Idiots

Vlad, The Great and Powerful Vlizzard of Odds, had been taught since his cub days in the Spook School to keep his eyes peeled for useful idiots. People who have useful information and exploitable weaknesses are hard to find, but useful idiots often present themselves, desperately seeking attention, hoping to feel important by selling out their country.

Klepto was one such and when later he proved to be eminently blackmailable, well, that was just sweet. The problem was that he was not proving to be very useful.

Really how hard was it to drop a few sanctions and then cause a distraction? There’d be outrage when the sanctions first went down but all Klepto had to do was drop his pants in public or open his mouth on pretty much any subject and the eminently distractible American public would divert its gaze. That’s why there were three rings in an American circus, because the people couldn’t concentrate on just one thing for more than ten seconds. Russian circuses had just one ring and the Russian press had just one source, Vlad.

Instead all Klepto produced was distraction. The inane lying. The overt use of his public position to line his own pockets. And the bragging that drew attention to it, followed by denials followed by confessions. This guy was in so much hot water, there was no space to sneak in a sanctions-drop. Vlad’s heart went out to his old friend the Oil King, the current Secretary of State. He looked so miserable in his “job.” His real job, the one he thought he signed up for was to get sanctions lifted so he could retire. And Vlad was sure the two old pros could cobble together some excuse to drop the sanctions and let Ex/Mo OilCo start drilling on the six hundred million acres of land it had leased if only Klepto would give them five minutes of peace to do it in.

King looked so sad and confused every time Vlad saw him on TV. King had spent his life surrounded by professionals laser focused on exploiting third world countries for their natural resources and now he was surrounded by clowns who could not decide not what to do next but what they were doing right now. All King wanted was to drop the sanctions and retire to the Big Rock Candy Mountain Ex/Mo would build as a thank you present. He thought he’d be there a month ago.

The worst part was there was nothing Vlad could do. He had the P-tape ready to drop on Wikileaks on a moment’s notice. Ditto for the records of loans Klepto had outstanding to Vlad’s friends’ banks and elaborate proofs of Klepto’s money laundering operation but what good would any of that do him? Klepto was alredy trying as hard as he could to please his Vlizzardly master. He just kept fucking it up.

Luckily, Klepto was having more luck alienating the Europeans. One thing that clown could do was piss people off. Klepto seethed hate—most kiss-asses did—and he got hate in return. And he had pretty much promised not to come to the aid of the Europeans in the event of a conflict. That would set the Europeans against each other—Europe was at best a committee and no committee ever won a war. Not that Vlad could afford to fight a war. But while the committee bumbled, he would be able to pick off Lithuania without any worse repercussions than street protests in Paris, the ultimate sign of impotence, and Poland would start looking for a protector. Germany? Yeah, right.

Maybe Klepto was not such a bad clown after all. Even if he didn’t bring in the oil money he might precipitate the fall of Europe anyway. Vlad didn’t really need the money; he was already the richest man in the world. He called down to the dungeon and told them to get ready to waterboard some Pussy Riot supporters. In the meantime, he’d snack on potato chips and caviar and watch the P tape. Then go down and watch girls smother.

Pardon Me

Klepto the Klown hated suspense. It made him feel weak and frightened. But as a mildly competent showman, he knew a little cheap suspense was necessary to pique people’s interest. That is why he was always pretending he was about to announce something “very soon” though he never did. Usually because he forgot what he promised.

But on his show, “Celebrity Clown Prince,” there was always a moment, right before the commercial break when he would promise to announce who would be fired. Then when they came back, he’d announce it again. The camera would cut from him to one contestant, then to another, then back to Klepto, then to a contestant, etc. while the music went “Ta-DAH!” Then silence while Klepto said, “Bobby, you’re expired” and the other guy would go nuts.

That’s why Klepto never watched the show. He could not stand the suspense.

