If I ruled the world: Garrison Keillor

I'd send the royal family to Croydon and chat with God. But would power make me potent? Nope
October 17, 2012

It dawned on me slowly that I had become Ruler of the World. I woke up early one morning and found a spiked fence had been erected around my house, with a guardhouse and armed men stood at attention. A man in a tuxedo brought me breakfast on a tray and called me “Sahib.” My wife curtsied and kissed my hand. Three aides and an equerry stood by the breakfast table. The eggs were quail eggs—boiled, perfect, on toast points.

So I tested my powers with a few little righteous deeds. I made Mitt Romney a doorman at a Manhattan apartment building and he fit right in: suave, good-humoured, helpful with packages and calling taxis. I gave his vast fortune to struggling orchestras to underwrite Brahms and Stravinsky. I threw the Republican Tea Party congressmen into three buses and shipped them up to Alaska to live in a dormitory and work in a cannery cleaning salmon. I gave the Nobel Prize for Literature to Elmore Leonard. I repaired the Arctic ice cap and shut down the internet on Saturdays and Sundays. Little things like that.

Barack called that morning and we talked and I promised to think about his wish list, which was long, and then Michelle called and the two of us figured out what to do. God called and we talked. He told me I needn’t capitalise his pronouns anymore, that we should be on a first name basis. “Call me Fred,” he said. He asked me not to be harsh with the Pope and reminded me of his great fondness for the Jews. I asked him if Jesus was married and he said, “Not that I know of.”

World domination is nothing I ever wanted for myself. I am a midwesterner, a Minnesota boy, brought up to be sheepish and deferential. My mother never told me to follow my dream; she told me to “be appropriate.” So ruling the world has not been a source of great pleasure for me. Extracting the royal family from their various palaces and placing them in public housing next to the railway tracks in Croydon was no fun, nor was the extermination of a number of pesky little dialects in favour of plain ordinary English, nor was the elimination of hip-hop music, but it had to be done.

I immediately cut oil consumption in the US by almost half, switching trucks to natural gas, distributing bicycles to the able, creating public transportation where there hadn’t been any, such as Los Angeles, Texas, the South. I brought the world’s bankers into one large arena and I showed them what I could do with locusts, frogs, blood, lice, hail, and pestilence. Then I brought in the Israelis and Iranians and Hezbollah and Hamas and showed them the same tricks. A veiled woman in a chador ran in with a backpack and cried out praise to Allah and pulled a string and the backpack fell open and 50 pounds of jellybeans fell out. So I’m hopeful about the Middle East.

It’s been interesting, I’ll say that. The load of daily mail is staggering—truckloads—people wanting favours. I can no longer go out in public. If I have dinner with close personal friends, they keep sticking notes under my plate: “Get Larry into Harvard,” “Get Lyle out of prison,” “Our dog has liver cancer. Please do something.” It wears a person out. And my wife is after me continually: “Why don’t we spend time together, just the two of us? Why don’t we make love the way we used to?”

I wasn’t going to bring that up but there it is. The ruler of the world has become a non-performer in the sack. I take hot showers, I look at pictures of naked girls, I read hot novels, I take the little blue pill: nothing. World dominance does not lead to self-confidence. Adolph Hitler had the same problem, so did Josef Stalin, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, the list goes on. It is an odd feeling—to be able to banish the word “relationship” and forbid PowerPoint presentations and eliminate PIN numbers and yet be unable to make a woman happy. “Just relax,” she says. Easy for someone who isn’t ruling the world to say.

And what about retirement, I wonder. How do I turn the job over to someone else and move to Antigua? I made myself a fabulous villa there, swimming pool, cabanas, guest house, orchard, long white sandy beach—when do I get to take life easy? I asked Fred and he said: “I’ve been struggling with that for millions of years. Welcome to the club.”