All posts by Aaron Saylor

The Five Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse

So, as I mentioned, I have some news about the future of “Love in the Age of Trump.”

This has always been planned as a novella, a quick hitter for readers to burn through in one sitting. 40,000-50,000 words or so. A long novella or a really short novel, however you want to look at it. These shorter works seem to be a good fit for our current whiplash society, where it’s hard to hold a human being’s attention for very long before they get drawn away to the next shiny object. (I understand. I can be the same way, too.) And as a novella it was planned, a novella it will stay.

What’s changed is that this story has become a part of something larger: a collection of five interconnected science-fiction novellas, tentatively titled (you guessed it), The Five Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse. Actually, I will probably come up with a new title but that’s it for now.

These aren’t  really political stories. They aren’t about one issue or another and I’m not trying to sway any votes. Their origin lies more in the sublime absurdity of having Donald Trump in the White House. The stories are:

“The Orange Wars.” In the 1940s, alien beings create a superandroid indistinguishable from humans, then send him forward to the year 2016 to wreak havoc on the planet.

“Love in the Age of Trump.” You know, I’m thinking of calling this “F*ck Trump” when it publishes in the larger book. I really want to call it that when it publishes later this year but I doubt the Amazons and Barnes and Nobles of the world will let it pass.

“Conception Day.” A Civil War story. There’s actually a brief excerpt on the left side of this website’s home page. I’ve mentioned it before, and it was originally going to be the second book I finished this year (along with Sewerville: The Dark and Bloody Ground (lol)), but priorities have shifted around a but.

“This House Has No Basement.” In which President Trump ascends to a higher consciousness and makes contact with the same alien civilization that created him, only to learn his true reason for existence.

“Black River.” This incorporates and expands my previous story “The Dead on Black River,” and tells the story of the Earth left in Trump’s wake.

“Love in the Age of Trump” publishes at the end of this year, followed shortly thereafter by “Conception Day.” The other three stories should land in 2018, with the entire  Trumpocalypse omnibus coming right after.

I mentioned several months ago that I might publish two books this year. It looks like now there will only be one, but 2018 will be busy as hell. I’m looking forward to it.

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LOVE IN THE AGE OF TRUMP, the next chapter

(Here’s the next chapter. I’ll have another post later tonight, concerning the unexpected future of this story.)

Five

The Plan

 

When she returned to the bedroom, Paulina made an announcement.

“I have decided that we should go to Maga-city One and see President Trump,” she said.

 “When did you decide that?” Willy said. He didn’t bother looking at her. Instead, he stared out the window, at what had become a steady downpour.

“On the way home. I was thinking about it, and I decided. We should go to the capital One and see Trump. The president. You know.”

“Maga-city One.”

“Yes.”

“The President. Trump.”

“Yes.”

She stood there, halfway between the bathroom and the bed, with her hands on her hips. Waiting.

Willy nodded, thought about it. He couldn’t quite settle on why, but something felt out of sorts. Not that Paulina wanted to go see Trump – she loved her president, the same way everybody in America loved him – but she’d never suggested they should make the pilgrimage from Ohio to MC-1. Now she brings it up? And like she said, she had been thinking about it for a while. Maybe the day’s Resistance incursion had driven her to a renewed sense of urgency.

“Maga-city One is a hell of a long drive from here,” he said.

“Four hundred and twelve point seven miles from our door to the White House,” she said. “Precisely.”

Willy found his VR imager in its spot near the alarm clock on the night stand. When he punched in “M-C-1,” the imager projected into the air above them the bed a small, electric blue map of the eastern United States, with an American flag symbol on Columbus and a cartoon version of Trump’s face on Maga-city One. Then it drew a red line from one to the other, and flashed “412” in yellow block text.

“You did not believe me,” said Paulina, pointing at the numbers.

“Just checking,” said Willy.

He waved his hand through the VR map. A polite, nearly human female voice intoned, “Thank you, and good bye,” then the image disappeared back into the device.

“It is only a few hours’ drive,” Paulina said. “Even less if we take a hyper-shuttle. I checked the schedule and each of the next three days, an evening shuttle goes from Columbus to Baltimore to M-C One in an hour and half. For an extra five thousand credits, we could go direct and get there in thirty minutes.”

Willy laughed. “Oh-kay. Where are going to get five thousand –”

“Don’t worry about it,” said Paulina. “I have made some arrangements for us. We can take the hyper. It will be good. I have already decided.”

“We will take the hyper,” Willy repeated, incredulous that she had already though so far through such a bizarre plan. “It will be good? You have already made the arrangements.?”

“I made arrangements for the five thousand credits. I did not make the shuttle arrangements yet but I figured you could handle that.”

Willy nodded his head, still not believing what he was hearing. “I’ll handle it. Right. Sure. No problem. Should I even bother asking where you got those five thousand credits?”

“You can ask.”

“I thought I just did,” said Willy.

“You can I ask, but I am not telling.”

He laughed, a half-hearted and sardonic chuckle, and rolled his eyes.

“Think of it as a gift,” Paulina said, ignoring his doubting response. “I have the five thousand. It is my surprise for you. It is a good surprise, no?”

 “Most of the time, I can’t even get you take a trip to the theater,” he said.

She stepped forward and climbed into the bed, sitting cross-legged next to him, on top of the blankets., with her back against the head board.

“I’m sorry I called you mishka. I know how much you do not like that,” she said, tracing one thin finger lightly along the curve Willy’s bulky forearm.

