One rainy afternoon in 1837… The four Cleves children sat around the fireplace of their Caldwell, New Jersey home. Anna exchanged a look with William as the sound of their mother trying to stifle a scream with a pillow came running down the stairs and into the parlor. “When will mama stop hollering?” Mary asked her older siblings. “Probably never, if the last five years have been any indication,” William said as he needlessly poked at the fire. Anna sighed. “Never mind him, Mary. He’s in a foul mood because of the weather. The Lord is bringing us a new little brother or sister and we’ll all be much happier then.” “Exactly what we need,” said William. “It was starting to feel a bit spacious in here. Think pa might want to take in a couple orphans off the street while we’re up to it?” The rain had been beating against the windows all morning, an incessant, uneven drum line beneath the sound of their mother’s labored bugling.
“Better yet, might be she has a couple in there. She did look a good deal bigger than last I remember.” “Hush you William,” said Anna. “You’ll frighten Mary and Cecil’s already in a state on account of the thunder.” “She should be frightened. Mother sounds like she’s birthing a foal up there.” The rumbling in the sky swallowed William’s voice. The interior of the house at first only appeared to grow darker and then, most certainly, actually became darker. The fire seemed to shrink back in fear as if wincing. The sound of the thunder gave way to more crying, upstairs crying, and soon, their father’s plodding steps on the stairs and the solemn declaration to Mary and Cecil, clinging to Anna’s legs, and William staring dead-eyed into the embers: it’s a boy.
Later that day… “We shall name him Stephen Grovey Cleves! One day he shall be a great man!” The fire was nearly extinguished as Richard Cleves walked into the room and grabbed the fire iron from William’s hand. “What are you doing?” his father asked. “Tending to the fire, sir,” William said. “No risk of you burning the house down at least. Though your baby brother might freeze to death for all the tending you’re doing.” “It’s a boy then?” asked Anna. “Seems to be,” said Richard. “It has a mouth, I can tell you that.” Richard stoked the fire, added another log, and sat heavily in his favorite chair. He unscrewed the cap on the bottle that he kept on the end table and drank from it until it dribbled down his chin. Mary, still curled around Anna’s leg, sniffled and looked up at her father. “What’s his name?” “He hasn’t told us yet,” Richard said, wiping his
sleeve across his face. “I don’t know, are there any names left? You lot have taken up most of them.” “What about… Stephen Grovey? Like the old pastor?” Anna asked. “No,” William said sharply. “No, don’t name him that. I don’t want you to.” “Well that changes everything,” Richard said. “Anna run up and tell your mother that William doesn’t care for that name.” “Truly?” asked Anna. “No, not truly.” Richard said. “This boy will have the name of a Godly man, and he will wear that name with pride, and the Lord will see that name make history.” “The Lord will have nothing to do with it,” said William. “Anna,” said Richard, staring at his eldest son, “go up and tell your mother her new son’s name is Stephen Grovey Cleves.”
Neighbors of the Cleves family said little Grovey was quite the prankster. He often got into trouble for his pranksâ€Ś The policeman gasped in surprise as Grovey shook a bottle of viscous black liquid onto his uniform. He wanted to make the policeman disappear. He wanted to make the uniform disappear. Grovey threw a handful of feathers that he had stolen from Williamâ€™s pillow and the feathers mostly fluttered in the air between them. Only some stuck to the policeman and some, insultingly, floated backwards. The policeman looked at Grovey, at first shocked and then almost amused. Nothing happened. Nothing changed. The policeman was still there and his uniform was still there and Grovey realized the only way to get rid of the policeman was to become the policeman.
Grovey enjoyed being outside and fishing a lot! Grovey stared at the fish on the dock, flopping and sucking at nothing. The fish was not as smart as Grovey and nobody would miss him. Nobody would remember him because his friends had no memories. Nobody would say he had put up a good fight because he hadnâ€™t. He was only one of so many and he had no name and he would live and he would die and that would be it. If he had been the biggest fish in the pond, he at least would have been a half-drunken story in a tavern that got bigger and bigger each time he was told. The no-name fish on the dock stopped moving and Grovey stared into the water.
