we warn you now that we are always watching you.” The figured laughed as the image faded out and the set turned off.

    At first Ted didn’t know what to make of it but then he and his wife laughed, thinking it was some kind of first day practical joke. Then they proceeded making love for the next hour, utilizing both rooms.

    Later that afternoon, Ted did some business on his laptop when the screen was taken over. Words were appearing across the screen as if being typed in that moment.

    “In case you had any doubts about what was told to you earlier, should you ever try to breach our instructions, the following video will go viral all over the world.”

    Ted couldn’t believe it. There he and his wife were, stark naked in a very comprising position. He could tell that had been taken today. He almost began enjoying watching himself when the gravity of the situation sunk in. Closing his laptop, he sat back in his chair, knowing the next four years were not going to be what he had planned.

    (Sorry, a bit over this time)

    1. Reaper

      Nice twists and turns. The only thing for me was this. Why would a man worry about a video of his wife? I mean, yeah it’s a sex tape but easy enough to explain someone else shot it. When I thought it was the previous president I could see the blackmail potential, but then the idea of her not knowing about the controlling forces wouldn’t make sense. Other than that one thing I liked the story a lot, nice swinging back and forth on the emotions throughout.

    2. lionetravail

      I agree with Reaper- this was good story, well told, but a president being randy with his wife probably shouldn’t raise much in the way of eyebrows and would probably be viewed as a shocking breach of presidential privacy. Make it so he’s fooling around on the side, and whammo, your plot device works perfectly 🙂

    3. jmcody

      A president in bed with his own wife is actually rather refreshing. 😉 I do think your President has kind of a reckless streak, though. The video probably should have given him pause, but I guess his mind was elsewhere.

      I agree with the others’ advice, but I still think this was well written.

    4. Dennis

      Thanks All. I see your point and it makes obvious sense. I think I had two scenarios in my head and mixed them. I was trying to make the point that he I always being watched, but I should have thought of something more damaging. Thank you for the feedback.

  20. acre19641

    When the lights come on everyone leaves the room. A light come on as I look at the bottom of the drawer. I push the button and a screen comes down with the presidential seal on it. The logo of the secret service comes on and says you’re now the number one. We will serve and protect you from any harm. That is you and your family. We have protected many who have sat in that chair their families too. You’re in good hands now. Then I open up the drawer and there is a note and it says do this every day while in office and think this way you may make it two terms in offices.
    Here is what the note said.
    The best of my best
    Is it good enough
    To make the grade
    Can I be one of the best?
    When I look in the mirror at myself
    Not at my looks
    At the beauty of my soul
    Not my shoes
    My inter peace
    That can reflect what’s in my heart
    So I can show my true feeling
    Without stomping on others
    Helping people say this little saying
    Lord may I live one more day
    To learn your secrets that I can share
    And the wisdom to share them with
    People who need them and are ready to receive them
    No praise Mary just
    Thanks I needed that
    Like a breath of fresh air
    In a stale environment
    Good luck best I could do
    By
    Shawn Acre

    1. lionetravail

      This is interesting Shawn- it’s a cool idea to have the message in something of a poem form, and I like it. If I may offer some suggestions , your first paragraph is a little jumbled for easy reading, by punctuation and perspective. You have messages to the MC and his thoughts all together, instead of separated by paragraph and punctuation like quotations and such.

      It needs a little cleaning up, but it’s a neat way to approach the prompt.

    2. jmcody

      I liked your poem and enjoyed the sentiment. If only our elected officials had such thoughts…

      There are a number of grammatical issues including run-on sentences and mixed up tenses. I agree with Lionetravail about the confusion as to who’s thoughts are whose. Also, watch for repeated words.

      Your ideas and approach are good — you just need to work on some of the mechanics.

  21. wheelygirl

    as I angle myself in my wheelchair, to reach for the drawer, then open it. Out pops 3 or 4 helium-loaded balloons along with multicolored glitter! At the very bottom of the drawer, in her beautiful handwriting, the former Madame President, wrote on her personal stationery.”I know you are a Christian, and I’m a Christian, as well. You’ve been elected into one THE toughest jobs of the planet. My prayers will be with you, every day of your first term. Always remember, Jesus Christ, our Lord is only a prayer away! Love, A.”
    Wow, this was, of course, very unexpected and so needed! I rolled to the nearest window, and breathed in deeply. Yep, I decided I’ll do the very same thing for the newly elected president.
    The very next thing I know I was getting rudely awakened by a care giver, asking me if I was going downstairs for dinner.

    1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      I have to be honest wheelygirl, the first time I read this, I skipped the last line because I could find a hook for the story that was catching me. I read it again, and the last line is a good one, but I wish you’d explore on it.

      I may not care much for religious stories, but there are a few ways you could go about this one. Is her faith faltering (perhaps because of an accident that made put her in a wheelchair)? If it is, consider her thinking about what it would mean for her to wake up and not be an actual president, but then add a little exposition leading her toward an answer. Does her faith renew? Does she lose her faith altogether? Why did she have the dream? Try to work her disability into the story, and show more about her and her character.

      Hope you’ll come back and write for the new prompt! Thanks for sharing!

    2. lionetravail

      Reaper has some excellent thoughts and questions on this- it’s an interesting piece, and its brevity allows it to be beautifully simple. But as he suggested, I think it needs some expansion in order to provide it with a bit more fullness.

    3. jmcody

      This prompt seems to have evoked a sense of idealism and optimism in some of us. (Unfortunately all it evoked in me was extreme silliness. 🙂 ) My feedback to you is similar to what I said to acre19641 above — nice idea, but you need to work on the grammar a bit. Also, I feel like there should be a little more to this story, as Jay suggested.

      Since you call yourself Wheelygirl, I will assume that you know something about life in a wheelchair. You are uniquely qualified to write about life from that perspective, so I hope you’ll continue to explore the issues of the wheelchair-bound in your writing. Keep at it!

  22. lionetravail

    (So many ways to go with this one- eeny meeny miney mo!)

    Revelations

    First morning in a new job, and I even felt “Presidential” as I walked into my new office. It was a far cry from my academic medical offices at that New York hospital system, but then it was a pretty far cry from Professor and Doctor to leader of the free world. The media- I think it was the NY Post who first came up with the idea- had taken to calling me “The Surgeon Commander-in-Chief” in a fairly typical headline-grabbing play on words, since I certainly outranked the Surgeon General in my new position.

    Who knew that ranting on a blog on the internet could lead to the White House? Not me, at least not at first, but it turned out that a whole bunch of voters who were pissed about nearly everything that “government” did were ready for a bigtime change.

    “Good morning, Dr. President,” Charlie Atkins, my Chief of Staff said with a smile as I entered the room.

    “That is probably never going to get old, Charlie,” I said, chuckling. “What’s on tap for today?”

    “The usual stuff, mostly. You’ll have briefings through the mid-morning to get to know your intelligence services, then you’ll have lunch with the Joint Chiefs. You’ll meet with your various Secretaries: Defense, State, etc in the early afternoon, and there’ll be a press conference later in the day,” he said.

    “Well, I’m very much an unknown to everyone, so a lot of meetings make sense. You think the newsies will go hard on me, or what?”

    “No idea. Some are pretty skeptical about the popular support for someone with no real political background at all and your only political agenda stated, not supported by previous legislative action. They might very well go tough to rattle you, or they may go with their more typical first day softball questions to get a feel for you without trying to annoy you so early in your term.”

    I nodded, and went to sit down at the large, very Presidential desk. Upon it, I saw a tablet and touched the screen and it woke up.

    *Good Luck*
    Barack Obama

    “Okay Charlie, thanks. Give me ten minutes and then let’s start with NSA,” I said.

    “Sure thing, Dr. President,” he said with his infectious grin, and left.

    I glanced around my new workplace, then glanced back at the tablet. Idly, I swiped it again with my finger and it lit back up. I was surprised when, this time it, said something different.

    *Look in the bottom drawer of the desk. There’s a hidden compartment. You will find more instructions there.*

    Intrigued, I reached down to do so as the tablet screen suddenly fuzzed and went dark. I smelled something burning and checked the device. It wouldn’t turn on again, and I noticed a small wisp of smoke come out from the power jack site.

    More puzzled than anything else, I opened the bottom drawer of the desk and found the hidden compartment at the back. In it was a handwritten note in neat script.

    To My Successor:

    They know everything; they did about me, too. Watch yourself, and be ready to compromise every principle you have if you want to survive your term(s) in office! They will make contact when they wish.

    If I’d had any idea of what to expect, I’d never have let them put me in that chair!

    BO

    They? Knew everything?

    Hmmph. I wondered if ‘they’ knew I’d been hunting them since I’d come to the US during the early days of the Civil War, and that I’d lived fictional lives spent tracking down every rumor, every clue to their existence. That I’d spent years reading through ancient libraries and wading through modern battlefields to find their place of power. That, finally, I’d used chaos through assassination and scandal to draw out the tiniest evidence of their influence to finally find them, and then spent decades maneuvering to reach this juncture.

    Could they possibly know that I’d come to office not just as an aberration of American politics, but as the instrument to free a blissfully ignorant mankind from their immortal tyranny?

    I hoped not: my mission depended on it.

    Charlie interrupted my thoughts when he knocked and opened the Oval Office door. “Dr. President, I have Admiral Rodgers, Director of the NSA for your eight o’clock.”

    “Thanks Charlie,” I said, ready to play my role until ‘they’ exposed themselves. “Please come in, Admiral…”

    1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      Pretty good, Lione, pretty damn good. I think you ended it perfectly, anything more and I feel like you might sully the story! Thanks for sharing!

      Also, we mostly know about the gremlins, and we’re getting close to finding out where they’ve been hiding. We have a source with the Boxtrolls, but he’s a little skittish. We’ll get him talking, though! Maybe once we corner the gremlins, an edit button will appear.

    2. Nicki EagerReader

      I love where this is heading- it’s a turn that took me utterly by surprise. Sounds a little like Dr. President is about to kick ass Van Helsing-style… 😉

    3. Reaper

      I like the story, wouldn’t mind seeing a full length novel or longer short of this. Very nicely done. Though I instantly assume anything that lives so long is at best a grey character. I’m always willing to be surprised. Very nice read and the bold was noticed but took very little away.

    4. Amy

      I love the twist you’ve given us. I was hoping for it to be revealed a little more subtly, though, instead of spelled out all at once at the end. Like clues for us to decipher. Otherwise, excellent and very creative.

