“The Trump Wedding” – Fiction by E.L. Siegelstein

The grand finale of our Winter 2019 issue— and of FLAPPERHOUSE’s five-year run– is E.L. Siegelstein‘s sharply satirical short story “The Trump Wedding.”

{ X }

THE CADILLAC SHOT DOWN THE HIGHWAY at a casual 90, an American-made fiberglass comet with a diesel-exhaust tail. Inside, Craig shut all the window shades, locking the world outside, and opened the nip bottle of Old Forester he had stashed in his jacket pocket on his way out of the office.

“Play white noise,” he told the A.I., and he closed his eyes and drank and thought about nothing at all for twenty minutes while the car took care of all the driving itself. It was Craig’s me-time, all he ever really got, and he enjoyed it thoroughly.

He must have dozed off, because he awoke with a start when the A.I. announced in its pleasant, servile voice, “You’ve arrived. Welcome home, Craig.”

The house was a late-model Neo-Deco demimanse, so-called because “mini-mansion” sounded tacky. It had more rooms than they really had any use for, some of which Craig never entered at all. Keeping it clean and climate-controlled was a bigger expense than Craig could realistically afford. Entering from the garage, he walked right into the back of another one.

“Excuse me, Doug,” Craig said to the cameraman his wife paid to give her streaming channel a more professional appearance.

“Please ignore me,” said Doug. He was a slight, sturdy man with dark hair and precision-sculpted stubble, and the build of someone who didn’t have time to go to a gym, but instead actually lifted and carried heavy items on a daily basis. His store-brand deodorant did a middling job masking the tang of a man whose very survival depended on the timely arrival of his next paycheck. Craig felt sorry for him, even as he resented Doug’s presence in his house.

Craig’s wife, Rayliee, and teenaged daughter, Rutherford, were tearfully embracing. Their resemblance was striking, a pair of slender, perfectly-coiffed, camera-ready blondes. Rayliee liked to say that they were often mistaken for sisters, though Craig knew that never actually happened.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, taking off his gun and dropping it in the bowl by the door.

Rayliee dabbed the tears from her eyes with a silk designer handkerchief. “Ruthie’s fashion line was bought,” she said. “By Target!”

“Oh,” said Craig. “Congratulations, that’s wonderful.”

Rutherford burst into tears anew. “You don’t know anything!” she screamed as she stomped out of the room.

“Jesus Christ, Craig,” Rayliee said.

“What?”

“Target? Who the fuck shops at Target? Nobodies. Fucking middie’s wives and… and… working women! It would have been better if no one bought her line at all, at least then she could spin that she’s ahead of her time, and she’d still have some cachet. But Target? That’s like, ‘Congratulations, you did it, and you’re mediocre. Just like your…’”

Rayliee stopped herself.

“Just like her what?”

Craig could see Doug in his peripheral vision, getting a closeup.

“Never mind,” Rayliee said. “So, did we get our invite yet?”

Craig froze. He could tell this was something important to his wife, but he had no idea what the hell she was talking about.

“Craig?” Rayliee demanded. “Earth to Craig? Are you having a stroke or something?”

“No, no,” Craig said. “Our invite to what?”

“The wedding, Craig.”

“Whose wedding?”

Rayliee exploded. “Jesus fucking shit, Craig, are you stoned? Or did you just hit your head really hard? The Trump wedding, Craig, the Trump wedding.”

It was the biggest event in the world. The biggest, glitziest, most fabulous, most expensive, most historic wedding in the history of human civilization. Everybody who was anybody was going, plus another thousand wannabes and climbers. It was all the Twittersphere could talk about. It was all the real Fox media wanted to talk about. It was all the lamestream media was allowed to talk about.

“Right, right,” Craig said. “I didn’t realize you wanted to go to that. Which one is getting married again?”

Rayliee’s eyes went wide. “Are you kidding me?”

Doug’s camera swung around, from Rayliee’s face to Craig’s.

Craig smiled. “Yes, of course that was a joke. Ha-ha!”

Rayliee stared at him, lips sealed, eyebrows raised in threatening challenge, calling his bluff.

“It’s Yuri?” Craig guessed.

“Andrei, you doofus, Andrei,” she said. “To Meegan White, who you may recognize as both the heir to the Remington fortune, Miss U.S.A., and the winner of a little show you might have heard of called Mrs. Trump? In case you missed it, it was the highest rated reality competition series of all time? We fucking watched it together, Craig.”

