Small World: The art of the deal


Henry Precht

Henry Precht

By Henry Precht

BN Columnist

Scene: Mid-November 2016. The Pope and newly-elected Donald Trump are sitting together in a small (three-table) café. A rather run-down place, it overlooks the Tiber, which is muddy with a bunch of oil spots spinning on its surface, trapped by trash. The oil comes from Trump’s seaplane, which landed a half hour ago. The Pope walked over from the Vatican an hour ago. He is a bit out of sorts after the wait, but his companion, Count Fegato è Cipolli, a member of the Roman aristocracy, is trying to soothe his irritation.

Pope: Basta, Fegato, Bring us two espressos and then stand over there to keep the tourists away. Now, Donaldo, as I was saying, I am so happy that you have won the election in your country. It is time that a non-Christian became el presidente. What is your religion now, by the way?

Trump: Well, as you know, when you tossed me out of Christianity, I needed something fast for the swearing in. And there are just too many Christian sects to make a quick and informed decision. So I opted for the simplest and easiest: Islam. Meet Abdu Trump!

Pope: Goodness me! I thought you were not friendly with Moslems.

Trump: The faith has its advantages, particularly at this tight moment in our history. A Moslem ruler can impose a special protection tax (the jizya) on all his people who are Christians or Jews. That should neatly cover my promised tax reductions, as well as make America great again. At least that’s what the experts tell me. But I have a deal I want to discuss with you.

Pope: Real estate, I heard.

Trump: You heard right. As your spies might also have told you, I don’t care for the digs they assign to the president. Shabby, rundown. Plus, I already got some of the best houses you’d find anywhere. Really elegant. So I thought, who’s into poverty? You would love the White House as a homeless shelter. Especially when I cut the salaries of those useless senators and congressmen. They’ll all be out on the street. Think of Cruz and Rubio panhandling and no hope of pulling in the big bucks they used to. ’Cause I’m putting those bribing lobbyists out of business, as well. Oh Man, I mean Your Holiness! A great day is coming!

Pope: Very interesting, but I have a deal that I don’t think you can refuse. You know these Romani aren’t going to church like they did in the old days. Maintenance suffers. Roofs leak. I was wondering if you might want to take a lease on one of the basilicas as a casino? You know, “money changers in the temple?” In the old days, it worked.

Trump: Terrific idea! We could hire Bernie to manage it — he’s so keen on socking it to the rich. A great consolation prize! And by the way, I plan to install Hillary in the White House shelter as a housemother. She’s so nostalgic to get back and, besides, she wants to make sure it’s ready for Chelsea.

Pope: You’re a genius. Maybe you could also find a little job for our ex-PM Berlusconi, a bad influence here with his many ladies.

Trump: He’d be a sensation in Washington. I’ll put him on my staff. We can sign the papers later. Right now I’m off to Israel. Their PM wants to see me. Something about rebuilding the temple. Think about that: Trump Temple or Temple of Trump. Then, I’m flying to London.

Pope: Oh, please. Can you defer a bit? The British, after leaving the European Union, are getting lonely and have asked about rejoining the True Faith. The Queen would drop the Anglicans and undo the evils of Henry VIII; pay indemnities for those heads were chopped off or flesh roasted, monasteries returned complete with new roofs. Make the Church great again.

Trump: Maybe there’s another deal here — a string of monastery-hotels and golf courses. Trump’s Pilgrimages. Think about it. And now, ciao!

Pope: Ciao and say a prayer for our new cooperation.

Trump turns to board his plane, but pauses to allow the count to take a selfie. The count then scurries away to catch up with the Pope, who is striding quickly away to the Vatican.

Henry Precht is a retired Foreign Service Officer.

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