    5. jmcody

      Nice twist, L-Travail. I knew there had to be a reason why politicians are mostly such scumbuckets. (No political commentary intended — I hold equally high disdain for both sides of the aisle. 🙂 )

      Your writing is always top-notch and this is no exception. I do agree with Amy’s assessment though that it might be better to have a gradual reveal — maybe weave some clues into the story a little earlier.

      Imaginative and well-written as always.

    6. snuzcook

      Well done, Lionetravail! I don’t have much to add to the prior excellent comments. I agree that I’d love to see just how the bad guys show up and how the MC goes about outsmarting them.

        1. lionetravail

          Snuz and Kerry- thank you so much for the strong support and kind thoughts! Kerry, not only do you write creatively and lushly for your stories, but you also pay compliments out with the typing equivalent of a silver tongue- I certainly hope to meet you one day, for popcorn or something more substantial as long as the occasion permits 🙂

  23. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

    The United States of Max Carter

    Max carter laid on his bed with the coverlet draped over his head and the beam of a flashlight bearing down on the cream pages of a novel. His body warmth kept him toasty on this cold winter evening as he read each line carefully, soaking in every detail of an alternate universe created by his favorite author.

    In all of the stories he read, he typically became the main character (so long as it was a good person). He liked to experience the life of someone faced with hardships and triumphs so that he may laugh and cry with all of them. He liked to romance the lovers and dream with the dreamers. More than anything, he liked to save people.

    As he read himself into his illusion, he softly whispered the words to himself. In his story, he was a man who had just become the president of the United States. The election ended, and the inauguration completed. Now he stood in the oval office at the foot of a glorious desk. The great picture window masked by thin white curtains cast a soft glow of the suns warm embrace into the room. He looked down to find a small note telling him to check the drawer for instructions.

    “I wonder what’s in there.” Max whispered to himself as he turned the page.

    The edge of the page grazed the sheets and made a subtle hollow sound that reminded him of the time he used to lay his head on his mother’s lap. She would stroke his hair, and sometimes her wrist or forearm would lightly touch his ear making a similar noise. The thought of it sent a wave of warm chills over his body and prickled his skin with gooseflesh.

    That was the only thing he could really remember about her. He looked away from the book and at the clean white fabric of the coverlet hoping he could withdrawal from his memory bank a hidden snippet of his mother. That was his practice every time something reminded him of her, and each time he hoped he might find even the smallest thread that might lead to a larger tapestry depicting the woman who brought unequivocal warmth to his heart. However, he found nothing this time (as with every other time) because he was too young to remember her before she went away.

    His eyes fell back to the pages of the book, and as he began to absentmindedly read the words, he raised his hand to his young face. The tip of his second digit lightly passed over his cheek, the fine clear hairs tickled his touch. As it reached further north, his hand began to tremble.

    His finger found its destination. There was no hair in that spot, and the skin had slightly raised. The smoothness was still foreign to him, but it had been there for some time. Most times, he avoided looking at it in the mirror, and often refused to touch it. However, the thought of his mother sometimes brought him to recognize its existence upon his face. However, it was never good memories that followed.

    He traced the scar from the upper part of his cheek to his eye. He gently passed over the mangled lower eyelid, feeling ever bit of roughness, slope, and incline. He dared not to touch his sightless eye, though it wouldn’t matter much if he did. When he reached the other lid, he barely touched it because that was the worst one. The scar continued north to his scalp. His hair parted away from the mutilation as if shunning the part of his body that could no longer produce those long dark fibers. When he finally reached the end, he had bowed completely forward and was touching the crown of his head.

    Ache seemed to drive forth from his chest. It spread from deep within and wide across his body. Max’s eyes began to burn, and a thin line traced his eyelids. Small tears formed, and he felt the soft tickle as they rolled to the edge of his eyelashes and leapt off.

    He brought his head back up and looked blurrily at his book. The pages looked distorted like the ocean floor in shallow waters warped by turbulent currents. He couldn’t read the words, but he saw in his mind what the book represented, and it saddened him. He knew it was only his imagination that he was the President. Reality offered a truth he continually denied through ritual, but one that he held on to dearly because that truth was something that hurt and frightened him.

    Max closed the book and pushed it aside. No matter how hard he tried, he knew he wasn’t going to be able to read even one word and enjoy it. The last thing he wanted to do was destroy the only thing that brought comfort and joy to his world.

    He took a deep breath, and then threw the coverlet back. The cool air nipped at his skin as if the room had filled with millions of tiny ice crystals that hungered for human flesh. He shook with a violent shudder, and crawled to the edge of the bed.

    When he put his feet on the frigid surface of the wooden floor, his skin felt slightly numb. He looked around the room he’d always known to be his, but he never really felt like it was actually his. At one point it was his home, long before in a time when he was too young to comprehend the world. Now, it was as foreign as a country on the other side of the world. One ruled by a vicious man who liked to make his people suffer.

    Max walked to the door and laid the left side of his face against the cool painted surface. The unintelligible voices of the television echoed from the first floor where his father sat, probably with a cold beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. The place where the subtle stench of sweat and something sour resided.

    Tired didn’t quite explain how he felt at that moment as he listened to the television, one that reminded him of his terrible life in that foreign place. Well, he was tired, but he was also dejected. He felt imprisoned.

    He breathed deep, and sighed. He wondered what President Max would do in his place. Would he continue to allow the dictator of this foreign nation to treat his citizens this way? No, what president would? What virtuous person could allow anything like this happen to anyone?

    For a long while, he thought about how the president might stand up to a criminal. After all, evil people were still just evil people, but he wondered where the president might get the strength to be bigger than those people. He wondered how he might gain that strength and push himself to rid the country of its rain and clear the skies of those dark thunderheads.

    The answer wasn’t one he liked. When reality finally fell into the matter, he was nothing but a little boy. Not even a teen and a runt who was barely tall enough to reach items on the tall counters in the kitchen. Not old enough to drive a car. Not wise enough to best adults in the game of life. Just a boy with a blind eye and love for books; neither of those made for a very good leader or president.

    Finally resolving to defeat, he began to think about his book again, which excited him. His books always did that for him. He began to imagine where he left off with President Max in that oval office, and wondered what kind of instructions he might find in that secret compartment. Maybe they were instruction on how the man might sniff out spies or perhaps it was a joke offered by one the assistants.

    Maybe the message was simple, and he spoke the words aloud, “There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty that makes human nature rise above itself in acts of bravery and heroism.”

    That was one of his favorite quotes by Alexander Hamilton. He read it once at the beginning of one of the books on his shelf. He could never remember which one. Back then, it really resonated with him, but he wasn’t quite sure why. Now he knew. He needed to rise above himself, take charge of his situation, and liberate himself from this terrible foreign nation. He had to be brave, and although someone other than the brave typically asserts heroism, he would be his own hero; he could assert it for himself because he was both the people and the leader.

    That was it. That had to be what President Max was going to find in that desk, and even if it wasn’t, that’s what normal little Max needed. Those were his instructions, his direction in life. To be as strong and as heroic as a president should be. To stand against opposition and fight for the people that matter. True, at this point Max was the only person that mattered, but he stood to gain immeasurably from it, and he felt as though if he could do this for himself, then what might he be able to do for other people in his future. What might he accomplish by taking that first step toward salvation?

    He quickly pulled his Ninja Turtle themed backpack from under his bed and filled it with the necessities: a jacket, some clothes, the novel he started reading, and, of course, a pack of grape flavored Bubble Yum.

    He opened his door, and the hinges betrayed his silence. The squeal seemed to scream like an alarm to alert the warden than a prisoner was about to escape. He paused mid-step with the door half open, and listened. The television continued to blare; now more clear than before. He still didn’t know what the man was watching, but after too long, it was obvious his father didn’t get up from his seat.

    As he started down the stairs, he descended gently. Because the wood floor was old and he was getting heavier, he didn’t want it to call out and warn his father that he was coming. He couldn’t have that happen. Capture was not an option.

    Each step down the stairs was another step toward freedom, and when he reached the ground floor, he swam through the darkness toward the living room. He stopped just shy of the door, and peered into the room.

    Just as he’d imagined, there sat his father. He watched late night television, a movie with some woman wrestling with a man in her bedroom. The cool condensation of the beer’s green glass glistened from the warm glow of the television. Sinuous threads of smoke snaked from his other hand. He lifted it a moment later, took a drag of his cigarette, and following it with a swig of his brew while he blew the smoke from his nose.

    The man was a dragon, a formidable foe for any hero—especially for Max. Just looking upon that man paralyzed him. He wasn’t just scared or terrified. He was damn frozen inside. He knew what it meant if he was caught trying to escape, trying to leave that prison. He knew what the man was capable of doing.

    A little over a year ago, his mother had died. Not by any natural causes. No, it was his father. Well, it was his father’s fault, of that he was sure. They were fighting one night, as they always did, and she drank too much as a result. He didn’t blame her for trying to numb the emotional and physical pain that he caused her because there were times Max wished he could drink himself stupid to make the abuse hurt less. What Max didn’t agree with was that she stole the keys to the car, and tried to leave that night. She was too drunk to drive, and died in a terrible car accident.

    Meanwhile, as she tried to escape their prison, Max was the new target for his father. Of course, Max was small so he could hide anywhere he wanted, but that night he hid in the wrong place. His father had chased him through the house, and Max found himself cornered near their bedroom. He scurried under the bed, a cockroach of a boy trying to flee the foot of an enraged human. He wasn’t fast enough, however, and his father grasped his legs and pulled him out.

    The bed was made of wood, an old job put together by Max’s grandfather. It was sturdy, but it had its faults. None of them really concerned anyone except the night when Max’s father forced him from under the bed. As he passed under the bottom frame, a loose nail protruded an inch down. It first caught Max’s cheek, and when Max started crying to tell his father to stop, the man became more enthusiastic about pulling him out. The nail dug deep, and as his father pulled him out, it tore up through his cheek, split the eyelid, sliced a fissure through Max’s eye, and reentered through the other eyelid. Max tried to turn to get the nail out from digging under his skin, but it continued to cut all the way back until his father pulled him out completely.

    Max now stood there in the soft glow of the television, trying to remain hidden in that corridor. His hand was once again gently touching the puffy skin of his scar, which had reversed the paralytic effect his father had by reminding him of why he was there in the first place. He dropped his hand, and step backwards to allow the shadows to consume him.

    He went to the front door, and disengaged the lock. He pulled it as slow as possible to keep the hinges from ratting him out, and when it was open enough, he slipped into the wintery night. Once he closed the door, and ran as hard and as fast as he could down the street until the thin cold air burned his lungs, forcing him to stop.

    He looked back at that foreign country lead by an evil tyrant, and was pleased with himself that he’d finally escaped. He bravely saved himself, a boy who was destined to live as a prisoner unless someone did something about it. He did something about it. President Max liberated normal Max, a hero to the brave.

