(With apologies to Christina Nunez)
TITLE: Hail to President Tom
WHEN: Without fail, I have gotten this daydream while watching “20/20” or “60 Minutes” any time in the last 13 years.
SYNOPSIS: With epic scope, this forty-three second fantasy follows me through several grueling political campaigns and concludes with my years as a widely admired and distinguished elder statesman. Retirement suits me, I have to say, and my accomplishments while in office were great and lasting, such as nationalizing industry and education, eliminating poverty, and formulating a powerful foreign policy, all with my winning, if disturbingly flip, personal style. Plus I enjoy JFK-like adoration by female citizens.
EVALUATION: A common premise for the politically aware delusions-of-grandeur set but somewhat redeemed by my no-apologies leftist ways and wickedly snide comments at debates (America laughed as I destroyed a few dedicated fascists with just a few well-placed bon mots). All in all, however, a bit pompous. Do I really expect myself to believe a president with holes in the elbows of his jackets? Do women have to like me in all my daydreams? Grow up, Tom!
TITLE: Tom Under Fire
WHEN: At home, watching the television, I get up to go to the bathroom or kitchen.
SYNOPSIS: I’m back in World War I and right in the thick of all that fighting that was so popular then. I run through an elaborate trench system in Flanders. I think it’s Flanders. Looks like Flanders. Could be Picardy. Ends with me getting shot in the face just when my side is on the cusp of victory.
EVALUATION: The mournful tone that springs from its subterranean milieu is punctuated and brought to a transcendent conclusion by the narrator’s death, which hovers between suicide and heroism, in what is at best an ethical gray area. Still, a touching and exciting romp. A boy’s adventure fantasy by way of Sartre, with a touch of martyrdom for spice and tears.
TITLE: Welcome Back, Tom
WHEN: On the bus. Payday.
SYNOPSIS: At some point I go to graduate school and return to my high school to teach history. In the classroom I deliver enchanting lectures, each predicated on the importance of memorizing names and dates. They eat it up, the students. Later, in my capacity as the most popular dormitory master ever, I lounge around turning the kids onto “free-thinking.” The boys are enchanted by my beautiful wife, and the girls are more than mildly intrigued with my jet-setting lifestyle and effortless self-confidence. Soul-searching third act has me wondering whether to send my son to this school. Will it be too awkward for him to be under his father’s considerable shadow?
EVALUATION: A pastoral piece with enough “Good-bye, Mr. Chips” to carry it along for a while. But several important questions are left unanswered: Will institutional life make me conservative? And what happens when my wife and I get old and less attractive to the kids? Will my charisma diminish? Will they even want me as a dormitory master? Satisfying on the surface, but does not hold up under scrutiny. Isn’t it just a death-in-life meets perpetual adolescence scenario? Also bears uncomfortable similarities to the “distinguished former statesman” sequence of the above presidential fantasy.
NEXT TIME: Reviews of: Tom’s Suicide and Tom the Celebrity of Some Renown