This week’s challenge was to hit up the Magic Realism Bot Twitter account, and use one of the tweets as a prompt for a short story. I’ve done this before on my other site, but I didn’t get it posted in time for the challenge. This time, I got the tweet “A politician watches a TV show about an umbrella that can destroy time, and becomes obsessed with finding it.” I bet you can guess which politician I chose.
“Ah, yes, Mister President, I have your latest approval ratings…” The staffer, a tall thin man carrying a clipboard and visibly sweating through his ill-tailored suit, trailed off. Trudy could feel the aura of fear surrounding him, could smell the acrid odour of unease. She was nervous herself—it was her first day as intern in the biggest office in the world—but she prayed it was not so apparent on herself.
“Yes? And? I bet they’re incredible. I’m doing the best job, you know. Stupendous. Better than anyone. No one has ever been this good. Everybody knows!” President Ronald Rump positively beamed as he leaned back in his high-backed office chair, his round, doughy face flushed and shiny with perspiration.
“Er, about that…”The staffer took a couple of timid steps back.
“Wait! What’s that on the TV? Turn it up! Everyone shut up!” The room fell into a deep hush as one of the aides turned up the TV on the show “Rox and Fiends”. While the other staffers turned their attention to the wall-sized TV, mounted awkwardly against the circular wall, Trudy snuck towards the president’s desk. She still held the coffee she was sent to bring him, and, not knowing what to do with it, decided to unobtrusively place it on his desk.
“Yes, Dick. According to its inventor Bladimir Blutin, this device, which looks like an ordinary umbrella, has the ability to destroy time. Obviously, he has restricted his testing to very controlled laboratory conditions, but the initial results are very promising. We go live now to his laboratory at the University of Moscow.”
“You there!” Rump pointed a sausage-like finger at Trudy just as she was placing the cup down. Startled, she cried out and jerked her hand back, spilling hazelnut coffee everywhere. She hastily pulled the napkin from the saucer, trying to mop up the mess. “You’re a pretty little thing!” He put a meaty paw on her upper arm, stroking one finger towards her shoulder. It took all her effort to suppress a shudder. “What’s your name?”
Trudy tried to speak, but she was silenced by a combination of fear and revulsion. She cleared her throat and tried, without success, to extricate her arm from Rump’s grip. “Trudy. I’m the new intern.”
“Well, Trudy-the-new-intern,” Rump said, pulling her in closer. “Consider this a promotion. You are now the director of getting me that umbrella!” Chucking at his own terrible joke, he looked up and around the room. The others half-heartedly joined his laughter; they were probably just grateful they were not her. “This mission is a top priority, so you have anyone from my team at your disposal.”
“But Mr. President…sir, isn’t there someone more…qualified than me?” This time Trudy managed to pull her arm from his grip, managing a couple of sidesteps away from him as well. Rump guffawed loudly, and a few others joined in.
“You think I trust any of these yahoos? Every one of them would steal it for themself! Or worse, get it to that crooked Millary Milton! She already tried to rig the election, didn’t she? But no, I won by over 3 million votes. And my inauguration; it was the biggest ever! No other president had as many folks to their inauguration as Ronald Rump!” He exclaimed, slamming his palm on the desk. Then he looked up, puzzled, his gaze travelling around the room. He grunted. “What was I saying?”
“The umbrella…”the staffer prompted, his voice barely above a whisper.
“Right! The umbrella that can destroy time!” He turned his head back to Trudy, idly waving his hand around. “And you’re going to get it for me.” He grabbed at her again, but she shimmied out of his reach. Rump shrugged. “Look at that! Even she knows she can’t be trusted when she gets too close to Rump!” He was the only one to laugh this time; everyone else looked uneasy and mildly disgusted.
“Yes, yes. Trudy. That’s what I said. Trudy the intern. You don’t have any connections here yet, so I know that you will be loyal to me. Get me that umbrella, and you’ll have the best connection there is!” He raised his finger, then pointed at himself, grinning widely. He reminded Trudy of a fleshy orange toad, right before it strikes at a particularly delicious fly. “I can take you places! Trust me. I know everyone. I have people everywhere, people all loyal to Ronald Rump, I tell you.” He glanced around the room, but nobody dared make eye contact. They either stared down at the floor, or flipped through papers. Rump frowned, his face quickly turning tomato-red. Trudy started to feel nauseous, the internship she turned down at the Wildwood Free Press looking better by the minute.
“You!” Rump bellowed, pointing at the staffer from before. “Jenkins.”
“Er, Johnson.” He corrected, bringing his clipboard closer to his chest, almost like a shield.
“Yes, yes, Johnson. You speak Russian, right?”
“Yes, sir. I speak nine languages, including Russian.”
“Good.” Rump nodded, looking like a bobble-head doll. “You go with Trudy here. Get me that umbrella. Promise that man, that Bladimir Blutin, whatever he wants for it. I don’t care what I have to do or what it costs. I must have the umbrella.”
“Yes, sir, we’ll leave right away, sir.” Johnson nodded, backing away towards the door. Trudy joined him, feeling like she had just agreed to be executed. She silently cursed herself for not taking that other internship. If she were there, she would probably be filing something or fetching coffee, not preparing to con some Russian scientist out of an umbrella that could destroy time. To placate a volatile, oafish buffoon who could destroy her entire career with a word.
“Off you go then. And don’t let me down, you two,” Rump warned. “Or you’re fired!”