I Quit – Homeless
March 16, 2018
“I quit,” The President said.
“You quit?” The Vice President said.
“I quit,” The President said again.
“You can’t be serious?”
The President, soon to be ex-President, took a bite out of his Big Mac, forcing shredded lettuce to fall from his mouth like beautiful greasy comets, or like small greasy people leaping from the burning building of his hungry mouth.
The President was a large man and chewed accordingly, like an enormous brown planet eating its feelings after discovering it wasn’t a planet anymore. Except this discovery wasn’t made by the greatest scientific minds of America. It was one of self realization, and unfortunately, or so the planet felt, something it should’ve figured out a long time ago, stranding the former planet in a high-level state of quiet despair, wondering what the hell it was if it really wasn’t a planet and, more importantly, what it was going to do with itself.
“Are you gonna finish those?” The President asked with a mouthful of Big Mac as he pointed to The Vice President’s fries.
They were in a McDonald’s. The President loved McDonald’s and made sure he had it at least once a week even though he was currently trying to lose weight.
“You’re joking, right?” The Vice President said.
“No… I really want your fries.”
“Not the fries. I mean about resigning. You’re really resigning?”
The President stared at The Vice President as if he were thinking about his question even though he wasn’t. He was thinking about The Vice President’s French fries.
The President grabbed The Vice President’s fries even though The Vice President didn’t give him the go-ahead. The President just figured, Why not? Might as well do things like grab free fries while he still could because who knew if that sort of thing would still fly when he was no longer Leader of the Free World.
“I miss my Afro. I want it back. I quit,” The President said for the third time, swallowing his Big Mac, then throwing some fries into his mouth.
He watched The Vice President for his reaction to him eating his fries.
He had none.
He was too stunned over The President’s news to react to anything else.
“I can’t believe this… You’re really going to quit?” The Vice President said.
The President took the last sip of his soda. He slurped for more but all he had left was defeated, dying ice. The President waved his empty cup at one of the secret service agents standing nearby. The secret service agent walked over and took the cup from The President.
“Half Dr. Pepper, half Coke?” the secret service agent asked.
The President smiled, said thank you. His smile sent the secret service agent over to the soda fountain. There was a large Spanish family crowding the soda fountain like confused thirsty mice. The secret service agent stood behind them, towering over the family like a bulky but sharply dressed mountain wearing black sunglasses.
“I’m going into the ball pit,” The President said.
“Like hell you are,” The Vice President snapped, grabbing The President’s arm as if he were a little child that he didn’t want walking away from him. “Have you really thought about this? Have you really thought about what you’re doing to your career?”
“Career,” The President said.
“Careeeeeer,” he said again, long and drawn out, then proceeding to repeat the word over and over as if destroying the word and its definition by repeating it until no longer sounded like a word, until it was broken down into something unidentifiable and unusable, something even more worthless than the definition it represented.
“Once I resign you become President,” The President said.
The Vice President let go of The President’s arm and sat back in his booth, easing into it with a stunned but deeply contemplative look on his face.
“Wanna go in the ball pit?” The President asked the Vice President after the secret service agent returned with his half Dr. Pepper, half Coke refill.
“Yeah…” The Vice President responded while nodding softly. “I guess so…”
The President and Vice President sat across from one another in the ball pit of the McDonald’s play zone. They had their backs up against the walls and their arms casually draped over the sides. A little white boy in a Sponge Bob t-shirt was throwing a yellow ball up and down. The secret service agents tried to make the boy leave when The President and Vice President entered the ball pit for security reasons, but The President said it was okay, let the boy stay, he wasn’t hurting anyone, and after they searched the boy for potential weapons (“Is this really necessary?” The President complained) the secret service agents nodded to each other and threw the boy back in the ball pit. The boy didn’t even seem to mind the brief inconvenience and just picked up the yellow ball he now had and began throwing it up and down. As The President sat back and watched him, he felt a smile crawl across his face and took a sip from his soda. He wasn’t supposed to have food or beverage in the ball pit but he was allowed to because he had defeated a woman with a haircut that looked like it was cut by a mop to become President and no one was going to tell him otherwise.
