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A Dictator's Christmas Carol, Part 2

To read Part 1, click here.

The following manuscript was found in a cache of stolen documents, nestled between execution orders and ledgers detailing illegal funds siphoned from international aid programs.

I can always tell when Pauline is distracted. There is no “I love you, Great Leader,” or “What wonderful spread, your Excellency,” and a playful belly-pat afterwards. No, today she morosely smoked a cigarette after I’d climaxed, and was silent, mostly, except to complain about an insufficient number of shoes. Women are a mystery to me too, I freely admit, but then I have the luxury of not having to care. Perhaps she was upset about having to work on Christmas Eve too.

Well, let her be upset, like Bob. In the end what they think doesn’t matter very much.

She sighed loudly. “Are we finished here, Dicky?”


She sighed again. “I mean, Your Grace.”

I thought it best to let that slip go. She was still fine to look at, or rather the curves of her buttocks and large nipples were, and so while I could stare fighting seemed superfluous. Read history, I felt like telling her, and you’ll find that no one is usually more linked to a dictator’s fate than his mistresses -- for better and worse.

That axiom is not mine, though I am credited with it in all the official state history books (you can also find in in the Big Book of State Aphorisms). No, it was my friend Joachim who said it. But he’s no longer my number 2. He’s passed on.

I told Pauline to be on call for New Year’s Eve and slipped on my pants and military tunic. She blew me a kiss and lit another cigarette (they’ll be the death of her, unless I arrange for it first). It was a brisk jog to my armored car from there, then around the block, into a parking garage, in and out of one car, and into another that careened out onto the busy street. A hell of a way to live, I know, but why take a chance?

Besides, Joachim always insisted on these precautions. At first I protested, under the illusion that the people loved their new dictator. Ah, youth! How slim, how strong, how stupid and naive I was! The people? I can still see Joachim laughing. He convinced me otherwise, and ever since I have run the strictest security measures, which of course have been successful. Not one hair on my now pear-shaped body has been harmed.

I’d been thinking about Joachim a good deal lately, and not only because Pauline sparked a memory. As good as Bob is, and that’s very good, he’s nothing like my former number 2 (perhaps that’s because while I appreciate Bob’s competence, he always will be a number 3). But Joachim, there was someone special! Thin! Grim! Dour! Nicotine-stained teeth, lips that never smiled, never parted except to grunt ‘kill him’ now and then. I was the happy smiling face of totalitarianism, he was the unvarnished truth. I certainly would not have come to power as swiftly as I had if he had been absent. He was my factotum for many years, well before Colonel Bob entered the picture.

Now don’t misunderstand me. Joachim doesn’t get all the credit, nor most of it. My enormous success is due almost entirely to my efforts. To get matters straight:

I saw the paper tiger that was my predecessor’s regime! Me!

I recognized his amateurish security apparatus, saw his nonexistent access to secret funds!

I saw that if you could confuse the media, bribe the right folks, pro-actively eliminate the dead-enders, and convince the security chiefs to stand down and look the other way, then you could easily supplant El Jefe and become an almost invincible tyrant (Yes, almost -- I’m no fool, I know I am going to die someday but then, that’s what my son is for. Continuity IS legacy).

In sum ... I had the dream, Joachim helped make it happen.

But I was in a charitable mood as the state limousine eased along the highway, the driver speeding to the private, guarded road that led to my mansion ... it was almost Christmas, after all. As I thought about Joachim, I decided that, if I were to put a number on it, I would say he was responsible for about 1%-2% of my success. Definitely not more than 2%.

The more I considered it the more it seemed about right. Good old Joachim! Damn shame about that heart attack.

Feeling enormously pleased with myself, I leaned back into the plush leather seat and had one of my bodyguards mix a martini. Very dry. Out the window the passing slums never looked as beautiful as they did that Christmas Eve -- beautiful because I received a nice tribute from the tenants in the form of taxes, payoffs, inflated rents ... don’t talk to me about affordable housing, even rat-infested hovels require maintenance costs, etc. ... they blurred by, leaning structures of blasted brick capped by aluminum corrugated roofs, standing but only just, the drafty and overpriced fruit of my public policy imagination, the least I could do for my grateful people ....

Once on the private road, the ride became much smoother. I smiled, taking pride in the smartly constructed drive, flanked here and there by security towers bristling with armed guards and cameras ... no one drives here but me, period. Feeling a little more relaxed, I had another martini, and another. These quiet moments, drunk in the back of car, the soft leather lulling you to sleep, the quiet one-car road arcing ahead of you ... these moments make you feel how wonderful life is ...

The car stopped and my bodyguards exited, scanning the area for threats. They checked shadows, looked behind the gate and under the car like gorillas beating the bush. Standard procedure of my own making, but a little silly at this point. I never saw how anyone could possibly make it by all the checkpoints in one piece.

“That’s ok boys,” I said, stumbling out of the car.

“You all right, boss?”

“Yes, yes, the old legs don’t work as they should when I get a few of these in me,” I said, hoisting a glass like a trophy. “But I can make it from here. As a matter of fact ... take the night off, what the hell!”

The two gorillas looked puzzled, their biceps bulging under dark wool suits. “You mean that, sir?” one of them said.

“Sure do!”

The gorillas smiled ... they slapped each other on the back ... they laughed and shot their silenced guns in the air. All hail Rich Tater! The Tyrant with a Heart of Gold!

I laughed and fell, sitting down hard.

They rushed to my side, picked me up, and asked if I was all right.

I managed to nod before falling again, deep laughs shaking my flab.

They screwed their faces up tight ... they looked at me, not sure how to take my mirth.

“Got you!” I finally said, catching my breath. “Got you got you got you!”

The goons ground their teeth. I cleared my throat, composed myself and brushed the dust off my tunic. The medals shone ... I remembered the day I awarded every one of them.

“Now,” I said in my best tone of command, “escort me to the house, and then disappear. You can monitor me from the security room, but I want to have some privacy.”

They looked at each other, scratching their heads ... they coughed, waited, and waited some more, as if hoping I was once again joking ... but what can you expect from gorillas but grunts?

“Yes guys,” I said, “I was only fucking with you before, but now I am deadly serious. Tonight is definitely a work night.”

They grumbled and clenched their fists, but then in all likelihood remembered who was staring them down ... and calmly led me to my front door.

Where I saw a curious thing.

It was an ornate door, heavy, gold plated, with knockers in the shape of my scowling face (nice and round so can grab them easily). It’s the only place on the house exterior that you can see my face -- unlike the inside, where paintings and lithographs of everyone’s favorite autocrat litter every floor and all 8 bathrooms. I was proud of knocker though, solid gold and a spitting image.

Which was why I gasped when I saw it.

Not gold, not pleasingly porcine ... no.

Tarnished, mottled, brown. A thin pinched face and fleshy flared nose, lips pressed flat, and heavy eyes staring ... a face I knew. Gaunt. Grim. Dour.

But that was impossible. I blinked and rubbed my eyes.

No, it was him. Despite the martinis, I was sure of it.

Joachim’s face. It wasn’t a shadow thrown over the knocker or a wisp of obscuring haze ... it was him, I’d recognize that face anywhere.

I cried out, stepped back into my bodyguards ... “There, there!” ... they steadied me and kept me from falling but when I looked again all I saw was my own smiling face staring back, familiar and rotund ... the phantasm was gone.

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