Willy looked up at her and saw she was smiling.

Uh-oh.

He threw the sheets aside and sat up. “Okay, now I know there’s more to this than the five thousand credits and the hyper-shuttle and the trip to Maga-city One. Just go ahead and tell me.”

“What?”

“Just tell me.”

“Just tell you?”

“Something’s up. I can tell. All of a sudden, you’re being way too nice to me. You’re never this nice unless you need to tell me something and you don’t think I want to hear it.”

Paulina nodded her head, slow. She pursed her lips and held one hand tight on each knee, rocking back and forth with a motion that got faster with each move, as if she were filled with a powerful energy that was building towards a large, violent explosion.

“Okay, then. I will tell you,” she said.

She paused, as if considering whether to continue, then went ahead. “I have this idea. I thought about it on my own, I thought about it a lot. For most of the last few days. Then then after what happened today with that Resistance, I knew I should go ahead and tell you. And then we should go do it.”

“Do what?”

She looked away, towards the other wall, then back at him, though never making full eye contact.

“Just listen to my idea,” she said.

“I will, as soon as you get around to telling me,” said Willy.

“I think we should go to the White House and… visit… the President.”

“Visit him?” There must be more, he thought.

“Yes.”

“That’s it?”

“Not exactly.”

There must be more. Paulina was drawing this out way too much, playing too coy for this conversation to only be about a simple visit to Trump in Maga-city One. Millions of people visited him there every year and enough of them got a presidential handshake or a friendly wave of the hand for it be a rare event. Chances were, if you went to the White House, you saw the President. He made himself available to his public. That’s why they loved him, after all – because he loved them.

“I feel like you’re not telling me something here,” Willy said.

“I think we should go and ask Mr. Trump for sex with us,” said Paulina.

Willy laughed, not positive that he actually heard her correctly. “You want to ask Trump for sex? Like… sex? The bumpty bump? The dirty deed?”

‘Call it however you like,” she said in her frosty Russian accent. “It is what I want to do. It is what I decided that we should do.”

Willy nodded, but didn’t say anything. He leaned his head back, until the base of his skull came to rest against the top of the head board. What Paulina had proposed seemed so ridiculous, so impossible, so flat-out insane that he thought that surely she must be joking. She had to be joking.

What did she think they would do? Go to M-C One, walk right up to the White House, and ask President Trump if he wanted to for a little menage a trois? How would they do that? Just stroll up to the windows of the Oval Office, knock knock until Trump let them in? And how do you go about proposition the most powerful man in the world?

Hello, Mr. President. We love you. We came all the way from the great city of Columbus, Ohio. We were just wondering. Fancy a fuck?

“I will ask him,” said Paulina. “Don’t worry, you will not have to say anything.”

“How do you plan to do that, exactly?” said Willy. He felt his curiosity growing by the moment.

She told him.

It seemed absurd, sure, but the way Paulina described it, and the utter conviction with which she spoke, well, Willy had to admit that she made the whole thing seem, well… possible. As if it would be nothing at all to convince the President to leave the White House and his security detail behind, and scamper away to a cheap motel room for a roll through the hay with a four hundred pound unemployed man and his Russian-born girlfriend, both of whom were total strangers with nothing to offer except their undying love and perhaps an hour’s worth of slatternly passion.

Crazy.

Stupid.

Impossible.

Madness.

And yet, the way Pauline talked, she made Willy believe…

Five minutes after she finished laying out her plan for him, Willy Richmond booked a pair of seats on the East/Southeast hyper-shuttle direct to Maga-city One.

Three hours after that, in the sultry July midnight, they climbed aboard.

more from LOVE IN THE AGE OF TRUMP

Four

Paulina

“Do you think Trump got away?” said Paulina, with a slight edge of desperation in her voice. “Do you think he’s alright?”

Willy shrugged. “If you haven’t noticed before, he always gets away.”

“Those guys looked scary this time.”

“He’s fine,” said Willy. “They got him off the stage. Looked like a couple of Resistance folks took a real beating onstage, though. They’re probably in a hell of a rough shape right now, if they even survived it. But Trump is okay.”

“Are you sure?”

She looked at him with a wide-eyed, nervous expression that made him think she might start crying if he said just the wrong thing at that moment. It always surprised him, how his wife seemed so fragile and weepy whenever she sensed her beloved President in danger. Most other times, she was about as fragile as a lead pipe.

“I’m sure,” he said. “I saw everything myself. It happened live, on television. Trump is fine.”

Paulina relaxed. That was what she wanted to hear. Still, she sought another ounce of reassurance.

“Yes. But are you sure?” she asked.

“I saw it on TV. Right there,” he said. “If you can’t trust the TV, who can you trust?”

“That damned Resistance. Those idiots deserve whatever they get,” she said, as she walked into the adjacent kitchen and took a Diet Dew from the refrigerator. “You would think that they would know when to quit by now.”

“Some folks just aren’t happy, no matter what,” he said. “They try a stunt like this, what, three or four times a year now? And what do they get out of it? Not a damn thing.”

He switched off the television.

“Turn that back on!” Paulina interjected.

Will stood up. He held up his hands for added emphasis. “Trump is gone. There’s nothing worth watch anymore.”

“He might come back.”

“He won’t be back. Not today. They’ll have a press conference some time tomorrow and show us pictures of business-as-usual, tell us everything is okay, but we all have to be vigilant, keep our eyes on each other. Pray for us all, pray for Trump. You know how it is.”

