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To Be a P.O.F.T.
I have a confession to make. I am not the President of the World. Or, P.O.F.T. (Presidente Ol Fangiri Totum) as us smooth and savvy people like to call it (though am I smooth and savvy anymore? I hardly know.). Not POFT—like “puffed” with an “o” or something. P.O.F.T., each letter standing tall all by itself. But how you pronounce it isn’t the point. The point is that I’m not it. The President of the World, that is.
Before this meeting, I had informed my Advisor for about the hundredth time of this fact, but did he listen? That was one of those rhetorical questions. But in case you were wondering, the answer was “no.” He just told me to get in there and ensure the world stayed at peace. Figures. That’s all I seem to be good for around here. Right now, President Grum was speaking about the situation on the Japanine Island.
“It’s terrible,” he was saying grimly, “and it’s not getting any better. Prime Minister Par’s offensive has greatly offended me. I don’t know why he has chosen to target my country for his incessant advertising of his products, but we Japanines do not need foreign hair gel, or foreign cotton underpants, or really any other type of foreign product. We are fine all by ourselves, thank you very much.”
“Now wait a minute!” Prime Minister Par exclaimed, waving his well-filed finger in Grum’s face. “That’s what you call isolationism, that is! And that’s not allowed. At the Treaty of Bersailles, everyone agreed that they would open their markets to a certain number of goods from China after the economy completely collapsed. That’s what was agreed. And you haven’t even bought half that amount! Do you want China to be destroyed? Hmm!”
“Now, now, gentlemen,” I said, waving my hand in a bored-president kind of way. My Advisor always told me to give bored-president waves now and then, to show the leaders that, while I was listening to the most pressing problems of the day, I had more pressing problems to deal with as President of the World.
The leaders sat back, some looking bored, some worried, and some glaring daggers at each other. I was getting ready to ask one of them to talk when Queen Kaila spoke up.
“Well, I don’t know what you people think you’re doing, but I’d like to know why my bill for the British Wall has not been ratified or even responded to yet. It’s our right to—”
“Your right to do what?” President Rangitomakitathorplewhip said angrily. Most of us just called him President R. “It’s your right to block out all trade and movement between Britain and Frange? Your right to cut Frange off from the sea and therefore from a great source of trade? It’s not your right at all! By building the British Wall, you’d be condemning Frange to an economic depression!”
“Now President R,” Queen Kaila continued calmly, smoothing the ruffled skirt of her teal gown, “you know I would never do anything to hurt Frange. But the Larger British Peninsula is clamoring for the wall, as is the Smaller British Peninsula. And don’t even get me started on the situation in the Middling British Peninsula. I’m just glad they haven’t declared themselves independent yet and tried to put up a wall themselves! It’s all liberals and anarchists living there. All I’m proposing is a wall to ensure the sovereignty of the British Peninsulas and make sure that Frange—or some other country—cannot ever invade it by land.”
“Oh, that’s all well and good for you, I’m sure,” President R said huffily, “but our economy is very fragile as it is, so soon after the Worst Depression. We need all the trade we can get and, unfortunately, many of our most productive ports are located on the coasts of the British Peninsulas.”
President R was always very touchy when it came to the economy. He was also very touchy about plans neighboring countries had that in some way affected his country. What with having both Frange and Anfricana—the large oval island beneath Europe—to rule, he was usually very touchy about everything. He couldn’t help it. He was too stressed.
“If I may speak, P.O.F.T.,” Emperor Nelland said respectfully, nodding in my direction. I waved a bored-president wave in his direction and he nodded again before turning to face the other leaders. He nodded respectfully to them, too. I liked Emperor Nelland. He was quite respectful.
“The Chilean Empire (consisting of Peruvia, Argentina, Brazil, Comolia, Equitor, Molibia, Venezuela, and Paraguiana) has never wanted anything more than peace,” he said with a warm smile on his face. “However, if the Union of North America continues its vulgar raids on the borders of the Empire, I will be forced to take action, however loath I am to do so. The people are already demanding that I go to war, you know.”
