The Trump T-shirt

VLADIMIR VLADMELI

The Trump T-shirt
Igor put on his Trump T-shirt and baseball cap and asked his wife how she liked his new outfit for strolling, that is how he called walking at a rapid pace, which he had taken up instead of jogging a few years ago.
Id wear a helmet instead of a cap if I were you, said his wife.
They wont touch me, I take weights with me.
But what will your girlfriend say? She wont understand you.
That was his wifes name for a neighbor that Igor had met for the first time at the stadium.
They had only just moved to the area, and Igor was selecting a route for jogging. He had tried several options, and settled on one which passed along the main road and then through a twisting alley to the stadium. Igor ran around it a few times and then returned home. During one such jog, he saw a woman in the stadium moving in front of him at a rapid pace. The distance between them was hardly decreasing, and he realized that it would take him a whole lap to catch her up and then hed have to jog alongside her for another half-lap. Igor made a U-turn and ran the other way.
He soon got to know this woman. She was well over 70, and her name was Megan. In her youth she had run really long marathons. According to her, several categories of runners took part in these competitions at the same time. The sturdiest of them had to cover 100 miles, and started first because they had to run for more than a day without sleep or rest. Then, about eight hours later, when a third of the distance was behind them, they were joined by the next group, who ran for 60 miles, and at the very end, another group joined in to run the standard marathon. Everything was calculated so that the vast majority ran in the main group.
Before Megan retired, she had been a university professor for many years. She used to teach and do research on how quickly the organism wears out under constant severe stress. Her own experience had shown that it wore out much faster, so she went over to walking. Her husband, also a professor, did not believe her conclusions and continued running the long marathons. He suffered an untimely death during one of them. He was only 84.
From the first day they met, Megan, looking meaningfully at Igor, told him that after a certain age, running has a harmful effect on the joints, and persistently advised him to follow her example. In the end, he did, but to compensate for the reduction in speed, he increased the stress by walking with weights. He kept to the same route, and in time it turned out that his rate of movement had hardly changed. His wife had long been advising him to go over to walking, but had done it in such a way that his pride would not allow him to follow her advice.
When you run, she used to say, its pitiful to watch you. You look as if youre just about to fall over. Better not to bring shame on yourself. Make out youre walking.
Igor often met Megan during his strolls, and they talked about all sorts of different things. Their interests overlapped, their tastes coincided, and sometimes, carried away by the conversation, they walked for considerably longer than they had intended. In politics alone, they had different views, but once they realized this, they avoided conversations on vexed questions.
And now he had hardly left the house before he found himself face to face with Megan.
Surely you dont support him? she exclaimed, without even her regular greetings.
I certainly do.
Then I wont talk to you.
Thats your right, he replied coldly, but she quickly added: Till the election. When passions have cooled well continue our chats.
This meeting put him off balance, and if he had not believed in omens, he would have gone home and changed. But he thought there wouldnt be many people out in their suburb early in the morning, and even those will be Minnesotans, citizens of the state known as Minnesota nice. Now he would see how nice they really were.
At that moment a car driving along the empty road slowed down and signaled several times. A man stuck his head out of the window, waved at him in greeting and shouted:
Great T-shirt!
Igor smiled widely, nodded and thought:
Its not all bad. If you keep count, at the moment the score is 1:1. Of course, this is nothing like a scientific opinion poll, but it gives some idea of the mood of Minneapolitans. A very weak one though. In this sleepy suburb, there arent even many cars about.
He looked at the road. A truck appeared in the distance, rapidly approaching the crossing. There were no traffic lights here, but according to the unwritten law of the province, the vehicle was supposed to stop, so Igor, not thinking about it, stepped into the road. The truck did actually brake, but the driver pressed the horn and kept it pressed for a long time. Igor decided this guy too must like the T-shirt, and raised his hand. The sun was shining from the side, and was reflected from the windshield, which was more like semi-transparent glass. Through it could be seen the vague image of the young woman sitting at the wheel. As he crossed the road, Igor turned around. A left hand with raised middle finger was stuck out of the trucks window.
***
During his strolls, Igor met people he knew well neighbors living nearby, walking their dogs. One of them was now coming towards him. He was of uncertain age, with a foxy face. Igor met him quite often. They always greeted each other, and the dog, of indeterminate breed, usually ran up to Igor and sniffed him without showing any emotion. Like its owner, the dog too had a foxy face and was of uncertain age. Seeing the inscription on the T-shirt, the man quickly looked around, and not noticing anyone nearby, smiled broadly. Igor nodded, and thought that if he had been wearing a Hillary T-shirt, in the absence of witnesses, this guy would have approved that too. He would probably even have approved the T-shirt Igor had had thrust upon him at the National Republican Convention, where he was a delegate from Minnesota.