    Max turned and headed down the street. The frigid weather chilled him to the bone, making violent shivers quake through his body, but he pressed forward. He wasn’t done being brave or heroic, and he had a much more terrifying moment’s in his life that would require him to continue being brave. That night, however, he conquered one of the darkest dictators in his life, and though he may have more to face, he knew that he could face anything after having finally freed himself of the thing he feared the most.

    “Welcome, President,” he told himself, “to the United States of Max Carter.”

    1. Reaper

      I think it was about halfway through this when I reminded myself to start breathing again. The story is intense and engaging and the writing just amazing. The message resonates so well too, the idea that one can not wait to be saved but has to start being brave for themselves and take action. Just all around beautiful Jay.

    2. Amy

      Good story, Doc. It certainly tugs on the right strings. My only issue with it is that the first half is incredibly long and passive for me. I think you could kill a lot of those darlings and end up with something more engaging and active. That’s the beauty of this exercise- it teaches you to be concise in 500 words or less. I noticed they don’t specify the word limit anymore, though. I’ve been gone a while. 😉

      1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

        The original story was just under 500 and told the story of a boy who dreamed of being the president, who’s father was abusive, and then he escaped. Then I got to thinking, why? What is the motivation of this boy? Why does he leave? What might bring a boy to make this decision?

        Basically, it came down to answering a million questions in a piece that’s more about the exposition than the plot. The plot can be done in 250 words with perfectly colorful language, but the real underlying story cannot.

        This, I will admit, is a first draft. In the next draft, I’ll have to tighten things up for sure, but I suspect to really get things right, to build just the right amount of tension, exposition of the MC, and his reality versus his original belief that his illusions are completely disproportionate to his reality, would be impossible to do in such few words.

        Thanks for the feedback! It is, of course, always appreciated!

        As for the word count, they dropped it off about a while ago. I can’t remember exactly when, but i noticed it disappeared about 2012 or 2011. A little after Brian Took over for whats-her-name.

        1. Amy

          Just my two cents, is all. Doesn’t amount to much on its own. I wasn’t solely talking about plot when I mentioned having a more active voice. The same concepts could still be revealed in a way that isn’t pure monologue. But I can see that you feel strongly about it and that’s a very good thing. Either way, I look forward to reading more of your work. Thanks for the reply.

    3. lionetravail

      This is amazing, with flavors of “Sucker Punch”, so much going on in the sensorium of the main character overlaid on reality and happening at the same time. Ambitious, and you delivered. This is something that seemed to really grip you, Jay, and is definitely something I could see going ‘long’. Awesome sustained work here!

    4. jmcody

      I am amazed at how you pulled this out of the prompt, at how little Max used the imagined character of a President to steel his courage. This was so fully imagined, and your MC’s motivations were spot-on. I felt his fear and his struggle against his own feelings of powerlessness. The scene where the nail disfigured his face was horrifying, and like Reaper, I almost forgot to breathe.

      There was only one part that did not ring true for me (which is remarkable considering the territory that you covered in this). I don’t think a young boy would understand why his mother needed to drink the way she did, or the point of getting drunk in general. That sounded more like an adult’s thoughts, as if he were remembering this childhood incident as a grownup.

      Yes, you could tighten up the first half a bit, but it was still mesmerizing and I was completely swept away by it. Marvelous, Jay.

    5. Nicki EagerReader

      I think this is the most beautiful of your pieces I’ve read so far (and I’ve read quite a few over the past year).

      Though I agree with Amy in general about cutting down, I don’t think there is really that much you could do away with here- this story is a dark winter river and would lose its pondering sluggishness if you inserted too many rapids (though tweaking it here or there might be possible).

      The only thing that tripped me up was that you were a little inconsistent with regard to Max’s age. Early on you said Max couldn’t remember his mother because he was so very young when she died but further on it says she died “a year ago”- and Max is how old, eight or nine maybe? And in “He didn’t blame her for trying to numb the emotional and physical pain that he caused her because there were times Max wished he could drink himself stupid to make the abuse hurt less.” Max matured up to thirteen in my mind (although then he might have interpreted his father’s evening entertainment differently).

      Otherwise I absolutely loved the account of Max’s scar and how it came to pass- gruelling but realistic, and the more wonderful because it was accidental rather than intentional malice on the father’s side. I really don’t know what more to say except fantastic job and leave it at that. So: fantastic job.

  24. Stephen S

    “got time”

    “Again, Congratulations,” Janet said.

    I said, “Thank you,” and sat down behind the desk. A white envelope sat on the top of the desk and written on it was “Mrs. President”. “Do you know who this is from?” I asked her, referring to the envelope.

    “Yes, Mrs. President it is a letter from the former President.” she replied. I looked at her questioningly. She continued, “It’s a tradition, the out going president will leave a private note for the incoming one.”
    I picked up the envelope and opened it, the single piece of paper inside only contained two words, “Good Luck”. I looked at her and told her what it said. She smiled and said, “Unless there is anything else Mrs. Present I will be at my desk.”

    “What time is my next meeting?” I asked.

    “In 10 minutes,” Janet said and stepped out closing the door behind her.

    I glanced back at the note I still had in my hand. The two words had disappeared in their place was written, “Look in the bottom drawer of the desk. There’s a hidden compartment. You will find more instructions there.”
    I put the note on the desk and looked in the bottom drawer on the right side, inside it was a red phone with no keypad next to that was a 9mm hand gun. I was told about both of these. I closed the draw and opened on the left side.
    It was empty; I reached inside and felt around. There was a “click” and the bottom of the drawer slid away exposing three buttons red, yellow, and green. Next to them was another envelope also addressed Mrs. President.

    Opening it, I read, “Hello, as this is your first day you should be familiarized with the three buttons in this drawer. First, as you already know, this room has many features that the security team has gone over you with, but the three buttons are only known to you and those you feel trustworthy.
    The red button will stop time outside the office. Yellow will slow time and green will set time normal. These buttons will assist you when time is not available. For more information on this please request file #21114.”

    I looked at the buttons, curiosity over took apprehension and I pressed the red button. Nothing happened, I got up and looked around, everything was the same. Then I saw the bird, it was flying by the window, but it was no longer flying it hung frozen in the air. I reached over and pressed the yellow button. The bird moved suddenly but so slow I could watch the beat of its wings. I pressed the green button and the bird flew out of sight.

    I went to my phone and called Janet after she answered I asked, “Could you bring me file 21114?”

    “Yes, but your meeting will start in 6 minutes.” She stated.

    I grinned and told her I would make time.

    1. Nicki EagerReader

      Ditto the others, a funny twist. May I only suggest different punctuation in “Nothing happened, I got up and looked around, everything was the same. Then I saw the bird, it was flying by the window, but it was no longer flying it hung frozen in the air.”? Something like “Nothing happened. I got up and looked around- everything was the same. Then I saw the bird: it was flying by the window, but it was no longer flying- it hung frozen in the air.” Just a suggestion because all those main clauses blurted out one after the other put too much speed in at a point where I would have wished for a “hold-you-breath” built up of suspense. But that’s just me.
      Nice work overall!

    2. Amy

      I enjoyed your story, Stephen. Creative and fun. I would suggest getting rid of a lot of the dialogue tags in the beginning. We readers are pretty perceptive and can usually pick up who is talking if there are only two people in the conversation, as well as what they’re referring to (“referring to the envelope”).

    3. jmcody

      So maybe this is why most presidents appear to age about ten years over each four year term? This was clever and fun, and I wish I had one of these buttons.

  25. Nicki EagerReader

    I probably shouldn’t be posting past midnight and on the spur of the moment, but here it goes. I’d welcome suggestions for a title (I’m awful at thinking of those), and if my story should be in any way offensive or silly or plain stupid, I hereby apologize in advance!

    -No good title yet-

    The Senior Advisor slowly stuck his head through the crack in the door and did an entire perimeter sweep before he withdrew it just as carefully.

    “Tell me again,” he said to the Special Assistant, “How did we end up with the new President?”

    “It started as a joke,” replied the Special Assistant, “We clearly underestimated how frustrated voters were with the performance of both Democrats and Republicans.”

    She pulled a print from her folder.

    “Here. The picture that went viral and kicked off the entire movement.”

    The Senior Advisor stared at the photograph.

    “Sure that even is our President?”, he said, “The one in the office seems darker. A little slimmer, too.”

    “It is. He was put on diet when the campaign got under way, and the rest is Re-nature from Schwarzkopf. More photogenic, you see.”

    The Senior Advisor buried his face in his hands.

    “Why?”, he groaned. “My first extended vacation in years and I come back only to find that poultry is off the White House menu. How could Democrats and Republicans let this happen?”

    “It’s what the voters demanded. The parties could either make some concessions and promise to elect him for presidency or else watch all the votes go to the Independents.”

    Some concessions?”

    “The winner still got to pick the vice president.”

    A gently clucking sounded from the Oval Office, followed by a clatter like a saucer full of kernels being overturned onto the floor.

    “I always thought this entire pardoning business was sentimental humbug,” said the Senior Advisor. “And now, just because that old fool looked as if he was kneeling in front of the bird-”

    “’President finds his master’”, the Special Assistant supplied. “’Commander in Chief bows to his better’ was also very popular. Our PR department is still trying to headhunt the people who came up with the slogans.”

    “Oh my God.”

    “What?”

    “The president is pecking at the desk! Look! Doesn’t he know it was a gift from Queen Victoria?”

    “Anti-royal sentiments have always run rather strongly in our nation.”

    “Yes, but not against the Resolute Desk! Though at this rate it will become irresolute pretty soon.”

    There was the discreet clonk of a glass tipping and the insidious trickle of water pattering onto the floor.

    “What’s their average life-expectancy, do you know?”, asked the Senior Advisor.

    “Ten years or so.”

    “And is there any possibility that the presidential dog might accidentally, you know…”

    “No.”

    “But it’s a Pinscher! They do stuff like that.”

    “A miniature Pinscher. It weights a fifth of the President.”

    “We’ll be the laughing stock of the world.”

    “Actually, the responses of various nations have been overwhelmingly positive so far.”

    “Why what?”

    “Because in the 24 hours since his inauguration the President has neither belittled, nor harassed, nor threatened another country. The international community seems to like that kind of non-dominant approach.”

    “You’re not saying,” said the Senior Advisor gloomily. “Could brush up our side the wrong way, though. People don’t like it when the President goes too soft.”

    “No danger there either, I believe. The polls rate him the toughest president since Teddy Roosevelt.”

