Fire on the Front Lawn
By: Antwan Crump
It was an average day. Aside from perpetually irritable bowels and his subsequently humbler mood, it was cloudy. Ronald loathed the dismal days and even more the ones that immediately followed. Poor weather, he thought and flushed for the third straight time. He’d flush a fourth time, hoist his pants, straighten his tie, and embark about the morning routine.
Ronald was a wrinkly fellow, both in appearance and capacity. He hadn’t aged well but, at 73, he considered himself a prize. Standing at a pudgy six-foot-three, he towered over most competitors. The ‘mousy’ senators. The ‘elite’ insiders. Most importantly, his staff, over whom he ruled with a wicked tongue.
“Mr. President.” An aide flew to his side, wielding a tan folder and leather-bound iPad. “Your P.D.B.,” he rushed and lent a trembling arm to the space between them. Ronald liked that. Fear.
“What’s this,” Ronald asked.
“The daily bulletin, Sir.” His face said ‘Ivy-League’ but the young man’s eyes screamed coward.
Ronald pounced on the weakness.
“You’re not important.” He eyed the folder. Then leered the messenger. “Who sent you?” The aide stood silent.
Ronald snatched the folder and entered his office, with a smile as wide as his waistline and an armed team just steps behind him. There was no need to thank the young man. He rarely thanked anyone. Why should I?
His office was unlike any other, both in beauty and prestige. Taking note from his predecessors, he had it designed to suit his style. Gold drapery slung from the ceiling fixtures, along with matching furnishings, and an Andrew Jackson bust. It’d been insulting for some, but then again, who cared? What more could they do but march, picket, and kneel? Even so, he’d deal with any matter as needed, in under 280 characters.
His words were taken as a facade for some deeper meaning and a lack of them was more concerning. For that reason, he often said little in private. The bewildered gazes of inferior men and callous women were translucent masks that barely hid their absolute terror. He’d utilize his incoherence to soothe his mind and calm his soul. Similarly comforting were the shallow greetings from his close assembly of questionable cohorts.
“Good morning, Mr. President.” The swarm was akin to those of his past, in the business world, when the biggest issue was figuring out who to pay. He supposed that it still was. “How are you, Sir?” The well-dressed group of changing faces and neutered titles rose to their feet to feign pleasantries. Discontent roiled their bellies. He liked that, too. Jealousy.
As they swaddled him with greetings, he moved quietly to the window, pondering what to tweet, and hoping not to crap himself.
“Mr. President,” a voice climbed over his shoulder and into his ear. He feigned deaf and enjoyed a glint of sun that’d escaped its gloomy prison in the sky. “Sir?”
“Just a minute,” he spoke to the window—gray as far as the eye could see. “It’s cloudy today. This weather attracts crazy.” He tipped his head down and there it was.
A lone brown man stood at the White House gates. From where Ronald stood, he looked no bigger than a fingernail, though his picket sign was clear as water. GOD BLESS AMERICA, it read in unevenly stenciled maroon. Equally familiar was the red ball cap, floating beneath the prayer. “Good sign,” Ronald said. “Strong message.” He took his place behind the desk and fiddled with his phone. “Go ahead,” he ordered.
Francia began, as she always did, to break the tension and ensure compliance. If she couldn’t, the meeting would have to adjourn until he was ready. “Dad,” she started. “We need to take a stance on abortion.”
“What about it?”
“Haven’t you heard?”
The phone had most of his attention: polling stats, social media, golf scores, and one-word responses to his middle children. “What’s to hear?” He looked up at her but once and thought briefly of her mother before returning to his scroll. “You shouldn’t have worn white, honey. Don’t you see the clouds?”
“Yes, dad.” Francia smiled. “I see them.”
“Good,” he shot. “Who’s next?”
Francia melted into the group. Like a turnstile, the next spoke arrived at his desk—sounding serious yet frail. Stuart Miller, he thought. Cold bastard. Wish I had eight more. “Mr. President.” Stuart began with a neck bow and muddled urgency. “We need to discuss…”
“Ah, Stu,” Ronald interrupted. “I remember when I was your age, much wealthier. Good times. You’re a good guy. You should know that. I don’t care what they think.”
His eyes were buried in his phone as he read aloud. “The cynical separation of families is a travesty that befalls the shoulders of one man. That monster is Mr. Miller.” He looked up at Stuart, just once. “How do you feel about that, Stu?”
“I don’t,” Stuart replied.
“Come on,” Ronald prodded. “Give me something, kid.”
Before Stuart could answer, a slew of gasps filled the air. “Oh my god.” Shrill and excited. Confused, Ronald remained stoic—if only to avoid the meme. “Secure the perimeter.” His agents moved to clear the room. He basked in the panic before turning to see the show behind him.
“What is it,” he asked.
He had only their pale expressions to clue him in. When that wasn’t enough, he looked for himself.
Through the window, beneath the endless sheet of grey, was a fiery illumination shaped like a man. The familiar picket sign had lost its ‘B’ and was staked into the ground beside the blazing spectacle. “Son of a bitch cooked himself,” Ronald said. “Sad.”
Ronald watched the man burn until they doused out the fire. The disciple was nothing but a blackened crisp amidst the smoke. “What did I tell you,” he announced to no one and returned to his seat—eyes sunken into a pale white screen. “This weather brings out crazy.”
He tweeted, “GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!”
Then returned to his porcelain throne.