The end of the year is coming fast, and there are only two more stories to go in this challenge before I begin 2015 – A Year In Editing.
Anyway, please enjoy this story suggested by John Muskett, who also suggested my first tale in this challenge. This week’s brief was: ‘A car crash prevents an important meeting, with terrible repercussions’.
2014 – A Year In Stories
Hail to the Chief
“Mr President Elect, it’s time.”
John Hasagee, who had recently been elected to be the next President of the United States of America, turned to face the secret service agent who had addressed him.
“Are you ready, sir?” the suited-and-sunglassed man asked his soon-to-be Commander in Chief.
“As I’ll ever be,” Hasagee replied. It wasn’t every day you had to psyche yourself up to be inaugurated as President.
“Your car is waiting outside, sir.”
It wasn’t far from the offices he had been waiting in to the Capitol Building, where the swearing in would take place.
A single man, Hasagee would be the first unmarried President in a long time. Instead of the customary attendance of his family, which he didn’t have, he had arranged for special dispensation for his dog, Puggle, to be there by his side during the ceremony.
Despite the short distance to the Capitol, his car got stuck in traffic quickly on leaving the offices.
After fifteen minutes sitting and waiting for the gridlock to clear, Hasagee was becoming nervous. He was not sure if there was precedent, but he suspected it would be frowned upon if he showed up late to his own inauguration.
When another ten minutes had past he had no choice but to order the driver to take a less orthodox route. The man obeyed and mounted the curb, speeding along the sidewalk. Pedestrians scattered to get out of the way until the car swung back on to the street ahead of the traffic.
Still speeding his way down the street, the secret service driver didn’t see the car coming the other way until it was too late.
Vice President Elect Sonia Hutchinson was in a similar bind to her running mate. The traffic in Washington was murder, and she was running late for the ceremony where she would also be sworn in. Her nerves were causing her to bite her nails down to the finger, and she had also ordered her driver to step on it. Unfortunately he stepped on it right in to the nose of the onrushing Presidential Chevrolet.
The crash wasn’t too bad, and both candidates exited their vehicles at the same time, dazed and slightly bruised, but otherwise no more the worse for wear.
“Sonia!” Hasagee called out hyphen he saw who the other party to the accident was. “What a coincidence. I expect we were both having the same idea?”
“Sounds like a good omen for our administration, John,” Sonia said, laughing. “So what do we do now?”
“Well it doesn’t seem as though either of our vehicles is in any state to take us any further. I suppose walking is out of the question?”
“Come on, John, I’m wearing 3 inch stilettos. I don’t care if it’s two miles or two blocks, I’m not walking any further in these things than I have to.”
“We could hail a cab. It’s that or wait for another secret service car, and you know we don’t have time for that. If I don’t show up soon they might inaugurate Puggle instead…”
At the Capitol the Chief Justice of the United States waited anxiously. She tapped her foot impatiently and searched through the myriad pockets of her ceremonial robes for her pocket watch.
Eventually she found it, cursing the ridiculous garb that came with her lofty office. She simply did not know what to do. The press, the members of congress and the senate, and most importantly the American people were waiting for the Presidential inauguration to happen, and it simply wasn’t.
Worst of all she had been stuck with looking after the President elect’s dog. She hated dogs.
The filthy creature sat on a red satin cushion atop a marble pedestal, brought specifically from the Capitol’s furniture store for the occasion.
Chief Justice Gronkowski looked at the beast. He sat there, panting lazily, watching her all the while. She was sure that it knew of her distaste.
The worst thing about having to babysit the thing in the absence of its Presidential owner, was the farts. She had always considered dogs smelly animals, but they had to be feeding this thing something special for it to be making smells like that.
She had risen to the top of her profession, spent years at law school and a respected part of the American justice system, she was the first female Chief Justice in American history and she had been reduced to the role of a bodyguard for a small lump of skin that smelled worse than a poorly curated landfill.
Chief Justice Gronkowski checked her watch again. The President and Vice President elect were now fifteen minutes late, and she was only a couple of farts away from declaring this dog unconstitutional.
