An unwanted presidency

By Joanne Ball

I have been told that it is the done thing, to write a memoir. That all great politicians, in their last days of office write a memoir. I wouldn’t classify myself as great, but i am the first, and in the books of history they all but count as the same thing.

Technically, of course, I am the forty-fifth President of the United States, not the first, but I am the inaugural president to be elected via a sortition ballot.

The ballot came through in the aftermath of the 2012, where the flaws which were noticeable in previous years opened into chasms in which the whole country might fall. The voting was far too close, with Florida repeating, pretty much exactly the events of 2000, and over half the ballots being discounted due to “voting fraud.”

My name is John Green.  I am a shop owner from Orange County, California.  I have lived in America for forty two years and I live my dream. I never have, and still do not, want power, yet power was given to me for this very reason.

I never thought I would get into the history books, yet it is primarily for the history books that I write, and I hope that I will be judged kindly. I had no prior knowledge, no great interest, and no great passion for politics, however it was into politics that god threw me.

The country, as I inherited it off the back of Mitt Romney, and the economy, the society, and the community of the country was in death throes. I knew this as I walked my daily life, which I much hope to return to once my service is over, but when given a presidential insight, I despaired as I saw how deep the wounds in these limbs of our great nation ran.

How, might you ask, did a shop owner – who liked to feel the wind in his hair as he walked his dogs, to know that his books were balanced, and the shop door was locked as he departed for the night, that treating his wife to a fortnightly meal, or cinema trip was something worth saving up for – become president?

I still do not quite know, some say fate, some say chance, but I’m a God fearing man, so I believe God did it. I don’t know why, or what I achieved, but I trust his judgement. He does not call the equipped, but he equips the called. And those words have been a great source of comfort to me as I tried to fathom what I could bring to running a country.  The technicalities are explained simply enough- the overhaul of the political system from Electoral College voting, to elective sortition.

The day was a normal day, most abnormal things start on one. Few pivotal life events start with a thunderclap, or a lightening bolt. I woke up, started work, took the delivery, did the stock, served Mrs Mitchel from across the street her morning paper and two fresh bread rolls, for it was a Tuesday, and then sat waiting for the school morning rush of drinks, sweets, few sandwiches, and stationary. That came and went, so I hoovered the floor and rearranged the candy rack, before the mid morning regulars came for their newspapers, At twelve thirty, Alan, my part time employee came in, to take the afternoon shift. I walked home, and in my head, as I walked, planned lunch.

I never got that far.  On my doormat was an envelope. A single envelope, with a postmark and stamp indicating official business, before even taking off my shoes I opened it, and then quickly had to sit down before the shock overcame me. I had heard about the system overhaul for years, and it had been on the headline of all of the papers for weeks, but I didn’t think it would happen. And if it did happen, I didn’t think it would affect me.

But it did.

I didn’t understand half of the words, all the protocol and procedures, the timings and specifications, but I got the general gist: my social security number had been selected, by independent means- using secure programming software specially designed for this purpose, with the specification of being completely impartial and unable to be tampered with- or something.

According to this letter I… I… was the new President.

The first thing I did, was ring my wife, with shaking fingers finding her in my phone.

“Lydia,” I said. “Can you come home?” My mind was all but collapsing.

“John, you okay?” she said, concern tinting her voice. “What’s happened?”

“I’ve got this letter. Just come home!?”

Luckily she didn’t work far away, a receptionist for a local firm, and her boss was more than accommodating letting her come home to see if I was okay, and what the discombobulation was.

I was on the Internet, furiously scouring any website that might have information on what was happening, for while I had noticed the headlines, I hadn’t actually delved into what was actually happening.

Many questions exploded in my mind. Firstly, what the heck was going on. Secondly, if this was not a hoax and a hundred and fifty percent crazy, how was my life going to change? Who would look after my shop? My family? Would we have to move? How long would a term be? Why is it mandatory? And, I voiced this one aloud to the Lord, why me? How the hell would I run the country?

“John?” I heard from the hall, and my wife came to see me. “What’s happened?” I gestured to the letter, lying haphazardly on the side of the kitchen table, my full attention taken by my laptop and the several tabs I had opened.

“Oh.” She said, reading it over again more intently. “Is this a joke?”

“I hope so.” I replied. And God knows I hoped so. “But the thing is, they said they would do something like this, don’t you remember? The system is too swayed by personalities who are in impermeable bubbles and have no relation to the public whom they claim to represent. It’s time to have the people ruled by the people. They’re reinstating an old Greek system: sortition.  We watched that documentary about it last Christmas. We both thought it would be a good idea.”

“Well, yeah, but that was when it was going to be some random, not my husband! Not my life it changes. It’s so unpractical!” Lydia began to rant. Her nostrils flared as they did when she was annoyed with either me or the kids. But this time it was at the situation, so I didn’t get as scared as I normally do when she gets angry. A formidable force to be reckoned my wife is. She continued, “This is a huge overhaul. I didn’t think they’d actually do it. How are policies going to work? And why you? How are you going to rule a country?”

“I have no idea love,” I replied.

“Like, sure you’re a good man- but you don’t know the first thing about politics.” She had a point.

Unless it affected me directly, I’ve never cared. I mused for a moment, taking the letter and re-reading it.

“If this is real, and I’m not entirely convinced it is real, how is it going to affect us? Will we live here? Will we move? Can we uproot Jodie and Amelia?  What’s going to happen with the shop?  Your job?”

We could have spent all afternoon speculating, but we decided to investigate. Countless phone calls, emails and Google searches later, we established that unfortunately, it wasn’t a hoax. I, it seemed, was lined up to be the next president. All members of Congress had been similarly selected, and it was a small morsel of comfort that in all the different states others were reeling from similar news.

The next two months, we tied up, as best we could, our loose ends – said what we thought would be a four year farewell to our families and friends. We left jobs, with every intention to return, and school transfers were fast tracked – obligated by the nature of the request, or something.

Another part of the system was that jobs were safeguarded – I left my assistant manager Brian in charge of the shop, for which he was most grateful with a new baby on the way, an increased salary was a gift. I went into a crash course on politics, and I realised multiple times how ill equipped I was to run the country. However. It was my duty, and I had God on my side.

What I didn’t realise, was how pernicious, and persistent the press were. Although for the first two weeks they didn’t catch on, when the word hit that the president resided in our little part of Orange County, the local press turned from amicable acquaintances to vultures. The nationals caught on, and suddenly, it would seem that I became an overnight celebrity – and my family too. I had always known of the harassment of the press, but never experienced it. I had always thought it couldn’t be that bad. But oh, it was. While Lydia and I kept out of it as much as possible, enforcing our privacy with an iron resolve, and keeping our thirteen year old Jodie protected as best we could.  Amelia bore the brunt of it.  She was flattered and embracing the fame at first, before regrettably giving too much information, and letting them see her on a night out. My nineteen year old daughter seen on a night out. Drinking. The scandal this caused! I was branded an unfit father by Fox News, and tarred with a brush of condoning underage drinking! And this was all before I had been sworn into office. I almost hoped this would negate my eligibility, alas- no such luck.

All too quickly December ended, and the big shift was imminent.  New Years Eve was a sober affair, with us leaving the third of January for Washington, and as 2017 began, the four of us began to get to grips with our new life.

The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of NewsLabBU. This is a platform for students to showcase their own creative work.