WORLD’s 2018 Books of the Year
Thirteenth episode in a once-a-quarter short short fiction series. For other stories in this series, visit wng.org/shortstories.
George Caesar had a lot to be thankful for. The friendships he made as an Aggie Yell Leader at A&M helped him get started in a high-tech business. He dated Heather, the prettiest cheerleader. With her urging he joined a church. Everything fell in line.
Well, not everything. Heather told Caesar she was pregnant. She didn’t know how he’d take the news, but it couldn’t have been better: “God has given us a great gift,” he said. “Let’s get married.” They did, but Heather miscarried and the doctor said there’d be no more babies.
As Caesar closed in on 40 he was the CEO of a small high-tech company and the author (with a ghostwriter) of Profiting by the Prophets, a guide to vigorous corporate growth based on staking out a strong position and sticking to it even when others object. Its most quoted sentence: “Think positively and the nay-saying Nathans will eventually bow and exclaim, ‘You the man, bro!’”
Caesar sold his company, became a member of the Very Rich Texans club, invested in underachieving small Texas companies that he could turn around, and became even richer. Politics tempted him: He hit all of Texas’ 254 counties while building Prophetic Profit clubs and a cadre of supporters. Only downside: He spent more days on the road than at home. That was OK with Heather, though, since she liked to spend time at her club.
One percent of Caesar’s income went to Mark Kahn’s church, which he attended during his third of a year in Austin on Sundays: Caesar was its biggest donor, and he felt membership there showed he was serious about religion. He also subscribed to People, where he read about Mike Khan fighting ISIS and devoured stories about celebrities who seemed able to grab anything they wanted.
Caesar, after dreaming about running for governor, decided to take action. He hired Mike Khan to dig up dirt on his potential opponents.
Heather told Caesar he should develop a hobby, so he became the world’s biggest collector of early Beatles memorabilia, which looked like a profitable investment. He charmed the crowds at Prophetic Profit parties with his imitation of Paul McCartney singing, “She was just 17 / And you know what I mean / And the way she looked / Was way beyond compare. … We danced through the night / And we held each other tight.”
Several times on the road Caesar danced through the night with young women. He knew he was a moth flying close to a flame, but since he worked hard didn’t he deserve recreation? He found himself heading down the highway to San Antonio at least once a month to Rose, who each time wore a yellow dress. He hit her only once, when she told him she wasn’t 21 as she had first said, but only 16, which made him liable for a statutory rape charge.
Not a big problem, though. Rose, unsurprisingly, was estranged from her mom, so Caesar used a crumb from his table to buy her a house, along with clothes in a variety of colors. Meanwhile, he funded a “Turn Texas Blue” campaign to break the Republican lock on the Lone Star. He became a star among Democrats: entrepreneur, mentor of youth, faithful husband, and “personally opposed” to abortion.
Caesar, after dreaming about running for governor, decided to take action. He hired Mike Khan, who had started a company devoted to doing opposition research on political candidates, and asked him to dig up dirt on his potential opponents. Caesar really wanted to see if Khan, and therefore others, would find out about his San Antonio strolls.
They met a month later over barbecue. Khan slid across the table a folder specifying holes in the armor of each of Caesar’s potential opponents for the nomination. Caesar smiled as he read each record of iniquity, and saw nothing about him. “Good work,” he told Khan.
“Better than good,” Khan replied. “I met Rose. She was 16. How dumb are you?” A chunk of beef stuck in Caesar’s throat. Khan rose to use the Heimlich maneuver on him, but Caesar spit it out under his own power, wiped his brow, and asked, “How did you find out?”
Khan smiled. “I have my sources. Now she’s pregnant and fears you’ll hit her again if she tells you. So what are you going to do about it?”