Most of the names, places, events, facts, and syllables below are complete (though plausible) fabrications. Except the “Baghdad ain’t shit” thing. That’s actually true.
He sat there grinning, forehead in his hand. How had it come to this? How could the comically-lauded hero-of-hubris — who, on the doorstep of Iraq in 2003 proclaimed “Baghdad ain’t shit” — have become the consigliere to madness? All those metals. All the media praise. All of it came to nothing now. Instead here he was, pleading for assistance from a faux-hawked punk no older than 24.
General Kelly was about to embark on his most arduous assignment yet.
Strolling the aisles of Toys R Us is markedly different from cruising into the Mesopotamian capital in a heavily armored Stryker, little flags flipping about in the wind. No. Unlike a 21st century American ground invasion, in order to achieve victory inside the sprawling toy store, one absolutely needed to have an exit strategy.
Kelly, unfortunately, didn’t have a plan for the mission at all, let alone one for interacting with the sullen millennial sales associate. Part of the confusion lay in the sheer number of options. Throughout the warehouse of childhood pleasure one could find innumerable variety of cheap, colorful, hard-marketed junk. The General, who always bore the stars and stripes in suit and pin form while carrying a copy of the Constitution in his breast pocket, could not have been prepared for the endless horizon of chotchkes manufactured in exotic sounding locations. And while the titans of play still ruled the aisles — Lego, Fisher Price, Milton Bradley — so, too, did the impeccable countries on the rise: China, India, and all the others that had spawned forth his suit, the pins that graced its lapel, and in all likelihood the paper on which his beloved Penguin Classics Edition Constitution had been printed.
But Kelly wasn’t there to pick out the wares of foreigners. He had come specifically for the product of a good ‘ol apple pie eating, AR-15 toting American company of tradition: Crayola. For half a century, the ubiquitous maker of crayons had carried at least half a dozen (and likely more) shades of orange in its classic box of 64. Kelly let the thought of some courtroom sketch artist being able to use all of them in a future mega-trial flash through his mind, but only briefly.
“Screamin’ Green. That’s a good name,” said the sales associate while reading the box.
“How much?” Kelly asked.
“Ten. We also have some thick construction paper that goes well with these,” the associated added, nodding down the aisle.
“Can it soak up burger grease?”
“Nevermind. I’ll take the box. And some safety scissors.”
As the two walked towards the register, Kelly’s phone buzzed. He took it out and saw what he’d feared: a little blue (Crayola would have called it ”cerulean”) bird icon announcing a new message.
@realDonaldTrump Sorry haters and Losers! Rocket man knows I have one of the high-est possible IQ of any President in history. That is why he is afraid. We will have to totally destroy his failing country!
“Jesus fucking Christ,” he muttered, clenching his teeth. The associate looked up with some concern, but Kelly caught his eye and shook his head. “Just another alert, that’s all.”
“Tell me about it,” the associate said, rolling his eyes. “It never stops.”
Throughout his long, presumably accomplished career, the General had dealt with all manner of people. There were the uptight junior officers fresh out of the academy, the vulgar enlistees getting drunk and wild in the Mad Max camps of Iraq, the lifelong Pentagon bureaucrats whose entire being seemed fused to a series of file cabinets, and even the turn of the century civilian blowhards who commanded the world into the crime of the century. Now the White House had turned into a cheapjack nursing home partially run by patients, and he had little experience with the tantrums of a fully grown human suffering from affluenza and brain atrophy.
The only strategy that worked was to provide harmless distractions. Despite leaking like a rusted tin roof, Kelly’s shop had managed to keep at least one thing secret: the President loved coloring. When his TV privileges were revoked — usually due to some event of adult consequence occurring in the outside world — POTUS liked to sit on the floor of the Oval Office and draw elaborate fantasy structures on chained pieces of paper. He was a builder, after all. Oddly enough he would create convoluted underground labyrinths rather than towers, complete with Scrooge McDuck money vaults and fast food franchises operated by young Slavic women. He used 24 pound paper for drawings. They were the most stable and durable structures he had produced in his entire life.
But today the strategy had failed. The Commander in Chief refused to cooperate, even after Kelly had brought him a glass of warm milk. He insisted that he did not have enough colors. His 31 Trump-branded crayons (now defunct) were made of scrap wax sourced from a Triad run candle factory outside of Macau. The box featured no fewer than 15 shades of red with exotic names like Ass of Hot Water and Joyful Merriment Frolic. With the cheese of a 99 cent quesarito dripping from his mouth, the President implored: “John, I’m going to need you to go get me a new box.”
The General couldn’t quite fathom the shell of a man he had become.
Others in his cohort had gone on to prestigious and meaningful positions. He could have been a Professor of international policy at Yale, or a venture capitalist blaring Aaron Copland on Seinheiser speakers from his camouflaged yurt at Burning Man, or even a cable news talking head like so many turn of the century intelligentsia.
But when the call to service for the red white and blue came in once again, he knew he had to accept. A return to dignity beckoned. The General refused to be a footnote in yet another American blunder. This time he would get it right.
“Cash or card?” the associate said.
Kelly snapped out of his daydreaming. “Uh, card please.”
The associate swiped the card and began to lower the items into a plastic bag, but the General interrupted.
“No bag, please. It’s a choking hazard.”