The Full Donald

When Gabrielle Fabraguettes heard that Nathan had dismissed the staff for the evening, she walked to her bedroom, closing the door before putting her face in her hands.  What could be so terrible that he needed to empty the house to tell her?

Gabrielle had sensed this coming for weeks now, like a storm brewing over the horizon. Saw it plain in Nathan’s eyes when he dropped his guard, in his expression when he watched Little Nate, as though just looking at his son hurt him.

Several weeks ago, Nathan told her about his business meeting with Patric Cole, the great white shark of commerce, and how he alone had declined to sing Cole’s anthem. Gabrielle kissed him and said: “You did great, hon, more people should stand up to the crazy bastard. An anthem! I wouldn’t sing the damned thing.”

“Not many can afford to. Stand up to him, I mean.”

“Can we?”

He looked unsure, an expression that sat oddly on his face. Older than her by thirty years, coming up on sixty, Nathan had been diligent about his augmentations. He couldn’t quite pass for twenty, but you had to look hard for signs of his true age.

“Maybe.”

Now she wondered about that vindictive bastard Cole and how it would be if they lost the life that she woke up to every day: the houses, the yacht, the jet. Gabrielle admitted that, while none of it made her happy, the thought of losing it was a deeply unpleasant one. Especially this huge Fifth Avenue apartment.

She wandered into the day room to find her maid Maria changing Little Nate, the huge television on the far wall showing Afternoon with Johnny.

She asked, “What’s Johnny saying today?”

Maria looked up and smiled as Nate put his chubby arms out to be lifted. Gabrielle pulled him aloft, put her nose into his fuzzy hair, and breathed him in. Maria spoke, excited.

“That horrible Denver man got killed. Good riddance. Cole is coming on!”

“Patric Cole? On Afternoon with Johnny?”

Maria nodded, enthusiastic, and Gabrielle turned to the screen.

Johnny, grey-haired and powdered, had his serious reporter face on, standing with a shot of Martin Denver in the background.

Johnny said, “The terrible news today is that my friend and veteran reporter Martin Denver has been killed in a deliberately targeted shooting outside his Manhattan home.”

Maria put in, “Good riddance to bad rubbish.”

Johnny continued: “Martin, who has been a vocal critic of the Re-Map program, started the “End it Now” movement and went so far as to call many of The Changed ‘monsters.’ In recent attacks, Martin singled out Patric Cole, the first to undergo a Re-Map.”

Johnny looked into another camera, shaking his head, still unusually serious. “Although Martin was my friend, I didn’t agree with any of that ballyhoo.”

Now his trademark, lopsided grin. “Which is just as well because guess who’s coming into the studio? The great white shark of global business, Cole himself!”

Maria hopped and clapped as the camera swung round to Cole, black-haired, muscle augmented to the max, smiling serenely as his entourage, in their SS-style uniforms, clapped and whooped.

The camera fixed on Cole, before going split screen to include the studio audience, many of them on their feet, but some resolutely sitting, glaring. Johnny stood to greet his guest, bowing slightly, then joined in enthusiastically as the entourage started singing Cole’s anthem:

“Cole is wonderful,

He’s the best a man can be.

He’s loads better than you

He’s much better than me.”

Most of the audience were singing along, but others remained quiet, arms pointedly folded. The camera quickly focused on a scuffle, a man trying to force another to stand; punches thrown before security descended.

The screen reverted, showing only Cole now, grinning widely as the applause went on. He sat and motioned to Johnny, directing him to his seat as the hubbub subsided.

“Cole! I can’t tell you what an honor it is to have you on our show again.”

“Try.”

Johnny laughed along with everybody else, winking into the camera.

“Well, I’ll give it a go. Having the wealthiest, most important man in the whole world…”

“The history of the world.”

“The history of the world! The best, smartest, strongest, most ruthless ever. I am humbled and grateful.”

Cole, his ever-present smile showing sparkling white teeth, shrugged. “I guess that will do. What do you think of my anthem?”

“What a great idea! More people should have one.”

The smile disappeared as Cole shook his head. “No, they shouldn’t. Not if they know what’s good for them. Only I deserve one.”

“Fair point.”

“I’m thinking what to do about those idiots who don’t sing for me when I come into a room. It’s rude.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it, myself. Can I ask you a question?”

“No, you can’t. I want to talk about Martin Denver.”

Johnny was plainly thrown, but his smile was back in an instant. “Well, ok then. A lot of people suggest—not that I agree with them, not for a minute—that one of The Changed had him assassinated.”

