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

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chapter 11

It’s funny how things can seem to turn around so quickly in life (or a political campaign for that matter). It always seemed to me that often when you start to feel a little too comfortable (or complacent) about the way things in your life are working out, something really bad jumps up and bites you in the butt. Maybe the problem is that life feels begins to feel a little under appreciated and needs to give us warning never to become too confident about where it's going. Maybe it's that we should never ignore that little uncomfortable feeling in the back of our head, because it's a sure sign of potential misplaced overconfidence. Whatever the case might be, whatever good could be said about how things had gone in the first month of the campaign, they went just that bad in the second. It wasn't that we were doing anything any different than we had from the start, but it was certainly the case that our outcomes had changed. It sometimes seemed that we were little more spectators to a disaster happening to us, rather than participants in it. If you think that seems like a confusing statement, consider what it was like living through it.

Maybe we had just gotten cocky, or too caught up in our initial successes to see the storm that we should have known was on the way. Maybe we were a little new to what we were doing or too naive and inexperienced about the entire political process. Maybe we just hadn’t given the devil (with Christy, Randall, or both, cast as the main character of that drama) his due. Whatever the reason, we all certainly got a PhD education (Piled Higher and Deeper) in the science of exceptionally dirty politics during that next thirty days of the campaign, with a rather formidable dose of day-to-day crisis resolution thrown in just to keep it interesting. If that weren’t enough, there seemed to be a lot of just plain bad karma on a personal level dished out for everyone involved with the campaign.


It started simply enough, with a problem that we knew had to come eventually; that of Phillip not wanting the job that we were trying to get him. Knowing that it was on the horizon, we thought that we were prepared for it. We had all of our responses prepared, and had them out in speeches and as hand outs immediately:
  • While never seeking office for himself, Phillip felt a moral obligation to see that the people of Macundo were properly served, and that’s why he now sought the office.
  • This system was not about what Phillip wanted, based on what the electoral process involved; but on what the people of Macundo didn’t want, and who would want Christy.
  • Christy, like his father, was a power-seeking fiend whose only goal was to take control of the government for his own ends. As such, he should be rejected out of hand. Phillip’s motives were personal, but not evil, and he was now willing to do a job that needed to be done.
  • Christy didn’t want the job either, and would never have sought to be king except at his father’s demand that he do so. Was it not his father who had forced the government into letting him into an election that he never wanted to be part of in the first place?

As I said, this was something that we anticipated. We had even thought about putting this one to bed before we were hit with it, but decided that the best course was not to draw attention to the problem ourselves. It was felt that speaking about it ourselves would make it an even bigger issue than it was, and ultimately make it an even bigger story. We resolved therefore to wait until confronted by the opposition. This opinion, though held by the majority, was ultimately a rookie mistake however; because it took the timing of the defense of our candidate out of our hands and put into the hands of our enemies. As we all too quickly discovered, all of the preparation in the world doesn’t help you contain a disaster when your response is reactive rather than proactive.


In the time that it took a few days to get our story out we lost some ground in the polls; but we knew that we were going to and had plenty to spare. Our people worked the story as they were supposed to, and we managed to get back on message in a little more than a week. Having done so, we thought that we had weathered the biggest part of the storm and that we had things back under control. Seeing ourselves as “The Little Dutch Boy” who managed to to plug the holed in the dyke by sticking his finger in it, we thought the problem solved. Little did we know that this was only the first crack in a dam that was about to burst. The ensuing flood that occurred when it did was devastating on a number of levels to the campaign, and to a number of the members of our staff on a much more personal basis.

What occurred next was something that none of us could have anticipated, and began when Andy’s print shop burned to the ground. This unexpected calamity was a major short-term setback for the campaign obviously, as there were a number of different kinds of campaign literature and materials in storage at the shop at the time of the fire; but these were things that could and would be replaced given time. Andy, though devastated by the loss, put his personal situation aside and immediately set to work finding a new building and begging or borrowing equipment to get started again. His efforts seemed to be achieving some level of success, and it looked like we wouldn’t lose as much as much ground as we thought, when the arson stories started circulating.

