RIGHT NOW, in a modest suburban bungalow on a quiet tree-lined street, an 11-year-old boy we'll call "Jamie" is saying a final farewell to his carefree, fun-filled childhood.
Once the new year begins, Jamie plans to embark on a carefully mapped journey into adulthood that will, his family hopes, culminate in nationwide popularity and a resounding election victory in the presidential campaign of 2036.
A reliable source tipped me off about the aspiring commander in chief, and his parents agreed to be interviewed only on condition that all real names be kept confidential.
"We really don't want publicity," said his father, a former lobbyist and political consultant. "And I certainly don't want anyone to think I'm taking over my son's existence. The reality we face is that campaign timelines are getting longer in every election, and the candidates who succeed in the future will be the ones who get the earliest start; 2008 is our starting line."
How, I wondered, would this initial phase of Jamie's run-up to the presidency be conducted?
"Avoiding controversy will be our top priority for the next several years," his mother said. "My background as a freelance film producer will be enormously helpful. Starting on Jan. 1, we'll be using digital minicams to document everything that happens in his life."
"That way," his father interjected, "we'll have lots of archival footage to use in preparing biographical materials for the media later on, or refuting any allegations of personal misconduct that opponents may sling at him. I'm also going to personally tutor him in history and geography, so he can make speeches to diverse audiences anywhere in the country without sounding like he just fell off the 20-mule team Borax Wagon."
Had anyone, I asked, figured out a long-range budget? "Good point," his father acknowledged. "If campaign expenses continue to accelerate at their current pace, I've estimated the total cost of winning the 2036 presidential race will be $10 billion. That means serious fundraising will start right after he graduates from middle school."
"Sometime in his middle 20s, we'll do a complete progress review," Mom interjected. "At that point, he needs to be perceived as a rising star – have a respected book on the bestseller list, start a foundation, things like that."
"Momentum is crucial," Dad added quickly. "We'll need to be ready for campaigning full time immediately after the results of the 2032 elections. No hesitation, no self-doubt."
At this point it seemed logical to let the candidate join the conversation. "So, young man," I said, "do all these plans sound good to you?"
Jamie looked at me, stroked his chin, and said, "This particular moment is not the appropriate time for me to comment on that issue."
His father nodded and said, "I think we have a winner."
• Jeffrey Shaffer writes humor from Portland, Ore.