In 1853, Grovey and his family moved to Holland Patent, New York. A short time later, his father passed away… “We’re carrying our father, not a barrel of beer,” Cecil said to William. “Though if it were alcohol you’d be more careful with it, knowing you.” “If it were alcohol, it might have been useful over the past fifteen years. No confusing that with what’s in this box,” said William. “He’s probably mostly alcohol,” Grovey said. “Alcohol and insults and gone now. Disappeared because he was a pastor and not a policeman. Unremembered because he was not the biggest fish.” “Disappeared because his ‘God’ needed to bring him home before the state of New York suffered a whiskey shortage, more like,” William said. “Please don’t go on like this,” said Cecil. “Not in front of mother and the girls.” Grovey looked at William and saw him gritting his teeth and his knuckles turning white on the handle of their father’s casket. William turned to Grovey and whispered, “You understand. You get it. He gave you that terrible, cursed name just to spite me.” Richard rolled around in his box. He said, “I gave him that name so that, God willing, at least one of my sons might be more than a whimpering puppy. That he might leave his name somewhere other than the bar tab at the Holland Patent Inn.”
Grovey listened to his father and he nodded at William. They continued walking and carrying and it felt like not enough. Not enough to even properly signal the remains of the used-to-be. It was too little and too insubstantial and Grovey felt the warm green glow of God’s grace in his chest and it was not insubstantial.
GROVEY in the QUEEN CITY
In 1855, Grovey moved to Buffalo, New York where his uncle, Lewis Allen, helped him obtain a clerical job… Grovey sat in one of the chairs facing the desk where his Uncle Lewis sat writing and breathing heavily through his nose. Grovey shifted in his seat and squinted at the sun, which was coming in through the windows at a low and awkward angle. It was not the type of sun that was hot, only the type of sun that was bright. The sun was the most powerful thing Grovey could imagine, but it didn’t always act that way. Sometimes it was hot and direct and sometimes it was low and bright and sometimes it was most powerful by leaving and reminding you that it could go away. “Do you have any discernible skills?” Uncle Lewis asked Grovey without looking up from his writing. “I worked a bit as an assistant teacher with my brother in New York,” Grovey said. “I said discernible. Am I to discern that
you are capable of holding William’s flask for him while he babbles at a room full of blind children?” “I met a 12-year-old girl from Brooklyn named Marion Day,” said Grovey. “She lost her vision when she was so young that all she could remember was the elm tree in her front yard. I realized that every time she dreamed, she would never see anything but the elm tree in her front yard.” “Wonderful. Extensive… clerking… experience. Highly… sought-after… prospect. Here. Take this to Rogers in the morning and if he turns you away, ask him to point you to the law office where I’ll be taking my business from now on.” Grovey opened his eyes wide and he let the sun into them and when he dreamed that night, he did not only dream of the elm tree in Marion Day’s front yard.
Grovey’s Uncle Lewis introduced him to high society at parties and galas with many important people in attendance! Uncle Lewis was talking to a severe-looking man that Grovey had never met. Grovey avoided the inevitable introduction and made his way to the other side of the room where he hid in the foliage of handshakes and laughter. Grovey felt the sunlight inside of him, collecting and magnifying against his will. God wanted him to meet and impress and to be adored, but the human parts of Grovey—the same parts that were all of the parts of William—wanted him to drink and be silent and take a woman with no last name back to his boarding house. Two days earlier, Rogers had looked around the office and didn’t see anyone so he locked the door and left for the day. Grovey had still been there, but Rogers didn’t see Grovey. Rogers didn’t see all of the sunlight inside Grovey. He didn’t see the unmanageable dreams of the non-blind dominating his vision while he thrashed on his bed and eventually onto the floor. Richard Cleves saw though and he nodded in approval. He said, “It’s in you boy. And you can fight it like a man fights a sunrise. You can’t.” But Rogers didn’t see it and Rogers didn’t remember Grovey and so Grovey had to sleep under his desk and think of smart things to say to the severe-looking men who would slowly shake the sunlight out of his hands so that Grovey could be better remembered.
Grovey was admitted to the bar in 1859. He became known for his dedication and hard work and in 1863 was appointed the assistant district attorney of Erie County! The courtroom did not look like a real place and the defendant did not look like a real person. Grovey’s mouth made sounds but it was the light talking and the light doing the prosecuting. It was Grovey on the inside, seeing himself cut open on the grass on a piece of shit farm in Virginia while some son-of-a-bitch whiskey-soaked Reb pulled Grovey’s boots off and the hole in Grovey’s tummy stretched and stretched while the Reb just kept on pulling.
