THIS IS A SHORT STORY ABOUT A DICTATOR AND LOVE THAT DOES NOT BELONG IN THE HUMAN REALM 3.27.17

This story doesn’t make much sense to me either. Good luck. 


3.27.17


 

The sign was blue and it read      SHADOWS

Candles lit the inside of the store, creating shadows from everything, the chairs, various accouterments, the receptionist, everything.

Hello, she said. Can I help you?

I have a meeting with His Supreme Majesty, Chancellor of the World, Protector and Voice of the People, Lenny III.

One moment, she said. Take a seat.

This title, sometimes condensed to HSMCWPVPL3, which itself is perhaps even less convenient than uttering the entire thing, was chosen and legislated by HSMCWPVPL3 himself, twenty-two hours after revealing to the world his miraculous ability.

those opposing him did not believe that he would follow through on his promise to publicly execute anyone caught referring to him by anything other than the full effect of his monumental chosen title, but, as it turned out, he did execute someone, a man named Herb Shep-Lerner, whose occupation it was to ensure the safety of HSMCWPVPL3’s family by arranging his security detail, and who carried out his duties despite vehemently opposing the man ideologically, and, in fact, being repulsed by his appearance. Herb once referred to HSMCWPVPL3 at a dinner party, and, in doing so, left off the “His” in HSMCWPVPL3’s name, right there, to the man’s face, in front of at least 100 or so people. Rumor goes that HSMCWPVPL3, while cutting up his turkey and putting a juicy piece into his mouth, motioned, wordlessly, to one of his other guards, and the guard took the electric carving knife used for the turkey and sawed through Herb’s throat right there at the table, in front of 100 people, with HSMCWPVPL3’s publicity staff recording the entire thing in high-definition, so that they could release it to the media and ensure nothing in the video would be left out, tampered with, or mitigated in any way.

Needless to say, you must refer to him by his full name. I am able to shorten it here because I am sure he will never read this.

I sat in the waiting room for over three hours. More people arrived, and then more and more, until the waiting room was full, exactly 96 people, I counted.

Finally, they called my name. I walked past a door, which led to another door, which led to a long hallway, which had at the end of it a final, red door. The man leading me told me to wait outside the red door, while he knocked three times and walked inside. He returned a few minutes later with a bruise on his face.

His Supreme Majesty, Chancellor of the World, Protector and Voice of the People, Lenny III will see you now, he said. He walked away, back the way we came, crying, I think. I walked in.

Sit, a voice said.

The voice, detached from anything, seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere at once. A fire place dominated the room. About thirty feet high and maybe twice as wide, it was the largest most awe-inspiring and frightening thing I’d ever seen, the fire raging in its belly big enough to swallow a bus whole. I sat.

The room only had one chair (for guests). Red tufted leather with a high, high back. Another of me could sit on my shoulders, and still, my head would not reach the top.

An enormous oak desk was across from me, with, apparently, no one at its helm, as all I could see was the tremendous desk and the high back of a chair, wood and tufted velvet, so high and wide and beautifully crafted, it looked like a panel taken from the wall of an ancient church.

HSMCWPVPL3’s voice echoed through the chamber: What do you need?

A shadow, I said.

Obviously, the voice said. What kind?

I’d like to be tall and athletic, I said.

What else?

I hesitated. Right now was not the best time to let HSMCWPVPL3 know that we went to high school together, but it also was not the worst. What I did next was the most ill conceived decision in the history of modern man

meaning, other terrible, atrocious decision have surely been made, most definitely by our ancestors, who, before the age of common sense, must have tried eating poultry raw or fighting saber-toothed tigers with stones, or using fire as birth control

Lenny, I said. It’s me, Burt.

HSMCWPVPL3 said nothing. He did not move or breathe or even think, it seemed.

It’s me, I said. Burt Holiday.

