The following is a short story I wrote, inspired by The Bloggess’ 4th of July tweets. It turned out okay, but I don’t think it quite turned out how I expected. Admittedly, this story took on a bit of a life of its own, and things got a little ridiculous.
I have three and a half short stories to go before I’ve met my somewhat unrealistic goals for the day, and there will be the standard This Week in Misadventures later. For now, I hope this proves enjoyable.
Robert, whose automatic response to being called by his full first name was “Call me Bud, friend,” Parsons sat at his chair in the More Oval Office, at the heart of the Better White House (a name chosen over The Whiter White House because someone very politely, but firmly, pointed out to Bud the less-than-subtle undertones such a name carried). Everything about him, from his height to his interests, could be accurately described as average, and only in the most endearing way. He’d been lost in thought for the better part of two hours, which wasn’t unusual. A knock at the door brought him half-back to attention. One of the important Minster-types had showed up, Bud saw, but he could never remember which one was which. They all looked the same to him at this point. A crisp new suit floating beneath a pair of designer glasses and short, well-maintained hair slicked back with entirely too much product.
“Good evening, Carson?” Bud said after a moment, a little confidence sneaking into his voice. The Minister winced only slightly, but it had been enough for Bud to notice.
“Grant?” Bud said.
“Both very close, Mister President. I’m Stanley,” the man who wasn’t Grant or Carson, but indeed Stanley, said. “Your Minister of War. Very close on the other guesses, of course. Grant remains your Minister of Agriculture, and I do believe you’ve reassigned Carson to the newly-created post Minister of Spider-Squishing.” Bud nodded.
“Those little bastards and their eight legs and eight eyes,” Bud said. “Give me the heebly-jeeblies something fierce.”
“Understandable, sir,” Stanley said. “I was told you needed me here for something very urgent. What may I be of assistance with tonight?” Bud stood up from The President’s Chair, the old and battered orange recliner from his living room, and waved Stanley over. Without a word, President Bud Parsons turned, opened the stylized sliding glass door, and stepped out onto the vast balcony that overlooked the central courtyard. Stanley followed, taking note of the mostly-empty bottle of scotch sitting off to the side of The President’s Chair.
“I’ve been thinking, Liam,” Bud said. Stanley bit the inside of his cheek, resisting the urge to correct.
“Sir?” Stanley said, hoping this wasn’t going to be one of President Bud’s dramatic pauses. Last time President Bud paused for dramatic effect, he forgot what he was talking about and nearly declared war on Canada. The Canadian authorities were very understanding, however, and only made a little fuss about the convoy of nearly one thousand assorted mid-sized sedans that had all showed up at the border at the same time. The US authorities were less forgiving.
“It’s been six years since I was elected President of the United Frontier States,” Bud said. His math was only off by five years and three months, and nobody could figure out where he’d gotten a calendar from six years in the future. Nobody, as a result, bothered to correct this situation.
“It has, indeed,” Stanley said. President Bud grimaced. “Is something wrong, sir?” President Bud nodded, his frown intensifying.
“All this time, even after all we’ve accomplished, I know I’m being watched,” President Bud said. “My every action as President judged and dissected. I went to Harvard, buddy. I know how to write some laws.” Bud had indeed gone to Harvard. He even graduated, somehow, despite sustaining a blow to the head during his freshman year that forever changed his perspectives on everything.
“The USA will always look down on us, sir,” Stanley said. “These United Frontier States will always prosper so long as we stick to what’s right.” President Bud shook his head.
“No, that’s not what I meant,” President Bud said. He pointed skywards. “All of them. Like that one, with his great big dog and his sword. And that one, all dressed up like a bull. They’re all watching me. Judging me. I’m sick of it.” Stanley looked where President Bud was pointing, eyebrows arched.
“Spy satellites? Drones?” Stanley said, hoping his guesses, though invariably wrong, would provide some insight as to what President Bud was talking about.
“All those stars in their little combat units,” President Bud said, waving his hands at the sky. He clenched his fists tightly, and shook one at the moon. “And that bastard, with his big, white cheddar eyes. I think it’s about time we declare war on those inglorious glittery sky-rats.”
“Ah,” Stanley said. Unable to censor himself, he added, “Oh, Christ.”
Across the border, in what had since been dubbed White House One (White House Two was situated in Seattle, Washington, in an effort to keep tabs on both borders with the United Frontier States; it also housed a rather large Starbucks), President Valerie Walker had been jarred awake from the best dream she had in ages. No one was particularly fond of the Emergency UFS Meetings, least of all President Walker, but she knew she had to keep an eye on the country-within-their-country, even if it wasn’t recognized by the UN as an actual sovereign power.
The secret nature, and restricted access, of such meetings, coupled with their tendency to happen later at night, provided a more relaxed dress code. Ted Briggs, the Vice President, met Valerie halfway to the Oval Office. He gestured at her, looking concerned.