Grovey tried to move his hand to put his tummy back together but his hand didn’t have enough fingers. He tried to tell the Reb that he couldn’t die because he was not a little fish and he had a name that needed to be remembered and the Reb said, “I thought you din’t care ‘bout none o’ that,” and Grovey opened his mouth to let the light out but it was all red and runny. Grovey finished his argument, pressed a handkerchief to his mouth and stumbled out of the courthouse.
Grovey would have been drafted in the Civil War, but due to his wealth and status, was able to pay a Polish immigrant named George Benninsky to take his place! Grovey handed George Benninsky $150. He said, “Yes. I’m sure.”
As a young attorney in Buffalo, Grovey enjoyed an active social life! Grovey took a long drink of the dark brown beer in his tankard. He wiped his sleeve across his face to take the foam out of his mustache and then set his drink down very hard on the bar. The saloon was buzzing noisily and Grovey couldn’t pick out any of the words except that he felt like he kept hearing his name and that it was always said in the past tense. “Another three beers,” Grovey said to the barkeep. “And another three whiskeys… it’s for the new district attorney, not some half-Irish dock hand so let’s prioritize that order.” “Should have known better than to try keeping up with a Cleves,” said Oscar as he finished his drink and grabbed another off the bar. Lyman smiled the stupid, humble, terrible way Lyman always smiled.
“Really, Grovey,” Lyman said, “you don’t have to buy every drink tonight. You’ll have nothing left to send to your mother and the girls.” “If only Susan and Rose worked at the saloon,” said Oscar. “You’d have put them through college by now.” “You think I’m not providing for them?” Grovey asked Lyman, ignoring Oscar. “I’ve been keeping your new office warm for the past two years for them. You think I didn’t want to fight?” “I didn’t,” said Lyman. “I only meant there’s no need to be so generous is all.” “I’m providing,” said Grovey. He hadn’t meant it to sound so defensive and he became angry when he heard that it sounded so defensive. “I would have fought. The girls needed me but I would’ve fought. I will right now.” Grovey shoved Lyman with one hand and Lyman took several weak steps in retreat. “Grovey…” Lyman said. “Who are you, Alexander Hamilton?” Oscar asked. “Are you going to challenge him to a duel?” Grovey took a step forward and then punched the place where he thought he’d find Lyman’s face but Lyman’s face was not there, nothing was there, and Grovey sat on the floor and felt the burning indignity of the lowest elevation in Buffalo.
In 1870, Grovey was elected Sheriff of Erie County! Patrick Morrissey’s repentant Catholic neck had broken straight away but John Gaffney had fought against the fall and when he dropped, he twitched and jerked until the hemp took the air out of him. Grovey had gone back to Holland Patent when the news of the Missouri had reached Buffalo. Cecil and Fred had been on board and the papers said they had died heroes, helping passengers into lifeboats, before going down with the ship. William had joked that for every soul Cecil and Fred had kept from the afterlife, Grovey would only replace with some Irish criminal who had murdered his mother with a steak knife. Grovey’s mother had cried and cried and Mary had said that they were probably laughing with father now and William had snorted into his hand and Grovey’s mother had asked him why, why did he vex her so with his drinking and his unreasonably protracted bachelorhood and now with his killing men, in the name of the law Grovey said, but man’s law not God’s law said his mother. Grovey kept his hand on the lever that had held the trap door in place between John Gaffney and not John Gaffney. Not John Gaffney and not Patrick Morrissey were part of Grovey now because he had pulled the lever and he had turned the people into not people and their souls had to go somewhere. Grovey felt them in his chest like he was three people now (William had said he was starting to look like three people now) and they harnessed the light howling inside of him and told him to move, move, move, because it was only going to get darker.