It turned out that Andy hadn’t been in the best financial situation when he had begun working for and with us. While not on the edge of bankruptcy, he had been only barely holding some of his creditors at bay for some time before our work had come along. The campaign work it seems, would have more than kept his creditors at arms length; but would not put him on a firm financial footing any time soon. Andy would have been able stay in business, but never turn a profit at the rate that he was going unless something else happened to improve is business situation. The insurance settlement when everything was destroyed however, would not only pay off his debts it appeared, but make him a fair bit of profit as well. When it further came to light that Andy had enough insurance that the settlement, once paid off, would be enough that Andy would never really have to work again.


The investigators of both the fire department and the insurance company crawled over the scene for a week, preventing Andy from even going in to see if any part of the business’s assets or the campaign’s material in storage could be salvaged. Pictures of a soot-stained Andy standing in the midst of his ruined business played well in the press, (especially the tabloid press) and it was only a matter of time before the campaign got dragged into the investigation, as well as the growing scandal of the story.

As the days passed, we were all questioned by both groups of investigators. How well did we know Andy? Why did we give him the business from the campaign? Were we aware of the financial condition of his company at the time that we began to do business with him? What did we know about the insurance that he carried on the business? Where was each of us at the time that the fire occurred?

As the keeper of our books, Misha in particular caught a great deal of heat over the situation, and was pressed by investigators for detail regarding the rates that he charged us, the payments that she made to Andy, and where that money had subsequently gone. We quickly went from being short one person on staff, to being short two, as more and more of her time was required by the investigation. In addition, the insurance company latched onto the ensuing investigation as a way to delay any payment on the policy for some reason. Andy’s troubles had become a lot more complex than any of us had anticipated, and the bottom line was that he was not going to be back in business producing material for the campaign nearly as quickly as we thought.


In the midst of going over the details of the financial records for the investigation of Andy, Misha made another startling discovery. It also now appeared that some campaign funds were unaccounted for. It wasn’t that it was a great deal of money, but in light of the other investigations, such a discrepancy was a serious concern to both Misha and the government agency that she worked for. She went back and rechecked all of the weekly audits of the campaign, and we questioned everyone internally of course; but couldn’t see why the books didn’t add up. For Misha’s part, though she was firmly in our camp, there was never any question that she would try to cover any part of this situation up, or that we would even ask her to. She checked her figures ten times over, but after coming to the same conclusion each time, she filed the required reports about the missing funds with the government.
As with any type of government audit, this was going to mean that she would need to spend a good bit of time away from us going over all of the financial details since the campaign had begun with the auditing bureaucracy. Added to the loss of her time that we suffered from the investigations of Andy, and it meant that for all intents and purposes, we had lost the use of Misha in the campaign as well. You might not imagine that the loss of a finance person could slow us down, but it did so rather considerably. Without her, we could not draw on the government funds which required her signature, and she wasn’t there to give it as often or as soon as we would have liked. She did her best to try not to let these investigations impede the progress; but she could only do so much. We in turn would have to do the best that we could in the interim, and would just have to learn to work around it.


The bureaucratic mind is the once constant in the universe, and one should always take into account the pronunciation of the last syllable when dealing with 'officialdom'. Given the opportunity, government officials can undoubtedly quote you chapter and verse on regulations that can and will prevent you from doing anything and everything (including listening to them drone on in an endless and nauseating fashion). Having attached themselves to you like any other leech, these parasites will continue to drain one of time, resources, and eventually the will to live; until surfeited in a stodgy show of self-importance or physically separated from their host (usually by drastic measures), at last allowing escape.

