When I started writing this book, I expected to focus on my decompression from finally being back on my own after fourteen years of working very closely with Tunnald “Tunny” Drump. I knew that I wanted to write about my unbelievable run with Tunny, but I did expect to enjoy a few months of peace and quiet as I organized my thoughts before diving into some serious writing.
How It All Ended
I quit the Drump Administration in June of 2020. I lasted longer than most as press secretary. In retrospect, maybe my old boss, Conn Preiser, who was forced out in June of 2017 after only a few months on the job, was the lucky one. I had quite a wild ride and I hung on until I just couldn’t take it any longer. In the end, Tunny wouldn’t even talk to me. I had been with him longer than anyone—and maybe that was the problem.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not a namby-pamby goody two-shoes. I have put my degree in creative communications to good use and have helped sell some pretty over-the-top interpretations of new developments to the Camerian public. I typically went along with gross exaggerations, and even outright lies told by our great leader Tunnald Drump, the Grand Poobah. But over time, these innumerable assaults on the truth started chipping away at my faith in Tunny. I tried to reason with him, telling him that it would be OK to lie just 50 percent of the time. It didn’t always have to be 80 or 90 percent. But he insisted. I had a pretty high bar for how many lies and deceptions we could foist on the Camerian public, but Tunny consistently raised that bar.
So, I bided my time, held fewer press briefings than usual, and stayed on the job until my third anniversary. I tried to resign quietly, but Tunny started talking trash about me on LifeStories, just as he had with others who, in record numbers, had left his administration. He attacked my character and my accomplishments with late-night twerps about my loyalty and fitness for the job. I was hurt, but I knew I had done well by Tunny. I was also—admittedly—somewhat relieved to be out of such a crazy, chaotic environment.
I subsequently left CapitalTown and went back home to Kingston, Nissalipi, to find solace with my family and friends. It was a nice change of pace for me. Growing up, I had not liked “Southern hospitality,” where everyone was so friendly to your face and then talked disapprovingly about you behind your back. But since my time in the Beige Palace, I was a pro now. Back home, I could hold my own very nicely.
I tried to ignore everything happening in my old world. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that Kingston is no CapitalTown. I soon grew bored, and even started to miss the political infighting within the dysfunctional Drump Beige Palace. So I started following the political landscape again, just as the runup to the 2020 Grand Assemblies was beginning to dominate the news.
I was at my parents’ house on a Wednesday night in early July. We were flipping through channels on the TV when I noticed a Drump campaign rally live from a college campus in Rinconnatee, HiOO. I hadn’t watched Tunny in action for a while, so I commandeered the remote and turned up the volume.
We watched the rally for about five minutes. Just as I considered flipping away—after realizing that Tunny was spouting the same old, same old rhetoric—I heard a loud whup-whup-whup. Having grown up around Nerf guns in Nissalipi, I instantly recognized this as a rapid-fire Nerf gun shooting hardened foam darts.
All at once, we were watching mass pandemonium and chaos. Grand Poobah Drump lay on the floor next to the podium. The team of Covert Assets agents was already forming a tight circle around Tunny. People in the audience were screaming and trying to duck behind the rows of chairs in case the Nerf attacker wasn’t finished. Half of the security force tried to maintain as much order as possible while the other half tried to pinpoint the Nerf-firer’s location. With incredible speed, agents pulled out a backboard from behind a curtain, delicately lifted the Grand Poobah onto the board, and moved quickly offstage.
The television commentators tried, in vain, to impose some order on the TV broadcast. One of them got pretty hysterical as he attempted to describe what was going on and how much we still didn’t know. A new camera angle showed three large, black Covert Assets SUVs racing away from the back door of the auditorium and a lone yellow Nerf dart lying on the pavement.
Even though I was no longer part of the Drump Admin-istration, I was still very concerned about Tunny. He had given me a big break. We were colleagues and friends for a long time. We parted ways over some ethical and moral issues, but that didn’t mean that I no longer cared about him.
It horrified me to watch the attack on live TV. None of the talking heads could say how Tunny was doing. I kept flipping through the channels to see if there were any new developments. I frantically checked online, too. Nothing new, nothing definitive. It was getting late, and my parents went to bed. I had to keep looking for more information.
About two hours after the attack, the Beige Palace press secretary held a hastily arranged press briefing. She was my replacement: younger, better looking. Bitch! But I still think I did a better job. All she did was confirm what everyone knew—the Grand Poobah had been attacked by Nerf darts.
Tunny was taken to an undisclosed hospital. Doctors examined him, and the word on the street was that he only suffered light bruising from the Nerf projectiles. Either he was extremely lucky or the assassin was a very poor shot. He was resting quietly and was likely to be released after a day or two of careful observation. Great news!