“Hey,” the cabbie said as the two politicians climbed in to the car. “Hey, I know you. Aren’t you that guy what just got elected to be President and such?”
“Yeah, that’s me,” Hasagee replied as the car pulled away.
“So where are youse going?”
“Take us to the Capitol Building, please.”
“So hey, are you going to cut my taxes or what? Cause otherwise I ain’t gonna vote for ya.”
“Uh, I don’t think you understand how the election works, I already got in,” Hasagee replied uncertainly.
“Oh well, I didn’t vote for ya…”
“Apparently not. Will you just keep your eyes on the damn road, I’m not paying you for your political opinions. Jesus Christ, watch out!”
“I can’t believe we both forgot the damn inauguration was today,” the Speaker of the House said to the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
“My wife’s birthday is around now. I always get these two dates mixed up. You wouldn’t believe the flack I got for telling her I had to go inaugurate the president on on her birthday this year.”
“Driver, can you hurry up please? We’re running very late here.”
“Yes sir,” the driver said turning to face his passengers. Unfortunately, as he turned around he completely failed to spot the taxi that was heading straight towards them.
The resulting explosion could be heard all the way at the Capitol. The fireball ignited all the cars at the intersection.
“What on earth was that?” the Chief Justice asked. “Is there a terrorist attack?”
“No ma’am,” one of the nearby secret service agents said. “I’m getting reports over the radio of a huge car accident at 1st and D. I…ma’am I’m hearing that it was involving cars carrying the President elect, the Vice President elect, the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.”
“Oh god,” the Chief Justice said. “Oh god no…”
“What is it ma’am?” the agent asked.
“We have no President of the United States of America.”
“I don’t understand,” Harry Thompson, the current President said. “How can we have no President?”
“Mr President you have reached the end of your two term limit, we can’t ask you to swear in again. In the event of an inability to swear in the new President. The line of succession suggests that the next three eligible persons are the others that perished in the crash.”
“Ok, well who is next?”
“That’s the problem, no one. It would be the cabinet ministers, and since you have have dissolved your cabinet and the new one has yet to be appointed there is literally no one in the Presidential line of succession.”
“What about the losing candidate?”
“He was not given a mandate, and is therefore not eligible.”
“What about yourself?”
“You can’t be Chief Justice AND President, that would be a conflict in the branches of government. If I resigned my position there would be no Chief Justice to inaugurate me because the President has to nominate the next incumbent. No president, no nomination, no inauguration, no president. It’s a catch 22.”
“There must be something we can do…”
At that moment, the Chief Justice’s head legal clerk came running in, out of breath.
“I’ve found it!” she declared, in between gulps of air.
“Found what?” President Thompson asked.
“The constitutional procedure for election to the Presidency in the absence of the normal line of succession.”
“Well what does it say?” the Chief Justice urged.
“You’re not going to like it, ma’am…”
“Just spit it out.”
“It says that in the case that no member of the traditional line of succession is available that the Presidency falls to the President elect’s closest living relative.”
“But Hasagee doesn’t have any living relatives…” Gronkowski observed.
“Yes ma’am he does. Ever since that bill passed that allowed pets to be included as benefactors in wills it has been proven in legal precedent that animals are legally considered family members.”
“Are you telling me that…surely not. Please God no. I am not inaugurating a dog as the President of the United States of America. There must be something in the constitution…”
“Unfortunately not, ma’am. The constitution states only that a candidate be a natural born US citizen, which it is, 35 years or older, which it is in dog years, and resident here for 14 years, and again, dog years. Im afraid that legally there is no recourse other than to swear in Puggle the dog as the next President.”
The three turned to look at the dog, who was sound asleep on his cushion. He let out a snort in his sleep.
“Yes…” the Chief Justice said, fighting hard against the idea of simply resigning her post there and then. “Whatever you say, Mr President…”
Before I post this story below I would just like to note that the pug in the story is inspired by one I was fortunate to meet in Green Park earlier today. So, if by some extremely weird and unlikely coincidence you are reading this, owners of Olive the Pug, thanks for letting me say hi to your gorgeous dog.
