Thursday, September 27, 2012

How France Got A Disneyland

Note: National Public Radio's All Things Considered's contest has a simple premise: Write an original short story that can be read in three minutes or less (no more than 600 words).  For this round, the judge, author Brad Meltzer required original fiction that revolves around a U.S. president, real or fictional.

This is my entry:

“Finally,” thought Bronco, Secret Service name for President Alexander Halsey, “the French Summit was over.”  He didn’t have to talk about that crap for the rest of the day.  It’s not unusual for someone to hate his job.  It’s just a surprise when one is the President of the United States.

“Bronco is secure.”  The newest member of Halsey’s detail listened in his earpiece, stationed in the guest wing of the Elysee Palace, home of the 1985 Summit.  A senior agent approached, reminding him, “Even though it’s their guy’s house, they’ll leave us alone down here. Just us and our guy.  Although, don’t be surprised should you meet ‘Busted’.”

The newbie just shook his head, still outside of this inside joke.

“You’ll know it when you see it.” he smirked, having witnessed plenty of first family foibles in his career.

“I really don’t mind these summits,” Bronco said to his wife, Candice as they relaxed in private.  “I thought it went well, a meeting of two great nations.”

“Oh, spare me, darling.  It’s just us.  You’ve got the world fooled, but I know how much you hate this.”

“It wasn’t all bad,’ he persuaded them both , wishing to ring out decades of stressful expectations through his clinched hands.  The only son of a billionaire father whose failed political aspirations anointed him the obligated, and reluctant, chosen one.

“Andre’s a sharp kid,” the French president’s 10 year old son, who spent a good 30 minutes at dinner insisting the leader of the free world put a Disneyland in Paris.

“He knows more about the Star Wars movies than you, that’s a rarity.  Although, I doubt he’s been on as many roller coasters the last two years as my husband,” she added.  Their laughter skirted the issues of a man whose childhood showed all the signs of a political candidate testing the waters.  Although in his case, being thrown in it. “Alex, a president doesn’t do that,” echoed in his mind.  Words he’d heard way more than “I love you.”

Those who knew him, knew he fought it.

The itch.

It came at night, like this night.  A bug bite he couldn’t pinpoint.  A nerve in him lit without fire.  Only he could reach it, his way.

“It’s my one thing,” he pleaded to his parents growing up, and confided to his wife on their wedding night.

With Candice long asleep, he strolled the guest wing, Secret Service at a distance.  Along with carte blanche at amusement parks, the job had other perks.  He marveled at the places he stayed.  This palace, a museum.  His guests let him walk around at night, but they didn’t know of his itch.

So he meandered alone in his presidential bath robe.  He was careful.  He didn’t touch everything.  Some things just scratched it though.

The first one slipped into his robe pocket so cleanly.  An ashtray.  His itch releasing with a sizzle, like molten lava into water.

One helps, another helps more.

So many ashtrays in this place.  He salivated as he grabbed another.  So consumed, he didn’t hear the commotion.

“Mister Alex, you took that.”  He turned to see Andre at the table where previously sat the worthless ashtray.  Did the kid not notice he left the table-sized Matisse sculpture?  “I’m telling.”

Bronco, embarrassed like many times before, knelt down to the boy, leaning in his offer, “So Andre, let’s talk about this Disneyland thing.”

The new agent nodded as he watched from the doorway, whispering in his microphone, “Bronco’s busted.”