Another secret service agent walked over to the ball pit holding a diamond encrusted golden goblet filled with blood.
“It’s freshly squeezed,” the secret service agent said with a wink and handed the goblet of blood to The Vice President who took it without saying thank you.
The current President watched The soon-to-be President of the United States of America sip from his goblet. He never did like The Vice President much. He found him consistently rude and with little to no no manners. “A person with no manners, that’s just the tip of the selfish iceberg,” The President’s mama always used to say. “Always be wary of people with no manners.” The President knew his mama was right (somehow she always seemed to be), but according to his campaign team The President’s best chances of winning the election were with the current Vice President (“No one will vote for TWO black guys. We need an old white guy in there to balance things out,” they said). So The President shrugged, said it was okay. He wanted to win. Or he guessed he did. But more so out of not wanting to let everyone down who had championed him, who had gotten him this far. They worked hard. Stayed late. Missed weekends with their families. Sometimes when he was out on the campaign trail, the not-yet-President wondered how he’d let it get this far. He really had no idea. It was something, he felt, that he had accidentally tripped and fallen into.
“You ever think of running for President?” The Senator of Colorado asked him one day after a meeting.
“No, never,” the not-yet-President said.
“Well, you should. Everyone really likes you.”
“Yeah. You’re a good guy. And whenever we have these meeting you always bring munchkins from Dunkin Donuts. People really like that. They appreciate that.”
“They like the variety you choose too.”
“Oh. Well, usually it’s the cashier who chooses.”
“Oh…” The Senator of Colorado said, sounding a little let down. “Still though, you let everyone take home the leftovers.”
The not-yet-President nodded. He did let everyone take home the leftover munchkins.
“You should try to run,” The Senator of Colorado said. “I know some people who could help you. Good people. Really smart people.”
“Okay. Sure,” the not-yet-President said, not saying yes because he actually wanted to be but more because he just wanted to go back to his room already. It had been a long day and they had gotten nothing accomplished, and all the not-yet-President wanted was to watch Twin Peaks on his computer and go to sleep. How was he supposed to know that while he was in bed that night watching Kyle MacLachlan and Michael Ontkean trying to solve a murder that the senator from Colorado was making calls. And before the not-yet-President knew it, he had a crack team supporting him. People who told him what to say, what to wear, how to act. People who herded in millions and millions of dollars to fund his campaign. A campaign that might not even win. And all the not-yet-President could think of was back when he was a little boy and his mama would make him something for dinner (fried chicken, pot roast, stew, etc., all of it delicious) but then would only make herself a PB&J sandwich because it was all they could afford and her son’s appetite and health were all that mattered to her.
The President took a long sip of his soda. At the very least, he had made his mama proud by becoming President. Although a large part of him worried how she’d take the news that he was quitting. She chided him once real good when he quit a job as a boy, and that was just delivering papers. Imagine how bad she might chide him for leaving a gig that people called “Leader of the Free World.”
The secret service agent who brought The Vice President his goblet did a cannonball into the ball pit, sending up a huge splash of multicolored balls that snapped The President out of his deep thoughts.
He didn’t take his shoes off… The President thought in regards to the secret service agent who cannonballed into the ball pit. Only the secret service agent’s head emerged from the depths of the ball pit, his eyes peering up over the calm, plastic waters like a crocodile’s.
The Vice President wiped some blood from his upper lip after taking a big swig from his goblet and stared at The President.
“What?” The President asked The Vice President.
“Why?” The Vice President said.
“Why am I doing it?”
The Vice President nodded.
The President formed all of his features and all of the lines on his face into a contemplative expression as if he were thinking good and hard about The Vice President’s question even though he didn’t have to because he already knew the answer to it. Because it was something he had thought about many times before.
“Because I want a challenge,” The President said.
The Vice President laughed.
“What? Being the leader of the free world isn’t enough of a challenge for you?” The Vice President said, beginning to swirl around the blood in his goblet, but not because he believed the swirling enhanced the taste, but doing so pretentiously, like just because it’s something rich, powerful people do.