Tuning out whatever his wife was watching was one of the few things, Craig believed, that he was truly great at. Tonight, it seemed to be his downfall.

“Sure, sure, sure sure sure,” he said. “And Andrei is… sixth in line to The Donald?”

“Fourth!” Rayliee screamed, voice cracking. “We don’t have an invite, do we? Oh, you little bitch. Daddy said you weren’t alpha enough, that you didn’t carry status and we’d just end up being middies, like a bunch of losers. That can’t be true, it can’t. It’s not? Isn’t it?”

She angled her head so that Doug’s camera could get a good shot of the tears welling in her eyes.

“No, darling. Of course we’re going to the Trump wedding,” Craig lied to his wife. “I was just messing with you a bit, it was all a joke. I took it too far, I’m sorry.”

“Oh, thank you, Jesus.” Rayliee wiped away her tears. “You have to stop doing that! So, where are we sitting? What level invite do we have?”

Craig had no answer for that. To have an answer, he’d need an invitation.

“Shit, you know how hard I work, I don’t remember. I’ll have to look at it tomorrow, I left it at the office.”

“You know you need the invitation in hand to get in, right?” It was the best way to encourage sales on the secondary market, on which the Trump Organization would take a cut. “Any janitor could just pick it up, and then our seats would be his, and there’d be fuck-all we could do about it!”

“It’s in a safe place,” Craig said. Probably the safest place of all: his imagination.

Rayliee nodded, and said, “Liked.”

Sensing that the conversation was over, Doug said, “Hey, you mind repeating all that, so I can get a wide?”

{ X }

 

The next day, in his transparent office, Craig couldn’t focus at all. He needed to ideate defamatory content for his company’s client’s rape accuser, but all he could ideate was how the fuck was he going to score an invitation to the Trump wedding. He had been ignoring texts from Rayliee all morning, but he’d have to go home eventually.

His boss, Hunter, sauntered in and perched himself on Craig’s desk, hand casually resting on the butt of his gun, the gasoline scent of his Trump Cologne forcing its way into Craig’s personal space. Hunter was old-school alpha like that, getting in people’s faces instead of politely texting. He had the look of a top-rank sports journalist, all casual machismo and perfect hair. He sat with his legs splayed, daring Craig to look at his balls.

“What are you working on?” he asked.

Before Craig even had a chance to answer, Hunter kept going. “Doesn’t matter. Table it for now. I’m having a dinner meeting with Harcourt Karter tomorrow, I need fresh content.”

“Harcourt Karter… what happened to Russell? I thought he was working on that account.”

Behind his non-prescription $3,000 Givenchy frames, Hunter rolled his eyes.

“We’re eating at the Trump Four Seasons. I don’t know if you see color, but I can’t bring Russell to the Four Seasons. Besides, I want Karter to see I’ve got my best and brightest working on it, so congrats, buddy, you’ve got dinner plans for tomorrow.”

Craig already had dinner plans for the following night, with an old college friend of Rayliee’s and her husband, a very successful husband-wife design team with a highly-viewed streaming channel and their own line of branded housewares. While Rayliee would undoubtedly complain of his cancelling, Craig was sure that everyone involved, himself included, would have a much better time without him being there.

Hunter got up. “Just take what Russell’s already done. From what I’ve seen it’s really good, it doesn’t even need much polishing. Like?”

“Liked,” Craig said.

Hunter turned on his sneakered heel and started for the door.

“Wait,” Craig called.

Hunter looked back. “What?”

“Do we get comps for the Trump wedding?”

“For the firm?” Hunter asked. “No. I mean, I’m invited. First balcony, clear sightlines to the actual ceremony, three drink tickets. Not you, though, huh? That’s embarrassing. Maybe it’s your family history?”

It had been rumored that Craig’s great-grandparents had been libtarded, and that it was only through subterfuge and some shady dealmaking that his grandfather had been able to avoid exile in the California wasteland after the war. There was never anything more than circumstantial evidence, but the rumor had dogged Craig throughout his life.

“Tell you what,” Hunter said. “Let’s just deal with this Karter sitch, and then I’ll see what I can do. Like?”

“Liked,” Craig said, but Hunter had already left.

Craig drummed his fingers on the edge of his desk and looked through the glass wall into the bullpen, where he could see all his inferiors at work. Russell was there, gangly black frame hunched over his screen, where he always was. He was always there before Craig came in, always still there whenever Craig left. Craig assumed Russell had a home that he returned to, though thinking about it, he had no definite evidence.

