(This was first published in July, 2005, in the Weird Spells category)

It took Wood Johnson almost ten seconds to wilt under Mona's unflinching gaze. His face slowly dissolved, like a vampire in the sunshine. "I think Jesus Christ wasn't just a passenger," Mona said. She took a small cotton cloth bag from her purse, and from the bag she took a little smoking pipe. Wood's lips parted and his eyes got moist. His smile was crooked. "What are you?" Mona asked.

"I'm the President," he said.

She started to put the pipe back into the bag.

"Wait," he said.

She paused. "Pardon me?"

"Just one little taste, Mona for Christ's sake."

When Wood Johnson came out of the Purple Room he bristled with energy. Mona Esso's heels clicked along behind him like a metronome accentuating the hustle and bustle of the White House. Talking things over with Mona always took care of the nagging hopelessness that plagued him in the best of times, but which had threatened his sanity during the past three days. She always gave him a few minutes of relief from having the world on his shoulders.

He would never forget when she first asked him, "Would you like to meet Tarzan?"

"What is it?" he'd asked. He felt the excitement of something secret about to be shared between them.

"It's biology one oh one," she said. "It's been carefully formulated by a DEA chemist to contain nothing which is actually illegal under existing statute."

"So it's not illegal?"

"No, it's not."

"Well, what does it do?"

"It kills you," Mona said, "And all the munchkins celebrate. You want to take a peek, Wood?"

"Why, I guess so," Wood agreed with a bland smile. He took a puff from Tarzan.

The next thing of which he was conscious was of his struggle to remember who he was, to make some connection to a story, some underlying chain of events which would lead up to this moment and connect it into a decipherable pattern, so that he could release himself from the struggle of swimming toward the surface. He had no name because he was beneath the place where words form. He was inside plant consciousness.

Mona's voice cut through the fog. "Say it. Tell me what you are."

"I'm a frog," he croaked.

"That's good enough for today," she said.

To Mona it was of no consequence how Wood Johnson took the experience. "It's like Miles Davis said about music," she wrote in her diary. "It's not the notes, it's the spaces between the notes. In the President there are few notes, but a lot of spaces. I have to learn to play with the spaces, and so I have established a beachhead in the Presidential psyche. The Conehead is already there, of course. I knew he would be."

The Conehead was the President's personal assassin. He specialized in character assassination. His ability to destroy all opponents was the only known compensation for Wood Johnson's native inferiority on a level playing field.

It was the Conehead who ruthlessly fixed the playing field, and he was indispensable to the Family.

The Family played the game exactly like the Moron Corporation, which financed their rise to power. Moron had long since collapsed inward for lack of substance. The good money went off chasing the bad money, and they got sucked into a big intake valve.

"And don't scrimp on the pate."

Posted: Sat - December 16, 2006 at 01:25 PM