A no-holds-barred look at the American presidential race

★ ★ ★ ★

Image by Eric Eckhart

On Day One: A Series of Nightmares About January 20, 2017

By Maria Behan

Nightmare Number Two: Hoping to catch some of President Sanders’ inaugural parade, a citizen flips through the news channels. First stop: MSNBC, where Rachel Maddow, Brian Williams, and Chuck Todd sit around the news desk.

“I can’t believe I’m actually saying these words: Today is Bernie Sanders’ inauguration day.” Chuck Todd smirks at his colleagues and rolls his eyes.

“We don’t have a camera crew down there, but reports are coming in that President Sanders is riding a unicorn down Pennsylvania Avenue as he throws twenty-dollar bills out at the crowd,” Williams says.

“Apparently, that’s money left over from the huge campaign war chest Sanders amassed from millions of small contributions,” Maddow chimes in. “And it’s been confirmed that today’s crowd is the biggest that has ever assembled for an American presidential inauguration. But now we’re going to go to a special program: The Way We (Almost) Were.” Maddow’s hands curve to convey the parentheses around the second-to-last word.

“As a nation, we have to ask ourselves how we got within a 10-point margin of electing Donald Trump, a patently unqualified, bigoted, and almost unimaginably distasteful candidate,” Williams says solemnly. “We hope this special 90-minute report on Trump will begin that process. And to keep that important discussion going, we’ll be covering Trump’s antics every day for the foreseeable future.”

The channel is switched to CNN, where Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer are on set, looking glum.

“The Pope, Bono, the Dali Lama, and reportedly, Bambi, are all in Washington to join in the inauguration festivities,” Cooper says. “What do you make of that, Wolf?”

“Why isn’t Beyoncé there? And what about Israel?”

“Good points, Wolf.”

“Now…let’s cut away to some recently released shots of Melania Trump lounging by the pool at the Donald’s fabulous Mar-A-Largo resort. My guess is he won’t have too hard a time consoling himself over his electoral loss, eh Anderson?”

Cooper looks pale and aghast, as usual.

The would-be inauguration viewer tries one last time, switching over to Fox News.

“Bolshevik Bernie is going to finish the job Obama started: turning our country into a socialist hellhole where our children are forced to learn Arabic and the fate of our elders are decided by the whims of death panels,” Bill O’Reilly is saying. “And Sanders has no excuse: Unlike Obama, he was actually born in our country.”

“I can’t even bear to think about it,” Sean Hannity says. “Can’t we talk about something more pleasant? Like Benghazi? Or the War on Christmas?”

Meanwhile back at the White House:

Bernie and Jane Sanders are in their bathrobes in the White House residence’s kitchen, finishing up bowls of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

“Quite a day today, wasn’t it, hon?” Jane says.

“Unbelievable!” Bernie turns to his wife with a big, crooked smile. “But you know, part of me always believed it might come.”

“Me, too—ever since I worked on your campaign for mayor of Burlington, Vermont.”

“That’s why you’re my wife. Others see a man with amber teeth and messy hair, but you see the leader of a peaceful revolution.”

“Careful there, Bernie. Has the presidency has gone to your head already?”

“Just kidding, honey.” He gets up and walks over to the sink, somewhat stiffly. He puts both of their bowls in the dishwasher. “We’d better turn in, since it’s a big day tomorrow. Elizabeth and I have a breakfast meeting with John McCain and some of the very few Republicans left in Congress. I’m pretty sure I can get them to back some of my plans, especially on prison reform and student-debt relief.”

“You’re going to make America great again, Bernie,” Jane says, her eyes misting with tears.

He holds his a finger up to his lips. “Shhh…don’t tell that other guy!”

Maria Behan writes fiction and non-fiction. Her work has appeared in publications such as The Stinging Fly, The Irish Times, and Northern California Best Places.