Craig typed him a DM: “Can u send ur work on the Karter acct? Hunter wants me to finish it.”

Craig paused, then added the word “help” in front of “finish” before hitting Send. He could see the chat window pop up on Russell’s screen; because Craig outranked him, his messages always appeared on top of whatever else Russell was working on.

Russell’s shoulders drooped. The movement was sudden, quick like a bridge collapse:  one second a safe, reliable thoroughfare; the next, a hundred people plummeting to horrific screaming deaths in the waters below, without regard for their station in life or what plans they’d had for the evening. Russell’s hands came up and rubbed his bald, black scalp. Craig decided it was the perfect time for a bathroom break.

When he returned, twenty minutes later, Russell was standing in his office. His long arms were crossed, but the holster strap of his gun was unsnapped. Craig silently cursed himself; his own gun was in his desk drawer, completely useless.

“Hey Russell, how’s it going?” he said.

Russell, unusual for himself, didn’t return the politeness. “You’re taking over Karter. Right now. After I’ve been working on it for a month. The very day before we’re presenting it to Karter himself.”

Craig stopped himself from apologizing, assuming his boss might be listening in.

“This comes direct from Hunter, Russ. I know you’ve put in a lot of work on it, and we thank you for that.”

Russell scoffed. His right hand brushed the butt of his gun, causing Craig’s airways to freeze.

“Fine,” Russell said. “Fine, fine, fine.”

He left the office and went back to his desk, and Craig breathed again. He sat down and, while waiting for Russell’s files to transfer over, tried to ideate how else he could get a wedding invitation. There were plenty available online, but the asking prices were already beyond astronomical, even for shitty seats without any drink tickets. Craig wondered if it would be worth dipping into his retirement account. Rayliee would probably think so. Hell, Rayliee would probably support using his life insurance payout to pay for an invite, and looking at the cost for seats that wouldn’t insult her, they might need to use both.

There was still no sign of Russell’s work. Craig DM’ed him: “Hey Russ, haven’t recd Karter stuff yet.”

Russell replied: “You won’t, Cra. I fucking deleted it.”

Craig blinked. Surely he was joking. “LOL,” he typed.

Outside, Russell stood up.

“LOL indeed, motherfucker!” he shouted, drawing his gun. The whole bullpen gasped as one. Sharlett from accounting screamed.

Russell put the gun to his own head, and shouted, “This is what you want, right? This is what you want? Well, fuck you!”

He slammed the gun down on his workstation and stormed to the elevator. The doors opened, and he was gone. The tension on the floor burst into a downpour of relieved conversation, everyone falling over each other to say how brave they had been, and boasting of the acts of heroism they had been seconds away from performing.

Hunter emerged from behind the locked, reinforced door of his executive suite.

“It’s all right, everyone,” he announced. “Security has been notified, everything will be okay. Is everybody posting about this? We’re going to use the hashtags ‘LOL Flipout’ and ‘LOL Indeed,’ like? All one word. If you’ve already posted, edit your post to correct that. Thank you.”

He went back to his office. Craig hurried to catch him before he locked his door again.

“Hunter,” Craig whispered, “he deleted his files.”

Hunter sucked his teeth, then shrugged. “That’s fine. Talk to I.T., they back everything up to the server. We’ll lose whatever he’s done in, I don’t know, the last couple hours, but that’s fine.” He clapped Craig on the shoulder. “I’ve got my number one guy working on it. The guy who wants an invite to the Trump wedding.”

“Right, right,” Craig said, nodding. “So you can get me one?”

“Maybe,” Hunter said, and he closed the door.

 

{ X }

Leaving that evening, Craig had to take the stairs, as the elevator was shut down for some reason. That reason, as he discovered upon reaching the ground floor, was that the lobby had become a crime scene. Yellow police tape blocked off the elevator bank, where the walls were spackled with bullet holes and blood. A few steps in front of the elevator doors sprawled the chalk outline of a tall, gangly man, long arms splayed out to the sides.

Craig took a pic with his phone, then looked up on the internet what had happened. The local Fox had a report of a disgruntled black who had threatened his company, but was taken down by heroic police before he could harm anybody. Craig recognized the accompanying image of the perpetrator from Russell’s staff I.D. card, though the report had enhanced it subtly to make him seem a little more angry, and a little more stupid.

