The phone only rings once.
“It’s me. I hope I didn’t catch you at a bad time.”
“What have I got to do these days except have bad times?”
“Don’t be that way. I wanted to invite you over to the house for lunch sometime. Things got a little ugly and I’d like to make it up to you. I flew my guy in from Mexico. He makes the greatest gourmet tacos, the best, they’re unbelievable, wait’ll you…”
The doorbell rings.
When he answers, he grins, charmingly, and looks from side to side beyond her, as if looking for the spot in the bushes where she must have been hiding. She brushes leaves from her Doctor Evil pants suit, tilts her head back and smiles back with what is by now her well-practiced look of mild amusement, designed by a team of consultants to denote the right combination of entitlement, warmth and condescension.
“Wow, you really did want to get in here again, didn’t you?”
He leads her down a hall toward one of the meeting rooms, as brown skinned construction workers bustle all around them.
“You know, I’ve looked up and down this place and still haven’t found the damn ceiling you’ve been going on about.”
“It’s a metaphor.”
He makes a face as if he just bit into a lemon. “Of course it is. I’m not stupid.” He ushers her into the room and they sit at a long, polished table. “But I’m sure if you just tell me where the hell it is my guys can knock it out for you in an afternoon. It’s the least I could do for all you’ve done for me.”
He grins. Really, it’s a very charming grin, an everyman grin.
“Oh. watch this.” He rings a little golden hand bell, and within seconds a man appears in the doorway. “Miguel, we want lunch. I was just telling this young lady about those amazing tacos.”
“Si, jefe, si,” nodding and bowing.
“Miguel, what did I say about that? You’re in America, use your American words. Don’t make me fire you.”
“Lo siento, je—I mean sorry boss. Tacos, right away.”
“We’ll make an American out of you yet, Miguel.”
Beads of sweat blistering his face, the man whisks silently away.
“I’ve got him on the cheap; his paperwork isn’t quite in order, the little rapist.”
He shakes his head and they laugh.
“With all those terrible things you said, I’d think he would try to poison your food.”
“Nooooo. Miguel loves me. Judging from the way he kisses my ass, I think he loves me even more because of those things I said. Sometimes I think you just don’t understand the common people.” He toys with the golden bell. “You see how he just appeared? Sometimes I ring it even when I’m not hungry, just to see how fast he gets to me. Yesterday I made him bring me jellybeans, one at a time, four hours straight. One of these days I’m going to have the secret service set up an obstacle course.”
They share another laugh.
“So what are you going to do about these animals of yours rioting out in the streets?”
“You’re the one that won a rigged election. They’re your animals now.”
“Now hold on. I invited you here because I want us to be friends again. You know, invites for the holidays, parties, golfing with Bill, weddings. We’re on the same team, there should be no bad blood over all this. I’m just surprised how your liberal friends are behaving. They pretend to be better than the rest of us, but they’re very bad people, very, very bad.”
“It’s about the increased segregation through the entire fabric of our culture.”
“Uh huh, uh huh,” he says, squinting his eyes in a frown and nodding as if he understands a word she just said.
“All these divisions, white and colored, rich and poor, gay and straight, young and old, democrat and republican, Muslim, Christian, urban, country, immigrant, atheist, homeless, police, and on and on. The more separated people are, the less they understand each other. The less they understand each other, the less they understand their own problems. The less they’re able to solve problems together.”
“Uh huh, uh huh. Is this something the old man said when he was running against you? It sounds like something the old man said.”
She’s on a roll so she doesn’t answer, just keeps driving her point home in a rather preachy, arrogant tone. “People are alienated from their own communities, from their own neighbors, across these segregated lines. And an insidious infrastructure is increasingly in place to divide them all even more, right down to the algorithms of their google searches and their social media pages, that increasingly narrow what they see, until the only things that show up in their feeds, in their advertisements, in their movie suggestions, for crying out loud, in their lives, are their own thoughts and ideas, bibble bibble bibble, as if the whole world, or at least the rational part of it, just agrees with their thoughts and tastes and prejudices.”
“Uh huh. If it’s not the old man, then it’s some weird authorial intrusion, am I right?”
