09 Oct Election Fiction
Fiction imagines itself across genres: historical fiction, science fiction, realistic fiction, etc. With some subjects the only place you can tell the deep truth is in fiction—and this year’s presidential race qualifies. So, the novelist part of me has decided to invent a new genre, ELECTION FICTION, making its debut here. The names have been changed to protect the guilty—although Drumpf actually is the real family name of Donald Trump, changed from the German to Trump by his immigrant grandfather. Everything else, you understand, is pure fiction.
Family Values: A Fable
by Robin Morgan
Once upon a time, there lived a small land merchant named Thedon Drumf.
He was actually more a bricks and mortar guy—a contractor—than a land merchant. He’d inherited wealth from his contractor father, but he himself trafficked in other people’s landholdings, other people’s labor, and other people’s financing, which he in turn claimed as his own and the sum of which he inflated greatly, being as hungry for fame as he was for money. He had no friends. He cheated everyone he met, so no one trusted him. But he didn’t lack ambition or drive, despite his reputation for being seriously deranged.
Obsessed with the size of his genitals, he abused many women, and had three wives, which he would have preferred to have all at once, as sort of a starter harem, but had to settle for in sequence. Three of his five children—a grown daughter Icanka, and two grown sons, Thedon the younger, and Yorick—were by his first wife, whom he publicly humiliated and divorced after an even more public affair with a woman who became his second wife and the mother of another daughter, Cartier. Soon, however, he ditched the second wife for a third, who bore a third son, a child of eleven at the time of our story, named Duke.
The Drumfs all lived in various buildings across the facades of which Thedon had plastered his name (whether or not he owned them), and all of which were decorated with such an overuse of fake gold leaf the style became known as baroqueorocococo. They all worked for their father. Each had dared a small rebellion at some point, which had been brutally suppressed by Thedon, and each had returned to the fold, broken, silent, seething. They all had sufficient wealth, earned in ways ranging from the unsavory to the criminal, but greed was the family motto and sufficient was insufficient for Thedon.
Perpetually in a state of simultaneous self-aggrandizement and famishment, he wanted more. Of everything. Money. Women. Fame. Power. Junk food. (He’d had a wretchedly unhappy childhood under a tyrannical father—but that tale is for another time.) Thedon became an entertainer, thinking that this would make him loved. People did flock to see him—but in truth only to watch this example of a freakish madman. (In fact the Society for Protection of the Mentally Challenged protested the public display of him as exploitation of the emotionally disturbed—but they were ignored.)
Then one day, Thedon realized what he really wanted. He wanted to be king.
His current wife and grown children strongly opposed this. They knew the depth of his ignorance and breadth of his lies, his inability to focus, his personal sadism, his vendettas, his non-English-speaking tirades, his rages, and all the other aspects of his character that had sent their lives ricocheting for decades between horror story and farce. Now, his offspring could imagine that agonizing mortification—which had haunted them through their entire growing up, at every school and every event—becoming a national, even international, spectacle.
Only Icanka felt otherwise. Indeed, from the first moment their father proposed his plan, Icanka lit up with enthusiasm. Her siblings knew she was their father’s favorite. But given their family values, they respected her for that power as well as resenting her for it. Still, this reach for kingship was grave over-reach. Icanka saw they needed convincing.
She was clever. Knowing her siblings’ weaknesses, she packaged the idea to each in a custom-tailored way. She didn’t bother persuading the current wife, because she knew wives’ opinions mattered little to Thedon. She knew women in general mattered not at all to her father, who used female people as table napkins, to catch his drips. Icanka wore deep inside herself a bitter knowledge that the sole reason she qualified for his affection was because of that “incident” 21 years earlier when she was 13. And she knew the only reason she qualified for his attention now was that he viewed her as a glamorous extension of himself—with, as she frequently put it, more balls than all her brothers combined, plus a batting-practice machine. But she was determined to place her father on his road to a crown.
So she wooed her brother Thedon with visions of his becoming King Thedon II, inheriting the throne after a predictably brief reign by their father. To Yorick—Prince Yorick, as she started addressing him—she sold the campaign as a means of inflicting greater revenge against his personal enemies—and since poor Yorick imagined that everyone he knew conspired against him, this excited his sullen wrath against a host of targets. For her half-sister, Icanka pretended a newfound affection that, to Cartier, was so welcome from a family that otherwise ostracized her that she quickly fell into line.
“Awesome!” Cartier squealed, “I’ll be a princess! When I get married I’ll be a princess bride! Then I can be a princess divorcee, and then a princess bride again! And even Daddy will think I’m smart and beautiful!” In a pig’s eye, thought Icanka—but she merely smiled and promised her half sister shopping trips together for the Paris shows. Since Duke, the youngest sibling, was only a child, she ignored him. For the time being.
