short story

Special Interests Draft

[Monday Night Football Music]

[Bob Costas] “Live from Radio City Music Hall, it’s the 2017 Special Interests Draft on ESPN.”

[Camera pans across a crowded auditorium of old white men in suis. The camera then swoops up and comes to rest on an overhead balcony where four other white men are sitting behind a big ugly desk]

[Bob Costas] “Hello folks, I’m Bob Costas here with my colleagues Joe Buck, Chris Berman and the incomparable Mel Kiper Jr. and we are excited to bring you this year’s Special Interests Draft, live from New York City.”

[Joe Buck] “That’s right Bob, tonight the most powerful special interest groups in the country have gathered together to draft some of the most influential politicians in America to help further their personal agendas.”

[Chris Berman] “It’s sure to be a rumblin’ bumblin’ stumblin’ good time. The Citizen’s United ruling ensures that these special interest groups have absolutely no limit to the amount of money they can donate to these politicians in order to curry their favor. Last year over $3 billion dollars was doled out.”

[Bob Costas] “You bet Chris, these organizations are infinitely more powerful than regular citizens when it comes to political impact.”

[Joe Buck] “Hey in America it’s more money, more power, right Mel?”

[Mel Kiper Jr.] “I’m locked in a room watching college football for 364 days a year, so I don’t know too much about politics, but this whole thing seems really messed up.”

[Bob Costas] “Right you are Mel. Now let’s turn to the stage where Big Oil is about to make the first pick.”

[An elaborate stage with a podium in the middle. Charles and David Koch walk up to the podium amid cheers from the crowd.]

[Charles Koch] “With the first pick in the 2017 Special Interests Draft, Big Oil selects…”

[Charles Koch hands the envelope to David Koch]

[David Koch] “Texas Senator Ted Cruz!”

[Ted Cruz jumps out of his chair and kisses his wife and hugs his children. The camera trails him as he makes his way on stage and shakes the Koch Brothers’ hands. They hand him a hat that says “Drill baby drill” and the three pose for a picture.]

[Bob Costas] “The obvious pick for Big Oil, and also the smart pick, wouldn’t you say Chris?”

[Chris Berman] “Oh without a doubt, Bob. Ted ‘punch me in the face’ Cruz has proven again and again that he has no fixed ideology or principals. His influence can be bought easily, and Big Oil spent over $100 million dollars last year to further their interests, with 88% of that money going to Republicans. They got themselves a keeper in Cruz.”

[Mel Kiper Jr.] “I thought elected officials are supposed to serve their constituents, not giant corporations who only care about their own profit margins?”

[Joe Buck] “Nice one Mel! Let’s go back to the stage now as NRA head Wayne LaPierre and the Gun Rights lobby appear ready to make their pick.”

[Wayne LaPierre approaches the podium with an AR-15 assault rifle in his hand]

[Wayne LaPierre] “The only thing that can stop senseless gun violence in America is more guns. With that in mind, the Gun Rights lobby selects…Ohio Governor John Kasich.”

[Kasich raises both arms in triumph. He walks up on stage and shakes LaPierre’s hand. LaPierre hands Kasich the AR-15 assault rifle, which Kasich promptly shoots into the air. All the Democrats in Radio City Music Hall drop to the ground in panic. The Republicans whip out their pistols.]

[Bob Costas] “I don’t think Mr. Kasich will have to worry about any weapons charges with that outburst, now that the gun lobby has his back.”

[Joe Buck] “Right Bob, and what the Gun Rights folks just did was lock down an asset. Kasich had been wavering recently, advocating for restrictions on access to guns for people who are mentally ill or on a terrorist watch list. Now that he’s been drafted, the gun lobby can expect Kasich to fall in line.”

[Mel Kiper Jr.] “So because they give him money he’s going to support pro-gun legislation? Isn’t that…illegal?”

[Joe Buck] “Not in America!”

[Chris Berman] “I’ll tell you whose not going to be happy about this pick: Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Last year ‘little’ Marco was second only to Donald Trump in donations from pro-gun organizations. He was really counting on them tonight.”

[Rubio sitting in a chair with his head in his hands]

[Bob Costas] “Speaking of Trump, he has to be a little surprised his name hasn’t been called yet.”

