This is satire. No deceased former American presidents were harmed during the writing of this piece. Posted these separately years ago and now want to get a reaction on all four rounds combined.
Awaiting final judgment in Purgatory, the deceased, bored ex-presidents decide to hold a wrestling tournament to find out who’s who, all vying for the title POTUS MAXIMUS. There can be only one!
There were four elimination matches set up for each fifty years of the American republic. The inaugural match of the first half of the twentieth Century POTUS MAXIMUS contests ended fast in a complete surprise. An enraged, three-hundred-pound-plus William Howard Taft jumped off a corner turnbuckle of the top ring rope and flattened Teddy Roosevelt before the latter could shout, “Bully!”
After breezing through bland Calvin Coolidge, bookworm Woodrow Wilson, underpowered Warren Harding, and then a surprisingly game Herbert Hoover, Taft finally faced the feisty Harry Truman. He used his weight advantage to pin Truman’s face to the mat, putting the bantam ex-president’s arm in a painful submission hold. Truman’s face hued cardinal red by the time he finally tapped out. The referee almost disqualified Taft for not releasing Truman fast enough.
The last match went quicker than any other; FDR thrown out of the ring and he lost in the countdown to get back in.
Dick Nixon with his black Irish moody countenance, eyes still with that hunted look, was the surprise in the second half of the Twentieth Century match-ups, beating Jack Kennedy to a bloody pulp after both contestants cheated like no others. Next, Nixon chased down the recently deceased Jimma Carter, who ran around the ring screaming, “There should never have been a United States in the first place!” The 39th president didn’t fight back until he was cornered and then only slapped wildly until he was swiftly routed. Carter held up his own malaised, ashen-face head like a trophy to the booing crowd as he was carried out on a stretcher.
Nixon continued to fight like a madman but lost to Gerald Ford, the former football hero, who tied him up in knots then punted him out of the ring. “You won’t have me to kick around any…,” Nixon screamed as he flew, complete with Doppler effect.
The next match with Dwight Eisenhower exemplified a great valorous contest. Ford proved the physically stronger but rather clumsy so Ike outmaneuvered him. Eisenhower went on to take out a slightly absent-minded Ronald Reagan in an almost clean match-up except at the end Ike pointed behind Reagan and shouted, “Look, Ronny!” The former actor looked over his shoulder; Ike finished him off quickly and mercifully.
The recently deceased Bill Clinton didn’t show up, dodged his call to glory to run off with Jackie O. and Marilyn Monroe, taking advantage of JFK’s disoriented state.
Stately Eisenhower wasn’t ready for the down-and-dirty Lyndon Baines Johnson who hit so skillfully below the belt the entire male audience groaned in unison.
George H. W. Bush sternly warned, “Read my lips; this below-the-belt aggression will not stand.” But right as Bush stepped into the ring, he doubled over and vomited onto the mat. The 41st president collapsed and surrendered before Johnson could touch him. After recovering Bush stood up and shouted, “Read my hips!” then jogged out of the stadium amid loud jeers.
In an opulent stadium located in the heart of Purgatory, the first semi-final of the POTUS MAXIMUS wrestling contest of deceased ex-presidents has begun!
The River of Memory flooded over its banks like the Mississippi in spring, washing me up here, a muddy old shoe that can’t forget the foot that wore it. Lyndon Baines Johnson marveled to himself as he watched William Howard Taft dance around the mat, too much of an overhanging gut under the tee shirt that read TRUST-BUSTER for a clear shot at racking the Republican’s balls.
I set foot in Washington without a penny in my pockets, left D.C. with forty million dollars. That’s the legacy that counts, not the failed brush-fire war I fed to the Right Wing or the failed welfare state I fed to the Left. Certainly not the stolen election of 1960! They’ll never know all I did, how close I came to indictment right before Dallas… plausible deniability.
