Bladder must be the size of a fucking dime, he thought. They don't warn you about it. They tell you about the prostate, and making that pilgrimage to Dr. Jellyfinger. But they don't warn you about the plodding regularity of having to piss in Morse code all the fucking time.
Getting up several times a night changed the way he slept. He was a heavy sleeper as a kid, burrowed deep into the gamma-wave movies, waking with only vague but real impressions -- fear, lust, power, violence, success. As he matured and became more accustomed to the many privileges life had in store for him, he slept less and less. The parties never stopped, and even though he never indulged in the booze and drugs, he was always at the center of the action. Keeping score was his drug of choice, and he used money and women and bullshit to move the point counter.
But when you get on the back nine of life, no matter what, you sleep lighter, less involved, less refreshed. What could you do? He took a muscle relaxer to calm his bladder and hoped for the best. Sometimes it worked, usually not. Time was ever shorter, and your body began betraying you, in small ways at first.
He got up to piss one night, in late from the road, from the event. Everybody was in his face over bullshit, twisting his words. They hated winners, feared success, and so they hated him because they knew, deep down inside, that he was more of a winner than they could ever hope to be.
He shambled over to the toilet, glimmering dimly in the light of the half-moon, and began the hourly ritual of squeezing and waiting, dribbling and trickling. Fuck. Stupid dick. Looking down at his pajamas, silk with gold thread, glowing faintly in the moonlight. Initials "RJG" hand-stitched on the left breast pocket, along with the family crest. One of those medieval-style lions, almost in a boxing stance, front paws looking ready to punch, tongue flared.
Two thousand bucks, these pajamas. Custom made. The Sultan of Brunei also had a pair, but not with the crest. Very few people owned or could afford such fine garments. He thought about that as he waited for his bladder's next spasm, and it pleased him momentarily.
All his life, he was a true warrior -- in business, in love, in life. He built grand buildings, loved passionately, made an empire with his bare hands, maybe a little help. Pop had the money and the connections, but who had to make the schmooze calls to Cindy Adams and her doddering husband, sucking up to these fossils just to get a mention on Page Six? Publicity was just as important to building the brand as greasing the palms was. Pop didn't understand that. Once you had the brand, you could charge what you wanted, what the market would bear.
More than once Pop had given him that look, usually over prime rib and a cocktail at Sparks, and grumbled Get your shit together or some shit like that. He tried to tell Pop that he had it all together, that he had an idea, and it was going to work, no doubt, no problem. It was just a matter of time and effort.
He liked walking the construction sites with Pop, talking to the foremen and the workers, putting on a hard hat and doing the job-walk. People would use these buildings for wonderful things, and they would remember who built it for them. Always. These things would outlive us all. We leave our marks and hope that they last.
He missed those days, he thought as he shook the final drops of dew, taking care not to get any on the pajamas. They were a bitch to clean even without pee-stains, between the silk and the gold thread. Gold thread. How the fuck do they do that? Sometimes, if he wasn't sure, he'd pee sitting down. You do what you have to.
His opponent didn't have any clothes with gold threads in the fabric, he was sure of that. She looked like she was trying to be a suburban house grandma or some shit, with her pantsuits and her dyke haircut. He had bedded the finest women in his day, and appreciated beauty when he saw it, disdained the fugly at all costs. She looked like an old woman who thought she was smarter than him.
He knew some smart broads, had hired them over the years. There were two types of women, as far as he was concerned -- the ones who could work just as hard as men, and the ones you wanted to fuck. Any woman who didn't fall into one of those two categories didn't count, and he had never encountered one who fell into both. It was always one or the other. That's just science.
It was unfair of her to say those things about him, to bring up the past, when he was different, younger, bolder, brasher. New Yorkers expected their leaders to be bold and brash, and even without holding office, he was mayor, holding court at 21 or Nobu. The food was shit, and usually he had one of his helpers sneak in some Mickey D's or KFC. He was there to see and be seen.
But she threw all that old outdated shit back in his face, the time he called that pageant chick a fat pig. Whatever. She lost her Wheaties box because she was a fucking porker! Every time you turned she was headed for the nearest food wagon.
Women need to be told what to do, they like it. He had done that fat fucking cow a huge favor, saved her worthless career. I swear to Christ, you give and you give....
Eastern European women were his favorite. They had the eyes of exotic cats, mellifluous accents, and bodies built for fucking. The old days of Cold War Soviet broads, with Brezhnev faces and Edsel bodies, were long gone. These girls were thoroughbreds, knew their place, and were not shy about being up for whatever, if you were a well-respected man about town, a gospodin.
