The little man and the President.



The President's hand hovered inches away from the front door, he was aware; even though he wasn’t looking at them, that everyone behind him was silently nodding their heads urging him on to knock.
He didn’t.
“Look, maybe we should just leave the guy alone? Who am I to just go knocking at his house asking to be let in?” he said, slightly lowering his hand without turning away from the peeled paint of the old wooden door,
“You are the President of the United States; you can knock on anyone’s door you want too.”
This time the President turned.
“You are the god damned Prime Minister of this country, maybe you should be knocking?”
The Prime Minister shuffled his feet and wished he hadn’t spoke, he glanced sideways at King Charles who pulled on a shirt cuff and took on an even more pained expression than he usually wore.
“We thought it best if you knocked old chap, after all, you are the most important man on earth.”
The president stared at the King for a moment and then turned back to the front door, he badly wanted a cigarette but these god damn limeys had outlawed them years back, and he didn’t want a diplomatic incident on his hands,
“Are you sure he lives here?”
“Yes sir, we are 100% certain this is his residence sir,” said a General, who, the President had noticed, had been edging further and further away from the door as the minutes passed. The General was now near the front gate, standing next to a small garden gnome that the secret service had knocked over, when they had searched the area prior to his arrival.
He looked up and down the road, quite a crowd had gathered and he could see his secret servicemen nervously talking into their sleeves, he couldn’t hear them though. That was what was weird about the scene; everyone there was silent, silent and staring at him and his hovering hand.
“Can’t we do something about this crowd?”
“Word got out on the internet Sir, we don’t have the manpower to push them back right now, the Chief of Staff is arranging to have a couple of gunships on standby.”
“Gunships?” said King Charles, eyeing his Rolls Royce.
“Purely a precaution Your Majesty,” said the Home secretary as he glanced up into the sky.
“Mr President, if you could just knock...”
The President turned back the door; his hand was still there, fluttering like a nervous hummingbird.
“Hold on a minute,” he said as he turned back the group behind him. “How come you are “your Majesty” and he is the “Prime Minister” and all I am is “Mr”? I’m the most important guy here and I’ve got the worst title.”
The Prime Minister rolled his eyes and flicked his head at the King.
“If you knock and speak to him, maybe we can sort out some sort of Knighthood for you.” said King Charles.
“Maybe?”
“Definitely,” said the prime Minister.
The Presidents eyes narrowed; he glanced at the Secretary of State who shrugged and looked at something on his nail and then nibbled at it.
“Sir we really need to knock now, the Russian Premier is asking for an update,” an aide with a mobile phone held to his ear urged.
The president turned back to the door, took a deep breath and knocked.
Nothing happened other than some more paint fell off the door.
“Is he home?” the President said without turning around.
“We have satellite heat seekers confirming his presence sir.” someone said behind him.
He knocked again,
“Pentagon reporting two heat sources on the move inside sir,” another voice said from further down the path.
The President gulped and took a small step back, like a tide the massed group of people on the small garden path took a step back as well, somewhere a camera flashed and the silent crowd somehow managed to become even more silent.
“Who is it?” said the letterbox.
“It’s the President of the United States of America.” said the president, in the deepest voice he could muster.
“And the King,” said the king, not wanting to be left out.
“And the Prime Minister,” said the prime Minister, who was now aware that the press had arrived.
“Piss off.” Said the letterbox.
The President, who wasn’t used to being told to “Piss Off” took another step back and glanced at his secret service men, most of whom reached into their jackets, the King, who was used to being told to “Piss off” gently put his hand on his arm and said.
“Maybe I should have a try?”
The President nodded and gestured for King Charles to take his place, the King smiled and gently knocked on the door and then played with his cuff again.
“Who is it?” said the letterbox again,
“It’s the King,” said the King, quickly shushing the prime minister who was about to chime in again.
“I told you to piss off.” said the letterbox, again.
“Now look dear boy, we’ve come a long way to speak to you, couldn’t you spare us a moment of your time?”
The letterbox didn’t answer.
“The President has come all the way from America; he’s very keen to meet you.”
The letterbox answered by making the sound of a chain being taken off. The door then opened a few inches and a cat stuck its head around the bottom of it.
Everyone stared at the cat, and the cat stared at everyone, then went back inside out of sight.
“One heat source moving to the back of the house, one heat source remains behind the front door.” said someone.
“Do you have any cigarettes?” said the gap.
“Erm, no,” said the King. “They are against the law.”
“Not you, you can piss off, I was talking to the President.” said the gap.
“Yes, we have cigarettes.” Said the President; he waved his hand without taking his eyes off the front door and a secret serviceman rushed forward with a carton of Marlboro lights, he took them and held them out to the door.
A hand, not a paw, snaked through the gap, took them and then disappeared back out of sight.
“Have you only got lights?” said the gap.
The President looked up the path at the twenty nodding heads and the toppled gnome.
“I’m afraid that’s all we have, maybe we can get you some others at a later date... if of course you speak to us?” the president realised that he was sounding desperate and silently cursed.
“He shouldn’t really have those, they are illegal.” said the Prime Minister so the King nudged him sharply. “I’m just saying that’s all.” said the Prime minister rubbing his side.
