Donald wakes up too early. Feeling confused and disoriented, he looks around the room. His bed has disappeared! He seems to be lying on the floor. Why? he asks himself, how’d I fall off my king-size bed? The floor (uncarpeted??) seems to go on around him forever, sans furniture, sans TVs, sans his solid gold toilet, sans even the doors and windows. It’s all a great big blank. All around him. Where am I? he asks himself.
He had disturbing dreams all night, and not just last night, but for…well, awhile. Since the subpoenas. He keeps seeing big, strong, silent men wearing jackets with initials on the back carrying big boxes out of his various offices. All of them. All over the world. In one repeating dream, a man dropped a box. It fell open, scattering papers filled with names and numbers. The men picked everything up, put the papers back in chronological order, and resealed the box. They kept carrying the boxes out to black vans that didn’t have names painted on them.
Donald looks around again. Where am I? Where are my boys? My girls? My staff? When he tries to stand up and walk, he can’t get his six legs coordinated. Six legs?? What the fu—? Even the horizon is wrong. O.M.G. I’m standing on the wall! He looks around some more and spots the big mirror. It’s hanging not too far away. He untangles his legs and creeps toward the mirror, climbs over the frame, and settles on the glass. How did I do that? Not fall down? Sticky feet? Sticky fingers? He looks into the mirror and sees the image of himself. What’s this? This can’t be— His body is orange, a golden-reddish-orangish orange. He sees huge, whitish wings covering his back. Long feelers instead of eyebrows, and huge black eyes bulging from the sides of his head.*
It’s all fake! A political hack job. They did it all over me! All over my body! He pauses to think for the minute he customarily gives himself for his daily thinking. It’s the Deep State. What did they do to me this time?
And suddenly he hears a knock on the door. Another knock, and the door opens. It’s his counselor, Blondie. “Mr. President, are you up? Ready for your day?” The thin blonde woman steps into the room, carefully closing the door behind her. “Mr. President?” Now it’s her turn to look around the room. “Sir, where are you?”
“I’m over here. On the mirror.”
She looks, she screams, she screams again. “No no no!” Then, “Oh, yes, I SEE. This is an alternative physical manifestation.”
“Yeah. It’s me. I don’t know how it happened, but they finally got me.” Donald decides to appeal to his guardian angel, “Roy Cohn, where are you? Roy Cohn, come to my aid! What’s going on here? How do I get ’em back?” There’s no response from above (or below), but Donald learned his lesson from his mentor: Always attack. “Blondie, calm down,” he says. “We have to handle this.” He walks around on the mirror for several minutes, leaving tiny, sticky footprints, as Blondie keeps screaming. “Shut up,” he yells at her as he opens his wings and flies across the room. He lands on his bedside table and settles next to his smartphone. “Blondie, shut up. Here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna hold a press conference.”
This shuts her up. She can barely remember what a press conference is. “Sir, whatever you say. Uhh, how we gonna do that?”
“I’m a very, very brilliant stable genius and I know how TV works. We’ll stage it in that—whassitsname—that room with the lectern? Where Sarah used to…the…the press room. We’ll set up a screen and project me at my handsome best. After all, we both know I’m the Chosen One. Everybody knows that.” She nods. “And I’ll be behind the screen and I’ll answer the questions. Blondie, honey, you start setting it up. Call Mick. He can set it up. Call Rudy, he can do anything. Call the Failing Media, the Fake Newsers. Get ’em all in the room.”
And factum est: it is done. Fiat lux: the lights in the White House press room are turned on again.
Donald decides to open with a lecture on whatever the current rumor about him is and whatever girl and/or foreign leader he’s been talking to. His denial of any foreign or female entanglement is clear and cogent. But, as usual, when the reporters finally get his attention and begin shouting impertinent questions at him…
CNN: Sir, can you tell us why Miss Blondie was seen coming out of the presidential bedroom before dawn this morning?
Donald: Away, you scullion! You rampallion! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe.**
MSNBC: Sir, I presume you’re aware that we’re looking at a projection. You’re not really here. Where are you? Does your absence have anything to do with the upcoming election?
Donald: O villain! thou wilt be condemned into everlasting redemption for this.
ABC: Sir, our researchers have been looking carefully at your latest dealings with a certain lady. Everyone knows the verifiable facts. Can you or Miss Alternative Facts here comment on the work of the media?
Donald: Marry, sir, they have committed false report; moreover, they have spoken untruths; secondarily, they are slanders; sixth and lastly, they have belied a lady; thirdly, they have verified unjust things; and, to conclude, they are lying knaves.
NYT: Sir, is this your final word?
Donald: Well, for your favour, sir, why, give God thanks, and make no boast of it; and for your writing and reading. Let that appear when there is no need of such vanity.
And so the press conference ends. The screen is taken down. There is nothing behind it except a large bug sitting beside a smartphone on a stool. As the frustrated reporters file out, the bug dives headfirst and lands on a letter on the phone’s keypad. The daily tweeting begins.
*Note: If Donald were familiar with Kafka’s novel Metamorphosis, he’d have recognized himself as a ungeheures Ungeziefer, i.e., “monstrous vermin.” A big bug. But he never reads, of course, so he’s sure the metamorphosis is another democrat conspiracy against him. An ugly trick.
**Note: Donald’s answers are spoken by Dogberry in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Dogberry, Messina’s police constable, is probably the stupidest character Shakespeare created.
Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic. Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations. When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the Neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.
7 thoughts on “Metamorphosis and a Press Conference: A Kafkaesque and Shakespearean Fantasy about an Unreal Individual by Barbara Ardinger”
Ha. Wonderful. Since mid November 2016, I’ve been almost certain that Shakespeare must have petitioned the gods, to be allowed to stage just one more vast masterpiece for their entertainment. Or maybe they commissioned him. Brava, Barbara.
Let us, all divine incarnations, insist it end a comedy; we’ve thoroughly tired of tragedy, and can do better.
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Laughing out loud! Only you would have the wit to put together Kafka, Shakespeare and the Donald whose name starts with the same letter as Dogberry! Brava!
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And when the bug dives headfirst on the phone, this is an allusion to Archy the Cockroach, who was created in the 1920s by columnist Don Marquis. Archy writes Don’s columns by diving headfirst, one letter at a time, on Don’s typewriter keyboard. Actually, though Archy is a lot smarter than Donald.
Archy was smarter than Donald for sure. I would venture to say Mehitabel was, too. And Dogberry had a bigger vocabulary!
Mehitabel was one smart cat. If you watch enough DVD of Much Ado, you see some hilarious portrayals of Dogberry. He’s lots smarter than Donald, but not much more efficient. He does somehow get the villain to confess.
Barbara, I laughed so hard reading this incredible story that the tears are still falling down my face – oh thank you thank you for this wondrous piece of writing that allows me even for a minute to laugh about the horrors we are living through. Bless you!
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Ah, this tickled my funny bone nicely! And I love the reference to Archy…