He was going to win, because he was a winner, and because he was right. Everybody said so. Look at the crowds, everywhere he went, inside the arena, outside the arena, never to get in but content to wait out in the rain or the heat, watching on their phones, hoping to hear his voice carry from the PA system out to the parking lot. It was like redneck Woodstock. The smug media faggots and know-it-alls tried to twist it all around, tried to cherry-pick the great things he was telling these good folks.
Up on the stage, winging it from the podium, he felt like a professor, rock star, king, god-emperor, president, all at the same time. He was instructing them, elevating them, showing them a better way that was in them all along, they just needed him to point it out to them. And he showed them who their real enemies were, the scrivening nerds cowering in the pen over there. Can you believe it? Those pasty motherfuckers wouldn't know which end of the cow to milk! Haw haw!
He had never kept a pet, didn't really care for animals. Cats always seemed to be up to something, plotting their next move. Kinda like women, but at least with women you had the chase and maybe the payoff. Dogs were even worse -- noisy, smelly. What kind of animal eats its own shit, or (just as bad) other animals' shit? What the fuck was that?
Some of the people in his inner circle -- he hesitated to call them "friends," he didn't really know people who would fall in that category; there were people he did business with, or needed something from -- had pets. They spent a shit-ton of money on them, cried when they died like they had lost a child. Something about "unconditional love." Since when did anything in life come without conditions, contingencies, negotiations?
But that seemed to be how many of the people in the crowds acted, like he could do something awful, physically harm someone, and they wouldn't question it. They'd still "love" him for it, or in spite of it. It was incomprehensible to him, but he understood its power. He wasn't quite sure what to do with it yet, how to use it to the fullest potential.
These people did not have anything he needed, no money, no favors to trade, no power or advantage to offer. It was a mutual conferral, a bestowment of grace. They didn't worry about what he said, whether it was true or even made logical sense, like the gutless assholes in the press pen kept digging at him with. They seemed content to just listen to him, to crow their approval at key moments.
Sometimes he would repeat some of his more well-known riffs, and they would always say it along with him. That was what rock stars did, didn't they? They'd play their big hit, and hold the microphone out to the crowd for the chorus, let them sing it.
He didn't really know or care whether what he told them was true or not. He wanted it to be true, and sincerely believed that it was. He would build a massive wall. He would bring their jobs back. He would put the rest of the world on notice. People always did what he told them to do. They would do this as well. He didn't need to know the mechanics of it. That was what he paid his lawyers and accountants for. They handled the details, made the shit happen -- no matter how many of his past business ventures went under, they always made sure he got paid. It would work out somehow, they'd figure it out when they got there.
The buzz and energy from those things are addictive, especially when you know there's another, bigger, even more energetic crowd waiting for you at the next stop. Tucson. Kansas City. Jacksonville. They adore him, hang on his every word. Like the Beatles. He never liked the Beatles, though. Bunch of drug-addled limeys singing about who-knows-what-the-fuck.
He didn't really get music, to tell you the truth. Something about it escaped him. It was meaningless background noise for the most part. He only knew if he had heard a song before, or heard of the performer. He had met Sinatra a few times back in the day, nice enough guy. Whenever he went out to Vegas, he'd hang with Wayne Newton. Great guy, might want to slow down on the face work though. Looked like a frightened cat last time he saw Wayne. But he welcomed Wayne's support all the same; he was king of Vegas, and Nevada was a must-win state.
How did it come to this, anyway? That fucker Obama thought he was so funny, didn't he? We'll see who has the last laugh, asshole. No one thought he'd get this far; hell, he didn't really think he'd get this far. But it was just like they say about climbing Everest, or hiking the Appalachian Trail -- it looked impossible at first, and then just started happening, one step at a time.
And here we are.
Someone, probably that smart-guy son-in-law of his, told him a quote from Gandhi: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. Seems like we're balls-deep in Stage Three right now, no? They sure as fuck aren't ignoring or laughing anymore.
He hiked his pajamas back up and shuffled over to the floor-to-ceiling window, overlooking the city. His city. He knew everyone, and everyone either bragged about knowing him, or wished they could. The view was spectacular. He wouldn't admit out loud that the view was better without the towers in the way, but it was.
He scratched his balls absently, standing at the window, and turned to head back to the bed. He had the bed to himself tonight, most nights she stayed in her bed because of his snoring and frequent restroom visits. Once in a while he'd pop a Cialis or maybe even get wood the natural way, and give her a nudge. It was more routine than anything these days, limbic reflex. He thought about jerking off, but it was usually more trouble than it was worth.
Back in the day, between the first two wives, he prided himself on being a notorious swordsman. Everyone knew it. People were talking. Women threw themselves at him. It was in all the papers.