“You don’t think we all should, how you say, keep our eyes open for each other? These animals – ”

“Keep our eyes on each other. It’s different, a little different. Of course I think we should keep ours on each other.”

“Uh-huh.” She thought about it. “You want a Diet Dew?”

“Sure.”

She opened the refrigerator back up, grabbed one of the green plastic twenty ouncers. and tossed it across the room.

Willy caught it without so much as a slight juggle.

He sat back down on the couch, reclining against the soft red vinyl. Closing his eyes, he listened to the sounds of Paulina rummaging through the cabinets, looking for something to eat.

A couple of minutes later, she sat down next to him, holding her own bottle of green soda along with a paper plate overloaded with barbecue-flavored potato chips and shredded mozzarella cheese.

It was astounding, how she could eat that type of food and not gain so much as a half-inch on her trim waistline. He counted his calories, read all the ingredient labels, always aimed for the right proper carb/protein balance, and still he wore 4XL t-shirts. And barely fit into those.

“How was school?” he said.

“Fine.” She scooped up several of the chips and plunged them into her mouth. “The children wanted to watch President Trump’s speech on television but he started late. The buses loaded first. After that, everybody else left so we could get home and watch for ourselves.”

Paulina picked up the remote and turned the television back on.

Now, the news channel replayed the day’s footage of the Resistance attackers on an apparent endless loop. The announcers fired question after question at their panel of astute guests, seeking insight and explanation into terrorist actions that seemed arbitrary, senseless, unexplainable.

“We never dealt with such things like this in Russia,” she said. “Not before, not now, not ever. My great-great-grandfather, he was KGB, you know.”

Willy knew.

“He told me things about old Soviet Union. Back then, they would have gathered everyone in this Resistance and made them disappear in one night. End of story. Resistance would never exist. Even if it did exist, it would not be around for long. All you Americans, you allow this.”

“Last time I checked, you’re an American now, too,” Willy said.

“I am just saying, in Russia, a Resistance starts one day, then that night it is crushed. Good-bye. End of story. But here, all these protests, people speaking against our leader. I do not understand.”

Willy gulped some Diet Dew, then set the bottle down on the floor in front of the couch. “It’s called freedom of speech, honey. We still have that in America.”

“Freedom speech. This freedom speech, always with the freedom speech. That is what you call it.”

Paulina laughed, a sardonic snigger, coated in her icy eastern European sarcasm that hung in the room long after the words dissipated.

“This stupid resistance, do you know what they really want? They want anarchy. These are murderers,” she said. “You talk about freedom and you let these bastards always try to kill your president. What kind of country is this?”

“They’re not going to kill him,” said Willy.

“If you let them keep trying, one day they might succeed,” she said. “This is why they must be stopped. Now. You understand me, right?”

Willy shrugged his shoulders. He grabbed his soda bottle off the floor and stood up.

“Always shrugging your shoulders,” said Paulina. “I ask you serious question and you just say, ah. Whatever. You never have answer, do you?”

“What would you like me to say?”

She handed him her empty plate. “Say nothing,” she said. “Just take this to the trash, fatso. I’m finished now.”

He hesitated, waiting for her to laugh. She never did. It didn’t surprise him. Laughter would show playfulness, a softer side, a facet of his girlfriend that perhaps did not exist. She never did.

Willy took the plate and headed for the kitchen, wondering what it was about him that made her want to stick around. There must be something, He hoped.

*

That night they made sweaty, passionate love, at least what sufficed as a reasonable approximation of passion between the two of them. Paulina straddled her husband as he sat with his back resting against the bed’s headboard and wrapped her legs around his waist as best she could get them around his girth, then clasped her hands behind his neck and held on for the ride.

She stared straight ahead the entire time, grunting, rarely making eye contact, never saying a word until they were finished.

“Not too bad tonight, fatso,” she said, as she rolled off him and reached for the night stand on her side of the bed, and the pack of Marlboro Lights that lay there. “It feels good to last more than five minutes with me, no?”

“Yes. It does,” he said.

“It feels good for you, anyway. I suppose.” She laughed, more out of boredom than anything else.

Willy let out a long, slow breath, and pulled the flat bedsheet across his naked body so his full natural glory couldn’t be seen in the moonlight that cascaded through their bedroom window.

A thick silence took over between them.

After a little while, he said, “I don’t understand why you talk about me that way,”

She laughed, a frigid snicker devoid of even the slightest sliver of human empathy. “What do you mean?”

“I mean… I love you, that’s all.” He rolled onto his side, away from her, towards the window, and looked out the window towards the yard, at the bluish moon beams that skitted off their yard’s summer grass. “It just seems like, sometimes—”

“Oh, stop it.”

“What?”

She rolled her eyes. “I hate when you do this. Is it the part where I am supposed to say I love you?”

“No, I didn’t mean it that way—”

“All right then. Willy Richmond, I love you. I love you. I love you. Does that sound good, Mishka?”

“Don’t call me Mishka.”

“Why not?”

“You know I don’t like that.”

“Mishka. Mishka.” Again she laughed. “Mishka mishka mishka.”

“I told you not to call me that.”

“Do you know what it means?”

“No.”

“Then how do you know you don’t like it?”

“I just know.”

Paulina shook her head, smiling. “I have been calling you Mishka ever since we first met, and still you do not know what it means. You never even bother to look it up.”

“I don’t need to know,” said Willy. “I can tell you from the way you say it that it doesn’t mean anything good.”