CLEANING OUT CITY HALL
Grovey was elected mayor of Buffalo in 1881 and quickly earned a reputation as an honest politician dedicated to fighting corruption! Oscar died and then Grovey’s mother died and every time someone new died they joined up with Cecil and Fred and their father and Gaffney and Morrissey and they all became energy. Postmortem fuel that stoked the fire inside Grovey that God lit in his rib cage when Richard Cleves reached into heaven and grabbed the name “Stephen Grovey” and tied a rope around it and pulled the rope back down to earth and looped it around Grovey’s little baby belly. Every new soul that had closed and reopened its eyes since then had gathered around the rope and pulled. Grovey fought. He kicked his feet and flailed around like a caught fish trying to spit a hook and said no, I like the cold, hard Buffalo ground. I want to be down here. I don’t want to go up and up. Everyone would stop pulling for a moment (except Richard, who never stopped pulling) to look at Gabriel. Gabriel would nod his head and all the dead, stored power, all the potential energy of heaven, would keep pulling and Grovey knew he couldn’t fight it anymore. They pulled him off the ground, and they pulled him into a top hat and tails, and they pulled him into City Hall. Grovey stood before the city of Buffalo and the light inside of him shone on the corruption of the city counsel and when Grovey opened his mouth, Gabriel spoke Latin out of it and said, veto, veto, veto. I forbid. I forbid. I forbid.
Only one year later, in 1882, Grovey became the governor of New York! Grovey sat in his new office in Albany and played a game called “Drink Until the Beer Doesn’t Taste Good.” He had been playing for five hours and he hadn’t won yet. It was a game you could play with others but Grovey liked it because you could also play by yourself. Only two years ago he had still lived in his apartment on Swan Street. He had made his own hours and he could go to the tavern whenever he wanted, or go hunting or fishing or riding, and nobody ever wondered where he had gone. The light had a hold of him now, though, and it was determined to hastily rip him up by the roots and toss him up to the ceiling with no time to acclimate or enjoy the ascent because all Grovey could think about was what would happen to him when he reached the summit and there would be nowhere else to go. Grovey opened his mouth and said, veto, and the corruption recoiled and then shrank and smoldered under the light. Democrats cheered, unhappy Republicans cheered, they all chanted his name, and Grovey became the world champion of “Drink Until the Beer Doesn’t Taste Good.”
And only two years later, in 1884, Grovey ran on the Democratic ticket in the U.S. presidential election! But his opponent, James G. Blaine, was determined to dig up his past… Ten years ago Maria had named the baby Oscar Folsom Cleves. Grovey was grateful that Maria hadn’t named him Stephen Grovey for the baby’s sake (and for William’s remaining sanity), but Oscar was not grateful. Oscar was married and his daughter, Frances, was only 7 and Grovey didn’t know one way or the other so he stood up and said, “it has a mouth, I can tell you that,” and took some of the money he sent home to the girls and sent it to Maria Crofts Halpin instead. Nobody cared before but they cared now that he was “Grovey the Good.” The newspapers cared and the voters would probably care and the men that had picked Grovey to run to the top of the country certainly seemed to care. Grovey knew that a single child (of dubious parentage) would never slow the inexorable, divine momentum, but the men did not know that. They asked him how they should respond to the charges and Grovey opened his mouth wide and the bristles of his mustache quaked with unwavering goodness, bathing the men in the incorruptible light of America’s one true sun as he told them to tell the truth.
Grovey Cleves was elected as the 22nd President of the United States of America! Gabriel came down to America and opened his mouth so everyone could hear him: â€œGrovey may have been culpable in his personal relations, but he has been a model of official integrity. Mr. Blaine, meanwhile, has been blameless in his private life, but delinquent in office. Therefore, we should elect Grovey to
the public office, which he is so well qualified to fill, and remand Mr. Blaine back to his private station, which he is so admirably fitted to adorn!â€? The American people nodded, and smiled, and voted, and elected Grovey Cleves to become the 22nd President of the United States of America.
the 22nd & 24th PRESIDENT of the UNITED STATES
Grovey entered the White House a bachelor, but he wouldn’t be for long! The highest rung of the American political ladder was even lonelier than Grovey could have imagined. Grovey did very little in the White House. He occasionally opened his mouth and said, “veto.” The men who had supported Grovey wanted jobs and Grovey said, “veto,” to them too and they said, “no you are not supposed to say ‘veto’ to us” and Grovey said, “do you think I can control this?” Grovey’s political allies began to abandon him. His best friend had died. Most of his family had died. His sister, Rose, had moved into the White House but quickly proved to be his most boring sibling. William sent him a letter reeking of
whiskey that was largely incomprehensible except for a sentence that appeared to say, “now that you are the precedent (sic) you should kill God.” Grovey had been pulled against his will to the pinnacle of humanity and he was completely alone. Until he saw Frances. He had known Oscar’s daughter as a child but at 21 she suddenly seemed to radiate the same light Grovey had known all his life. He was determined to be with her. He wrote to her. He pleaded with her, to bring her outside light to his solitary zenith. To guide him on his inevitable, precipitous fall back to the mortal realm of dirt and death.
