“Your first job as mayor, uh, Mr. Mayor, will be, uh.. planting the..”
“My first decree as mayor,” I said, “Is that there are to be no humans allowed in Lasagna Town without express permission from myself. Is that clear, Shizue-san?” The poodle took down the memo in her clipboard with a quick flick of shorthand.
“Not on the job, Shizue. Smoke all you want when you get home, but you’ll kindly keep it out of the town hall and away from my offices.”
“Uh… yes sir,” she spoke uncomfortably. “Now, uh.. it’s customary for a new mayor to plant a Town Tree, to represent the new growth and prosperity of..”
“Right, right. Sure. Trees. It’s a powerful metaphor.” I gazed across the town square. A few stray citizens were out and about, occasionally peering over for a peek at their new sovereign lord. “’Sup?” I called out to a bear strolling about in an argyle sweater. He shyly retreated to a grove of trees and I turned back to Shizue. “Although I feel a bronze statue in my likeness commands more power and is less likely to be, how shall we say, evacuated on?”
Shizue blushed a deep red, which was odd, considering her face was covered with fur rather than flesh. “Perhaps at another time you may commission such a public work.”
“So be it. But before this ceremony, I must needs freshen up and store my belongings. Will you point me in the direction of the mayor’s mansion?”
Shizue stiffened and cocked her head. “Mayor’s mansion? I’m afraid our town provides no such, uh.. amenity.”
“Surely you have procured residence for me. Do you expect me to sleep on that ridiculous desk?”
“No, but.. well, our last mayor left so little in the town coffers that we require all residents, including the mayor, to generate their own income and livelihood. Our town is blessed with many natural resources and you are free to fish the river and sea, as well as the trees in our town. Our citizens will always pay good coin for freshly picked fruit.”
I stared at her and lifted my suitcase to swing at her head then and there, but saw a giraffe peeking over an orange tree and thought better of it. “So, what is it, then?” I asked, doing my best to draw calmness from a well of rage.
“There’s a tent.”
“A tent,” I replied.
“It’s a nice tent,” she offered.
“Sir, I’m so sorry, I thought that all of this was made perfectly clear in the information package we sent you last month. You sent your statement of acknowledgement and compliance and uh..”
“All right, all right, I remember now. Yes, of course. A tent.” I tossed a smile at her and said, “lead the way.”
She sighed with relief and smiled again. “Yes, sir. Follow me, please. I’ll carry that for you, if you like.” She held out her paw and gestured for my suitcase. I pulled it back with a quick jingle.
“You won’t, you know,” I said. And we began walking. The night air was clean, sweeter than the dreaded air of the cells, the mines, and the sewers of the last five years. The brine of the sea was on the air, washing out the smells of animal dung as we walked through the sparse pines and orange trees of Lasagna Town. When at last we reached the campsite, Shizue pointed. A yellow tent stood in a small plot of land squared off with pegs and twine.
“Look, sir – we’ve even prepared a mailbox for you.”
“I’d have preferred a Toto washlet, but it will do,” I said. “Tell the people that the festivities will commence two hours hence. If they don’t know what that means, tell them that they should not attend.”
“Uh.. okay, sir.”
“Of course, if they do not attend, they will be fined 13,00 bells. Better tell them that, too. Or not.” She gave a dubious shake of the head, then jotted it down on her clipboard. “And Shizue-san?”
“Yes, Mr. Mayor?”
“I have thought about what you said about using the resources of this town., and I’d like you to have every previous Town Tree felled and uprooted while I’m getting ready for the ceremony. Construction on my home will begin tomorrow, and we’ll need every stick of lumber we can find.”