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The Chief Executive

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Message Bruce Rogers
Citizens crowd the ropes. Most of them are in a good mood, joking with the cops on the other side. Tiny droplets drizzle out of the gray sky, good weather for this time of year. The people are glad to have good weather for this occasion, their city's special day. Some of them hold flags. A few carry signs close to their bodies, trying to keep them dry.

Someone says, "Look!" and points to what could be a morning star burning through the overcast. But it's not a star. The light grows brighter, closer. It descends.

At the back of the crowd, a man and a woman hunch their shoulders against the damp and clutch at their coats. It bothers them that the crowd is so happy, so eager to see the man who will soon arrive. They hate him. They hate the way that the country has embraced him. She's the president of a company. He's the president of another. He writes letters to the paper. She calls her congressman every week. The letters get printed. The congressman takes the calls. But none of it does any good. No one listens to them, to people like them. No one takes presidents seriously.

"See the airplane, Honey?" a mother says to her child. "That's Air Force One. That's his plane."

The plane lands and taxis. Motorcycle police lead a string of six limousines out onto the tarmac. Citizens crowd the ropes. Some start waving their flags. Some hold small children up to see. The citizens with signs now raise them up. One sign says:

black fir and pine trees
before the red clouded sky---
night fills the river

The door to the plane opens, but for a long time no one comes out. Then, without any fanfare, there he is at the top of the steps---the Poet of the United States. He smiles and waves. People cheer. Alone, he descends the steps.

"Mr. Poet!" someone shouts. "Welcome to Oregon!"

The police try to usher him toward the waiting cars, but he instead strides toward the crowd.

"Mr. Poet!" another voice shouts, "Roses are red, violets are blue, we're glad that the Congress is working with you!"

The Poet laughs. "I appreciate the effort," he says, "but I know you can do better than that." He points at the haiku sign. "That one I like."

The woman holding the haiku whoops. People standing close to her laugh and tell her to hold her sign still so everyone can read it.

"Thank you for coming out today," the Poet says.

"We're behind you, Mr. Poet!" a man shouts.

"What can we do?" a woman calls out.

"Well I can tell you what I'm going to do while I'm here in Eugene," the Poet says. "I'm going to go to a dance recital. I'm going to listen to people I've never met before. Maybe one of them will tell me something that ought to be in a poem. Then I'm going to walk along the Willamette river and pick blackberries right off the vine. You do still have blackberries, don't you?"

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Bruce Holland Rogers writes short-short stories that he sells by e-mail subscription at The stories are available in English, French, and Chinese, with other languages coming soon. He is also the author of Word Work, a (more...)
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The Chief Executive

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