‘Meet the President!’ by Zadie Smith


Photograph by Robert Gourley

From The New Yorker:

“What you got there, then?”

The boy didn’t hear the question. He stood at the end of a ruined pier, believing himself quite alone. But now he registered the presence at his back, and turned.

“What you got there?”

A very old person, a woman, stood before him, gripping the narrow shoulder of a girl child. Both of them local, typically stunted, dim: they stared up at him stupidly. The boy turned again to the sea. All week long he had been hoping for a clear day to try out the new technology—not new to the world, but new to the boy—and now at last here was a break in the rain. Gray sky met gray sea. Not ideal, but sufficient. Ideally he would be standing on a cairn in Scotland or some other tropical spot, experiencing backlit clarity. Ideally he would be—

“Is it one of them what you see through?”

A hand, lousy with blue veins, reached out for the light encircling the boy’s head, as if it were a substantial thing, to be grasped like the handle of a mug.

“Ooh, look at the green, Aggie. That shows you it’s on.”

The boy was ready to play. He touched the node on his finger to the node at his temple, raising the volume.

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