“You Americans, all of you only speak one language, it is so sad. In Russia most people speak three or four or five—”

“Oh, come on.”

“They do!”

“Most people in Russia speak five languages? You expect me to believe that?”

“It’s true.”

“I doubt it.”

“You Americans, you never believe what people say if they are from outside your country.” She shook her head. “It is as if you think that the truth can only exist here. It can only exist in United States.”

He rolled back over, looked up into her face, as she stared down at him with a mix of amusement and disdain.

“You’re not in Russia anymore,” Willy snapped.

Paulina rolled her eyes.

 The two of them lay there for almost half an hour, saying nothing, listening to each other’s breathing.

Finally, he propped himself up on one arm, and said, “Your voice sounds like freezing to death.”

“Like freezing to death.”

“Yes. Pretty much. Like freezing to death.”

“Why do you say that?” she said, sounding hurt, which he found hard to believe. In his experience, Paulina had shown little patience for, or evidence of, such quaint little notions of humanity.

“It’s the best way I can describe it,” he said.

“Oh-kay.” She didn’t care.

Willy sighed. He rolled back over, away from her, and looked out the window. In the black night sky, lightning flashed a pale blue show among the distant clouds. A summer storm in mid-pop, not expected but not entirely unexpected, either.

Raindrops spattered against the window, soft taps at first that quickly transitioned into heavy gunfire on the glass, echoing across the canyon of silence between man and woman.

“I’m going to the bathroom,” Paulina said at last, standing up. “But, I have an idea that I have been thinking about. I will talk to you about it when I come out.”

“Fine,” he said.

“I’ll be right back. It’s a good idea. You will love it. Trust me.”

It rained, harder.

LOVE IN THE AGE OF TRUMP: Chapter Three

Three

Trump

 

From the moment the dark-skinned interlopers jumped out of the crowd and onto the stage, it took exactly one minute and eight seconds for the Secret Service to surround President Trump and hustled him to the safety of a black limousine that carried armor thick enough to stop just about anything short of an anti-tank missile.

The driver ripped the limo into gear, and sped away with his precious cargo. Black vans followed close behind. Secret Service agents, White House aides, Trump family members. In a well-trained protective maneuver, one of the vans swooped around to lead the pack, two more got on each side of the President’s vehicle. Uniformed Maga-city One police officers rode alongside on motorcycles, blue and white security lights flashing silently.

Two and a half minutes later, the motorcade roared into a garage beneath the White House that had been built during the first Trump decade.

Fifteen minutes after that, the President stood in a small chamber that had been constructed inside the walls adjacent to the Lincoln bedroom. He’d had it built as a secret, a special hiding place where he could escape from the rigors of leading the free world while also absorbing cable news and creating Twitter posts virtually around the clock.

*

Though Twitter still existed in the Fiftieth Year, it had been a much more popular communication program during the early years of the Trump era, when people mostly preferred to communicate through little handheld device known as “smartphones.” Trump’s genius had come in harnessing it as a means of speaking directly to the citizenry without being filtered through the hated news media.

 But where Twitter users had once numbered in the hundreds of millions, the site eventually fell victim to the same deadly plague that killed so many technology platforms in the early 21st century: familiarity. People just moved on to the next New Thing.

First there was SpecTalk, then Puddle, then Phonos. All skeletons gathering sand along the technological super-highway. Now, most online communicators interfaced through a combination of Virtual Reality, vid-screen sign language, and smoke signals.

The old sites still existed, of course. They only appealed to a few niche users, mostly nostalgia types and steampunk devotees who found a never-ending sense of hipster comfort in utilizing outdated cyber junk from bygone eras. Only a few hundred thousand people remained active Tweeters, as they called themselves.

Whispered rumors among the Tweeter subculture posited that one of those active users was none other than Donald J. Trump himself, sending out messages to random users under the pseudonym of John Miller. Occasionally a wild tweet would bubble up in the chat rooms, and the Tweeters would go crazy trying to locate the source IP of the message, only to come up dry. That only convinced them even more that something was amiss. Trump, they figured. Had to be Trump. He loved his fellow Tweeters. He would never abandon them. He was out there, somewhere, speaking their language. Speaking only to them.

But as far as anyone really knew – as far as anything could be proven – those were rumors, and nothing more.

*

Trump stared into the mirror. He brushed back his feather brown hair, straightened the lapels on his expensive navy blue suit, and grinned.

“You are so, so handsome, Mr. President. Look at you,” he said to his reflection. “Absolutely wonderful. And these motherfuckers, all they want to do is bring you down. Can you believe that? Who do they think they are? It’s a disgrace. You know, I always say, if you’re gonna come at the king, you best not miss. But those little motherfuckers, they just keep on missing. And I just keep on being the king. Don’t I, honey?”

No answer.

“Ivanka, honey. Are you listening?”

“I’m listening, Dad.”

He turned around, towards his daughter. She sat in the corner behind the door, on a pink velvet-covered chair with a high round back. That chair and a small ceramic wash basin were the only other pieces of furniture in the room besides the oval mirror.

Ivanka Trump – she’d kept the family name even though she had been married radiated the incredible beauty of everlasting youth. Just like her father, she maintained the peak form of her late twenties. As Daddy liked to often remind her, she was a product of those special Trump genes, although she also felt some credit also belonged to the reverse-aging process that her husband Jared patented to astronomical financial success during the Third Trump years.

