Illustration courtesy of Chris Piascik

The evening before Election Day, the house was full of welcomed quiet. The TVs were off. And after a glass of wine, Steph was on her way to bed.

But as she walked past Ben’s room, she heard sniffling. She cracked the door and understood he was still awake.

“What’s wrong, honey?” she whispered.

He rolled over to look at her, and Steph saw he’d been crying.

“Everyone is so angry,” he said. “I’m afraid what might happen tomorrow. I’m scared, and I don’t understand why this is happening.”

The presidential election, she thought. If it was a scary time for adults, it could be a terrifying time for children. She’d never thought how it might be for a 9-year-old who’d never really paid attention to a national election until this year.

She entered the room and sat on Ben’s bed.

“I think you’re old enough to hear the tale of the Trumpusnacht,” she said, caressing his forehead.

“The what?” he answered.

“More commonly called Trumpus,” she began. “It all started with Uncle Sam …”

All Americans know the beloved Uncle Sam, the star-spangled hero who urges Americans to do their part. To serve. To vote. 

But few people know he conjured the Trumpusnacht. You may know this creature as ‘Trumpus.’

Trumpus is a scowling beast with a glowing, orange face and small hands. His goat-like legs and hooves are hidden by red pants and polished shoes. A golden pelt carved from a sacrificed sloth covers his curved horns.

Uncle Sam years ago decided to employ the ogre when be become dismayed with apathetic and jaded voters. Many were forgetting to vote at all, and many more were failing to inform themselves. And so many were angry.

“Trumpus,” he said upon entering the monster’s lair at the peak of Trumpus Tower. “I need your help to motivate America’s citizens. I want you to frighten them and show them a country in ruins. Scare them into critical thinking. Make them demand action from their leaders.”

“Oh, I shall, sir,” Trumpus grumbled. “I shall do your bidding. But in exchange?”

“In exchange, you will no longer have to pay taxes,” Uncle Sam promised.

Trumpus smiled. Bits of red, gooey matter hung from his teeth. Maybe human flesh? Or rotting gums? It was just this disgusting goo speckled with brown flakes of feces. Was it feces? Really? Blood and feces in his mouth? Uncle Sam wasn’t sure, but he was on the verge of vomiting as he shook Trumpus’ tiny hand.

Anyway, Uncle Sam departed, confident Trumpus was the perfect force to frighten Americans into action.

At first, it worked to a degree. Trumpus ran for the presidency. He made voters uncomfortable. He made them laugh. And he stood in contrast to those who would win the nominations.

He spoke of a ruined nation. He offered ridiculous solutions. He spoke crudely and outrageously.

But as Uncle Sam looked forward, he failed to notice. Trumpus was not frightening voters toward information. He was winning their support.

And then one year, he won the nomination.

“Trumpus!” Uncle Sam bellowed as he kicked in the beast’s door. “You have broken our deal! You were never to be president!”

“I have not lied to you, Sam!” Trumpus cried. “I did as you asked, but they only loved me more. It is not progress or ideas they crave, but victory! They want only victory!”

Uncle Sam stared at his horrific creation. “What have I done?” he asked no one.

Trumpus grinned. Just this maroon slobber dripping from his scabbed lips. Just disgusting.

“I must stop this,” Uncle Sam said as he struggled to not throw up. “And since I now disavow you, you will have to pay taxes.”

“I don’t care,” Trumpus said. “I never cared. My fortune is without end. I’ve only ever wanted to win. And you helped me do that.”

“And so here we are,” Steph told Ben. “Trumpus is on the verge of his victory.”

Tears streamed from Ben’s eyes. “But what can we do?” he pleaded quietly. “What will happen?

Steph thought a moment. “We’ll just have to see, Ben,” she said. “All you can do is be a good voter when you grow up.”

“But what if Trumpus wins, mommy?” he asked. “What will happen to me?”

Steph thought a moment longer. And she said nothing.

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