The door swung back a few inches and a man in a cardigan stood before them, he was clutching the cigarettes to his chest. The president noticed that he wasn’t wearing any shoes and only had one sock on. The man looked past the president and pointed down the path.
“Who knocked my gnome over?”
“Pick up the god damned gnome.” said the president, and five people tried to pick the gnome up at once, eventually it returned to its rightful position, just behind the gate near the privets.
The man squinted at the President and then pulled the front of his cardigan down to meet his tracksuit bottoms, as soon as he let go it edged back up his stomach and his yellow tee shirt smiled at them like smokers teeth under a woollen top lip.
“Anyone got a lighter?” said the man.
The President clicked his fingers and an aide ran forward and held a flickering hand and a flickering flame to the end of one of the Marlboro’s. The man sucked on the cigarette and as he did he closed his eyes and the cardigan edged further up his belly. After a moment he exhaled and opened his eyes, the cat re appeared at his feet and stared down the path again as it pushed against the man’s leg, but the cardigan stayed firmly in place.
“You’d better come in.” Said the man, and the President nodded to everyone there and entered the house, as the King and the Prime Minister took half a step forward the man closed the door in their faces. The secret service men looked at each other nervously as their charge disappeared from view, they looked at the secretary of state who shook his head and nibbled his finger some more, so they took a step backwards.
The President was on his own.
Inside the hallway the President followed the little man and the cat into a tiny living room, the little man sat down on an old armchair that didn’t match an overstuffed leather couch that was lying like a dead cow against the opposite wall.
“Take a seat,” said the man as he picked up some nail clippers from the arm of the chair and then commenced to clip his toenails on the foot without the sock.
There was a sharp crack and something flew off the clippers into the Presidents general direction; he looked down at his suit trousers and then took a seat on the edge of the couch. The cat, wandered over and decided that having a President to sit on was too good an opportunity to miss, hopped onto his lap.
The clippers clipped again and the president felt something sharp brush across his face, he flicked his hand at his cheek and the cat in one smooth movement but both of them ignored him. The cat turned round three times and lay down, purring at the pleasure of shedding hairs.
“I’ve got to keep on top of it, it has a tendency to grow in.” Said the little man.
“Excuse me?”
“My toenail, it has a tendency.”
“Ah,” said the president. “Maybe I can get that looked at? I have a Doctor with me.”
“Are you not well?” said the man, looking up and seeing the cat.
“No, he travels with me, in case I become unwell.”
“Shouldn’t he be helping sick people instead of following a well one?”
The President thought about that for a moment and then stroked the cat.
“I guess he should.”
The cat purred and the man put his sock on.
“Would you like a cup of tea?”
“No but I’d like one of those cigarettes.”
The man passed one across, the room was so small he didn’t have to stand up to do so. He placed a saucer on the old mat between them and the cat momentarily took interest, then realised the saucer didn’t have any milk in it and went back to closed eyed purring.
The President reached across then tapped his pockets and the man passed his three quarter smoked butt across for the president to draw a light from. When he got it back he lit a fresh one and stubbed the butt out on the saucer.
“What do you want?” said the man.
“You know what we want.” said the president.
The cat purred deeper and stretched, reminding the President to keep stroking, and he did.
“Well you’ve wasted your journey.”
“We need you.”
“You should have thought about that.”
“We can pay you.”
“Are you sure?”
The president glanced around the room, he knew it wasn’t going well and wanted to change tack.
“I think your cat likes me.”
“It’s not my cat, its next doors; he comes in here because he hates kids.”
“Do they have many kids?”
“I don’t know, I don’t speak to them, I don’t speak to anyone...not anymore.”
“You are speaking to me.”
“You brought me cigarettes.”
“I can bring you more; maybe take you to America where you can get your own, would you like that?”
“I couldn’t leave the cat.”
“You can bring him with you.”
“He isn’t mine.”
“They’ll let you take him, I can make them.”
“No.”
“No?”
“No, I don’t want to go.”
The cat farted.
“Maybe I’ll have that cup of tea,” said the President.
The little man got up and went into the kitchen and the President put down the flatulent cat and followed him. As he passed through the hallway he saw that King Charles was looking through the letterbox, he silently waved him away and went into the kitchen.
The little man was putting tea bags into chipped mugs on a stained worktop, he poured some milk from a bottle and from nowhere the cat jumped up and sat and watched.
“The cat farted,” said the President
“It’s his age.”
“How old is he?”
“I don’t know,” said the little man as he lit the stove and put an old whistling kettle on to the flame. “Do you want a biscuit?”
“No I’m fine.”
“I was talking to the cat,” said the little man as he opened a cupboard and snapped a dog biscuit in half for the cat.
“Those are dog biscuits.”
“Its okay,” said the little man. “He can’t read.”
The president smiled and stroked the cats head.
“Maybe I’ll have a cookie after all.”
“Can you read?”
“Yes.”
“Well I haven’t got any,” said the little man as he put the dog-biscuits back into the cupboard and the kettle started to whistle.
