Just ordinary people came, the kind you see all the time. Not especially smart or good looking, they came in droves and stood waiting for something to happen. Only nothing happened. No one told them what to do and eventually they drifted away, going back where they came from.
There was nothing you could say about them that would paint a clear picture. Some were fat, some thin, some young, some old. I got the impression they didn’t think they were “special” in any way. They just wanted to show up in case somebody was giving away something for free, or there was a party of some kind going on. Some fun to be had.
Garden-variety people, the kind who don’t make enormous waves as they wade through the waters of life, are still good for something. They form an audience, if not actors. They’re the customer base for business, voters for politicians, what the Germans called the “lumpenproletariat.” Despise them at your own risk.
I am one of them. In fact, I have hopes of being elected their leader, not because of any special qualities I might posses, but rather because I am so hopelessly ordinary. My subjects are made of the same stuff as is their King.
And as a King, I will not have to wait long for a Queen to appear. Ambitious women abound. One will soon sit at my right hand and if, for some reason, I should falter, fail or sicken, she will be the power behind the throne. This is the way it has always been done, and this method has stood the test of time.
But please, don’t tell anyone. Don’t spill the beans. For my plan to be effective, it must remain a secret.
I promise to rule wisely, and fairness will be by motto. Fairness and enlightened self-interest. You will always know why I do what I do, because my motives will be transparent. I’m in it for me. Simple. Obvious. No deception needed.
I was correct, it didn’t take long for my Queen to appear. Her name was Tiffany, and she was enrolled in pre-dental hygiene at our local community college. Her sister Brandi was already a practicing hygienist and encourage her younger sister to take the leap. Their family was as common as families around here get to be. Mom was a licensed practical nurse, and Dad sold used cars. They lived in a new-ish double wide trailer and kept two dogs that barked a lot.
Tiffany latched onto me and wouldn’t let go. When I told her my plans for us, she got “super excited” and started planning our elaborate coronation ceremony. I cautioned her that we had to pretend to be a bit like England, where the royalty part was merely window dressing to a typical democracy, but she didn’t let that slow her down.
Every time I came up with a manifesto or proclamation, she would protest that it was too complicated. We needed to appeal to a third-grade level and this was strictly junior high. We couldn’t expect to garner popular support by going highbrow. I decided to trust her instincts. She and her family had their finger on the pulse of the nation more than I.
The royalty part would make it easier for our subjects to think of us as the mother and father of the nation. From now on Father’s Day would be my birthday, and Mother’s Day, hers. In an ostentatious display of compassion, we would hand out Christmas presents to be poor, presents that were paid for by taxpayers of our nation. In this way, we were inspired by many of the actions of Juan and Eva Peron, of Argentina.
Eventually, a few academic consultants persuaded us to drop the royalty aspect. Prime Minister or President would have to suffice. Titles like “Father and Mother of the Nation” were acceptable, but nothing more royal than that. We were free, of course, to devise our own ceremonies, rituals, ranks and honors. These would ensure loyalty and give the common man and woman something to admire.
Sure enough, we began to feel the first pangs of royal intrigue when her family members wanted to be venerated by royal rank. So we bailed on the royal thing just in time. Instead, we appointed them cabinet members, advisers, ambassadors. Dad became the Minister of Transportation. Brandy, the Minister of Health. The list increased daily.
The nation had not yet confirmed their desire for us to rule, but we could feel it all around us. Oh, it was hard for us to wait for that wave of popular will that would soon propel us into the “Beige Bunker” as we called the cement fortress that had always housed our executive family. We were not impatient, just eager to be of service. We were overwhelmed with patriotic fervor.
There was, however, a dark side to all this. Even though they kept their sentiments secret, there were those who were not on our side. We had enemies. They manipulated the minds of the elite. Even though their writings could not be understood by the common man, they were surprisingly effective in painting a picture of us as ambitious dimwits. The rumors found their way into print and onto social media. They mocked us!
The arrests came like lightning. Suddenly, we were hauled before a court of people we had never seen before and found guilty of sedition. All I remember is the “may God have mercy on your souls” part.
Our country still used the guillotine, and one was assembled in the main square. As the patriarch of our movement, I was to be beheaded last. From my cell I heard the vast crowd roar several times before I was escorted, blinking from the gloom of the Beige Bunker and into the sunlight.
As I stood on the platform where I was read the official charges against me by a hooded man, I glanced down to see the box that would momentarily receive my severed head. There were the heads of my family members staring up at me in wide-eyed disbelief. Brandi’s mouth was open, as if she were trying to say something. Too late, I’m afraid.
I knelt, and accepted my fate with as much dignity as I could muster. For I was a common man surrounded by my peers who had already decided my fate for me. My garden-variety head would soon join the others in that box. I heard crows calling to one another, and in the distance, a lawn mower. Someone was enjoying this autumn morning. I held my breath.