He couldn’t stand it now, when the Federal Bureau of Secret Police and two or three or four Congressional committees were trying to decide if he was an agent of the Vlizzard of Oz and had committed a bunch of money laundering deals, obstructed justice and threatened witnesses—all of which Klepto knew he had done. One part of his mind (Harlequin) told him to wait it out. Maybe something would happen like a war or an earthquake and people would forget. Another part of his mind (his ass) told him to get it over with already. So Klepto listened to his ass.

He went live on national television and announced that he was pardoning himself for all crimes he may or may not have committed in the past and in the future.

“That settles that. Now we can all get back to what we were doing. As for me, I’m going to play golf in my favorite course, the Klepto Pro-Put-Put at Club Marmalade in Florida. But if you don’t live in Florida, I invite you to have a great time with your family at a Klepto Pro-Putt-Putt Golf course near you. There’s one in every city. Just look for the hundred foot tall clown with the blinking red nose. Follow the big red tie to the entrance right between his legs. It’s a great value and shows you’re a patriot who loves this country as much as I do.”

When he got off set, the Vice Precedent wished him the best of luck in his retirement.

Klepto said, “I’m not retiring. I’m going on vacation. I know it’s hard to tell the difference, but I’ll be back on Monday.”

“I’m afraid that’s impossible, Klepto,” the Vice said. He had never called Klepto anything but “Your Highness” before. “You see, when you accept a pardon, you’re admitting guilt. In your case to everything anybody every accused you of. No one was surprised, by the way. Anyway, the Congress impeached you by unanimous acclaim while you were pitching your golf courses, and since you’ve admitted to being an agent of a foreign government, I can’t let you into the Pale Home.”

“You mean, I’m expired?” Klepto said.

“Yes, Klepto. I assumed you understood. But I guess when I assume, I make an ass out of you and me. Anyway, I’m Precedent now. Can you believe it?”

“I’m expired?” Klepto whispered.

“Now you’re getting it.”

“I’m expired!” Klepto exclaimed. It was the happiest day of his life.

But when he got home to the Ivory Tower the Tin Woman was gone. (Ironically, she had finally moved into the Pale Home.)

Then the law suits started.

Truly Amazing Historic Victory

Klepto had mixed feelings about the SlenderMan and he didn’t like it. He would often change his position about someone or something, often from the beginning of one sentence to the end of the next but he was always definite. Otherwise he felt confused and being confused made him feel stupid and weak, small, squishy, sad, impotent, incontinent… At times like that he squealed for the Special Advisor to the Precedent and Tinkerbelle had to stroke his spikey orange hair and whisper “Big strong Daddy,” in his ear until he felt better. But about the SlenderMan…

When the SlenderMan denounced HER last July, Klepto liked him a lot. Klepto’s eyes widened, his ears pricked up and he felt a strange secret desire to drop to his knees and unzip the SlenderMan’s pants next time they met. But when Tinkerbelle explained that the SlenderMan wasn’t condemning HER—just slandering her—and was not going to put HER in jail, Klepto didn’t feel that way any more. Then in October when the SlenderMan said he changed his mind and was going to persecute HER again, Klepto felt his mouth water. But then the SlenderMan didn’t. And then he wouldn’t pledge allegiance to Klepto and then somebody implied that the SlenderMan’s Federal Bureau of Secret Police was investigating Klepto himself. That was the last straw.

So Klepto fired the SlenderMan. He thought everybody would love it. That was what he did, right? He said, “You’re expired!” and always got applause. He’d put on his frowny face to show he was serious.

But they hadn’t applauded. Some even got angry. “Big strong Daddy,” Tinkerbelle advised in her deep whispery voice.

“I have to play this just right,” Klepto sputtered. “It’s my biggest flim-flam ever. The stakes are enormous, like Klepto Steaks—more meat for the pound,” he pitched.

“Big strong Daddy.”

“I’ll appoint Julie the Dancing Bear to run the Secret Police. He has authoritarian tendencies and he’ll do anything I say. And I’ll say, “Squash the investigation!” and that will be that.”

“Big strong Daddy.”