Also, the real Olive was quite young, and as far as I’m aware has no odour issues.
Anyway, this week’s suggestion was from London NaNoer, Ben Lovejoy, and is thus: ‘A mistake. A failed attempt to correct. And a truly wonderful result.‘
2014 – A Year In Stories
Welcome to the Family
Sally rang the buzzer on the wall outside of the office of the animal rescue centre. The day had finally arrived, and she was here to pick up her new dog, Benji.
Benji was a Dalmatian who had been found in an alleyway behind the local Tesco. The centre estimated that he was only about a year old, and that he had likely been abandoned as a puppy when the owners couldn’t sell him for one reason or another.
Sally and the whole family had met him twice now, and her two little girls, whose idea it was to even get a dog in the first place, were head over heals for him.
It was sweet, in a way. Neither her or her partner, Rowena, particularly cared for dogs, but the girls had been so insistent that in the end they had both caved. They had made it very clear, using their very stern parent voices, that the dogs would be the girls responsibility, and walls and feeding would be up to them. Sally wondered how long it would last. Rowena had bet a steak dinner that it would be a fortnight.
Still, the two’s hearts of ice had melted somewhat when they first laid eyes upon Benji, and they had both grown secretly quite fond of the pooch on their second visit.
It felt like an age, but eventually Mrs Wilson, one of the volunteers who worked at the centre, buzzed her in. Mrs Wilson was a kind hearted old lady who had devoted her life to the care of animals since her husband had passed on. She was sweet, and obviously very dedicated to her role, but Sally wished she wouldn’t go on about her dogs so much.
Sally trudged up the two flights of stairs to the office. Rowena was at work and the girls were at school, so it had been left up to her to complete all the necessary paperwork – on her day off no less.
She wanted to be mad at the dog for taking up her time already, but then she pictured Benji’s face, cocked inquisitively, an expectant look in his eyes and his tail wagging fiercely, and she simply couldn’t. The damn dog had bewitched her already.
Mrs Wilson brought her a cup of tea and some biscuits as she sat down to iron the last details out.
Ten minutes later everything was considered shipshape, and Sally was led through the warrenlike building down to the ground floor where the kennels were located.
Simon, another one of the volunteers, led her through the kennels until they reached Benji’s cage. Benji was waiting with his head cocked as usual. Sally was beginning to think it might be his signature look.
“We’ll be sad to see Benji go,” Simon said to her. “He’s got a grin that lights up any room he’s in.”
Benji barked, and simon ruffled the fur on his head.
“Of course, we’re always happy to see any of our charges move on to a loving home. Come on, boy. One last kiss for uncle Simon?”
On cue Benji leaped up as Simon bent down and licked his face.
“It’s always hard to say goodbye,” Simon said.
“I understand,” Sally replied. “I hope that he’ll be as nice with us as he is with you.”
“I have no doubt.”
Simon helped her out to the car with Benji and all the accoutrements she had needed to purchase from the centre’s shop. Just as they were loading all of the items in to the boot a cacophony of barking erupted from the kennels.
“I’ll be right back,” said Simon, “I just have to go deal with that.” He ran off in the direction of the kennels.
At that moment Sally’s phone rang. She stepped away from the car to answer it. There was no sound for ten seconds and then an automated message began to play.
“Have you taken out a loan or credit car…”
That was as far as it got before Sally angrily hit the end call button.
Simon re-emerged from the kennels and between them they put the last of the things in to the boot. Sally drove off with Benji tied to the front passenger sets, fully alert as ever. Simon and Mrs Wilson waved them off.
Twenty minutes later Sally heard the crunch of gravel as she pulled in to the driveway. She parked her car, making sure to leave enough room for Rowena, and started to unload all of the dog’s possessions from the back seat and boot.
As she came to a pile of old blankets that her sister had donated for the doggy bed, she hesitated. She could have sworn that the pile moved as she approached it. She moved her hand closer again, and a loud sneezing noise greeted her from the pile.