“Wait, solitary zenith? Mortal realm? What on the earth are you talking about?” Frances asked Grovey. “Well, it’s this divine light. You see, it’s inside me and it made me president and I saw it in you as well, so…” “That is completely ridiculous. Is this a proposal? Is that what’s happening here? Stand up.” “Well that was the plan, yes,” said Grovey. “I thought on account of our matching lights.” “Okay, let’s… you haven’t mentioned this to
anyone else, have you?” “The light? No. It’s a secret.” “Wonderful. Yes, let’s keep that a secret,” said Frances. (“Definitely don’t want anyone finding out about that.”) “So is that a yes, then? You’d live in the White House and... I can arrange for John Phillip Sousa to play at the wedding.” “You can get Sousa?” Frances sighed, inadvertently showering Grovey in her angelic luminescence. “Alright, why not.”
On June 2, 1886, Grovey married 21-year-old â€“ Frances and Grovey were married in the Blue Room of the White House before Groveyâ€™s cabinet, their friends, their families, and John Phillip Sousa.
Frances Folsom, the youngest first lady in history! Grovey kept quiet, just as Frances had suggested, but in his silence he still felt the glow of her hand heating the room and he was no longer afraid to descend.
Unfortunately, Grovey lost the election of 1888 to Benjamin Harrison and was forced to leave the White House… “Harrison bought the votes, I can tell you that,” Augustus Garland said in an accent born somewhere between Tennessee and Arkansas. Southerners always sounded like characters in a Mark Twain story to Frances, as if they had somehow escaped from the pages of Huck Finn and would disappear if she closed the book. Grovey stared out the window of the White House and said nothing. “Well, I doubt he bought them himself,” Frances said. “Mr. Harrison doesn’t even seem capable of purchasing a razor.” “You’re right about that, ma’am,” said Augustus. “You were the peoples’ choice, Grovey. They voted for you. Cussed electoral
college. Pardon, ma’am.” Frances smiled and nodded to indicate that Augustus Garland was pardoned, then walked into the adjacent room, found (Samuel, Jerome, Frederick?), grabbed his shirt, pulled his face very close to hers and said, “I want you to tell every maid, stable boy, kitchen wench and garden mouse in this excuse for a presidential manor that they best take care because my husband and I are going on a well-deserved holiday and I want everything just as it is when we return.” “And… when are you returning, ma’am?” Samuel/Jerome/Frederick asked. “You know damn well when we’re returning,” said Frances.
Grovey moved to New York City and in 1891, his first child, Ruth, was born! “Why Ruth?” Frances asked. Because it’s nobody’s name. It’s a nothing. It’s not meaningful or fortuitous. There are no ropes. She can grow at her own speed or stay down forever and spend every day fishing stripers out of the Hudson. She would like nothing better than that, to be let alone, to be let out. To feel the sun baking her brow and to know that it’s honest and not teaching her lessons. And she doesn’t have an older brother to sass me and force my hand so she will be Ruth and that is all she will be.
Ruth began to cry, great big breathless baby cries. “And for that, all that I’ll be is the framework of a glass-eyed girl in permanent shades of white, bathed in diphtheria and sleeping in the ground you seem to love so much before I see thirteen and all because you wouldn’t name me to raise me up. Grandfather! Uncle William! Help me! Help!” Grovey leaned down and kissed his newborn daughter on the forehead. “I just think it’s a pretty name,” he said.