This is what had happened: after the current speaker had finished, Igor went out of the hall and almost ran into a trolley being pushed by a smiling girl.
Whats that? he asked.
Presents for the delegates, she replied. T-shirts with all sorts of slogans, but before you get them, you have to sign your name in the log and answer a few questions.
Igor picked up a T-shirt and held it against his chest. A camera was aimed at him by a cameraman, and the girl asked:
What did you particularly like at the Convention?
Your presents, he was about to joke, and only then noticed that the T-shirt bore a picture of Nixon, and the inscription read: Thank Stalin for destroying the Berlin Wall.
Theres a mistake here, said Igor. The Wall was destroyed in Gorbachevs time. Stalin had nothing to do with it.
Its a joke, were checking how well people know history. You do, said the girl, and pushed the trolley on further.
At that moment a man came up to Igor and taking him by the elbow, said:
Those are Colberts people. Theyre trying to make the Republicans look ridiculous. They probably wont show you because you caught them out in their trickery; or maybe theyll twist it all for a cheap laugh, you could expect anything from them. Bear it in mind.
Igor at once caught up with the girl, gave her back the T-shirt and asked the cameraman to cut the shot he had just taken, but received the reply that it was a very complicated process. He couldnt do it right now, but later on he would do it for sure. Meanwhile, he suggested Igor leave behind the T-shirt given him earlier and take another one, of a different color.
Igor got really annoyed. The Devil had tempted him to leave the hall. But earlier, when he was selected as a delegate, he had promised to stay in the Convention from start to finish. He hadnt kept his word, and he had paid for it. He would have done better to have remained where he was, thinking his own thoughts, because now Colbert could make him the laughing stock of America.
As soon as Igor returned to the hall, the woman next to him said:
You missed the most interesting bit.
What? he asked automatically, although he was fantasizing on the theme of What I would do to Colbert if I met him in a dark alley with nobody around?
There was an unauthorized speech here. Colbert went up to the microphone wearing a turban, and proposed a resolution permitting the introduction of Sharia law in the USA. We couldnt understand what was going on, but he picked up the gavel, struck with it and shouted Passed, passed, passed! Only when security dragged him off the stage did we realize that nobody had given him the floor. The joke didnt last 30 seconds and I didnt even have time to take photos of it.
Oh, damn! exclaimed Igor heartily. If Id been there, Id have gladly helped the security people.
How? she asked.
Id have given Colbert a few good kicks.
***
Foxy face disappeared behind the trees, and for a time, Igor walked through the wood alone, wondering what he could do with Colberts T-shirt. He didnt intend to wear it, but it would be a shame to use it as a rag. Maybe he could wear it on Halloween. But then hed have to wear an Arab terrorist mask on his head, protective pants like the American Blue Berets, and have a Soviet machine gun in his hands, so that nobody could guess who he was supposed to be in that costume. But there was still the question of what his wifes clothes should be. However, over the years they had lived together, she had answered much harder questions, so she would answer that one.
The road to the stadium wound about all the time. And after the next turn appeared a girl with a dog on a leash, a big friendly Newfoundland which Igor knew well. The dog was usually walked by a pleasant-looking old man. They suited each other admirably, and when Igor met them for the first time, he asked the owners permission to pat the dog. The sight of this pair always made him feel good, but now the pair was different.
She must be the owners daughter, thought Igor. Or his granddaughter. Most likely granddaughter.
The girl also noticed Igor, and reading what was on his T-shirt, tensed up, and when they drew level, deliberately turned to look at the sky. The dog as usual, sniffed Igor, and he made a point of stopping and patting it. The dog wagged its tail, but the girl pulled it along after her. Igor snorted. This girl must be studying in some university, maybe even an ivy-league one where professors like Megan taught, so the students were liberally inclined. Well, they could be forgiven for that. Churchill said that if a man is not a liberal at 20, he has no heart. True, the word liberal has had  different meanings at different times and in different countries. In the Soviet Union of his youth, that was what the leading intellectuals called themselves. But in America, it had become a swear word to him, and he was on the side of those to whom the second part of Churchills saying applied: If a man is a liberal at 40, he has no brains. So there was no need to be offended by this girl, in time everything could still change.
***
Schoolkids played baseball at the stadium at weekends, and the few fans, usually parents and friends, loudly expressed their delight after each successful strike. As time went by, one generation of players and fans was replaced by another, and Igor did not even try to remember them all.
A group of young boys in full baseball kit was standing there now. This was unusual for a weekday. Unusual and unpleasant. Because the liberal spirit also prevailed in schools, and it is natural for young people to fight for human rights, and if they should start to do so here, he could be in real trouble. In physical strength, these youngsters could give a head start to any adult, especially an old guy like him. But he would not flee the battlefield! And Igor proceeded on his way, moving his hands even more intensively so that the boys would have a good view of his weights.