Well, everyone knows pretty much what happened next: how Thedon’s attempted coup was treated first with disbelief, then amusement, then alarm. He spat venomous insults at every section of the populace, and when he began attacking even those who supported him—because they believed that his lies addressed grievances they themselves held–even they turned against him. Everyone knows about his fall—not only from any hope of kingship but even from his former status as a bricks and mortar contractor. Especially since it turned out his flaking bricks had been baked at too-low temperatures, his mortar didn’t stick, the imitation gold leaf peeled, and his buildings had already begun to crumble. His followers, ever fickle, cheered to see how the mighty had fallen (cruelty is reliable entertainment to some), and the counselors who had backed his crusade vociferously denied ever having done so.
Soon, people turned their attention elsewhere, to a new leader who was moving swiftly to eradicate poverty, halt climate change, help husbands act like grownups, and accomplish all the other items on any woman’s To Do list.
So no one paid much attention to the fate of the Drumf family. It was reported, however, that the two older brothers had died in an accident, shooting each other during one of their hunting trips. Cartier perished, too, also apparently accidentally, when she leaned too far out from a ski-lift conveyor to wave at a photographer and plummeted to her death while on a winter holiday with her best buds Paris Marriott and Kum Kardashian. Little Duke suffered his own tragedy—spending so much time at his computer watching pornography that he went glare-blind and was sent to live with his grandmother in a small Slovenian village after his mother divorced his dad, abandoned him, and married one of Thedon’s best friends, a man named Roger Ills—whom she convinced she’d written The Color Purple—which in fairness Ills had never read, being unable to read.
It had of course been Icanka, always the efficient one, who dealt with their father after his notorious in-public nervous breakdown, when he exposed himself, then began pounding the podium raving about a Fourth Reich, shouting in German so fractured that verbs came at the beginning of sentences.
But it was not until the night they came to take Thedon away that Icanka could relax.
She asked the white-coated attendants to please wait outside while she said a last, tender goodbye to her father. Once they were alone, she poured herself a flute of diet Dom Perignon, then smiled down at Thedon, straitjacketed and strapped to the gurney, while he glared up at her, sputtering she was a pig, a whore, a traitorous document-leaker, and just like her mother. She raised one well-toned, massaged leg and placed her Jimmy Choo stiletto-heeled foot on his chest, then leaned over and stuffed a soiled sanitary pad she had saved for 21 years into his mouth. “You’ll listen to me now, you son of a bitch,” she said. “This was all my revenge—encouraging you to mount this campaign, knowing you’d self-destruct with the whole damned world watching. My revenge for how savagely you treated Mummy—while you were married, when you divorced her, and in between—ll the pain and humiliation you caused her and us kids. You even raped Mummy—she said so in a Vanity Fair interview. All of us have despised you our entire lives, living in fear of you or being bought off by you or both. But the depth of my hatred—you have no idea.
“This is my revenge for those ghastly pictures you wanted taken when I was 12—the ones still circulating: the two of us in your bed, you on the phone grinning, me bare-legged sprawled across you, or the one with you leering while you grind me down, a captive on your hardening lap. And then, and then . . . my god, how could you? I was only 13! And all 21 years since—of therapy, eating disorders, cutting, sexual dysfunction, night terrors—I even married an Orthodox Jew just to infuriate you. But your possessive lust is so vast you even forgave me that. Well, now it’s over. Whatever’s left, I own it. I’ve won.”
She plucked a scrap of paper from her Prada bra and unfolded it, verbally checking off a list. “Young Thedon, check. Prince Yorick, check. Princess Cartier, check. Baby brother Duke, check—though I probably should have finished that, done a little-princes-in-the-tower scenario rather than let him live. Well, I can always revise later. And now I can even dump the Orthodox Jew! As for you—” she said, leaning down to spit in the eye of her prisoner, who was writhing with fury— “you will spend the rest of your pathetic days on a diet of kale and granola in your padded cell.” Then she laughed—a painful bleak peal of triumph echoing through the marble corridors.
Elsewhere at that very moment, in the great white house newly renamed The People’s Hearth, the new leader sat in her working office, alone, surrounded by piles of books and papers. She leaned back in her chair, adjusted her sweatpants, and put her fluffy-step-in slipper-clad feet up on her desk. She took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. She munched a carrot. She was thinking.
Suddenly, she smiled. She picked up the phone.
“Hi, how’s it going, Hoopla?” the leader said, “Listen, let’s send a note of condolence to Icanka Drumf about her tragic family losses. . . . Then, after a respectable period—say, two months—let’s send her another note, an invitation to lunch. . . . Yes, here.” She chuckled softly. “Yes, I do mean it. Who knows? Perhaps a little sisterhood can tempt her—free her?—from the dark side.”