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writing for godot

Infant President on the Skids

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Written by Carl Peterson   
Wednesday, 11 October 2017 05:53

Infant President on the Skids

 

The president had fallen asleep a minute earlier, sitting straight up in a corner of his crib, his back against the rails, bottle dangling from his mouth, the nipple clenched between four recently erupted incisors.  The bottle dangled because no hand was holding it, but the baby tightly clasped a phone in either hand.

The infant president had been reminiscing most of the day every day for a couple months, about the days so long ago, nearly a year now.  The day when he won the presidency with one of the largest electoral vote margins in history, and a few months after that his inauguration attended by the largest crowd ever to attend a presidential inauguration.  And the winning had begun, and winning and winning and winning.  He had put his nominee on the Supreme Court, probably the greatest nominee ever, everyone said so, and he would be the greatest Supreme Court justice ever.  And then winning and winning.  It was true you could get tired of winning.  Maybe he got a little tired of winning.  But he had warned everyone:  You will get tired of winning.

She was gone, his nanny Susan, who had fed him strained green beans three times a week.  He had asked her why, many times he had asked her Why? and she always said, "Because you need your vegetables."  She was gone.  Finally fired.  He didn't know why he hadn't thought of that long before.  But once he started firing people, it was just natural that he fired her.  And he fired the cooks who prepared his strained green beans fresh three times a week.  He enjoyed firing them, probably that was the most fun he'd had since becoming president.

And the constant diaper-changing was over.  Oh, people had tried.  His latest press secretary tried, she made all the motions, but the diaper never really got changed anymore.  No one believed that the diaper got changed anymore, except the press secretary.  She really believed that she was changing his diaper.  That's what he liked about her.  But it was also what annoyed him about her.  He thought that someday, near the end, he would probably fire her.

Because his diaper never got changed anymore, he had developed a terrible rash, and it tormented him, and he had tried changing his own diaper a few times, but no one believed that either, so his diaper remained unchanged, and he had begun to smell bad all the time.  Truthfully, he wondered sometimes if this was winning.

In his corner of the crib the infant president snuffled, and in gasping for more breath he opened his mouth wider.  His new teeth released the nipple of his bottle, and the bottle fell to the mattress.  He did not awaken, but with his mouth now hanging open, his expression could have been a smile, or a laugh, or a cry, or a gape of horror, and anyone entering his room at that moment would have been disturbed by the sight of him.  Indeed, a few minutes later the Babysitter entered the room to check on the president, saw the baby and averted his eyes.  He had seen enough of this before, and his discipline was strong enough that he withheld contemplation of what he had seen.  The baby was still alive, that was enough.  And the Babysitter was gone as quickly as he had come.

A moment later the infant president began to sweat.  His hair, which he loved above all things, more than any of his toys, and had long been his helmet, his stubborn challenge to any reality not his own, was pasted against his head by the torrent of sweat.  Now, seen from across the room, the infant president's hair seemed to have disappeared, and he was bald; only a faint, orange-gold tint remained to vaguely color his head (whose true color otherwise was deathly pallor) as though an older child had roughly scribbled on him with a flesh-colored crayon.  Where once his hairdresser had conjured a brilliant orange bouffant out of practically nothing, only thin, helpless, individual strands pressed closely to the contours of his soft skull, and you could see that the top of the infant president's head was flat as an iron.

Woe pressed down on the infant as he slept.  Well, was it sleep?  Would you be able to sleep if 71 years had passed inside you and around you as you remained an infant, a hellish bargain that both preserved you and stunted you, inside your self-created and maintained reality, isolated from the life of the world, so of course never touching it?  And then at last, near the end of your life, you ventured out into the world that you had never known intimately, but, you thought, if you were president that world would become your world too.  You would be president of that world, not a citizen,  and fold it into your own.  It seems obvious doesn't it that the plan would never work?  But to an infant it made sense.  Perhaps he had to try before it was all over, the siren call of reality; a black man could be president, surely he too, though an infant, could be president?  And he stepped out to challenge the reality that for a lifetime he had sought to avoid--you have to hand it to the baby for daring--or was it inevitable?

Woe pressed down on the infant as he slept, apparitions of reality swarming and howling around his head.

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