Fiction, Fred West's Shorts, Shorts

Reagan’s Coming

Or:

Collect Calls

of the Nicaraguan Dead

Reagan's Coming

big thanks to my pal Kyle for drawing the above photo of Reagan. they didn’t have to. yeah, I made some threats, and yeah i clambered half dead from a novelty birthday cake on their behalf, but they didn’t have to. i’d have done those things anyway. Kyle is a rad illustrator, hates cops, makes comics, and is just about the finest musician I know. they currently play in the gorgeous All Cats Are Beautiful (ACAB) and previously played in He Was Eaten By Owls.  they wants you to message them asking where the fuck Sunny Browne, their beautiful hand-drawn comic about a non-binary furry detective, is. thanks, Kyle!

They say that in the final years of his presidency, with a very particular form of despondent sadness enveloping him, Ronald Reagan spent his last days in the White House entering any room with a TV and masturbating to the point of climax onto the screen.

Night and day he did the rounds, putting in the work that others wouldn’t. Laying his yoke down for country and flag.

Nancy Reagan, completely at a loss to explain her beloveds sudden change in behaviour, instructed staff to immediately cleanse any surface he had baptised. Each morning they would find CRT-TV’s coated in a translucent membrane of Ronald’s glory cowboy formula. When caught in the act, he’d continue unabashed; eyes empty, rolled upwards.

Reagan, it seems, like all men, had come to believe his semen contained properties of almost supernatural proportions.

Indeed it was said that a screen soaked in the glowing ether of the President would turn white and power down, only to switch back on a minute later. In this new glow, filtered through the spatter of his progeny, voices of all kinds congregated, projected from the speaker hole.

“How dare you remove it – that belongs to your president!” they would shout, “you have no respect for the constitution!”

Some would even turn on Reagan, himself.

“Ronnie, make me a goddamn sandwich right this second, you son of a bitch!”, to which would come the reply:

“Never, Elvis!”

And it’s true that one of the voices was Elvis, or at least an impersonator of some considerable skill.

As such, it was not unusual to see screens also soaked in additional helpings of jam, peanut butter, bacon grease, pig’s blood, syrup, and Dijon mustard.

The White house ground to a standstill. Foreign dignitaries, informed on the front steps that the President wasn’t feeling too well, shook with horror at the twenty-four hour blasts of country and western music played over the voices.

A feral, hot, noisy place, they said. 

A place with every curtain drawn, where they ate bacon night and day.

However, despite this cavalcade of noise, it was the voices of the Nicaraguan dead who rose loudest, steadily at first, and then impossible to ignore.

“Ronald, you killed us,” they would chant without end, the voices of men, women, and children. Voices that scratched the throat. And even when staff worked tirelessly to clean a TV as soon as it had been Reagan’d, thereby dampening its sounds, these last voices were said to linger longer than the rest.

“You killed us dead, dead, dead.”

“No, I didn’t, no I didn’t, no I didn’t!” he would drool, eyeballs rolling.

“Well, honestly you kind of did. Now, where’s that sandwich?” Elvis said.

The Nicaraguans, unabashed, would continue. Reeling off names, birth places, towns in which they’d died. Nobody knew if they even were Nicaraguan.

Nevertheless, the younger generations, along with the many who called multiple points of America home, discovered a way to make collect calls when the viscera was at its hottest, the connection between this world and theirs at its most strong. They’d place pizza orders, deliver devastating mammogram results in high-pitched, cartoonish voices, and chant, “dead, dead, dead!” down the receiver. In this, they discovered ways to bounce the restless energy of their voices around a room, amplifying anything that pulled an electrical charge; refrigerators, walkie talkies, two crackling wires in a faulty fire alarm; anything.

In the final year of his role, it’s said Reagan was at breaking point. He’d lost a third of his weight, and would only speak to people – or voices – in gruff monosyllabic tones.  One morning he argued into the afternoon with a young voice who’d ordered “50,000 dog shit cowboy pizza pies”.

“Ronald, your time is coming. When you leave, when you’re no longer surrounded by this comfort, you’ll wake up each morning with blood on your hands. It’ll stain your sheets, your walls, door handles; everything you touch will be covered in blood. And then you’ll be with us. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead.” 

There was a pause, what sounded like people sniggering in the background, before new voices crowded the line and picked up the chants of before; that endless repeating of names, places, dates; final words, first words, loves lost and found. 

“Dead, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead,” they finished, so forcefully the president shook. 

Reagan, stoic to the very end, saw out his term. It’s said he and Nancy spent their enclosing days watching B-movies in the basement of their ranch home. They didn’t much talk about his previous behaviour or the calls, though he sometimes wondered about both. Mostly he wondered if he’d been pranked by neighbourhood degenerates. The children of political opponents or journalists who’d swiped the number off a Rolodex. It made him shake with fury to imagine inflicting such evil on an old man.

On leaving The White House, he lost his compulsion to ejaculate onto television sets, or indeed, to ejaculate at all. In fact, the thought of his own genitalia would cause him to vomit. He’d try to imagine John Wayne’s bronzed junk – something that had worked before – only to find this made him vomit more. Jack Palance. Clint Eastwood (whom he’d never liked), Gary Cooper striding a white Saddlebred without pants on: nothing, nada. He imagined sliding his head clean into the anus of a dying horse; again, something that had worked before – nothing.

What of the voices?

It is said they all moved on. The Nicaraguans, having overseen a 700% increase in the White House phone bill, look to have shot their load with that last great collect call. It’s as if they murmured, gasped, and drizzled into the ether.

Elvis hung around for a while in the kitchens, gently sobbing on command whenever a person entered. He spoke of  self-doubt: what if he wasn’t The King? What if he was just a guy who’d fallen off a horse? It wasn’t long, however, before business resumed and The King took to berating anyone who so much as resembled Reagan. Yet, with nobody to indulge his habits, and in truth, no way of ever really taking sustenance from here to there, eventually, even he, too, faded to black.

Thereafter, the curtains were pulled open, upholstery replaced, walls repainted. Men and women on lawnmowers with watering cans, baskets holding flowering plants, seeds the colour of glazed raisins, sunset, rode up and down the White House lawns. The smell of freshly cut grass hung in the air as the sky gave way to summer. 

END

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