A twisted tale of Life, Politics, and what some might consider cruelty to animals ...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chapter 13

As of course it must, the rest of our trip ended; and with it, the second month of the campaign. There were no further startling revelations made, nor any further drunken binges of note to report on or to recover from before we found our way back to the Manor I am happy to say. On an even brighter note, no new scandals or predicaments had hit the campaign or its members; and most of the ones we were dealing with were no worse than they had been. I gratefully spent my first night in what I now considered my own bed under the current circumstances in a long while. While it was disappointingly alone, it was at least a night spent in some degree of security, familiarity, and comfort. I was therefore well rested on that first morning after our return and ready to face a morning meeting for the first time since I had sent everyone out rather abruptly (and childishly).

I entered the room quietly, searching out something to eat and some coffee before sitting down. Phillip and Lorelei were there this morning as well, so I was at least saved the ‘hot seat’ at the head of the table. My place was clearly designated by the expected place card close to it. I noticed that there were also place cards for both Katie and Andy at the table, though none for Angela. I could only assume that whoever (or whatever) made up these cards somehow knew that Katie and Andy would be attending this meeting. They also knew that Angela was not. (I hate when something that I in no way understand knows more about things that I don’t understand. Oh, never mind…)

I took my seat hoping not to draw too much attention to myself, and quietly began to consume my morning’s choices. I chose not to speak to anyone during this process, not even noticing the subtle island of silence and space that had somehow formed around me, keeping anyone from approaching me during this period. A polite time of normal conversations went on at the table around me, as everyone finished up their morning meal, then Phillip gently rapped on the table to get everyone’s attention. He looked like he was getting ready to speak, but stopped when I rose from my seated position.


Ladies and gentlemen,” I started, attempting to clear from my throat the giant slice of humble pie stuck in there that wouldn’t seem to go down. “Before we get started this morning, I would like to tender my apologies to each and every one of you. The last time I met with you, I behaved unforgivably. While there may have been a number of reasons for this behavior, there were and are no excuses for it. Nothing can justify the way that I spoke that day, so I won’t even try. You are all good people who have taken on an extremely difficult job under what have been trying circumstances at best. I owe to each of you individually, and to all of you as a group, a debt of respect and gratitude that I can never repay for the work you've already done. Let me say here and now, and for the record, that I believe that I have recovered from the mild case of ‘cranial-rectal inversion’ that I was suffering from, and that if you will forgive this mild period of insanity, I promise that I will do much better from now on.”

Katie rose as quickly as I had sought the relative refuge of my seat. “I was not here at the time of your rather stunning outburst Sean, but heard a number of subsequent reports on it. Quite frankly, I can't tell you how disappointed in you and your behavior. I would have thought that at the very least you could have done everyone was the courtesy of a more colorful, if not a more entertaining performance. I was particularly disappointed to discover a complete lack of expletives during the rant that accompanied your complete mental meltdown. All of that being said however, I think that I can speak for the entire group when I say from the bottom of my heart: Sit down and shut up asshole!”

There was laughter around the room, and my embarrassed, “Thank you,” was lost in the noise. With the tension now broken, we were able get back to the original purpose of the meeting, and the notes that were in front of everyone. Phillip, sensing the change in mood around the table remained seated, deferring now to me.


We are two-thirds of the way through this campaign, and the news isn't the greatest. The lead that we enjoyed a month ago is all but gone, and allowing for the normal statistical error in polling, our's shows this campaign as pretty much of a dead heat. What we have done to this point has worked OK, but our competition has proved themselves much better at being the kind of bastards that win this type of election than we have. What I want to know from all of you now is what we are going to learn from that, and what we are going to do to regain our lead? Does anyone have any thoughts?”

Just a minute Sean,” Phillip put in. “Before anyone makes any suggestions I have something that I want to say. Randall and Christy have run most of their current campaign by targeting not me, as would be proper during this period, but by targeting all of you. The dastardly and despicable nature of this attack has wronged so many here that I too feel that I must apologize. I'm sorry for what my family, and much as I hate to admit it these two ne’er do wells are my family, have put some of you through during the recent past. That I have had to sit idly by and watch the effect that it has had on all of you and I want no more part of it.

I hear the groans around the table, and I know that you would like to go after them for the things that they've said about you and done to you; but we have to ask ourselves why we are doing any of this in the first place. Our clear intention at the beginning was to make sure that people like Christy and Randall were not allowed to take over the government. If we win by doing the same things that they've done, and behaving in the same way that they have, aren’t we no better than they are? If that's the path we must choose, what was the point of any of this? No. I say that we’ll win this battle, but we’ll do it without changing who we are and what we stand for. We’ll not lonely do it by doing right, but we’ll do it by being right!”


Damn,” Katie muttered, putting the hand down that she had previously raised. “There go all of my best ideas. I wanted to start our last round by saying that Christy couldn’t take office, because he was legally a bastard. One look at the two of them and I think we could get most people to believe that no one would ever marry that old, ugly bastard Randall; and that there is no way in hell that the skinny little wretch could possibly fathered that enormous tub of goo that he calls a son.”

Wait a minute,” I jumped in laughing. “I like that one. I don’t suppose that it’s actually true?”

Sean, why should we want to spoil a perfectly good idea in politics with the truth?” she replied. “No, actually it’s not. His wife divorced him and disappeared years ago for causes that are best left to the sickest of imaginations, but they were married at the time of Christy’s conception and birth as best we can tell. In fact, they were quite a couple. She had to be over 300 lbs, which is how, we assume, that Christy attained his present silhouette. It was however a never-ending source of amusement when Randall and his wife walked into a room … looking like the number 10.”