It was all Craig could think about on the drive home. He’d known Russell for years. He had been so well-spoken, so polite. Craig never would have pegged him for someone that would get into a gunfight with the police. As he poured himself a second drink, Craig remembered that Russell had left his gun in the office. It had still been sitting there when Craig had left, untouched, next to Russell’s keyboard. Craig assumed that Russell must have had a second, concealed piece on him somewhere; otherwise, why would the heroes of the police have shot him? The report also listed Russell’s age as much older than Craig ever would have guessed, so it was possible, Craig figured, that he didn’t really know Russell that well at all.

He thought about sharing his thoughts with Rayliee, scrolling their phones in bed that night, but she was completely wrapped up in wedding news.

“She’s going to have four distinct dresses. One for the first part of the ceremony, the religious part. That’s going to be a traditional Vera Wang. Then, during the priest’s sermon, she’s going to switch to the dress she’s going to wear for the actual exchanging of the vows. This is the secret dress, nobody knows what it’s going to be, but the rumor is that it’s a Washington Olson.”

Craig liked a repost of a GIF of a baby elephant rolling in mud. “Is that the guy with the show? ‘Heeeeyy my peoples!’”

Rayliee sighed, loudly. “No, honey, that’s Warshington Reese. Warshington, with an R. Washington Olson is a woman. She’s the best, so famous she doesn’t even need a show anymore. She made Blue Ivy’s dress for the Trump Kennedy Center Honors.”

Craig had no idea what she was talking about, but said, “Right, right.”

“And then a third dress for the formal part of the reception, a Carolina Herrera, and then an Ivankina for the afterparty. Pics of that one have already been leaked, it’s scandalous, she’s practically naked.”

“Mmm, naked,” Craig said, and started to nuzzle Rayliee’s neck. Absorbed in her reading, she ignored him, until he reached his hand under the sheet to squeeze her breast.

“Jesus, Craig!” she screamed, batting his hand away. “I’m trying to read!”

“I’m sorry,” Craig said. “It’s been a while.”

It had been nearly four months since the last time they made love. Rayliee had come home from e-book club blind drunk that night, and only called Craig “my husband” or “guy I’m married to,” as though she couldn’t remember his name. He didn’t make an issue of it then, as at the time it had been a solid five months since their last time.

“I know, honey,” she said. “It’s just hard to feel sexy when the wedding is coming up and I don’t know where we’ll be seated!”

“First balcony, baby,” Craig said.

“Bullshit. I thought you couldn’t remember, because of the hashtag LOL Flipout?”

“I couldn’t,” Craig said. “Getting shot at really messes with your thinking, but now that I’m relaxed, in bed, with my gorgeous wife, I remember.”

“Liked,” Rayliee said. “First balcony is good.”

“Oh yeah,” Craig said, returning his hand to Rayliee’s breast.

She pushed it away again. “Not tonight, honey. Like? Maybe tomorrow. After you remember to bring the invitation home and I have it in hand, and can properly plan.”

“Liked,” Craig said, rolling over. He set his phone on its charger and bunched up the pillow underneath his head.

“Craig, honey?” Rayliee said.

“Yeah?”

“We’re going to need to redo this conversation tomorrow, when Doug is here, like?”

“Yeah, sure thing.”

He closed his eyes, but sleep was slow in coming. He kept seeing Russell in his head. Not when he had his gun out, not even when he was standing threateningly in Craig’s office. It was the way his shoulders slumped when Craig DM’ed him. How old he looked then.

Rayliee whispered, “Are you asleep?”

Craig didn’t answer. A minute passed, and then he heard his wife’s nightstand drawer slide open, followed by the plastic snap of the cap being opened on a bottle of lube, and then the low hum of her vibrator beneath the sheets.

 

{ X }

Harcourt Karter was alpha. He was so fucking alpha, it didn’t even matter that he was fat, or that it was an open secret that he was queer. He had started out with nothing, just a three-million-dollar loan from his family. Now he owned the nation’s second-biggest pizza chain, the fourth-biggest fried chicken franchise in the Northwest, the third-biggest manufacturer of holographic display screens, a sportswear line, three streaming distributors, a forty-percent share in the country’s fifth-biggest automobile manufacturer, a craft spirits distributor, and the Las Vegas Bills.

And all he wanted to talk about was the Trump wedding.

