HE was of indeterminate age (maybe twenty-five? maybe fifty?) and wore threadbare 1970s-style suits from the Goodwill. His posture was always perfect, his stride always purposeful. Only a few things betrayed him as an eccentric: his blurred speech and odd manner; and how, while speaking, he swayed stiffly from side to side with his hands behind his back. It appeared as though he was reciting a speech from memory, his gaze always directed somewhere just above your head, as he told you about his plans to make this country a better place to live.      


He started coming into my coffee shop every day, and I called him the President of the United States of Wherever.      


“If Dukakis could get elected, I knew I could no problem,” he explained one day, sipping at a hot chocolate I’d given him after he’d helped me take the trash out (the President was a sucker for a free drink).


Some people liked the President and his odd manner, but most people just ignored him. He occasionally attracted attention from folks who didn’t mean well, from those who target the weak. The President was smart and usually knew how to avoid those people (he could recognize a heckler or bully from a mile away), but he didn’t always escape unscathed. On those unfortunate days, he’d show up sputtering and frustrated, so I’d give him another hot chocolate and distract him by asking about his views on illegal immigration.      


Eyes lighting up, he’d launch into a speech about building a wall but still letting nice

people in. He wanted to deport all the mean people, even if they were legal residents. I agreed there were plenty of Americans I wouldn’t mind deporting, too.    


One crisp fall morning, the President dashed into the shop, greatly agitated. He wrung his hands while pacing back and forth in front of the counter.      


“What’s the matter?” I was worried.  I’d never seen him this upset. I’d never seen him

this disheveled, either. His hair was mussed, his suit was mud-smudged and grass-stained, and there was a fresh bruise blooming on his cheek.      


Someone (or a group of someones) had been picking on him again. That much was clear.      


I tried calming him with the usual hot chocolate and a “Why don’t you tell me about how you’re tackling the deficit?” But he couldn’t hear me over the noise of his own distress. He paced back and forth, out of breath, on the verge of tears. He was mumbling incomprehensibly and looked as though he could snap at any moment.      


“Don’t worry about them, they’re probably working for your opponent!” I offered weakly, but my words ignited him further. He darted over to me and grabbed me by the shoulders. He looked completely unhinged. I realized for the first time that he was a lot bigger than me and probably much stronger.      


I found myself shrinking away from him. I’d never been afraid of him before because he’d always seemed so childlike, but right now there was no telling what he was capable of.


He leaned over me, seeming to grow another six inches, and hissed, “You people are a mess.” His face was flushed with anger, but his eyes were weary. “There’s nothing more I can do here,” he declared, turning on his heel and stalking out.      


I always expected he’d return, like he always did, but I never saw him again. I assumed he skipped town in search of a more worthy group of constituents.      


It always makes me a little sad to know our President abandoned us as a lost cause.


L i t e r a r y . J u i c e

An Online Literary Magazine

L.R. Collier once lived in Russia but now lives in Kansas. She received an MA in Russian from Middlebury College in 2007 and has been blogging since 2002 at http://www.lovelysim.com/ (The Lovely Simulacrum).  

The President of the United States of Wherever