The press secretary took the unusual step of confirming that while the Grand Poobah was OK, his toupee had been shot off of his head. She showed a picture of the Grand Poobah lying on the ground with a bald head and a mass of untethered hair lying nearby. Another yellow foam dart was tangled in its orange strands.
I was astonished to see that the Nerf attack had forced the administration to finally confirm a state secret that had successfully been denied to date: that the orange thing on Grand Poobah Drump’s head was not his real hair. I was sure there would be a lot more coverage of what commentators were already calling Hairgate. I went to bed, still worried about Tunny and thankful that I would not be the one trying to tame the press beast by facing all of their questions about where he got his hair and how it came to be the color of a traffic cone left too long in the sun.
Nerf Gun Violence, Super Soaker Control, and the NGFA
The Nerf gun attack on Tunny led to a renewal of the long-standing debate about Nerf gun and Super Soaker violence and whether and how to restrict the availability of these instruments of foam and water-based mayhem. Even though he had been on the receiving end of a rapid-fire Nerf gun attack, Tunny seemed to hold no ill will toward the attacker. He thought that the whole incident was funny. He chewed out the Covert Assets for overreacting and whisking him away from one of his best campaign speeches ever.
Consistent with his view that everything is about him, Tunny also felt honored in a strange way by the Nerf gun incident. It reminded him of the time that a long procession of big-rig trucks slowly drove by the Beige Palace. Each of the drivers enthusiastically gave a one-finger salute to protest a newly proposed law that would have made it more difficult to be a long-distance trucker. Tunny was very pleased with the incident, since he thought the truckers were honoring him.
Although I believe that Tunny plays way too much croquet to have any leisure time available for Nerf guns and large Super Soakers, he’s always been a big supporter of the Nerf Guns for Fun Association (NGFA). One of his first actions as Grand Poobah was to remove, by Grand Poobah Prerogative, a regulation that would have made it more difficult for people to buy additional foam darts and foam ball magazines for Nerf guns, as well as the very largest Super Soakers. Many pundits and average citizens alike wondered why Tunny wouldn’t call for better regulation after seeing, up close and personal, the effects of a Nerf gun attack, including their threat to loose toupees. Instead, he renewed his support for the NGFA and encouraged more people to buy these “fun” instruments of mayhem.
It turns out that there were many reasons why Tunny continued to staunchly support the NGFA—at least forty million reasons. During the 2016 Grand Poobah election, the NGFA spent over $40 million to support Tunny’s election efforts. Given the circumstances of the funding, this could be another area fraught with campaign economics violations. Both Tunny’s campaign team and the NGFA used the same media consultants to create a brilliant strategy for complementary TV advertising. This made a lot of sense since both groups were targeting potential voters with the same demographics.
Close ties and substantial financial support probably explain why Tunny never had the backbone to stand up to the NGFA, even after a wave of embarrassing and often very damp attacks carried out by shooters with Nerf guns and large Super Soakers. After each attack, Tunny, the NGFA, and most of the leading Elephant Party politicians reacted in predictable lockstep. Their oft-repeated statements included “Now is not the time to be talking about this. We should be focused on the victims of Nerf guns,” and “Super Soakers don’t squirt at people. People squirt at people, ” and “There are plenty of restrictions in place already to prevent people from buying the type of Super Soakers used in most of these incidents, ” and “Any further restrictions would violate people’s fundamental rights, as spelled out in the Agreement, to ‘keep Nerf arms.’”
In August of 2020, the top legal eagle of the state of BrightLights filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NGFA. The lawsuit documented a consistent pattern of corruption, fraud, and self-dealing by top officials over a period of at least twenty years. Instead of keeping a low profile, Tunny was quick to jump to the defense of the NGFA and its controversial leader. Tunny proclaimed loudly that he was proud to be a card-carrying NGFA member and he was sure that these baseless allegations were just pretend stories. He vowed to fire the top legal eagle of BrightLights.
This bizarre Nerf gun attack, coupled with my self-exile in Kingston, did give me an abundance of time to reminisce about how I first met Tunny, what I learned about his upbringing, the wild 2016 election followed by three years of craziness at the Beige Palace, and Tunny’s decision to run for re-election in 2020.
I had abundant time to think back on the totality of my experience with Tunny and some of the more memorable challenges I tackled while trying to communicate the best possible Tunny to the world. I had experienced tremendous highs and punishing lows—and with more and more whack-a-mole dramas and conflicts, I started to lose respect for Tunny.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish