Each morning the orange menace rises at 4:20, refreshed by his standard seventeen minutes of sleep, and prepares for the day.
His eyes open to the copula and take in the ceiling fresco. Apollo is crossing the sky in his four-horse chariot. The gods are young and beautiful and shimmering white. They turn their gaze to him. The orange menace tosses in his sleep but each day he awakes to a heroic world. “Good morning,” says Apollo. “I have been waiting for you.” The orange menace lifts himself from the goose down pillow and sits on the edge of his bed, puts on slippers. He is on the move.
He spends most of his brief time in the shower attending to his mane, which receives two applications of Kevis 8 shampoo and one of conditioner. He steps out of the shower and enrobes. In forty minutes the air-dried follicles will be soft wisps of cotton candy which he’ll painstakingly compose into the five boroughs of Geld, just as Yasser Arafat spent an hour each morning working his keffiyeh into the outline of his homeland, the historic Palestine.
He spends the meanwhile in the reading room, where Holt the manservant has delivered the morning clippings. Every day the orange menace relishes the looseleaf pile of newspaper articles, each article mentioning him by name. The deeper the pile, the better he feels. Today the pile is very deep indeed.
It’s a good day, thinks the orange menace. He’s looking forward to it.
– “How much?” asks Mr. Crusher.
– “Sixty-two pounds, four ounces,” says Holt. “A record.”
– “Excellent! Enter that number in the book and let’s see how soon we can break it.”
He doesn’t read all the clippings—such a thing would be impossible. He reads only a sampling, drawing the uppermost page.
PRESIDENT-ELECT CRUSHER ENSCONCED IN HIS TOWER DELIBERATES CABINET reads today’s headline.
Ensconced, repeats the orange menace: a tremendous word.
When his hair is dried he returns to the bathroom. He takes the golden comb in hand and sets to work. With his comb and left hand acting as pincers he gently lifts a strand of Manhattan from 5th Ave to the East River and draws it above and across his crown toward Battery Park and then over the waters. He releases the strands and they fall downward across his face to his chin. He lifts again and backcombs. The peninsula folds upon itself creating the forward peak of Staten Island and then doubling back to join the Bronx. The orange menace repeats this deployment strip by strip, like a hair lasagna, a follicular roof of shingle, a tectonic plate of human integument. Eventually Chelsea and the High Line take their shape, and he arrives to the docks on the Hudson River. He pats and picks Staten Island into its forward-focused coastline, tucks Brooklyn and Queens into place, and runs his fingers along the coasts past Central Park towards Harlem. When he is done, he shellacs the rippling mist.
Mr. Crusher armours himself in the ill-fitting dark Brioni suit laid out by his manservant. The cavernous tubes swallow his babyfat legs. His torso disappears into the glistening sheets of jacket. A fierce lump of head atop the bolt of silk, he is ready for battle. He fills his trouser pockets with the lumps of sugar he’ll ingest throughout the day. A creature of obsessive cleanliness, he washes his hands one more time before making the commute—an elevator ride to the 26th floor, below.
The prospective members of his cabinet await him in the boardroom. He wastes no time. He is mid-way to seated at the tablehead when he instructs them to strip down to their skivvies. He makes it clear that this includes Uma Dogbitte, the lone female candidate and Department of Branding Initiatives prospect. “You can keep the bra,” he says, with the flick of a hand. “And the panties, obviously, the panties. If you want.”
The entourage are frozen with incredulity. They look at one another in animal fear.
– “The last fifteen standing will get a cabinet position,” says the orange menace. “I don’t care how you do it.”
He looks at his expensive watch. “Starting now,” he says.
The meaning seeps into them. You can see it happening on their faces. The hue of initial terror fades away and a pastel of resolution pools at the surface of their faces. The stiffness melts away and their breathing changes. They exhale, shake their arms. Each undresses as ordered, slowly at first but then with evident purpose. Denuded, they apprehend one another as strangers. Nudity, as C.S. Lewis writes, emphasizes common humanity and soft-pedals what is individual. Just so, they now assimilate the bare inescapable business of universal human struggle.
At first it’s ridiclous. They slap like children, as if in play. They emit a faint laughter of recognition. This can’t be serious, they think. But the orange menace does not intervene. He knows what is coming, so he waits. At first they glance his way, as if for a signal that the prank is over. They assume he is teaching them a valuable, if bizarre, lesson. Eventually however they abandon this premise and pay no further heed to the presence of Mr. Crusher.
The slaps turn into sloppy quarter-hearted punches. The blows are returned with equal or greater force. They reach the tipping point at which the adrenal gland kicks in. The primitive brain electrifies. The first blow of measured violence is a shock, but the body responds with a priming of chemicals. The desire to kill soon takes over. Their little dance of the neophyte has yielded within mere minutes to an instinctual mayhem, a reptilian hatred nestled in the brainstem, but ready, always ready. The wet and blood-red primates punch and kick at one another, until they are bent and collapsing with exhaustion. It goes on this way for ten, maybe fifteen minutes. They clutch one another like depleted boxers.
“Last one standing,” says Mr. Crusher, emphasizing the final word.
The stronger fold the weaker to the floor, grabbing their shoulders and pushing away the prop of legs with the edge of a foot. Or they push them backward with a perfunctory lack of emotion. Those who remain upright hunch above the defeated, looking to the floor as the sweat drips from their hair.
“I think we have our cabinet,” says the President-elect.