“But what if the Congressional committees keep at it? Who knows what they’ll do to to get re-elected? We all know what I did.”

“Big strong Daddy.”

He said, “The people are angry, and they are going to get angrier when they figure out how I’m screwing them on health care and taxes.”

“Big strong Daddy.”

He squeezed his face till his eyes almost closed and his lips pressed tightly together like he was trying to pass a huge and stubborn turd. This was how he looked when he was thinking.

Then his little conical hat lifted off his head and had an idea. (He also passed a turd. But of course he was wearing a red, white and blue adult diaper under his red, white and blue Precedential pajamas, so it didn’t matter except for the smell.)

“When things get too hot, I can just pardon myself. The Precedential pardon is unrestricted. Like the conflict of interest laws. The Founding Fathers were idiots. They never imagined the people would elect a sociopath. But they did. Me!”

“Well, we showed ’em, didn’t we?” the Cowardly Lion Killer called from under the coffee table.

“Big strong Daddy,” said the Special Advisor to the Precedent.

“But I can’t pardon myself too soon. Otherwise, after I pardon myself, they could go ahead and charge me with something else. Of course, then I could pardon myself again. But they would charge me again. Then pardon. Then charge. There’s a lot I can be charged with. I mean, it’s endless. What if they do it when I’m asleep and convict me before I wake up in time to pardon myself?”

“Oh, Daddy. You never sleep. Anyway, I’d be right beside you. Big strong Daddy.”

“What if they do it on a Friday night? You have to be with Harlequin on the Sabbatical. Jubilee. Whatever. It’s the Law of Moses, right?” Klepto glanced at his son-in-law who nodded furiously. It’s not lying if you don’t say anything, he thought.

Klepto exclaimed, “Oh! I could give myself a blanket pardon! I could pardon myself for everything I have ever done and ever will do!”

“Big strong Daddy!” Tinkerbelle exclaimed giddily. Her old man didn’t know much, but he knew how to weasel out of a tight place. Which was amazing for somebody so fat.

“But what if they impeach me?” Klepto whispered with dread in his voice.

Tinkerbelle stopped rubbing his hair, her fingers orange from the dye. Harlequin shifted nervously from foot to foot, his diamond-patterned red, white and blue tights revealing his knobby knees. They had all thought this before, expected it to happen, were surprised it hadn’t happened yet. But none of them had ever said it out loud before. It made the possibility seem…reasonable.

The room became so silent they started to notice the stink from Klepto’s diaper. Then Harlequin showed what he was made of, the reason why they kept him around, aside from his family’s money which was a real fortune, not the pile of debt and empty promises Klepto lived on.

He stepped forward, bent—braving the smell—and whispered in Klepto’s ear.

Klepto said, “The House impeaches, but the Senate runs the trial. All they want is power. They’ll never vote against me. All I have to do is promise to do whatever they want.” Klepto spoke carefully as if articulating his own evolving thoughts, though he was actually just trying hard to remember and repeat the Harlequin’s exact words. His eyes were wide and voice was breathy, but he still looked more natural than when he read off a teleprompter.

“I will! I will do whatever they want! In fact I’ll be so pliable and they’ll get so rich, I’ll ask them to make me Precedent for life. And they’ll do it.”

Harlequin whispered again and Klepto repeated: “But I have to act fast. The people are pissed and getting pissier. After all, I lost the popular vote and I’m historically unpopular. They could vote out the House Republicals and even the Senate!”

More whispering. So much information was taxing Klepto’s brain.

But Klepto paused, his instinct for self-preservation pushing past his son-in-law’s dreams of glory. “But what will the Vlizzard of Oz say? I can’t promise to do everything the Republical Senators want if I already promised to do everything he wants!”

Harlequin swooped into the brown cloud for another whisper.