It may similarly be said that the difference between bureaucracy and 'bureau-crazy' is but a single letter; and they should be treated with equal parts of caution and disdain. Most bureaucrats operate from a combination of mono-maniacal tendencies and Napoleonic complexes. The anger that lies just below the surface of petty officials stems from not only working on a daily basis with the government, but actually enjoying the experience. A while no one has ever been accused of 'going bureaucrat', they should be treated with the same trepidation as a postal worker with a concealed carry permit.

As these reports were inevitably made available to the public (though of course most of them were supposed to be confidential), it was only a matter of time before they too made it to the front page of the newspapers. It seemed that we were above the fold every day, but never for any of the reasons that we wanted.

For those of the uninitiated, the phrase ‘above the fold’ means that the story is on page one of the newspaper, right below the banner (name of the newspaper) and its main headlines, but above where a broadsheet newspaper is ‘folded’ in half. This is usually the place where the key stories of the day are placed, with additional follow up articles following later in the paper.


The headline ‘Scandal Continues to Rock Phillip’s Campaign’ seemed to be appearing with a growing regularity in all of the newspapers of Macundo, leaving us so discouraged that most of us simply stopped reading newspapers. The initial enthusiasm of the entire campaign staff began to flag under the weight of these seemingly endless scandals; and we all seemed to be walking around with our heads down, waiting for the next blow to be struck. Phillip, unable to defend or even comment on this turn of events while being in hiding, became rather exasperated with the whole experience and joined us less often for the morning meetings.

We soldiered on however, trying to figure out a way to dig ourselves out of a sink hole that had appeared and was growing around us. When our third loss in senior staff occurred, we were not only taken by surprise, but completely devastated. Out of the blue, Katie was sued for plagiarism for a story that she had done for the Minica (capital city of Macundo) newspaper years ago.

Quite frankly, the whole thing didn’t make any sense. The story was a minor local piece that no one had ever bothered to pick up nationally, and was of no real import. Both she and I originally thought nothing of it at first and chose to mostly ignore it. This ignorance proved both wrong and costly, as we were soon to find out. It turned out in fact, that the charges stemming from this would have to be vigorously defended, Katie explained to us almost tearfully soon afterward. Not only was Katie a person who was forced to live and die on her reputation, a reputation that had now been sullied; but the penalties for what had seemed to us to be a petty charge at best were serious indeed. The law of the land took the view that such a crime such as this was to be treated no differently from any other kind of theft; the punishment for which, if she were convicted, would involve prison time and a fine, as well as any potential civil settlement of damages with her accuser.

It seemed that there was nothing that we could do but watch helplessly from the sidelines as yet another train wreck occurred in our small family. Katie's attention and effort was taken from us, and directed to going back over the research for an insignificant event that she had long since forgotten. Before any of us had begun to realize it, that research and the preparation with her attorney for her defense in this case (criminal and civil) began to take up most of Katie’s time.


Looking back at it now, we don’t appear to have been very quick on the uptake, picking up on what even the most blind could not help but see; but at long last, we began to see the pattern. We realized that what we were looking at was a masterstroke of political strategy on Christy’s part. If you haven't got anything that you can attack the candidate with, attack the campaign staff instead. Key members of a staff in our campaign against Randall’s family were one by one isolated from their campaign work and obligated to spend time defending themselves instead of working for our candidate. Without directly attacking our candidate, Christy had managed to attack our campaign and reduce its effectiveness significantly. The plan was both ingenious and diabolical, and the truly aggravating part of realizing its strategy was that it was an obvious retread of his previous efforts (if a non-violent one) that none of us had anticipated. We thought that we understood the people that we were up against and the depths to which they would sink, but we were finding that we were obviously and terribly wrong. They had gone down what might have been an old, familiar path to them to a low that we were incapable of conceiving of.