“I’ve seen the Olson dress,” he said. “It’s going to scandalize the world.”

“Really?” Hunter said.

“Yeah,” said Karter. “With how cheap it’s gonna look.”

They laughed in a wave, first Karter, then Hunter, then Craig. They sat in the V.V.I.P. section of the Four Seasons, where cameras weren’t allowed and the waitstaff were all college-aged white women who remained silent unless directly addressed.

“Check this out,” Karter said.

He reached a perfectly-manicured hand into his jacket pocket and removed a thick, white envelope. On its face, embossed in gold, was the logo of the Trump Organization.

“Main floor,” Karter said. “In the room with the family. Clear sightlines to the actual, real-life altar. Full reception access. Open bar.”

“Nice!” Hunter said. “What do you think, Craig?”

Craig stared at it lustily. “That’s amazing.” It was everything he wanted. “And you’re just carrying it with you, you’re not keeping it in a safe somewhere?”

Harcourt Karter scoffed. “I’m getting rid of it. I got an even better one. A Saudi prince owed me for a big favor from a while ago, he gave me his ticket as payback, twenty rows closer. After we’re done here, I’m meeting with what’s-his-name, Jack McQuilling. His invite is up in the first balcony with the wannabes, the loser. He’s going to trade me his seventeen-year-old daughter for this one.”

Craig wasn’t sure which part of that last sentence was more important for him to pretend to be unfazed by. Congressman Jackston “Jack” McQuilling, of Indiana, was the House Speaker, though his star had dimmed recently due to what was perceived as less than full-throated opposition to a measure proposed by the minority Moderate Republican party. His invitation, the one he was willing to trade his daughter to be rid of, was for the same section Hunter was proud to be sitting in. And it hadn’t even occurred to Craig that he might be able to trade Rutherford for a ticket.

Hunter, showing the professionalism that made him head of the firm, asked, “Is she hot?”

“Eh,” Karter replied. “A natural seven on a good day, but I guess she’s a nine for Indiana. I’m going to see what my plastic surgeon can do, and if I can use her as a model, then great, and if not I’ll just sell her contract to someone else and see what I can get. Anyway, that’s enough small talk. Show me what you’ve got, I want to put this thing away forever.”

Karter’s issue was a typical labor dispute. Workers at a few of his factories had been contracting cancer at a staggeringly abnormal rate, and formed an illegal union to sue Karter. The case was summarily dismissed, due to the illegal nature of the union, and Karter rightfully counter-sued for damages, winning handily. But now he was in a media war, bankrolled by a consortium of his competitors, encouraging consumers to boycott his companies and patronize theirs, where the cancer rate for factory workers was much closer to the national average.

Over burned steak and curly fries, Craig presented Russell’s strategy: a broad-spectrum text, video, and social campaign, boosting Karter with humor and catchy phrasing, supported by a seemingly-independent social media echo as well as a meme campaign which, on the surface, appeared to make fun of the primary campaign, but in effect added echo and volume to it. At the same time, through different seemingly-independent sources, they would tear Karter’s opponents and detractors to shreds, leaking incriminating documents of their own creation, and harassing vocal supporters both online and, through gig-economy subcontractors, IRL.

It was brilliant, a masterpiece of a campaign. The subtle ways in which the various pieces would play off each other, without the specific contractors even being aware of what they were doing, was nothing short of genius. Craig wished the work was his, but all he had done was edit all the metadata in Russell’s work to replace Russell’s name with his own. Russell was owed a significant bonus, if not a promotion, for this level of work. Or at least he would have been, if he hadn’t lost his mind and attacked the building’s security heroes.

Harcourt Karter stared blankly, chewing his food. He swallowed, took a drink of his wine, then cut off another piece of crisp meat.

“Is that it?” he said.

Craig laughed. Nobody else did.

Karter was still staring. “Did I say something funny?”

Craig grasped for words, for understanding, for air. He looked to Hunter for help. Hunter understood the brilliance of the plan, but behind his permanent rascal smile, his eyes were cold machines.

“It’s a solid strategy, the best strategy,” Hunter said.

“Is it?” asked Karter.

“It’s a goddamn work of art!” Craig sputtered.

Karter shrugged. “I guess. I don’t know, I’m not an art critic. I’m just not feeling the ‘wow’ yet.”