Ivanka sighed, rubbed the back of her neck, bored. “You say that like you think they’re really trying to get you,” she said.

“Of course they’re trying,” her father said. “That’s what they say on television, right? ‘The Resistance attacked Trump again today,’ that’s what I hear on the news every time. That’s what the whole country hears, right?”

She took a deep breath through her nose, exhaled, looked like she wanted to say something but kept it to herself.

Her father’s smile held firm, as though his face had been glued in that position. His eyes danced about, giving off a hint of confusion that didn’t comport with the rest of his expression.

Ivanka realized he was practicing that grin again.

“Come on, Dad,” she said. “Don’t embarrass yourself.”

“Oh, lighten up,” he said, breaking from the smile and walking away from the mirror. “I’m a smart person, okay? I know the score. Of course I do. It’s my show, I came up with everything, remember?”

“I remember.” She saw the anger flushing into his face and hoped this conversation wasn’t headed in a bad direction. “It’s a great idea. Your genius really shone through with this one. I wasn’t suggesting otherwise –”

“The people love this show. Drama, action. The ultimate in reality TV. They eat that shit up, you know? Put their hero – that’s me – in a little danger, let ‘em think the bad guys might be getting the upper hand. Then BAM, comeback. Everybody loves a comeback. The hero saves the day. Happy ending. Music swells, credits roll, everybody goes home happy. Wash, rinse, repeat.”

Ivanka shifted uncomfortably in the seat, looking for a way out of the conversation but, in her heart, she knew she couldn’t escape. They went through this after every Resistance scene. The President liked to rehash and talk about what a great it had been, launching this storyline. It showed strength. Resolve. Such red meat for the base. Yawn.

“It shows strength. Resolve. The base loves strength. They eat it up,” he said, looking at himself in the mirror again.

He flexed his pectorals slightly, just enough that he could see his suit jacket tighten.

“They say I’m playing chess, you know.”

“Who says that?” she said.

“The media. The people on the news. CNN, Fox, the usual places.”

“Yes,” she said.

“I am, aren’t I?”

“You are what?”

“Playing chess. Mental chess.” He narrowed his eyes, pondering the depth of this concept. “A game with my mind. I’m using my brain and I’m playing, and you know what else? I’m winning. That’s what it is. I’m winning.”

“I don’t think the average human being can understand the level of chess you’re playing,” she said.

“Do you think so?”

“Yes. Of course,” she said. “In the early days they called it ‘4-D chess,’ trying to explain how far ahead you were of conventional wisdom. But it’s not 4-D anymore. You’re playing 6-D chess now. 7-D. 10-D.”

She’d learned over the decades that this kind of comment was the best way to bring a topic to a close. The words didn’t make any sense, but they sounded good.

Trump slowly nodded his head and let the topic dissipate. He ran his fingers across the top of his head, as close as he could get them without actually touching the tight, gossamer shroud of reddish blonde hair that stretched across his scalp.

“You’re my daughter. I need to ask you something. Something I don’t think I can ask anyone else and get an honest answer,” he said.

“What is it?” Ivanka said. She felt a sudden, hard lump of nervousness in her throat.

“How good do I look?”

“What?”

“I think I look great. Am I right?”

“Oh.” She paused. “You look great. You’re right. Of course you look great.”

“Come here and stand by me.”

He waved his daughter towards him. She stood up, walked to his spot in front of the mirror, and put her right arm around the back of his waistline.

They smiled at their reflections. He at hers, she at his.

“My God, we are two beautiful people, do you know that?”

She held her smile.

“I think I’ve finally done it, Ivanka. Jared may have been the one cracked the code on that reverse-aging process, but I must tell you, I am the perfect living example of its possibility. Look at me.” He took a deep breath, held his chin at a slight upward angle. “I think I’ve finally done it.”

“I think so, too.”

“Do you know what I’m talking about?”

“Not really.”

“I’ve done it. I’ve achieved Peak Trump.” He nodded. Intense confidence gleamed in his eyes. “I’m a hundred and twenty years old and look and feel exactly the same as I did in 1987. That was some year. Peak Trump.  You’re lookin’ at it, kid. This is it.”

“You look great, Dad.”

He shrugged.

“The human genome consists of twenty-three pairs of chromosomes,” he said. “Hard to imagine. Only forty-six chromosomes total. Billions and billions of people throughout the centuries, all of them made from different combinations of just those forty-six chromosomes, and the genes they contain. Millions of genes. A lot of genes. An incredible amount, really. But it’s a finite number, you know? I studied math in school. I’m a smart person, okay? Finite means, not infinite.

“A finite number of chromosomes, a finite number of genes. Only so many possible combinations. I haven’t done the math, it’s a hell of a lot, but only so many. And if there’s only so many, that means sooner or later, a combination will repeat. It has to. Only so many. It’s simple math. Think about it: one day, I can’t say when exactly it’s going to happen but one day, the same exact combination of Trump will happen again. There will be another me, an exact copy of me. A perfect replica. Peak Trump, the sequel. Amazing. How about that?”

She nodded, slowly. “It’s an interesting theory, Dad.”

“I’m very smart, okay?”

“Yes, you are. The smartest.”

He planted a kiss on her cheek, and walked out.

LOVE IN THE AGE OF TRUMP, next chapter

Two

President

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you,” said the President. “Thank you, friends, for joining me in this wonderful celebration of… well, me.”

On cue, the crowd broke into the first of what would be several joyous interruptions.