Soon enough, Grovey was back in the White House thanks to his victorious turn in the election of 1892. He became the only president to ever serve non-consecutive terms! Grovey spent four years fighting under the calm, cool water but they pulled him back up and when he re-surfaced, there was fire in every direction. Harrison had looted the surplus and the land was choked with noxious silver clouds. The light in Grovey held taut and told him to fight it with gold. Grovey laughed and said he would fight it with gold alright, even if he had to sell the last remaining strands of his mustache to hire J.P. Morgan to raid the gates of heaven and melt down every halo he could find. Richard would thrash and scream in protest, but Morgan would crush his halo in his hands and add it to the pile. Not like this, they would beg, as Morgan filled the vault with doubloons. But yes, Grovey would say, exactly like this.
But Grovey faced quite a few problems in his second term… When Coxey’s Army reached Washington, they weren’t quite the 25,000 men Olney had predicted. There were so few and Olney would scatter them and Grovey would grind his teeth and secretly understand why they were so upset because it was all broken and he wouldn’t have time to fix it before he was yanked up onto the dock and stopped moving. Grovey couldn’t help them, but he could help the Hawaiians. He could help them to not become more Americans who would only get ground up in the sputtering machinery and spit out into the streets with pitchforks, following around whatever well-spoken populists got their hands on the latest sixteen sentences written by some German economist. The Hawaiians would at least call him savior, but everyone else would call him “His Obstinacy” and soon they’d let him alone, they’d let him out, because the light was done with him and the country was done with him and it would be time to go home.
the LIFE & DEATH of GROVEY CLEVES
In the summer of 1893, Grovey noticed something sore on the roof of his mouth… Grovey opened his mouth and Dr. O’Reilly poked me with his index finger. Grovey made a noise that would have been “ouch” if a man’s hand wasn’t in his mouth and I squirmed and snorted because Dr. O’Reilly did not realize that he was tickling me. Grovey’s doctors convinced him that they should “extricate” me, as if that were even possible, and I considered for a moment the damage such a procedure may cause to Grovey’s jaw and cheek and maybe even mustache. Given the way he fussed over it in the mirror, one might imagine it was his kidneys or his liver, rather than a series of hairs growing out of his lip. They loaded us up onto a yacht called the Oneida, which was lovely, because I had never been on a yacht, and we sailed for Buzzard’s Bay so the surgeons could cut me up in peace without the passive-aggressive eyes of a “concerned” nation boring into me along with the surgeon’s saw.
Dr. Bryant threw around words like “malignant” and “epithelioma” and I laughed and Grovey clutched his hand to his cheek as if his palm were somehow capable of pain-relief. “I am not a cancer,” I throbbed into the space between Grovey’s palate and tongue. “I am all of you that the light couldn’t find. Born on the dirty sheets in your bedroom in Buffalo and raised on the battlefield between your imaginary guardian angels and your manifest denial that it’s you who wanted this all along. And will you silence me to preserve the illusion? Will you carve your face up like a pumpkin only to spite the self of whom you’re so pointlessly ashamed? Is there no bottom to the barrel of hypocrisy from which you drink and drink and drink and.”
Grovey left the White House on March 4, 1897 and retired to Princeton, New Jersey… McKinley stood next to Grovey on the podium like some pale, dead-eyed bird as Chief Justice Fuller had him say the words. Grovey could see the rope around McKinley’s belly and he had attached what looked like papier-mâché wings to the back of his jacket. McKinley didn’t look like he wanted to be on the ground. He wanted to fly. He wanted to go up and up and up. “Oh, he’ll go up,” said Oscar, “and faster than you with all your dragging and making yourself heavy like a boy who doesn’t want to go to bed. McKinley will go up. Buffalo will see to that.” Grovey avoided McKinley’s eyes, afraid all the ambition might pull Grovey into the dust-devil building around the new president as he flapped his lumpy vulture wings. Grovey felt the rope around his own belly and it felt looser than it had in years but he knew it was only temporary. He left Washington and he went back to New Jersey, where he had been created, so he could patiently wait, surrounded by whiskey and children and all things terrestrial, to be un-created.
