Thursday, January 12, 2017


March 4, 2018
“Mr. President!”
“This better be important, Brett.”
“It’s Brent, sir. There’s an emergency that requires your presence in the situation room.”
“Let me finish tweeting about CNN’s ratings. SAD!”
“Mr. President, this is urgent!”
“Keep your pants on. I’ll tweet while we walk there. Give me the basics on the way.”
“There’s been a chemical attack. We have reports coast-to-coast of powder falling from the sky.”
“Don’t tell me Vlad is behind this! He’s a great man, he recognizes my genius.”
“We don’t know who is behind it, Mr. President. We also haven’t identified what the substance is, or what effects it could have on our people. We have prepared a statement for you to read in an address to the nation to help calm the people.”
“You know I hate teleprompters, Brett.”
“Yes, sir, but think about how this could improve your popularity.”

March 5, 2018
“Mr. President, you need to return to the situation room.”
“About the powder? If the experts don’t have anything new to say, I don’t need to be there. I’m smart, I don’t need to hear the reruns.”
“Mr. President, the powder continues to fall. We’ve confirmed that this is a worldwide phenomenon, and we still haven’t determined the source. Americans are reporting flu-like symptoms and we’re worried this might be akin to anthrax.”
“Great band, Brandt. ‘Caught in the Moss’ is GREAT.”
“It’s Brent, sir, and it’s ‘Caught in a Mosh.’ We need to discuss nationwide clinics to dispense antibiotics, and determine if we have enough doses for everyone.”
“Let me check which pharmaceutical companies my kids have stock in. We could make millions!”
“Sir, we need to distribute the medication immediately.”
“Fine, we can always bill folks later.”
“That is magnanimous of you, sir.”

April 19, 2018
“Mr. President--”
“Oh, it’s Downer Brad, interrupting my lunch. How are you going to say today that I’m not making the country great?”
“It’s Brent, sir. And we need to talk about how our cleanup efforts are failing.”
“You mean ‘drain the swamp?’ Look, that was just for ratings and poll numbers.”
“Jesus, sir, no! Cleanup of the toxic powder!”
“Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain, Brad. I might have to sit through church again for my base.”
“Sir, you have to hear our toxicologists. We are unable to identify the powder.”
“Speaking of unidentified, is this really chicken? It’s so bland, someone forgot the eleven herbs and spices. I am definitely tweeting the Colonel about this.”
“Sir, the powder is sticking to everything. Buildings, animals, trees. We can’t vacuum it up or dilute it in water. Containment appears impossible and we’re going to have to focus on mitigation of the side effects.”
“Side effects? You mean those silly little sniffles?”
“No, Mr. President. I mean everything from anosmia to renal failure. The health experts--”
“Insomnia? People are having trouble sleeping? Pussies, I get only a few hours a night.”
“No, anosmia. It’s--”
“Anemia? Is that what my wife gets some months when she’s bleeding out her whatever?”
“ANOSMIA, Mr. President. The inability to smell. It’s the most widespread side effect. It may explain why your fried chicken isn’t satisfying. If you can’t smell, you can’t taste much.”
“Hogwash. I have the best nose, a huge nose!”
“No argument here, sir.”