Laughter again filled the room, and I knew that no matter what happened now, that things were going to be OK after all. The second wind that sometimes hits an effort was hitting this campaign, and maybe just in the nick of time. You could see in the eyes of those around the table that it was time to get off our collective butts and get back in the game. A bunch of ideas were starting to flow around the table, and as I jotted down what I thought were the best ones: 

  1. Turn the Andy and Katie problems around and put them back on Christy. We knew that Christy’s gang had to be behind them in some way and we already did have some evidence in Katie’s case. Let’s show it to the people as the dirty politics that it was, and ask the people if that was the kind of leadership that they were looking for. (It was sound thinking, and I thought it would have some value.)
  2. Follow it up by doing the same thing with Angela’s father’s case, ans show it as a pattern of behavior that had never changed. (I was against this one, as it dragged Angela back into a spotlight that I didn’t want her to have to face.)


  3. Get Katie locked up with the speech writers again ASAP. Katie’s still the pro here, and if we ever needed her, it was now more than ever. (I agreed wholeheartedly.)
  4. Find Angela and get her back. Her absence had become conspicuous. We needed more support from those in uniform, and she could get it for us. (I didn’t care why she came back, as long as it was soon. On the other hand, I had no idea on how to find her.)

I was about to break up the meeting and let everybody get to work on some of these projects, in spite of the fact that something kept gnawing at the back of my mind. I couldn’t quite bring whatever it was to the front, but knew that trying to force it would do no good. It would come to me in due time. That process was interrupted however, when Paul came rushing into the room, out of breath.

Sorry about being late,” he apologized. “Melissa and I were at an awards banquet last night, and with the parties afterward, it was a late night. Is there anything that she or I need to be doing?”

I was about to tell him not to worry when what he was saying finally hit me. “Yes there is Paul,” I said with the smile rising to my face. “You can hang around after the meeting breaks up to plan a party.”

A party?” he said. “Where? What kind?”


I don’t know where yet, though I expect that it will be here. This place just has too many possibilities to pass up as a back drop. What kind of a party will be entirely up to the people at this table. Ladies and gentlemen, where I live, much like here, celebrities often get involved with politics. Why some of them even hold public office! (The looks of shock and disbelief that I got at this comment would probably amuse the heck out of you.) What I want to do Paul, is get as many of your friends together here as we can for just that kind of party.

In addition, we will need to invite anyone else of any influence that we know who isn’t directly involved with Christy’s campaign. People of power like to rub shoulders with celebrities, and they like to be invited to exclusive events. Well, we are going to hold the most exclusive event that anyone has ever seen around here, and we are going to fill it with the most powerful and influential people that we can find. We are going to have a party that anyone and everyone will want to be at and anyone left out of will know that it was because they were taking sides with the bad guys. Katie, do you think that you can get the media to cover that kind of event if we put it together?”

Get them to!” she said rising from her seat. “Why they’ll be fighting with each other and with me for the chance to get anywhere near it!”

That’s good to hear, though it’s exactly what would have expected. People, we’ve got a lot to do, because I want to hold this event in one week. We have been talking about the need for something big to turn this thing around, and this is it. Everybody who is anybody is going to want to be where we want them to be. Anybody who is not there is going to want to see it in a newsreel or read a story about it in the newspaper. Before we're done, every man woman, and child in Macundo is going to know about all of the famous and powerful people who attended an event to support our candidate.



Now, as for the details of this gathering… We are going to need the best of everything to entertain them and the best and brightest to speak to them. Those best and brightest are going to need to be at their most persuasive, and we need to have it all start happening yesterday. Katie, you, Paul, Melissa, and Andy will need to work on the invitations. Work with Paul and Melissa for the list of the beautiful, the powerful, and the rich (as if most times they aren’t one and the same) around here, and with Andy on the appearance of the invitation itself. If we’re going to get the attendance that we are looking for, those invites are going to have to go out in less than 48 hours.

Andy, I am also going to need you to work on any banners and the like that we might need. Phillip, we need to meet with the chef and the rest of the kitchen staff and talk about food later today. Lorelei, I am going to ask to lend your sense of taste and style to this event, and handle the decorations. Gary and Sue, I am going to need an immediate poll in the field to see what influence such a show of support for Phillip might have on the voting public. Writing staff, you guys are going to have to come with something better, smarter, funnier, and more persuasive than anything you have done yet, starting with a theme. The rest of you, I need you to pitch in wherever you feel that your area of greatest expertise is.”

Sean,” Phillip put in. “I think that I understand what you are saying about a party, but do you really think that such an event can make any real difference?”

Oh, it will make a difference,” I said with what I hoped was an evil gleam coming into my eye. “And that’s not all that I’ve got up my sleeve. Ladies and gentlemen, I think that I might have just figured out how we can pull this off without becoming what we hate. Phillip, we're going to fix this thing; and we're going to do it while following the rules that you just laid out for us. 


Let’s face it boys and girls, we have been losing because we haven’t been doing as good a job of playing by Randall’s rules as he has. In other words, we can’t and won’t be as big a bunch of bastards as our competition. Well, if you can’t win using the other guy’s rules, then you need to change them to ones you like better. Katie, I need you in library in about an hour if you have the time, in 45 minutes if you don’t. Senior staff will meet back here for lunch, hopefully with an idea or two that we can agree upon by then. As far as everybody else goes, you know what needs to get done, let’s get on it!”

