The Emperor’s New Tomato Ketchup

The Emperor’s New Tomato Ketchup

The Emperor didn’t eat just any ketchup with his steak and potatoes. The Emperor ate Heinz ketchup with his steak and potatoes. ‘Bring out the Heinz, bring out the best,’ The Emperor liked to say. It should be a song, like those mayonnaise people had. That was good sloganeering, The Emperor thought as he dipped a cube of steak into the Heinz ketchup. ‘Good enough for The Emperor, Good enough for you.’ There was another one. This sort of thing was why he was Emperor. He was really killing it today. 

The problem was the hordes. The convoy. What many people were calling a convoy of hordes. They were sending murders and rapists to the border. They were threatening the ketchup, this convoy of hordes. The Heinz ketchup. Murderers and rapists whose lusty eyes were swimming with visions of ketchup. There were rumors of Arabs in the mix. It was enough to make you shudder. 

The problem wasn’t simply the hordes of convoys that wanted the ketchup (also, the as yet undocumented Arabs). The problem was border crossings. Everyone was talking about border crossings. The crossing of borders. People going from one side to another. 

That there was a convoy of murderers and rapists who wanted the Heinz ketchup—The Emperor could understand. He could commiserate, for he himself enjoyed the Heinz Ketchup. He was not without feeling, The Emperor. Push him far enough he too might murder for the Heinz ketchup. He didn’t require threats to his ketchup to rape. Rape was a bad word. Bad. Bad rape. He preferred to think of it as pussy-grabbing. Rape bad, pussy-grabbing good.

Late one evening The Emperor watched a documentary on whales while he ate his steak and potatoes, both dipped liberally in ketchup. The Emperor was proud of the fact that his ketchup dipping was the only liberal act he permitted himself. Well, also the pussy-grabbing, but when you’re The Emperor you’re practically knee-deep in pussy just begging you to grab it. He told everyone he met—’The only liberal I am is a ketchup dipper!’ He didn’t say the same thing about the pussy-grabbing. Most people usually smiled weakly at the ketchup gag. After all, he was The Emperor—they kind of had to force a smile. 

Anyway, as he’d watched the big whales on TV and while they ate or fed or whatever the scientists called it The Emperor had what many people call an epiphany. A moment of eureka. If he sold vacuums he would have a commercial where someone was vacuuming and they’d look up into the camera and say, Eureka! It would be a clever play on words, like his being a liberal ketchup dipper. Wow, was that good! But that wasn’t the epiphany. He’d been watching this big whale feed or eat or whatever the scientists called it—don’t get him started on scientists!—and that was when he’d had his Eureka! moment, like the guy in the imaginary commercial he’d invented who was vacuuming his floor.

That’s what I want! The Emperor said to himself. A big impenetrable wall of baleen. It works for whales. Keeps kelp in. We could just turn it around to keep the hordes out. Hordes out, ketchup in. Also, whales were cheap. You didn’t have to build nothing, they were already there, just swimming around stupidly. So his plan had that going for it too. 

He had spoken with the best people, the famous experts and best engineers, and and all of them had said that since the beginning of time nothing had been more successful at preventing border crossings than walls. No one had ever heard of a baleen wall, and after one or two tries The Emperor just let that go. But he really liked the idea of a wall. He also liked wheels. All the classics: walls, wheels. Lines. Dots. Great stuff.

How The Emperor wanted a wall! He’d been talking about it for years. Something to keep away the convoy of hordes who wanted the ketchup. His Heinz ketchup. He’d checked-out all the picture books the library had about walls. There were many beautiful walls out there. China had one. They didn’t have ketchup but they had a wall. The Emperor didn’t like that China had a wall and he didn’t, so he placed a huge tariff on walls from China. That’ll show them, The Emperor said, and he was right—the Chinese wall market suffered greatly.

As much as The Emperor liked walls, he did not like people who talked about ladders and tunnels. There were many stupid people out there and those were the people who talked about ladders and tunnels. As if! The Emperor knew more about walls than anyone had ever known about walls. He liked walls so much that one day he went to the local Home Depot and toured their walls. They had a very nice selection of walls there. Many good, beautiful walls. He skipped the ladder department and subsequently wrote an edict banning all shovels, but activist judges later found it unconstitutional.

The Emperor looked at pictures taken from near the border. ‘The wall sure will have to be real big,’ The Emperor determined, ‘to stop all the rapists and murderers and Arabs convoying toward the border from the other side.’ The Arabs still hadn’t been confirmed but it made sense that these ketchup thieves would keep such company. Never forget! That’s what The Emperor always said, but sometimes he couldn’t remember what all that was about. 