    “What’s that based on? A study on overcooked Thanksgiving dinners?”

    “Voters say they approve of his firm handling of the senate. They say they can’t remember the last time Democrats and Republicans sat peacefully side by side.”

    “Meekly, you mean- united in shame.”

    “Whatever. It’s more bipartisan consensus than we’ve had in a decade.”

    There was a crash from inside the office as the glass followed its contents onto the floor.

    “Incidentally,” said the Senior Advisor, “I found this on the desk earlier on. Know anything about it?”

    “The Good Luck note? The former president left it for his successor.”

    “Really?” The Senior Advisor sighed. “And I thought it was meant for me…”

    1. Reaper

      Nice Nicki, this spoke volumes. I wouldn’t worry about something like this offending people. In a wide enough audience there are some that this would upset but that is kind of the point. When you make commentary it is bound to ruffle some feathers (can’t believe I just said that) and when it does it only means you are also opening minds. As for title, perhaps something like Eagle One?

    2. Nicki EagerReader

      Thanks a lot, guys! I’m really glad you liked it- and if you don’t mind, Reaper, I’d like to adopt your suggested title for the story. 🙂

    3. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      That was an intelligently designed story, Nicki. I’m quite impressed with you right now. Despite the mechanical issues of the story’s prose, you executed your idea with a flawlessness that very few people can pull off when dealing with political issues. You were not-at-all preachy, which people tend to do, and you really drew me into the story with the dialogue (but mostly it was the story, haha).

      Well done, dude (or girl, whatever you are). Fantastic, job! I’m just in awe right now. 😮

      1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

        As for a title, this might deserve some kind of clever play on words, if you ask me. I’m thinking something like, “A Foul Resolution” or “Here We Come a’Wattling.”

        Okay, I’m just kidding about the latter, but I really like the former play on foul. haha

        Again, amazing job! It’s really rare for me to want to gush like this over someone’s writing, so I need to do as much as possible. 😉

        1. Nicki EagerReader

          Your praise makes me blush (seriously) 🙂 Thanks a lot for your kind words! And thanks for your suggestions for a title- “A Foul Resolution” had me in stitches and got me started on a whole telephone directory of “foul-fowl” puns (The fowl-t in our stars… God, I really should get some sleep 🙂 )

    4. jmcody

      There were so many great lines in this, and they kept getting funnier as they went. This was truly inspired political satire and almost — almost — believable, which is kind of its genius. Clever and fun, although I’m disappointed that the independents still couldn’t win even when running against a turkey.

  26. Manwe38

    “Is there anything else I can get for you, sir?”

    I glanced up at the aide, a twenty-something with long blonde hair, and shook my head. Her hands were trembling, along with her voice, and on any other day, I would’ve cracked a joke, flashed a smile, done something to relieve her anxiety.

    But not today.

    “No thanks,” I said. “I think I’m set.”
    “Are you sure?”
    “Absolutely.” I winked at her. “You did great.”

    A wave of deep red crawled up her cheeks like a lazy sunrise. “Thank you, Mr. President.” Before I could answer, she turned and fled. I waited until the door closed, then shook my head. Interns. Can’t live with ’em, can’t hook up with ’em…at least not since Bill Clinton ruined it for the rest of us. I sighed, reached into my pocket, and emerged with the folded note. It had been waiting on the table for me this morning, the words “Good luck” stenciled across its front in elegant calligraphy. Unfolding it, I looked down.

    My jaw unhinged.

    Gone was the admonition of easy times, replaced instead by a bold command directing me to the bottom drawer of the desk. I froze, eyes glued to glossy paper with invisible tape, and my heart lurched in my chest like an eighteen-wheeler that just had blown a tire while cruising down the interstate. How did it change? Was it the same piece of paper? I frowned; yes, it had to be, I’ve been wearing this same coat the whole damn day.

    What, then?

    With shaking hands, I reached down and did what I was told. Inside, another piece of paper lay folded at the bottom. I pulled it out, took a deep breath, and flipped it up.

    It held three words. Only three. A message, a warning, and a final proclamation, a cementing of the fact that it had all been in vain. I don’t know how he knew, or why he kept silent when the danger was so real, but now, the point was moot. They were coming, and things would never be the same.

    A dark shadow fell over the Oval Office as a strange hum rattled my bones. I glanced, briefly, out the window, watching as the last sliver of blue became gunmetal gray. I wanted to fight, to rally our might, but, as an old professor once said, it would “avail us not.” The end was here, and it was time to be a man.

    As the lights went out and the ground began to shake, my mind turned back to those three little words. Whomever had wrote them knew the depths of despair, and as the world split apart, I knew that I had just read an epitaph, not just for me, but the whole human race.

    “Resistance is futile.”

    1. Nicki EagerReader

      Seems the Enterprise messed up the time travel- did the Borg get us after all! Nice twist, Manwe38, right up my street. Only one bothered me: that the MC winks at the aide after having proclaiming not to be in the right frame of mind to joke (or flirt) that day. I found that bit of a “mind splitter”, meaning I suddenly had the feeling I was suddenly dealing with two different people rather than one. May I suggest you go for either- or (though I liked the MC’s ruminations on Bill Clinton and interns- it gives away a lot about the kind of person the new big P is).

      Otherwise the flow was good and I liked how you left me biting my nails to the very end, when the catastrophe is practically on the horizon, before disclosing the message- nice built-up of suspense.

      Overall, a job well done. 🙂

    2. lionetravail

      It’s an interesting take, and it certainly puts me in mind for a Borg encounter. It’s an interesting reveal, but, I’d like there to be some earlier clue that things were not all they appeared in at least some way. It goes from normal today’s world to a tag line without context of threat- sure, it could be a borg line, but couldn’t it just be a gag note from someone? We have no reason to expect that the borg are even real, let alone that the prez had advance notice that they were.

      Does that make sense? I hope it does 🙂

      1. Manwe38

        It sure does.

        You’re talking about setup, which I didn’t do the best job of here. I kind of wrote this on the fly, and it shows. Thanks for taking the time to critique it, though, I really appreciate it 🙂

    3. Manwe38

      Thanks all!

      Yeah, I kinda realized upon a second look that there are several flaws here: namely, the contradiction in the President’s character between feeling serious and being flirty, as well as the rapidity with which things went to hell.

      In terms of it being fan fiction, yeah, I guess it is, in a way, although the line kind of came out of nowhere. It just happens, in my humble opinion, to be one of the most intimidating phrases in the English language.

      But that’s just me 🙂

      Thanks for reading, everyone!

    4. Cceynowa

      This is nice Manwe. I can’t add much to the previous comments, only to say it was one I enjoyed reading a second time after I knew the reveal at the end. Thanks for sharing!

    5. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      Good job, Manwe! However, as any good president knows….

      “Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. “Mankind.” That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom… Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: “We will not go quietly into the night!” We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!”

    6. jmcody

      I had different thoughts about the contradictions in his demeanor and character and the rapidity with which things went to hell. I was thinking this must be what its like to be a president — thinking about hooking up with the intern while combatting apocalyptic threats from evil entities. All in a day’s work. Actually I was half expecting your Pres to go back and find that intern, given that the end was nigh. 😉

      If I may offer a word of advice, I have noticed in general that you metaphors tend to get a little heavy handed. Instead of “an eighteen-wheeler that just had blown a tire while cruising down the interstate,” how about “an eighteen wheeler with a blown out tire.” Cruising down the interstate can be assumed. Hope that’s helpful.

      1. Manwe38

        Absolutely! That’s what this forum is for–learning and growing in our craft. Your feedback is very much appreciated. One thing I will say about my metaphors is that before writing them, I like to speak them out loud. Often, they tend to sound better when they’re longer.

        It’s hard to describe; it’s almost as if they have more of a “beat” if they’re longer. Not sure that makes sense, but that’s usually why I do it. However, I think your advice is sound, as metaphors that are too long end up sounding clunky.

        Thanks again for reading!

  27. rle

    It was finally over. Twenty eight months of grueling work, crisscrossing the country, keeping an impossible schedule, stumping in big cities and small towns all across the nation, had all led to this day. Inauguration Day. Now there would be no more campaigning, no more debates, no more talk show appearances, no more hugging old ladies and kissing babies, and no more ticker tape parades. It was finally over. I was the President of the United States. Holy frick! I guess it was time to start the real work now.

    I sat alone in the Oval Office and tried to wrap my mind around this whole thing. After a brief meeting with some of my top advisers, I now sat in complete solitude. I hadn’t enjoyed more than a handful of these quiet moments since this whirlwind began, and it was refreshing to be able to have a few minutes to myself.

    I carefully arranged a stack of cards from friends and colleagues on the corner of my desk. As I meticulously piled them higher, I noticed one envelope that was larger than the others. I singled it out and immediately recognized the feeble handwriting. It was from my predecessor , the man who I’d handily defeated in the election just three short months ago. I read the words on the envelope and smiled: Tips for a (somewhat) Successful Presidency.

    I ignored the letter opener that lay gleaming in a crushed velvet case before me and opted to tear the envelope open with my bare fingers. I unfolded a single sheet of lined notebook paper and began reading:

    Dear Mr. President,

    As I’ve said on many occasions over the past weeks, congratulations, you deserve it. You ran a good and honorable campaign. You had ample opportunities to smear my name but chose not to, and for that I will remain eternally grateful. When you started this endeavor, I’ll admit it seemed like a bit of a joke to many of us. Who would have ever believed that a one term Congressman that nobody had ever heard of could actually oust a moderately popular incumbent?. In retrospect, I now realize, the joke was on me. Although I don’t agree with many of your positions on issues this nation faces, I feel certain you will do your best to enact policies for the betterment of our society. I will now offer you some advice that I wish someone would have offered me on my first day in office.

    First, just because they refer to you as the most powerful man in the country, don’t be disillusioned into thinking this is actually the case. Even as a young Congressman you should already know, that Congress holds the true power. The sad thing is, they spend too much of their time holding pissing contests to ever accomplish much of anything with real substance. Sure, you might sign some penny ante bills into law, pardon the Thanksgiving turkey, or throw out the first pitch at a ball game or two, but your real purpose is to be the whipping boy for the people who put you here. Trust me, the sooner you understand this, the easier it is.

    Secondly, and this is a tough one; have an affair early in your term and get it over with. Trust me, we’ve all done it and if you’re sitting there thinking you never will, you’re just kidding yourself. You’re a young, good looking man. You’re gonna have tail throwing itself at you from every direction. Take advantage of your position and get it out of your system. The Secret Service will help you keep it under wraps. After all, they don’t call them secret for nothing.