The President watched him do this.
It made him feel sick.
“Anyone can make change or do what they interpret as good with unlimited power and resources,” The President said.
“So you’re saying the job is easy?”
“What I’m saying is it’s easy to give when you have all the money and, eventually, time in the world. There’s no real sacrifice there. I want to learn to give even when it’s not easy for me. Or opportune. Both money and time. I’ve never done it before. And there are people out there who do it. I know because I’ve seen them. People like my mama. I want to be like those people. I want to be like her. But also like myself again. Because I’m not myself anymore. You need to strip yourself of yourself to become President. You need to be generic in order to appeal to the masses. You need to strip yourself of individuality. You need to make the wrong kind of sacrifice.”
“And I miss my Afro,” he added.
The President took a sip of his soda as punctuation – a big, bold, carbonated period at the end of his sentence.
“So what are you going to do with yourself then? Ya know, if you’re no longer going to be President.”
The President shrugged. He hadn’t thought this far ahead.
“You have no plan?” The Vice President said, sounding highly amused. “What, are you just gonna be some bum?”
The President shrugged.
“I’d rather be a bum than a politician.”
“Is that so?”
The President nodded.
“I’d rather smell like shit than be full of it.”
The smile on the Vice President’s face vanished. He took a sip from his goblet, angrily staring over his cup at The President, and The President wondered if the Vice President had ever been a super villain in a past life. He felt like there was a really good chance he was.
“I had a bicycle route when I was twelve,” The President said, thinking out loud. “Maybe I could get that job back until I figure it out.”
The Vice President stared at The President for a moment. Then that smile returned. That dickhead smile of his. He raised his goblet.
“To your bicycle route,” he said. “And to me – the next President of The United States.”
The Vice President took a swig, toasting to himself.
The President didn’t drink from his soda and toast The Vice President. There wasn’t supposed to be food or beverage in the ball pit so he put his soda down outside it. It was time to make some life changes.
One of the secret service agents tried a slow clap after The Vice President toasted himself but no one else in McDonald’s joined in. Seeing this, and growing embarrassed, the secret service agent quickly abandoned the idea and sank back into the ball pit.
“Take off your shoes,” The President said to the secret service agent who just sank into the ball pit.
The secret service agent made a sad puppy dog face, climbed out of the ball pit and took off his shoes.
His socks had little yellow ducks on them.
The President, Vice President and secret service agents left the McDonald’s and walked into the parking lot.
“Here, hold this,” The Vice President said to a secret service agent, holding out his goblet.
“Refill, sir?” the secret service agent asked as he took the goblet.
The secret service agent walked over to a nondescript black van and The Vice President made sure there were no news cameras around and lit himself a cigarette. The secret service agent slid open the van’s back door. A civilian, sallow and drained-looking, was strapped down to a chair bolted into the van floor. A doctor sat on a stool next to him.
“More?” the doctor asked.
The secret service agent nodded and handed him the goblet. The doctor drew blood from an IV stuck into the civilian’s arm and drained it into the goblet. The man’s pale color made The President feel nauseous. Once the goblet was full, the secret service agent took it and closed the van door. He walked over to The Vice-president and handed him the goblet.
“Freshly squeezed,” the secret service agent said again.
The Vice President took a long happy sip of blood and then took a long drag of his cigarette.
“I can’t believe you’re really giving this all up,” he said to The President with a euphoric smile.
“Are you ready, sirs?” a secret service agent with ketchup on his tie asked.
The Vice President nodded and walked over to the cavalcade of black cars.
“Mr. President?” the secret service agent with the ketchup on his tie said when he saw the president wasn’t moving.
The President paused. His mind looked like it was contemplatively scratching itself.
“Ya know what? I’m good,” The President said.
“Yeah. Think I’m gonna just grab an Uber or a Lyft or something. Ya know, after I figure out how to do it.”
“I don’t think I can allow you to do that, sir.”
“Sure you can. I’m still The Leader of the Free World. I’m still your boss, right?”