“It’s really wonderful,” Trump continued with a grin, shaking his head as if in happy disbelief. “I’m still your president. Look at this. Fifty years later and I’m still your president. Can you believe it?”

“YES!” the crowd answered together.

“I bet you can believe it. I certainly can, that I will tell you. I look at myself in the mirror every day and I say to myself, this has been such a wonderful thing. That I get to be President. That you get to have me as your President.”

Thunderous applause boomed across the mall. Eight million hands clapping in unison. This is amazing. The most incredible thing I have ever seen, Willy thought.

The applause lasted for a solid thirty seconds, until Trump raised his hands and playfully motioned for the crowd to quieten back down so he could continue his address.

As the audience obeyed, Willy realized that he’d been clapping right along with them, enjoying the moment every bit as much as those in personal attendance for the occasion.

“We have so much to celebrate together today,” the president continued. “All of the many wonderful things I’ve accomplished in these last five decades, some of which might have been perhaps just a little tiny bit less wonderful if not for the assistance of a few people. Not much assistance, of course. But just a little. A little bit. We would have been great without them, but, hey, it didn’t hurt. You know what I’m saying, right?”

“RIGHT!”

“Before we got started, I want to thank my daughter Ivanka and her husband, the wonderful Jared Kushner. You all know Jared. Say hello, Jared.”

He motioned to the row of five chairs behind him, where a thin, hawk-nosed young man with perfectly parted brown hair sat on the end closest to the podium, next to a blond young lady with china doll skin.  Jared and Ivanka, the president’s daughter and her husband.

They both wore expensive-looking sunglasses despite the overcast skies.

Jared smiled and waved gentle acknowledgement, as the crowd spontaneously chanted his name for a few seconds. Jar-ed! Jar-ed! Jar-ed!

‘That’s great. They love you, Jared!” Trump said, pleased, as he turned to face his son-in-law. “They love you!”

After a few more moments of applause, Trump turned back towards his audience.

“Jared Kushner, everyone. He’s the reason we’re here today. Do you know that? I mean, I’m the reason we’re all here, but if Jared hadn’t invented his incredible reverse-aging process, who knows? I might still be alive, I might not. But here I am. So really, he deserves some of the credit. Let’s be honest, I would be dead if not for him. I’d be dead. But I’m not, I’m standing here, every bit of a a hundred and twenty years old and I don’t look a day over forty. Wouldn’t you say I don’t look a day over forty? It’s wonderful. Thank you, Jared. And thank you Ivanka, for marrying him!”

Now Ivanka waved to her father.

He didn’t wave back. But he did wink at her, and when he did, she blushed. She always blushed when her father winked at her that way.

The President continued, reciting from the speech that scrolled by on the teleprompter. His words across the gathered throng.

“I look back, and I think about all the years ago. 2016. When we first came here to Maga-City One. The best of us may be still be here,” he said, “but those who maybe weren’t the best, they aren’t here anymore. It’s tough. But they couldn’t stay with us. They couldn’t stay with you. I’m sorry. Choices had to be made. It’s tough. But they were good people, those folks in the early days. I think of them now, and maybe you could take a minute to think about them, too.

“People like our good friend Reince Priebus. I call him Wacky Reince. Funny guy. He had that little bald spot in the back of his head, he tried to hide it but it was there, believe me. He used to make us all laugh in the cabinet meetings.

“And Sarah Sanders – excuse me, Huckabee Sanders, she kept the Huckabee so everybody would remember she was Mike’s daughter, although I have no idea why because Mike was never that special, he ran for president twice, maybe three or four times, he could never win!

“And also people like Sean Spicer, my first White House spokesman, such a great guy. He was one of the last few on the list that we were thinking of keeping around, but it turned out we just couldn’t do it. Not enough treatments to go around. You can’t save ‘em all. Besides, the Saturday Night Live thing. You know how it is.

“I could go on. Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Sean Hannity. I really liked that guy Hannity – he was my little Seanny Boy. He always agreed with me. It was so wonderful. And all the girls… those beautiful blond girls. The ones on television night after night during that first campaign, when we beat Crooked Hillary. What were their names? I can’t remember. Kayleigh, and Scottie, and Debbie, and Dana. It seems like there were more. There probably were. I can’t remember them all. ‘How can you defend him?’ the media would say, but those girls would hang right in there. They made us so proud. Do you remember? We loved them.”

He paused. Looked away from the teleprompter and thought about what to say next.

A murmur spread through the crowd.

Finally, he said, “We really put a beatdown on Hillary, didn’t we?”

The crowd exploded in an orgy of nostalgic exaltation.

Trump nodded, slowly, lost for a moment in thoughts and memories. Wonderful memories.

Then he jumped right back into it. “And what about Kellyanne,” said Trump. “I certainly don’t want to forget her. We wouldn’t be here without Kellyanne Conway. What a lovely lady. It’s been fifty years! She was so sweet, so nice, but man was she tough. A fighter. I love fighters. I’d hate to cross that one in a dark alley, you know what I mean? I hear they won’t let her near any sharp objects in the nursing home, you know? And she’s what, a hundred years old by now? Kellyanne, I hope you’re doing well out there. I do. I do. I ‘m sorry we couldn’t get you in on the reverse-aging deal, but you know how it goes. Aw, well…”

He laughed. He liked to make himself laugh, and this time, he tickled his own fancy hard enough that he had to step away from the microphone for a moment and pull himself back together.

The crowd roared.