“Build that wall!” The Emperor told his staff, but ever since the government had shut down and the engineers had stopped receiving paychecks, it was real hard to get them to work. No one did much. The Emperor thought that the engineers’ selfishness was really beginning to be a problem. Patriotism! He made a note to bring it up at the next staff meeting. 

The Emperor went down to the border. He knew he’d get hungry so he took a plate with steak and potatoes and Heinz ketchup with him. He looked at the rapists and murderers and Arabs who were steadily gathering on the other side.

“Build that wall!” The Emperor told them, but none of the rapists or murderers or Arabs paid The Emperor any heed. They acted as if they didn’t know he was The Emperor. He tried speaking in their language.

Build-O El Wall-O!” The Emperor yelled, but no one heard him, what with the din of all the raping and murdering. It is a documented fact that Arabs are also a very noisy people.

The Emperor went back to his mansion. The Emperor’s official mansion was a real shithole mansion. He wished he was at his other mansion, the one he owned. That one wasn’t a shithole. But there he was, stuck in the shithole mansion, and he couldn’t even take solace in knowing that he had his wall to keep the hordes and convoys away from his ketchup. He ordered a steak.

“Like a hockey puck!” The Emperor yelled at his cook.

It was only a matter of time before the murderers and rapists got across the border and took all the ketchup. He’d seen them himself. They had ketchup craven eyes and some of them had been frothing at the mouth like rabid dogs. Many of The Emperor’s best intelligence staff were saying that this was the murders’ and rapists’ plan. No one could predict a damned thing about the Arabs. 

Ketchup is a sweet, tangy condiment made from tomatoes, sugar and vinegar. Sometimes other spices are added, but not often. The Emperor really, really liked ketchup. He would stop those foreigners who were trying to undermine the very foundation of this country!

As he liked to do at the end of a long day, after The Emperor had returned from the border and finished his dinner, he read a verse from his Bible. Fortunately every verse was the best verse and so he read his favorite verse, Genesis 17. He looked at his hands that held the Bible. Wow, were they big hands. 

The following day two swindlers came to see The Emperor. One of them was a man and the other was a woman. The swindlers told everyone that they were in the construction business and asked to see The Emperor. Secretly they had a plan to embarrass The Emperor publicly. They were very fine swindlers but they had an equally limited grasp of human psychology, for The Emperor was incapable of embarrassment, public or private. This fact had been the wellspring of all his successes in life. 

“We understand you want a wall,” the woman, Nancy, said. 

“We build the best walls,” her partner, Chuck, said.

“I want the best wall ever!” The Emperor said. “Can you do a baleen wall?”

“We don’t futz with fish,” Nancy explained. 

“Whales aren’t fish,” The Emperor said, “they’re mammals.”

“Still.”

“That’s strike two,” The Emperor said. “What else you got?”

“The best wall ever,” Nancy stroked her chin and looked thoughtfully at Chuck. “That’s a tall order.”

“Deal or no deal?” The Emperor knew that the art of any deal relied upon saying the word “Deal” a lot, and with authority. He was getting impatient. It was tiresome sitting in this chair all day. He would’ve preferred to be sitting in a golf cart. Also, some fries with a whole shit-ton of ketchup to dip them in and a Diet Coke would really hit the spot right now. 

“Well,” Chuck said, “the best wall ever conceived is a see through wall. It’s see through, see, so then you can see what the people on the other side are doing over there.”

“A see through wall?” The Emperor had never imagined such a thing. It sounded potentially even better than the whale wall. 

“Thing is,” Chuck continued, “no one’s ever tried to build one. They’re too advanced and expensive.”

“My deal is I want the best wall ever!” The Emperor was really hitting them with his Deal talk now. 

“Thing about see through walls,” Nancy said, “is they got a hitch in their giddy-up.”

The Emperor didn’t like all this cowboy talk. He liked cowboys just fine but not their talk. He hoped they would can the cowboy talk soon. For a moment he considered telling Chuck and Nancy about his Eureka! idea. But then they were in the wall business, not vacuums. Plus, he wasn’t giving that one away for free.

“The only people who can see a see through wall,” Nancy continued, “are those people who are unfit for their jobs, and those who are really, really stupid.”

The Emperor wondered if this was really true. “Is that really true?” he asked. “Because it sounds like something I once saw on TV.”

“No,” Nancy said, “it’s the real deal.”

The steely old bitch had said “Deal” so The Emperor knew she wasn’t messing around. 

The Emperor looked at his staff situated around the room—there was John and Kelly and Jared and Tony and Mike and Stephen and Betsy and the sleepy black guy. None of them said anything. They were all waiting for The Emperor to say something so they could agree with him. They were the best staff.

If I had a see through wall, The Emperor figured, not only would I know what the murders and rapists were doing over there, but I’d be able to tell which of my staff are loyal to me. The Emperor had a thing about loyalty. 

“You got a deal!” The Emperor cried. “That sounds like the wall for me! Build it! Build me the best wall ever!” 

The two swindlers agreed to make a see through wall for The Emperor. What a deal he’d struck! He’d get the best wall ever, a see through wall. No one in the whole history of walls had ever had a wall that good. He celebrated by eating a steak and potatoes with plenty of ketchup, and drank his Diet Coke through his favorite yellow bendy straw. 

Nancy and Chuck went down to the border. They began working on their wall. They set up scaffolding and put stakes in the ground. They borrowed a hammer from Chuck’s cousin and Nancy affixed a tape measure to her pantsuit. All day long they worked, but because they weren’t building a real wall they only pretended to build a wall. When night came they set out bright lights and continued to pretend to build the wall in the darkness.

After a couple hours The Emperor became impatient. He wondered how his wall was coming and sent his most loyal advisor to check it out. Jared smeared on a pile of sunscreen and went down to the border. When he arrived he couldn’t see a wall anywhere, but the builders kept talking about it like it was there.

“Notice the Byzantine arches that give way onto the crenellated fortifications!” Nancy pointed overhead. 

Chuck kept talking about how wide and sturdy the foundation was. “Unbreachable kryptonite!” he repeated over and over.  

Because he couldn’t see the wall, Jared worried that he was unfit for his security clearance. He looked again. He still couldn’t see the wall, but across the border he could see the convoy of rapists and murders drawing ever closer. Behind them were what appeared to be Arabs on camels. Their scimitars glinted brightly in the noonday sun.

“Let us know what you think.” Nancy told Jared. 

Unlike The Emperor, Jared was still minimally capable of embarrassment. To save face, he cried out,

“Oh what a lovely wall it is!”

He pointed at the air along the border. “It’s the best wall I’ve ever seen. I’ll go back right now and tell The Emperor all about the great wall you’re building!”

Jared went back and told The Emperor about the wall. He described it in great detail—the broad width of the foundation with its sturdy unbreachable kryptonite, the crenellated fortifications situated above the Byzantine arches. The Emperor was very happy about his new wall. 

The next afternoon Chuck and Nancy finished building the wall along the border. They invited The Emperor to come and take a tour his new see through wall. The Emperor decided to hold a military parade in honor of the new see through wall. Everyone came down to the border. Fighter jets zoomed overhead. A band played the Battle Hymn of the Republic and the gift bags contained little airplane sized bottles of ketchup. It was really something. 

When The Emperor arrived he couldn’t see the new wall. The Emperor remembered what Nancy and Chuck had said about the wall. Oh turds, The Emperor worried, if I can’t see the wall, then I’ll be unfit for my job. Or really, really stupid. He didn’t like either of those options, so instead The Emperor acted like he could see the wall.

“What a magnificent wall!” The Emperor walked along the border, ooh-ing and ah-ing as he pointed at the see through wall before him. All of his staff walked with him nodded their heads and praised the great see through wall before them.

Chuck and Nancy licked their lips in anticipation of the grand reveal. This would be the moment when The Emperor would be shown to be a fool before all the land! Unfortunately, they didn’t realize that everyone in the land already knew what a fool The Emperor was. It’s true that there were some who didn’t know this about The Emperor, but they were fools themselves. What Chuck and Nancy failed to see was that The Emperor hadn’t been elected because he wasn’t a fool. He’d been elected because he hadn’t been the other candidate, many people found his whole shtick pretty entertaining, and he already had a totally kick-ass mansion of his own. Also, a lot of people just really liked ketchup.

Just then all the rapists and murderers arrived at the other side of the border. The Arabs were right behind them. As he looked into their eyes The Emperor had never seen such ketchup lust in all his days. The murders and rapists and Arabs came right up to the border and stopped. They looked across at The Emperor.

“We have built the best wall in the history of man!” The Emperor cried. “You cannot enter our country!”

“But I don’t see any wall,” a rapist said to a murderer. They turned to look at an Arab. She admitted that she too couldn’t see any wall. 

“Then you’re unfit to live in our country, and you’re really, really stupid!” The Emperor said. “This is the best wall ever made, and everyone knows that if you can’t see it then you’re unfit to be here and are also very stupid.”

“We just wanted to bring you some tacos and some Shakira CD’s.” The murderer explained as he stepped across the border. He held out a plate with tacos on it. 

“And some humus,” the Arab added as she followed the rapist across the border.

The Emperor was pretty hungry after having looked at the fake wall all afternoon, but tacos and humus weren’t really his thing. He briefly wondered how the murderers and rapists and Arabs had managed to slip across the wall like that, but he scuttled that thought in favor of imagining a nice, overcooked, dried out steak slathered in Heinz ketchup. 

This was the moment Nancy and Chuck had been waiting for. They jumped out from behind the imaginary wall and yelled,

“Gotcha! There was no wall but you acted as if you could see one. You’re unfit for the title of Emperor! And you’re also really, really stupid!

But they had failed to see that The Emperor was not beholden to logic of any sort. He just laughed at them and said, “I don’t get your deal.”

“We could also do some work around here too,” one of the rapists added. “Those hedges need trimming.”

The Emperor looked where the rapist had pointed. The hedges really did need to be trimmed. He wondered if any of his people would be willing to trim the hedges. Not in this heat, he thought. Forget about it. Plus, it probably wouldn’t pay very much, the hedge trimming. No one wanted jobs that didn’t pay much anymore. Everyone liked hard work, but mostly just as an idea. Hard work was a great idea as long as someone else was doing it. Not that he blamed anyone for not wanting those jobs. He wasn’t about to trim any hedges in this heat for a couple bucks. He’d rather ride in his golf cart and eat a steak and potatoes and ketchup. Still, the hedges looked awful. Someone had to trim them. 

“Don’t forget the Shakira.” The murderer handed The Emperor a stack of CD’s.

Everyone was looking at The Emperor, who appeared genuinely touched by the gifts of tacos and Shakira CD’s. The Emperor was not in fact touched by these gifts. It would take more than a plate of tacos and some CD’s to impress The Emperor. No, he was only smiling because he was thinking about Shakira. He knew those hips didn’t lie. What a treat it would be to grab her by the pussy. 

“Will you try and steal all our ketchup?” The Emperor demanded.

“No,” the rapists and murders said, “we don’t like ketchup. We prefer salsa.”

“And humus,” the Arab added. 

Salsa and humus. These people wouldn’t stop going on about salsa and humus. Still, they were really coming around to his side of things. He could overlook the salsa and humus thing for now because he was winning the negotiation. You couldn’t get hung up on salsa and humus right now. The Emperor thought about his other mansion, the one that wasn’t a shithole. There were a whole lot of toilets that needed scrubbing and lawns that in need of mowing over there. Surely one of these rapists could do those sort of things. The Emperor decided to go for the jugular. 

“We got a deal?” he demanded.

He had them now. The murderers and rapists and Arabs all nodded their heads in agreement. The Emperor made the convoy of hordes all pinkie-swear not to steal any of the Heinz ketchup in the land. Then he turned to the everyone gathered nearby and said,

“We are allowing all these people into our country.”

“But what about the wall?” It was that annoying reporter Jimmy Acrusta, who had apparently stabbed a young intern with a shiv hewn from an old license plate before he impetuously addressed The Emperor. “You promised you were going to build a wall to keep out the hordes of convoys threatening our ketchup stocks. What’s the deal?”

Because Jimmy Acrusta had said “Deal,” The Emperor knew it was a real serious question. That was the art of it: knowing when shit was real. 

“We will still build the wall!” The Emperor stated to much cheering. “Only, we really need our toilets cleaned and our lettuces picked, because seriously—none of us is going to do that. So before we build the wall, we let all these murderers and rapists and Arabs in. Now, don’t worry, they pinkie swore that they wouldn’t touch any of our ketchup. That’s the deal I made and I make the best deals, everyone knows that.”

The Emperor lowered his voice so the convoy of hordes couldn’t hear him. 

“So we’ll let them in, see, and once they’re here, then we’ll hire them to build the wall. Let’s be honest—nobody really wants to build a wall down here. This heat is ridiculous. My toes are sweating. It’s just gross out here. Anyway, they’ll build the wall for us. We’ll contract them to build the wall. I’ll say, ‘Build that wall!,’ and because I let them in when I say, ‘Build that wall!’ they’ll build the wall.”

“And it’ll be a wall of baleen, like I’ve always said would be the best wall. We’ll send these hordes out into the oceans, and they’ll collect the baleen from the whales, because they’re just out there swimming around stupidly, the whales. We could also tell them to take oil from the whales head because we could use some more lamps around here at nighttime. So we’ll get the best baleen wall ever, and it’ll be well lighted. What a deal!”

“And because the baleen wall will be the best wall, this convoy of hordes will be stuck inside it forever. And we’ll always have clean toilets and picked lettuces.”

But The Emperor wasn’t thinking about lettuces. He was a thinking about fried potatoes, which, along with a steak and a liberal dose of ketchup, were what he consumed when he returned from the border after yet another successful day being the best Emperor in the history of all emperors. 

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