Craig felt his blood pressure rise. He knew exactly what was happening; he’d seen it before. Karter was negging to get a better price. He’d send them back to create another strategy, hate it, and then come back to this one, pretend-begrudgingly, for a significant discount. After, of course, Hunter had replaced Craig’s name in the metadata with his own. It was why they had needed Russell to make the initial presentation; that way, he would have taken the hit to his reputation and Craig would get the final credit. It wasn’t fair, Craig thought. He didn’t deserve to get screwed like this.

And then things really went to shit.

Somebody shouted something. Craig couldn’t make out what they had actually said, but then the gunfire began, the rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat of controlled bursts from an AK. Then the screams. Then the return fire, as all the good guys drew their guns to defend themselves.

Within seconds, the air was thick with bullets, zipping in every direction, ricocheting off walls and tables and the ceiling and bones. The wine bottle on their table exploded in a burst of glass and claret, and Craig dropped to the floor.

He hadn’t been in a shootout since college, and he’d forgotten how clear-headed they made him. The booming pop-pop-pop of gunfire faded to a dull thump-thump-thump. Craig could hear himself breathe, feel the whirr of blood in his ears. He reached for the gun on his belt, but then, prioritizing, took out his phone instead. He snapped a few pics and posted them, remembering to tag the location and who he was with.

Craig looked around for Hunter. His boss was courageously crawling on his belly to the nearest emergency exit, leaving a snail trail of wet diarrhea behind him. Craig snapped a pic of that too, and saved it for leverage later. Then he turned to find Karter.

Harcourt Karter was on his back, trembling violently as his silk Saint Laurent shirt turned ruby red. Craig crawled over to his side, as the bullets continued to thwip-thwip over their heads.

“I’m hit,” Karter whispered.

“I know first aid,” Craig said. “I can help you.”

He tore open Karter’s shirt to see the wound.

Karter gasped. “That’s a four-thousand-dollar shirt!”

“It’s already ruined from the blood,” Craig told him.

Karter’s wound was a clean shot through the meat of his shoulder. All that was needed was for Craig to apply pressure until the E.M.T.’s arrived.

“I can save you,” Craig said. “But I want something in return. Fair payment.”

Karter nodded, respecting Craig’s business sense.

“Anything,” he said.

Craig told him what he wanted. “Give me your invite to the Trump wedding.”

“Fuck you, no,” Karter said. “You think I haven’t been shot before, you son of a bitch libtard middy cuck? Suck my ass, you’re not getting that invite. That’s not for people like you.”

He was right, of course. Craig didn’t deserve to go to the wedding, and it wasn’t for people like him. It was a party for the richest of the rich, those who were truly above politics and economics and greed. Those whose great-grandparents decided the fate of the world and whose own great-grandchildren would one day do the same. It was only for their entertainment that the strivers were allowed in, the people who fought and scratched and screwed each other over just for the chance of the opportunity to sit a bit closer to the masters’ table and dream that maybe one day they might get a seat.

And that wasn’t Craig. He knew it, Karter knew it, everybody who ever knew him knew it. Craig never worked hard a day in his life. He showed up, he did what he thought was expected of him, and he went home. He was of the right color, the right gender, the right orientation, and nominally belonged to the right religion. He was supposed to be fine, always. He didn’t stick his neck out for people who weren’t like him, the way his grandparents allegedly did, but it wasn’t like he worked against them, either. That was supposed to be enough. And if he didn’t go to the Trump wedding, then so what? He didn’t know the couple, they didn’t know him, and he never even liked weddings, anyway. Rayliee would be disappointed, but that was basically their relationship’s default setting these days, and Craig doubted that one fancy night out was really going to change that.

Karter groaned. His wound was bleeding profusely, and his skin had begun to turn corpsely sallow.

“Counteroffer,” he said. “Help me, and I’ll reconsider your firm’s proposal.”

Craig considered Karter’s offer and felt ill. Harcourt Karter was who the Trump wedding was for. The people who flung the most vicious insults as if they were nothing, and then expected those they insulted to continue to negotiate. The people who never acknowledged the destruction in their wake, the trail of broken people and ruined lives that paved their path. The people Craig was expected to try to emulate, even if he never really wanted to. Even with his life on the line, he was committed to getting the best deal for himself and the worst for his opponent. “Reconsider” was not “accept,” and he and Craig both knew it.