They probably would have had if they had paid him any attention, but they were much more excited about the tactics of the forthcoming game that they were discussing, and from the way they laughed after something the coach said, Igor realized that he must have told them some dirty joke to raise their spirits. That was normal. Sport and girls were much more important to them than the political games of the adults. It should be that way. Their indifference to Igors presence calmed him down, and he even regretted that he would not find out how the boys reacted to the Trump T-shirt, but at that moment he sensed someone staring at him. He turned and saw the bright eyes of one of the players. Igor smiled, and the young man raised his right arm with a clenched fist. This was the long-forgotten gesture of the Red Front. Igor felt a hot flush, and in reply he raised his own right hand with the weight. So, there were some right-thinking people among the teenagers who were not afraid to express their opinion, which meant all was not lost, and the number of Trump supporters in his unofficial and unscientific statistical poll was almost the same as that for Clinton. True, this boy would not be able to vote in the forthcoming election, but his opinion could not have been formed in empty space. His parents must be Trump fans as well, and they would certainly go to the polling booth. But would it be honest to count on their votes?
For the next few minutes, Igor tried to answer this question, and eventually decided it would not.
He entered the copse, and seeing Senya there, whistled: Senya had a small white poodle on a leash. Igor knew that his friend did not like dogs. He would have asked what was up, but before he could, the dog ran up to him and began barking angrily.
Look at my T-shirt, said Igor to his pal. If youd taught him to read, he wouldnt behave like that.
Hed tear you to pieces! exclaimed Senya. Hes my sons dog.
So what?
So Edik studied at Harvard and works in New York.
Has he really changed that much? I can still remember how he swore at the demonstration.
***
That was before September 11th. A former prime minister of Israel was due to speak in one of the synagogues in Minneapolis. Learning this, Palestinian activists immediately asked the authorities for permission to hold a protest demonstration, and pro-Israelis organized a counter-demonstration. Senya went to it with his 16-year-old son. Igor knew that the whole family had emigrated to America because of Edik.
In school, Edik was treated with contempt by his math teacher, who also taught physics. He didnt openly call his pupil a kike, but always gave him the worst mark for oral answers. And Senya couldnt do anything about it. He went to the school many times and spoke to the teacher, who always found justifications. Senya demanded that he examine his son in his presence and then Edik answered all the questions, but the teacher said that during the lesson, Edik didnt know anything. As a result, his record contained a mix of the best and worst marks. This treatment undermined Ediks self-confidence, and he always suffered from depression.
Senya was a strong young guy and could well have spoken to the math teacher in another way, but his wife implored him not to. To preserve her husbands liberty and her sons mental health, she persuaded them to emigrate.
Emigration changed Edik. In Rome, he learned Italian, and unlike others of his age, who tried to earn money any way they could, he put all his efforts into study. He wanted to prove to himself that he had been wrongly assessed in the Soviet Union. It was largely thanks to his initiative that a school for emigrants was set up in Rome, and he was not only its best student, but also an assistant teacher. In America he completed three grades in two years. The only reminder of the dark Soviet past was his stutter. Then, when after jumping another grade, he was the youngest student in the class, a boy in the same class named Ahmed tried several times to take a swipe at him. He was not only older, but physically much stronger than Edik. However, Edik defended himself desperately. During the fights, his classmates took his side not from a sense of justice, but because he helped them in their studies.
At the demonstration, Edik was standing in the front row with his father. The opposing sides were separated by a road patrolled by police, with yellow tapes stretched along both sides to denote a neutral strip.
Ahmed appeared at the yellow tape on the Palestinian side. Seeing Edik, he started shouting insults. Edik disappeared and soon returned with a loudspeaker, and turning it towards Ahmed, began to swear so terribly that Igor made a gesture to Senya urging him to do an urgent educating job on his son. But Senya bent down to his friends ear and said delightedly:
Listen, you schmo, hes not stuttering any more!
***
Much water had flowed under the bridge since then, but Igor could not believe that Ediks views had changed so radically.
Surely Edik isnt going to vote for Clinton? he asked his friend.
I dont know, was the reply, but youd better not turn up in his family wearing that T-shirt. He and his wife try not to discuss politics.
But I do with mine, boasted Igor, while thinking that more often than not, these discussions ended in a quarrel.
When Igor got home, his wife asked:
Well, does everybody know now who your idol is?
My idol is you, and youd be a better president than either of them, but since I cant choose who I want, Ill choose from those available.
The neighbors have already been asking me if thats my husband walking around in a Trump T-shirt.
What did you tell them?
What could I tell them? she replied with a hopeless wave of her hand.
Igor laughed and embraced his wife. However life turned out, she was with him, and that was the main thing. And by the way, if you took their two votes into account, Trump would win.


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