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
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.
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…
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.
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.