Tick Tock

Klepto was bustling about the living room of the Pale House with unusual energy. His big belly bumped into furniture and his big butt bumped into his family members. He was stooping and reaching, searching and gathering things into a long skinny clown-shoe box.

“It’s almost over,” he kept muttering, maybe to himself, maybe to his family, maybe to Twitter. Sometimes it was hard to tell.

“What’s over, Dad?” asked the Cowardly Lion Killer from under the coffee table where he was doodling on a quarterly corporate report of the company he “ran.”

“The hundred days! They’re almost over and I’ve got nothing to show for it,” Klepto said. He spotted something lying on the floor, picked it up and put it in the box.

“Now, Daddy,” Tinkerbelle cooed. “You appointed the Grinch to the Kangaroo Court, remember? He’ll be there for a hundred years. That’s a real legacy.”

“Yeah, but that name was given to me by somebody—was it the Vlizard of Oz?—and rammed through by the Hamburgler in charge of the Senate. And hardly anyone voted for him. I mean, if ever there was a so-called judge, it’s him.” He spotted something crumpled on a lamp table and put it in the box. “Can you believe it’s almost a hundred days already? Seems like four or five years.”

“That’s because you’re working so hard,” Tinkerbelle crooned. “You should play more golf.”

“If Dad played any more golf, he’d have to join the professional tour,” the Scarecrow said from his Scarecross at the back of the room. “What’s in the box?”

“All the stuff I said I’d do. I’ve been making notes while you guys were asleep and Hound News is re-running the evening shows in the middle of the night. I’ve got to pull it together and create a legacy. Then we can all go home.”

“Tell us about it, Daddy,” Tinkerbelle said. She had been chasing him around the room, trying to get behind him so she could rub his shoulders and muss his hair. Usually that was easy since he was almost always plumped on the couch in front of the TV, but today he kept moving around.

Klepto was out of breath and eager to see what he had collected, so he plumped down his big butt. His new Precedential flag-patterned pajamas floated down around him like a landing parachute. He took up a wrinkled paper and read out loud above the sound of the announcer. “Solve Mideast. Fix government.”

“Those are Harlequin’s jobs, Daddy,” Tinkerbelle said. She got to work soothing and cooing. As special advisor to the Precedent—with her own office, staff and security clearance—it was her job.

Harlequin gave a silent thumbs up and Klepto said, “Well get on it, Harry. I’ve got a legacy to create. Helmut? Horace?”

Tinkerbelle gave Klepto a playful slap. “Harlequin, Daddy!” Then got back to shoulder rubbing and hair mussing.

“Silly name,” Klepto muttered. “Here’s one: my tax plan. The biggest tax cut in history. I’m dropping the top rate from…whatever it is…to 15%! And raise the bottom rate to 30%! It isn’t already 30%, is it?” He glanced at Harlequin who turned down the corners of his mouth and shook his head. “And I’m dropping the corporate tax to 15% also.” He looked at Harlequin again to make sure it wasn’t already 15% and Harlequin winked and made an OK sign. “And I’m eliminating the inheritance tax for anyone inheriting more than a million dollars.”

“Death tax!” Scarecrow chortled.

“So I’ll pay even less tax than I would pay if I ever paid any tax at all and you guys will make out like bandits. Especially when I die.”

IF you die, Daddy,” Tinkerbelle said.

“Yeah, IF,” said the Cowardly Lion Killer.

Klepto was excited and found more scraps in his shoe box.

“I’m going to spend a trillion dollars on infrastructure! That’s more OPM than I’ve ever spent before.”

“OPM?” asked the Cowardly Lion Killer.

“Other People’s Money,” said Klepto, Tinkerbelle and the Scarecrow in one booming voice.

“Oh, look. Here’s one for you, sweetie. A family care tax credit. You get a percentage of your income back from the government for every child living at home.”

“We live at home!” the Cowardly Lion Killer exalted.

“Exactly. And since you guys have children, you’ll get money back from the government every year. Even poor people will get money back. As much as $10, if they make any money at all. Of course, if they’re too poor to pay taxes, they’ll have to pay for child care themselves.”

“Takers!” the Scarecrow accused.

“I’m telling everyone this is your idea, sweetie. I’m giving you all the credit. And not just that. I’m doing family leave. Anyone will be free to leave their family whenever they want. Just like I did.”

Tinkerbelle stopped stroking her father’s hair. “I don’t think you can get child care for ten dollars a month, Daddy.”

“Not a month, sweetie. A year. And it’s all because of you. I want everyone to know how much I support strong, ambitious women who do exactly what I want and wear short skirts and stay out of the limelight, just like you do. I want you to tell everyone how many thousands of women I’ve advanced in my companies: secretaries, waitresses, desk clerks, maids.”

“Dad’s helped more women than he’s ever sexually assaulted,” the Cowardly Lion Killer bragged.

“I’ve never assaulted anyone,” Klepto said. “I’m impotent.”

“You mean you’ve never raped anyone,” Tinkerbelle corrected. But she had a distant, thoughtful look in her normally glazed eyes. “You can assault them with just your hands.”

“Okay, then I’ve helped exactly one more woman than I’ve assaulted, right, sweetie?” Klepto asked. “Of course, I still could….”

“And I could spray you with mace,” Tinkerbelle said regaining her composure.

“But there’s something else,” Klepto said, rummaging.

“The wall,” the Scarecrow suggested.

“Right! I’m going to ask for ten billion dollars to build that stupid wall I keep talking about. The one Mexico is going to pay for.” Klepto began laughing so hard Tinkerbelle almost called for an ambulance.

Harlequin looked uncomfortable where he was standing by the doorway. He shifted from one foot to the other and made faces as if he had to take a dump and there was someone in the bathroom.

“Harlequin says you’ll never be able to build the wall for that kind of money,” Tinkerbelle interpreted.

“Of course, I can’t,” Klepto exclaimed. He wasn’t laughing anymore. “You always low ball a construction bid. Then you let the costs run up and make the bond company pay. Doesn’t that idiot know anything about real estate? Homer? Honoré?” Harlequin’s face turned red to match his flag striped pajamas that matched Klepto’s. “Now have José type it onto the teleprompter and I’ll sound it out tomorrow at the big meeting or whatever it’s called.”

“What if those lousy stinking Democrats don’t go along with it Dad?” asked the Scarecrow.

“I’ll just threaten to nuke North Korea. My base will love me and everyone will be scared shitless. I might even do it just to show I mean business. Nobody likes those gooks anyway,” Klepto said.

Harlequin wriggled uncomfortably at the door which Tinkerbelle understood to mean, “Maybe we should spend the next few days sleeping in the bunker.” She nodded admiringly. No wonder Daddy made him the brains of his operation.

“Anyway I’ll sound out the greatest speech that was ever given—really great, so great,” he extemporized winding himself up to go on television. “Then the hundred days will be over and we can go back to the Ivory Tower. I can be with the Tin Woman again and maybe even use the money we made trading the Precedency for payola to pay back the Vlizard of Oz so he won’t keep telling me what to do.”

“Daddy, you know the hundred days isn’t the end of the Precedency. It’s just the beginning. You’ve got like a thousand days to go even if you don’t run again,” Tinkerbelle reminded him.

“Wow that’s like two years,” the Cowardly Lion Killer calculated in crayon.

“A thousand days?” Klepto said. Maybe to himself, maybe to his family, maybe to Twitter. “A thousand days.” He didn’t know if he could keep this scam going for that long. He was already out of ideas.

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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