ABOUT THE SAME TIME. PUEBLO. 2:15 PM MOUNTAIN TIME. MONDAY, MAY 11, 2026.

“Wish we’d had a Federal judge living here, at least,” Heather said. “But James assures me that Calvin Coolidge took the oath from a Vermont notary public, and it counted. Let’s get this done.”

Michelle Trevor had been a Colorado Court of Appeals judge back before; her term had not expired, but the court hadn’t met since Daybreak day. Nowadays she worked in the general labor pool (usually cooking in the town mess hall), moonlighted as a waitress at Dell’s Brew, and taught history in the night school. Patrick had managed to locate her within fifteen minutes of James’s thinking of her, and she’d come over to the Old Pueblo Courthouse as soon as she had finished cubing a large elk steak and washed her hands. She seemed to be mildly amused. “Are you sure you don’t want me to make you the Pope, crown you queen of France, and marry you to somebody, as long as I already came over here?”

“Oh, I guess President is enough for one day,” Heather said. “You’re the history teacher. What do we need to make this legal?”

“Three witnesses is a good number,” she said. “It’s better if they’re public officials. That’s covered with James, Leslie, and Dr. Odawa. There’s no rule against a witness being a minor, so Patrick and Ntale, you count too, and Leo might, though he’d have a heck of a time giving testimony. Wonder, I’m afraid this country does not extend full civil rights to dogs yet.”

Wonder wagged his tail slightly. “He’s not big on irony,” Leslie said.

“Oh, well. Anyway, the text of the oath is prescribed in the Constitution, which I have here. The Bible is traditional, not required, but I think it’s a good idea given the politics of the southeastern part of the country. As for my authority, as you said, I’m at least a couple jumps up from a notary public. Coolidge retook the oath from the Chief Justice, on the sly, when he got back to Washington, just in case there was any question, but there never was. I guess you could do the same if you’re ever around a Federal judge. And that, my friends, should cover all the issues. Shall we get back to swearing in the President?”

“Sure.”

Heather followed the instructions and said the words. Afterward, she said, “You know, that’s probably the first all-hugging inauguration.”

“I shook your hand,” James pointed out.

“History is always open to revision,” Judge Michelle said. “Give him a good hug before we go, Heather. And I do have to go; I have an afternoon shift at Dell’s and papers to grade.”

Contents