“That’s right,” Klepto said in the voice of a hypnosis subject repeating someone else’s suggestions as if they were his own thoughts. “The Republic Senators want to do whatever the oil and mineral millionaires want to do and Vliz wants to do whatever the oil and mineral millionaires want to do—as long as he gets twenty percent—so there’s no problem. I’ll be just like the Vlizzard of Oz! Will I get twenty percent?” he asked Harlequin. Harlequin nodded.

“I’ll be rich—really, not just fake rich with other people’s money—and I’ll be the second most powerful man in the world, Precedent for Life Klepto the Klown.”

He let his head fall back against the couch and, looking up, saw the underside of his daughter’s enormous marble breasts jutting out above him, straining against the tight green fabric of her short, sleeveless sheath dress.

“And if I ever die,” he said to his daughter, “you’ll be Precedent. The first woman Precedent of the United States. You know, if you weren’t my daughter I’d date you,” he growled salaciously.

To which she answered, “And if you weren’t my father…oh, what the hell” and ran to the front of the couch, dropped to her knees and went down on the Last Precedent of the United States.

A truly amazing historic victory, he thought.

“You know the best thing about oral sex?” he said to his son-in-law as Tinkerbelle slurped. “It’s that you can have an orgasm without actually getting a boner, which is important in my condition. Not a lot of people know that.”

Winner, Winner

Klepto was a good golfer. So good, he told everyone, that the only person who could really give him any competition was the pro at Club Marmalade. The real reason he played with the pro, of course, was that he had no real friends. And even though the guy was a pro, Klepto always won. He suspected the pro of using subtle tricks to help his boss out, like slowing down the windmill when Klepto was looking at the ball and maybe he had the groundskeeper replace the flat ramp at entrance to the steaming teapot hole with a grooved one. Or maybe Klepto was just getting better. He remembered when he first shot the alligator hole, he would tap the ball just as the alligator opened his mouth so when the ball got there, the mouth would be closed. This went on time again despite gentle coaching from the pro. Eventually Klepto got it. At least he never saw the pro prop the big green fiberglass mouth open with a deft movement of his putter when Klepto was addressing the ball.

Klepto liked to get in around 144 holes every week. It relaxed him. He could get some fresh air and see the open sky. He also liked the little tricycle they used to drive the six or eight feet from the end of one hole to the beginning of the next. He always honked the horn. He could say anything he wanted to the club pro, too. He had been given a top security clearance, same as the Vice Precedent and the Joint Clowns of Staff. Almost as top as Tinkerbelle’s.

“I could have avoided the Civil War,” Klepto mused as they approached the curved ramp hole with its decorative towers and stamped steel flags that always flew whether there was a breeze or not.

“Not many people know why there was a Civil War. It’s a mystery. A lot of people don’t even know where Civil War took place. Some people think it was in Vietnam. Not true.” He dropped his orange ball in the middle hole of the rubber pad and steadied it with his long red clown shoe.

“If Andrew Jackson had been Precedent, he would have sorted it all out. He had a big heart. That’s why they called him “Old Hickory.” That means “Big Heart” in Cherokee. He loved the Indians. That’s why he arranged for that hiking trip he sent them on, all expenses paid. The “Long March,” it was called. He would have sorted that Civil War stuff out easy. Probably sent the rebels on vacation like the Indians. When they came back everyone would be relaxed and they’d sort it out. That’s what I’d do. I’m a great negotiator. I make the best deals.

On his third try, he hit the ball hard enough to make it up the ramp. He missed the hole at the apex which would have dropped the ball through a pipe for a hole in one. He could not see if from the tee, though. “How’d I do?” he asked the pro who had placed his club on the ramp to catch Klepto’s ball and deftly dropped one at the bottom of the pipe. “Come quick,” he called and gave the ball a little kick. Klepto arrived just in time to see it plop into the cup.

“A hole in one!” Klepto exclaimed.

“Let’s call it that,” the pro said, marking the scorecard.