    Lastly, you of all people should know that this country is in a real bind. The economy is stagnant, our moral fiber is stretched to it’s limit, and almost every day we seem to be on the brink of war with someone. I don’t know how much longer we can endure until this tinder box of humanity ignites. I know in your heart you’ll do your best as many of us have. Remember, you are the face of the nation now. All eyes are on you. Again, good luck kid, you’re gonna need it.

    I slowly crumpled the note and tossed it in the trash can. I leaned back in my chair and sighed. It was going to be a long four years.

    1. Reaper

      Powerful stuff rle. Sadly more true than we really want to admit in the current times. I found myself smiling at the straight forward nature of this and saddened by the words. You managed to make the message from the former president slightly preachy without becoming so yourself, which was nicely done. There was a sadness and resignation to that voice, which then transferred to your MC flawlessly. This was just all around brilliant writing.

    2. lionetravail

      Nice work on this, RLE- it is, as Reaper said, almost true sounding, and for a fiction piece sticking close to reality, that’s some serious praise.

    3. jmcody

      This was truly sad. The message conveyed by the former president was one of jaded cynicism, advising the new president to abandon his ideals before he has even gotten started. He complained of a general lack of moral fiber, but then advised the young president to take immoral action. This was probably more true than any of us would like to believe. I’m glad he tossed the note in the trash. That’s where it belongs.

      The WordPress gremlins are restless today. Sorry if this posted twice.

  28. rle

    Geez, I’m not used to posting this near the beginning of a prompt. I had a little extra time today and came up with this. I hope it isn’t a travesty.

    —————————————–

    It was finally over. Twenty-eight months of grueling work, criss-crossing the country, keeping an impossible schedule, stumping in big cities and small towns all across our great nation, had all led to this day. Inauguration Day. Now there would be no more campaigning , no more debates, no more talk show appearances, no more hugging old ladies and kissing babies, and no more ticker tape parades. It was finally over. I was President of the United States. Holy frick! Now I guess it was time to start the real work.

    I sat alone in the Oval Office and tried to wrap my mind around this whole thing. After a brief meeting with some of my top advisers, I now sat in complete solitude. I hadn’t enjoyed more than a handful of these quiet moments since this whirlwind began, and it was refreshing to be able to have a few minutes to myself.

  29. Reaper

    Screaming Love and Freedom

    Esteemed Fifth Estate:

    My first day in the oval office I was most concerned with my son’s trials at school. He was being bullied and I was sure the Secret Service detail now surrounding him would not completely stop it. Brent was a sensitive, intelligent boy. Even the change in location was unlikely to help. Like his father he was a child who would be tormented throughout his education, only finding sweet revenge in monumental success later in life.

    More worrisome still were the reports from his psychiatrist. My teenage son was harboring quiet hero worship for those deviant children in the news over the past two decades. The ones with parents who loved the second amendment while hating personal responsibility and gun safety classes.

    I had to focus. On the desk was an envelope. On the front, in the hand of my predecessor, it said simply, ‘Good Luck!’ My heart thrummed until I was able to dismiss those in the room with me. The words vanished in a shredding of confining paper to disgorge the contents. The missive inside was cryptic enough to capture my attention. ‘The bottom drawer of your desk contains a secret compartment. Inside you will find further wisdom. May it serve you well.’

    After a moment of fumbling with the bottom of the drawer I found the latch. Inside was inspirational advice dating back to the founding of the Union. I will not disclose which president said what, though some are more obvious than others. Combined they inspired me to action. Following are the contents in their entirety.

    ‘When in the course of executive events we find ourselves hesitating to set foot upon the correct path wisdom is necessary. May these musings of those brave men of servitude who held this office before you be your guide. Add your own thought or do not. Choice is the child of freedom.

    ‘Heed those closest to you. The foundation of our land is in freedom, not solitude.

    ‘Division is the most treacherous of enemies. Be wary of it in all things.

    ‘Strike fear from your heart, hesitation will be the downfall of your legacy.

    ‘Fight for peace no matter the damage to your image.

    ‘I have drowned guilt over dead sons in questionable ethics. Find a better way.

    ‘Those who say violence never solved anything have not studied the origins of this country.’

    My son’s words echoed in my mind, “But dad, they’re bullies.” I reflected on the two houses working “with” me; how divided they were. Echoes of the news reports that so fascinated my son became waking nightmares. I could not think of a better way, had my predecessors gone through this?

    I added one line to the document before replacing it. ‘This is my manifesto.’ This letter will likely feature prominently in the first, and last report about my presidency. Will my son be proud?

    I imagine still images of Capitol Hill and a cultured voice informing the citizens, “President elect kills X before turning the gun on himself.”

    Sincerely,
    Your Commander In Chief

    1. Manwe38

      Whoa, what a powerful piece, Reaper.

      Could you imagine if this actually happened? Might just wake this country up to a few things.

      Love the evolution of the MC here, from focusing on his son to looking to a greater purpose.

      Well done!

    2. lionetravail

      Wow? A suicidal president? That was not what I’d expect, and I’d hate to think that offing himself after murdering someone else was the message he wanted to leave for his son about bullying??

      I think this was good, but without the foundation of either humor at the end to alleviate the shock of the revelation, or else without adequate lead up of just how freaking unstable- in pain, or frustration, the guy is. It could be even more powerful than it is depending on which way you wanted to push this… but it’s an almost jarring leap for me to imagine that he could rationally think about that kind of a premeditated end when he has a son he’s so concerned about and without a demonstrated irrationality.

      1. Reaper

        I think I may have been a bit too subtle here and I did cut out a lot of what I considered explanation. The X was theoretical number rather than a name. In a lot of ways this was more a comment on school shootings than politics. I was going for that shock because it is shocking every time it happens and even when there is a why the answer is never good enough. The line will my son be proud was a reference to the shooters the kid has been admiring, not actual concern. So I can see how it might be too jarring. Thank you for bringing it up. The idea was that he went through what his son did and never got over it. If there is any real political commentary in this it is that we don’t pay attention anymore and vote for parties and rhetoric more than the person saying things. So in some ways I could personally believe we might elect someone like this, though I hope that is not true. However the suicidal was not the intention, homicidal was the impulse I was going for with a touch of not wanting to get caught.

    3. Nicki EagerReader

      I agree with the others that this is heavy food for thought. My first reaction was “Nah, this isn’t the kind of guy who’d become president”, and my second, “Well, why not?”. I like stories that depart from stereotypes and challenge me to rethink what I know (or think I know) about people, especially those that seem to suffer from depression.

      You’re style also fit the story well- it was somehow convoluted, but in a way that reflected the knotted gyrations of the MC’s thought process that wasn’t entirely logical (fits depression nicely again). Maybe you could clarify a little what happens in the forth paragraph -whether there is a hidden compartment beneath the latch, and what exactly he finds (books, letter, journal?)- and I also wasn’t quite what “This is my manifesto” is supposed to tell his successors.

      Overall a nice job!

      1. Reaper

        Thanks Nicki. the latch was just a latch to the mentioned secret compartment. In cutting words I actually removed the yellow parchment, I almost went with it on a first draft of the constitution but decided that was a bit too on the nose. When I cut I left the old as the nation to hint but did remove the specifics of what it was. As for, this is my manifesto, well it wasn’t supposed to tell his successors anything, though likely he thought it was. It’s something that has been used by brilliant men in the past and then adopted by crazy people who do horrible things in the name of what they believe in. So it was a bit of explaining the man was always unstable.

    4. Cceynowa

      Dang. And dang again. I never saw the reveal coming. I echo Nicki’s comments. I for one always think of the president as a flashy confident guy (I mean he’d have to be to deal with all the criticism he takes. His confidence level needs to be through the room, I would assume… anyway). A suicidal president never crossed my mind. Guess it goes to show: you never know what goes on behind the front door.

      1. Reaper

        Hey Cceynowa. A lot of those thoughts I answered above, including I didn’t think suicidal but I see why others did. Interesting thing that kind of went through my mind writing this. Some of the most successful people in business and politics share traits with sociopaths, like on a strong level from my understanding. So we already elect people that are at least half insane.

    5. jmcody

      I agree with many of the comments above that the President’s suicidal impulse came as a shock, and my initial reaction was “no way.” However, thinking more deeply into it, couldn’t the intense, mercurial, combative personalities of most politicians campaigning for higher office be a cover for serious mental illness? It would almost take a mental illness to want to go through that. (Either that or deeply held convictions.) I think this would work better in a longer piece where we get to see evidence of the candidate’s crumbling mental state over the course of a campaign, which would be fascinating. So I think this piece holds the germ of a fantastic idea that needs greater exploration.

      1. Reaper

        Thanks. Yeah, this is one that should have been longer, I agree. Though I do stick by not seeing the president here as suicidal but homicidal with just a touch of insecurity that would mean taking his own life rather than death at other hands or capture. To me, well I look back though the past and think we’ve had a few with well controlled homicidal impulses. But that’s just me.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Hit me right between the eyes Reaper. The possibility certainly exists from the expanded egos of politicians. Surely Roosevelt knew he was close to death on his fourth campaign and worked toward it. Is it suicide? Well, maybe. What puzzled me most about Roosevelt, was picking Truman to be president. Did he understand a man who would rise to the issues or was he sure he picked the most inept politicion he could find?

          1. Reaper

            Thanks Kerry. Expanded egos of politicians, such a wonderfully accurate and artistic phrase. I love when I can inspire thoughts of the past from you because they always get and keep me thinking.

  30. Trevor

    Please comment your thoughts below, and be completely honest! Sorry if I’m not so good at writing from third person point-of-view.

    The Conspiracy

    Jamison Carlton walked into the Oval Office, his palms sweaty and his legs weak and unsteady. Having just been elected the newest President of the United States, Jamison felt a peculiar mixture of pride, excitement, and anxiety. Following behind him was his wife, Karen, and his 14-year-old daughter, Amanda.

    “Wow! It’s the best room in the house!” Karen gushed, awestruck by her husband’s new office. During the election, Karen had helped with her husband’s campaign. But Karen had never been very confident that Jamison would win the election, since his competitor, Kyle Davenport, was wealthier and more experienced in the political world. So it came as quite a shock to her when the new President was announced.

    “Yeah, this entire place is like a castle. I can’t believe we’re actually going to live here!” Amanda commented as she scanned the room. Amanda had been very excited when her father announced he was running for President and even put up posters around the neighborhood, asking people to vote for her father.

    “Alright, dear, me and Amanda are going to go look at our rooms. Want to join us?” Karen asked Jamison, who was walking over to his desk.

