Frankly, I didn’t know where to begin. Ahmad Rashad, future king of the Greater Middle East, was sitting on my sofa watching television and waiting for his education to commence. He’d just eaten 12 eggs, nine sausages, and 14 pancakes for breakfast and was now munching on popcorn and growing half an inch per hour, sideways.
“Slightly rightwing, sympathetic to WTO regulations, adept at forming coalitions, and a sop to the religious masses, Mustafa had filled me in the night before. “A cross between the Policies Committee, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Sergio Berlusconi would do.
Mustafa had told me almost nothing about the child’s previous education, so I needed to interview him, maybe now, maybe after lunch, maybe using the Widjaja Method. But where was Nellie? She was supposed to be here at nine to help, and it was now almost quarter past. The Widjaja Method. That’s when you interject a couple of wrong statements in the middle of an interview to gauge the extent of someone’s knowledge. It is a good interrogation technique, ranking slightly below the electrodes and right above the wet towels. Normally I would use all three, but this was a civil encounter.
“It’s a beautiful day outside. Would you like to go out for a bit? I decided to start. Nellie was already 17 minutes late.
“Sure, as long as we get back before lunch, as I don’t eat food cooked in NPA kitchens. That will give us three hours 42 minutes before my one o’clock lunch. What’s on your mind?
National Park Areas? Nasty Public Amenities? Nutty People from Arkansas? I had no idea what NPA was.
“Non-Pre-Approved Kitchens are a threat to my health, he helped me out.
“How about we go look around the Citadel, or perhaps the zoo? Have you ever been to the Wax Museum?
“The Wax Museum closed down in 1962, one year before my father left for Istanbul with a special delivery for Princess Malike. His ship sank on the way back, during regular training by the Greek Navy. A tragic accident, people said at the time. The Wax Museum has been replaced by an eight-story office building, which has no entertainment value for a child my age.
“Actually, the Wax Museum closed for renovation in late 1961, failed to reopen, and is now a parking lot. The apartment building you’re talking about is across the street, where villa Hashem Bey used to stand.
“You mean villa Naim Bey?
The child was no stranger to the Widjaja Method. Was he really five?
“I am six years, seven months, 22 days, and four hours old. And I believe Nellie is at the door. I heard the door open.
“Hello Ahmad. I’ve heard a lot about you. Nellie walked into the room.
“Likewise Nellie. Nice sweater, the Lecco Collection, autumn 2004. I’ve never seen it worn with denim before, but it works. Sophisticated yet casual. He was glancing at her shoes, and I had this nasty feeling he was about to comment on the quartz crystals encrusted in her Pro-Forma Sandals from my last collection. I know I should’ve used the more subtle Colette Studs. But he’s just a kid. I had to remind myself.
“So do you know why you’re here, Ahmad? Nellie came straight to the point.
“I read too many books and lack the company of intelligent humans. My uncle says you two are sort of political supremos. Is it true you were in charge of US policy?
“In a small way, I guess. When I wasn’t selling burgers.
“Will you teach me?
“What do you want to know?
“Everything. For example, is it true that Algerian parsley is best chopped by hand, whereas the Syrian maintains its consistency even in a blender? You see, I am told I’ll be king in a few weeks and I’m looking for the best way to people’s hearts. Some say it’s through the ears. Others say it’s through the stomach. Do you know that the more McDonalds that open in a country the more likely it is to go liberal? So I was thinking of a Democracy Burger chain offering a variety of ethnic flavors … Then he paused.
“But first . let’s go see the Citadel. He was now holding Nelly’s hand. “It will take us 35 minutes to get there and five minutes to park and get tickets, and – have you seen the throne room? Absolutely stunning. I was thinking this is where the kitchen should go. We’ll hire chefs from Chad, Tunisia, and Azerbaijan. We are going to move into the Citadel, aren’t we? But how about the parliament? Are you thinking strictly peaceful transformation or a month or two of bloodshed? My uncle says I should keep things quiet at first, but . look at your sandals. Where did you get those?