Sally was no expert but she was pretty certain that blankets weren’t predisposed to sneezing, so she approached carefully and lifted up a fold to be greeted by a pair of sad brown eyes. The eyes sneezed for a second time.
Sally threw off the top layer of blankets and in doing so revealed the rest of the creature that was hiding underneath. It was a black pug; an old looking thing that was panting as if it was sitting on the surface of the sun. It snorted indignantly at her and then let off a fart that, though silent, delivered the most almighty stench it was ever Sally’s misfortune to smell.
“What the hell are you doing in there?” she asked the creature whilst holding her nose. It merely sneezed again in response. “Let me have a look.”
With her free hand she found its collar. “Olive,” she read from the tag. “Olive the pug.”
Following the collar around she found a lead, or rather the remains of one, still attached. It looked as though the lead that Olive had been on had snapped. The old girl must have sneaked in to the back of the car whilst Sally had been answering the phone.
There was only one thing for it, she would have to go back. She finished unloading the remaining goods in to the house and shut Benji in the back garden in order to give him a chance to get used to his new surroundings. As she went to leave Benji trotted over to the gate and gave Olive a big lick on the face. He started to whine as Sally tied the pug to the front seat.
“It’s ok, Benji,” Sally cooed. “I’ve just got to take this little lady back home.”
This did not have the desired effect and Benji’s whine became a howl as Sally drove off. What would the neighbours think?
Back at the centre she hopped out, and with Olive in two made her way up to the office to explain the situation.
“Oh I’m so glad she’s ok,” Mrs Wilson said as they sat over the desk, with Olive snorting away to herself in the corner. “We were worried that she might have run out on to the main road or something. She doesn’t look like much, the old girl, but when she gets loose she goes tearing off before you have a chance to stop her.”
“I think she probably jumped up in to the blankets because they were warm,” Sally said. “Anyway, now that she’s back safe and sound I’ll be off.”
“It’s a shame really,” Mrs Wilson said as Sally was putting her coat on.
“A shame? Why?”
“I suppose it wouldn’t really have made much difference if she had made it out on to the road. She doesn’t have much time left anyway.”
“What do you mean?” Sally asked, her arm frozen halfway inside the sleeve of her jacket.
“Well the poor old girl has been with us for 3 months now. Couldn’t find a home for her. She’s old, well over ten years old. Came in after her elderly owner couldn’t take care of her anymore. Got lots of problems too. Allergic to basically everything and has a rather nasty gastrointestinal problem.”
“Yes,” Sally said. “I’ve encountered the latter already.”
“After three months, if we can’t find a place for them, we have to put them down to free up the space. It’s the kindest thing, especially for the older ones like her. It’s no life, living in a cage, you know?”
Sally looked at Mrs Wilson, who was shaking her head sadly, then at Olive, who had falling asleep flat on her back and was snoring gently, then back at Mrs Wilson.
Half an hour later Sally was back in the car, having finished loading up the second set of doggy supplies she had purchased that day. As she prepared to drive off from the rescue centre she turned and looked at the dog sat on the front passenger seat.
“Now if any of your brothers and sisters are hiding out in the boot of the car I want you to tell me right now,” she said. I can’t afford a third trip back here today. The first two have been costly enough.”
The dog looked back at her and snorted loudly by way of reply.
“If I find out you’re lying to me…” Sally said as she pulled out on to the street, then immediately rolled down the window as Olive let off another one.
Sally stood at the door of the house as Rowena and the girls came up the path.
“Can we see Benji?!” Freya, the elder of the two girls asked excitedly.
“Come on mummy, can we?” Bethany, the younger, asked.
“Of course you can,” Sally smiled as Rowena gave her a peck on the cheek. “But first of all I’ve got a bit of a surprise for you…”
“Oh, what surprise would that be?” Rowena asked, folding her arms and raising an eyebrow.
Sally reached behind the open front door, and picked up a snorting, sneezing and farting Olive.
“Surprise!” she said, as the girl’s mouths dropped.
Benji came over and gave Olive a friendly lick.
“Now before you say anything,” Sally said to Rowena, “let me explain…”