This was the part of being Precedent that Klepto liked best. The part that paid. It was Saturday morning and he placed himself in front of the doors of his Big Top in Marmalade, FL to greet members and guests as they came in. Nearby, hiding in the potted palms, the Scarecrow took turns with the Cowardly Lion Killer to identify the guests from a picture book and whisper names into an intercom that connected to Klepto’s ear phone so he could greet the guests by name as if he recognized them.

Klepto had done this for years, ever since he had crashed the Big Top empire his father had left him by over-leveraging it to make risky deals that never paid off. He spent years begging to be covered in Big Apple tabloids so he’d be famous enough to use his name as a brand. It was all he had left that wasn’t owned by German, Chinese or Russian banks. In the days before he learned how to use the tiny earpieces, he had just called everybody “Buddy” or “Pal.” That was when he started tugging on people’s arms when he shook hands with them, to cover his ignorance with effusiveness. For a while hand had taken to giving the men noogies and smoothing their wives, but then Tinkerbelle got old enough to tell him how gross that was and he stopped. The Big Tops were grotesquely lavish but no more so than the next grotesquely lavish big box down the street. Klepto himself was the only thing that distinguish his place from the others and he groveled to make it work. He repeatedly went on the King of All Media’s radio show and exchanged lewd comments to get attention, even letting the host call his daughter “a piece of ass.”

“You don’t mind if I call her that, do you, Klepto?” the host asked.

Klepto didn’t say yes, but he didn’t say no.

But the groveling had paid off. He had moved up from begging to get his name in the paper—sometimes calling up the papers himself to plant a “story”—to putting inflammatory ads in the paper to getting a reality TV show where he pretended to be a successful business man and paid actors who pretended to curry his favor and show him respect.

Since the “election,” his name was worth something. He had doubled the entrance fee to the Big Top and the money was rolling in.

“That’s Emmet Wilbur or Wilbury or something,” the Cowardly Lion had trouble sounding out words with more than two syllables.

“Emmet!” Klepto greeted. A bald old guy beamed. “And your lovely wife!” Big laughs. The slender blond was clearly too young even to be Emmet’s daughter but Klepto leaned forward and made air kisses to both her cheeks. She was really hot, but he was able not to grab her pussy, despite his boasts to the contrary on national television, since Emmet was a client. “Enjoy,” Klepto valedicted. “Enjoy.”

A fleet of limousines flying red flags pulled up. Guards popped out and opened a door for a tiny Asian man in a cheap suit. Klepto didn’t need to be told who that was. And it was a good thing. The Cowardly Lion Killer was flipping though his register futilely because the Premier of China was not a member.

Klepto stood at attention as the Premier caught sight of him—Klepto was hard to miss in his new Precedential pajamas: flag stripes and a blue hat studded with fifty star-shaped diamonds.

“Ni-how!” Klepto said, raising his right hand as if greeting an Indian in a John Wayne movie.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Precedent,” the Primier said, but the words were barely out of his mouth when Klepto called, “Emmet! Emmet, come back here and meet the Emperor of China.”

Emmet and his mistress wandered back. A crowd gathered. “Selfies, everybody!” Klepto called. He put his arm around the Premier. “You Chinks are little guys,” he said merrily, bending and waving. “C’mon. Everybody in the picture. See when you’re a member of Club Marmalade this kind of thing can happen any time. We call it the Winter Pale House. Guess what we’ll call it in the summer? Last week we declared war on Syria right there in the Bon Appetite dining room. We’re still taking memberships. It’s an exclusive club, though. You have to have enough money to join!” He laughed out loud and got the distinct impression some people in the crowd were going to sign up for memberships. Ka-ching. He said that to the Chinese Premier, assuming it was a Chinese expression. He got an inscrutable look. “I’ll see you inside, Your Highness,” Klepto said loudly to the crowd. “We’ve got to renegotiate some trade deals, stop your currency manipulation and straighten out North Korea. And you better do it, otherwise…” He made sure the crowd was listening. “YOU’RE FIRED!” Cheers and applause.

As the Premier entered the building, Klepto caught the words, “Shanghai Disneyland. Mickey Mouse.”

Klepto felt honored. That mouse was worth a fortune.

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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