“And why should you listen to them?” demanded Director-of-the-Month Williams. I was always getting the names of the leaders of the Union of North America confused, because they changed every month. Each time, I had to hope I would get a more intelligent Director, instead of one like that bean farmer that had come once. How he had ever gotten a degree in Politics I shall never know. “After all, you are Emperor. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do? Quash your people’s rights and all that?”
“Just because I have become leader of my country through hereditary means,” sniffed Emperor Nelland, “does not make me any worse of a leader than you. In fact,” he added, “I should hazard to say I am a rather better leader than you, since my country’s leadership does not change hands every month to anyone who applies and holds a degree in politics.”
“Hey!” Director-of-the-Month Williams replied. “The Director-of-the-Month system has been in place for over a century now and not once has it failed us. You’re just sore because the Union of North America hardly suffered at all during the Worst Depression and your country was forced to borrow huge sums of money to get your economy back on track that you now cannot repay. I estimate the amount still owed to be about… 15,234,657,987 varons, with interest.”
“You’re lying!” Emperor Nelland cried, “I calculated the amount owed just yesterday and it was nowhere near 15 billion varons! It was about 1,000,000 varons to the Mexican States and around 98, 234 varons to Canada and America! I’ve never heard such—”
“Oh! Are you calling me a liar?” Director-of-the-Month Williams crowed, jumping up from his chair and pounding his fist on the polished mahogany tabletop. “I must say I never thought that the education level in the Chilean Empire would drop so low that the emperor himself couldn’t count!”
“Now look here,” Emperor Nelland said heatedly, rising to his feet as well, but at that moment a loud crash shook the table. Director-of-the-Month Williams looked around wildly. No one else did. We were all used to this by now.
“That’s it!” Profiteer Parkinson yelled, his huge belly leading the way as he stormed from the room. His chair was lying on the ground, where it had fallen after he had violently stood up. “I can’t stand you people anymore! I’m leaving! I really am!”
There was silence in the room after he left. Director-of-the-Month Williams slowly sat back down, looking confused. Emperor Nelland sat down too, but he just looked annoyed.
“Profiteer Parkinson,” I said in my best bored-and-impatient-president voice, “often feels that these meetings are too much for him. However, he will return in approximately…15 minutes.”
I have many voices my Advisor says I am supposed to use at meetings like these ones. There is the bored-and-impatient-president voice (which I use quite a lot), which is meant to tell others that I am bored by the proceedings and am impatient to get back to my P.O.F.T. duties. There is also the tired-president voice, the irate-president voice, the calm-president voice, and the forceful-and-powerful-president voice, just to name a few more. But I won’t go into those now.
The silence in the room grew thicker still as we waited for Profiteer Parkinson to return. After twelve minutes, the silence felt as thick as the bullet-proof glass in the windows of the fancy black cars parked in a line outside. If I sat up really straight in my chair and leaned a little to the left, I could just see the cars in the driveway.
“Why are you leaning like that?” Director-of-the-Month Williams asked. I quickly straightened up.
“No reason,” I replied.
“Well, how do you know Profiteer Parkinson will return in 15 minutes?” Director-of-the-Month Williams continued. “How do you even know he’s coming back at all?”
Several people started to respond, but I gave them a superior-president wave and they subsided.
“Profiteer Parkinson often feels like the proceedings here are too much for him,” I said coolly. “But he always returns in fifteen minutes, because that is the time it takes for him to rush down to the kitchen, order and consume a large glazed doughnut, and slowly return back to the conference, by which time he hopes we will be finished talking about World Problems and will have moved on to tea.”
“Uh… will we have moved on to tea in fifteen minutes?” Director-of-the-Month Williams said in consternation. That was the problem with the Director-of-the-Month system. We had to do a lot of explaining to them every time we called a conference.