Johnson charged into the rotund Taft, grappled with sinewy arms. The match went on and on. Finally, the 27th president tired. Johnson got his fingers inside Taft’s mouth, pulled his cheeks apart where the referee couldn’t see. Panic registered in Taft’s eyes. Johnson delivered unyielding pain. Taft desperately tapped out.
I’ve won the Twentieth Century POTUS MAXIMUS championship. Beat ‘em all but feel no victory. I long to leap into the River of Forgetfulness. Horror of all horrors, that river does not exist.
“From the Heart of Purgatory, we now re-join the 19th Century POTUS MAXIMUS wrestling championship!”
Towering, brooding Abraham Lincoln and the fire-haired Andrew Jackson battled round after round. Finally, the gaunt but wiry Jackson grappled in close and with his file-sharpened teeth bit off Lincoln’s left ear. Enraged, Republican Lincoln power-surged with a ferocious arm twisting, tearing out Jackson’s left arm, proceeded to beat the Democrat to the mat with the bloody end of his own limb. The referee stopped the match. The judges, most of whom were former U.S. Supreme Court judges, ruled both contenders disqualified.
Amid the ugly chorus of boos and catcalls that erupted at the announcement, Lincoln stood over the imploded Southerner, pointed the bloody end of Jackson’s arm at the Judges. “The judges have made their decision,” Lincoln mocked the Tennessee accent as he parodied President Jackson’s famous defiant pronouncement to the Supreme Court, “now let them enforce it!”
“Look what you did, Lincoln!” the referee yelled, pointing to the unconscious Jackson.
“This is the Afterlife,” Lincoln shouted back, “he’ll heal up quick enough!”
The 16th American President strutted around the ring, raised his arms and Jackson’s arm high like he had been declared the winner while the audience in the millions chanted, “Lin-coln! Lin-coln! Lin-coln!”
The judges grew pale at the audience’s exponential anger, reversed themselves, and called the match for Lincoln. Not even bothering to acknowledge the judges reversal Lincoln shouted, “Bring that 20th Century sorry excuse for a Texican out here right now! Everybody’s going to know I’m the top buck at this watering hole!”
Lyndon Baines Johnson stood before Abraham Lincoln in the ring, looking as humble as he did in 1968 after Tet.
“I created the Great Society, transformed America in the 20th way more for the better than you did in the 19th,” Johnson tried to rabble-rouse.
“Both you and your policies were about as useful to the country as a pair of tits on a bull,” Lincoln quipped. He pointed to the words on Johnson’s tee shirt: “’Guns and Butter’! What rot. Dropping bombs on yellow men half a world away who hadn’t done anything to the United States. I spent blood and treasure like nobody before or since to stop slothful cretins from living off the forced labor of other men, and you turn around a hundred years later and reinstate it all over again!”
“We do what we must.” Johnson spoke plaintively, perspiration heavy on his brow. Oh lordy. The Lincoln standing before me now, silver streaks in his brown hair and hoary beard like Moses come down from the mountain, bloodstained bandana around his head to bandage his ear–this is not the man depicted in those old photos. Lincoln’s murder changed him. His eyes, those terrible penetrating eyes, see everything, communicate every brutal truth.
Not knowing what else to do, Johnson attacked. Lincoln head-butted then threw him to the mat so hard he went semi-conscious. Abraham picked LBJ up, cradled him in his arms like a son about to be sacrificed, then tossed him up high into the air, sent him spinning like a chicken on a spit. The Great Emancipator knelt down; his long gangly knee waited for his opponent’s back. The 36th president’s spine hit hard, breaking. Johnson gasped, “We do what we must!” and blacked out.
mi verso, como déjà el capitan su espada: famosa por la mano viril que la blandiera,
no por el doctor oficio del forjador preciada…”
Antonio Machado (from Poem 24)
1828–Lower Mississippi River a few miles upriver of New Orleans.
