Show of strength

“Here, Mr President, in token of the esteem with which I regard our newly strengthened relationship, is a gift,” said the big president to the small president. He opened the aluminium case to reveal a gleaming Katastrikov automatic assault rifle. “It is the ultimate symbol of my country’s determination and resolve. Our finest export.”
The small president lifted the rifle from the case and weighed it in both hands.
“Just the one?” he said. “What do I do with it? Go down to the next dissident outrage in my country and open fire myself?”
“What do you mean?” said the big president with the voice that had ordered plutonium be put in the pants of a thousand of his own dissidents. “This is one of a kind. It is the very weapon I used when I defeated that bear chained to a post. You must have seen the photographs.”
“Fair enough,” said the small president, placing the rifle back in its case and shrugging.
“What?” said the big president, the eyebrows that had signalled the garottings of a thousand journalists coming together in the middle of his brow.
“Well, it’s a bit weird, isn’t it?”
“What is?”
“Giving a gun as a present. It’s not even gold plated.”
The big president snapped his fingers over his shoulder. An aide darted forward.
“Sergei, have this gold plated immediately,” he said, pointing at the rifle with the finger that had pushed the button on a thousand political rivals.
“Honestly, it’s fine,” said the small president.
“It clearly isn’t,” said the big president. The eyes that had watched the razing of a thousand rebel orphanages glittered like dead stars.
“Pray don’t make an issue of it, my friend.”
“You’re the one making an issue of it.”
The small president sighed.
“That I should have to tutor a man such as yourself in the ways of the world,” he said.
The big president said nothing. The biceps and pectorals that had wrestled a thousand sedated tigers swelled beneath his suit.
“Mr President,” said the small president, taking his guest by the arm, “the gift of one assault rifle is the act of a sickened mind. The gift of one hundred thousand is the act of a statesman.”
“Oh,” said the big president, the mouth that had hissed bowel-liquidising threats to a thousand subordinates widening with realization.
“You see?” said the small president. “Wisdom won in old age is a fine treasure. Tea?”

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