Then President Phil and his Advisors briskly left the former site of the Presidential Palace, which was now just a patch of extravagant flooring in the middle of a vast garden.
“Where to, Mr President?” said the mirror-faced Advisor. “Out to the border? To make sure the violence is still quelled?”
“Perhaps quell it a little further?” said the smiley Advisor.
“To my mother’s house,” said Phil. “We’ll quell the further violence later. I want to let her know about my Presidency in person.”
“How wonderful!” said the mirror-faced Advisor. “A son who is close to his mother.”
“The former President?” said the smiley Advisor. “You never heard about his mother.”
“I never even met her,” said the mirror-faced Advisor, who had actually been very close to the former President’s mother, who would fondly polish his face whenever they met.
“To the home of the Presidential Mother!” shouted the Advisor who was just a mouth and a wig, throwing back his head so energetically that his wig flew off, and he therefore briefly became just a mouth.
Phil’s mother was a series of acute angles in a wheelchair, with areas of scrubbed pink skin and a skeletal grin that looked as if years of hard knocks had stretched it tight who, as Phil and the Advisors stepped into his tiny boyhood home, began pounding the arms of her wheelchair with a balled-up fist.
“Phillie, what are you doing here, babe?” she shouted. “I hope you ain’t here to borrow money. Because I got like zero money. I spent it all on cat food. And then the cat died. So just my luck, now all’s I got to eat is cat food. You keeping your brain on? Because remember that thing that happened? That embarrassing thing? At your school?”
Phil scowled at his mother, remembering the time in highschool when his brain had fallen off during a swim meet and he had run totally out of juice and sunk to the bottom of the pool, after which he had been winched out of the pool and connected to a Farley ReMotivator in front of everybody, including Prudy Vanderwagen, the cheerleader he’d had a crush on. For weeks afterwards Prudy and the other popular kids had mocked him mercilessly, even inventing a dance called the Phil, which involved making an awkward desperate jerky motion with one’s torso, which, apparently, was what he had done while on the Farley ReMotivator.
“Thanks for bringing that up, Mother,” said Phil.
“Why you calling me Mother?” she said. “You always call me Ma. What, are you all of the sudden a big-shot or something?”
“Mother, what do you think of this?” said Phil, bending low to show his mother the Presidential Cravat.
“Very nice,” she said. “You got a scarf.”
“It’s not a scarf,” said Phil. “It’s a cravat. The Presidential Cravat. Do you know who wears the Presidential Cravat, Mother?”
“You do?” she said. “When you wanna look like a goof?”
“The President does,” said Phil.
“So what are you saying, Phillie?” she said. “Are you saying you’re the President?”
“Yes I am,” said Phil proudly.
“Well that don’t surprise me,” she said. “I always knew you was great. When you was little, one day, there you was, sitting there with some mush on a fork, some junk I cooked, I don’t know what it was, and bango, in it went, right in your mouth! That’s when I knew. Them other kids, sure, they ate, they musta ate I guess, but they never ate as great as the way you ate. You ate with pizazz! You ate great. I always told them other moms, my Phillie’s gonna do great things, greater than your brats, and now look at you, you’re President and all. Wow. That is super. So what are you the President of anyway?”
“President of the country,” said Phil.
“President of the whole country?” she shouted. “Phillie, you are kicking my butt, I didn’t even know we had that! Ha ha! Sweet! I guess I done okay! I guess this proves that all them years I thought I was doing so bad I was actually doing so good. Who else we know has done this good? Mrs Bandini’s brats? Mrs Kelly’s stupid son the dentist? We should have a party. I think I got a little cake. Look in the fridge, next to the cat food.”
All this time Phil’s mother had been gradually expanding, so that she now looked something like dozens of coat hangers welded together, if the dozens of coat hangers happened to be smoking a cigarette while wearing a pair of glasses smeared with cat food.
“Jeez, if only Patrice Martinelli was here to see this!” Phil’s mother said. “I would love to bust her chops about this. ÔMy Jeffie is a cop,’ she used to say to me, back when you wasn’t doing so good, ÔMy Kenny’s doing great in retail.’ Doing great in retail! Haw! That ain’t nothing compared with this, right? Eat my dust, right?”
Phil leaned out the window and whispered something to Jimmy and Vance, and soon a frightened-looking Mrs Martinelli came in through the window on the palm of Jimmy’s hand.
“Guess what Phillie is, Patrice?” shouted Phil’s mother.
“What the heck is this, Lydia?” shouted Mrs Martinelli. “I’m in my bra here!”
“He’s President, that’s what!” shouted Phil’s mother. “What do you think of that?”
“Terrific, I’m thrilled,” said Mrs Martinelli. “I’m thrilled in my bra here, in some giant guy’s hand. What’s he President of?”