Grovey continued to share his thoughts on politics even during his retirement! But nobody listened! So really… what was the point? He had tried so hard and here he was, hunched over a desk in a wine-stained night gown, squinting at some inane rambling encouraging women not to vote, which would look positively foolish in a mere 15 years! And what of his time in office? What of his “legacy?” The Republicans never respected him, the Democrats thought he was the doddering old king of wasted opportunities, the historians would hate him because he had never been in a war. He had barely approved any legislation in 8 years, had never been in a political scandal of any serious consequence and had completely thrown off the presidential numbering system so that there would always be one less president than actual presidencies! And because the historians didn’t care, you sure as shit didn’t care! You didn’t give a second thought about a humble man with a funny name that could have been the 12th, 22nd or 38th president for all you knew! “Give me the ones that wore wigs and owned people!” you said. “Give me the ones that forced humans to kill thousands of other humans!” you said. “Give me the ones that were shot in the face!” you said. And that’s exactly what they gave you, while Grovey wasted away on obsolete thousand dollar bills and bent Trivial Pursuit cards, unloved, unappreciated and unremembered… just like you wanted.
On June 24, 1908, at the age of 71, Grovey Cleves died. Grovey was back in the empty offices of Rogers, Bowen and Rogers. A penniless pastor’s son newly arrived in Buffalo, unnoticed and forgotten. “One day, I will be better remembered,” he said. “So you admit it,” said Richard. Grovey turned around and his father stood with him in the empty office. “You admit that it wasn’t me. It wasn’t William. It wasn’t the angel Gabriel organizing a celestial civil works project to hoist your fat ass into the sky. Look at yourself. There are no ropes around you.” Grovey looked down and saw that he was naked. He was not 18, but an old man, withered and doughy and dying. Frances touched his head with a wet cloth but he couldn’t feel the cloth and he couldn’t feel his body. “It was you,” Richard said.
“You wanted to be remembered. You wanted children to write your name in sloppy cursive on loose leaf: ‘This report is about President Grovey Cleves and he was the bestest president in America’s history!’ You wanted it. Only you wanted everyone, including yourself, to think that you didn’t.” “I didn’t,” said Grovey. Richard shook his head in disbelief and Grovey saw William and Oscar and his daughters and some of them were alive and some of them were not and he couldn’t tell the difference anymore. “I didn’t,” said Grovey, “want to be nothing. But I was afraid because so many people are nothing, even the most important people, and
when you try so hard, you’re probably only trying so hard to be nothing. I didn’t want to admit that I was trying so hard, because I didn’t want to admit that I was probably only trying so hard to be nothing.” Richard nodded. “Do you have anything else to say?” Grovey stared up at Frances. She was actually in the room. She was not dead yet. She could tell someone else who was alive and then that person could tell someone else who was alive and then it wouldn’t die and it wouldn’t go away and it would be remembered and it wouldn’t be nothing. The reflections could go on forever and Grovey would be the most powerful by leaving and reminding everyone that he could go away. “Tell them I have tried so hard,” said Grovey. So that they can tell someone else and they can tell someone else and they can tell someone else and they can tell someone.
Mickey would like to extend special thanks to: Scott Mancuso
for writing this incredible tale and bringing my illustrations to life. Julie Molloy
for her almost 10 years of incredible support and design scrutiny. Sarah Liddell
for all the wonderful feedback and reassurance that I illustrated Groveyâ€™s fat just right. Chris Fritton
for featuring me as a contributing artist for WNYBACâ€™s 2014 series of artists. Caitlin Caldwell
for helping me work tirelessly at WNYBAC assembling all of these books by hand. Sean Wrafter
for contructing the shadow boxes for my illustrations for the opening reception. Haley Janecki & Cortney Morrison-Taylor
for supplying with me with furniture for the opening reception. To all others lending an open mind, a few laughs, and who believed in Grovey:
TJ Harmon, Oscar Folsom, Sarah Machajewski, Michael Moretti, Mac McGuire, Max Collins, Nick Janecki, Ruth Cleveland, Maude White, Candace Camuglia, Tom Holt, Francis Folsom Cleveland, Bernice Radle, Block Club, Kevin Hogan, Ben Maries, Stephanie Klaver, Cory Perla & Artvoice, Ryan Naglehout, Ashley Kyle, Katie Odondon, Marissa Kath Shindler, Robert Thoren, E. C. Benedict (for the use of his yacht), The Panic of 1893, Alicia Paolucci, Gerald Mead, Brian Mihok, WNYBAC and Grover Cleveland himself, without his tireless career in politics, his more than vivid love life and life philosophy this could have never come to fruition.
It might have been Cleveland's unusually fast ascent to the presidency that then gave him such an interesting perspective on the office, whe...