With that, I picked up the folder in front of me that I used to hold my notepad and any of the loose notes that I carried and left the room. My mind was spinning with number of disjointed thoughts and I needed a little time alone to push them into some kind of order. I only hoped that I hadn’t lost too much time in the campaign before finally figuring this thing out.
By the time that Katie joined me (it was closer to 50 minutes, but who besides me was counting); I was huddled over the desk, scribbling notes furiously. I only hoped that I didn’t forget anything as I went along (man, I missed my laptop computer).

One of the things that has been of the greatest benefit to me over the years, was something that at the time, I felt was completely useless. It was that as a young man, I had learned to touch type. Now I know that this is a fairly simple talent, but not for a member of the male gender, at least at that time. I was in private school at the time however, and the good fathers felt that the ability to have such a useful skill might help us in our futures in education. (I later wondered if perhaps this wasn't some throw-back effort to the days of Irish monasteries, and a number of men with curious haircuts copying manuscripts to keep civilization alive during the Dark Ages. Or perhaps this ability was being passed on for other lofty pursuits for writing philosophical interpretations of the gospels or typing up church bulletins, or even heaven forbid, sermons.) They taught us on manual typewriters (yes manual), and insisted on us learning to perform this talent without looking at the keyboard. Little did they know at the time of the impending computer age, and how much and how well this ability would serve we unwilling pupils in our futures. 


For myself, this ability, once learned, saved me and every future teacher that I had from my own miserable handwriting skills. It gave me the ability to write things down, almost as fast as I was thinking about them. The school paper, and later college efforts, rolled quickly off of a keyboard and into the hands of a teacher in a format that they would be able to understand. Once the computer, and later the laptop came along, I was able to continue to function at a much faster pace than my ‘hunt and peck’ brethren. That I was now once again reduced to pen and paper concerned me, impeded my thought processes, and made me wonder about anyone’s ability (including my own) to read my notes at a future date.

I held one hand up, motioning here to sit down as she approached. Having to scribble had put my writing behind my thoughts, and I needed to finish catching up before anything else escape my limited memory. As it was, I barely gave her time to get settled before we started in.

Listen,” I began. “The ground game has been working OK, but we're down to the last two minutes of the fourth quarter and the only way we're going to move the ball down the field is to go to the air.”

I might be willing to agree with you Sean, if I had any idea what the hell you're talking about.”


Bear with me for a minute Katie. With your experience in covering the government for the press, you'd have to know as much about politics and the election process as anyone wouldn’t you?”

Well,” she replied thoughtfully. “Misha certainly knows more about the finance end of the process than I would ever want to know, and Phillip is the most experienced as far as the actual duties of the candidate and the ruler; but yes, I would say that I know as much as anybody in either camp about how things work.”

OK, great then. I need you to go back with me in looking at the history of this process as well as the rules by which it’s run. Can you do that?”

Sure, I can do that.”

OK. Work with me on this, and correct me if and when I’m wrong then. Candidates are not elected directly as I understand it. In fact, what happens is that the people get a ballot that basically says two things:

  1. I do not want guy A, or
  2. I do not want guy B.

The voter then marks one of those lines, and the guy who gets the most negative votes loses.”

Yes,” she said. “That’s how it works.”

Great, now comes the harder part. This part concerns the campaign for the election. I am assuming that there are rules that govern the campaign process; otherwise there would be no financial oversight. What I need to know is about the whole negative campaign structure that we have been using up to now.”


Yes, what about it?” she replied.

Is that in the rules? I mean do we have to run our campaign by saying bad things about Christy and his dad?”

Sean, why wouldn’t we want to tell the horrible, nasty truth about these guys? I mean these two are champion bastards of the first order. Not only is it our duty to tell the world about it, but as it's the truth, we can do it without any moral qualms.”

I know that we can Katie, what I want to know is if we have to.”

No, I don’t think that we have to as far as the law says. It’s custom more that law. I don’t know if anyone ever gave you the history of this process Sean, but it used to be a war. While it stopped being a war, it never stopped being a battle. If you can’t fight with weapons, then you fight with words, has always been the philosophy. As far back as the election process itself goes, the campaigns are about telling everybody what they don’t like about a candidate. So when they get the ballot box, they can say with some degree of certainty that there were many bad things that they know or heard about a candidate and they didn’t like any of those things. That’s the way that they know that they are going to vote against him.

Sean what are we going to do here? We can’t very well say nice things about them? Aside from the fact that I don’t know anything nice about them, it would turn my stomach if I tried to and we would lose the election in the process.”


Yeah, I’ve heard all of that before, but I’m not sure that doing things a certain way, just because that’s the way that they have always been done works for me, or that it will work for Phillip. I have no intention of making you nauseous in the process however Katie. What I’m talking about instead, is the ways that we are supposed run campaigns where I come from. In that place, we don’t vote against something or someone (at least that's the theory that theory that they would like us to believe), as much as we vote for something or someone. A lot of negative campaigns are run where I come from too, and sometimes they work; but most of the time, campaigns for the best people are run by talking about the good things that a good person could do. They talk about the candidate, who he is, and what he believes in. The idea is to give people a good feeling about a candidate, and as a consequence get votes for him.”

Well if that isn’t the dumbest thing that I ever heard of!” she exclaimed. “How does anyone ever get elected that way?”

I have to admit that I've often wondered myself,” I replied, “but hear me out on this. You watched the way that Lorelei was during this last trip, and how people responded to her. What if during this party, we ran it the same way? What if we got these celebrities, especially the ones like Paul and Melissa who really know Phillip, to talk about him and not Christy? What if we got them to talk about the things that know about Phillip as a man? What if they talked about the things that they know about what he believes in, and were able to prove it with examples of the things that they had seen him do over the years? What if we kept most of our approach on a more low-key basis?