The campaign was not yet in complete shambles, but the difference was a near thing indeed; and we were struggled daily to plug the gaps that were showing. I made misguided attempts to step into some of the responsibilities that Katie had been taking care of for the campaign with her staff while we were trying to sort all this out, but quickly found myself unequal to the challenge. They say that you only appreciate the talent that person has for a job when you try and step into their shoes. I quickly found that these shoes were too big for me.

Katie had been working for us not only as a writer, but also as a manager. It was one thing to dabble into writing, as I had done from time to time as the campaign progressed. It was quite another thing to supervise a staff of writers for a campaign. Adding or changing a line with a group of professional writers was a task like nothing that I found myself saddled with before. They were all wonderfully creative people, and genuinely liked each other, but the gloves came off with each other when meetings of the writing staff started. Each person had a multitude of ideas that they wanted to see used and a multitude of criticisms for ideas that they had not come up with. They were particularly brutal and often personal in these attacks, and it made me wonder if all creative people were such a pain in the ass.


This seems to be the case with creative people for the most part though doesn’t it? Leonardo Di Vinci, genius that he was, was rumored to be a tyrant with both his staff and his patrons. That Michelangelo was a pain in the butt to Pope Julius II when painting the Sistine Chapel is an undisputed fact of history that was even used as a central theme in a movie about his life, ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy’. Authors Charles Dickens, Jules Vern, and H. G. Wells as examples, though all geniuses, appeared to be no joy to be married to according to those familiar with the stories of their lives. Even the two great giants of physics, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein were said to be real bastards to their friends, enemies, and spouses alike. Maybe the truly creative person is so caught up in their own apparently brilliant insights into the universe that they have no time to suffer lesser fools or greater geniuses. On the other hand, maybe they, like most of the rest of us, are simply just assholes; with their genius simply putting them on a larger stage and excusing some part of their rudeness.

As for the group that I was dealing with, I began to feel like the referee at an ultimate fighting match. I was constantly on the lookout for trouble, and seemed constantly to be trying to keep things from coming to actual blows during these supposed gatherings of creativity. It’s not that I mind a good fight now and again (I am Irish after all, and as long as it serves a purpose and does not personally involve me ...), but I felt that any trips to the hospital for repairs afterward would delay the work unnecessarily. I was therefore pleased to see that while it often came close, that the gloves never actually came off.

In the end, I found myself forced to send them off either individually, or in small teams, with instructions to bring back something for me to look at. While I allowed some discussion of the results of those teams in a general session, I strictly controlled both the time and the tone of that discussion. In the end, that left the final decision about what ultimately got used in the campaign to me. Now for those of you unfamiliar with such meetings, this meant that the only point of agreement in those final sessions was that everyone strongly agreed that they hated my guts. This left me with a general feeling of listlessness, and a desire to run screaming from the room before I did bodily harm to the people that I was supposed to leading.

Just when I thought that it couldn’t get any worse, of course it did. The rash of scandals in our midst inevitably led to comparisons in the press between this campaign and the last one in the country’s history. These comparisons fed the appetites of readers that the tabloid press catered especially to, and the increased circulation garnered by this vulture-like behavior saw them soon dredging up all of the old stories involving of the murder of Angela’s father. 


While there was no direct accusation of scandal leveled, there was a definite tone of ‘like father, like son’ to these stories. 'Since there had been scandal (and murder) associated with Phillip’s father’s campaign, why should anyone be surprised to see the same type of behavior in Phillip’s campaign' went the story line. That no one took notice of the fact that Simon had two sons, and that none of this was being cast in Christy and his father’s direction was not particularly surprising (at least to us) considering how we saw the whole thing as being orchestrated by Randall anyway.

As the salient facts of the original murder were printed, along with a number of rather grisly and graphic photos of the crime scene. This was followed by a blow-by-blow description of Simon’s trial and the effect that it had on the campaign at the time. Again, it was suspicious that the facts that the inconsistencies in the evidence that would lead one to the conclusion that the whole thing had been manufactured never seemed to enter into the story; nor the acquittal of Phillip’s father of any and all of the charges. His subsequent victory in the election (or rather, Randall’s loss) also seemed to be deemed non-newsworthy by these so-called ‘gentlemen of the press’.

