“… Not so fast,” Donald Trump said.
“Hmm?” said Mitt Romney. He blinked across the white tablecloth. For a moment, he did not know where he was. Trump’s mushy, wheedling voice had startled him. Pierre’s defiant shout over the creaking of the burning ship receded and was replaced by ambient jazz and the sound of clinking cutlery.
Trump pushed his chair back, and Romney rushed to follow. He wondered whether this was groveling. He was sure Trump would think so. It seemed maybe he would not be secretary of state after all. Well, then, he would go to Utah, and he would run for Senate. He asked to take the rest of his meal in a doggie bag, for Rafalca, even though she was a horse and not a dog. At least he still had his birthday with family to look forward to.
… “He’s here!” they cried. The whole village was in the streets. “He’s here! Pierre Delecto is here! The great daredevil, Pierre Delecto, is in town!” Boys ran along the streets blowing tin whistles. The shopkeepers in their aprons came out to watch Pierre Delecto ride past. “Will he do it?” they called to each other. “Is Pierre Delecto going to do it?” The village held its breath. Pierre rolled up his sleeves and twirled his cape. Then, with his trademark daring, he leaned over a birthday cake and blew out all the candles at once, in a single big breath.
Mitt Romney picked a third candle off his birthday cake and blew it out individually, adding it to the pile of safely extinguished candles. “I think I’m going to run for Senate,” he said.
“That’s going to involve campaigning,” his wife pointed out.
“Oh,” Mitt said. “I guess that’s true. But I like campaigning.”
… The Michigan crowd leaned forward to hear Pierre Delecto speak. “I think,” Pierre Delecto said, with a contemptuous sneer, “some of the trees here are the wrong height.” The crowd gasped. A woman fainted.
“Ah? Oh? Heh,” Mitt Romney said. He drummed his fingers on his senator’s desk and glanced at his iPad, where he saw that someone on Twitter had offered a mild criticism of the president’s agenda. His fingers itched to favorite it. Rain drummed against the window.
… Undaunted by the rain, Pierre Delecto galloped onward, spurring on his steed, Not-Rafalca, whose movements were purely functional and never decorative. A man carrying a lantern waved him on. “Hurry, Pierre, the Republic needs you!” Pierre Delecto tipped his beret and thumped his horse with his baguette to hasten it along. He cantered across a bridge and leaped from the saddle to his waiting iPad, which he used to favorite a mild criticism of the president’s agenda.
Mitt wiped his brow. He hated to watch the news. He wished there was something he could do about the president. Sometimes he felt like a joke.
… The crowd roared. World-renowned comedian Pierre Delecto was at the microphone, and by audience acclaim, he had extended his set from five minutes to 30. “Do you know why they serve eggs Benedict in hubcaps?” Pierre asked. “WHY?” a woman in the audience shouted. “TELL US, PIERRE! YOU’VE GOT TO TELL US!” “Because there’s no place like chrome for the hollandaise!” Pierre cried. The crowd erupted in their usual loud cheers. Pierre Delecto was a very funny man, a man who made jokes and was never the subject of them.
Mitt Romney stood on the Senate floor, wondering whether to vote for Donald Trump’s latest nominee. Sometimes he voted no, but sometimes, on the other hand, he didn’t. It was complicated. Someone had called his approach spineless.
… “Scalpel!” Pierre Delecto called. “Thank heavens you are here, expert surgeon Pierre Delecto, whom we also consider physically compelling, but in a respectful way!” the nurse said. She handed him the scalpel. “Do you think we can save his spine?” the attending physician asked, his voice slightly muffled by his mask. “It was so fortunate that you, French surgeon, role model and spine expert Pierre Delecto, were passing through this hospital.” Pierre made several expert incisions. “Of course I will save his spine!” Pierre Delecto said. “Without a spine, a man is nothing.” The nurse wiped Pierre’s brow, respectfully. “IPad,” he said. Without missing a beat, he typed a response to a tweet that had criticized Mitt Romney’s performance as a senator.
“Do you think the president’s comments asking four members of Congress to ‘go back’ were racist?”
“Eh?” Mitt Romney asked. He blinked at the microphone in front of him. The scalpel was gone. “Ah. Uh. The president fell far short.”
On the Internet, some people said the response was insufficiently courageous.
… “Courage? I’ll show you courage!” Pierre Delecto faced the firing squad with equanimity, stamping on an empty can of seltzer water. “I’ll have you know that I found the president’s remarks deeply troubling.” He picked up the empty can of seltzer and recycled it, then turned, unblinkingly, to face his fate. Undaunted, unbowed, Pierre Delecto to the last.