[Joe Buck] “K Street has been hesitant to invest in the president given his lack of competence. But maybe he can turn things around now as his old friend Wall Street has the next pick.”

[Chris Berman] “Yes, financial organizations donated $1.1 billion dollars to politicians in 2016, the most of any sector. This would be a huge pick for Donald ‘grab em’ buy the pussy’ Trump.”

[Sheldon Adelson approaches the mic]

[Sheldon Adelson] “With the third overall pick, Wall Street selects…Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders!”

[An audible gasp is heard throughout the crowd. Sanders stands up and shuffles down the aisle. He keeps his head down as he walks towards the stage, trying to avoid eye contact with fellow Democrats. Adelson slips a wad of cash into his suit jacket pocket and they pose for a picture.]

[Joe Buck] “UN-BE-LIEV-ABLE. Bernie Sanders, one of the most outspoken opponents of Wall Street greed, has just been drafted by the very institution he built his career fighting. This is an absolute shocker.”

[Chris Berman] “I agree. I think Wall Street realized they needed to neutralize Bernie as a threat. The senator had been the face of the 99% movement, but not after tonight.”

[Mel Kiper Jr.] “I honestly don’t get it. Do any of these politicians have morals, or are they all just looking to get paid off?…Hello? Can somebody answer me?”

[Bob Costas] “One second Mel. Our sideline reporter Rachel Nichols is with Sanders now.”

[Rachel Nichols] “Senator Sanders, many of your supporters look to you to be a voice for the impoverished and the needy. Are you afraid this draft pick might affect that image?”

[Bernie Sanders] “I will always speak out against inequality, I will now just be a lot richer while I do it.”

[Rachel Nichols] “Well said Bernie. Bob, back to you.”

[Bob Costas] “Thank you Rachel. Now after that last pick we received reports that Donald Trump stormed out of the auditorium.”

[Joe Buck] “I understand why he’s angry. The President of the United States should always expect to go in the top three considering the amount of influence he has. What you’re seeing here tonight is a lot of special interest groups realizing that it may just be too dangerous to attach their agenda to this president. They appear to not believe he can help them.”

[Chris Berman] “And why should they believe it? This president has done plenty of posturing since coming into office, but is yet to deliver any tangible results.”

[Bob Costas] “Alright coming up next is Dark Money. For those of you unfamiliar, Dark Money comes from anonymous donors, and the source of the money is unknown.”

[Mel Kiper Jr.] “What do you mean the source of the money is unknown?”

[Bob Costas] “I mean the money can come from anywhere. Criminals, foreign governments, you name it.”

[Mel Kiper Jr.] “And this money can be used to court the favor of American politicians?”

[Bob Costas] “Yes.”

[Mel Kiper Jr.] “And the public will never know how this money might influence their elected representative?”

[Bob Costas] “Exactly.”

[Mel Kiper Jr.] “Are you serious?”

[Bob Costas] “I am.”

[Mel Kiper Jr.] “WHAT THE FU…”

[Joe Buck cuts Mel Kiper Jr. off]

[Joe Buck] “OKAY! Looks like Dark Money is ready. Picking on their behalf is Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

[Putin saunters onto the stage with a smirk on his face. He leans into the microphone.]

[Vladimir Putin] “Hello America. I am very pleased to represent Russ, er..Dark Money as we make our pick in your lovely draft.”

[Clears throat]

[Vladimir Putin] “With the fourth pick in the 2017 Special Interests Draft, Dark Money selects Mr. President Donald Trump.”

[Donald Trump bursts out from backstage and gives Putin a big hug. Trump then abruptly steps forward in front of the podium]

[Donald Trump] “I am very very pleased to be drafted by Dark Money tonight. Of course I should have been taken awhile ago, but lets not worry about that now. I just want to let you all know that although this draft pick means none of you will ever know the true source of my income or where my allegiances lie, you should just take me at my word that I am here to support America.”

[Putin steps forward and whispers in Trump’s ear]

[Donald Trump] “Also, this seems like as good a time as any to let you all know that the United States is lifting all sanctions against Russia. Thank you.”

[The crowd applauds as Trump and Putin disappear backstage]

[Bob Costas] “Well there you have it, the president of the United States is getting money from anonymous sources whose interests will remain hidden from the public.”

