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the sleep of reason

by Michael Swanwick

with illustrations by
Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes


6. [Plate 39]
Prick the Donkey

Prick the Donkey came from a long line of asses. His father was an ass and his mother was an ass and their parents were asses too. His genealogy, in fact, could be traced all the way back to Old Bray, who nuzzled Eve's hand in the Garden and gave young Abel rides on his back when sin was still young.

With such a distinguished pedigree, it was inevitable that he would go into politics. Noblesse oblige required nothing less. He wasn't much of a speaker, but his muzzle was as soft as velvet and he had an engaging personality. Which was enough to get the governorship of a not-very-important Southwestern state.

One day, midway through his undistinguished career, the money men came to see Prick in his office. These were the same money men who, as a favor to his father, had set him up in business and then bought him out just before that business collapsed from mismanagement. It had cost them tens of millions of dollars, but they considered it a good investment. For now they wanted him to run for president.

The election was a squeaker. It went right down to the wire. In the closing minutes, it was called both ways. Everything hinged on a single state where the votes were so close that Prick the Donkey's brother (by good fortune the governor) had to call off a recount, lest it turn out he had lost. Prick's opponent got snippy, and the case went to the Supreme Court.

For a giddy instant, everything hung in the balance. But as luck would have it, Prick the Donkey's father had been president before him and had appointed several of the Supreme Court judges. They all voted for Prick, and he became the President of the United States.

He was a Democrat, of course. All donkeys are. If he'd been born an elephant, doubtless he'd have been a Republican. But donkeys are iconic Democrats through and through. Not one has ever been a Republican.

So it's not what you're thinking.


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This is the sixth of 80 stories by Michael Swanwick written to accompany Francisco Goya's Los Caprichos. For a listing of the most recently available stories, go to The Sleep of Reason.

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