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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.

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.