Amid turbulence and turmoil in Washington, Canadian authors let their imaginations take flight: what would the last days of Donald Trump’s presidency look like? Read more short stories from the Trump’s Final Chapter project here.
The Sun Was Eclipsed; It Was Total.
“As soon as she had recovered her breath a little, she called out to the White King, who was sitting sulkily among the ashes, ‘Mind the volcano!’
‘What volcano?’ said the King, looking up anxiously into the fire, as if he thought that was the most likely place to find one.”
—Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass
“To get technical for a minute: this eclipse is at 28 degrees of Leo, the sign of kings. Trump’s ascendant (or rising sign, the place where his chart begins) is at 29 degrees of Leo. So that’s considered an exact match.”
—Abbey Stone, “Could this month’s ‘Great American Eclipse’ signal Trump’s downfall?” on WellAndGood.com
On the twenty-first day of the eighth month, on the King’s golf course at Mar-a-Lago, a white dimpled sphere crosses the green, its shadow dimming each knife of grass until slotting into the hole, a corona of sun flashing from the white cup as the ball wobbles.
The King tightens his squint.
The sun was eclipsed; drums were beaten & oxen were sacrificed at the temple.
And the Queen in her tower, hovering in plank pose over a kidskin pilates mat, rose-gold medallion weighing down her neck, thinks of her son upstairs, who, ruddy from the bath, slathered with her caviar moisturizer, plays the bedtime game where he tails the butler with his unmanned aerial vehicle and decides whether or not to bomb him.
It was the colour of ink and without light. All the birds flew about in confusion and the various stars were visible.
And in a loft in Brooklyn, the Princess sits with her shaman on an alpaca wool rug. She wears a white linen tunic that her hair vanishes into. The shaman blows smoke over the tea and croons to her. He passes the Princess a gourd cup, which she takes with both hands.
Whenever we want to watch an eclipse of the Sun we set out basins filled with oil or pitch, because the heavy liquid is not easily disturbed and so preserves the images it receives.
The Queen’s medallion indents the pilates mat. She’s from a town known for its underwear factory and salami. And though her parents owned a two-storey house with a polished lawn, her voice betrays the communist apartment block where she went to school, which smelled, in the basement, like turnip peels. So she doesn’t speak on TV too much. But she remembers picking morels with her sister in April and drinking smuggled bottles of Coca-Cola, and watching her babica make dandelion salad. These memories start to blur with new memories, like the time her husband boasted on national television about her incredible lack of cellulite.
A darkness invaded the Sun, which was not totally covered. There were vapours like golden earrings on the left and right and a vapour like a halo completely surrounding it.
The shaman wipes the princess’s mouth with a damp cloth. Between them, an Edo-period Japanese chamber pot is full of sick. Whitewater rapids crash between the Princess’s ears; a numbness envelopes her body with thin cotton; lines interlace above her head to form a canopy of snakes with rainbows trapped in their scales; the great being approaches her mind like God’s hot spitty mouth, then she is the god-snake, vomiting out America; she is the multi-dimensional universe; the god-snake spells words in American sign language with its divinely flickering tongue—and the words are, “tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…” then, “out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow,” then: “it is a tale told by an idiot, full of gently misting rain and placidity.” In this way, he bequeaths the Princess her task.
Very many stars were seen near the Sun; the hearts of many were transfixed, despairing of the light. The Sun, as if it did not exist was entirely concealed; for about half an hour it was like night. The face of the world was sad, terrible, black, wonderful.
With her new task, the Princess joins her father in Mar-a-Lago. The Queen and Prince come too. The staff deliver their libations. The servers circle the table, unfolding napkins, while the Princess licks her champagne popsicle, the King guzzles Diet Coke, the Queen sits before a bottle of imported still water, the Prince sips his Frappuccino.
“Daddy,” says the Princess, when the servers have gone inside. “I think we got this all wrong.”
“What’s that sweetheart? Do you know how many world leaders noticed my fingers today? Four! Shinzō Abe texted and asked if I played piano.”
“It’s about Kim Jong-un,” she says.
“Military solutions are now locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely,” says the King. “Hope Kim Jong-un will find another path!”
“He’s thirty-three, Dad. Do you remember how you were when you were thirty-three?”
“Surrounded by gold and beautiful pieces of ass.”
“I guess what I’m saying is: maybe we should find another path. I had a dream—that instead of fire and fury, we take Kim to the spa. You know the one with Norwegian mist showers, whose spray hangs in the air like particles of sea-breeze before caressing, gently, your whole body?”
“Can you imagine if Kim Jung Un grew up in America? His career would be failing and he would join a street gang. Jail time!”
Then the Queen speaks: “You have been wanting time off, dear.”
And the Prince chimes in between delicate sips of Frappuccino. He has started to comb his hair like the old man and the Florida sun makes it more yellow. “I think what they’re saying is: you’re retired!”
The King squints in contemplation. On the one hand, he could play more golf. On the other, who will make America great again? But if his progeny take over, isn’t that like he’s still the boss? There’s a real argument for hereditary succession of power—Kim Jong-un has that going for him. Stability, for example. And no money wasted on elections! His daughter has the legs for it. She looks good on TV. People would still call him President. That’s the law. If it isn’t the law, he’ll make it the law. Just now he wouldn’t have to go to all those meetings. It’s hard pretending to pay attention all the time.
His daughter speaks again. She settles her long elegant hand over his long elegant hand. “You can rest now, Dad,” she murmurs. “I got this.”
And the country people, tilling, loosed their ploughs. And the Sun was eclipsed, and it was total. Stars were seen. The chickens and ducks all returned to roost.
Eliza Robertson’s debut novel, Demi-Gods, comes out with Hamish Hamilton this fall.