As far as Christy, his old man, and all the crap that they keep dishing out; what if we called their actions a tactic of a truly those of the truly scared and desperate. What if we painted them as the chocking effort to tell lies about someone that we've just shown as a great guy? What it our only comment about our competition is that we would rather not talk about them, because their behavior has been atrocious, even if expected in someone seeking to gain a position to which he had no right?”


Give me a second here Sean, just to make sure that I’ve got this straight. We don’t say anything bad about Christy; in fact, we say little or nothing about him all. If pushed, we say that we feel sorry for them and the rotten things that they felt that they've had to do to us and say about us. We talk about what a great guy that Phillip is, and has always been. We poke back into his life instead of Christy’s, but we do it by using his friends to remind us of all of the examples of all of good things that he’s ever done.”

Right, then at the end of the evening, we bring out Lorelei and Phillip.”

Bring out the candidate? Are you out of your mind?”

Maybe I am. First we bring out Lorelei and let her stand there on a big stage, and do the same thing that she’s been doing on the smaller stages. At the end, we bring Phillip himself out. All he has to do is to be Phillip, thank everyone for coming that evening, and for the support and the friendship that they have given him. Since he’s a good guy, it will show. It serves the dual purpose of getting our message out, and making any subsequent statement by our friends Christy and Randall look bad. People believe celebrities, and if they say that Phillip is good, anything the other guys say afterward will look like cheap lies.”

Well,” she said thinking about it. “It has the merit of never having been tried before. I can’t say yet that I know that it will work, but it will get the attention of the media. It may even get the attention of the voters. I think that we will need to get in front of Phillip with this one for his approval, but I say we ought to go for it!”


The senior staff was equally incredulous when I laid it out for all of them at the lunch meeting just a few hours later, and a lot of the same questions that Katie had were asked again. The review with her earlier had provided me with the chance to think things though, without doing it in front of the whole group. I therefore had a number of the answers that I needed to have at my fingertips and most if not all were on board soon enough. As for Phillip and Lorelei, they kept silent during the early debate on this change, almost suspiciously so. Phillip rose and spoke as the questions from the rest of the group began to peter out.


While I don’t know that you will be able to find all that much to say that is good about me,” he said smiling. “I must say that I am pleased with the overall tenor of this change. My father, brother, and I had many discussions about this when I was a younger man. None of us was particularly happy with the way that the process was handled, but could never come up with anything resembling a reasonable alternative. Arturo and I often talked about the negative things that we would say about each other when the time came that we had to, but mostly as childish taunts or things of amusement. ‘He pushed me into the pond when I was six’, or ‘He always tried to grab the last drumstick on the platter’ never seemed to be much of an insult. My father would always laugh at us both at such times; but he knew that we loved each other, and knew that we would find this a difficult time to deal with. Having nothing in his own past to use as a comparison, he had nothing to offer us on the subject, except to tell us to follow our hearts. I can’t and won’t say that I hold any such love for Christy, but I will be happier about this whole thing if I’m not attacking him.”

Arturo moved from his customary place in the corner, and stood with his paws on the table. He did not often seek to offer his opinions or suggestions to the group, choosing instead to file away everything and seek out individuals later for further discussion. When he felt that something was important enough to violate that practice, those opinions were inevitably invaluable. This stance at the table, which allowed him to see the eyes of the people that he was speaking to, facilitated these more important offerings and allowed him to more easily offer his opinions.

On many occasions before his death, Phillip’s father discussed his distaste with this process with me, as he did with Phillip. He always seemed to feel that his other son Arturo, would return to compete for his birthright, and that this would be a trying experience for his two offspring. I know that he was especially concerned with how this process would be brought about, knowing his two sons and the love that they had for each other. While I hold no love for Christy or his family either, I think that we can and should do this thing not only for Phillip, but also for his memory of his father. I also think that I can see, looking at Phillip now, that this now appears to be Phillip’s will. If any will not abide by that will, let them speak now.” The room was silent. “Good, then let’s get to work.”

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chapter 12

I never did tell Phillip what a dragon was that day in the Manor, but I can tell you what a one is now, having discovered the beast just days after that meeting. It was, in fact the creature that had insisted on dying in my mouth last night, though only after shitting itself; or so at least it felt this morning.

The bowel movement, death, and subsequent decomposition of a large and rather ugly fire-breathing lizard is the only possible explanation for the feeling that I had in my head and the taste that I had in my mouth. I opened my eyes sluggishly, but it didn’t help the impending doom that was threatening to overwhelm me. Neither was there help to be found in showering, shaving (with a rather unsteady hand I might add), or brushing my teeth. The consumption of the coffee that I had ordered from room service immediately upon rising in a voice that I didn’t recognize began to bring me to some level of humanity, but also brought to the front the headache that I had been holding at bay by shear will alone.

I had committed the cardinal sin on the campaign trail of any type of evening (or any form of travel for that matter), especially where serious work is involved the next day ... eating to little and drinking too much. Not that it wasn't easy enough for such a thing to happen with the schedule that we were keeping. In fact, I would have assumed that it would be normal that you should feel less than at the top of your game when you are attending an average of three dinners in the same evening every night for five straight days. Wiser and more experienced heads in politics know enough to sample the cuisine and liquor on a more sparing level; but it had become obvious to me that I could make no claims to such wisdom based on the present circumstances. Sure these wiser folk might miss some of the local flavor of each stop, but they would also save themselves from the gut-wrenching, nerve shattering feelings that I was experiencing this bright and cheerful morning.