Craig looked around. Everyone in the restaurant was either dead, cowering behind their phones, or firing their weapons indiscriminately in whichever direction they thought best; a self-absorbed, mindlessly violent shambles that had once been, only moments earlier, the well-heeled at dinner. Nobody was paying any attention to them. If he was going to step up and be the man he was expected to be, this was the time.

“Counter-counteroffer,” Craig said, and he took out his gun and shot Harcourt Karter dead.

{ X }

The wedding of Meegan White to Andrei Trump was everything Rayliee had dreamed.

While none of the guests had livestreaming rights, their invite – the invite Craig had somehow, miraculously procured for her, despite all her doubts and the doubts of all her friends and followers – allowed for her camera, Doug, to shoot outside the ceremony and at the reception, which was guaranteed to get thousands of views after editing and posting.

They checked their coats and weapons with a valet, then walked the red carpet to the cathedral entrance, bathing in the attention of a million lenses. Craig presented the invite to the doorman with an exaggerated flourish, eliciting a laugh from Rayliee. The doorman scanned the invitation’s invisible chip, then stamped it with a seal of authenticity before handing it back to them and directing them to an usher who, due to the prestige of their section, escorted them personally to their seats.

The hall was garlanded with flowers and lights and sponsorship banners. After everyone was seated, they rose as one for the National Anthem, and then the ceremony began. It was something out of a fairy tale. The groom was brought in on a litter carried by servants, followed closely by the groomsmen and bridesmaids, who encouraged the servants to move faster. They were followed by the families, who came up the aisle in custom-built, gold-plated carts running on actual gasoline. After everyone was in place, all the lights cut out except for a single spotlight that illuminated the bride, who came up the aisle in a horse-drawn chariot, escorted by the current Donald himself.

The secret dress, the Washington Olson, was stunning. Stunningly cheap-looking, that was, exactly as the late Harcourt Karter and others in the know had predicted. Rayliee thought it looked like something some middy would buy on sale at Dress Barn, bedazzled with fake diamonds. Oh sure, in Meegan Trump’s case they were real, actual diamonds, but no one would be able to tell on video. Everyone respectfully oohed and aahed. Rayliee waited for a camera to be pointed in her direction, then told the Qatari sheik fondling her thigh how beautiful the dress was. After the camera moved on, she turned to her husband, sitting on the opposite side of her, and whispered in his ear what she was going to post anonymously about it later.

The reception was the most fun Rayliee had had in her entire life. She had her pic taken with royalty, with movie stars, with country singers, with black rappers – genuine, card-carrying A-listers, from multiple demo-graphics. They all complimented her facework, and one – the 20-year-old star of a hit dramatic series – gave her his private contact info.

And through it all, Craig behaved wonderfully. He smiled, he talked to people without being awkward, he was gracious. He held Rayliee’s purse while she had pics taken, and he didn’t try to get in them himself unless she invited him. He drank heavily the entire time, but they did have open bar access, so why shouldn’t he? The drinks were all watered down anyway, and Craig was almost certain that the caterers were actually serving cheap booze that had been poured into more expensive bottles. He shared the thought with Rayliee, who nodded as if she had paid any attention to a word he’d said.

“You did it, Craig,” she said to him. “You really did it, I’m so proud of you.”

Then she went off to try and score an afterparty invite for the two of them. Doug and his camera followed closely behind. Craig went back to the bar.

 

{ X }

The following morning, their car brought them home. Rutherford’s boyfriend’s car was parked in the driveway but, considerate boy that he was, it wasn’t blocking the garage. Back in the house, Rayliee shucked off her dress and collapsed onto the bed, snoring instantly. Craig was pretty sure she had been wearing underwear at the start of the evening, but it was nowhere to be seen now.

He fetched her vomit bucket from the closet and set it on the floor next to her side of the bed. Then he sat down on his side and undressed, thinking the same thoughts he did before going to sleep every night.

“I love you, honey,” he told his wife, and lay down.

Staring at the ceiling, he thought about the world, and wondered if he should just kill himself. Wondered if it would make a difference. Knowing he never would.

Craig closed his eyes, and soon was sound asleep again.

{ X }

E.L. SIEGELSTEIN is originally from Brooklyn, but has now migrated south to Louisville, Kentucky with his wife and his cat and his 2 and a half-year-old baby girl. He is the author of the horror-comedy/suspense novel “Lovebites & Sunguns,” currently seeking a publisher, and his work has also appeared on the teen pop culture blog Mindhut. He can be found on Instagram @ericsiegs.

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