by Mark Cugini
They said it had something to do with the currents — charges and electrons moving through overhead wires. Brightness, always brightness: steady white light. Amperes and ions and mediums flowing through the air — no-no, flowing through transmitted overhead wires. Iron ore separators; conductive mediums; movable electric charges. Words that went well over his head.
They said they’d leave if he went all willy-nilly with the switches. They had heard what happened to him in Lincoln, when he flipped one on and something strange jolted through his body. They needed a man who’d protect them, not one who’d install death traps in every room of their home. Even his soft, sweet niece agreed that a good patriarch is a responsible patriarch, and a responsible patriarch would have to be off his chump to risk his family’s life over some queer fad.
They said they’d never respect him. They said he was a man of limited statue, a go-by-the-ground dandy prat that didn’t have the cods to keep a pig, let alone lead a country. Never mind his lack of know-how, or his general inability to put real national priorities over trivial civil rights issues: even his handshake was like that of a wilted petunia. “Kid Gloves,” they called him, and what was worse was that this hobbadehoy was still leaning so heavily on his dead grandfather’s short term.
They said this whole mess was a testament of his legacy. That this whole ordeal was proof that the constituents were right — that he was not fit for this.
But what of the constituents? What of their wars, where brothers fought brothers and women cried by candlelight while their sons were slain in blood-stained trenches? What of these tariffs and national debts, what of these abolitions and antitrust acts? What of the hundreds of Americans that were still licking their wounds? What would happen to his country if he burst into flames?
So he would ignore this gullyfluff and keep the lights on. The constituents — his constituents, his American people, they knew better. Unlike the gas-lit lamps that flicker throughout the district like a swelling nest of fireflies, the White House would be America’s unfaltering flame. He would exalt patriotism; he would be the valiant commander that his country would need, and they — all of them, from the Snow Court alley dwellers to the farmers out past the Potomac and across the flat, flat fields of Saint Joseph’s County — would look out their windows and see his clean, well-lit home as a glowing beacon of hope.
Mark Cugini is from the other side, where other guys don’t walk too much. The Managing Editor of Big Lucks and the director of Narrow House Books, his work has appeared in Fawlt, Everyday Genius, and Petrichor Machine, among others. He curates the Three Tents Reading Series in Washington. DC. Read the next story, WILLIAM McKINLEY, here.
* thanks to Amber Sparks and Brian Carr for their editorial work on this project.