by Matthew Simmons
Gerald Ford wakes up. He’s the president of his own morning. He opens both his eyes at the same time, like a president does. He is ready.
Gerald Ford wakes up and does one push-up. He takes four deep breaths. He gently slaps his face ten times: both hands, both palms, his cheeks, gets the blood flowing. He cracks his neck and cracks his back.
Gerald Ford opens the window and looks outside. It is spring. It looks like it’s going to be a nice day. He takes one more deep, deep breath, and he smiles.
And from somewhere out in this very nice day, he hears a shout:
“The fuck you pardon Nixon for?” he hears.
“I did it for America,” says Gerald Ford. And he slams shut his window and puts on his clothes.
Gerald Ford makes breakfast for himself. He is the president of his breakfast. He commands the eggs. He commands the toast. He takes responsibility for his coffee. It feels good to have the final word on breakfast.
Gerald Ford has grabbed the paper from the front porch. He snaps it open and spends a moment with his eyes closed enjoying the scent of fresh newsprint. It has a subtle burn.
Gerald Ford likes a morning newspaper.
He skims the articles and he skims the ads. He looks over the opinion page and he reads the comics. (Gerald Ford loves an irascible cartoon dog.) He turns to the Word Jumble, and he fills it out in pencil and there it is. It says:
“The fuck you pardon Nixon for?”
“I did it to keep the country from tearing itself apart,” he says. And he puts the paper down and finishes his coffee.
Gerald Ford takes the bus to work. Imagine that! The president takes the bus to work. What a fine and egalitarian country we live in. What a fine and egalitarian man is Gerald Rudolph Ford.
The bus ride is quiet, and Ford lets an older woman have his seat when the bus fills up. He’s the president of considerate actions. He’s the president of being aware of the trouble some folks have keeping their footing on a moving vehicle. He’s the president of being a good example to the youth.
Ford rides the bus all the way to work, where he sits at a desk and runs the country for us. Runs the country because we asked a friend of his to run it and his friend had an issue and had to step aside and let Ford take over for a while.
As he gets off the bus, he says goodbye to the bus driver (“Thanks. Have a good one.”) and the bus driver says:
“The fuck you pardon Nixon for?”
Ford does not turn around. He hears the bus door close. He says, to no one in particular, “I wanted it all to be over with.”
Gerald Ford has a day running the country like any other. He signs things. He tells people to do things. He tells other people not to do things. He convinces and he threatens. He smiles and he sighs and he snarls.
He is presidential.
And when night falls, Gerald Ford retires to the porch and he looks out to the night and spends an hour with the stars. And realizes that the stars are suns. And that the sun is a star. And that all the black above him is mostly empty and vast and God, it goes on and on and on.
And the night sky does not ask, “The fuck you pardon Nixon for?” of Gerald Ford. But Gerald Ford answers anyway.
“What would you do? There’s so little time. And so much space. And so much forward movement. That’s all. Who’s Nixon, anyway? Really, in the end, who is Nixon, and what is Watergate, and instead of Watergate, what if we all just spend our time waiting for the sun to expand and the planet to be swallowed? Wouldn’t that be better? Wouldn’t we all prefer to watch the sky until the sky is so bright and hot, we burn our eyes, and we burn our skin? Wouldn’t it be better to sit and wait and die? Who’s Nixon?”
Matthew Simmons lives in Seattle. His next book, HAPPY ROCK, will be out in 2013 from Dark Coast Press. More info at happyrockisabook.tumblr.com. Read the next story, JAMES EARL CARTER JR., here.
* thanks to Amber Sparks and Brian Carr for their editorial work on this project.