“I always eagle that one. Almost impossible to eagle, but I do it every time.I t’s like the Electoral College. They said the system was rigged, but I won even though I’m a rich white male, the most hated kind of person in America.” Klepto settled on the tiny tricycle with his knees sticking out. “Honk, honk,” he squeezed and let the little electric motor scoot him to the next tee. The pro followed in two long strides.

“I would have straightened out the whole Civil War thing. I’d have told them, ‘You work it out or YOU’RE EXPIRED! Like I do on television. You’ve seen me on television? It always works. Same with the Revolution. No need to fight. I’d have told the King, ‘Work it out or YOU’RE EXPIRED.’ He’d have caved. Of course we would have had to shoot some British soldiers anyway to prove we’re tough. It’s important to talk tough and tell people who work for you to act tough. It covers up how weak and desperate for approval you are deep inside.”

“That’s what I told Congress about the spending bill. I said, ‘You work it out or YOU’RE EXPIRED!’ and they did. Someone was saying they left some things out like that wall I’m always talking about and they left some stuff in like, well everything they wanted, but it was a big win for me. A big win. Harlequin said so. And I can fix it next time which will also be a big win.”

They were at the volcano. It was Klepto’s favorite hole because the orange light that came out of the top of the volcano was the same color as his hair. The pro hated it because it was the hardest for him to cheat on. You had to hit the ball up a ramp so it dropped into the mouth of the volcano. The whole thing happened right in front of everybody and if the shot wasn’t just right, the ball would fall off the ramp ignominiously. The pro had tried everything but Klepto’s ball usually tipped off the ramp ignominiously. But today he had a new trick. Just as Klepto was about to hit, the pro arranged for his phone to ring. As the ball started on its journey, the pro announced, “It’s the Vlizzard of Oz, sir.” Klepto’s ass turned to ice and he dropped everything when the Vlizzard called. While Klepto stared at the phone saying, “Hello? Vliz? Is that you?” the pro would drop another ball into the volcano.

It worked.

“Maybe he’ll call back,” Klepto said, never wondering why the Great and Powerful Oz would call Klepto’s golf pro. “Hey, look. Another hole in one.”

“People say my administration’s a bust because I didn’t do anything except sign executive orders which reverse what the previous guy did or call for studies or get overturned by the Supreme Court. But I’ve done great. I doubled the fee here at Club Marmalade. I got my brands trademarked in China. Finally. Tinkerbelle’s too. And I made nice with the heads of the governments of Argentina, the Philippines, Turkey and Egypt. I know those guys were our allies already and some people think of them as anti-democratic dictators, which they are. But since I have Big Tops under development in all those places, I call them business partners. So as far as I’m concerned this Precedent thing is working out perfectly.”

They had gotten to the last hole where you are supposed to hit the ball up an incline and get it to land in the bull’s eye for a free game. Klepto hit and missed. The ball slid off the target and disappeared at the bottom of the box.

But the FREE GAME light went on anyway.

“Hey look, I win,” said Klepto.

“You always do, sir. Whatever the score,” the pro muttered.

 

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.

Homework Help

Klepto felt bad sometimes that he had divorced his first and second wives while his children were still small. He had missed out on all those moments he saw on TV where parents help with homework and drive the kids to soccer practice and dance recitals and dispense sage advice about dating while waiting in the dropoff line at school.

Actually he didn’t feel bad about missing all those times because they looked boring. He felt bad about not feeling bad. No. He actually enjoyed dodging the responsibility and demands on his attention that parenthood demanded. He much more enjoyed his time cheating on, bragging about and publicly humiliating his first wife, then dumping his pregnant mistress then hound-dogging around on his third and current wife, the eternally absent Tin Woman. Kids were a drag.

But he could pretend to make up for all the time he didn’t miss by helping the boys with their homework. Or as he called it, “running his businesses for him.”

“Wow,” said the Cowardly Lion Killer from under the coffee table. “We made a lot of money since you’re been Precedent, Dad. Everyone is buying condos and paying everything we ask and even more. Let’s see last week we sold one for $900,000 and another for $850,000. Let’s see. Carry the 5…that’s one million seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars. And before that one sold for $1.5 million. What’s “point” mean? Should I add that up with the others or is it separate? Here, take a look,” he offered.