“Those folks. Such great folks. I miss them all. They did so much for their country. I wish they could be here now. I could talk about them all day, but now it’s time to talk about me. Hey, you’ve still got me, right? It’s not so bad, is it?”

“HELL NO!”

 “That’s right. Not so bad at all. What a tremendous, spectacular, wonderful, incredible five decades it has been. I have been so proud to lead you. And you know what? I think we’re going to have at least five decades more together. I actually believe that. Jared, Ivanka, Don Jr., Eric, Barron. And me. Of course, me. It’s been so great. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

Trump raised his hand and waved.

The crowd cheered. A sustained wave of adulation washed across the stage.

In his living room, Willy Richmond clapped his hands together and cheered with them.

Trump smiled, looking directly at the camera, and the way he did that made Willy feel as though his President spoke every word directly to him. And, man, did that feel good.

President Trump leaned towards the microphone to quiet the crowd and continue his amazing speech. “Okay, now. Enough about me. Enough for now, anyway –”

Then, something went wrong.

In the front of the audience, near the edge of the stage, a small group of people made a sudden shift forward.

Willy watched in sudden horror as his president’s gaze snapped towards the ruckus around the left corner of the stage, a sudden frantic swelling of humanity, like ants swarming a piece of peppermint candy.

A man and woman surged above the crowd; Willy noticed they were each wearing the olive-green military cap of the US army. Both of them were dark-skinned, he definitively black, while she appeared of indistinct Middle Eastern origin, perhaps Egyptian. Willy didn’t know anyone from Egypt but he felt like they probably looked like that.

Before any of the security personnel could react, the man and woman leaped onto the stage, shouting angry-sounding words towards Trump in a foreign language that Willy had heard many times on television but only a few times in person. Arabic, or perhaps French-Canadian. He wasn’t sure which. It sounded angry, though.

A phalanx of Secret Service men stormed the stage in dark suits – black, blue, charcoal gray – and rushed towards the podium with guns raised, encircling the President.

“It’s all right! I’m taking care of this!” Trump yelled in his deep, manly timbre, which retained its thick New York sound even after one hundred and twenty years.

 The Secret Service surrounded him until only the top of his perfect hair was visible to the crowd in attendance or even the television cameras.

Most of the audience scattered away from the stage, in a mad rush for safety. Screaming and hollering.  The dark-skinned man and woman – it now occurred to Willy that they didn’t look Middle Eastern at all, but gasp MEXICAN – took another step towards the podium.

Gunshots cracked above the onrushing sounds of panic in the throng.

But gunshots weren’t necessary.

After the first few moments of chaos, most of the crowd quickly came to their senses about the situation. As the Secret Service pushed President Trump towards the exit stairs, thirty men from the audience jumped onstage and tackled the would-be assailants.

Soon enough, the attackers disappeared underneath a hail of angry punches and kicks.

“You want some? You got some!” one man shouted as he stomped in the melee.

“Fuck the resistance!” yelled someone else. Then another person added, “Fuck the media!” for good measure, even thought there hadn’t really been much of a free press in America in almost thirty years.

Willy watched it all. Spit gathered at the corners of his mouth and he felt the cords of his neck pop out in rage. He wished he could be right there with his fellow Americans, cracking skulls, defending the honor of the man whose honor knew no bounds. It would be such an honor.

 About that time, the front door of the house opened and closed, and Paulina stormed across the living room. “What the hell is going on?” she said, in her sultry Russian accent.

“That damned Resistance,” Willy said. “They never know when to quit. They’re coming after Trump again. This bunch of assholes, they’re gonna ruin it for everybody.”

Happy Independence Day!

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!

Here’s the next chapter of Love in the Age of Trump. (Late note: I’ve actually edited this from the original post, taking the longer chapter and splitting it in two. I’m a big believer in starting a book with short chapters.)

PART ONE: The Fiftieth Year

One

Willy

On July 4 in the fiftieth year of the grand Trump Age – halfway through the Thirteenth Trump but still what felt like the dawn of the grandest era in the entire history of human eras – Willy Richmond woke up in a fog. He felt the distant sense that he must have passed out the night before mid-party and if he got out of bed now, he could catch a second wind and rejoin the festivities.

Then he checked the time on nightstand clock and saw the day was coming up on four o’clock in the afternoon.

Then he remembered there had been no party.

Then he remembered it was Monday. And if it was four o’clock, Paulina would be home soon.

Great.

Willy rolled over. The bed sagged and creaked beneath the weight of his three hundred and sixty-six pounds.

A fluorescent orange Post-it note screamed at him from two feet away, stuck to the lamp on the nightstand.  “Don’t forget the trash, tovarisch!!!!!”

He noted the sharp angles of Paulina’s handwriting, all jagged peaks and straight lines. Aggressive, angry, strong. How she loved her exclamation points.

He’d get the trash. He damned sure better. Last week, garbage day passed without Willy taking theirs to the curb, and Paulina had something to say about it when she came home and found the garbage bins still full. Paulina always had something to say whenever Willy made a mistake. She would make her displeasure known, in a thunderstorm of spit and insults, half in English and half in her native Russian. Unless she was in a particularly bad mood. Then they’d all be in Russian.

Willy wanted to avoid that experience now, this Fourth of July. He’d take out the trash. Make Paulina happy. Then again, it was four o’clock already…

Oh well.