Nineteen-year-old Abraham Lincoln fell into a fitful slumber, blanketed in oppressive Louisiana mugginess. For many weeks working on a flatboat, cruising south with the current to escape his father in upcountry Illinois, Abraham on this day witnessed his first slave auction. Black men, women, and children in chains, being sold out of an enormous stockyard. Those forlorn and wretched people deprived of basic dignity, a sight he would never forget.
Abraham dreamed he was ten again, a year after his mother’s death, working the farm alone with his sister and little brother in the Indiana wilderness twenty miles from anyone. His father returned after abandoning them for months just in time to collect the money from the meager harvest.
He asked his father that some of the money be used to get a doctor to treat his ill sister. His father proceeded to beat-hit-kick him to the dirt floor of the cabin, hollering like a lunatic, “You, Abe are nothing but a lazy, worthless scribbler of words, a sneak-reader of useless books, with no say in where my money goes. I own your work, what little work you do and don’t you ever forget it!”
Abe awoke in a flash of pain. His father’s enraged wide-eyed stare became the seething hatred in a black man’s eyes as he reared back to cudgel Lincoln again with a hefty hunk of wood. Abe rose to his full height in fury, barely out of his bad dream, and with his flatboat pole hit his assailant on the chin so hard his jaw almost came off. All around shouts and screams as the gang of escaped slaves attacked his party. Abe fought so precisely with his pole, knocking several others to the ground, that soon they all ran. Lincoln pursued, his friend Allen Gentry, who had also been fighting well, ran after him, called him back.
“Lincoln, I have never witnessed the likes of that before. You hear men bragging about fighting off a half a dozen men, but it’s all horse shit. This daybreak on this river bank I watched you do it!”
Lincoln, still in a fighting mood, responded, “They picked the wrong dawn to waylay me.”
“Can’t wait to get to New Orleans, the ‘Queen of the South,’ get paid and get in one of them fancy cat-houses to see what those high-class French girls can do.” Gentry smiled, trying to prevent the onset of melancholy he saw appearing on Lincoln’s face. They both turned and started walking back to the flatboat.
“Yes, the sooner we get there the better,” Lincoln said as he bandaged his bleeding head with a dirty bandana.
“…Abe will, Abe will, rock you! Sing it!” The singer in the checkerboard jumpsuit, long wavy black hair finished the song in Lincoln’s corner and then slid over to the opposite corner of the fighting ring to begin the next song, playing the piano with dramatic gestures. “…George Washington is the champion of the presidential world…” After finishing the song, amid thunderous applause the singer did a cross-legged bow and exited.
The piano was removed and the announcer entered the ring still clapping. “Let’s hear it again for Freddy!” The roaring crowd erupted once more. “Can’t wait for the rest of Queen to get down here so we can have a reunion concert! And now, from the heart of Purgatory, the Soul of Sheol, the event you’ve all been waiting for! The POTUS Maximus final championship! A clash of Titans! There can be only one!”
The crowd went insane for the fight as the two contestants entered the stadium. “Hailing from Springfield, Illinois at six feet four inches, weighing in at one-hundred-ninety-nine pounds, the Rail Splitter, the Greeeaat Em-an-ci-pa-tor, Honest Abe Lincoln!” Crowd roar is deafening. Lincoln wore a Nineteenth Century striped male swimsuit. He Frisbeed his black stovepipe hat into the cheering crowd, climbed into the ring.
“And in this corner, hailing from Mount Vernon, Virginia, at six feet three inches, weighing in at two-hundred-ten pounds, first in war, first in peace, and first in the heart of his country-men, the father of the most powerful nation in the history of the globe, General George Washington!”
Crowd roar is again deafening. Washington climbed into the ring in full military uniform, complete with white gloves. He bowed to the announcer then turned and bowed to the singer sitting in the front row. He turned and faced Lincoln.
“You sir, I will not shake hands with you, a war criminal that has sullied the name of the United States. It is always prudent to study your opponent. Learning how you refused to see your Virginia-born father after he called for you on his deathbed taught me much about you.”