Johnny shook his head at the ridiculousness of it.

Cole grinned. “That’s probably true.”

Johnny couldn’t keep the shock off his face. The audience gasped but Cole’s entourage took that gasp up, bad acting being stunned, hands-on faces, and it turned quickly to laughter and clapping. Johnny shook his head, grinning ruefully at the camera.

“Really?”

“Absolutely. It could have been me. That “End it Now” shit is a real irritation. He called me a sinister aberration, Johnny-boy.”

Maria wasn’t the only one fist pumping, booing.

“So what if I had him killed? Of course, there is no proof. There are over fifty of The Changed now, and it could have been any of us. How stupid can you be, starting a movement against a group of people, who will think nothing of having you killed? Isn’t that really dim, Johnny?”

“It’s not smart, Cole. I can’t deny it.”

“You had a real shit for brains friend, didn’t you?”

“He wasn’t the sharpest.”

Cole smiled serenely. “Dumb as dirt.”

“Yes, well…”

“Say it. And point at your temple. Mocking him, you know? Your dead friend.”

Johnny caught the eye of the camera and shook his head, what can you do? Then he stuck his tongue out the side of his mouth and waved his finger at his temple, “Poor ole’ Marty Denver was dumb as dirt.”

“But, he did have a point about the war in Cambodia.”

For a few seconds, Johnny couldn’t speak. When he did, there was a tremor in his voice:

“Yes?”

“Those…” Cole pulled his eyes slantwise and stuck his teeth out to speak in a mock Asian accent, “…a-ta-ross-it-tees. Sure, I had a hand in it. So what? Are people scared? They should be scared.”

Maria, along with most of the audience, shouted, “Damn right!”

“You’re not worried about the Government?”

Cole’s smile widened. “Hell no. They couldn’t stop me. Look how bad it went for them when they tried to halt the Re-Map program. And what do you think would happen if I ran for office?”

The entourage had their hands out, making a letter L, and shouting: “Landslide, landslide!”

A woman in the audience rose, shouting, “You don’t even know right from wrong!”

Cole answered. “There’s no such thing as right and wrong. Not for me.”

#

As the afternoon gave way to evening, Gabrielle held Maria back to brush her long blonde hair and dress her in a silver-sheened Pietra T and vintage Jimmy Choos which showed off her legs and breasts to best effect. Whatever was coming, she wanted Nathan to remember why they were together. A memory kept resurfacing, though, uncomfortable and difficult to shift; the time she had met Nathan’s second wife. The woman had been the face of Dior back in the thirties, but that old style plastic surgery, Jesus, what a mess. Gabrielle felt sorry for her, till the woman leaned in to say, “You think Nathan loves you, don’t you?”

“I know he does.”

“He gets bored easy, honey. Give me a call in a few years. We can talk about it.”

Maria’s voice brought her back to reality.

“Why you think no women have Re-Map, Mrs. Fabraguettes?”

“There’s not many women with five billion to spare.”

“I guess.”

“But I like to believe it’s more because we are built differently. We choose love over self-gratification.”

Then she caught Maria’s eye in the mirror, the thoughtful expression on her face.

#

Nathan waited for Gabrielle in the Orangery with a martini.

His eyes slid over her in a familiar way as she walked towards him, but this time his glance was slightly different than usual. She had thought through what to say to him if her guess was right and the business had bombed. So long as they had their health, little Nate and maybe a million or two, they could still be happy; Cole be damned.

She decided to get right to it, but he beat her to the punch as he handed her the glass.

“I’ve signed into The Clinic.”

Gabrielle almost dropped the martini but forced herself take a moment. Sip the bloody drink. Think.

“You’re going to be Re-Mapped? Be one of The Changed?”

“Next week.”

“I want a divorce.”

“Naturally.”

She searched his face, feeling dizzy.

“Nathan, what the hell? Have you thought this through?”

“I know what this means, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“You told me that you loved me We love each other, our life!”

He winced.  “We do, but that will stop after I’ve Changed. Gabby, you have to understand…”

Gabrielle surprised herself, slapped his reaching hand away, spilling martini. “I don’t have to understand a damned thing! You selfish bastard!”

“Gabby…”

“Wait! You’re doing this for us, aren’t you? So you can deal with Cole on equal terms. Well, forget that.”

He shook his head. “No. That’s not why anybody gets Changed. We’ve got to own up to the fact that we’re doing it purely and completely for ourselves. Nobody else.”

She threw the glass at him, then threw herself, slapping and kicking. He retreated, warding her blows off as best he could.

Heaving for breath, she stopped and glared at him.

“I thought we were happy!”

“Well…”

“Don’t shit me. You have, especially since Little Nate was born.”

He winced and glanced away, lips compressed. Then he took the expression she thought of as his business face in place, blank and hard.

“I won’t lie. I’ve been as happy as a man could naturally be…”

“Don’t quote the fucking Clinic at me!”

“I’ve been as happy as a man could naturally be, Gabrielle. That means sometimes delighted, sometimes pretty pissed off. If I can insulate myself from self-doubt, guilt, remorse, and be all the way happy, all the time, why wouldn’t I?”

“You complete and utter shit!”

Then she said, “Wait a minute here. A Re-Map, they won’t let on how much it costs but, jeez, who has one?”

He shrugged. “The richest men in the world.”

“Exactly. Out of the top hundred, what, fifty-two or three have Changed?”

“That might be out of date.”

“The point is, you are one rich bastard…”

“Which is why you are with me.”

She paused at that but pressed on. “You are one rich bastard, but you can’t just come up with five billion like that.”

“Actually, I can.”

She took a moment to process what he said. All this time, the conniving little shit had been keeping her in the dark about his finances. Their finances.

“Not after I’ve dragged your wrinkly little ass through court.”

“Our settlement was tied up tight a long time ago. Don’t worry. You are going to be one very wealthy lady.”

“What about Little Nate?”

Again, pain flickered deep in his eyes, quickly suppressed. “A life of privilege.”

“That’s not what I mean! You love him so much.”

His voice sounded tight. “Of course I do, he’s my son.”

“But you won’t, not after, will you? How can you give him up like that?”

She searched his face, hoping for an answer, but he remained distant. She shivered violently. “I have to sit down.”

He glanced at her glass, shattered across the tiles. “Another martini?”

“Brandy.”

Five minutes later, she gulped at her drink and asked: “You’re not worried about ‘End it Now’? There’s new people joining every day.”

“They can do nothing.”

“The Government…”

“We are the Government.”

Gabrielle tried a different tack. “You don’t mind that you’ll be batshit crazy?”

“That’s jealous crap and fake media stuff. My personality will be re-centered.”

“Yea, like fucking Coles. Kevin Van der Beek. Their personalities have been re-centered out towards Saturn or something.”

“You’ve been brainwashed. Coles runs Kinglin perfectly well. It’s the biggest Corporation in the world.”

“Kinglin! Started out as a glorified IT company, now it’s into everything from drugs to regime change. Cole is an utter evil asshole. The most horrible, self-obsessed man you could imagine. Not a friend in the world, nobody can stand to speak to him.”

“He has a great many friends.”

She took another big pull on the brandy, but it didn’t take the edge off as it should. “That lot? Lackeys and hangers-on. Nobody could possibly like the guy. He’s like a nasty, vicious three-year-old with a God complex.”

“People love the guy, even though they know they are beneath his contempt. That’s how humans are made. He’s properly centered within himself, and he’s deeply, deeply content. So is Van der Beek. All of them. Unless I change something will make me unhappy.” He reached out to take her hand, but she snatched it away. “You’ll make me unhappy one day, Gabby.”

“And Little Nate?”

He took a long drink. “Or Little Nate.”

“You won’t be you anymore, Nathan.”

“I absolutely will, only I won’t give a fuck about anything. That includes you.” He straightened, looked right at her, “And Little Nate. I will be happy, all the time.”

“No conscience. No empathy. No love, for God’s sake.”

“Just a damn nuisance, those things.”

“You’re swapping the love for your child for, what, a life of constant self-gratification? It’s so shallow.”

“Love is a biological necessity. The very wealthy, we’ve moved beyond the need for it.”

“Don’t do this, Nathan. Stay with us, me and Nate.”

He shook his head; for the first time, he sounded annoyed. “I’ve made my mind up. You won’t change it.”

She gulped at the brandy again, spilling some.

“How is this going to work? The Change, I mean.” ­

“A week wired up with my head shaved.” He smiled then, a full-on smile, revealing his excitement for the first time and chilling her anew. “I’m going classic, though. Old school.”

She rubbed her face.  “What does that even mean?”

“You pay this much dough; you choose how it works for you. I got them to develop a theme for me.”

He smiled and sat back, pleased with himself.

“I call it the Full Donald.”

Bill Davidson

Bill is a UK-based fantasy and horror short story writer. In the last year, his short stories have been accepted for publication by Storyteller, Dark Lane Books, Under the Bed, Tigershark Publishing, and Storgy Magazine.

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