May 30, 2018
“Mr. President--”
“Brock, come here! Tell the chef he’s fired. This taco bowl tastes like ash. If you don’t speak Hispanic, get a translator.”
“It’s Brent, sir. I need you to discuss the possibility of martial law with Congress.”
“Martian law? You mean there really are men on Mars? I knew I’d get to learn all the fun stuff in this job!”
“MARTIAL law. It means that we are facing a rioting population, which somehow didn’t happen when you were elected, but has now that everyone has permanent anosmia as well as ageusia, the loss of taste.”
“Permanently? What does this mean for my restaurants?”
“Finally, I have your attention. The restaurant industry has collapsed. So have the perfume and scented candle companies. But at this point, the economy is the least of our worries.”
“What could be more important? I ran my campaign on bringing back prosperity!”
“That you did, Mr. President. But the soaring death rate has to be our priority.”
“More dead. That’s BAD. Is it the, what was it, kidney trouble?”
“I … I had no idea you listened to me when I said that, Mr. President. I am moved.”
“Truthfully, Brock, I didn’t. The foxy blonde on the cable show told me.”
“Yes, sir, that makes sense. Renal disease is killing plenty of people, but suicides are increasing at a faster rate.”
“LOSERS! Offing themselves because they can’t stuff their mouths with Oreos? Speaking of fatties, what happened to that guy who endorsed me after his own campaign tanked?”
“He was one of the victims, sir. He left behind a note saying, ‘Death by Chocolate did not kill me. Death by Chocolate Now Tastes Like Chalk did.”
“Hah! Tubby finally made a zinger.”
“It’s not just your colleague, Mr. President. Thousands of people of all sizes have ended their lives. It turns out Americans don’t have a love affair with food; they have an abusive codependency. More are dying of food poisoning. They are washing down rotten meat with sour milk; we don’t know if they can’t tell the difference or if the bitterness is the only taste they have left. Nutritionists believe those who aren’t actively ending their lives will end up malnourished and possibly starved to death. We need to restore public confidence. Your tweets and victory rallies aren’t cutting it.”
“We need to bomb whoever did this, Brock!  That will rally the people, getting revenge!”
“Sir, we don’t know who did this, and we’re running out of people who could investigate. The government is running on a skeleton crew, no pun intended.”
“So let’s bomb someone else, someone BAD. They may not have done this, but they’ve done other stuff, and later I’ll blame the intel. If we can’t taste our tacos, then they can’t taste their kimchi or hummus or whatever they eat.”
“Mr. President, your plan is as insipid as your meal.”
“Thank you, Brock, I agree it’s inspired. Get me my nuclear football.”

July 4, 2018
“Mr. President, I need a moment of your time.”
“Brick! Call the nerd squad. I can’t get Twitter working and the television is just static!”
“It’s Brent, sir. That’s because infrastructure has collapsed. Between the suicides, homicides, your indiscriminate bombing and the retaliation, Americans are now fending for themselves in anarchy. Without a system of agriculture, people are hoarding what food they have and stealing what they can from others. To say nothing of the cannibal cults.”
“Carnival cults? People who love state fairs too much?”
“Mr. President, if there were any audiologists left, I would suggest having your hearing checked. People are eating other people. There’s a widespread rumor that you get your sense of taste back by eating a human heart and shouting, ‘It tastes like chicken!’”
“Have you ever wondered what you would taste like with a side of fava beans, Brick?”
“Sir, this is my resignation letter, effective immediately. You may not recognize the signature since my fucking name is Brent.”
“You’re quitting? You coward, running away!”
“Yes, sir. My sister married a Virginia prepper. I’ll trade room and board there for scratch-’n-sniff stickers. Folks consider them holy relics heralding the days when sanity returns with our sense of smell. Goodbye, Mr. President.”

February 13, 2038
“Gramma Brent, what was tasting like?”
“It’s Grandpa Brent, honey, and it’s hard to explain. Imagine you woke up one morning, and the sun was gray. The walls were gray. Your hair was gray. That’s what losing taste was like -- all color drained out of the world, but on your tongue.”
“Your tongue was big enough to hold the whole world?”
“You could have pieces of the world on your tongue, and it was marvelous. Borscht, Vegemite, gojuchang, injera. Paprikash and pierogis. Marsala and masala.”
“Those are funny words, Gramma.”
“Gramps, and yes, they were funny and beautiful. That was back when we had food besides powdered cockroach and bean paste.”
“But we do have other food! You are eating Hot Slurry, and I am eating Crunchy Bits in Cold Liquid! That’s two kinds right there, Gramma!”
“How about calling me Pee-Paw or Pop-Pop? Our meals may have different temperatures and textures, but they are made of the same stuff. In the old days, I would be eating Cream of Wheat, and you would be having some sugary breakfast cereal that I would pretend rotted your teeth. They would taste different even if you crushed and served them at room temperature.”
“That’s silly, Gramma Brent. Why did you old people ruin the world over that?”
“It’s … Shut up and eat your Crunchy Bits.”


p.s. Special thanks to Erin Lynn Jeffreys Hodges whose writing continues to inspire me.

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