The effect that it had on the campaign was incremental at best. It was a juicy story for the newspapers, and it certainly seemed to paint our gang in a less than favorable light; but it had little or nothing to do with our present situation. Besides, we were already so deep in the natural fertilizer that had been dumped on us, that even with the addition of the latest batch; we barely notice a change in the smell.

The effect that all of the dredging up of all of this ancient history had on Angela was something else entirely. Initially she was angered by the fact that it was being brought up at all, let alone the implications that were being put forth in these stories. She found it all but unbelievable that anyone couldn't see through this pack of lies, that anyone would believe that she would be so involved with the campaign if she thought that Phillip’s family had anything to do with her father’s death. The stories were only the beginning of the tale here though. Without any real warning, the situation soon became a non-stop nightmare for her. No longer content with rehashing old news to feed the appetites of their readers, reporters and photographers followed her everywhere. The inevitable questions about how she felt today about her father, Phillip’s family, the military, and politics in general in light of all of the events that had occurred in her life were as inane as they were persistent. The process was obsessive, intrusive, and completely amoral in its unrelenting pressure on her.


The questions that reporters ask often fascinate me. I took some journalism in school and remember that it was supposed to be all about the: who, what, when, where, and why of a newspaper story. Why then, do reporters feel that they must give up their humanity in the process of remaining what they seem to consider objective about a story? How can anyone who has ever made the claim to be a human being stand in front of the relative of a victim of a crime, especially one involving a fatality, and ask them how they ‘feel’ about it? Even if the person being interviewed were in a state of mind to be able to give a coherent answer, what would the reporter expect? “Oh I liked the victim well enough, but I’m not sorry to see them gone. The truth is that they burped after dinner every night and often farted while reading the newspaper. It drove me crazy!” Or maybe, “I won’t really know how I feel about all of this until I find out how well I will be making out in the will.”

I’m sure that at one time or another, some grieving relative has undoubtedly told them, “I feel awful you stupid idiot! What kind of question is that to ask someone who has just lost everything that they ever loved? Why would you even ask such a question you filthy vulture?” I am also sure that any such quotes never made it onto page one. No, the truth of the matter is that it is only important to most of these carrion feeders to get a picture of the grief-stricken people with that ‘deer in the headlights’ look on their face and tears running down their face on the front of tomorrow’s paper.

I know from personal experience that they got an earful from Angela in the process. She took after reporters like a lioness protecting her cubs. She tried for some degree of civility at the start, answering with courtesy all of the hideous questions being asked, and treating those asking with a restrained level of dignity. The constant barrage of interviews soon wore her down however, and she soon began to treat them as she felt that they were treating her. Some of the replies that I heard would have embarrassed a sailor, but that attitude on her part only made me more proud of her.


I will not repeat any of those particular responses, no matter how many times that I am asked. I will say however, that they were truly memorable in their profound and creative use of expletives. Katie told me that even she was both surprised and impressed by the demonstration of Angela’s language skills. The person involved in this case is one that I still care very deeply about, and I will not seek to embarrass a woman that consider a true lady by repeating any of those things here, knowing that such repetition, while amusing, might carry the potential to shed an unfavorable light on her in some way (though never in my opinion). Besides, I would rather tweak the noses of those of you demanding the nasty particulars involved. I ask instead that you use your imagination to fill in the blanks here. Who knows you might even come close, but I doubt it.