Klepto kept his eyes glued firmly to the TV where people who normally said nice things about him no matter what he did were saying nice things about Bill the Giant Leprechaun despite what he did. Actually, the sound was turned up so high, Klepto could barely hear TCLH, which was just what he intended.

“You can’t show it to Dad,” the Scarecrow said from the back of the room where he hung on his Scarecross. “Dad’s in a blind trust. He can’t see anything you show him.” The Scarecrow was the brainy brother.

“Dad’s blind?” asked the Cowardly Lion Killer.

“No, the trust is blind,” Scarecrow explained patiently.

“So he trusts blindly now? I thought he was pretty paranoid,” TCLK said.

“No, no. It’s a legal thing. People buy property to channel money to Dad so he’ll do them political favors as Precedent. That’s why he has to be blind.”

“Well in that case, this guy named LLC is going to get everything he wants from Dad. He bought every property.”

“No, no. LLC is kind of corporation that buys stuff for people without attaching their names so they can hide their identity,” the Scarecrow explained.

“If Dad doesn’t know their identities, how can he do them favors?” TCLK asked, reasonably.

“Of course, Dad knows who they are. They probably call him up and tell him. Or more likely, they meet him at Club Marmalade in Florida. That’s why Dad is there every weekend instead of in the Pale House. It’s so the voters don’t know who’s giving him money. After all, how Dad sells his Precedency is none of their business.”

“I get it,” said the Cowardly Lion Killer who didn’t really understand anything except that it was one of the tricky dodges Klepto used that were too complicated for anyone but a federal prosecutor to understand.

“That’s small potatoes,” chimed in Tinkerbelle who was tête-à-tête with Harlequin at the dining table. “It’s tax reform that’s going to bring in the bucks.”

“I thought Dad didn’t pay taxes,” the Scarecrow said.

“He doesn’t usually, but there are some taxes even Dad can’t evade. For example, the alternative minimum tax. Usually Dad loses so much money on his properties, he can wipe out any income he makes through his branding or shady business deals. But this one year when he did have to pay, he only would have hade to pay $5 million, except for the alternative minimum tax. Because of that, he had to pay $15 million.”

“Wow,” said the Cowardly Lion Killer. “Fifteen is a lot more than five. It’s like double, almost.”

“That one’s gotta go,” Klepto blurted.

“Then there’s the estate tax. Almost nobody in the country pays it at all and the people who do pay a tiny fraction of the vast sums they get for doing nothing but outliving their parents. But the few people whose parents are billionaires—”

“Hey, our father’s a billionaire,” the Cowardly Lion Killer chimed.

“So he says,” said Tinkerbelle. “Anyway, we’ll have to pay tax on any money he hasn’t transferred to us while he’s still alive.”

“Wait a minute,” the Cowardly Lion Killer said. “We have to pay taxes on money we didn’t even earn?”

“Can you believe it?” tsked the Scarecrow. “Big Government is killing innovation. Except innovation in how to avoid taxes.”

“So the estate tax has got to go.” Tinkerbelle said. Harlequin nodded vigorously at her side. He, too, was heir to a vast fortune and had been working on this problem for his whole life. By “working” he meant wishing it would go away.

“Death tax!” Klepto shouted. Then he realized the death he wanted not to tax was his own and he got moody.

Harlequin said, “The tricky part is, if rich people don’t have to pay any taxes because they have loopholes and corporations don’t have to pay taxes because they have loopholes, were is the money we want to bilk the government out of going to come from?”

“Mexico!” the Cowardly Lion Killer exclaimed as if he were on Jeopardy!

“No, dummy. Mexico is only going to pay for the wall. China is going to pay all the taxes. Dad is going to slap a 40% tax on anything from China and that’ll solve all our problems,” the Scarecrow exclaimed.