In my own defense, let me say that considering that this was the sixth day of this whirlwind tour of the country, I had done surprisingly well. Immediately after my meeting with Phillip, I had returned to my room and packed my meager belongings into a duffel provided for my use, and I joined Lorelei outside just a half hour later. Patrick had evidently already been briefed for the trip, and was awaiting us at the front door. The luggage was relatively quickly stowed in the cab with all good speed (Lorelei’s luggage being considerably more than mine and requiring some assistance for Patrick on my part), and I helped her into the cab.

Women and luggage, now there’s a topic that certainly requires more scientific study, and is an area that may be one of the greatest indicators in life of the differences in thinking between men and women. When a man packs, he counts the days of the trip, considers in the potential weather conditions, and then factors in the possibility of damage (torn pants, stained shirts) into the final equation. Having completed these calculations on a very scientific basis, he takes the minimum required for survival, with a fudge factor to keep him from having to wear his socks or underwear two days in a row.

Women however, use a distinctively different plan when packing. Make no mistake gentlemen. In spite of the cursing that you have done while manhandling mountains of suitcases around during such trips, there is, in fact a plan involved. Women, as I have come to understand it, use a system that I like to call ‘This or that’. It involves taking at least two potential outfits for every occasion, along with a couple of things that they think ‘just look cute’. They have decided on which outfit they will wear for each of these occasions involved, but that decision is tempered by possibility of a last minute change based on feminine intuition. Packing in such a manner, and attempting to keep anything and everything brought along from wrinkling in the process, is a great deal more work than one might expect, owing to the way that way that women’s clothing is designed and the materials from which it is made. I won’t begin to touch on the issue of shoes in such a situation. My rather limited understanding of such arcane areas is that there has in fact been a highly funded government study going on in this country since the early 1950’s (in parallel with that of nuclear deterrence), and I would not want to let the cat out of the bag before the official report has been published.


Let me however at least reveal that the real secret to understanding how women pack for a trip is this. Don’t even try! You have a much greater chance of understanding the physical nature of time and space in a black hole. What’s more, even if you did understand it, it wouldn’t change the number of suitcases that you would have to carry. Suffice it to say that shoes become an important and significant part of the packing process (see the earlier discussion of women and shoes).

This trip was to last some eight or nine days, depending on the response that we got out there. A number of smaller bags therefore, were hauled up to and secured to the top of the cab, and two trunks were secured to a storage area in back of the vehicle designed specifically for such occasions. I wondered vaguely at the time whether the additional weight would have any effect on the speed of this magically powered vehicle, but if it did, it was on such a scale as to be unnoticeable to me. I put such mundane concerns behind and focused on the trip ahead as we made our way quickly down the road to our first stop.

I won’t bore you with individual descriptions of the towns themselves, as I don’t remember a lot about any one of them in particular. It’s not that there was anything wrong with any of these places, and I’m sure that the people who lived in these cities considered them to be wonderful places worthy of long remembrance. It has always annoyed me however, when someone is telling me a story and gives me a list of the names of places that mean nothing to me, that I will soon forget, and that add nothing to the tale being told. I will therefore not burden you with such information.

Suffice it to say that they were all nice little towns filled with nice little people, that they seemed genuinely good people, and that those good people wined and dined us at each and every opportunity that presented itself to them. Do not let it distract you that most, if not all of those people and places became a blur in my mind rather quickly, as I certainly didn’t. As I have said before, I don’t do particularly well in remembering these kinds of things whether they are important or not and I was true to form on this trip.


Thank Goodness for Lorelei! In spite of my jaded view of her packing methods, she always looked wonderful, and always managed to make a genuine connection with the people she was speaking to and with. She didn’t so much give speeches, as she simply talked to people. She talked about her own life and past, of meeting Phillip and the relationship that they had. She talked of the kind of man that Phillip was and the things that he believed in; and when she did, they listened to her. This wasn’t the negative campaign trip that I had expected, and understanding a little bit about the way that Lorelei is, I’m not sure that it could have been. I’m not sure in fact, that she could have been negative if she had tried. It wouldn’t have fit either the way that she looked at people or the way that she came across to them.

She was calm, concerned, friendly, charming, graceful, and she listened to what these people had to say. She without pretense, exuded the attitude that you should like Phillip because she liked Phillip. Once you had met her and heard her speak, you couldn’t help but agree with her. Upon getting to know her even in this small way, you would do anything that she asked; if for no other reason than to please her. Having been caught in this same spell upon meeting her for the first time, I understood the power that it had on these people, and was grateful for it.

My own part in the process was somewhere between speech writer, social secretary, and the bad cop I guess. No one knew or cared who I was when I was in Lorelei’s presence, and who would blame them. This invisibility did however give me the chance to listen to what she said and to watch how the crowd reacted to it. I then went back to her to let her know what appeared to have been most and least effective. It didn’t take long before she had a repertoire of things that she was comfortable saying, and that we knew were working with the crowds. I was also the keeper of the schedule (with my somewhat anal retentive behavior regarding such things guiding me), pushing to make sure that we were at the places that we were supposed to be, and that we were there at the times that we were supposed to be. This isn’t as simple as it sounds, as it often required tearing Lorelei away from an adoring populace who wanted more of her time and attention. I often had to seek assistance from the local constabulary, as well as Patrick to wrestle our way into a crowd and move the lady to the next campaign stop.