I stood by Angela as often and as much as she let me, listening quietly to her tears and her curses while holding her close. My level of frustration eventually reached her own however, and I offered satisfaction to a few of the more obnoxious and belligerent of these ‘Gentlemen of the Press’. None of them took me up on it, I'm sorry to have to say, as I was really looking for an excuse to vent some of the frustration and hostility that I was feeling. I was not normally a rash person, but this situation was causing me to become truly interested in the dueling laws of this land. (The fact that I had been taking practice at both sword and pistol with Phillip every day for exercise may have falsely inflated my confidence in this area. I choose however, to take note only of my gallant behavior where the honor of the woman that I love was concerned.)

In the end, I was never permitted the chance to tell her of my feelings about her attackers.  The constant pestering of the interviews finally drove her from our midst.  At first is was simply that she stopped attending our meetings and locked herself in her rooms at the Manor; her anger and frustration having reached a point where she didn't leave it, even for meals.  She didn't or couldn't share these feelings and frustration even with me.  Eventually even that type of evasion was not enough for her however, and I awoke one morning to find a not shoved beneath my door. 



I’m sorry, but I find that I am not strong enough to deal with this anymore. What this has become is not doing the campaign, or us, any good. I don’t think that I can take the pressure of it any more.

Please don’t think ill of me, but I need to go away for a time and sort all this out. I do love you, but I just can’t be with you right now.

All My Love,


Her note was as crushing a blow as you might imagine, and I was both literally and figuratively staggered by it. The campaign was going down the tubes with a flushing sound so loud and distinct that I am sure that there were plumbers all over the country checking their answering machines for an emergency call. Four people from our inner circle, whose importance to our mission and its success could not be estimated, had been all but taken from our staff. Their loss to me on a professional level was overwhelming, and made the daunting task ahead even harder to face. The loss of these friends (and lovers) on a personal level was devastating in a way that I was having more than a little trouble dealing with.

The way that things were going with this campaign at the moment probably meant that Macundo would end up with people of such evil in positions of authority that Hitler would have turned them down as recruits for his staff as being just a trifle too twisted. On a more personal level, and though it meant nothing to the campaign; my personal life, (never usually a thing to impress anyone who wasn’t living under a vow of silence and chastity in a monastery at the time) was completely shattered by all of this. The woman that I loved was gone to who knows where, and who knew if I would ever see her again. If all of that were not bad enough, I was failing at the job that I was supposed to be doing, and nothing that I did seemed to be able to change that.

The depression that hung like a cloud over me as I stood there in my room at that moment took me to a point I could have easily contemplated suicide, even if it meant that it needed to be done by bleeding out by way of paper cuts. I was only saved from this particularly gruesome form of demise in the end by the fact that I thought that based on recent history, I would probably screw that up too. I was therefore in a painfully bad mood as I left the note in my room, and made my way to another morning meeting; one that I had no real heart for. My feet seemed to be too heavy to lift as I made my way down the hall to the conference room that we had taken over as a command center since that first morning. Looking in on those trusting, expectant faces as I reached our normal gather place, I found all of almost too much to bear.


Meeting canceled,” I fumed suddenly at the stunned group as I stood in the doorway. “due to a complete lack of interest on the part of the boss. If any of you have anything that you feel that you absolutely must speak to me about, please feel free to hang around while I get myself some coffee. I can’t guarantee that I’m will give a damn about anything that you have to say, but I promise to least give you the courtesy of hearing you out before blowing you off.”

Shocked looks made their way around the room as I continued in, and chairs began scraping to announce embarrassed departures. The room emptied rather quickly as I busied myself pouring some coffee, but it seemed like a few stuck around. I wasn’t really paying attention. I hadn’t noticed when I walked in whether the place cards that I was used to were there or not, or who’s names where on them; but they weren’t when I turned back to the table. It was only when I looked for the closest empty chair that I noticed Phillip and Lorelei still sitting at the places that Angela and I had been occupying since their latest round of absences. I nodded in embarrassed acknowledgment to them as I slumped into a chair, staring at a beverage that I realized that I didn’t really want any more. Arturo slipped up next to me, and nudged my hand with his nose. A dog will always seem to do this when it knows that you are sad, as if getting your attention will help. I’m not sure, but I think that dogs do in fact know something that we don’t. I began to scratch his neck absently and somehow it did seem to help. The rhythmic movement involved with paying attention to him rather than focusing on my own problems, and seemed slowly to bring me back into the room.