The secret service agent nodded.
“So then I order you to let me Uber.”
The secret service agent hesitated.
“You’re really quitting, sir?” he asked.
“I am, Johnson.”
“It’s just that with the black suits and shades and the similarly styled hair you all look alike.”
“It’s fine, sir.”
The President nodded.
“So, where you gonna go?”
The President shrugged.
“I’ll probably go back home for awhile. Live with my mama.”
Now the secret service agent nodded.
“Text me when you get home safe?” he asked.
The President and secret service agent bumped fists and made explosion sounds with their mouths. The secret service began walking towards the cavalcade then stopped and turned.
“You know I can lose my job doing this,” he said.
The President nodded.
“Sorry…” The President said.
The secret service agent half smiled then began walking away.
“Johansson…” The President said.
Johansson stopped, turned and looked at The President.
“You have ketchup on your tie.”
Johansson looked down at his tie.
“So I do… Thank you, sir. Get home safe.”
The secret service agent got in the black car and the cavalcade drove away. And just like that, the no longer-Leader of the Free World was left alone in a McDonald’s parking lot to feel a weight like a grand piano tied to a thousand red balloons lift off his shoulders. The ex-President pulled out his archaic flip phone he always had on him, the phone he refused to get rid of, and, in an equally old fashioned manner, dialed a number he knew by heart.
“Hey, baby,” a sweet sounding voice said on the other side of the line.
“Mama…” The ex-President said.
“Oh no, what’s wrong?” his mama asked, hearing the suspenseful ellipsis in his voice.
“Mama, I quit today.”
“Yeah, Mama. I quit.”
There was a long pause on the other end of the phone.
“Okay,” she said.
“That’s it? …Okay?”
“This is what you want?” she asked.
“Yeah, Mama. This is what I want.”
“And this’ll make you happy?”
The ex-President nodded and, somehow, his mama heard it.
“Then I’m glad you quit, baby.”
“You’re not mad? You’re not disappointed?”
“No, I’m not disappointed.”
“But what about when I quit delivering papers as a kid and you chided me?”
“Boy, I was trying to teach you how to work! How to take care of yourself. How to be a man.”
“Oh…” The ex-President said.
“Yeah… Plus we were poor back then. The extra money really helped.”
They both paused. The ex-President felt relieved.
“I’m growing my Afro back,” he said with a shit-eating grin that he realized he hadn’t worn once on his face since he’d been elected to office.
“Ohhhh, not that damn thing!”
The ex-President laughed.
“Yeah, mama. I’m bringing it back.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Yes, I am.”
“No, baby. Please!”
“I thought you wanted me to be happy?”
“I hate that thing. I hate that damn thing. You look like a clown, child. Like a negro clown!”
The ex-President laughed again. His mama was always able to make him laugh even though she never tried to be funny.
“You know how clowns have them big poofy wigs? That’s what you look like. Oh child…”
The ex-President smiled into the phone.
“You wanna come over for dinner tonight?” she asked.
“Yes, thank you, Mama,” she corrected him. “Boy, what did I tell you about people and manners?”
“Mm hmmm. It’s okay. So yeah… Come on home and I’ll cook you up something nice.”
“Well, I was thinking maybe I could cook you up something nice?”
“What?! You’re gonna cook for me?!”
“Well dear lord now I’ve heard everything.”
The ex-President laughed. His mom was adorable.
“So that’s okay, Mama?”
“That sounds wonderful, baby. I woulda told you to quit President as soon as you started if I knew it meant you cooking for me.”
“I look forward to it, Mama.”
“Me too, baby. Me too… Alright, my stories are coming on.”
“Okay, Mama. Go watch your stories. Love you.”
“I love you too, baby. See you soon.”
They said goodbye and hung up.
The ex-President walked over to the curb and slowly lowered his XXXL-sized ass onto it. He prodded his buzzed hair with his hand and felt a possible bald spot on the top of his head he’d never noticed before.
He wasn’t a young man anymore and wondered if he could still grow an Afro.
He was going to try though, god dammit.
No matter what he was going to try.