“Of course not,” I said shortly, “we never do. But Profiteer Parkinson always hopes. He’s just not used to being called away from his lavish lifestyle in the Indo-Guinean Empire.”
“That’s what happens, I guess, when you choose the richest person in your Empire to be the ruler, instead of the person actually qualified for the job,” Prime Minister Par said disgustedly. He disapproved of Profiteer Parkinson.
“You just don’t like Profiteer Parkinson because he had better cigars to smoke than you did last time we called a conference,” President Grum said pettily. He could never get along with anyone, not that he ever really tried.
“Now, now,” Queen Kaila said tiredly. “Do we really want to fight anymore?”
“Easy for you to say,” President R muttered, “while you sit there planning the best way to build your wall.”
But at that moment Profiteer Parkinson waddled back into the room, looking rather sheepish. Director-of-the-Month Williams glared at him, and he jumped and practically ran to his seat.
“I’m back,” he said, his eyes roving shiftily from side to side, “so now can we get on with tea?”
“Not now, Profiteer Parkinson,” I said, “perhaps in a little while. I believe we will adjourn the meeting for today.”
Everyone got up gladly and began chattering happily among themselves, but I remained sitting. It was time to get on with my confession.
“Excuse me, everyone,” I said crisply, “I just want to inform you that you have been lied to. I am not the P.O.F.T. at all. I am not the President of the World. In fact, I am only a 12 year old girl who happened to stumble into this palace last week.”
“Of course,” Profiteer Parkinson growled irritatedly, “I should have known you’d be the sly, sneaky type of President. You have that sort of face.”
“Oh, President, you musn’t say such things,” Queen Kaila said, looking down at me worriedly. “Why, you’ve been President for years! Telling lies like this will just get you in trouble.”
“Told you that one was too old to be much good to the world anymore,” Director-of-the-Month Williams whispered conspiratorially to Emperor Nelland, who nodded in quiet ascension.
“I never doubted you,” Emperor Nelland said. “But about that debt…”
“I’m sure we can work something out,” Director-of-the-Month Williams said jovially, clapping him on the shoulder.
“Of course you’re President of the World!” President R said tiredly. “And, though I know that if I were in your shoes I would feel like giving up the job sometimes, denying it won’t make it go away…”
“If you need somewhere to relax,” Prime Minister Par chimed in cheerily, “I know this absolutely amazing spa located on a warm Anfricanan beach that gives excellent treatments.”
“As long as you’re ready to continue this conference by tomorrow,” President Grum grumbled. “Since its impact on the future of Japanine is very great.”
I watched from my seat as they all filed out. I wasn’t particularly surprised by their reactions. I had expected that they wouldn’t believe me. They never did, after all. Dejectedly, I glanced out the window at the sleek black cars pulling away and heading off for the airport.
Suddenly, something caught my eye. A small pink dot stood out against the dark, wet pavement. I rushed away from the window and flew to the elevator, hurriedly punching the down button until it arrived. I shot inside and immediately hit the Lobby button. As soon as the elevator reached the Lobby, I jumped out, ran across the marble entrance hall, and yanked open the door just before the surprised butler reached it. A small girl, about twelve years old, with smooth black hair pulled back into a functional ponytail stood there, a wheelbarrow sitting on the porch behind her. She was wearing a bright fuchsia t-shirt with the words: “I may be a Girl Scout, but I’m one Tough Cookie” printed on it in bold purple letters. Perfect.
“Hi!” she said cheerfully. “Would you like to buy some cookies?”
“Of course!” I replied, grinning back at her. “But first I have a question for you.”
“What is it?” the girl asked good-naturedly. I chuckled, my head buzzing with the promise of freedom.
“Oh, not much,” I said nonchalantly. “Just this: How would you like to be the Presidente Ol Fangiri Totum, otherwise known as…President of the World?”