After waiting twenty-six minutes

give or take. I counted, but I also lost track several times and had to play catch-up-and-slow-down trying to recalibrate myself with true time

he finally turned in that tremendous chair of his and faced me. I’d seen him on television for the past nine years, every day, hours and hours of his face, but seeing him in person somehow eliminated from my mind all those other impressions of him. He now sat before me as Lenny B. Wagmeister, head of ASB and president of our senior class, perhaps the most unintentionally hilarious spirited person in our school’s history. Lenny’s head was about seven times bigger in person than on TV, and his body seemed so disproportionate

small and thin in the limbs, gelatinous and rotund, like a malformed pear, in the body

that I considered briefly the possibility that his head had been transplanted, for whatever reason, onto someone else’s body, who, before they died, had themselves swallowed a human being whole, in the way of anacondas, and the swallowed body had simply never digested.

Lenny stared at me in silent, hateful disgust. But the disgust was also one of reluctant recognition and reluctant mutual respect

at least that’s what I told myself.

I reached into my back pocket and pulled out an envelope, now yellow with age, which had Lenny’s name scrawled on the front with    ♥ ♥    substituting for the N’s. As soon as Lenny saw the letter, something in him changed. It was not outward or obvious. But the energy room changed, like some cosmic wind had suddenly crept through the windows and carried with it intergalactic pollen, which revitalized the room and clarified our senses.

Lenny, refusing to take the letter, decided instead to stare at it without blinking. This was more or less the reaction, or one of the reactions, I’d expected.

I moved houses this year, I said. In case you care, I have a wife and three boys. We moved to Oak Park, nice house near the lake there. Anyway, I was cleaning and consolidating, and I found this, and I just couldn’t get myself to throw it away. I thought you’d want it. So….here.

I left the letter on his desk. He remained silent, either out of tremendous outrage, or, otherwise, an uprising of some feeling lost to him long ago, a mixture of tenderness and nostalgia and, dare I say, love.

With apparently nothing left to say to one another, I stood up to leave. Once I turned my back on him, he said: Did you want your shadow changed?

I don’t care, I said. I put my name on the list because I knew that’s the only way I’d ever get this letter to you.

THE LIST had, at the time I put my name on it, a waiting time of nine years to get a brief consultation with Lenny, so that he could change your shadow. Apparently, now, the queue has stretched to three decades, and counting.

From where I stood I could see, on the wall in front of me, projected by the enormous fireplace, my shadow. As I stared at it it slowly changed, growing taller and more muscular, and then stranger       growing what at first appeared to be wings, but then turned into a cape, and on my head two triangular points rose from the rounded top of my skull–and, hovering around me like a fairy, by no logical law of physics, was the Bat Symbol.

Every year, up until I graduated high school, I dressed up as Batman for Halloween, or, sometimes, even if it wasn’t Halloween, even if it was a normal Tuesday, say, I’d don the cape and mask and go through my day accordingly, accepting whatever praise or ridicule came my way. At the height of our friendship, Lenny dressed up as the Penguin once, and we ate lunch together, our picture finding its way all the way to the seventh page of the LA Times.

I never saw Lenny again. He let me keep my life that day, obviously, as I’m still able to tell you this story, and I’m grateful for that.

He executed a total of 326 people after our meeting, bringing his grand total up to over 10,000, which some pundits aver is not bad, considering how long Lenny had been in rule.

He was assassinated about year after these events. Someone shot him under the chin with a sniper rifle from (purportedly) six miles away, while Lenny was asleep. Though he never thanked me for the letter, I know he appreciated it, because they found it safely and neatly stored inside his bedside drawer, sealed in flame retardant wrap. It was written sophomore year by Laura K., who, at the time, could name every president’s final meal, in order. Why this affected Lenny so deeply, I don’t know. What I do know is that he loved Laura

“I love her more than I love anything. I love her more than I love my leg. Do you understand? If someone put a gun to my head and said, ‘choose either your leg or Laura,’ I would say Laura before he even finished that sentence. If it’s Laura or anything else, always Laura. Do you understand? Does it make sense to you now why I’m so confused and depressed all the time. What am I supposed to do with these feelings. They have no place to go. They don’t belong in the human realm.”

– Lenny B. Wagmeister III, spoken at lunch one day, sophomore year, while dressed in full Penguin costume, about three months before Laura K. committed suicide by overdosing on her mother’s backstock of Ambien.  

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