Mike finally does something he's dreamed about for a long time - for What A Character
|Stepping closer to the security checkpoint, Mike Smithson focused on keeping his breathing regular and his expression calm. In all his fifty years of life, he'd never done anything so nerve-wracking. However, if he could sneak past these Secret Service agents, there was a good chance he'd be able to tick the final and most important item off his bucket list.
A bead of sweat ran down his thick neck. He loosened his fancy tie, wishing he could wear jeans and a T-shirt to this evening's reception, but one did not wear casual attire inside the aptly named Presidential Banqueting Suite in the Four Seasons Hotel in Atlantic City. The tuxedo he'd hired for the occasion made him feel uncomfortable, especially in his weakened condition.
“May I see your invitation, sir?” asked a blond man who towered over Mike and looked like he wrestled grizzly bears for fun.
His hand shook as he handed it over. Hopefully, the agent would put his anxiety down to the general excitement associated with meeting the President in the flesh. While that agent checked his invitation against a list, a lady almost as muscular as the man waved a hand-held metal detector around Mike's arms and legs. Fortunately, she didn't pat him down; a search like that might spoil his plans.
As the lady crouched low, Mike spied a standard issue SIG Sauer P229 in her shoulder holster. He'd tried those out at the Atlantic City Gun Club, where he'd been a member for many years. He used to love competing in match shooting at the outdoor range there until his recent poor health had rendered that impossible. Mike had grown pretty good at the sport, though he doubted he'd ever have been able to beat one of these guys in a fair fight. Unfortunately for them, he wasn't planning to fight fair.
He almost chuckled, though that was mostly nerves. His weapon of choice lay nestled safely inside his inner breast pocket. It wasn't composed of substances that set off a metal detector or gained the unwanted interest of sniffer dogs, but it took all his willpower to prevent him checking it. No need to draw attention to the small bulge. Though he'd lost an incredible amount of weight over the past year, he was still flabby enough that one small bump might go unnoticed.
The blond agent retained Mike's invitation and waved him toward the door. His good friend in hospital administration hadn't let him down; the organizers of this event and these special agents believed he was one of the generous benefactors of the Atlantic City Medical Center being feted here tonight. He was in!
Entering through the open double-doors, Mike found himself inside a vast chamber with floor to ceiling mirrors along one wall facing windows almost as tall on the opposite side. Never before had he seen such opulence. This room belonged inside a French chateau. Long tables overflowed with fine china crockery and glittering silverware, but he wasn't interested in sitting and eating. If all went well, he would no longer be around by the time dinner was served.
A line of well-dressed ladies and gentlemen had gathered near a second entrance, which was currently closed. That must be where the President would enter and then shake hands with the powerful and wealthy. He'd met plenty of people like these before, back when he was a croupier at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino. They were the type who dressed like they had money to burn yet never left tips.
He missed his old life—the respect he'd gained from his colleagues for his hard work and dedication. He'd enjoyed chatting with the more gregarious customers and celebrating their wins or commiserating their losses. The pension scheme and medical insurance had been excellent benefits. He'd believed it was a career that offered security because, as everybody in the gambling industry knows, the house always wins. Sadly, the house didn't always win when the CEO of its parent company was Donald Trump. Twenty-six years he'd worked there, since the day the casino first opened, but that life ended when the Trump Taj Mahal was forced into bankruptcy.
Mike wandered over and joined the end of the line of Atlantic City's elite, hoping that nobody would engage him in conversation. If they asked him about his life or career, it would be difficult to explain how a fry cook—his current line of work—somehow made it into this exclusive event.
The distinctive blended floral and citrus scent of Chanel No. 5 wafted from the young lady beside him, who wore a silk dress and pearl necklace. She studiously ignored him with her pug nose in the air. He could kiss her for her indifference. His meds were starting to wear off, and he needed all his concentration to get through the next, most audacious part of his plan.
He flexed his fingers, hoping they wouldn't fail him. Since his cancer got this bad, he'd been having all sorts of unexpected, additional health problems. Typically, his illness was only diagnosed after he lost his employees' health insurance. At the time he hadn't worried too much. His doctor had assured him his tumor was treatable with a simple operation that offered a very high success rate. It was ironic that Mike had voted for Romney in the 2012 election since he was then promised that Obamacare would take care of him.
Then the administration changed. The hospital's bureaucracy became complex and baffling. It took them a long time to secure funding for his treatment, and by then it was too late. He'd missed the window of opportunity, and now he would die. It was almost as if Trump was a demon casting a dark shadow across Mike's entire life.
A hush fell over the crowd. He could even hear shuffling feet as the line-up became more formal. Martial music bared from speakers all around the room—Hail to the Chief. The doors swung open, and a couple secret service agents preceded the President.
Then the iconic figure appeared in the doorway. Resembling some great emperor from a golden age immortalized in oils, he was tall of stature and regal in bearing. On anybody else, orange skin would look cheap. On him, it looked a billion dollars. A phalanx of special agents flanked him like a royal honor guard.
Mike's hand itched to reach for his pocket, but he forced it to remain low and in plain sight. Over the last few months, he'd planned this day in great detail. He'd talked to law enforcement professionals and bodyguards he'd competed against at the gun club. Engaging them in conversation, he'd learned a lot about how these things operate. At least two of the President's flanking guards would be searching the line for suspicious behavior.
Getting caught didn't worry him. The law courts were almost as slow as hospital treatment under the current administration, so he'd be dead long before this came to trial. Hell, getting shot didn't even bother him; it might be a less painful way out.
The President wore his usual forced smile as he shook hands with the mayor, then walked on a few feet to speak with another high-ranking city official. He shared a joke with a man in uniform who displayed more gold on his epaulets than the average jeweler's window. Next, Trump targeted the man standing just to the other side of the lady in a silk dress, mere feet away.
Mike's heart pounded, and his palms grew clammy. At the edge of his vision, press photographers circled like vultures, each hoping to capture a memorable moment for tomorrow's newspapers. He hoped he'd soon give them what they wanted.
The President hovered near the young lady. “My, Mrs. Forbes-Hamilton," he whispered within Mike's hearing. "If I weren't so faithful to my wife, you could tempt me into bed.”
The lady blushed and giggled, though what he'd said about faithfulness was just the latest lie to tumble effortlessly from his deceitful lips. The President's next step brought him within range.
Faking a cough that caused real pain in his fragile rib cage, Mike turned away from his nemesis, reached into his inside pocket, and took out his concealed weapon—an egg. With practiced grace, he flung the egg at the President's forehead. With a satisfying crunch, the missile exploded, and yellow and white goo dribbled down that proud, orange face.
People screamed. Special agents leaped into action. Rough hands grabbed him. A strong arm wrapped around his neck. His legs were kicked from under him, and he landed hard. Half-a-dozen sidearms pointed straight at him.
“Don't move!” screamed a special agent.
As if he could. Blood pooled in his mouth, and he suspected he'd broken some ribs. When the last of the meds left his system, the agony would be intense, but he still laughed as bright flashes from a dozen cameras captured the scene for posterity.
A year of dreaming and six months of careful planning had come to a successful conclusion. The letter he'd left with his lawyer would be released to an eager press, detailing the reasons Mike had committed this crime against the head of state. Tomorrow's newspapers would communicate his feelings and opinions to a curious public. No matter how much pain he was in right now, he was glad to be alive to see this. Tonight, the President really had got egg on his face.
WORD COUNT: 1,580
Plugged in "Short Stories Newsletter (December 6, 2017)"