Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stood on a gym mat facing a floor to ceiling mirror. He was wearing boxer shorts. Nothing else. He was watching himself jump rope. He held the ivory handles that were attached to a red cloth rope, and he was whipping the rope over his head and under his feet very fast, his feet barely rising off the matt, just enough to let the rope zip underneath. Mahmoud examined his body as he kept up the pace of the exercise. He was in excellent condition. In October he will turn fifty. Fifty, he thought. Half a century, and he had the body of a thirty-year old. His accomplishments were many. He had been to war. He had a degree in civil engineering. He had been mayor of Tehran. And now President. President of Iran. And he got here without compromising health or, if he dare have the vain thought, his good looks. Handsome, healthy, smart, accomplished, brave and powerful. Mahmoud smiled as a bead of sweat formed on his forehead.
“You are looking very fit, Mr. President,” said Hammid, one of Mahmoud’s many assistants. Hammid was standing to the right and behind Mahmoud, holding a clip board. He was wearing black slacks and a black blazer with a white shirt, open collar, a similar informal style borrowed from his boss.
“The demonstration today is after noon prayer?” asked Mahmoud.
“Yes, Mr. President. And the placards we prepared say ‘Death to the Great Satan.’ We have prepared forty of them to be distributed among the students,” said Hammid.
“I do not like that phrase anymore. Great Satan,” said Mahmoud.
“Excuse me, sir,” said Hammid.
“America is not the Great Satan. We can say ‘Death to America’ or ‘Death to Israel.’ But to refer to either of them as ‘great’ is giving too much power to them,” said Mahmoud as he continued with his exercise.
“But the placards are made, Mr. President. My daughter even helped with colored markers. Her penmanship is very nice.” said Hammid.
“Satan is great because he is too be feared. America is no longer to be feared. America is in decline. Bush’s war in Iraq has exposed America’s false power. America is having more difficulty with Sunni scum then it did with German Nazis,” said Mahmoud.
“The America-Iraq War has lasted longer than World War Two,” said Hammid.
Mahmoud stops the jump rope and turns to face Hammid.
“You giving me a lecture on history, Hammid?” said Mahmoud.
‘No, Mr. President.”
“Because I thought there for a second you were giving me a lecture,” said Mahmoud.
“No, Mr. President.”
“Change the placards. ‘Death to Israel’ is what they should say. America will never bomb us. But Israel is just nuts enough to do something stupid. So today we concentrate on Israel. Let’s bait them. Let’s temp them. And if God willing, they will send a bomb and we shall have the world defend us,” said Mahmoud.
“My daughter was so excited to see her placards on the TV,” said Hammid.
“Apologize to her for me. We shall have another demonstration next week. ‘Death to Israel.’ Make certain she spells it correctly,” said Mahmoud as he wiped himself down with a towel. “And tell her to use red markers. Not blue. Red is devilish,” said Mahmoud.
“I shall tell her she has a message from the President of Iran. She will be proud.” said Hammid.
“Get me my pants, Hammid,” said Mahmoud.
“Yes, sir,” said Hammid.
Mahmoud glanced at the mirror and smiled as Hammid scurried away looking for Mahmoud’s pants.