“It's a statue, dear.”
Other voices intruded.
“Do you think he'll be here?”
The little girl asked a new question.
“Why's it all covered up?”
A tall man looking around gained the crowd's attention.
“Look, a limo just arrived.”
The old man's head turned in unison with those on the outer fringes who had heard the announcement. They saw a large woman emerge.
“Oh my God! It's his wife.”
“Mommy, who's that?”
“Her name is Michelle.... Michelle something. She was the wife of the man whose statue is going to be unveiled. I can't remember who she's married to now.”
A deeper voice rose to dominate the child's questions.
“What's she doing here?”
“Doesn't she know that this monument mocks his Administration?”
“Mommy, is she somebody important?”
“She was the First Lady then.”
“Should I get her autograph.”
“No, dear. She's not important anymore.”
The crowd reshaped itself like an amoeba crawling under the lens of a microscope and new voices, different ones reached the old man.
“I can't wait to see this.”
A pause. A snicker.
“Doesn't she know?”
“I guess not.”
Another shift, another voice.
“You know that he wasn't responsible for everything.”
“Of course not.”
“Hell, he didn't have the courage to push any agenda. He always went into hiding at the first hint of resistance.”
“A real coward.”
"Some say that."
"What do you say?"
"I don't know. Unprincipled maybe."
“Yes. It was the progressives in Congress that passed the bills. He just signed them.”
“What a mess.”
A new pseudopod extended from the amoeba-like crowd and a new voice joined the conversation.
“I don't get it.”
“Why did they build a monument to him?”
“It's not about him.”
“Although he probably thinks it is.”
“No, it's a celebration.”
“Yes, a celebration of the restoration of the Republic.”
“Progressivism almost killed it.”
The old man smiled at this conversation. He remembered. Hopefully the monument would help others remember, especially those who hadn't lived through it.
The old man's thoughts were interrupted by another stirring of the crowd. Another limo had arrived and everyone looked towards it. A darkly tinted window in the rear door slid down just far enough to expose an observer's eyes, but not far enough to reveal his identity.
“Do you think it's him?”
“Naw, he wouldn't show his face here.”
“But he's at the center of the monument.”
A speaker came to life and complained with a brief burst of feedback. Someone tapped the microphone and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, we're about to begin.”
The man at the microphone waited until the crowd settled before beginning the introductions. Dignitaries were named and applauded, and a minister was introduced.
The old man stood for the invocation, Pledge of Allegiance, and playing of the national anthem. He smiled as he noted that everyone stood, even those in the reserved seating sections. Too many public ceremonies, he reflected, had occurred in prior years without these shows of respect. Several times he glanced towards the parked limo and the anonymous observer at the rear window.
Speeches were made. The monument was unveiled. The crowd cheered. Everyone felt good. Prosperity had returned to the land and citizens basked in freedom. Only the eyes in the limo reflected remorse.
The old man remained to the end. Michelle hadn't. She left as soon as she heard the reading of the inscription at the base.
The proceedings were suspended until her limo left and a new cheer rose from the crowd.
Workmen arrived to stack the folding chairs and load them onto a flatbed truck. Next they loaded the “Barrycades” that had been used to create a temporary fence around the new memorial. The old man waited until they were finished and gone. Only then did he approach the monument and touch it. In time the surface would weather, but now it felt grainy. He liked the image of men and women at work, children at play, and the symbols of a vibrant nation rising from ashes stirred by a tall, jug-headed man with large ears. He especially liked the feel of each letter of the inscription, the one that had offended Michelle and caused her to flee.
“We the People built this.”