from December 1, 2003
Yesterday afternoon, at a hastily-convened news conference in the saloon of the Hôtel Cherokee, which is located in Large Southwestern City, I announced my political intentions, which had recently become the subject of widespread speculation. To the surprise and delight of my colleagues, I stood atop the bar and boldly and fearlessly intoned: “I stand before you today, my Fellow Americans, to Announce my Candidacy for the Office of President of these United States!”
“Hear, hear,” responded the ladies and gentlemen at the bar, pounding their mugs in boisterous cadence. The members of my newly-appointed Committee to Get the Job Done stood behind me, smiling and politely placing hand against fellow hand as a token of their enthusiasm. The cheerleaders lining the barroom walls hurled their star-studded red, white, and blue straw hats and sombreros into the air in unison, snatching them as they descended in accord with Sir Isaac Newton’s Law of Gravity.
Such reporters as were present scribbled away. The lens-bearing crowd aimed their all-seeing instruments at the urn containing my rotgut-sated ashes. The phrase “zeroed in on” would also do well in the previous sentence, though some of the other words would have to be rearranged and changed; all in all, “aimed” does a more-than-satisfactory job—it works well with “all-seeing instruments.”
I continued: “One thing you like to see in a president is the ability to select his or her words wisely. What I can offer this great nation is just such a talent. I am, as you are all aware, a literary critic. My award-winning semi-monthly column, “Books to Avoid,” appears on the award-winning website, “Don Quixote Writes Again.”
At this prearranged signal, the cheerleaders sallied forth into the mix of persons there assembled and handed out my card containing the relevant information. The card was adorned with a likeness of the American flag planted firmly into a likeness of my self.
“You will notice,” I continued, “that I am ensconced in what appears to be an urn. There is good reason for this. I am, legally speaking, dead. My wife and daughters chose to cremate me, according to my express wishes. It was a close, soul-searching call, but I selected cremation rather than the more traditional and maudlin burial. The decisive consideration was that I would be able to move about, with the aid of my loved ones and colleagues and, I had the foresight to hope, these robotic appendages that can be construed as legs.
“Why,” I continued to continue, “do I emphasize this point? The reason is disarmingly simple. As a legally dead person, I will be able effectively to represent the interests of all those who have gone before us, who have carved out this great nation from sea to shining sea. Deceased Americans have rights, too. I will spell them out in the coming campaign.”
Applause all around. Cries of “Drinks on the house!” The boisterous sound of bartenders scurrying about in response to the general request. The muffled sounds of reporters stashing their notebooks in various items of their clothing in order to take advantage of the opening.
I continued, inspired by the half-teaspoon of rotgut that had been poured over my ashes: “The astute among you will notice that there is a precedent for the candidacy of a man with severe disabilities. I will enumerate them in chronological order. Washington wore wooden teeth. Lincoln suffered from depression. Roosevelt numero uno fought a lifelong battle with asthma. Wilson experienced a major stroke. Coolidge was considered by many an observer as already among the living dead. FDR rode about in a wheelchair. Beethoven was deaf. Ford was a pratfall artist. Carter had to be born again, which, to those who stop to consider the matter incisively, means he must have died somewhere along the line. Reagan was stricken with pre-Alzheimer’s. Bush the Elder spoke muddled speech. Clinton suffered from alley cat syndrome. Bush the Younger treads the earth like a rooster. I ask you, my Fellow Americans, is my affliction any more debilitating than those of my distinguished predecessors. Any questions?”
“Didn’t Beethoven come between Lincoln and the guy with asthma?” asked a young reporter with a Harvard accent.
“Beethoven was a composer,” replied the Hôtel Cherokee’s finest, an elderly, well-read bartender. “He also played the pie-anna. Sawed off the legs and sat on the floor and pounded out the “Moonlight Sonata,” Opus 27, Number 2, from scratch. His dates were 1770-1827, making him a near contemporary of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, the craziest philosopher before Jacques Derrida. Recent speculation is that our man died of lead poisoning. My guess is that it was planted by his landlady, who lived below him. I don’t mean to be critical, but that was a stupid question.”
The bartender and I exchanged winks. He knew that I had inserted the reference to Beethoven to snare the unwary. We share a low opinion of the media.
“What are your qualifications for the job?” asked my editor, Arthur Unknown, on cue.
“I have never made a major policy mistake. I did not get us into Vietnam. I have never cast a vote I must explain. I do not smoke in public. I am a man of the people, preferring rotgut to the finest French Chardonnays. I have never been accused of rape. Seldom it is that I end a sentence with a preposition. I write my own speeches. I escaped from Russia as a mere lad of twenty-one. I was opposed to the Russian Revolution. It made me an orphan. My grandchildren, though they are now in late middle age and have grandchildren of their own, continue to adore me. Two more questions.”
“What’s your political affiliation?” asked several mean-spirited journalists.
“The Dead Rights Party.”
“What is the main plank in your platform?” they continued in the same vein.
“‘A Mount Rushmore for every deceased American.’”
“What did you say your name was?” inquired an inquiring mind.