What if America’s creeps were cast members on The Simpsons meet Survivor? 2,158 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.
“An animated weekly web series.”
The producer didn’t say anything. Grover waited. He needed a sign. Fingers tapping, a cough. Finally – thank fucking God – the producer blinked. Grover dove back in.
“We’ll generate money from YouTube ads, a lot of ads, because I think this could go big very quickly. Affiliate marketing, merchandising, a book deal, DVDs, network, possible feature sale. But we’ve got to move fast.”
The producer shook his head. “Bannon might be on the way out. But he’s got Hollywood ties. So does Mnuchin. I don’t know if I want to go up against that. How many people have you talked to about this?”
“You’re the first,” Grover said. And that was mostly true. He’d pitched the idea to a producer friend at a Clippers game and the friend had laughed. “Yowza. Career suicide, pal.” Which didn’t exactly count as a pass, did it?
“Remind me of the one-liner again.” The producer took a deep breath.
“Lord Of The Flies meets Island Of Misfit Toys meets ‘Basket Of Deplorables’.”
The producer looked out his window. Jetliner view, no smog today and he could almost see Catalina. “My name can’t be on it, and no one should be able to you trace the show back to me. We’ll have to work on the legal.”
“Absolutely.” Grover was thrilled. He’d sold it in the room.
“Talk me through the first episode.”
The food ran out on Day Four, although it was rumored the man with the pacemaker had a cooler he’d stashed away on another part of the island. Everyone watched him closely, but he ignored them. He’d never cared about what people thought before, so why should he now? Instead he sat under a palm tree (his palm tree, he’d decided) where he could stare out at the ocean.
“He likes to go fishing,” the shaggy-haired guy said to Richard, nodding at the man with the pacemaker. Richard didn’t say anything. Which was probably fine because at least he wasn’t quoting Nietzsche.
The shaggy-haired guy wiped his face. The beard stubble he’d cultivated to appear rugged now made him look like someone who regularly slept in a cardboard box and pissed in an alleyway. Red-eyed, shaky hands, he needed something more substantial than fish. He’d emptied his flask on the first day.
Richard was watching two male swimmers standing at the edge of the sand. “If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you,” he said and headed off into the jungle.
The shaggy-haired guy wasn’t sorry to see him go. Jesus, could Richard ever make a joke?
“I’m way faster than you,” the dark-haired swimmer was saying.
“You’re totally out of shape,” said the blond swimmer. And then he dove into a wave, his strong arms a blur of motion in the water. After a moment of hesitation, the other swimmer was behind him, white foam splashing against blue sky as they raced to…
To where? The shaggy-haired guy didn’t know the location of the island or how he’d even ended up here. One minute he was in the office working on his laptop (a story he was creating for Breitbart about the impending Obama divorce after the discovery of Michelle’s threesome with Huma Abedin and Katy Perry, a fake scandal to make the libtards go nuts) and then he was plopped in this tropical almost-paradise. Azure water and white sand. All the beach needed to reach perfection was a smiling waiter from a sprawling Four Seasons resort fetching an icy mojito.
But instead of a five-star hotel, there was nothing. No waiter, no mojito. Only dunes and a tangle of jungle with thick trees and a small pond with water that looked clear enough to be safe to drink. But on the first day, when he was ready to cup his hands to take a sip, the sons had pushed him out of the way.
“Fuck off,” they demanded. “Find your own drinking fountain.”
Then the pair laughed and flopped on their stomachs, lapping at the water like dogs. Later he’d heard them vomiting. “Shit,” one of them said, and suddenly both brothers groaned as contaminated water gushed through their intestines. He thought about checking on them. Was that still part of his job? Did he still have a job? Who the fuck still knew?
The shaggy-haired guy wished he had a hat. He wished he had a lot of things: blood pressure medicine, steak au poivre and pommes frites (aka Freedom Fries), a Kindle with a charger so he could reread The Fourth Turning, a tanker truck filled with Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. Unless this was some kind of dream, more likely some weird nightmare. He patted his empty flask. He thought about taking it out and imagined it refilled, like the miracle of the loaves and fishes – forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. But maybe he was paying for his multiple divorces or the other sins he’d never repented. Or had repented, but didn’t really mean it.
So when he shook the flask, it was still empty.
It was a shame one of the few women on the island so far was The Cee. Everyone simply referred to her as that, never by her real name. She wasn’t as cold and unpleasant as she presented herself on TV, but he disliked her company. She never looked anybody in the eye. Instead she looked over you, hoping to see someone more important. And her fake tits didn’t turn him on. What was his type? Three wives and he hadn’t gotten it right yet.
“I guess there’ll be plenty of time to work on a new book,” is what she’d said when they first saw each other on the island. “But how will I sell it to my followers without social media?” As she spoke, her bottle blonde straight hair was flipping over her shoulders like sharp knives. He hoped not to be stuck here too long because the thought of sex with her made him want to puke. Who did have to fuck her was The Chosen One. Jared would be a problem, had always been a problem, but that twat wouldn’t last a day on the island. Hopefully, he’d show up soon. He was en route.
Race appeared and was admiring the swimmers. Ever since the pundits had compared the white-haired guv to the cartoon character from The Adventures Of Jonny Quest, it was impossible to think of him as anyone other than Race. And, to his credit, he’d adopted the name. Race at least had a sense of humor, while El Naranja had none. Race had handled that Hamilton kerfuffle – those Broadway fruits and nuts booing him – with his usual stone face. It was Cheetolini who’d gone batshit crazy. Then again everything made Trumplethinskin batshit crazy.