The last of the tasks that I performed, that of ‘bad cop’, may have been the most fun of my tasks. Armed with the information that our staff had been obtaining since the beginning of the campaign, and with additional information that Katie somehow found the time to get to me on the road from time to time, I worked behind the scenes with the press and the local campaign groups at each stop. My job there was to spread a little poison and pain for the opposition in every place that I could. Considering what they had been doing to my friends and loved ones over the last couple of weeks, it was a job in which I took a great deal of satisfaction in doing. I am not normally a vindictive person, but I can find inspiration when the time and situation call for it, and this one did as no other ever had in my life. I used a fair number of the tricks that the opposition had used on us, and everything that I had ever even heard of being used from politics in my own world. It was fulfilling in some ways, if vengeance can be fulfilling (usually not), but it was also tiring and tedious. Though I am normally pretty good at conserving energy while I am on road trips, the effort involved with spreading all of this venom was an emotional as well as physical drain on me, and quite frankly was beginning to wear me out.

Maybe that’s what contributed to my day five disaster. The day started out not much different from many of the previous ones. There was a breakfast gathering at which Lorelei was the guest of honor, followed by an informal morning press conference that I got to handle. Sowing as much damage as I could with what I had, we then moved to a luncheon held in an outdoor setting. While Lorelei sat at the head table, the personification of all that was good and right about what we were doing; I worked back near the kitchen with my local counterpart, his team, and a few members of the press who were hanging around looking for a story (and a free meal). These so-called members of the press were typical vultures, and didn’t care about anything as long as it got them a good byline.

My local counterpart was a savvy individual; and though a basically honest person, he was not above a little ruthless behavior if called for. The rest of the locals were like most of the staff of volunteers that I had met during my travels. They were bright, committed, and worked with only the best of intentions. In all likelihood, this would be the only campaign that they would see in their lifetime, and they would have to live with its results in the truest sense of the word. Knowing that they had only one shot, they were determined to make it a good one. When speaking to them, I talked about any number of things, and answered any question that I could, in the hopes of giving them the tools that they would need. I finished by paraphrasing an old saying from our world.


Folks,” I said, “Where I come from, they tell me that it’s OK to lie, cheat, and steal; as long as you don’t kick them in the balls. Well the heck with that. We are going to kick them anywhere that presents itself, and damned if we will feel guilty about it now or later.”

The laughter that always followed, tempered with the dedication that was evident in their eyes, told me that we were hanging with a good team. I shook the hands of each one, sent most of them on their way, and told the rest to relax a bit. It was a warm afternoon, and we were doing thirsty work. At some point, beer started to be passed around (much to the gratitude of the press of course), and though I had no intention of over indulging, I did want to be at least companionable. I’m sure that the lunch that they were serving the attendees was available to us as we sat, but if I had anything at all, it was no more than a nibble here and there.

The luncheon broke up, and we went back to the hotel we were using as a base for the night. Lorelei went back to her room to rest and change for the next event. I changed as well, but was too restless to lie down for a brief nap that I probably could have used (even though I had plenty of time before we left). Instead, I made my way back down to the lobby. I had a couple of hours to kill, so I ordered a whiskey and lit one of the cigars that I had learned to carry with me now to supply my habit.

Hey big guy,” I heard from just behind me. “Would you buy a girl a drink?”

I turned from the bartender to find myself staring into almost the last person that I thought to see.

Katie!” I cried loudly enough to turn heads around me. “What in the world are you doing here? How’s is your case going? Have you spoken to Phillip lately?”

Whoa son,” she returned smiling. “One question at a time, but let’s take first things first. What about that drink?” (No sooner said than ordered.) “What I am doing here is helping a person who looks like he desperately needs it, you. The court case is going OK, but the judge took a week's vacation, and there’s nothing that anyone can do until he comes back. I have been trying to visit the Manor when no one was looking, in order to meet with Phillip and what part of the team is still hanging tough. So yes, I have spoken to Phillip lately, as well as the rest of the staff back at the Manor; but I’ll fill you in on that later. As for the question that you didn’t ask, no one has seen or heard from Angela since you left, including Phillip. I have had my eyes and ears out there, but there hasn't been a sign of her. Don’t worry Sean; she’ll be back when she’s able. Women love to fall in love with men who need changing, and I’ve never met anyone in more in need of changing than you.”


Why thank you young lady,” I replied. “Coming from someone who is apparently a member of this country’s criminal element, I can’t tell you what that means to me.”

That's alleged criminal to you pal,” she replied laughing.

We had plenty of catching up to do until Lorelei joined us to leave for the first event of the evening, and spent a happy time in doing so. She mostly talked about the trial, saying that it was going as well as it could, in her opinion. The writer who had sued her was a third-rate hack that few people had ever heard of before the trial had begun to make the news. He was basking in his new found celebrity and the publicity that the case was bringing and was said to have signed a lucrative contract for his own column recently. Katie had hired an old friend to represent her, and after reviewing her background materials for the article (which she always kept on file), was convinced that the case could be won, or at least settled quickly. At least he did until he had found out that the hack was being represented by one of the shrewdest attorneys in the country. From Katie’s description, this shifty example of the legal profession was well known for two things: his ability to make a mountain out of a mole hill, and the exorbitant fees that he charged for doing so. It took a while to dig up, but it finally came to light that Randall was footing the legal bills out of his own pocket. Katie’s attorney re-examined his strategy, and now felt that the best path that they could follow with the case was to try and drag it out for a couple of months. It was his opinion that once the election was over, that the case would go away. The trick was to make it look as if it were taking up all of Katie’s time, since it appeared to be designed to do so, so that they wouldn’t try anything else on her in the meantime.

She also let me know that while Andy’s case hadn’t gotten any better, it hadn’t gotten any worse either. The investigators had determined that there was no doubt that the fire had been started on purpose, the question now was by whom. Andy was not in custody, nor had he been charged with anything; but was still spending a good bit of his time working with his own attorney, and they were being open and forthcoming with the investigators for both the city and the insurance company. Andy was also still working to get his printing business open again, which was proving much more difficult than he expected. Few of the area banks were willing to extend any credit to him, which in light of his service to Phillip was rather suspicious. Andy had at least managed to find a friend and former employer to take over the work that we needed done, and had in fact, gone to work at the shop in order to help expedite our work. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but it was working.


