Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “All that Glitters is Not Gold” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/24/08)
TITLE: Narrative From a Too-Short Bed
By Leigh MacKelvey
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In fact, my decision to accept the Republican nomination for Presidency of these great States was somewhat like a cliché, an easy slide off the tongue or spill off the tip of a pen. You see, my law partner spoke truth when he claimed my ambition was a “little engine that knew no rest.” The Missus, too, set her sights on the sparkles of Pennsylvania Avenue, box seats for the theater, children rolling jacks in the oval office and spinning hoops in the Rose Garden. I confess my suspicion that Mary wanted this run in the White House primarily for the social status it would afford, along with a lessening of scorn piled high by her family for her marriage to a poor man with an ugly face who rode the Illinois circuit of courts for years with little promise of making good for himself. I agreed it would be a feather in my cap. (cliché again … let it be known I never once used a cliché in my Inaugural Address or my speeches, always careful to write my words with no dilution) As Commander in Chief, I desired to build a strong government and to put an end to the inhuman practice of enslaving a race of men with treatment less kind than the beating of a slobbering mule horse. Half slave, half free … this government would not endure permanently. I grasped tightly the power I could not possess as a mere citizen. I began my office, expecting the outcome of a better nation and the following of laud, glory and riches given the man who makes the decisions that protect us all.
And then the war.
Southern states dropped away like grapes falling from a cluster as I took my stand on slavery. We fought hard, the Confederates and Union, fellow countrymen pitted against each other. We raped, murdered and pillaged until we all turned yellow with guttural sickness that clogged the mind as well, made it numb, and sent this President into darkened chambers to suffer migraines and melancholy for weeks on end. The corpses, their flesh turned molten with rot and heavy with rank odor were piled layer upon layer in common graves in wide dead fields, torn bits of both blue and gray cloth looking up at the sky as if they were pleading for the mercy that had already passed over. They reminded of nothing human, except the shudder one feels in the face of misery born of hard decisions. The political cartoons distorting my height, my beard and the grotesqueness of my face worsened my unrest. Captions, too cruel to tell, blamed us for the troubles of war and deplorable condition of homeland and families. Poor Mary was brought to tears, and then angry tantrums. Her southern family called her traitor while the North pointed it’s long cold finger towards “Confederacy spy.” She bore me four children, three who did not live to see adulthood. Little Willie never delighted to romp in the Rose Garden. Alas, she has closets of ball gowns she will never wear to social events at which she is unwelcome.
Last night I awakened from a dream. In my dream future presidents ran cowardly from the bedroom that carries my name, declaring that my ghostly form stood at the end of the great long bed, gazing at them with woeful eyes. I laughed and went back to sleep knowing that once this weary president leaves the earth, he will not come back to spook any living soul.
And now this.
Lain out in a stranger’s room with feet hung over the end of a too short bed, the blood oozes from my body, sacrificial, mirroring the blood that pours out of the nation; my nation, torn apart like the flesh from this bullet hole. I, who desired malice towards none, am rendered lifeless through the malice of one. Mrs. Lincoln is pulled from my body, her hysterical wails echoing the sobbing of a country in need of healing I cannot offer. She has surely lost the rest of her mind, half gone already by this Presidency she so coveted. And I? I await the arms of my Savior with newfound wisdom advising me that His arms carry the only true glory and the laud of high office is as useless as the blowfish I caught and threw back as a boy on the riverbanks of Kentucky.
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