[Mel Kiper Jr.] “What do you mean anonymous sources? That was Vladimir Putin! Our president is in the bag for Russia.”

[Chris Berman] “Now Mel we don’t know that for sure. It’s not like we have Trump’s tax returns.”

[Mel Kiper Jr.] “I don’t know a thing about politics and I can see what’s happening here. You have to be blind or dumb not to see it.”

[Chris Berman] “I don’t think we need to resort to name calling.”

[Mel Kiper Jr.] “Shut-up Chris! You’re truly an idiot if you can’t see that Trump is working for Russia. Also, you’re nicknames for people suck.”

[Joe Buck] “You’re way out of line here Mel. I’m going to need you to apologize to Chris.”

[Mel Kiper Jr.] “You know what, screw this. I’m going back to my room to watch college football.”

[Mel Kiper Jr. rips off his mic and storms off.]

[Bob Costas] “Sorry about that folks. I guess Mel is only good for football drafts. Anyway, sit tight as there is plenty more of the Special Interests Draft coming your way. Martin Shkreli and Big Pharma are on the clock. We’ll see you after the break.”

(All statistics via

Board Game

In the Oval Office of the White House, a game is being played. The participants are Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel and Xi Jinping. They all sit on pillows in front of the Resolute Desk. On the floor in the middle of them is a board. The board features a colored twirly path that starts in one corner and ends in another, similar to that of a “CandyLand” board. The main difference between this board and “CandyLand” is the cards. Depending on the color of the spot you land on, you have to draw a card from a specific deck. A green card corresponds to the policy deck, a red card to the military deck and a blue card to the law and order deck. The object of the game is to be the first to get your game piece from one side of the board to the other. The winner gets to be the Ruler of the World.

“Rock, paper, scissors, and shoot,” the four presidents say in unison. Xi is showing paper while the other three are all showing rock. It is agreed upon that Xi will roll first, and that the game will proceed in a clockwise direction.

Xi shakes the dice in his hand and tosses it on the board. Three. Xi slides his game piece three spots and lands on red. He picks up a card from the military deck. He reads the card out loud. “The choice is yours,” the card reads. “Ramp up military action in the South China Sea, and you get to move three more spots. Xi leans back on his pillow and weighs the option. He shoots a look to an aide standing in the corner. The aide comes over and leans down so Xi can whisper something to him. The aide nods and leaves the office.

Holding back a smile, Xi slides his game piece three more spots.

Putin is next, and he rolls a one. He grimaces and then moves his game piece a solitary spot. He lifts a card from the policy deck and reads out loud: “If you open gay internment camps in Chechnya, you can pick one participant to lose his or her turn.” Putin cracks a smile and then snaps his finger. A Russian aide walks over and leans down so Putin can whisper something to him. They both laugh. Then the aide hustles out of the office.

Putin goes to hand the die to Trump but Trump stops him. “If you all would just wait one moment,” Trump says. The door to the Oval Office opens and Jared Kushner hustles in holding a silver platter with a chocolate milkshake on it. He leans down so Trump can take the milkshake. Trump snatches it and then runs his fingers through Jared’s hair. Jared can’t help but smile. Trump takes the bendy straw in his mouth and begins sucking down the milkshake.

“While we wait, I hope you don’t mind if I throw on a little TV,” Trump says while lifting a remote.

On CNN, a chyron on the bottom of the screen reads “China escalating tensions in the South China Sea.”

Trump gets to the bottom of his milkshake and snatches the die from Putin. He lets out an audible belch and tosses the die on the board. Six.

“I’m really so good at games like this,” Trump says as he slides his game piece so that he is even with Xi. He lifts a card from the policy deck. “Fire the director of the FBI and advance one more spot.” Without hesitation, Trump screams “JARED!!!” On the TV Wolf Blitzer is talking about gay internment camps in Chechnya.

Jared comes running back into the room. “Fire Comey,” Trump barks at him. “Make it snappy.” Jared nods and runs out again. Trump slides his game piece one more spot. “Ha, I’m in the lead now,” he says as he hands the dice to Merkel.

Merkel shakes the dice in her hands, but just as she is getting ready to toss, Putin reaches out his hand to stop her.

