Bart Strumpen glowed with pride the day he was voted chair of the PTA. He crowed to his wife, Tania, about the bottom feeders he’d defeated.
‘Corrupt! Every single one of them. They should be locked up. Not a true American amongst them, yet they think they can run a school. Sad!’
Tania nodded sagely and touched up her lipstick. They had seemed American to her, but she knew better than to disagree. Her life was a vast improvement from assembling calculators in a factory in Novosibirsk—she was forever grateful she’d signed up with Nyet Dreams. She’d guided her father’s trembling hand over the permission form as he lay on his deathbed. And here she was, shopping at Walmart, going for jaunts to the shooting range and belittling her Mexican cleaner.
They’d had a difficult couple of years. His small construction company had folded after he was caught bribing contractors, then followed a civil suit for his alleged groping of a female engineer. The situation worsened when his first wife sought refuge in their spare room. He was broke, but Irena was paying the bills in exchange for board and some nocturnal action as Tania slept.
This was his chance to prove that he was indeed a man. Granted his tiny hands had always raised questions, not unfounded, but he was determined to prove himself capable. A born leader.
His son’s school playground was afflicted with rust and flaky paint. The swings screeched and the slide leaned at an alarming angle, threatening to pitch children to the ground. Many of the classrooms were scarcely more than caravans and the teachers were so underpaid they didn’t bother to watch the students during lunch. Truancy was rife.
Tania accompanied Bart to the first PTA meeting. They were late, because her husband said, ‘The most important people arrive last.’ A harried woman in a badly-buttoned blouse ushered them to the head of the table. Bart sneered, removed a sheaf of papers from his briefcase, and tapped them into formation on the tabletop.
Before anyone had a chance to open their mouths, he launched into his speech.
‘People, we have a problem here at Arlington Elementary. There are two types of students—patriots and outsiders. The outsiders are growing in number and their presence is causing learning difficulties for the American children, the patriots. They don’t speak the language, they’re lazy and they’re small. Ugly.’
The harried woman’s eyes widened beneath her thick glasses. Her lips were outlined in frosted pink.
‘Mr Strumpen, you’re not wrong. Why, just last week I had a child from Nicaragua insisting we descended from apes. I had to enunciate about the Garden of Eden and the treachery of the snake. In the end, I sent him home.’
‘Edna, was it? Yes, these children are ticking time bombs, threatening our values and beliefs. My recommendation, as chair of this committee, is a wall in the playground and separate classrooms for patriots and outsiders. This way, our childrens’ minds won’t be polluted by their libtard ideas. Are you all with me?’ He smiled a lizard-like smile. Tania crossed and uncrossed her legs, fetchingly. She channelled Jackie Kennedy, as her husband had suggested.
The committee members were struck dumb. One man spoke, his voice halting.
‘But, Mr Strumpen, we might face legal action?’
‘Action smaction,’ he said with a dismissive wave, ‘I’ve dealt with prosecutors half my life. Never known one who can’t be swayed with greenbacks.’
‘We might be accused of discrimination?’
‘Maybe. But they’ll never call us pussies. You mark my words. We’ll be the benchmark from which all Washington schools will draw inspiration. It will be unpresidented.’
He stood, placed his blank sheets of paper in his briefcase and strode from the room. Tania tottered behind him, her pencil skirt making her steps as constipated as a geisha.