“I’m very well aware of what I’m wearing, thank you,” Valerie said to Ted. “If you and the others expect me to trot out in full makeup, wearing one of my nice dresses, you should hold these things at a less god-forsaken hour. It’s two in the morning. I’m wearing sweats and an old tee shirt.”
“You’re the leader of the free world,” Ted said. He’d put on a three piece suit, combed his hair, and neglected to use caution while brushing his teeth.
“That glob of toothpaste on your tie a new fashion statement?” Valerie said. She took a deep breath, straightened her shoulders, and entered the Oval Office. Three sleepy Secret Service agents saluted from folding chairs that were left over from an exclusive question and answer session after a tour earlier.
“Don’t bother to get up,” Valerie said, smiling. “Is it still on hold? Or is he doing audio only?”
“Hold, ma’am,” said one of the Secret Service agents. “He was very insistent you be contacted as soon as possible.” Valerie nodded.
“Is that why you called Ted?” Valerie said. The three agents exchanged uneasy glances. Ted walked over to Valerie’s desk, hands up in mock surrender.
“In their defense,” Ted said, “you weren’t particularly warm the last time you got called this late.”
“Nobody’s warm at this hour, Ted,” Valerie said.
“You threatened to hang them with their own entrails,” Ted said, cringing as he spoke the words. “Before we dwell on this longer, let’s see what this emergency is all about.” He pressed a series of buttons on the desk’s embedded computer. The windows in the room grew tinted, and then completely blacked out. The far wall was replaced by the image of a young man, whose slickly-gelled hair was all over the place.
“Hello, Stanley,” Valerie said. “Or should I say good morning? What’s the acceptable greeting in your neck of the woods these days?”
“Quite funny, Madame President. Agent Jacob Turner reporting from the United Frontier States,” Stanley, whose actual name was apparently Jacob, said. “I only have limited time.”
“You picked someone with the last name Turner for a top-secret espionage mission?” Ted said, eyes wide.
“That wasn’t the deciding factor, but it helped,” Valerie said. “And what is this emergency?”
“Moments ago, in one of the broadcasts sent to absolutely nowhere,” Stanley said, “President Bud just declared war on the moon and its army of constellations.” The room fell silent. It may have been the news that stunned everyone, or it may have been Valerie’s reaction. She stood next to Ted, who looked completely mortified, shaking with silent laughter. The laughter subsided after a moment, and Valerie looked concerned.
“Oh, fuck,” Valerie said at last. “There’s at least five sites with active hydrogen bombs at his disposal. I suppose this really is an emergency.”
“I imagine he just really wants a show,” Stanley said. Valerie scrunched up her face in thought, Ted and the agents looking far more concerned.
“You know what?” Valerie said. “I think I have an idea that can work out well for everyone. Ted full of dread?”
“That’s still not funny,” Ted said, his cheeks reddening. It’d been his unofficial nickname ever since he spent his first year in office mumbling about a fear of a terrorist attack, a nuclear war, or assassination attempts. “What is it?”
“You think there’s still some fireworks tucked away from this year’s big Fourth of July celebration?” Valerie said. Ted opened and closed his mouth several times, and then he realized what his superior was getting at.
“I’m sure we do, in fact,” Ted said.
“How long do you think it would take to get those fireworks looking combat-ready?” Valerie said, pointing at the Secret Service agents. “The more they look like experimental weapons, the better.” The three hmm-ed for a few moments.
“I think, with enough people, we could manage an early-morning delivery of brand new, starstrike missiles,” said the one agent.
“Perfect,” Valerie said. She turned from the screen, and walked to the exit. “If anyone needs me, I’ll be asleep in my bed. With my Colt forty-five nestled under my head.” She offered a sly, yet somehow menacing, wink before she left the Oval Office.
“Lesser of the two evils,” Ted muttered to himself. “You work for the lesser of two evils.”
The Secret Service worked into the early hours of the morning, and by eight o’clock United Frontier States time, when President Bud had finished his morning jog (flanked by the burliest, most frightening pack of ex-cons-turned-lawmen money could afford), a special delivery had arrived. Stanley stood outside of the Better White House as the President arrived.
“What’s all this hub-bub, bub?” President Bud said. Stanley waved his arms at the crates.
“I did some research,” Stanley said. “Found out the US was working on some weapons to take down the star. It’s like they wanted to steal the glory of taking down the moon. Well, I managed to convince them we could wage a much more ferocious war on the moon and its constellation army.” President Bud smiled broadly, clapping a hand on Stanley’s shoulder.
“I knew I made you my Minister of War for a reason,” President Bud said. “How soon can we test them out?”
“It’s a full moon tonight,” Stanley said, fighting back all manners of eye-rolling and sighing. “We should start our attack tonight, and continue until the moon is defeated.”
And so every night, for the remainder of the month, President Bud commanded the all-out assault on the moon and its constellation army. Each month, on the true defeat of the moon (which happened to coincide during the new moon), was a national holiday. And so the rest of the world could sleep peacefully, knowing someone, somewhere, was probably shooting off fireworks.