Behind the Throne

Every Friday night the Klepto administration spewed a bladderful of bad news on the press: insulting calls to allies, legal orders that were illegal, easily disproved denials of treasonous contacts and the dismissal of the Flying Monkey. While the talking heads babbled on TV and Klepto watched them obsessively, Tinkerbelle, Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion Killer moped just outside his field of vision.

But in a quiet room just behind the huge marble and gold plated bathrooms—the bathrooms for some reason were the most sumptuous rooms in the Ivory Tower, and now in the White Home family rooms which had been made into an exact duplicate of the Ivory Tower at immense expense to the taxpayer—Vice Precedent Suit and Speaker Pinocchio sat at a small table leaning their heads together giggling and sticking pins in little dolls.

“I can’t believe this is happening to us,” Pinocchio said. He held a doll of Klepto in his left hand. It was made of soft clay and didn’t really resemble the Precedent at all except that the clothes were meticulously identical to Klepto’s. They had been taken from the Klepto the Precedent action figure line Klepto had made in China and sold in Toys ’R Us. Since the pins kept breaking on the imported dolls, Pinocchio and the Suit substituted their own. “All we had to do was arrange for a few leaks and our careers turned right around.”

“Klepto was a ticking bomb. He was ready go off even before we started leaking,” the Suit answered. “This time last year I was an unpopular governor with no chance for re-election and no prospects.”

Pinocchio said, “And I was screwed. Nobody comes back from being the Vice Precedent candidate in a losing campaign. Then they offered me the Speaker job which was booby-trapped by the Tea Party.”

“I thought you were too smart to take it,” Suit chided.

Pinocchio took a long thick pin with a pearlescent head and drove it into the clay right between Klepto’s eyes. He took another from the plastic box and jabbed it into Klepto’s clay groin. The next one went in one of Klepto’s ears and out the other like all the advice Pinocchio had given him.

“I’m not as smart as I make myself out to be,” Pinocchio agreed. “Anyway, I thought it was a desperate last chance. A Hail Mary. I thought if by some fluke…”

“You could grab an unlikely opportunity, it was your only hope,” Suit finished. “Me too. This job was so toxic, people didn’t even turn it down. They didn’t just run away. They made themselves so scarce no one would even think to offer it. And you know else was on the list: Julie the Dancing Bear, Blubbering Butterball the Blithering Hypocrite and Fatso the Felon. Not august company.”

“You stood out like a sore thumb,” Pinocchio said.

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” the Suit said.

He had been working rhythmically, as opposed to Pinocchio’s slow thoughtful stabbing, so his Klepto figure was as bristled as a hedgehog and would take no more abuse. He picked up a Tinkerbelle doll and absent-mindedly rubbed it between his hands to soften it, getting it ready to be pinned.

“I think we have to let him go a little longer,” the Suit said. “If we drop the hammer on him too early we’ll seem opportunistic. We have to seem reluctant and sad.”

“I have big sad eyes,” Pinocchio said. It was true. He always looked like he was about to cry even when he was smiling.

“And we’ve got to decide on grounds: there’s the profiteering we’ve been letting slip and of course being an agent of a foreign government,” the Suit mused.

“I bet he thinks he’s James Bond,” Pinocchio said putting a pin right through Klepto’s chest. “You know in a room just like this behind the other set of bathrooms, the Wicked Witch of the West and the Chief of Staff are doing the same as we are? Except the dolls are of each other! Hey does that guy have a real name?”

“He does only no one can pronounce it,” the Suit said. “Anyway. Unless something pops up, I think it’s best to use the profiteering angle. It’s easier to distance ourselves from. We don’t want to seem like we didn’t know he was spying right in front of us.”

“Nobody would believe it,” said Pinocchio.

“What do you mean?” the Suit said. He put Tinkerbelle down. She was soft and disheveled after being putty in his hands.

“I forgot you’ve been away in the boonies. We all slip cash to some FBI agent and he gives us recordings of whomever we need to slam. Didn’t they do that when you were in Congress?”

“Sure, sure.” The Suit stared thoughtfully into space.

“Whatever happens,” Pinocchio said, “we end up subpoenaing his taxes, and the case makes itself. Probably enough criminality in there to send him to jail. And you know what they do to clowns in jail? Unless you pardon him. You think you’ll pardon him like Ford pardoned Nixon?”

“Huh?”

“When you’re Precedent,” Pinocchio reminded the Suit for whom the plot he had dreamed of for so long was becoming frighteningly real. “You know. You can pardon him and look Precedential, good of the country. It’s a sissy move, but the other way—hounding him into Sing Sing—is a dick move. So you’re screwed either way. You decide who you’re going to appoint Vice Precedent?”

The Suit looked pale.

Pinocchio said, “You got to appoint a Vice Precedent, especially this early in the term. In case anything happens to you. Otherwise I’ll be next in line to become Precedent. Who would have believed a couple of wash outs like us would be having this conversation?”

Pinocchio picked up his voodoo dolls and got up to go. As he turned to leave, the Suit noticed a doll-sized bulge in the Speaker’s coat pocket.

“Have you got a voodoo doll of me in there?” he demanded.

“No!” Pinocchio said, but as he turned he banged his nose since it suddenly would no longer fit through the door.


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Author: leonardrysdyk

Leonard Rysdyk is the author of more than a dozen novels, stories, articles and poems. His work has appeared in many publications including Snow White, Blood Red, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Aboriginal Magazine and the New York Review of Science Fiction. A professor at Nassau Community College, he teaches literature (including science fiction), cultural history (including the history of science) and is an acknowledged innovator in the field of Computer Aided Instruction (CAI), a subject on which he has lectured and consulted.

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