“And every group falls for it, with increasingly inflexible rhetoric, segregated branding, group identity, and this sense that if you aren’t a part of them you can never understand. You see it everywhere. We don’t have literature any more. We have women’s literature, and men’s literature, and black literature and gay literature. You won’t see a straight white male reading a book from the women’s pile, or god forbid the gay pile, the assumption—the assumption on both sides—being it’s obviously not meant for him. And now we don’t see what’s new, we see what’s “trending,” what are other people just like me supposedly interested in? It’s alienation on the grandest scale. And alienation is the first major step toward demonizing your enemy, toward war. So there it is, we’re all surrounded by enemies, ready-made scapegoats for all our problems.”
Still nodding, his perfectly coiffed (if your hairdresser were Salvadore Dali) hair hardly moving, he says, “Uh huh, uh huh. Yeah, it sounds like the old man all right. Let me try my Jewie-est voice: ‘The president elect tapped into the anger of a declining middle class that is sick and tired of establishment economics, establishment politics and the establishment media.’ Why does the old bastard have to be so damn right all the time? He’s starting to make me sick.”
“Join the club. Although the way you exploited the anger in this country made me think you fully understood how keeping groups separate and fearful of each other could make you powerful.”
“It’s money that makes me powerful, baby. And an ability to tune out inconvenient facts.”
“Well those things certainly help.”
“But if you agree with the old man, why aren’t you changing the system?”
“Aren’t you saying you know how to fix our social problems?”
“Who said I wanted to fix our social problems?”
“Well, you did. Many, many times.”
“I also called your followers deplorables. I’m exploiting the divisions just as much as you are, just a little more subtly—I hope, at least. When I said that about your followers, I was gambling that there would be more groups hating the stereotypes of your people than would hate the judgmental comment I was making and the stereotypes of my people.”
“Boy were you wrong.”
“Maybe I was.”
“You realize every time you or your media minions called my people uneducated whites, you got me a hundred new votes. It’s not that they’re uneducated, it’s that they can’t afford an education for their damn kids. Talk about salt in the wound. Really, thanks for that. …and since we’re putting it all out there… thanks, by the way, to you and your entire democratic party hegemony for stabbing the old man in the back during the primaries. That guy scares me.”
“’Hegemony, huh. I’m impressed; maybe you really do have all the best words.”
“Did I pronounce it right? My wife’s been trying to help me up my vocabulary. It’s the word of the week. She has it posted in the bathroom. Funny, now that she’s explained it, suddenly everything is hega-manic.”
“You didn’t quite get it that time.”
“Hagim—hegemoan—hedge—damn it. Oh well, it’s ok, I’m just trying to keep her happy so I get my monthly blow job. I’ll forget it by next week.”
“Anyway that old son of a bitch was never going to be president. If I couldn’t be, then nobody was going to be.”
“Wait a minute, what about me?”
“You think you’re president. That’s cute.”
He glowers at her. “I was right. You really are a nasty woman.”
“You know, I really am shocked how all this turned out, although I guess I understand it now, with all your bull crap talk about draining the same swamp you’ve been wallowing in all these years. How long do you think before people realize they’ve been duped and you’re actually expanding the damn swamp and leaving them to die in squalor?”
“You still don’t get it. None of that matters. I already won. That can’t change.” He sighs, as if in resignation, and she notices that his tiny hands are shaking. He involuntarily looks around as if trying to find Mike Pence.
“And what about catastrophic climate change? Do you really not believe this is happening?”
“I’m going to climate change your first name from ‘crooked’ to ‘stupid.’”
“And why is that?”
“Because climate change doesn’t matter. If it’s not real there’s no reason to stop the exploitation that makes you and me rich. If it’s real (and you know it is), it will create bigger and bigger money making opportunities. Christ it already has. Huge profits. Bigger than war. And if it is real, who the hell do you think is going to survive it? The people with the most money. Everybody else is screwed. Win, win. The Mexican wall is just the first of a lot of walls we’re gonna need to put up, let me tell you. I can’t even believe you asked me that.”
“I thought it looked like there was a lot of construction going on outside.”
“I’m gonna need a lot of security around me, I can tell.”
