This week’s flash fiction was inspired by current events. Warning: weaponized political satire in operation. Proceed at your own risk. Don’t try this at home. And if the men in black suits show up at my door, it’s been nice knowing you.
Forty-four leaned back in his computer chair, rubbing his temples.
“Honey.” Michelle had just come in from the garden. “What’s wrong? Joe again?”
It was easy enough to guess; Obama-and-Joe internet memes slid one after the other across his screen. Going through the Biden folder sometimes lifted his spirits, but it wasn’t working. He’d gone up to Delaware, took him out for a beer, saw all the new pictures of the grandchildren. He told Joe the world was different now. There were things you couldn’t do anymore. A teary-eyed Biden had thanked him effusively, then grabbed him in a bear hug and landed a big fat kiss on his cheek.
He was starting to believe that nothing he told the man would make any difference. It was a bitter pill to swallow. Here he’d been trying to bring change to the country, and he couldn’t even change Joe Biden. Maybe nobody could.
“I’m starting to think you’re right about him,” he said.
“You know I am. I’ve spent time with that man. He’s not going to change. But he does need to feel useful. He needs to feel that he can still make a difference. You know what to do.”
After she left, he picked up the phone.
“Man, thank you for this.” Joe grabbed Forty-four’s arm as the former president swung his car off the Beltway toward Earl’s neighborhood. “A mission. Like old times.”
Maybe this was not Forty-four’s best idea. But it was too late now. He’d already made arrangements with Earl. The Council was expecting them. If he could sell this idea, maybe all was not lost. Lord knows they’d been short of ideas lately. “Look. Before we go in, there’s a few things I need to make you aware of.”
Joe waved a hand. “Yeah, yeah. I get it. Mum’s the word. Secret society and all that. I get it, and believe me, I’m honored.” He grinned like a kid. “So, they’re all gonna be there, really?”
“Be cool, Joe. I mean it.”
“How come this is my first invite?”
“Excuse me, but when were you president?”
“I could have been. It wasn’t for lack of trying. Hillary’s in, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t have—”
“Special circumstances,” Forty-four said. “And don’t call her that when we’re at Earl’s. Forty-three-and-a-half will do.”
Biden tapped a finger on the side of his nose, gangster-like. “Ah. I get it. So what’s my number?”
“We don’t usually…” Damn. That hang-dog face. “Okay. We’ll call you Forty-four-and-a-half. Work for you?”
“Fine and dandy.”
As Forty-four figured, Joe lit upon Earl like the old friends they were. A tap on the arm warned him to cut it short, as the others had started arriving.
“Thank you for your indulgence,” Forty-four said as they all got seated. “I think you’ll find that our guest has some very special skills to bring to the table.”
Thirty-nine nodded sagely after a long clasp of Joe’s hand, as did Forty-three after a deep look into each other’s eyes. Forty-two seemed also in agreement, and pleased to see his former colleague. But Forty-three-and-a-half smirked and said under her breath, “What are they going to do, out-gaffe each other? Smell each other’s hair?”
“Now, Hill,” Forty-two said. “She’s been a little out of sorts lately.”
The look she gave him would wither most men. Forty-two just smiled. Forty-four did not want to be him on the car ride home. He didn’t blame her, though. Having to hear that “lock her up” nonsense everywhere she goes.
“Now if you’ll indulge me a moment, I have an idea. Forty-four-and-a-half here is going to help.”
Joe broke into an impish smile. “I’m gonna give him the business.”
It lasted until Forty-three, steepling his fingers under his chin, said, “Perhaps you haven’t taken a full measure of our adversary.”
“Full measure? I’ve been measuring that guy since the first day he even thought about taking our jobs. And forgive me for saying so, but I’ll tell ya the God’s honest truth. You’ve been doing it all wrong.”
“Oh, please do elaborate,” Hillary said.
“Thank you. Madam Secretary, I mean, Forty-three-and-a-half.” He winked at her. “See, he thinks he’s this big tough guy. And most of what you’ve tried on him was tough-guy measures. Barry—sorry, Forty-four—remember how you made fun of him at that Correspondent’s Dinner, and he lost his ever-loving mind? Why don’t we just weaponize it?”
“A weapon of mass satirical destruction,” Forty-one mused, his eyes twinkling.
Joe pointed at Bush the Younger. “He gets it. Dontcha see? We go crazy with the memes. Find one of them Russian bot thingies to spread ’em around. Everywhere he goes, he’s met with an army of orange baby balloons. Then we can hire Alec Baldwin…”
“He’s gonna stroke out.” Forty-two hid a guilty smile behind his hand.
“Wait,” Forty-three-and-a-half said. “Can we get plausible deniability on that?”
“That’s why we’re keeping you out of it. Take a walk in the woods or something. Write another memoir.”
“Screw that,” she said. “I want to be there when it happens.”
“No.” The strength of Forty-four’s voice surprised him. And that he was now on his feet. “The last face he sees…is gonna be mine.”