    “I’ll join you in a minute. I just want to get myself familiar with my new office.” Jamison replied. After Karen and Amanda left the office, Jamison sat down at his desk and took some deep breaths as he looks through the top drawers. They were filled with office supplies and papers. “I’m now the leader of my country. One mistake could destroy everything.” The chilling thought sent a shiver down Jamison’s spine.

    As Jamison looked at his computer, he noticed a yellow notepad on the desk beside the keyboard. Written on the notepad in red ink was the simple message, “Good luck.”

    “Well, thanks so much. That helps me so much, President Lyon.” Jamison muttered as he picked up the notepad. President Lyon had been the President before Jamison, and he was for the most part a well-received politician. Sighing, Jamison looked up at the ceiling. The Presidential symbol loomed over him like a dreaded reminder of the universal importance of his new job. “Do I really have what it takes to be President?” Jamison asked himself, fiddling with the buttons of his dress shirt.

    Looking back at the desk, Jamison noticed something strange. The message on the notepad seemed longer now. Jamison picked it up and saw a new message on the notepad. It read: “Look in the bottom drawer of the desk. There’s a secret compartment. You’ll find more instructions there.”

    “What is this?” Jamison thought. Intrigued, Jamison reached down and pulled open the bottom drawer. It slid open easily. The drawer appeared to be empty, but when Jamison stuck his hand into the drawer, his hand felt something rough. He craned his neck to see inside the drawer and saw that his fingers were clasped around a small rope. He pulled the rope and gasped as the floor of the drawer popped up, revealing a composition notebook.

    “So, Lyon left me a note that led me to some stupid notebook?” Jamison said to himself as he took the notebook out of the drawer. But once Jamison opened the book to the first page, his sarcasm was replaced with shock. Scribbled on the first page was a sentence that sent chills down Jamison’s spine.

    “The Laramie shooting was an inside job.”

    The terrible day of the shooting was still fresh in Jamison’s mind as if it were engraved on his brain. On June 17th, 2017, a young man named Robert Turner walked into a busy grocery store in Laramie, Wyoming, pulled out a machine gun, and opened fire. 14 people were killed, and several others were injured. Robert fled the shooting and, two hours later, was found in his apartment, having hanged himself in the closet. One of the causalities was Denise Carlton, Jamison’s sister. The loss was extremely hard on the Carlton family, and Jamison had never fully recovered from his sister’s death.

    Now that the notebook had gotten his attention, Jamison started to read the notebook intensely. The book went on to explain how the government had hired Robert Turner, who had been a starving artist living in a cheap apartment, to carry out the shooting in order to further their stance on stricter gun control laws. They provided Robert with the gun, which they bought off the black market so it couldn’t be traced back to them. They chose the grocery store because it was a popular place in Laramie and they knew a mass shooting there would make a great impact. The more Jamison read, the more unbelievable the whole plot seemed.

    The last few pages, however, made Jamison’s heart stop. “There’s one last thing you need to know, whoever you are. The government has a bigger plan in motion right now. The Laramie shooting is just a rehearsal in comparison. They feel that the United States is too populated. They feel the overpopulation threatens to destroy the economy. So they’ve started sending out agents to murder our citizens! They make them look like terrible accidents-car crashes, fires, murderous acts of human nature. But they’re the ones behind them all! You have to stop them! Before it’s too late for our country! I hope you can find this before they do. Good luck.”

    Jamison dropped the notepad, feeling as though he couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t imagine that the government he had looked up to for all these years could be capable of such depravity. Suddenly, the doors slammed open, making Jamison jump as they thudded against the wall. He looked up to see a man in a black suit standing in the doorway. He slowly walked into the room, his face blank and free of emotion.

    “Hello? Can I help you?” Jamison asked, trying not to reveal how terrified he was.

    “I’m sorry, Mr. President. But you know too much. Far too much.” The man replied, his voice deep, like he was a heavy smoker. Jamison gasped as he glanced down at the notebook, which had fallen underneath the desk. He glanced up and saw a security camera attached to the ceiling. It was positioned right at him. “They saw me!” Jamison realized, his heart pounding like a bass drum. “They know I’ve discovered their secret!”

    Jamison turned back to the man in the black suit-just as he pulled out a large device. It looked like a camera, but it still sent chills down Jamison’s spine. Before Jamison could cry out for help, the man pushed a button on the device and a blinding flash was emitted from the lens. The bright flash was the last thing Jamison saw before a wave of drowsiness came over him, drowning him in a sea of darkness….

    When Jamison woke up, he was hunched over his desk. He straightened up, feeling his spine pop as he stretched it out. He rubbed the sleepiness from his eyes and looked around the Oval Office. It was just as beautiful and lavish as he remembered. But when Jamison tried to remember what had happened before he passed out, nothing came to mind. It was like those moments had been wiped from his mind.

    “What happened? Why can’t I remember anything before I blacked out?” Jamison struggled to remember, working his brain harder than he’d ever did before. He could almost feel his brain straining itself trying to recall those lost moments. While he couldn’t recollect anything, he knew something important had happened in the forgotten time.

    “What was it? What was it!? I have to remember! I have to remember what it was! What the hell happened to me? Why did I black out? Why can’t I remember what happened to me?” Jamison thought as he pressed his thumbs against his temples, struggling to bring back the memories.

    But they never returned.

    1. Nicki EagerReader

      This was an interesting take, Trevor. I liked the future setting and the dreadful secret the MC stumbled across. I would suggest either of these two options though:

      1.You make this the beginning to a longer story (dystopian societes are the new vampires, after all). In that case I’d suggest you leave the ending a little more open, to hint at future developments.

      2. You keep it as a short story, but go on a little killing spree of your own- murder your darlings, as the saying goes, and take out words where you can. Though I liked the idea of the MC being personally involved in the Laramie Shooting (good incentive for him to take down whoever was behind it) there’s too much background- it might be enough to say that the MC’s sister was killed, and leave the reader to assume that this will have affected him in some way. Same goes for the last three paragraphs: a little too much repetition, which you can tighten up without loosing story.

      That said, I liked the characters of Amanda and Karen that you brought to life in so few words and the “realistic” elements in your story- I have no idea if there is CCTV in the OO but it’s something I could imagine.

      Looking forward to reading more from you!

    2. Reaper

      A very interesting premise and intense plot. I would also love to see this expanded into something longer. I’m suffering from bad memory recently. If I recall correctly you use translation software? I ask because the wording on this seems a bit off. If my memory is correct I blame the software. If not I would suggest taking a look at it to create consistency in the voice but that is the only suggestion I have for you on this one.

    3. lionetravail

      This is a very dark and interesting story, kind of a Men In Black meets Manchurian Candidate kind of thing. I think Nicki’s comments are very insightful and helpful; the extra repetition weighs down the story. I think you can cut a fair amount of your prose and leave more to the reader’s imagination. If you do that, you will streamline your story to quicken the pace of the story 🙂

    4. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      I echo exactly what Nicki said. Hit the head on the nail (or is it the other way around? haha)

      Back story is good, but it must be tight, even when it’s in a novel. Very few people can get away with it, King being the biggest windbag I know.

    5. jmcody

      Reading the discussion above, I would lean toward making it a longer story because there are too many unanswered questions and details that seem implausible. How did the man in black get into the oval office? The whole man-in-black thing is a bit of a cliché, so maybe the intruder should be someone less obvious, like the President’s Executive Assistant or the Whitehouse decorator or someone like that.

      Also, careful with your grammar. Presumably the President and his wife would be educated people who wouldn’t say things like “me and her” and “get myself familiar.” It’s a minor nitpick, but still, its important to stay true to the characters.

      What I liked here was the chilling plot which I think taps into the zeitgeist of the times — consipiracy theories, illuminati, that kind of thing. This promises to be an interesting tale that you should continue to develop.

  31. cosivantutte

    Fair warning: This story has elements of random weirdness. 😀

    It was the ugliest campaign of the entire century. Democrats ranted. Republicans raved. The independents sermonized. And the Green Party slung mud at every single one of the candidates. Yet, despite it all, I, Vince Vincenzi, became President of the United States.

    I sat down at the big boat desk in the Oval Office. Funny. I never really noticed how big this desk was before. It looked so small on tv when other presidents did their state of the address speeching. But, smokes a holy! It was like the Titanic of desks. It filled me with a sense of awe and history and power. “I am President Vince Vincenzi. President Vincenzi, that’s me. President Vince ‘I Rule The United States of America’ Vincenzi. And this here is my office. Mine. All mine.” I got so tickled happy about it I laughed until I snorted.

    My personal aide, Edwin, sighed. “Is there anything you need, President Vincenzi sir?”

    “What? Oh, yes. Get me a big fat—-No. Scratch that. Get me the biggest, baddest, fattest cheesecake you can find in New York and a tall, cold beer. No whimpy half-a-calorie water beers. No sir. I want the real thing. Golden lovely beat-up-your-nostrils, punch-your-throat beer.”

    “Uhh. We don’t have that kind in our cellar.”

    My mind boggled. “You put beer in the cellar? What the—? Why?”

    “I’m afraid I don’t know the reason, Mr. President sir.”

    “Well. Go get me the real thing. Forty-five boxes of it. And don’t put them in the cellar. They’ll get limestone rot or something.”

    “Yes, Mr. President sir. I’ll get right on it, Mr. President sir.” And he left.

    I leaned back in MY chair. I shoved off my snug, black leather shoes, propped my bare feet on the desk, and wiggled my toes with happiness. Something of a paper nature crackled under my feet. As I lowered my feet, a piece of paper fell to the floor.

    I picked it up and read the typed message:

    “Good luck on your new position.

    Sincerely,

    Ex-President Layma Robertson

    ps: Look in the bottom drawer for important instructions.
    psst: It’s a hidden drawer.”

    I opened the bottom drawer. After a tremendous amount of swearing and sweating, I found the secret compartment.

    I didn’t hesitate. I opened it. A whoof of stale air punched my nose and made me sneeze. As soon as I finished sneezing, I looked into the compartment. A leather El Chubbino notebook lay in the drawer face up. Small crystal shards decorated the book’s cover in a symmetrical pattern.

    I pulled the book out and sat back in my seat. I opened it to the first page.

    “Greetings, new President (fill in the blanks). You may feel like you’re large and in charge. Unfortunately, that is not true. You are not in charge. There is someone who reigns above you and the House and the Senate. No one has seen him, but many a man has felt his unbridled wrath. It is I, the Phantom of Abraham Lincoln. To keep my wrath from afflicting you, you must leave five hundred thousand dollars every full moon at the Lincoln Memorial. If you fall behind in your payments, a disaster beyond your imagination will occur.

    Your obedient servant,

    P.A.L.”