“Is that what all these cameras on the walls are for? Security?”
“No those are for the show.”
“Have you ever tried to watch C-SPAN? Boooooring.”
“So you’re making a reality TV show?”
“It’s about time we find a way for this place to make some real money. And wait till you see my cast. It’s going to be huge.”
“Really. Stephen Bannon?”
“Smart guy. level-headed. And a helluva lot of fun to go balling with, let me tell you.”
“Sarah Palin? Come on.”
“Really nice ass. Need it for the ratings. Besides. I like looking at it too, so sue me.”
“I’ll say one thing, it is bold.”
“That’s what we need. Bold leadership. Barack, you’re fired!”
She rolls her eyes. “We were talking about climate change.”
“Wait, that’s not what you said a second ago.”
“Who’s gonna care with a piece of ass like Sarah running around?”
“I care. I care about the environment.”
“Don’t give me that. You care about the polls that show the people that care about the environment, balanced against the interests pushing the other way, and that’s something very different. You never really supported any measures with any significant effect on the problem, just a half measure here and there; lips of service mainly, and you know it. Bells and whistles, or smoke and mirrors, or however the hell the damn saying goes. And I’ll tell you what else. If in the end we have to move to Mars, I’ll welcome you and your husband with open arms, dearie. So long as you can still afford the ticket.”
“Ha ha, very funny. Is that something you’re working on, a spaceship to Mars?”
I didn’t say that. But if I did let me tell you it would be unbelievable, the very best, so beautiful, so beautiful—
“Ah. Miguel is back with our tacos.”
“Gracias, gracias jefe.”
“Miguel… what have I said about your bad, bad language?”
“I’m sorry, sir, so sorry, sometimes, you know my brain it gets confused. Thank you, thank you.” He lays out the plates of tacos and leaves the room.
“It looks yummy.”
“They’re the best. You’ll see.”
Nodding, “One thing I just couldn’t understand. I never thought your campaign would survive the whole hidden camera episode, you know? If anything remotely like that—say if someone had videotaped me going on about how much I wanted to cut off Bill’s penis and scoop out his testicles with a melon baller—if anything like that had happened to me it would have been immediate game over and that old son of a bitch would have beat me, and then you, and neither one of us would be sitting here today eating gourmet tacos.”
Taking a pause from stuffing his face, he smiles that charming smile. “What can I say? I love pussy. And a lot of men registered to vote love pussy too.”
“You’re so crude. You know how much I hate that word.”
“Pussy. Pussy. Pussy. I brought the word into acceptable usage in the media. How huge is that?”
“And yet all the action you get is one monthly episode of fellatio. By contract, I’m assuming.”
“Contracts make negotiation easier.”
“You’re wrong to think men generally thought your bragging about sexual assault was ok.”
“Really? You’re going to say that? It’s about the fantasy men have about being irresistible. If only they are rich enough, famous enough, powerful enough, they can get any pussy they want, not because they have to force themselves, but because they can get away with anything, and the girls, they won’t mind, because you are SOMEBODY. If the girl pretends to like it, it’s not rape, is it?”
“You really are an ugly man.”
He smiles, quite charmingly, I mean it really is a bright, charming, smile. And she just has to smile back at him.
“Now tell me one thing, and please be honest. Melania keeps saying it’s my imagination…”
“Yes people really do talk about your hair behind your back.”
“Wait, they do? No, not that. I keep smelling fried chicken through this whole house. Melania says I’m being ridiculous…”
“I think she’s probably right, but if it’s really bothering you, I know a great cleaner who could come in and do your carpets, and all the curtains just in case. He’s Iranian but he does a great job. He really exorcised the stench of sex from the oval office.”
“Have him call my secretary. And I have one more question, and again, please be honest.”
“Oh god. What now?”
“You wouldn’t happen to have something in that purse of yours to spice up these disgusting tacos, would you?
“Of course I do. I’m never without it.”
“Oh. I thought, you know, you were just saying that before.”
“Well you never know who’s going to call you on it, so it’s easier just to keep it in there.”
Grinning (really, it is quite a charming grin). “Well in that case, please pass the hot sauce.”