While the morning weather outlook had been grim as I lay in my room (causing me to think evil thoughts about the consistency of my luck), filled with clouds and the threat of rain; all of that cleared away as the day progressed, and my attitude about life in general and luck in particular improved as with it. The day’s early clouds in fact, appeared to be a blessing for us, as they kept the heat at midday from developing. When a light breeze began to clear the clouds away late that afternoon, and then remained, I knew that we were going to have a perfect evening. (At least as far as the weather was concerned.)
The crowds of onlookers had begun arriving early that morning (not entirely unexpected on my part), not knowing what was going to happen, when it would happen, or what it would look like; but wanting in some way to be some part of it. Before I isolated myself in my room to mentally wrestle with the evening’s potentials, I sought out the staff to see what might be done for the growing throng. I had begun to become quite concerned, first of all for their safety, and later for their comfort while they waited for something to happen. While I knew that some might have come prepared for the potentially long wait, the majority of them would not have. I therefore saw to it that some kind of food and beverages be set up and served to the growing crowd as morning made its way through lunch. It seemed a simple enough kindness after all, for all of these who were to be our decorative backdrop for the evening. It only occurred to me a bit later in the day to worry about the sanitary arrangements such a crowd might require during the day. I raced out of my room, trying to find someone to explain my latest concern to, while trying to describe the concept of the Port-O-Potty without any apparent success (though I think that my attempts at doing so provided a great deal of amusement behind my back however). Andy, who had come out to do something or other with the press arrangements, finally saved me from further futility and embarrassment where this situation was concerned. He pulled me aside and explained with only a slightly controlled snickering that outdoor events were often held at the manor, even if they were not exactly like this one. The manor was built to handle such things, and was well equipped with facilities out of doors that the crowd had already been utilizing. He instead wanted to speak to me again about the whole concept of this ‘Red Carpet’ thing, and about how the press access should work.
“My suggestion,” I said, “is that you have the press treat this as a combination movie premiere and award banquet for the celebrities involved. The press should be encouraged to spread out along the length of the carpet, so as to be able to best get any photographs that they might want. In the interview areas, they should be encouraged to ask about the clothes that the guests are wearing, the work that they are currently doing, and anything else that our guests would like to promote. The questions and the conversation should be kept as light and general as possible.
Those in the press and newsreels who you think will give us the best coverage should also be encouraged to ask questions about the celebrities’ relationship with Phillip and any feelings that they might want to share. I’m sure that Katie knows who those people are, and how to best use them. Paul and Melissa have been working with Katie and her staff to prep some of these people on the questions that they might be asked and the way that we would hope that they would be answered; and they should be steered into such questions if at all possible.”
The whole thing made me laugh really. I have always thought that such events were shameless promotion of both the celebrity and the interviewers, and the height of fraud. People wearing rented clothes and rented jewelry to try and appear even more glamorous than their jobs and lifestyles had already made them, would walk down our carpet and stop to pose for pictures and interviews. The onlookers would gawk and gasp and fantasize about either being or being seen in the company of these great and glamorous folk, with no real thought to the consequences.
They would see only the collection of perfection in face, form, and garb; not realizing the torture that these people had gone through, both physically and emotionally to look that way before getting there. Now, when these people had finally reached the level of success that they had always dreamed of, they were forced to submit themselves to the endless personal scrutiny and loss of privacy that were the badge of such success. I wondered how many of those onlookers realized that those that they idolized were just regular people, whose talent (or luck) in their chosen profession had somehow elevated them beyond the ordinary. I wondered if those who had been elevated to this prison of celebrity had as much trouble dealing with it all as those in my own world. I wondered if I could get my picture taken with one or two of the really famous, important, or particularly glamorous ones; or at least maybe get a couple of great autographs.
I would have loved to hang around the Red Carpet for a while myself, just to see how it was going to go; but in the heat of in seeing to the comfort of the throngs gathering outside I had yet to clean myself up and change into my own party clothes for the event. Completing my second shower and shave for the day, I took stock of the finery arrayed before me for tonight’s event. It was rented of course, as I would have little need here for formal clothing beyond this evening.
I always liked the idea of owning a tuxedo in my world and had done so for a while as a young man. I didn’t get a chance to wear it all that often, though I looked for any excuse at all. Formal clothing can set the man, as well as the evening apart and such things should be attempted whenever possible. The shine wore off for me though, as age and an increasing waistline taught me that while I had long since grown up, I was still not too old to grow out of clothes.
Their idea of formal clothing here was little different from ours, with a shiny black jacket and pants, along with a white shirt. I was pleased to see that a vest was supplied instead of the cummerbund that seemed to be popular for a while in formal dress. I was never really happy with the style or the look, and was grateful that it was one less thing that I would need to deal with. There was no tie, bow or otherwise that came with this ensemble, so I buttoned the shirt all the way up, noting that the shirt fit properly and comfortably and that doing so would not cut off the circulation to my brain (no jokes, please).
