by L.P. Stribling
Coffee that morning came early; it was placed in its position (there was practice involved in the placement of its proper position) – just right of the middle of the desk. The lights remained on until Stanley exited the room. He flipped the switch and the room darkened. Stanley left promptly thereafter. The time was 4:30. The president was expected in his office within minutes.
At 6:30, the president nearly threw open his office door and harrumphed in.
“What is it, Derek? You’ve got just a few minutes. I have a conference – morons who think my Twitter account is doing more harm than good. Speak.” He walked toward his desk as the office door behind him snapped up against the wall with the force of being thrown open.
“Well, Mr. President, it’s about your notion of power.” Derek’s quiet suited form followed meekly. His well-groomed manner made him the perfect fit as an intern with the Cabinet. “I think you may need to really reconsider your approach to the Koreas; their history is one which really relies on a certain degree of diplomacy that ~ ”
The president stopped and turned. The wrinkles on his brow under his golden hair cringed at both the tepid cup and his intern’s boldness. He set the coffee back down. It was his favorite cup – one side held the American flag in as majestic a representation any coffee cup could have – with his name emboldened just below that image. On the other side, a solid, but still professional dollar bill symbol. Black and white. He would have much rather preferred the cup in his hand – just a moment with his coffee, but <sigh> his work was never finished.
“What? I’m not diplomatic enough for you?”
The intern’s lips stretched minimally into an attempt of a smile.
“All right, if that’s what you want to do with the few minutes you have with me, that’s what we’ll do.”
He brought a wooden chair from near his desk over and set it down in front of the man, who much younger, seemed a bit timid with the way he pushed his wired no-frame glasses back up on his nose. He spun the wooden chair around on the shiny hardwood floor of the office and straddled the forward-facing chair with his arms crossed the back.
“When I was your age I really wanted to change things. I thought I could do anything, make any kind of change that I wanted in life. All I needed was the drive and the determination. My brother Jake worked delivered papers as a kid. He started on his own, and soon enough, he got his friends into it. There was one kid, though, who was just a lazy fuck. But he was big, so he intimidated. Tommy was his name. And instead of working his part and contributing to the rest of the newspaper. But what he did was different. This kid decided he was going to disappear for a few hours each day, and then when the other kids got back, he was going to trash his own papers and say that he worked the areas he had been assigned.
“And it worked out for a bit. The kid got paid. But my brother found out about it and was about to rat him out. But Tommy found him before he could do it.
“ ‘If you rat on me, I’ll make your life a living hell,’ he said. Jake did not think that he could tell anyone about it – he was afraid. But, since I wasn’t a part of the group, he figured he could tell me. He was older than me, Jake, but only by a few months, so we were basically the same age. I didn’t say anything. I just knew that I had to take care of the situation. Jake had told me that he was too scared to do anything. Tommy was a big kid, and people knew him to be a trouble-starter. He had been nice to Tommy for a few months and they had grown more of a bond that way. That was in the beginning. Tommy heard how much money Jake was making and asked if he could get in on it. Jake agreed, but reluctantly, because he didn’t really know Tommy that well.
Long story short, I found out where this kid lived. Don’t ask me how. I just did. On a week night I snuck out of the house really early in the morning and walked over to Tommy’s house. I have to let you know, and this is of course off the record, but sometimes things happen for very good reasons, you know? I think fear can be a great lesson, and…”
Derek sat there, stilled as the Commander-in-Chief rattled on incessantly and without any rationale as was his usual case. He even pulled back a bit when the man’s politically menacing index finger shot out as he wanted to highlight his next sentence. It was the same index finger that shot out in addresses to the nation, international conferences, and local forums which needed his input on the economy or recent incidents of national interest.
“You can’t reason with bullies, Derek! That’s just the truth of things.” He pulled his finger back and reset his folded arms. “So I killed his dog and left in on his porch. I made sure the last strike brought the blade all the way through the paper from the porch and into the animal’s body. Now look, Derek; are you looking at me? Derek?”
Derek’s expression of shock refocused on the president. “Ah, y-yes. Sir.”
“Good, ‘cause I don’t want to lose you now; this is important. The point is that you just can’t reason with bullies. Sometimes you have to shove all the shit they’re giving out right back in their face so they get a nice good whiff!
“So, what happened the next day? Tommy didn’t show back up to the newspaper business. It was taken care of. Jake got to keep all his earnings, and all was good.” He flashed his yellow smile at Derek then as he stood and straightened his tie and readjusted his national flag pin. “So, don’t you worry your pretty little head about Korea, Derek. You let me take care of that. Where’s a mirror?”
“Mr. President?” The door opened and a skinny man with a clipboard stuck his head into the room.
“You’re expected in the library for the briefing.”
“Be right there, Ryan. Thank you.”
The door closed and the president walked over to Derek and patted him on the shoulder. “I’m glad to have you on my side, Derek. Your job here for the next few months is just to watch at learn.” He walked toward the door as he called back over his shoulder. “Oh, can you have another cup of coffee brought over? The one on the desk is old. And use that same cup, will you?”
The door closed behind the man, and the room, with Derek seated in it, fell quiet again.