We know about Angela,” Phillip said. “She stopped by to say good-bye to Lorelei and myself before she left this morning.”

Well that’s more than she did with me,” I replied bitterly. “I did get a lovely note however.” I knew it wasn’t fair as it came out of my mouth, but I was hurt and wasn’t much interested in fair at the moment.


Sean,” he sighed, “You have no idea how hard bringing this all up again has been for her. The pressure of the campaign and the hounding of the reporters just finally got to her more than she ever thought that it could. Sean, you must know better than anyone that she has never really gotten over her father’s death.”

I know. I know all that. I just thought that it would be easier for her to deal with if we did it together. I thought that’s what you do when you’re in love with someone. I know that it’s tough on her and I know that I should understand, but it’s tough on me too and I’m not sure that I really do understand. Things are going to hell around here, and I need her as much as I think that she needs me. Why doesn’t she understand that?”

Maybe she does, or at least she will sometime soon,” Lorelei replied, stepping in. “But whatever she does, you need to accept it. That’s love too.”

I know, I know. I’m being a self-centered baby about this. I know that I need to grow up. I need to understand her feelings, to ‘leave the cage door open so that the bird can return’, and to be understanding of her situation. It’s just that I am having a little bit of a problem being a good guy right now folks. As much as I want to do all of the right things here, I have to tell you that all I really want to do right now is go back to my bed and pull the covers over my head until this all ends.”

I can understand that Sean, and goodness knows that I have had my share of times when I wanted to do the same, and did,” Phillip put in. “I also know that hasn’t done any good. I know that I haven’t been much good to the campaign lately either, but that has to change for both of us. So here is what you and I are going to do. You are going to go back to your room and pack a bag. With the way that we are short-staffed we need you to go out on the campaign trail and help turn this thing around. Don’t worry about directing the staff here at the Manor. I will take over again here and do what I can to hold the troops together.


I am also going to break with tradition to some degree and send Lorelei out to speak to the people, and I need you to help and assist her in as many ways as you can. Katie has set up an eight-city swing of speeches for the two of you to make. At each of these cities, one of you will need to speak to a group of people (probably Lorelei), and will need to be persuasive. The other will need to work with our local staffs of volunteers to keep their spirits up.

Sean, this trouble that we are going through is Randall’s work, plain and simple. He thinks to be able to defeat us by separating us from the strength that we hold as a group. I know that I too have been discouraged recently; enough so that I thought to abandon the goal that we had set for ourselves. But I know now that I was wrong to think this way. We are strong together because we are each strong. It is that strength, which we have all recognized and counted on in the past that has seen us through, and to which we must return to and build upon. Far too often, evil in the world wins not because it is stronger, but because good loses hope. We must choose not to lose that hope while even one of us survives, nor can we surrender to the evil of our enemy without at least fighting the battle.”

'This was pretty powerful stuff,' I thought as I listened to him speak. Was it bullshit? There was certainly that chance that it was, but underneath there was a ring of truth to it as well. Was it inspirational bullshit regardless? Definitely!

OK, my prince,” I replied standing, and striking hand to chest in that classic gladiator salute and with a rather weak smile making an appearance. “I shall take up sword and armor and do battle with the evil forces that stand before us. I shall ride off in quest to slay the dragon plaguing our land, though it cost me my very life in hopes again of winning the fair damsel.”

Good Sean,” he said. “I knew that I could always count on you, and maybe some day, I’ll be able to properly reward you for all of this. In the meantime, I can only say thank you. Everything will be ready when you are. But Sean, before you go, could you tell me one thing please. What’s a dragon?”

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