Choosing comfort over style again, I fell back on my own dress shoes (after a good shining, of course), along with the some of the socks that I had purchased in my earlier shopping. While these shoes would not be a perfect match for the evening’s formal attire, they would probably pass muster in a dark, outdoor environment. Feeling now refreshed by the shower, and properly attired for the evening’s festivities, I made my way out to see how things were progressing.
The sun was just beginning to reach the tops of the trees by the time I found my way out to our Red Carpet, and I was pleased to see a steady parade of well-dressed figures making their way down it. Couples often stopped for what appeared to be photographs or interviews; and I was also pleased to see that more than a few of our guests were stopping simply to shake hands with the crowd. The touch of a bit of stardom is all that most regular people wanted from this evening, and I was glad to see that some of them were getting it. The evening had other purposes for me however, so I tore myself away from the welcome area without further regard for the glitterati displayed, and made my way down to the field.
Late afternoon daylight still filled the field, and the crowd was already beginning to grow. The smell of the flowers was slightly intoxicating, but no more so than the aromas coming from the food being served as I approached one of the serving areas scattered around for convenience. In a land that seemed to live by the buffet dinner, such events as this were tailor made. There were already a few couples on the dance floor taking advantage of the marvelous music being performed, though most of the crowd seemed to be gathered in small groups of conversation. I looked for anyone that I knew, and after a short time, was able to spot Paul with a small group of people.
“Well sir,” I commented as I sized him up in his formal finery. “Now I understand the stories that I have heard about what a manly man you truly are.”
“You shouldn’t believe everything that Melissa tells you,” he replied smiling. “She’s merely trying to get me married off so that she can give up trying to take care of me any more.”
“Actually, she was the only woman who seemed to disagree with that evaluation. Is that because she knows you too well, or because she's actually related to you?”
“That’s a dirty lie, and you know it,” Melissa interrupted, suddenly appearing at his side with a peck on his cheek and throwing an arm around him. “Very few women find him vaguely attractive, let alone handsome or manly. I only admit to being related to him out of sympathy, and with the hope of furthering my own career at his expense; and he’s failed even at that simple task.”
“Too true, too true,” he replied with a fawned shake of his head. “On the other hand Sean, one look at her in that dress and its obvious why I admit to being related to her. She could make a good dog break its leash.”
“Gallantry, and a healthy does of self-preservation, prevents me from commenting on another man's sisters in his presence,” I grinned. “That goes double when I not only agree with adulation accorded, but find such comments only faint praise.”
“Thank you kind sir,” she said, inclining her head in acknowledgment. “If I didn’t know you were taken, and this lump of a brother wasn’t around, I might consider making you prove your intentions.”
The shadow that must have touched my face at the mention, even indirectly, of Angela and her absence brought her hand to my arm in support. I smiled quickly to cover my feelings and patted her hand to acknowledge the apology, but wasn’t sure if I had carried it off as well as I would have liked. To cover the whole thing up, I stopped one of the roving waiters and gathered three glasses of wine to break the moment. We toasted silently to Phillip, the cause, and the evening; and the smiles slowly came back.
“Have you seen any of the rest our gang yet this evening?” I asked.
“We saw Katie and Andy scampering about up and down the Red Carpet as we made our entrance,” Melissa replied. “That’s a wonderful idea, by the way. I don’t know how the guys feel about it of course, but all of my fellow actresses adored the chance to show off their outfits. I hope you don’t mind if we steal it for some of the other events that we have in our industry.”
“No, by all means steal it.” (How could I mind when the truth of the matter is that I stole it myself?) “You might want to warn them though, that this path to glory will also eventually lead to excess.”
“I won’t ask you to explain that,” she said.
“I am eternally grateful for your forbearance. I will ask you to excuse me however, as I would like to take some time walk around and scout the room, as it were,” and with a handshake from Paul and a quick hug from Melissa, I began to make my way around the field.
The sun had passed fully into the tops of the trees as I was speaking to Paul and Melissa, and as I began to make my way around the field, the lights that had been hung in the lower branches of the trees were beginning to glow softly to make up the difference in ambient light. Knowing that the effect was part of the magical nature of the lighting that Lorelei had set up for the evening took nothing away from it. The effect was everything that I could have hoped for, softly lighting the faces of the people gathered below without becoming overwhelming. The additional lighting on the tables made it possible for anyone who chose to sit and eat to do so without the necessity of guessing what they were placing in their mouths.
