By John F. Di Leo –
Introduction: Imagine, if you will, an alternate universe in which a confused old man – Joe Buckstop – stumbles into the presidency, and spends his entire term in his basement. Each evening, an aide walks downstairs and serves him his bowl of soup, and engages him in conversation about current events, in a losing effort to keep his mind hale. Tonight's episode is an excerpt from the ongoing series, "Evening Soup with Basement Joe," by John F. Di Leo, a fictional chronicle of the events of 2021, a political satire available in paperback or eBook from Amazon.
"Good evening, sir! I have soup!"
"And I have a headache. Leave me alone."
"Don't you want your soup, sir?"
"Of course I want my soup. Just don't want to talk to anybody."
"Oh, I see. Dale Carnegie is alive and well, I see."
"Huh? Who's there?"
"Never mind, sir, just talking to myself, sir."
"Well get over here with that soup. I haven't eaten in hours. They're starving me down here."
"Somehow, sir, I doubt that."
"What is that stuff there anyway?"
"It's called German Solyanka soup, sir. Apparently it's made with smoked meats, sir. The cook said you've never had anything like it, sir."
"Yes, sir, of course. Soup, crackers, napkins and soup spoons, sir. Here you go."
"Mmm… Wonder why she made this."
"I don't know, sir. Usually her choices have something to do with the news, sir, but I didn't see any news stories about Germany today, sir."
"Mmm…. This tastes weird. Sort of… pungent."
"Oh, you noticed the pickle juice, sir?"
"Yes sir. Smoked meats, vegetables, pickle juice, mustard. The cook said it had a very distinct flavor, sir. Glad you like it."
"I didn't say I liked it."
"Well, you also didn't say you were going to allow George Soros to rule your administration, either, sir, but that doesn't mean it's not so."
"Huh? What's that? Stop mumbling, boy!"
"Sorry, sir. Just that I'm glad you like the soup, and I'll be sure to tell the cook."
"Oh. Okay then. Don't forget."
"One thing I heard a lot about today on the news was inflation, sir. Everybody seems to be talking about how much damage it's doing, sir."
"Oh, there's no inflation."
"Actually, sir, it's the worst we've seen in about 40 years, sir. They're comparing the current economy with Jimmy Carter's, sir. And not favorably, sir."
"Come on, man! I'm doing my best! It's all Trump's fault!"
"That really doesn't help, sir."
"It's these reports. Every day there seems to be another statistic. One day they say too many people lost their jobs. Then the next day they say not enough new jobs were created. Then the next day they whine about low rates of savings by old people, or young people, or middle aged people, or whatever. It's the same every month. Like a record player. Man. I'd like to make the media drink pickle juice and mustard, man."
"Well, sir, have you considered how to deal with these situations?"
"Yeah. Gonna ban the statistics guys."
"What? That won't help you, sir!"
"If they're not there to report bad numbers, then the bad numbers won't upset people. Clever, huh?"
"Umm… no, sir… The bad numbers represent things that the people already know about, sir. They're lagging indicators, sir."
"Keep them out of here. I'm not meeting with any of those statistics guys, so don't let them push their way in!"
"It's all statistics nowadays, sir. Everyone's talking about what things are going to be early… what things are going to be late…"
"Oh, it's already too late for tonight."
"No, sir, I think they're all talking about Christmas, sir."
"Well, as long as they all end up where they're needed, that's what counts!"
"I don't think anyone can expect that all these backed up containers will be cleared out by Thanksgiving, or even by Christmas, sir."
"My staff said that all these problems are going away anyway."
"And how do they think this is magically going to happen, sir?"
"Oh, we're getting the ports to be open 24/7."
"Well, sir, that certainly is an accomplishment. Are you making all the railroad yards stay open 24/7 too, sir?"
"Well, no… my people said opening the ports 24 hours a day was the solution."
"And what do your people know about seaports, sir? For a 24/7 commitment to make a difference, the railroads would all have to accept the same commitment, sir."
"Oh. Well, umm… you know, this is decent soup. Too much mustard though."
"Then there's the issue of the California truckers, sir. California keeps passing laws banning older commercial vehicles, sir. Trucks can't operate if the state locks them all out of government facilities or other potential origins and destinations, sir."
"Then there's the problem of fuel prices, sir…"
"Fuel? Don't need fuel anymore. I'm mandating electric powered vehicles!"
"Sir, electric powered vehicles aren't going to replace all the trucks in this country. At least, not for generations, now, sir. In the meantime, most trucks run on diesel or other petroleum fuels. and you've caused those prices to double, sir. In just eight months, sir."
"No I haven't! Trump did this!"
"Uh, sir, Trump made us energy independent. You've made us energy-dependent on the rest of the world, sir. It's a pretty painful cost, sir."
"And then there's food. It's amazing how prices have increased at grocery stores. At least as bad as in the 1970s. I've never been through anything like this before, sir, but they covered it in my econ class, sir. It must have been awful, sir."
"Oh, inflation is just a problem for the rich. For regular folks, it's nothing much."
"Your chief of staff said something to that effect the other day too, sir. The rest of the press is grudgingly agreeing that this is crazy, sir. That inflation hurts the poor and indigent the most…. that inflation hits parents and shopowners and consultants and just everybody, sir. Because if you drive, it gets you. If you buy food, it gets you. If you try to heat or cool your home, it gets you, sir."
"Sorry, I nodded off a minute, I didn't get that."
"No surprise here, sir. I was just getting ready to quote some statistics, sir. Fuel is up by 100% since a year ago, sir. Home heating bills are at least expected to go up 50% or so, sir. Big necessities like cars and home appliances are going up by a quarter or more, largely because of demand, and largely because these things all cost the reseller more, thanks to the transportation bills, sir."
"Look, my staff said inflation doesn't matter, and they outnumber you."
"Sir, they're just wrong – I can't help it – it's just a fact, sir. Inflation hurts the poor the most, and the middle class next, sir."
"I don't know why you keep saying all this. I haven't seen any inflation."
"Do you do your household grocery shopping, sir, or does your staff?"
"Well, the staff of course."
"Do you pay your utility bills, sir, like for heat, air conditioning, the washing machines, the oven, sir…"
"No, I don't pay that stuff! I have people for that. I don't get involved in that stuff."
"Do you go out to dinner, sir?"
"No, of course not! Too many crowds here…."
"Yes sir. Well, sir, if you went out to dinner, you'd see some pretty huge price increases over the past year or so, sir. Huge, sir."
"Well, what do you want me to do it?"
"You could pretty much renounce everything you've done so far, sir, and just pick up the Trump agenda where he left off, sir. That would improve things, sir… But i don't suppose you'd do that?"
"Well, then, sir, I'd say that only leaves one thing, sir."
"Buy a wheelbarrow, sir. Buy lots and lots of wheelbarrows, sir."
Copyright 2021 John F Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based transportation and trade compliance professional, writer and actor. A one-time political activist and former county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party, his columns have been published by Illinois Review since 2009.
John's first book, a collection of his short stories about voting fraud originally run in Illinois Review, is available on Amazon under the title "The Tales of Little Pavel."
Also available on Amazon is the first volume of his new fiction series, "Evening Soup with Basement Joe," a political satire, set in a parallel universe not quite identical to the Earth of 2021… in which a confused, crooked old man becomes president, and a young aide brings down his nightly bowl of soup and engages him in conversation, in a losing battle to restrain the onset of dementia. Volume one covers the first ninety days of this strange new world.
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