Lincoln said, “Why don’t you tell everyone ‘bout my crimes. Spell ‘em out, General Blue-Blood. I’m not afraid to hear every last one of them.”
“You spoke pretty words about ‘malice towards none, charity for all,’ while at the same time your army was burning out of their homes women and children in villages and cities across South Carolina in the middle of winter! To their deaths from starvation and the elements you sent those helpless innocents! You trained cannons deliberately on civilian houses in the great city of Atlanta; the bodies of women and children, negro and white alike, filled up an open field. Instead of court-marshalling them you promoted your officers who executed mothers and sweethearts of Confederate guerrillas they could not catch.” Washington pulled off his white gloves from first his left and then his right hand.
“I did what I had to do,” Lincoln said.
“You threw out the Constitution, in order to save it, you claimed. In every state of the union you imprisoned without trial men who spoke out against you, even pastors!”
Lincoln replied, “They were nothing but a bunch of trouble-makers.”
“Like some Russian czar despot, your General Grant signed a military order forcibly removing Jewish citizens from Kentucky and Tennessee.”
“They were wheeling and dealing to help the succesh; I pretended to be outraged and rescinded it.”
“The Crown Jewel of your administration, your ‘Emancipation Proclamation’ was not meant to be a new birth of freedom but rather was designed to incite the negroes outside of your control to rise up and slaughter the families of their masters, just as the British incited the Haitians to exterminate the entire population of white French there.”
“We were losing the war in ’62; I needed to try something outlandish. Recruitment was down everywhere. I decided to draft the poor whites but knew they would riot and rebel in northern cities and back-road counties because I chose not to draft the rich whites or the blacks. I sure wouldn’t have torn my clothes if those slaves down south had risen up with their cane-cutters and hacked up some lily-white planter’s families like yours but it didn’t happen. They were too busy singing hymns to get into heaven to do me any good. But what I didn’t expect did happen. After the Proclamation the blacks up North, the runaways, started volunteering and they carried the flag to victory. I was going to send all of them, free or slave, to Liberia and Central America after the war but when they started joining up with our cause I changed my mind. Keeping my own personal army of them to insure everyone else kept in line was my new plan after old Bobby Lee surrendered.”
Washington shook his head. “And now brutal rulers across the globe, from Germany to Japan, to Russia and Syria, the many miscreants ruling nations in the recent century, all cite your army’s example of ‘Total War’ on civilians to justify their atrocities! What have you got to say for yourself?”
“The poetry in my speeches abides,” Lincoln responded. “The only thing that never died on me or went insane on me were words in books. They were my salvation. The poetry in my words is the nation’s salvation. If our people go to the stars or to another Dark Age they will still have my words to inspire and comfort them. Despots will always have Attila the Hun and a hundred other fiends to blame their ‘Total War’ on; they don’t need me. But my words abide and are the salvation of America and Americans forever.”
“Well, it is true you kept the nation from disintegration, but the hypocrisy in your words is beyond redemption. I intend to avenge your depredations on Virginia and Southern people in this ring.” Washington slapped Lincoln across the right cheek with his white gloves, stood ready for the battle.
Despite Washington’s manners and affectations of aristocracy Lincoln had never come face to face with a more formidable man, used to command and physically dominant, the perfect father figure.
“That sounds good, General Blue-Blood. Let’s quit jawing and get this show on the road! Like they say up in the living world nowadays, ‘Bring it!’”
This is a delicious piece of writing.
“We do what we must.” Thanks PilgermannBM.
G, the Jimmy Carter description had me laughing out aloud. Surreal and thoroughly enjoyed.
I don’t know much about the American Presidents, but studied Lincoln and I was amazed at the intellect of a self taught man and the depth of his statements, which as you say was poetry by any other name.
Bhi, thanks for the comment. Some consider Lincoln’s speeches to be prose poems. Lincoln stated that his first choice for a vocation was to be a poet.