He nods towards the screen, where Blitzer is still talking about the gay internment camps. “You lose this turn, Angela.”

The German president lets out a sigh and hands the dice to Xi.

The game goes on like this for several hours. During that time many decisions of consequence are made.

Merkel had caught a string of tough cards and opted to allow over one million Syrian refugees into her country. The catch being that after every turn, she had to move her piece backward one spot. This put her far behind all the others.

Xi was in a close third, with Trump two spots ahead of him. Xi was very measured in his gameplay. When he had the option to advance six spaces by sending the Chinese Army to the North Korean border, he opted against it. Trump, on the other hand, had made a series of drastic moves in order to maximize the number of spaces he advanced. Over the last few hours, Trump had decided to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, pass an extremely unpopular health care bill, slash funding to dozens of programs for the poor and end the Iranian nuclear deal,

Putin was ten spots clear of Trump, and only needed to roll a four or higher to win the game and become ruler of the world. Putin had played the game very tactfully, making a series of moves that benefitted him while also doing what he could to take turns away from both Merkel and Xi.

The chyron on CNN currently read “North Korean soldiers marching to meet US troops at the border.”

Trump’s Blackberry had been ringing uncontrollably for the past hour. The United States president had stationed Kushner outside the door to the Oval Office to stop Mike Pence, James Mattis and others from getting in.

Putin tossed the dice and rolled a two. The other three presidents breathed a sigh of relief. He slid his game piece down the map and lifted a policy card. “Wildcard: You may choose to switch places with any other contestant on the board, or remain where you are.”

On CNN Wolf Blitzer was now talking about an angry mob marching towards the White House. The ticker on the bottom of the screen spoke of anti-refugee riots happening across the European continent. Blitzer then switched subjects to talk about how the Phillippines, Japan and Taiwan had mobilized their naval fleets to interfere with Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.

“Donald, I would like to switch game pieces with you,” Putin said.

Trump couldn’t hide is astonishment. He nearly spit up his milkshake.

Putin made the switch and handed Trump the dice. “You aren’t as smart as I thought, Putin” Trump said. He rolled a five.

“HA, I win,” Trump says. He slid his game piece across the finish line.

The other three world leaders stood up to shake his hand.

“Very well played, Donald,” Merkel tells him.

“Yes, a master class,” adds Xi.

“I underestimated you, Donald,” Putin says as he shakes Trump’s hand. Trump goes to wrest his hand free but Putin only grips tighter. Finally, Putin releases his grip. Trump stumbles backward.

The door to the Oval Office bursts open and dozens of Trump staff rush in.

“Sir, the Iranians have burned down the US Embassy in Tehran,” Mike Pence yells.

“A Chinese submarine has sunk a US warship off the coast of Taiwan,” Mattis shouts.

“The North Koreans have launched a ballistic missile that is headed towards Los Angeles,” Reince Preibus screams.

“Forget all that,” says Kushner. “An angry mob has breached the gates and is marching up the White House lawn as we speak!”

Trump turns around and goes to the window. The White House is surrounded on all sides by a sea of protesters, all chanting in unison “bring us Trump.” He turns around to his staff, all of whom are waiting for him to give some kind of order. He can’t speak.

“We’ll leave you to it, Mr. Ruler of the World,” Merkel says as she heads towards the door. “We know you will do a fine job.”

Xi and Putin fall in behind her. At the doorway, Putin turns around and puts a hand on Mike Pence’s shoulder.

“If you’re free next week,” the Russian president says. “We’re playing again at my house.”


Reese was placed on a big ugly desk by the supple hands of a woman. He knew he was in grave danger. For days Reese had been living in a dark cabinet with dozens of other Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. One by one they had all been grabbed by the supple hands of the same woman. None had ever returned.

Reese considered his existence to be a cruel one. From the moment of his conception in a factory in Hershey, Pennsylvania he had only experienced confusion and pain. He couldn’t see the light of day for more than a second before being packaged, boxed and shipped to an unknown location against his will with hundreds of others like him. But even in such a dire situation, he was able to strike up friendships with the other peanut butter cups in his box. But one by one they had all been taken away. And he remained in the dark cabinet, helpless.

