The unconscious Jeb! was sprawled across his couch, his slacks and dress shirt disheveled and stained with orange tinted smears and brown splotches. The floor, coffee table, and every inch of the couch not occupied by his bloated body were covered in sticky beer and soda cans and food wrappers, all licked free of crumbs. Jeb’s phone, rattled the half empty Mtn Dew that was placed on top of it, jolting Jeb! awake and sending detritus streaming off the couch and crashing to the floor like a waterfall of aluminum. Jeb! blindly swatted at the tabletop until he grabbed his phone and hit talk.
“Whuuuuh…. what the hell do you want? Who is this?” Jeb! mumbled into the receiver.
“Hey, Jeb!! It’s your bro!” George chimed in a whimsical Texas drawl. “Just wanted to check on ya, see how you’re doin’.”
“Just… just laying here on the couch, taking a nap.”
“Heheh, did ol’ Columba kick you out of the bedroom or somethin’?”
“Yeah… yeah she did, George.”
The static of silence crackled through the speaker. George cleared his throat. “Well, uh, sorry about that. Just wanted to tell you that we still love you and we’re still proud of you, Jebby!. Call me later champ, please?”
“Alright, George.” Jeb! hung up the phone and put it on the table, this time on top of a tin of cocktail peanuts.
Jeb! cycled through a line of cans, rattling them around until he found one with enough liquid remaining to salvage a sip. He downed a mouthful of flat room temperature Dr Pepper and dropped it on the floor with the rest. Jeb! grabbed the controller and flipped on the television. The 70” flatscreen snapped straight to CNN, where Wolf Blitzer stood in front of a scrolling backdrop of red, white, and blue stars.
“Thank you for tuning in to CNN for our ongoing coverage of the 2016 Republican Primary. This just in; top Republicans are urging candidates Ben Carson and John Kasich to do like Jeb! and just end it-”
Jeb! flipped to Fox News, where Megyn Kelly was chatting in a split screen with some old white guy, probably a guy who was in the Department of Defense or the CIA and ran for president sometime in the past 30 years.
Megyn gave a plastic chuckle. “That sure was an interesting take on why all Muslims just might be terrorists.” The old white guy disappeared to the side of the screen and was replaced by a different old white man, Donald Trump. “Now on to an interview with Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.”
“Thanks for having me, Megyn,” Donald said through a smarmy grin. “It’s always a joy to be on your show. You’re a lovely woman.”
“I’m flattered, Mr. Trump, but I assume you’re not here to compliment me. You’ve got a lot to talk about after your performance in South Carolina last week!”
“True, Megyn.” Donald’s beady eyes twinkled at the mention of his success. ”As great as I did, those other guys tried their best. They’re great, fantastic people and they can’t help that they aren’t as great as me. They aren’t going to win the election, but you know one thing they’ve got going for them? They aren’t Jeb!. Jeb! is a stupid, pathetic idiot and it’s about time that he dropped out and let the big boys play. That moron should’ve quit a long time ago, if you ask me. Seriously, Jeb! has to be about the ugliest, fattest, stupidest most-”
Jeb! mashed the power button, tossed the remote away, and buried his head in his trembling hands. Jeb!’s breathing sped up, heaving without tears. He thought that dropping out would free him from the constant ridicule and belittlement, but Donald wasn’t stopping. He would never stop. Jeb! was little more than a man before the onslaught of Hurricane Donald. At least those other guys weren’t that bad… No. No, they were just like the rest. He could hear Kasich and Christie snickering every time he walked by. Carly wouldn’t even look him in the eyes when he tried to talk to her before the debates about how he wasn’t like all those other shallow candidates and that he had real feelings. And Rubio? He was like a brother to Jeb!. Like a son. He could’ve stood with Jeb! and crushed all of those phonies, but he joined them instead.
Jeb! opened the drawer of the heavy oak coffee table and brushed away the film of campaign fliers, revealing an L-shaped hunk of dull grey metal. He reached for it, but his phone rang again. Jeb! looked as the face of his mother appeared on the screen. Jeb! felt the twitch of a smile on his lips as he answered the phone.
“Hey, Mom,” Jeb! said
“Are you okay, Jeb!?” Barbara’s voice was soft and cautious.
“Yeah, Mom, I’m alright.”
Barbara sighed. “Good. I was just afraid after the whole… you know…”
“Yeah, Mom. I know.”
“It’s just, you know how you got when you didn’t make the debate team in-”
“Mom!” Jeb! snapped. He held his breath for a moment and exhaled. “Mom. Please, I’m fine. I just need some time alone. I’ll call you back later, alright? Tell Dad I love him.”
“Alright, Jeb!. We love you so very much. I’ll talk-” Barbara paused. Jeb! could hear faint murmuring through the background static. “Jeb!, your father is awake. He would like to speak with you.”
Jeb! froze. “Dad… Dad wants to talk? I… I guess I can talk real quick.”
Unintelligible mumbling and thumping came over the speaker but was replaced by slow, deliberate breaths.
“Fa-Father? Is that you?” Jeb! cooed even more meekly than usual.
“Boy,” the old man croaked, his voice as dry as ash. “What… what have you done?”
“What do you mean, Father? I don’t understa-”
“You have failed me for the last time,” George Senior let out a frail wheeze, “boy.”
“Father… I tried my best. All I wanted was to be like you… I… Dad…”
“You are no son of mine.” Wild crashes sounded through the speaker. Barbara muttered indistinctly in the background.
“Jeb, your father isn’t thinking straight. He didn’t me-”
Jeb! launched the phone across the room, smashing it against the wall and leaving a hole in the drywall. He looked down at the open drawer and grabbed the handgun. He cradled the firearm in his palms like a newborn chick. Jeb! wrapped his sweating right hand around the textured plastic of the grip. He brushed the cool metal of the barrel with his thumb. It was smooth, but he felt a small tickle as he ran his fingertip across the top. Between the chamber and the muzzle of the weapon were the words Gov. Jeb Bush etched into the metal.
“You’re wrong, Father,” Jeb Bush whispered. “I’ll show you… I’ll show all of you.”
“Jeb!, what the hell was all that noise?” Columba stumbled down the hallway in a dazed stupor.
“Don’t call me that, Columba,” Jeb said. “I am no longer Jeb!.”
“Oh god, not this again,” she muttered under her breath. “What do I need to call you now?”
“Jeb Bush, 46th President of the United States.”