The president smiled and watched the little man lift the kettle and pour water into the cups. He stabbed at the tea bags, dunking them with a stained tea spoon before eventually plopping them, one by one, onto the sinks edge, like tiny watery sand bags. He passed the President a mug and squeezed by him back into the living room, resuming his place in the chair. This time the President sat fully back onto the couch where he was quickly joined by the cat, which turned once, twice, three times, and then plopped down with the same noisy purr.
They sat silently, except the cat, drinking tea and staring at the little gas fire that hissed and popped in response to the ticking tock of the clock.
“The cat likes you,” said the little man, after some time had passed,
“I like the cat,” said the president, pinching slightly the ruff of its neck, and getting eight stretching claws in his leg in return.
“He normally won’t sit with anyone.”
“You two have a lot in common.”
The little man smiled and drank some tea, then looked at the fire some more.
The president looked around the room again until his eyes settled on a dusty laptop buried under some unfolded clothes.
“Do you still use that?”
“The laptop?”
“Yeah,” said the President.
“What’s the point?” said the little man.
“We need you.”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“The point is... we need you. That’s the answer... what’s yours?”
“You want me to create again?”
“You are the only one left.”
“Will you pay for it?”
“I’ll make sure we all pay for it.”
“If you had made sure we got paid in the past I wouldn’t be the last one left.”
“But we didn't and you are.”
The little man looked at the laptop for a moment and then back into his tea.
“I’m not sure I know how anymore, it’s been so long.”
“You’ll remember.”
“What if I’ve forgotten how to tell a story?”
“We’ve forgotten, you haven’t.”
“I suppose I could try.”
“We need new stories, we need something fresh... we need you, all of us. We need you, the writer.”
“Okay, I’ll do it, for you. But they have to pay; I’m not doing it so they can just steal it. And it isn't just theft, I want a decent payment, a living wage. Those dog biscuits cost money, real money, not fractions of pennies, real pennies, understand?”
“I promise, they’ll pay.”
"And I'm not giving it away on the promise of more work either, I don't need a fucking platform, I need a fucking pay packet. If you want to use my stuff to make money give me some of it, it's only fair."
"We'll do whatever you want, you're the only one left; anything, any money, any platform, name your price, we're desperate."
"Alright then, I'll have a go..." the little man nodded and the President put down the cat, stood and then shook the little man’s hand,
“Thank you for the tea.”
“Thank you for the cigarettes.”
“I’ll leave some people here; they’ll give you anything you need.”
They both stared at each other for a moment then shook hands again,
            "You know,  if you'd paid for stuff back when there were lots of us you wouldn't be in this predicament." the little man put down his tea.
           "I guess we left it too late."
           "You nearly did."
“I’d better go and tell them the good news," the president flicked his head at the front door.
“I’d better start writing.”
The President nodded and left the room, once in the hallway he straightened his tie and picked off some cat hairs, he strode to the front door every inch the statesman and flung it open so violently the King and the Prime Minister flinched as he walked out and down the path.
“Any news?” said King Charles.
“I’m going to make a statement for the press, just go along with it.”
“Now look here,” said the Prime Minister but the President ignored him and stopped at the closed garden gate where a number of press people and cameras had gathered, the murmuring crowd fell silent and a few camera flashes popped.
“I have an announcement ladies and gentlemen, I have spoken to the last creative person on earth, and he has agreed to write some new stuff for us.”
The crowd clapped and cheered and many more flashes popped and fizzed, the President calmed the shushed with the palms of his hands, eventually some quiet returned so he continued.
“Now, we must treasure this man, we have, over the years, lost our musicians, our film makers and our writers. They have fallen hungry and turned to other means to make money as a result of our reluctance to pay for their services and the theft of their work. And now, having found the last creative person left in the world in this small house in England, and having spent some time negotiating with him to ensure that he is prepared to give us a new story, I must ask you, in fact no, I must insist... that you pay a fair fee for this work."
The crowd groaned and the President again calmed them.
“We have to understand that we cannot expect this person to work for nothing! Just because they only use their brains we must understand that they need to eat, maybe buy nice things and have the occasional trip away to er.... to er....”
             “Llandudno.” whispered the Prime Minister,
             “To Llandudno.” a few people in the crowd nodded and a murmur rose from its midst.
“I’ll pay!” shouted one,
“As long as it doesn’t cost too much!” shouted another,
“Is it all going to him or is a big company taking a skim off the top?” cried a voice.
“Most will go to him depending on his publishing contract.” replied the president. “We need to help this man, we need his creativity and we should value it!”
A huge cheer rose from the crowd and some of them started to cry, the President, who was a master at this sort of thing, waved and nodded with a confident smile on his face. Next to him the Prime Minister tried his best to copy the President and worried that he was looking short next to the tall American.
It took a moment for the president to realise someone was pulling his jacket tail, he turned and there stood the little man, he pulled the Presidents lapel and so that he could whisper in his ear. The president leaned close and placed a finger in his other ear to hear better what the little man had to say,
              “What? I can’t hear you.,” said the President, putting his head so close to the little man's lips he could feel them brush on his cheek,
              “I've forgotten how to do it!” the little man shouted.