“Yeah, who buys stuff from China anyway? It’s all junk,” the Cowardly Lion Killer jingoed.

“Well, all my clothing customers do, but fuck them,” Tinkerbelle said.

“Wait, your clothing is Chinese?” the Scarecrow asked.

“No, it’s American. It’s just made in China.”

“Oh,” the Scarecrow said. He thought “her clothing” meant Tinkerbelle made it herself.

“It’s not all cheap,” Tinkerbelle said, then added soothingly, “But it’s true: most stuff made in China is cheap shit sold in Wal-Mart where poor people shop.”

“I thought poor people shopped in Bloomingdales and Van Cleef and Arpels,” the Cowardly Lion Killer said. He had never been anywhere but Saks and Tiffany’s.

“No, those are rich people who just don’t want to show off how rich they are. Some people buy everything at Wal-Mart because they can’t afford to shop anywhere else. You know unemployed people, people on social security and disability, people working for minimum wage. People who make too little money to have to pay income tax.”

“Lucky duckies!” the Scarecrow cheered enviously.

“Now they’ll finally be pulling their weight by paying 40% more for all that junk they buy like socks and underwear and food.”

“I thought China was paying 40%? If poor people are paying 40% too that’s like a hundred percent,” the Cowardly Lion Killer said. “What taxes would be left for us to pay?”

“Exactly,” Klepto said.

Tinkerbelle explained, “Actually, the tax China pays will just get passed along to the people at Wal-Mart. They’re the people who are ruining this country. …what do you call them?”

“Takers,” Klepto said.

“That’s it,” said Tinkerbelle.

“This has really been educational,” the Cowardly Lion Killer said. Then he went back to doodling on the quarterly report of the Klepto Korporation he was “running” for his dad.

Finders Keepers

“Hi, Dad,” said the Cowardly Lion Killer from his usual position: prone under the coffee table. “What are you doing down here?”

“I lost something,” Klepto said. His new blue, star spangled conical hat had been knocked aside by the edge of the table and his new “Precedential” flag striped pajamas were sliding off his butt from all the crawling.

“What are you looking for, Daddy?” asked Tinkerbelle from in front of the mirror. Usually her eyes were fixed on him, delivering whatever comfort her needy parent needed. She was his security blanket. It was her job to keep him happy and calm and nobody did it better. Everyone in the Klown family had a job. Klepto had been surrounded only by employees since he was a child, except for his own parents who were the only people he had ever worked for.

But today, Tinkerbelle was trying on items from her new line of jewelry intended for the Chinese market. Her new best friend, the Emperor of China, had just awarded her trademarks for her name for fashion and life-style products. Tinkerbelle was never happier than when looking at herself in the mirror except when she was looking at herself wearing something with her name on it. And she was told that the huge gold slab with engraved characters that hung around her neck like a millstone had her name on it in Chinese. She had been brought up to appear stylish and refined and had learned to talk in deep, breathy, moderated tones at her finishing school, but the golden apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

“It shouldn’t be hard to find,” Klepto said. His ass was moving around the room, sticking up like a shark’s fin. Now it was behind the couch. Now it was diving under the dining table.

“It must be important,” said the Scarecrow from the back wall of the room where he hung relaxing on his Scarecross. “I’ve never seen Dad stick at something so long. What’s it been two minutes now?” It was the Scarecrow’s job to act as Klepto’s eyes, since Klepto’s own eyes were usually fixed on a TV. Klepto assumed that was why he was always up on his Scarecross: observing. Sadly, the Scarecrow thought his job was to be Klepto’s body and he mistook the Scarecross for an exercise machine. Luckily Klepto did not exercise, so the confusion never came up.

“It is important. When you’re Precedent people expect things of you. I usually disappoint them then tell them I did what ever they were expecting anyhow, but I can’t cover this up so easily.”

