Robbie Ryckowski was an ordinary little boy in almost every regard. Yes, other than the fact that he was absent-minded, hyper, bug-eyed, prone to uncontrollable attacks of giggling at all the wrong times, accident-prone, covered in freckles, and with no common sense at all, he was perfectly ordinary. Oh, and did I mention that he was also a magnet for trouble and that when he got scared his voice went away? And then there was that awkward episode with the slippery salamander, which I’m sure you must have heard of. But other than all that, he was ordinary.

On this particular ordinary day for this ordinary little boy, Robbie Ryckowski was having to do one of his least favorite things in life. It was worse than gall bladder surgery, worse than summer school, worse than having your toes eaten off by rabid badgers, it was that awful thing called “dressing up.” And dressing up always came as a package deal with other unpleasant things like “getting your hair combed” and “brushing and flossing your teeth.” Any day that involved all of those things just had to be bad, bad, bad!

As his mom Yvonne (a really cool mom) tightened the noose, er, TIE, tight up around his neck, Robbie asked for the bazillionth time that morning why he had to suffer in this manner. Had he done something wrong? Could he not be punished in some more humane manner, like being beaten by a whip made of live rattlesnakes?

Mama Yvonne just rolled her eyes, she did that a lot for some reason, and explained for the bazillion and oneth time that he was not being punished. In fact, he was being given a very special treat on this day: he was going to get to see the President of the United States! POTUS would be coming to his school on that very day, to give a speech on the importance of education. News crews would be there, and the entire country would be watching it live on TV. But he would, along with the rest of his class, have a front row seat!

A front row seat… for her son… Robbie Ryckowski. Suddenly, Mama Yvonne’s hands began to tremble just a bit, and a worried, no actually a TERRIFIED look came upon her face. She didn’t want to hurt her son’s feelings, but then again…

“Robbie, Sweetie,” she said “Let’s you and I have a little talk before you go off to school this morning.”

Robbie looked up at her with innocent eyes, and said, “Sure, Mom, whatcha wanna talk about?”

Mama Yvonne began carefully, “Well, Honey, this thing of the President coming to your school is a really big deal, and very important. And you, well, you tend to, somehow, get into all kind of trouble, accidents, disasters, and, well, I’d just rather that not happen today. Ok, Sweetie? Could you please be extra, extra careful about EVERYTHING while the President is at your school?”

“Yesssss Maaaaam” Robbie Groaned. Then it was a rush to the school bus, and then a rush down the hall, and then a rush to his first class. And through it all, despite the rushing, not one thing went wrong for Robbie Ryckowski! He made it an entire hour and ten minutes through his morning without a single disaster! He sat at his desk, smiling, thinking of that accomplishment. Why, how many other kids could boast about something like that? I bet,” Robbie said to himself, “that with such good luck as that, I could actually be the President myself one day! President Robbie Ryckowski!”

As he said the words silently to himself, “President Robbie Ryckowski… President Robbie Ryckowski… President Robbie Ryckowski” the very ring of those words had an incredibly powerful impact on him. So powerful, in fact, that Robbie Ryckowski began to daydream of being the President of the United States! He could see himself in the Oval Office all through first period, and by second period he was daydreaming of flying on Air Force One to foreign lands to meet mysterious dignitaries. During lunch he daydreamed of the White House chef, and his school lunch tray mac and cheese suddenly became a gourmet dinner in his mind. His daydreaming continued all the way through lunch, all the way through the lining up in the halls, and all the way through the single-file march into the school auditorium. It continued all the way to him sitting down on the very front row, on the very middle seat, waiting for POTUS to appear.

And that, friends, is when disaster struck. Robbie watched dreamily as Vice Principle Schubert came up to the podium to address the children. He could see his lips moving, but could not seem to hear anything he was saying over the noise of his own daydreams about being the President. Until, that is, Vice Principle Shubert said “…honor to present to you the President of the United States!”

What happened next happened very fast, but it was kind of like those dream/disasters, where everything seems to happen in slow motion. When Robbie heard the words “President of the United States,” he immediately leapt up from his seat and rushed toward the platform, vaulted up the steps, and bolted for the school podium that on this day was adorned with the Presidential seal. But the real President, who had been seated just feet from the podium, arrived at the exact same time. All of this had taken less than two seconds time.

But that is not all that happened in those two seconds. The Secret Service agents, there to protect the President, saw the blur rushing towards him, and three of them dove at him at the exact same time, trying to keep him from the President, thinking that he was some kind of a danger, maybe trying to hurt the President!

Robbie snapped out of his daydream in that split second, when he saw them coming at him, airborne. He tried to scream, but his eyes bugged out and his voice only squeaked. The first thought that ran through his mind was his t-ball coach, Mr. Magilicutty, screaming at him every week “Slide! Slide!” and slide he did. Right under the airborne Secret Service agents, who flew over him and out into the front row, where they knocked over 12 chairs, 11 children (Robbie, as you remember, had left his seat 2 seconds earlier) and got tangled up in all of them. Robbie, for his part, executed a perfect, feet-first slide… right into the legs of the President of the United States, who cut a beautiful yet completely unexpected flip, and landed flat on his back, looking up at the lights on the ceiling.

Vice Principle Shubert fainted, right there on the spot, and had his resignation written out in his mind before he even hit the floor.

Mama Yvonne, watching at home, began to plan weekend visits to her young son in Guantanamo Bay.

400 students, gasped. Then gasped again. Then gasped again. Even for Robbie Ryckowski, this was bad, very bad.

3 secret service agents struggled to untangle themselves from 22 arms, 22 legs, and 12 chairs.

Robbie hopped up, his eyes bugged out again, and he stood there frozen, looking down at the real President of the Unites States, who lay on the platform looking up at him.

All was silent. Very, very silent.

And then the President, the real President, looked up at him and said, “So, you must be the Robbie Ryckowski that the Department of Homeland Security warned me about!” Then the President grinned, laying right there on the floor, and then began to laugh right out loud, a deep, roaring laugh.

And that is how Robbie Ryckowski came to have an official Presidential Pardon, signed by POTUS himself, hanging on his bedroom wall.

(© Dr. Bo Wagner 2015)
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