On the rare introspective nights, he'd muse briefly on whether it was the notoriety or the actual swordsmanship that was the greater source of pride. Tough call, that one. Pop never had that kind of success with the ladies, but Pop and Mum were married for sixty-three years. If Pop ever had anything on the side, he kept it pretty quiet. But even Pop would have to admit to being impressed with all those women, all those hot chicks, throwing themselves at him. And I didn't even fuck nearly all the ones I could've, Pop. Maybe half of them. Just the hottest ones. That's how your son rolls. Pop wouldn't have understood. Old school.
And what was there to be embarrassed about in that? Does this old pantsuit dyke with her fucking memorized facts and figures think I'm ashamed of banging those broads? Fuck no. That's my claim to fame, baby. It doesn't even matter if I actually banged 'em all, they think I did. That's why they think I'm Bruce Wayne.
He lay down, waiting briefly to see if his bladder would act up again right away from changing posture from vertical to horizontal, hoping to get back to sleep soon but unsure. Too many thoughts, too many emotions. Who wouldn't be pissed at this lack of respect? Look, lady, when you're a billionaire and have had a hit television show, get back to me. Senator? Big fucking deal -- I donated to your campaign. You're just another politician I rented.
These fucking people. Nothing was ever going to be good enough for them. What did they expect, a walking encyclopedia? Who needs that shit, when you know where to find it, and can rent it? Let the nerds handle the nerd work, let the big dogs eat.
He lay there, looking up at the twenty-foot ceiling, the eight-inch gilt crown molding and the mural in the square, a wolf looking down a hill at a flock of sheep, munching idly, unaware of what was lurking. Sleep seemed as stubborn and elusive as ever, the more he chased it, the more difficult it became. He looked at the grandfather clock, gold inlay in mahogany, very rare and expensive. The time was 2:25.
Everybody thinks there's some scheme, a grand plan hatched in a smoke-filled backroom by a secretive cabal of conspirators. I don't do plans -- I do ideas. An idea, even a bad or mediocre one, has its own volition and momentum. I come up with the idea, and I pay someone else to sketch out the plan. Sometimes they come up with the idea and I just put my name on it. Either way, I get other people to put their money into it. Whether the idea is successful or not I cash in. The difference is that when it's not successful, I cash in a lot sooner, and the investors eat the rest. That's business.
She baited him by bringing up that fat pageant broad. He'd forgotten about her years ago, and she brought it up, rubbed his nose in it. Goddammit. No one does that to me. I'm Ronald Jay Gump! I'm respected around the fucking world! Who cares what that fucking dummy thinks? She's on my pageant show; I'll grab her ass whenever I want, and if it's too thick, I'll goddamned tell her so. She don't like it, she can go back to Juan Valdez' fucking coffee plantation and feed his donkey. I got thirty other dingbats, each one hotter and more desperate than the last, who would blow a filthy hobo just for a shot at this thing.
Score was being kept, and the scoreboard needed to be rectified. He reached over to the nightstand for his phone and turned it on, pulled up Twitter, went to his "@realRonaldGump" account and began jabbing, pausing, jabbing, pausing, thinking and punching the Android screen in a syncopated rhythm. Post after post began cropping up, several minutes apart:
- She thinks she's smart bringing up that tubbelard, but she doesn't know the backstory. Sad!
- If you're going to bring up my treatment of women, don't be surprised if I bring up how you treated the broads your husband fucked back in the day!
- I know a lot more dirt than I'm letting on. She should be careful! All of you should!
- It's unfair that I have to run a conventional campaign, when I am the most unconventional candidate in history! We'll look back at this and wonder!
- Even my 35-year-old sons say how they wish they had my stamina! They want to know my secret! #puppyblood
- My wife says that I have the size and physical prowess of a much younger man. She used our pool boy as a comparison, though I'm not sure why! Strange! #idontswim
- Decided to get waxed before the next debate! Very cleansing! #bigsmoothy
- Thinking about getting the bronzer removed from my penis. Anyone know a good non-toxic thinner?
- I don't know what the president or king of Canada, or whatever his title is, got so upset about. That was my parking spot! Everyone knows this! #fuckyoufrenchie
- Thinking about breaking out some fresh karate moves and new nicknames for the next debate. #bruceleegump #scaryreid
Today and tomorrow blended together in a flurry of sleepless nights and caustic dreams. It was another day, either way, full of adventures to be had, crowds to be wowed, slights to be reacted to, scores to be settled and kept, points to be notched on The Great Scoreboard. They might not know or care, but he knew and cared.
And that was all that mattered.