“The whole country, you doofus!” said Phil’s mother.
“I didn’t even know we had that,” said Mrs Martinelli. “Is that supposed to be like some big thing? Can I go home now?”
“Have some cake first,” said Phil’s mother. “We’re celebrating. It’s a very big thing.”
“It’s a huge thing,” said Phil.
“I just had some cake,” said Mrs Martinelli. “I got a much bigger cake than this at my house. Plus my cake don’t smell like cat food. We’re celebrating too. Jeffie made sergeant and Kenny set a regional sales record.”
“Them things ain’t big,” said Phil’s mother. “Right, Phillie? Compared with being President?”
“Whatever you say, Lydia,” said Mrs Martinelli. “I myself never heard of it. And if I never heard of it I doubt it’s that big of a thing. I wanna go home. Jeffie and Kennie are over.”
“Oh take her home, take her home,” said Phil’s mother.
Jimmy whisked Mrs Martinelli out the window, and Phil’s mother’s tightened up again into a tight little bundle half the size of the original bundle.
“All my life I could never outdo that woman,” the bundle said bitterly. “What good is it having a son who’s President when nobody I know even knows he’s President, and therefore they won’t admit that him being President proves once and for all that I was a better mom than them? I hope you ain’t screwing it up, son. You always was a kid who started out good, then screwed it up.”
Just then, out in the street, someone cleared his throat so loudly that a chunk of cat food dropped off of Phil’s mother’s glasses.
“Ah jeez!” said Phil’s mother. “Them idiots again. Them idiots are out there every night.”
“SUN CONTINUES TO SHINE!” someone shouted from outside.
“STREETS CONTINUE TO RUN RELATIVELY STRAIGHT!” shouted someone else.
“I think that’s maybe why the cat died,” Phil’s mother said. “All that loud talking. Hey shaddap! Shaddap for once!”
“BUG CARRIES BREAD CRUMB!” someone shouted. “OTHER BUGS LOOK ON IN AWED SILENCE!”
“WATER RUNS DOWNHILL TOWARDS SEWER!” someone else shouted.
“AIR CONTINUES TO FLOAT AROUND BEING BREATHED BY MANY!” shouted a third voice.
“Phillie,” said Phil’s mother. “If you’re really President, prove it by getting them jerks to shaddap for once.”
Looking out the window, Phil saw three terrifically handsome, well-groomed, very squat men, with detachable megaphones growing out of their clavicles.
“MAN LOOKS OUT WINDOW AT THREE STRANGERS IN STREET!” shouted the first little man.
“What are you guys doing?” asked Phil.
“MAN ASKS QUESTION, EXPECTS ANSWER!” said the second little man.
“MAJOR MEDIA FIGURES PREPARE TO ANSWER!” said the first man.
“IS THE MEDIA HELD TOO MUCH ACCOUNTABLE?” shouted the third.
“We’re with the media,” said the first man in a normal tone of voice that issued not from the megaphone but from a toothy smile near his rear end.
“MEDIA FIGURE ANSWERS QUESTION IN NORMAL TONE OF VOICE!” shouted the third man.
“Not much happening out here,” said the first man. “So we’re just, ah, practicing.”
“In case something does someday happen,” said the second little man.
“SKY CONTINUES TO REMAIN BLUE AS DAY PROCEEDS!” said the third little man.
“Good one,” said the second.
“I felt that was an important issue,” said the third little man.
“MAJOR MEDIA FIGURE COMPLIMENTED BY SECOND MAJOR MEDIA FIGURE!” said the first little man.
“MAJOR MEDIA FIGURE ANNOUNCES COMPLIMENTING OF MAJOR MEDIA FIGURE BY SECOND MEDIA FIGURE!” shouted the third little man.
“IS THE MEDIA TOO FOCUSED ON THE MEDIA?” shouted the second little man.
“DOG PEES ON SHRUB, LOOKS ASKANCE AT OWN REAR!” shouted the first little man.
“Tell them to shaddap!” said Phil’s mother.
Suddenly Phil had an idea. There was a whole country full of people out there who didn’t know who he was. If Patrice Martinelli didn’t know who he was, how could he expect people in Far East and Far West and Far South and Far North Outer Horner to know who he was? And if the whole country didn’t know who he was, what kind of leader was he being, since what kind of great leader didn’t have a deep impact on every single citizen at every single moment, and how could he expect to have that kind of impact when vast portions of his country had never even heard of him or the wonderful things he was doing?
That was all he wanted, really. That was all, he now realized, he’d ever wanted: For everyone everywhere to know who he was, and to think of fondly him every single minute.
And now finally he was close to realizing his lifelong dream.