Almost unattainable heights

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It’s a little known fact that William Henry Harrison, the 9th president of the United States, was already dead when he was elected. Of course no one, not even his wife, knew this because Harrison was so good at keeping secrets and he managed to fool almost everyone until just a few days before he was to take office. He would have fooled people even longer had he been able to hide the fact that he had become illiterate following his death in October of 1840, but when pressed to read portions of his inaugural address (which he had composed months earlier, realizing that he was likely going to die before being sworn in) he was unable to do so, and this confirmed his wife’s suspicions. Being the dutiful wife that she was, Anna helped him to memorize the speech and he made it through the entire inauguration without anyone else knowing that he was already beginning to rot from the inside out. Anna was, however, also a dutiful citizen of the United States, and never had a clear conscience about allowing her husband to assume the presidency while dead, and thus convinced him to inform his staff of his condition by warning him that if the opposition party were to find him out, they would brand him “Our First Zombie President” and most certainly cause great political trouble for him, not to mention soundly defeat him at the polls should he run for reelection. William Henry Harrison disclosed his condition to the rest of his cabinet shortly after he took office, and a plan was put in place to fake his death within the year and to allow John Tyler to assume the office of president.

Sadly, the clichéd notions of zombies were confirmed, and the transition of power hastened, when William Henry Harrison was found eating the brains of his chief of staff only a month after the inauguration and had to be beheaded right there in the middle of the White House by none other than John Tyler, the man who was to assume power. There is speculation, of course, that Tyler fabricated this particular detail, so desirous was he to become the President of the United States, but those details have been lost to the obscurity of Tyler’s presidency and it must be admitted that no one remembers or cares about what John Tyler did or did not do before or during his term of office. Still, to this day, before any inauguration can take place, a medical doctor must assert that the President Elect is indeed living before the oath of office can be administered.

Even so, it is not inconceivable that a dead man or two has slipped through the ranks using technology that was not available during William Henry Harrison’s era, and this strikes me as fair. If the best man or woman for the presidency happens to be dead, who am I to say that they will not govern with a steady, if perhaps cold, hand.

Created: Mar 07, 2014

Tags: quick fiction, prose, presidents, poetry, zombies, microfiction

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