He swung his legs around off the bed and stood up, wincing. Dull pain throbbed in his knees and ankles, as though they’d been smacked with rubber mallets all night. Where’d this pain come from? he thought.  He wasn’t even forty yet, hadn’t even been born when Trump first got elected, all the way back in the autumn of ‘16. A lot left to live, a lot left to give, the song said.  Getting older sucked, that’s what his daddy said.

Put down the burger and fries, that’s what his mama said. Maybe he should have listened to her.

Willy took a couple of deep breaths and stood up.

 He heard cable news chatter emanating from the television in the living room. They’d left it on the night before, while watching coverage of the anniversary preparations. All those deferential reporters speaking in properly reverent tones about the beautiful festivities set to take place in the shadow of the towering Washington Monument, on the western edge of the rectangular pool that made up the center of the National Mall.

He walked out of the bedroom and made his way down the hallway, towards the TV sound. Drawn to it, like a hornet to honey.

Past the photographs of his mother and father, past the Trump lithograph set his sister had sent for his birthday last year.

Past the framed magazine covers that forever captured his favorite moments from adulthood.

The Indians win the Series!

Trump, man of the century!

Europe sees it His way!

MAKING AMERICA GREAT!

The greatest country, the greatest President!

Fifty and counting!

The Browns win the Super bowl! This one was a fake, of course, like the Time magazine cover mock-ups that hung in all 3,588 Trump golf course clubhouses.

  Willy went down the hallway. The house was not big, only one floor, and the news man’s voice flowed into every room, getting louder with every step that Willy Richmond took.  He entered the sparsely furnished living room – couch, chair, bookcase, television, all they needed – and stopped, standing a couple of feet from the TV screen.

As he watched enrapt, the news anchor threw the coverage to the network’s Capitol reporter, a nice young lady in a white blouse who wore a large amber ring on the hand holding her microphone. She spoke in towering clichés.

The President is expected to speak any moment!

This atmosphere is electric, Michael!

The crowd is abuzz on this momentous occasion!

But as she droned, her voice faded in Willy’s ears. His attention went to the empty podium on the stage behind her, which Trump would soon occupy for his great Independence Day address, accompanied by his trusty dual teleprompters, one on each side. Ivanka and Jared and Eric and Don Junior and Barron would be there, too, seated in the now-empty chairs behind him.

What a day this would be! Willy’s favorite day of the year. And this one would be the best one yet. The fiftieth year of Trump! Willy felt his heart flutter with warmth at the thought of what this day meant not just to him, but to the entire country.

Fifty years of Trump. Who could have imagined? After that first campaign, after all the televised mockery, the laughter every night on cable news networks across the great land, the refusal to take this man seriously, the polls, the doubt, the outright disrespect. Trump showed them all, though. Who was laughing now?

Onscreen, the televised crowd stirred.

Hands waved.

Cheers erupted, as a group of children came out on stage.

Willy tried counting them, but stopped after he got to a hundred. They looked like elementary school kids, none more than ten years old, all of them dressed in matching red and white striped shirts and navy blue pants with sharp creases down the center.

Across the stage they walked, stretching from one end to the other, packed in shoulder to shoulder. Once everyone had taken their positions, brass music erupted over the speaker. Trumpets, French horns, trombones. The music of patriotism, rising to a crescendo until one final, long trumpet note rose above all the others, and took them home, into the sweet voices of the children, singing:

Make America great again!

Make America great again!

Thank you, our dear leader

For lifting up our land!

 “I love that song,” Willy said out loud.

He went into the kitchen, but kept thinking about those beautiful children. Their matching USA color outfits, their chorus of angel voices. The magnificent vocal display reminded him of a performance he had once seen, in a documentary about life in communist Cuba. A similar song – “Castro es tan bueno! Cuba es tan increíble!” – sung not by children, but a church choir instead. Glorious.

No doubt, they got the idea from Trump. It never ceased to amaze Willy Richmond, how much other countries seemed to learn from Trump!

Willy opened the refrigerator and grabbed a Diet Mountain Dew from the top shelf, which was filled with Diet Mountain Dews except for a single open can of vanilla Starbucks Espresso Energy Drink, which Willy figured had been left there in error by Paulina. She knew better – that shelf was reserved for Diet Dew. Oh well.

By the time he got back into the living room, Trump stood behind the podium.

Willy felt his heart race.

The President grinned, and waved to the gigantic crowd, which looked like at least four million people to Willy’s eyes (a fact later supported by a White House press release about the event). Trump soaked in the roars of adulation the same way he soaked sunbeams into his orange-tinted epidermis.

For five solid minutes the president stood there, until finally he raised both hands and implored the throng to quieten down. Fifteen rapturous minutes later, they did.

As their great leader held his hands aloft, silence descended over the audience. A gentle, warm breeze pushed across the mall, blowing gleaming waves across the surface of the water.

In a sudden, fantastic swell, the nation felt its collective heart overflow with love, and pride, and appreciation.

Then Trump leaned towards the microphone, and began his address.

Chapter 1

As promised, here it is. A quiet beginning…

Love in the Age of Trump

Trump

Way back on January 20, 2017, in a city once called Washington, D.C., but now known throughout the vast universe as Maga-City One, Donald John Trump put his left hand on a Bible, repeated the sacred oath of the highest office in the land, and became the forty-fifth President of the United States of America.

Half a century later, he remained, thanks to the miracles of science and the boundless goodwill of the American people. A few Constitutional adjustments along the way didn’t hurt. And maybe a bit of political shadiness here and there. Whatever. Donald Trump made America great again, the people loved him for it, and that’s all that mattered.