    I flipped through the notebook’s five hundred pages. All of them were blank, except for that first page. I set the notebook on the desk and sat back in my chair. Someone had a really warped sense of humor. Probably the Speaker of the House. Or maybe it was a creepy historian. It couldn’t be real. “I should just ignore it.” But a disaster beyond my imagination…What did that mean? Natural disaster? Terrorist attack? Assassination attempt? Did I really want to find out? But five hundred thousand dollars every full moon…

    I should sic my secret service people…I smiled at the pleasant thought that I had a secret service. …on this sicko wacko. But if he should somehow escape them, I’d still be stuck with disaster beyond my imagination.

    “This will probably turn out to be uglier than ex-President Robertson’s campaign, but I’ll pay it. Somehow. Even if I have to raise taxes.”

    1. Manwe38

      Oh, this is hysterical! The ghost of the Oval Office….love it!

      …and that’s why they’re always raising our taxes. I’d been wondering about that….

    2. Nicki EagerReader

      CHEESECAKE! 🙂 Great story, cosivantutte, and a hilarious president- he did all the stuff I know I’d want to do in the OO but probably wouldn’t dare for fear that the secret service shoot me if I crumbled Graham cracker crust on the carpet. I enjoyed every element of random weirdness I came upon, though I have one big question to ask: if you don’t keep the beer cool in the cellar, where then?

      1. cosivantutte

        Thanks!

        I think Vince is used to keeping his beer in the fridge. Poor Edwin. I’m not sure where he’s supposed to store forty-five boxes of beer.

    3. Reaper

      Priceless. The instructions being a form of a supernatural or blackmail chain letter. I tend to fall into this story, believing it is a racket from the previous president, and yet we can look at all the things your MC mentioned and wonder, did those presidents refuse to pay? Nice touch there and very nice writing.

      1. cosivantutte

        Thanks! I was going to have the note list the presidents who refused to pay, but I thought it would be better to leave that detail out. That way Vince doesn’t know what sort of disaster to expect.

    4. jmcody

      So that’s where all our tax dollars are going. It all makes sense now.

      I happen to like random weirdness, and this was very, very entertaining random weirdness. Is it just me, or does Vince Vincenzi bear a passing resemblance to Chris Christie? (You know, on a side note, I had this funny feeling that you might be from New Jersey. I don’t know why… Just a feeling. 🙂 )

      Anyway, it seems that old Edwin just will not stay quiet. I had a feeling we had not seen the last of him. Now I’m also hoping to hear more from Vince Vincenzi, who is a riot.

      Always a pleasure, Cosi!

      1. cosivantutte

        Funny thing is: When I came up with his name, I wasn’t even thinking about Chris Christie. Maybe it was a subconscious thing.

        And, nope! I’m not from New Jersey. But, in the elaborate backstory that I had for Vince, he’s an Italian from New jersey, who used to work at his dad’s nickel and dime salami pasta shop. He was an unknown until the Italian Americans in Holywood started to promote him as the first truly ethnic person to run for President. The tipping point in his favor was when he hosted Saturday Night Live with Stephen Colbert. Things just kind of exploded from that point on for him. 🙂

        As for Edwin, 😀 I couldn’t help myself.

  32. Pete

    Sitting down at the resolute desk in the Oval Office, Preston Peters was a little bummed that his knees didn’t fit beneath such a storied piece of history. But nothing in the past year had gone how he imagined, especially the election, so it was only fitting that his Lincoln-esque frame couldn’t squeeze in his new desk. He leaned back, the youngest president in history, locking his hands behind his head to enjoy the nano second of privacy when his knee brushed a yellow post-it-note that fluttered to the floor.

    Good luck.

    Gee thanks, Preston thought. But just as Parker went to toss the note in the trash, he looked closer. And for reasons he couldn’t explain, breathed a deep breath onto the paper. The letters scrambled and for a minute he feared that he was seeing double with all the lack of sleep. But he knew all too well about President Washington’s Culper spy ring and the invisible ink. The message came to life.

    Bottom left drawer.

    He opened the drawer, finding only a legal pad with another invisible message: Meet me in the broadcast room tonight at ten.

    The president smirked, figuring it was all part of the game. He’d been warned about how the Clinton administration removed all of the W keys on the keyboards on their way out. But he would take his licking, besides, he was a little curious to see the basement room where Eisenhower made his first television broadcast.

    At 10:02, on his first full day on the job, President Parker found was a bit underwhelming. The paint was peeling and the room was hardly larger than a closet, even tighter with all the suits.

    “Ah, welcome. You’re a bit early,” one of them said. “I take it you’ve been briefed.”

    “Well, I…” Parker was a little taken back by the forwardness of the men. Even if it was a prank, he was still the head guy.

    But he played along, being ushered inside the small room. “Okay, now, sit here. We will start the transition just as soon as everyone’s here.

    “The transition? I thought we did—“ he stopped abruptly seeing the man he’d pommelled in November and shook hands with yesterday. Joyner offered Parker that big megawatt smile. Meanwhile a hunched, white haired man in a lab coat hovered over him, monitoring the former president.

    Two husky men entered. Before he could issue an executive order, President Parker was helped into what looked like a dental chair. To his immense horror he was strapped in. Prank or no prank he wasn’t happy.

    “What in-”

    Doctor Hahn tightened the strap forcefully, and then turned to the other suits, his accent slathered with irritation. “This one is not a cooperator.”

    President Parker turned to his Chief of Staff. Mills Barnes was a holdover from the Joyner administration and had been in the White House longer than the internet. “You want to tell me just what is going on?”

    “Jesus Parker, don’t make this harder than it has to be.”

    “What are you doing? I’m the president. Barnes, I have a wife and kids!”

    “Okay, sequence is ready,” Hahn said without looking up.

    “Trust me, the wives are the biggest fan of this procedure,” Barnes pat him on the back and then turned to the closed curtains. “These things give me the creeps, I’ll wait outside.”

    “What procedure?”

    Beside him, Joyner was lounging like a day at the beach, sipping on a glass tumbler with the presidential seal. He looked over to Parker, just on the verge of kicking and screaming. “Cheers Parker, and just so you know, I’m keeping this,” he said, rattling the ice in his drink.

    President Parker called to Barnes, his voice breaking. The old man stopped at the doorway, his brown blazer slumping.

    “Barnes, you need to tell me what’s going on.”

    The big man turned and rolled his eyes. Hahn nodded. “Well, fine, if you must know. After Reagan went all Rawhide and nearly started WWIII, they just needed someone who, who could see things the way they needed to be seen.”

    “They?”

    Hans gave a command. Parker jerked at the prick in his arm. The curtains in the window parted, revealing the perfect faces. The Deciders sat in immaculate suits, their eyes wild with excitement. Only a few had seen it before. Barnes lowered his voice.

    “They like to know what’s going to happen, and control things, if necessary. Usually they’ll be out of the way…so…” President Parker felt his breaths slipping into a comfortable rhythm. It had been so long since he’d relaxed. His hands unclenched and his eyelids fell.

    “There you go”, Hahn rasped. “Begin synch.” Soon after, or long after, Parker was too fuzzy to notice, President Joyner stood, drained his glass and slung his coat over his shoulder. His knees wobbled as he gave a look back to the body on the chair, then, before he left, he gave one last defiant nod to The Deciders.

    The Deciders watched until Hahn checked the president’s vitals and nodded. Then, leaning over him, the doctor whispered in German, “See you in four years….eight if they like you.”

    1. Cceynowa

      I liked this Pete. You’ve taken the idea of a group of suits backing the President’s actions to the next level. I did have some trouble following the action though. I had to read through it carefully a time or two. Maybe cleaning up the transitions (I assume your switched the MC’s name on accident early on), and perhaps adding “former President Joyce” to the end for clarity. Or did President Joyce take over again? Overall, very nice plot idea.

    2. Reaper

      Very interesting story. I will agree with Cceynowa that it got a bit bumpy in the middle. Outside of that this was just amazing. Normally stories of conspiracy theories lack something for me, but this was the exception. I think it was because of the very strong metaphor of it only being the face that changes and seeing the decision makers as lobbyists. You took something that normally loses my interest and made it powerful and very real to me so I fell in love with it. Amazing work.

    3. lionetravail

      This is wonderful, Pete: exciting and well paced. it had the definite flavor of the Manchurian Candidate, but even more frenetic because he had to go through the horror with eyes wide open. If you turned this into something longer, you need to get us some better sense of the Deciders- they are the crux of this, and how one becomes one and gets to that degree of unchecked power-behind-the-scenes could be the vehicle that drives a longer take on this.

      Great job!

    4. Nicki EagerReader

      I echo the others- I really liked your writing up to the cellar bit (the premise anyway), but then I got a little confused- I think there’s something missing in “At 10:02, on his first full day on the job, President Parker found was a bit underwhelming”. I’d also like to know a little more about the Deciders -I kept picturing some alien race like the Silence (see Dr Who, Season 6), ruling the world in secret- and what the transition is and why the First Ladies especially should profit from it (which took me to a gender-switched version of Stepford Wives).

      Otherwise you brought real drive into the plot, and you didn’t fail to work in a sinister German scientist either 😉 So good job.

  33. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

    “Well, sir, if there’s anything else you need, you can reach any one of us at any time.”

    “Thanks.” I said, as they slowly filed out of the oddly oval-shaped room. The door closed, and I let out the heaviest sigh I had ever felt before.

    I sat down and sank into the leathery comfort of the chair. A cool breeze escaped a small rectangle on the far wall, which chilled me to the bones, but that feeling seemed to reach much deeper. Having just been elected as President of the United States, I’m surprised I wasn’t also purging into the small can under the desk.

    I leaned forward, and poured water from a clear glass pitcher into a crystal cup. Once it was half-full, I drank a gulp to combat the nervous dryness that made my tongue stick to the back of my teeth. As I rolled another swallow around my mouth, I noticed a small square of paper with GOOD LUCK written across it.

    I set the glass down, and as I reached for the paper, the cuff of my jacket snagged the glass and tipped it over.

    “Shit!” I said, as I scrambled to find something to clean up the mess.

    I had always been accident prone, and now probably the first president to ruin the furniture in the oval office. As the water likely damaged the wood, I tore off my jacket, tie, button down, and t-shirt. My undershirt was the only thing cotton that would sop up the mess.

    After dabbing everything mostly dry, I glanced at the square piece of paper, but the words had changed. No longer did it offer me the hollow words of good fortune in my endeavor. The water had washed those away, and now it said, “Look in the bottom drawer of the desk. Inside the false bottom you’ll find your instructions.”

