Fiction · 09/12/2018

When the President Died

When the president died, they put his chair by the dumpster in the alley. That made no sense to me, on account of it was in the office for so long. I took the chair back up to the office and left it there, but then someone hauled it down to the alley again. When I took it up a second time, they saw it was me and said, “We appreciate the loyalty, or whatever this is, but one thing we can’t support is morons. Please stop it with the nonsense.” I don’t think it was nonsense, though, because if the president’s chair isn’t in the president’s office, how real is that office, really? A thing needs all its parts.

There’s a new guy in the president’s office now. I don’t know what he thinks he’s doing. He’s younger and doesn’t hit people but for some reason they still listen to what he has to say. The other men in my work-cluster say things are going more smoothly now, but if we’re not heading in the president’s direction, what does it matter if it’s smooth or not? The president used to say that it’s important to follow through with things. I learned that.

I learned that, so I took the chair from the alley right before the garbagemen could get it. They said, “What are you, a moron? That’s garbage.” But that made no sense to me because if I had it, and it wasn’t by the dumpster, then how was it garbage? And also it’s the president’s, and nothing the president has is garbage. Not even his heart that stopped.

But then I took the chair home and Molly said the same thing, said, “What are you, a moron? Get that thing out of the living room.” I didn’t take it out of the living room, because I’m not a moron and because someone needs to keep the legacy going. The president only really dies when we let him out of our hearts. So, I mean the chair’s a part of that.

I wasn’t ever going to sit in it, but then Molly tried to sneak it out one morning when I was eating my cereal. I can’t hit her, I’m not the president, so instead I had to sit in the chair and make it too hard for her to move. And then once I was in it, I felt it, the real rush of love, like I was part of something, and I thought, all they were doing before was testing me. I passed the test. I thought, they didn’t think I was a moron. They wanted me to demonstrate how much of a moron I’m not. So, I’m doing that now. Trying, anyway.

When I started sitting in the chair full-time, I felt guilty, as well as a little sorry to the president. I don’t think I’m the president of anything. But I was determined to not let the chair be taken anywhere it shouldn’t be taken, so I kept on. The assistant to the young guy in the president’s office called me one day and said if I keep not coming to work, they’re going to fire my dumb ass. I asked if I could bring the president’s chair to my cluster. They said no, because it’s garbage, because things are changing around here. I let them fire me then because good riddance to their dumb asses. I don’t believe now that they had nothing to do with the president’s heart giving out.

And you know what? Molly, too, because she got so mad when I got fired. I told her dumb ass that whoever had got into her head was not as strong as the president. She said she married a moron and went to stay with her mom, who’s called me a moron from the beginning. Maybe this is another test. Even if it is, how can I forgive them all for how far they’ve gone? Killing the president to test my loyalty? What a world.

The landlord came around then because it was the end of the month and I couldn’t roll the chair downstairs to deliver the rent. He seemed angry, but then he saw me and said, “You moron, you’re starving to death.” But, yeah, obviously, because what was the other option? Leave the chair alone while I go out and buy food? No way, José. The landlord left and came back with leftover spaghetti and said, “Eat this shit, you fucking idiot.” That made no sense to me, though, because he of all people should be on the right side. He, who hits his wife and kids to help them learn.

I ate the spaghetti and I gave him the rent but then still things went bad, because he called the hospital or someplace, and they sent people to come tell me that everything’s okay. I knew that already. But then they tried to restrain me and take me away from the chair. I didn’t like that, and yeah, I guess I threw a fit and broke some people’s bones. But all in the name of, all in the name of.

One of the guy’s bones looked real, real bad. I know it’s wrong, but so is coming into someone’s home to tell him he needs to do something he’s not doing. So, I thought about that and the situation and the people lying on the floor of my living room. I thought about that and took the chair and ran. I ran for as long as I could, which was not that long. I was weak, and being out of the chair made me feel like some light in me had been extinguished. I saw a bridge out in the distance and decided to go rest under it. Maybe the searchers wouldn’t see me. Maybe the planes would pass over me unaware.

I never got there, though, because some moron in a truck saw me crossing the street and didn’t stop in time. He hit me and the chair and drove off before anybody could get to him. Probably another one of Them. An impossible Test. I broke a lot of bones when I got hit by the truck. I passed out looking at the mangled chair. Passed out moaning for those around me to hold it, not me.

You want the truth, a heart’s no good without honor. And honor’s nothing without us uniting against Them. My nurse keeps saying now, “Baby, you keep fighting like that, and you’re going to get a rash.” I want to tell her my skin is nothing. My jaw won’t work, though.

They told me Molly was going to come see me. I don’t know at all who’s lying.

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Tim Raymond’s work has appeared in DIAGRAM, Glimmer Train, and other places. He grew up in Wyoming, but lives in South Korea now. He also makes comics, which can be found on Instagram: @iamsitting.