“Why not?” Tinkerbelle asked distractedly. With all her considerable strength she removed the golden mill stone. Then she reached into a shopping bag that said BUY AMERICAN! HIRE AMERICAN! MAGA! and took out earrings that looked like Christmas ornaments. Like everything she sold, it they were made in China or Vietnam or El Salvador but she was careful never to hire illegal Mexican immigrants to work in her businesses. Like her father, she used immigrants from northern Europe on H1a visas who worked for less money than Americans and could be deported if they displeased.

“Because I already threatened North Korea with it. How’s it going to look if I threaten to wave a big stick at them and don’t have a stick in my hand? I’m going to look foolish.”

“Isn’t that what you do anyway, Dad?” asked the Cowardly Lion Killer. “I mean, you’re a Klown. Isn’t looking foolish what Klowns do? Isn’t that why people voted for you? Not as many as voted for what’s her name, but some people, anyway.” It was his job to act as Klepto’s conscience. He didn’t know that because Klepto had no use for a conscience, so the job suited the man.

“Enough questions, help me look. I’ve looked under everything, even under the sofa—you looked under the sofa for me, didn’t you Scottie?”

“Certainly, Mr. Precedent,” answered Ewan MacDiarmid, Klepto’s long-time butler. H1a.

Klepto said, “I even looked under Tinkerbelle’s skirt.”

“If you weren’t my father, I’d spray you with Mace,” Tinkerbelle muttered. She was wearing a diamond tiara modeled on the Statue of Liberty’s crown but made of gold and about as large. They loved her in China. They thought she was a role model for independent, entrepreneurial women. They didn’t know the 99% of her company piggybacked off Klepto’s inherited empire: accounting, payroll, marketing, finance were all done by Klepto’s people in Klepto’s offices which were also Tinkerbelle’s HQ. Also most of her wealth came from shares Klepto gave her in his businesses and from Harlequin’s share of his family’s slumlordship. All she had was her name, which of course, she got from Klepto. But she wasn’t going to explain that to the Chinese. Hell, most Americans thought Klepto was a self-made clown.

Klepto said, “Scarecrow get off your damn cross and look in the closet. Cowardly, look in the kitchen.”

“But how would something get in the kitchen, Dad? Things only come OUT of the kitchen.”

“Look anyway you scaredy-cat.”

“What are we looking for?” asked the Scarecrow. It was his keen intelligence that made him nominal CEO to the Klepto Big Top empire.

“It’s a carrier battle group. A big ship and a lot of little ships.”

“How big?” asked the Cowardly Lion Killer.

Klepto tried to recall their images on TV. “About like this?” He gestured with his fingers.

“On it!” said TCLK. He went to the kitchen door but couldn’t bring himself to enter. Who knows what goes on in there? he thought.

“Only one place left,” Klepto said. He looked at his son-in-law, Harlequin, whose job was to act as Klepto’s brains. “Bend over,” Klepto instructed.

The Harlequin’s eyes went wide under his little conical hat, blue and star-spangled like his boss’—uh, father-in-law’s. But he did what he was told. That’s what being Klepto’s brains meant.

Klepto pulled apart the skinny cheeks and stuck his head way in to get a good look.

“It’s not there,” he announced when he came out. “But look what I found. It’s the $100 million dollars left over from the inauguration. So that’s where it got to!”

“Great work, Daddy,” said Tinkerbelle. “Oh, wait. Is that what you’re looking for?” She pointed at the TV.

A fleet of ships, all about the size Klepto had indicated, where sailing somewhere in the ocean. The announcer explained they had just turned around and were heading toward Korea.

“See, they weren’t lost. They are heading for Korea. Just like I predicted. I’m never wrong,” Klepto boasted and sank onto the sofa.

“Predicted?” asked Tinkerbelle. “They why were we looking for them?”

“Predicted,” Klepto insisted.

“You’re brilliant, Daddy,” said Tinkerbelle.

“Brilliant,” said Harlequin.

“Oh, look, Daddy,” said Tinkerbelle. “Now Harlequin can talk with his ass just like you can!”

“Brilliant,” boasted Klepto.