She was just beginning to go into the situation with Misha when Lorelei joined us from her rooms. The ladies greeted each other cordially, and it was only then that I noticed that Katie was very nicely outfitted for the evening as well. (Isn't it amazing that love tends to distract a man from noticing other women?) While there was no doubt that I was in love with Angela, I couldn’t help but notice that such attire was very flattering to Katie.

Is that what all of the fashionable felons are wearing this year?” I asked, taking her hand and spinning her around for a better look. “If it is, can I arrange to spend time in the local jail?”

Down boy,” she replied, and I could tell she was pleased by the compliment as the color rose to her cheeks. “For one thing, you’re already taken, and for another fresh meat like you wouldn’t make it through a night in any local jail that I know of.”

Knowing that discretion is the better part of valor, and not having a suitably clever response to this latest jibe, I merely offered each of the women an arm, and escorted them to the waiting Patrick. He noticed Katie immediately and smiled as he tipped his hat to the ladies.

Good to have you back ma’am,” he saluted, as he helped Katie up into the cab. “We can always use a stout heart and a level head around here. A bit of help in the beauty and brains departments wouldn’t hurt us either, and might take a bit of the pressure off the princess.”

A target,” I mumbled as I pulled myself up, shaking my head. “I am nothing around here but a damned target.”

The first dinner went well, of course. Lorelei was beautiful and poised as always; and Katie took over working behind the scenes soon after we arrived, doing a much more competent job with both the press and the volunteers than I ever could have hoped to. I spoke to a couple of people that were specifically looking for me, but soon found that I was mostly unneeded by these two capable women. Rather than feeling put out at my lack of stature, I was feeling relief more than anything else as I watched. In fact, I had managed to quietly slip away into the bar for a drink and some of the food that they were serving at the dinner. I don’t know exactly how to describe what they were serving, but I can tell you that it was pretty spicy. As much as I enjoyed it, I was forced to leave most of it on the plate. Uncontrollable flatulence at the later events from enjoying too much of this meal seemed both impolite and impolitic.


The time slipped away unnoticed, and so did the cocktail in my hand, until I could hear that unmistakable sound of the kind of applause that means that the event was over, and everybody was getting up to leave. I made my way quickly to Lorelei’s side, trusting that Katie would find us without help. It was great to have her to help run interference, and we were quickly on our way to the second event.

This was a dinner as well, and I found myself being made extraneous to this event as soon as I had performed my escort duties. Taking my cue from the previous stop, I slipped into the bar, and again managed to nibble on something while having another drink. The food this time was some kind of sweet and sour something (I didn’t ask what, and probably better off not knowing anyway). Though I again nibbled, I don’t think that I was all that concerned with food by that point. The beer at the lunch in combination with the couple of drinks that I poured down during the day, added to the irresponsibility that I was enjoying, and had provided me with a warm glow. I sat quietly, finishing my drink and another cigar before hearing the sound of applause again. The whole thing had seemed to end quickly enough, with both Lorelei and Katie operating at maximum efficiency. As I made my way up to the main table at the end of this second event, I may have felt a minor wobble to my step, but put it off to being tired rather than anything else. As we made our way to the third and final event of the evening, I was beginning to firmly feel the warm glow of brotherhood for all mankind. (usually a clear sign that I was either feeling a little drunk or a lot stupid.)

The third event of the evening was a coffee and desert affair, and though coffee was probably the best thing for me at this point, I made my way into the bar instead. I didn’t bother to eat at this stop, as deserts were never my preference. I did get another drink though, and settled down to pass the time quietly. My good humor remained, but I was also feeling a little sorry for myself (a natural part of the cycle that overindulgence can have on me and many others, if not closely monitored).


No one was noticing my absence (and why should they), and I still hadn’t solved any of my personal problems. I hadn’t been drinking heavily, but I had been doing so rather steadily for some time now. I also had not been eating enough that day to be able to adequately handle any real amount of alcohol consumption. Being in such a condition doesn’t bring on drunkenness for me, as much as it can lead to melancholy and a touch of self-doubt. Being alone in such a condition allows me to feel sorry for myself without having it bother me or anybody else.

The truth of the matter is that eating won’t keep you from getting drunk, but can help with the inevitable empty feeling the next morning. You get drunk when you digest a certain amount of alcohol and you sober up when it has worked its way through your system. As for the other, I think everyone has to feel sorry for themselves from time to time, if only to allow themselves a chance to get it out of the way of the life that we are all to often caught up in. Such feelings are just the body’s way of telling the mind that most of everyday existence is a mindless tedium of bullshit that must be endured when it can’t be enjoyed.

This is a lot like noting that stress is the condition that arises when the body overrides the mind’s desire to choke the life out of some idiot that desperately deserves it. OK, all of this is a cheap rationalization of the fact that I had gotten myself half-hammered without realizing it. Come on now, I’m looking for understanding and sympathy here, not lectures.

This one ended rather quickly (thank goodness for me at this point), and before I knew it, that applause was sounding again. I made my way to the front of the room on legs that were a bit more unsteady than they had been at the last stop, but by then I was convinced that they were not noticeably so. I must have been a little longer than I thought in getting to the spot, because Katie was already with Lorelei when I reached them. They were both smiling with self-satisfaction over the nights’ results, and we made our way easily to the cab. The two chatted amiably about something on the trip back to the hotel, but I must admit that I wasn’t paying too much attention. I might have even dropped off (just for a second mind you), and I felt my head jerk up as we stopped in front of the lobby. Patrick had leaped down from his seat by the time that I exited the carriage, and added a steadying influence to my assistance of the ladies from our transportation (I think that he might have noticed and had a bit of concern over my condition.) and into the hotel lobby.


