Bono Called In Sick

February 6, 2010 at 3:39 pm Leave a comment

My favorite short story right now.

Bono Called in Sick

The only diplomatic speaking I’d ever done was at a bar once, settling a fight between Robert Downey Junior and Dennis Hopper. It was a minor tiff, and it was only resolved once I assured Hopper that even though Robert liked men, he could still be a god-fearing Republican.

In any event, by being successful in Hollywood, they believed I’d be good at persuading a world leader. A tyrant with an obsession for both movies and starving his own country, specifically.

They flew me out there, over the DMZ and above the land of soviet-block housing and cheap, sparse vegetation. I was so under-prepared for this upcoming meeting that I kept sweating while waiting on the tarmac for transport to the complex.

My paisley bandana made my North Korean escort grin. “Bang bang!” he said, holding his hands like pistols. I tried to grin as I shot the sucker back. Pow. I was too old for this, I kept repeating. What had I gotten myself into?

A soldier blindfolded me once the car came, and the next thing I saw was the dark mahogany interior of what felt like an office building. They sat me down on a couch that smelled awful, like mothballs and cigarettes, simultaneously padding me down. I tried not to hold my nose as I waited outside another chamber.

“Mr. Il is ready for you,” my translator announced.

He nodded to the bodyguard that opened a pair of magnificently carved doors. Inside was the dictator himself.

I knew Koreans were supposed to be short, but Kim Jong Il was tiny. Danny DeVito would have felt superior in his presence by height alone, despite Kim’s nuclear warheads. Danny’d get a kick out of that. I made a reminder to tell him, if I got back at all.

“Mr. Eastwood!” Kim said, turning to me.

He kept his sunglasses on, I noticed. When he shook my hand, I had to hold it down by my crotch so as not to be “commanding”. My translator had warned me about being threatening, how my height alone could seem malevolent. Even looking him straight in the eyes could be “aggressive.” I didn’t think my eyes could even go down that low.

“It is an honor to meet you,” Kim said. “I am great, great fan.”

“Thank you, sir.” Do you call dictators Mr. President? Is that rude?

“Please, call me Kim.”

“Thank you, Kim. Call me Clint.”

Mr. Il immediately lit up.

“Howdy, Clint!” His howdy sounded exactly how you’d think Kim Jong Il’s “howdy” would sound like. Howdee.

“Well, Kim. As you know, we have some extremely important issues to discuss.”

I wanted to get out of this crazy country as soon as possible, but Kim just waved his hand.

“Please, please. Business later. Spaghetti?”

He clapped his hands, and instantly one of the standby bodyguards held out a silver platter. Kim uncovered it, revealing some clear rice noodles in red food-coloring.

“You like? Is Western style.”

“I, um, thank you. That’s very kind.” He grinned even further than before, hopping around.

“You like? I have everything here Western. That couch, from outside? Is from The Godfather. And that pool table?” He pointed to an old-style table, the kind with carved feet and velvet trim.

“Is from The Waterfront. Marlon Brando, yes. Oh what times we had!”

If he had suspenders, he would have stretched them in front of his belly, pleased. His bodyguards, I noticed, were unusually skinny for being members of security. I watched them look at the “western spaghetti”, their mouths watering.

“And the door? You notice the door?”

He pointed to the main double doors I’d entered through, chocolate brown, with delicate carvings over the handle.

“Can you guess where is from?”

I gave a shrug, smiling my shit-eating grin. Kim frowned, disappointed.

“Is from Meet Joe Black!”

I pressed on, not sure how to react.

“Mr. Kim, If you’ll forgive me for saying this, I need to get back to America to start on my next film. You know how it is, don’t you?”

At this, he immediately became serious. Kim clapped his hands twice, signaling the bodyguards to march towards Joe Black’s doors, exiting in single file. As soon as they left, Kim leaned towards me conspiratorially.

“Movie? New film? You need talent?”

“Well, I’m not supposed to talk about it too much, you know. But it’s about a veteran. A veteran of the, um… of a war around here. It features a lot of Hmongs.”

Kim suddenly straightened up to his full 5 feet. “HMONGS!” he thundered. “Why HMONGS?” He held his arms up high.

“You are in North Korea! Full of great culture! Good actors! Why Cambodians?” He started waving his arms like a windmill, his olive green suit buckling and stretching under the stress.

I was worried he was going to have a heart attack, or worse, blow something up.

“Kim, Kim, Kim!” I yelled, trying to catch him as he ran around his huge office.

I put a hand on his shoulder. The minute I touched him I realized it was a bad move, but he didn’t seem to mind. He stopped, catching his breath.

“Kim, really. It’s just a culture study, nothing more. It’s no Million Dollar Baby.”

He looked at me, his face flushing bright red.

“Really? No Macushla?”

“No. No Hilary Swank.”

He got out his handkerchief, relieved.

“Ok. Ok, good.” Dabbing at his forehead, he walked to his desk, taking out a large map.

“Are these the active missile sites?” I hesitated. How does one broach the subject of nuclear disarmament?

He nodded, his large sunglasses bobbing up and down.

I walked towards him, slowly. It was as if I had prepared for this role all my life. My legs bowed out, as of I had spurs on my feet. I was glad I’d worn my cowboy boots.

“Well, Kim, you already know what I came here to say.”

He nodded again, sadly.

“There just isn’t enough room in this world for two super-powers.”

I pointed to the map, my hand brushing over all the bomb-factories.

“These here are going to have to exit, stage left. You catch my drift?”

He faced me, eyes shining with both humiliation and admiration. Maybe this is what he was waiting for.

“Do I have to hustle on out of here?” He asked, very proper. His gaze was frantic, searching.

“Yes, Kim. You might say that. It’s a one-horse town in this globe. Every man’s got to stand on his own feet. But this isn’t dog-eat-dog.”

He looked back at the map, nodding.

“And this Hmong film? There is role for me?”

I tilted my invisible cowboy hat in his direction. “If you disarm these missile sites, I’d say we have ourselves a deal here.”


“Yes, Kim Jong Il, if you deactivate your nuclear warheads, I’d be happy to give you a role in my film.”

He extended his hand, a tacky, oversized watch dangling from his limp wrist. It looked oddly familiar. He caught me staring.

I shook his hand. He held it there, his grip suddenly strong. I tried to let go. He flashed his white teeth at me, then took off his sunglasses.

“You like? Is Dirty Harry.”

I heard the door lock behind me, followed by the grating of metal bars across the windows. I realized then that I hadn’t been the only actor in the room.

“You’re a sweet man, Harry.”

Kim snapped a finger, and from nowhere another thin youth approached me, clubbing me over the head.

As the blunt weight cracked my skull, all I could think was, “Brando would have been proud.” Then everything Faded to Black.


Entry filed under: Additional Reading, Olivia.

How to: Move From NYC to DC Reeeeeeee-Cuuuuuuuuuuuut

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