    “Shit.” I said again. Not only had I destroyed white-house property on my first day, but I also managed to stumble upon a secret note that couldn’t have been for me. The original note must have been written for whomever offered me luck, and now I was in possession of it.

    I stood there for a long while wondering what I should do. I wanted to call one of the assistants in, but I didn’t know who left it there. Was it Jeremy? Was it Leliana or Mr. Humphreys? Was it a department head? Was it the housekeeper? I didn’t know. How could I? At that moment, I couldn’t trust anyone. Plus, I was half naked, and I didn’t want to be the next president to be accused of improper things. I sighed.

    I may be human, but I have responsibilities as president. I thought that as I sat down on the comfy chair. I’m not perfect, though. I have to do something about this even if it puts me in a tight spot.

    I sat there for a long time staring at the sheet. Then, for some reason, I got to thinking maybe the secret note was left for me. Maybe they knew I was a klutz and would find the note one way or another. Perhaps there was a second note in the mail telling me how to decipher the first note so I could look in the drawer and find these mysterious instructions. Or maybe I was overthinking things.

    I leaned forward, and opened the right bottom drawer. I fished around the contents for a moment, but found no false bottom. I closed it and opened the left drawer. Under a box of Kleenex, I found a small hole. I hooked my finger through it, pulled it open, and found a small leather bound booklet.

    “No way…” I said, and wondered if presidents are supposed to say stuff like that.

    After pulling the heavy book out, I absentmindedly closed the drawer as I read the calligraphy title aloud, “How to succeed as president.”

    The binding was held shut by a leather strap, which I unraveled. I hesitated opening it because I wasn’t sure what I might find in it. Still, despite my knowledge that curiosity murder-faced the cat, I opened it.

    The first page contained a note at the top directing me to sign acknowledging that I’d received the book. Under it, I found several names, which included among them were Lincoln, Roosevelt, Washington, and Kennedy. The next page’s title read, “Chapter One: Listen to the People.”

    Suddenly, for a klutz, I felt like the luckiest man alive.

    1. Cceynowa

      Jay, this was nothing like I have come to expect when reading your submissions… but I absolutely loved it! You wrote a character so relate-able it was nearly painful for me to read. I could simply see him fumbling around on the Resolute desk, cursing his luck. I enjoyed it immensely. Great writing, and, as always, thanks for sharing!

    2. Reaper

      Wonderful Jay. Nice character study and a very uplifting story. Loved the MC wondering if presidents are supposed to say stuff like that. I would say this is outside of your style but having read your work and your comments I know that you have pretty much all styles. I will say that I never expected to see a literary story from you, but I can’t say I am surprised to see one either.

    3. Manwe38

      It’s nice to see you step outside your comfort zone, Jay.

      This is a great story, one which displays your wide range and many talents.

      I thought the MC was a bit nervous to have survived the rigors of a Presidential campaign, but then again, who knows what it’s like to actually run for office if you haven’t done it? Regardless, you made me feel his anxiety, and that was awesome.

    4. lionetravail

      Nice job, Jay. I love the very human self-awareness of your MC, who recognized is fallible, human nature with several frank admissions to himself. This had a wonderfully real person feel, and was especially uplifting that this fallible guy felt like the luckiest person not because of accolades, not from finding obvious reasure, but from finding a moral guidepost to allow him to serve in the best presidential traditions. Uplifting seems like the appropriate term for the feel of this whole story- nice work!

      1. lionetravail

        Wow, only going back over it can I see how many letters I missed earlier typing on my phone. Heh… ‘His fallible, human nature”…. and “…finding obvious Treasure…” 🙂

    5. Dennis

      Hey Jay, I’m not so easily fooled as the others. For at some point the MC will get to Chapter 5, How to Use Discretion With Your Interns, and then we’ll see his true colors. Right? No? 🙂

      But seriously, I enjoyed the story and liked how you took a different approach with the prompt.

  34. Cceynowa

    The Gift of Persuasion
    Word County: 555

    At her Inauguration, former President Glocar had given her a firm hug and, in a hurried whisper, said “Never ask which list you’re on; you won’t like the answer.” He might have said something more, but she wasn’t sure. The reporters, the secret service, and others had swooped in on her. Only now did she have the time to ponder his words.

    She had inheritance a pitted economy, fractured relationships with oversea allies, and a pathetic operations budget. She had laughed with her advisers when she found a note tucked under the corner of the phone. “Good luck,” seemed to be the understatement of the year. Looking for that note now, she saw instead: “Look in the bottom drawer of the desk. There’s a hidden compartment. You will find more instructions there.”

    An adviser had to have placed the new note; no one else was in the room. Hesitantly, she opened the indicated drawer and removed the stacks of miscellaneous office supplies. Underneath a spare stapler she found a small finger hole. Lifting the bottom of the drawer completely away revealed another note, written on aged and weathered paper. “Roosevelt’s Room. 3 AM.”

    The evening passed quickly and at 2:55 AM, she slipped silently through the halls. The protective agents assigned to her had nodded as she hurried passed. They seemed to expect her nocturnal wandering. The Roosevelt Room’s lit fireplace offered the only light when she arrived. Two chairs had been positioned so that their backs were to her when she entered. One chair was occupied by a large silhouette.

    “Madame President, I am delighted to meet you,” a deep jovial voice filled the darkness. “Come. Let us talk about your country’s future,” the man gestured to the empty chair at his side.

    When she took the indicated seat, she was shocked by his appearance. His belly stretched tight under the red velvet of his suit, his eyes sparkled in the fire light, and his lengthy white beard was carefully trimmed to show the apples of his rosy cheeks.

    “Are you… you can’t be,” she stuttered. The man laughed, eliminating any doubt she had to his identity.

    “My name is Christopher Nicholas. I will be your Chief Adviser for the next four years.”

    “You’re shitting me,” she said.

    “Tsk, tsk. I don’t like such language.”

    “But, you’re Santa Claus!”

    “Yes, some call me that. Most of your predecessors have called me Mr. Nicholas, though.”

    “I’m confused. You aren’t real.”

    “Ho, ho, ho,” he laughed again. “I am as real as your position in government!” His eyes flashed mischievously. “I have been advising the Presidents of The United States since the early 1800s.”

    “And how do you advise?”

    “I keep The Lists, of course.”

    “And this helps me how?”

    He leaned forward and beckoned her close, “Do you want to know why Senator Bracken in on The Naughty List this year? He won’t be voting against your proposals if you know what I know.”

    She leaned back, digesting his words. “And what is in it for you?”

    “Simply, Madame President. My existence, my operation, my empire, all of it is to remain fiction. For this secrecy I offer my services to you. Do we have a deal?”

    In the waning fire light, a grin crept across her face. “Yes, Mr. Nicholas, we have a deal.”

    1. Nicki EagerReader

      I loved this, Cceynowa, it’s spot on in the spirit of the season. A wonderful rendition of good old Saint Nick (never ask which list you’re on…) and you trimmed your post down to just the right size to fill it with a max. of story. Really well done!

    2. lionetravail

      What a brilliantly fun take on the prompt, Ccey! Absolutely inspired, and it heartens me to know that Santa Claus is a hardened political animal, not just a giant, simpering present-giver.

      Though he’s sure offering Madam President an awesome set of presents 🙂

    3. Reaper

      Awesome take. I loved the humor and mirth of the story overall. That one little barb in there, the satire and comment that you brought out, that just made it even better though. Wonderfully done.

    4. Cceynowa

      (Now that I can finally log into the site…)
      Thanks all! I appreciate the comments. I have been feeling dark and brooding lately. Thought I would bring some fun to the table.

  35. jhowe

    ‘Goddamned democrats,’ the newly elected president thought as he read the note. President Cyrus Conklin had found it in the empty bottom drawer of his Oval Office desk as he arranged his things. ‘Good luck my ass,’ he thought. ‘Leave it to good ole Charlie to try to rain on my parade.’

    “Is everything all right sir?” said Steve Wendell, his chief of staff.

    “Yes Steve, everything’s just fine.” The president said as he placed the note back in the drawer.

    “Good. You have twenty minutes to get organized and perhaps relax a little before the cabinet meeting Mr. President.”

    “Thank you Steve–and this Mr. President bullshit–when we’re together like this, call me Cyrus okay?”

    “Yes sir… Cyrus. Will there be anything else?”

    “Just give me a buzz when you need me at the meeting. It’s just down the hall right?”

    “Yes sir. Conference room A.”

    The president shook his head as Steve left the office. One of the secret service agents glanced in as the door was closing. He was going to have to work on loosening Steve up a bit. He immediately opened the bottom drawer and took out the note. ‘I should sell this on E-Bay,’ he thought. ‘Too bad he didn’t sign it.’

    But the note did not say good luck like it had before. Cyrus blinked and turned the paper over and then back again. “What the hell?” he said out loud. He turned the drawer handle firmly as the note instructed and the front corner of the bottom panel lifted enough that he could get his fingers under it. Pulling it completely out revealed a thin leather book and nothing else. He picked it up and shut the drawer. ‘Now this,’ he thought, ‘is most likely not going to be something good.’

    But it wasn’t nearly as bad as he thought. The first page had a photo attached of President Kennedy and his pretty wife standing in front of a helicopter. The second page was a photo of Kennedy and his brothers playing football on a manicured lawn. The third page was a photo of Marilyn Monroe with breasts bared and lips puckered, mugging for the camera. Holy cow; good ole Charlie must have discovered this. He reminded himself to thank the old coot someday.

    All the subsequent pages featured Marilyn in various stages of undress. There was no lewdness, no sexual situations, just photos of a very attractive woman posing for the man she was obviously fond of. ‘What a body she had,’ the president thought as his phone buzzed. “I’ll be right there Steve.” He replaced the book, snapped the bottom panel back into place and shut the drawer. He sent the note through the shreader and walked out of his office.

    “How do you do sir,” said the agent just outside the door.

    “I’m doing fine Robert, just fine.” He was having considerably better thoughts about democrats now.

    1. lionetravail

      Awesome fun, Jhowe- nailed another one with slick, brisk writing and a pleasant little surprise twist. This story had such a ‘this could so easily happen’ feel to it. Very nicely done 🙂

    2. Cceynowa

      I grinned all the way through this jhowe. You paired a rough (I insert “Texan” in my own head here) man in a decidedly formal setting perfectly. You also captured a story that does, as Lionetravail mentioned, have a ‘real-feel’ to it. I could see this playing out just as you described. Well done.

    3. Nicki EagerReader

      Ditto the others- a gentle-paced story filled with simple everday contentedness and mirth, even though discovering a book full of pinups of MM probably isn’t a daily occurance. Nice one!

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