Lorelei excused herself as soon as we were inside with a few parting words to the both of us. The events of the day had taken their toll on her, and she just wanted to collapse if we didn’t mind. Feeling just the opposite, Katie was pumped up by the evening’s work and opportunity of getting back into the game. She suggested a nightcap. Casting common sense to the wind, I agreed. There was a courtyard off on side of the bar, and Katie and I adjourned there for cigars (my third of the evening) and another whiskey. The evening was clear and bright, and it was comfortable to be out of doors, even this late. We sat quietly, but my thoughts were back on my situation, and not on the evening’s events.

I know how you feel Sean,” Katie said, surprising me with the subject. “It’s not easy to be without someone you care about, and I if anyone ought to know.”

Maybe I was in more of a fog than I thought that I was. “Really,” I replied. “Would you care to elaborate on that remark young lady?”

Why not,” she said, looking around to see if there was anyone close that might overhear us. “You see, I was engaged to Phillip’s brother Arturo.”

The stunned look on my face must have said it all, but I was forced to keep a bit of control while the drinks were served. For her part, Katie seemed to have relaxed, as though getting a chance to unburden herself was something that she needed to do rather badly.

You realize of course, that no one knows about this,” she began. “You shouldn’t tell anyone one else about, oh hell… Arturo and I had only known each other for a couple of years. We met when I began covering events at the Manor House for the newspaper that I was working for at the time. He was handsome, intelligent, and charming; and it was love at first sight for the both of us.

Oh, there was no way that it could work of course, and we tried to hide it from each other for as long as we thought we could. I certainly couldn’t let on. I had a career that I was trying to build and needed to hang onto whatever shreds of journalistic impartiality and integrity that I could; and that meant keeping my feelings to myself. We stayed at arms length for many months, but I melted every time that he looked at me.


For his part, he was merely the soul of politeness. His attentions were patient and undemanding, and if he had stronger feelings for me, he did a pretty damn good job at not showing it. We both had our careers to consider, and we were both too responsible to jeopardize them. I needed to remain free to do what I loved. He needed to stay free to win the election that would come when his father passed away. Before either one of us had realized it though, the feelings and the situation had become bigger than both of us.

I don’t remember who confessed first, but both of owned up to the truth of our feelings one fateful night. We knew the score where such a relationship was concerned, but we were bound and determined to find a way to make it work somehow, and our careers could be damned. We kept our love a secret, spending time together when we could and waiting patiently. We had made a promise to each other that when the election was over, whichever way that it went, that we would find a way to have a life together.

Then he disappeared without a word on that damned hunting trip. For years now, I don’t know if something happened to him, or if there was just something or someone else and he couldn’t admit it. I told myself that it was all for the best. I told myself that he never really loved me anyway and that he never would have been able to fulfill his promise; but I’ve never been able to reconcile myself to the way that it ended. I can't believe though that knowing him the way that I did, that he would have left me without a word. I tell myself sometimes now that I hate him for what he’s done to me, but I know that it’s a lie. I know that as long as I live, it will always be him that I love, and that I’ll never care for anyone one else.”

And no one else knows,” I asked?

Oh, there might have been some suspicions at the time, but I know that I never told anyone. If Arturo did, he never told me about it.”

That my dear lady,” I offered, “is as incredible a story as it is a sad one. I don’t know if there is really anything that I could say that would be of any condolence, so I will say nothing. At any rate, your secret is safe with me. Let me instead offer a toast. To the ones that we love, though they be not present in our lives, they will always be present in our hearts.”


We lifted our glasses and toasted, feeling sorry for ourselves and for each other. Then we toasted again. We called for more whiskey, and toasted everything and everybody. We even toasted our competition, hoping that they would rot in a particularly nasty part of hell. We toasted until we were both toasted, as a matter of fact. Then, with a quiet hug of shared misery and companionship, we made our separate ways to the oblivion of unconsciousness.

This brings me back to the morning of day six, and the dead animal syndrome that I was currently experiencing. The plot was thickening (or was that just my head). There seemed to be wheels within wheels within wheels that were apparent to this place. There was also something about all of this that was beginning to take some kind of shape in the back of my mind. It seemed to me that if I could only figure out what it was, and was going on around me, that it would mean something, and perhaps even help our efforts. It was nothing I could put my finger on yet, but was something that just gave me a feeling like we were leaving the heavy woods and that a path lay just ahead. The trick was not to become impatient and try to force a solution, but to let the idea come of its own. (Let go Luke and use the force…)

I therefore told myself that all I really needed to do was to keep my wits about me. I told myself that I had to focus on the moment and to get back in the game. Then reality set in and I told myself that what I was giving myself was one of those bullshit speeches that really used to annoy me. Strangely enough, this self-revelation didn’t bother me in the least and likewise decided that I believed myself. Somehow, it spite of ourselves and perhaps even too late, we were getting our act together. First things first however (how could it be otherwise) it was time to fight through the fog caused by the evening’s activities and the malaise of a struggling campaign, buckle up, and face the world.

So saying, I put my luggage in order (such as it was) and made my way down to the lobby. The day would be a miserable one to face, but I had no one to blame but myself for the way that I felt. The good news was that there were only three days left in the trip and that the lessons that I had learned last night would probably last me until we reached home. Or at least, one could only hope...