Japan’s wristlet purse rattled all the way to the coffee bar.
“Double shot, please,” she told the machine.
It whirred to life and soon a steaming shot of bean water was filling a mug.
She fetched a pill pouch from her purse. It had to be holding at least a dozen different pills in all shapes and sizes–capsules, tablets, slick, some small and round, and others quite enormous and shiny.
She dumped the pills into her hand, popped them into her mouth, tossed back the scalding hot espresso and swallowed it all in one big gulp.
China stared at the poster someone had strung up to announce the World Trade Organization luncheon.
“What the hell is that?”
From across the room, America’s head popped up. He looked over the poster quizzically at first, but then it clicked.
“Fix it,” China said. It was not a suggestion.
America smacked the top of the table. “What are you gonna do about it, huh? You can get away with bullying everyone else but I’m not afraid of you. You’re not gonna push me around or walk all over me, alright? I’m the United States of America–I don’t owe you shit.”
Later that day, Taiwan would look at the poster with a curled lip. Her flag had been crossed out, crudely scribbled over.
America, Sharpie in pocket, turned to her.
“Listen, I don’t have an official policy about this so you can’t really get mad at me.”
“Aren’t you going to take those off?” Belarus asked Russia as they rode the elevator down.
Russia adjusted her big, round shades.
“Don’t you know a country’s power is directly proportional to the size of her sunglasses?”
“Let me try.”
Russia handed them over, but not without hesitation. Belarus slipped them on and wondered if all it took to become a global power was to see the world through black-tinted glasses.
They exited the building, but as they stepped into the sun, Russia shrieked and threw up her arms like some kind of cowering vampire melting in the light.
“Arghhh, it burns!” She started hissing. “Belarus–give them to me!”
Belarus handed the sunglasses back, fumbling so badly that she almost dropped them.
Russia pushed them back onto her pain-stricken face, straightened her back, and smiled as if nothing had happened.
“Well, where would you like to go for lunch? The farmer’s market? Oh, let’s do the Chug N’ Squeeze.”
North Korea took a reflexive step away when his neighbor approached him.
“Is that coffee?” China asked.
North Korea hugged his cup to his chest protectively. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”
“You shouldn’t have caffeine. You know it just makes your anxiety worse.”
North Korea sneered. “As if you have any right or power to control me. I’ll drink as much as I want. Stop me, if you dare.” He poured himself another cup.
China grabbed the water pitcher, as if a drink might douse his growing frustration.
“Not that I care what you think,” North Korea said after a spell of silence, “but I plan to meet with my sister in September.”
“That’s great news.”
“In my home. That gives me an advantage.” China noticed his friend’s fidgeting, the slight tremble of his hands, his quickened breaths. “It’s safer. No surprises. No–” His eyebrows pinched together and he groaned through clenched teeth.
“It’s just–it’s so hard to think when–” his voice rose to nearly a shout, “–when everyone is staring at me!”
China looked around a room full of people who were neither looking at North Korea nor acknowledging his presence in any way.
England waited patiently as members of the G7 made their way into the conference room. America took it upon himself to greet everyone the moment they stepped through the door, much to everyone’s annoyance.
Canada got a brofist, Germany a, “Hey, stud,” France a, “What’s poppin’, daddy-o?” Japan was given a wink and an inappropriate hand gesture that made her smile–and then quickly go straight lipped when she realized what she’d done.
By the time Italy arrived–ten minutes late–England was going over notes. He heard the familiar sound of two overexaggerated hello kisses and then–lips smacking together. Stricken with horror, he looked up and saw that America and Italy’s greeting had evolved into ravenous mouthplay right there in the open.
“America!” England shouted, making both countries jump.
America pushed Italy off. “Why are you yelling at me? He’s the one who started it.”
When England was ushered into a dark and empty room by Japan, he could only assume something was wrong.
“Russia stole my girlfriend,” she said gravely.
It took England a second to realize what she was on about.
“Oh, I–Listen, Japan, America doesn’t love you any less just because he loves Russia a little more–”
“No, he most certainly does not feel the same way about me.”
England chewed his lip. He hadn’t seen Japan this bummed out in decades. The fact that America–now more of a shitgoblin than ever before–could have such a devastating effect on her… Well, it was scary. Love truly was blind.
“Look, America isn’t… He isn’t a very good person right now. And neither is Russia. Bad people, they… they’re drawn to each other, yeah?”
“Who am I to blame him? I was once almost seduced by Russia’s powerful persuasion and her large muscles. But my will was strong, unlike America’s. He gave in too easily.”
“You know, Japan…”
The Anglo-Japan Alliance was established in 1902. Britain was Japan’s first. First alliance with a European power, that is. But it was special. Sure, the treaty fell apart and WWII happened, but England had been there way before America even completely entered the picture.
“Japan, I understand that your heart might be in a different place, but… I mean, if America isn’t–isn’t, ah, available to you emotionally or otherwise, I… I mean, I’m here, and…”
Japan was silent and England suddenly wanted to find a very heavy object to bash himself over the head with.
“England,” she said after such a long pause that her voice completely startled him, “I will accept your invitation to fornicate, though I may have to pretend that you are your younger and much hotter son–”
“Oh, bloody–forget it! I don’t even want it anymore. For the love of God, just forget it.”
“You see, people like to think that I’m an evil mastermind. That I’m some sort of Svengali and America is sweet little Trilby. That’s simply not true. In reality, I just do crazy shit and hope it works in my favor. And I’ve had a surprisingly wonderful success rate as of late! Do you know why that is? I have been blessed with immense beauty and wisdom and strength, and karma is truly on my side. For decades the West has tried to shackle me, to tear me down, but no longer! This is my time, this is my–”
From behind the counter, Spain shoved two bottles forward.
“Russia, please just tell me if you want the Riesling or the Bordeaux.”
Russia and I have the same reaction to sunlight 😦
China (IRL) maintains that Taiwan is not a country and does not like it when the Taiwanese flag is represented anywhere because that implies that, well, Taiwan is a country. The US maintains that it doesn’t choose to support either side and kinda has this non-committal “you’re both right” approach.
Is it legal to reference a podcast in your story? Been bingeing The Adventure Zone, oof.