Weekend Fiction: Always Bring Tar Feathers to a PTA Coup

Margaret Diddler, with two no-neck bodyguards flanking her, strutted across the Vinny Barbarino Elementary cafetorium stage. The overflow crowd half-sat, half-squatted on eighteen-inch-high kindergarten chairs. Waves of fidgeting flowed across the sea of humanity as the chairs - designed for maximum discomfort in adults - worked their magic.

Margaret yanked a mini-sledge hammer from her purse and gaveled the Parent Teacher Association meeting to order. A chunk splintered off the side of the podium. “This meeting is called to order. The only item on the agenda is the Spring Bake Sale.” An outraged murmur bubbled up from the crowd. “If you don’t like it, you should have been at the meeting last year where the parents appointed me president-for-life. Everyone had notice, so it’s a bit late to be complaining now. The motion on the floor is the approval of the Spring Bake Sale draft plan as outlined in the minutes. So all in favor, say ‘aye’.” A solitary ‘aye’ poked up its head from the back of the room. “Very well, the ayes have it. The motion carries. Meeting adjourned.” She pivoted on her heels and marched stage left.

The crowd pulled out its best enraged tiger impression. Three men rushed to the stage and tackled Margaret. Her bodyguards, eyes wider than grapefruits, offered no resistance. Like a pair of synchronized dancers, they minced backward toward the stage exit, trying to evaporate inside their dark suits. A woman with sculpted hair and a designer suit ran to the microphone. “The long reign of terror is over. We hereby proclaim the founding of the People’s Revolutionary PTA.”

Larry Higgenbottom, wearing a pork pie hat and a leopard-print smoking jacket, yelled from the crowd. “People’s Revolutionary PTA? What are you? A bunch of communists?”

“Communists? Heavens no. I’m a Rotarian. And Henry there,” she pointed to the fracas on the stage where Margaret struggled against three men, “is Episcopalian. I’m not sure about the other two, but they’ve never said anything about being communists.”

“If the new name has ‘People’s Revolutionary’ in it, people will assume you’re communists. Lots of communist countries tacked that onto their names,” Larry explained.

“I see,” scowled the woman at the microphone. “That is a problem.” Her face brightened. “How about the Democratic Republic of Parents and Teachers? Let’s put that one to a vote.”

“Same problem. Lots of communist countries called themselves democratic republics.”

“Union of Soviet Socialist Parents and Teachers? I’m just thinking off the top of my head here.”

“Argh,” Larry counterpointed.

A flurry of suggestions for a new name flew from the crowd. “Uncle Vinny’s Ass-Kicking Party Patrol!” “Captain Studmuffin’s Studly Club for Studs!”

“Oh fine,” the woman at the podium snorted. “We’ll keep the same name. You people are impossible. Now I see why Dictator-for-Life Diddler ran this place the way she did.”

A man in a turquoise track suit rushed to the stage and shoved the woman away from the microphone. “The People’s Revolutionary PTA’s reign of terror is over. Long live the Barbarino Anti-Leprechaun League, Sometimes Also Called the PTA. Until we elect a new dictator, I proclaim myself Interim Dictator Mike Cookiesnatcher. All in favor of hunting some leprechauns, say aye.”

The room exploded in a chorus of whooping and gunfire. “Dammit,” Mike screamed into the microphone, producing an ear-shattering blast of feedback, “I said ‘say aye’, not ‘shoot your guns like a mob of idiots’. Honestly, you people are worse than a gaggle of goat herders. No wonder the PTA never gets anything done.”

A man in a clown costume rushed on stage, slapped a strip of duct tape over Mike’s mouth, and hogtied his wrists and ankles. “Interim Dictator Mike’s long reign of terror is over. I proclaim me, Frumpy the Clown, as Acting Interim Dictator of the BALLSAC PTA. You goat herders can shoot your guns all you want.” A barrage of bullets rattled the ceiling. A bullet ricocheted and bit Frumpy on the shoulder. “Sonofabitch,” he screamed. “You people are nothing but a rabble of rabid ranch hands. No more shooting.”

A man in a frayed, 1970s day-glo clown costume rushed on stage and bundled Frumpy in bubble-wrap. He pushed the fresh-minted mummy, safe from fears of breaking in transit, off the lip of the stage before stepping to the microphone. “Acting Interim Dictator Frumpy’s long reign of terror is over. Henceforth, I, Dumpy the Clown will be Provisional Acting Interim Dictator of the BALLSAC PTA. As my first action in office, I decree the formation of a Leprechaun Extermination Committee, which will consist of me and the twelve most heavily armed people here. In the case of a tie between equally armed individuals, the position will go to whomever can recite the most swear words in thirty seconds. In the case of a tie between individuals equally versed in cursing, the position will go to whomever can think up the best dirty limerick using the word ‘encephalitis’.”

“Limericks?” bellowed a voice from the crowd. “He must be soft on leprechaun killing.”

“Or worse, a leprechaun sympathizer.”

“What if he’s a fellow traveller in leprechaunism?”

A man in a hobo outfit and painted-on sad face ran on stage. His dirt-brown pants had more patches than original fabric. Hitched onto his shoulder was a surface-to-air missile. “Dumpy’s long reign of terror is over. Long live Temporary Provisional Acting Interim Dictator Rusty the Clown. Under my watch, the Leprechaun Extermination Committee will be composed of me and the next eleven people who can tar and feather Dumpy the Clown.” An over-excited rumble, followed by a collective groan of disappointment, came from the crowd. “What!?” Rusty exasperated. “Don’t tell me you came to a PTA coup without tar and feathers? No wonder you people need a dictator.”

A man dressed in skin-tight blue and white body suit - oversize bug eyes dangling from springs attached to the top of his head - started up the stage steps. Rusty pointed his missile at the man’s chest. “Not one more step. Our banana republic carousel of dictators stops with me. Until the leprechaun menace is wiped out and we can hold a free and fair election. Where I’ll campaign with Bessie here strapped to my shoulder.” He patted the sleek cylinder next to his cheek. “These leprechauns are nasty, tricky creatures. We need to go into battle with better equipment than the pistols and rifles you folks brought. The Spring Bake Sale will go ahead as planned. The money we raise will go into an armaments fund. The black market will give us the upper hand against those green vermin.”

Caleb Echterling lives in Richmond, Virginia. He spends most of his time entertaining crazy munchkins who claim they are his children. This piece is an except from one of his unpublished novels.

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