I always hated dimly lit eating areas, as it always made me feel that the chef was covering up the fact that the food that he was serving didn’t look very good, or that maybe, if you couldn’t see it, it would taste better. Such lighting also meant that I usually couldn’t see my escort very well, and I thought that this was an affront to my ability in choosing a dinner companion. On the other hand, it probably meant that the appetite of said dining companion was vastly improved by not being able to see me very well. Invariably, I found that my choice of companions usually far exceeded my choice of eating establishments. For those of you who run such establishments and are paying attention, I say: Let there be light!
I found that watching others eat had made me somewhat hungry, so I managed to get some of the food myself as I made my inspection tour. I limited this feeding to a quick nibble, in spite of the fact that everything that I tasted was incredible. It wasn’t that I wasn’t tempted, but only that I didn’t want to sit down, and needed one free hand at least (for shaking hands during introductions). Even with the wine glass holders on the plates to ease the situation somewhat (this has to have been one of the greatest inventions in the history of mankind, by the way), I felt uncomfortable trying to eat, drink, and work the room (field) at the same time.
I didn’t know what I expected the conversations to be about as I eavesdropped my way around the area, but they seemed pretty mundane for the most part. Who was doing what work? Who was seeing or sleeping whom? Who was a great person or a jerk to work with? Who looked really great or absolutely terrible this evening? It seemed the same kind of stuff that those of us who were not celebrities often talked about at such gatherings. Oh sure, there was the odd bit of deal making going on as well. Who could expect anything less when the business people of the movies got together with the people who are the art of the movies? These were just people though, with the same strengths and flaws as the rest of us.
I was pleased however, that as the evening progressed, more and more of the conversation turned to the coming election and how everyone thought things were shaping up. There was not a lot of general sympathy for Christy here, though that would be expected with this being an invitation-only event. There was a lot of good feeling about Phillip and his father Simon expressed in these conversations, and that's what I was hoping to be able to build upon as the evening and the rest of the campaign progressed. Someone else had obviously been reading the audience as well, as I noticed that the band seemed to be preparing for a break. Paul had taken the stage, with Melissa at his side, and began to speak softly as the band left the stage.
“Good evening everyone, and thanks for coming out to join us this evening,” he began and the general murmur of the crowd began to quiet. “I hope that everyone is enjoying themselves?” he asked, gaining a short, but spirited response. “We are the Citizens Against Non-functional Negativity in Election Situations, a part of the PAC for Phillip, and we’re pleased that all of you were able to join us tonight in support of this cause. I know that the name is a bit of a mouthful, but we at CANNES have asked all of you to gather together here this evening to, other than have a good time, talk about something that we think is pretty important. No I not sure that's right, maybe it's exactly about the good time that we're having tonight that is the point of gathering together.
For many years, Phillip’s father, Simon, ruled us well and wisely. In that time, we saw as much prosperity and freedom as our people have ever known in any part of their history. Our children grew up well educated, healthy, and happy. Our economy continued to grow in every way. Our people were at peace. Now I won’t try to tell you that all of that was because of Simon and the wise way that he ruled us, but I think that all of you know how good a man he was, and how good a job that he did; and like many here I'm sure, I can't help but think that his rule had something to do with that. Now Simon is gone, and aside from mourning his loss, we are now asked to choose the next person to rule us, or more exactly who will not rule us.
Had things gone the way that they always have, we would have chosen between his two sons, Arturo and Phillip. They were good men both and worthy of our consideration, but times change. If these two brothers had run against each other, we would probably be asking ourselves who was least like his father, with the other brother to hopefully continue the wise rule that have led to this happiness and prosperity; but again, times change. We probably would have heard each of these brothers, much as they loved each other; saying that the other was not as much like Simon or perhaps was not as able as Simon had been, but times change. Now we see instead of brother against brother, cousin against cousin, and because of this we know that in fact times have changed indeed.
If that’s true, and it’s what must be, why not then look for even more change? Why not change the way we think about think about the candidates? Why not avoid getting caught up in how bad one man is? Why not instead, get caught up in how good one man is and could be for Macundo? We at CANNES think that it's far past time that we did just that!”
There had been a smattering of applause at a couple of moments by this point of the speech, but mostly I saw questioning looks as Paul’s words began to sink in. This was a pretty radical concept for a people who had been doing things the same way for quite some time. This may not have been the brightest crowd, but I was pleased to note that there were at least a number of nodding heads throughout, giving some indication that the remarks were getting through.
“We think that it isn’t enough to be against something and never has been. We think that to do the right thing in life, you have to be for something!” (There was more applause now, and I knew that our idea might have begun to take on a life of its own.) “And we think,” Paul said, settling the crowd down a bit here, “that if you wanted to be for something in this election, that there couldn’t be anything better to be for than the family of the man who led us through so many years of greatness,” (some cheers now) “the family of the man who led us through so many years of justice,” (growing now) “the family of the man who led us to so many years of happiness and prosperity!” (It seemed that they had all taken up the call) “We think that if you want and need to be for something in all of this, it should be for the family of that very special man. You should be for the family of Simon, and his sons Arturo and Phillip!”