Photos of his triple chin, Alec Baldwin on SNL, talk of his tiny hands (which, in reality, are truly doll-sized), anything to do with Russia. All would cause him to erupt with those inane (and insane) early morning tweet storms. The shaggy-haired guy had thrown away a dozen Android phones, and pleaded and scolded and even complained to Kellyanne who’d shrugged it off. “People admire him for his honesty.” As if The Twitler knew how to do anything but lie. The shaggy-haired guy didn’t need a poll on that.
He was preparing the fire, even though there was nothing to put in the pot. When they’d arrived, most everyone had pooled their provisions even though they didn’t have much. A few Larabars, some quinoa, bottles of Evian. The Cee only had a single chamomile tea bag. Naturally, Sunkist Stalin and the man with the pacemaker refused to contribute anything.
Race joined the shaggy-haired guy by the fire. “I’ve always liked swimming competitions,” Race commented. “What’s for dinner?”
“We’ve run out. There’s nothing.”
Race frowned. “Has anyone told… “ He trailed off and nodded toward the tent at the top of a small sandy rise. The best spot, of course, selected by the Fanta Fascist.
“Not yet. I was thinking we might ask Walter.”
Walter was sitting with Martin. Everyone hated Martin who was constantly complaining about his migraines, his inability to sleep and his lack of Vicodin or Xanax. He spent most of the time sitting by himself under a palm tree and picking at his cuticles. It seemed to make some sense that Walter, a doctor – well, a dentist – would be the one to comfort Martin. The irony, of course, wasn’t lost on anyone that Martin Shkreli, the price-gouging pharmaceutical businessman, couldn’t exist without medicine. Serves you right, douche canoe, the shaggy-haired man thought.
He looked around at Martin, at the swimmers Ryan “Lying” Lochte and sexual assaulter Brock Turner, at The Cee, at Nietzsche quoting white supremacist Richard Spencer, at Walter Palmer (the Minnesota tooth jockey who killed Cecil the lion on a big game hunt), at the man with the pacemaker Dick Cheney. The Bills (O’Reilly and Cosby) never socialized; probably too busy swapping harassment tips and predator stories.
Don The Con stayed out of sight, lost without his son-in-law. The thought made the shaggy-haired guy grin. “Jared, Jared,” Donald Trump wailed in the middle of the night. “Why isn’t Jared here yet?” To join the other islanders vilified by the media, by the public, by most of the world.
The shaggy-haired guy wondered: what have I done that’s so terrible? I was an investment banker, I produced movies, I was a media exec (and still am, thanks to that recent White House conflict of interest waiver) who turned Breitbart into Trump’s personal Pravda, I became a political strategist. I’m now the power behind the throne, and the President can’t take a piss without Steve-O. So why am I here?
The two swimmers ran up to the fire. “You have goosebumps,” Race said to Brock and began to rub the athlete’s shoulders.
A small clique had gathered around the campfire and were looking into the empty cooking pots. “We have to forage for food tomorrow,” the shaggy-haired guy told the starving group. “Walter’s a hunter. And Eric and Donald Junior. But they don’t, and you can’t, eat what they kill.”
Thank God the sun had gone down. The heat seemed to sear into Steve’s brain and make his thinking muddy. Muddled. Fuck, he couldn’t think of the right word. He needed a plan when, not if, Jared showed up. An alliance, like on Survivor. That was their world now, a real life Reality TV episode. He’d watched enough seasons to know who’d emerge the winner. Not someone who came off as a know-it-all, like the sons and son-in-law. Not the strongest, like the swimmers. Not the shrewdest, like Martin. Not the loudest, like the Bills. Bannon had a plan. He wouldn’t be obvious, he’d be solicitous, asking if there was anything he could do for the others. They’d joke about The Cee. And about Stephen Miller crapping his pants. He was missing – no great loss. The last time anyone had seen him, he’d been curled in a fetal position and humming Die Walküre.
The winner stayed under the radar. Watching. And waiting. Who was his competition? The Cee would be the first one voted off the island. Unanimously. And Cheney wasn’t much good with a shotgun. (Wasn’t some Texan still picking Dick’s birdshot out of the face, neck and chest?)
No, the one to keep an eye on was Race. Always sucking up and putting up with everyone except LGBTs and feminists and non-Christians and — oh, hell, very few people, Mike Pence was the threat even if he did keep his gaze fixed out to sea on the lookout for a way out of here.
Tomorrow morning, everything would be fine. Everybody was sure of it.
They wouldn’t be on the island much longer. Soon Bannon would wake up back in the house in Georgetown – or Florida, or California, or NYC: where did he vote again? – with crisp Frette sheets on the bed, Keurig humming in the kitchen, and Fox & Friends on the 60-inch Samsung. He didn’t belong here. Someone had screwed up. Why hadn’t he quit when things started to go south? Go back to Breitbart, maybe give the Heritage Foundation a try?
He touched the flask in his pocket… and heard the faint sound of a splash.
“Are you going to use your name?” the producer asked.
“Hell no,” Grover said. “Alan Smithee, or some version of that.”
“Fine. So what happens in the second episode?”
“Second episode? I’ve got thirteen beat out for Season One and, the way things are going, I won’t run out of material anytime soon.” Grover smiled. “Depending on Mueller.”
And to think how depressed Grover had been the day after the election.