He had begun to think that perhaps he was put on this earth to suffer.

A large white man walked past Reese and sat down behind the desk. Reese didn’t know who this man was, but he had a feeling he was an enemy. He needed to think of an escape. Suddenly, the room got very bright. Reese could see lots of video cameras all around him and people standing behind them. Reese started to consider escape routes. Immediately in his surroundings was a stack of papers and a coffee mug. Below the desk was a garbage can. Perhaps if Reese could fall off the desk into the garbage can the large white man would forget about him and he would be safe.

Unprompted, the man behind the desk began to talk: “The O’Reilly Factor is on,” he said. “Hello folks, I’m Bill O’Reilly and you have entered the no spin zone.”

Reese had no idea what any of that meant, but he felt that he was part of some kind of performance. Perhaps the large white man intended to execute him in front of all these cameras. That would be so very wicked. Reese thought harder about how he could get himself into the garbage can. The fact that he was born inanimate was proving to be a challenge.

The large white man continued: “President Trump’s missile attack on Syria sent a new message to the world that the US is going to hold war criminals accountable. The previous president Barack Obama would not do that. Instead, he used negotiations which often failed.”

Reese spotted the woman off to the side of the stage. She was pacing back and forth and looking very uncomfortable. If only Reese could get her attention in some way. She had put him in this situation, maybe she could take him out of it. The bright lights were making Reese sweat.

Another large white man was now talking to the first large white man through a monitor. He said “Trump is an impulsive man. That’s why he tweets the way he does, that’s why he responds to criticism the way he does. Acting impulsively, while satisfying, is not a substitute for well thought out foreign policy.”

The first large white man responded: “I think you’re being unfair. Trump is now in a position where he can stop war crimes and I think he exercised strong judgment in striking against Assad. It is easy for you to come on my show and bloviate and be a theorist when you don’t have to make the same tough calls that our commander and chief does.”

The large white man on the monitor started to speak but was quickly cut off by the first large white man: “Directly ahead, a horrifying story in Idaho involving child refugees attacking a 5-year-old girl.”

The lights in the studio shut off. The woman started walking towards the desk. Now was Reese’s chance. He thought vigorously of how he could get the woman’s attention. It was no use. She walked right past him and approached the large white man.

“Here are the notes you asked for on the health care bill,” she told the large white man.

“Thanks sugar,” the large white man said. He leaned forward and rested his head in his palm. “What say after the show you and I go get dinner at Morton’s.”

“60 seconds” a voice shouted from somewhere in the studio.

“Mr. O’Reilly, I just want to do my job,” the woman said.

“We can talk about your job. We can talk about a lot of things.” As he said this, the large white man reached out his hand and grasped the woman’s thigh.

The woman stood straight up, startled.

“30 seconds” the voice said.

“I would prefer if you don’t do that Mr. O’Reilly.”

“Call me Bill,” O’Reilly said. “And you’ve got to learn to get along if you want to move along hun.”

He reached out again to grab another handful. She swatted his hand down.

“I don’t need to put up with this shit. You are a disgusting man. I quit.”

“10 seconds.”

She reached back and slapped the large white man hard across the face. Then she stormed off the stage.

As she walked past Reese he did everything in his power to get her attention. But it was no use, she moved past him as if he was not even there.

The lights came back up on O’Reilly rubbing the red mark on his face where he had just been slapped. For a moment he couldn’t recall his line. Then he began: “Our Fox News correspondent in Idaho has learned of a truly awful story involving an innocent five-year-old girl…” His voice trailed off. He leaned back in his chair and exhaled.

“Excuse me folks, 20 years behind this desk can sometimes wear on you.”

The large white man reached out his hand and grabs Reese. Horrified, Reese considers what he can do to escape the clutches of his captor. He knows time is running out. The large white man pinches Reese’s packaging with two fingers and tears it off. Reese is now naked for the cameras but still determined to escape. He looks to the coffee mug. He looks at the stack of papers and the garbage can on the floor. The lights are so bright.

The large white man opens his mouth and drops Reese inside. The last thing Reese sees is the woman heading for the door. Then the large white man closes his mouth and Reese is gone.

“That’s better,” the large white man says. “Sometimes all I need is a little piece of candy.”