The crowd was on its feet cheering, and I must admit that I was a little moved myself, in spite of the fact that I had helped to write Paul’s speech. There is something about truth that in the end must move anyone who doesn’t have a heart of stone. Paul stood with Melissa silently now; their hands clasped and raised to draw out the cheers for a minute, then quieted the crowd with a gesture.
“You are going to hear much more on this from a number of people as this evening goes on, and we want you to listen closely to this rather new idea, one that we think should be rather important in the times that we're currently facing; but there’s plenty of time for that. Let’s remember that this is after all, a party. Let’s all have a good time!”
As he and Melissa stepped down to returning applause, the band kicked back into gear. You could sense a change in the buzz around the room. It began slowly to be sure, but the speech had worked its magic, more of the conversations in the smaller groups turned into questions about how things were done. Why did this whole election process have to be so negative? Why couldn’t it be about what people were for, instead of what they were against? Hadn’t Simon done a great job, and why shouldn’t it be his son that followed in his father’s footsteps? What right had Christy’s family to even challenge for the throne? It was the kind of a start that we were hoping for, but there was no telling whether the rest of the evening would come off as we hoped.
I know that this idea seems hopeless naïve to anyone here, but remember that it wasn't that long ago in this country's history that the decision process involved killing off a certain percentage of the electorate. Appealing to altruistic motives that call on the natural feelings of self-preservation can be rather attractive to such people.
My half-baked idea was trying to change the momentum of an awful lot of history. For any of you that might have ever contemplated such a task, such a thing is a usually nearly impossible, and often a suicidal endeavor on the part of those contemplating it. I was feeling far from suicidal at the moment, but admit to feeling uncomfortable none the less. Then it occurred to me that the problem might be that doing the impossible (or at least believing that you capable of doing so) usually requires the assimilation of adult beverages. Now I couldn’t afford to get stinking drunk certainly, but there was nothing to prevent me from trying to enjoy myself as well. I therefore decided to allow myself the comfort of another glass of wine. I had just ordered one from one of the areas set aside for this purpose when I felt a tug on my elbow.
“Is this great or what?” Katie gushed, her face flushed with excitement. “I have to tell you Sean, that I didn’t give this idea of yours much credit at the start, but everyone seems to be eating it up. The press has had a field day with this gang as they came in, and I don’t think that we will have any trouble finding ourselves on the front page of every newspaper in the country tomorrow. Congratulations.”
“Madam, I will take no credit or blame for anything that happens this evening, unless it serves our purpose,” I replied with a smile. “Besides, I may have come up with the idea, but it's you and Andy that are making it a reality. I am simply pleased that you are pleased. If it all goes over as well as the speech that you put together for Paul, we will all be able to be proud and happy before the night is over.”
“OK, go ahead and be a spoil sport if you want to, but this is going to work. I can just feel it.”
“I do not doubt it dear lady. I’m just wondering if it will be enough. We are getting so darn close to the election and something just keeps nagging at me even with all that is going on here. It seems as though there is something else that we should be doing and I just can’t think of what it is.”
“Don’t worry pal. It will come to you eventually. Listen, I want to get over near the stage and prep our next speaker. I just wanted to catch you for a minute before the evening got away from us.”
“You do that,” I said. “I would in fact appreciate it if you would please go off and get things done like you are supposed be, and let an old guy rest for a little while.”
Her laughter as she left me left a nagging suspicion with me that I had again been had in the conversation, but I refused to be baited. I accepted the glass that I was given and moved quietly of to one of the tables on the edge field. The table was currently empty and a bit away from the crowd. I needed and wanted a little time to myself to think. (Not drink, think, and for shame that you should be thinking such a thing.) I sat quietly, enjoying the mood of the music, broken by the occasional speeches and what seemed to be an enthusiastic reception, when I felt a nudge at my side. It was Arturo, and I moved quickly to give him the quick scratching that always seemed to pass for a greeting between us.
“Sean,” he said. “You’ve done a wonderful thing here. Oh I don’t mean the party, though I believe that it was a brilliant move strategically and politically. I mean getting everyone to think about a campaign as a positive thing instead of a negative one. I've always thought that this whole process was fundamentally flawed by the negative atmosphere that it encouraged, going all the way back to when the campaign was literally fought. Sure, that’s the way that it was supposed to be done according to the rules of the past, but what does it say about a society that they aren’t for something, only against?”
“Arturo, I would love to be able to agree with you, but in politics, like religion, being against something is always much easier. It may not be the right thing to do, but it is much less confusing to people than figuring out what they are for. If you ask someone what they like, they often have difficult answering in anything but negatives. I like not being poor. I like not being hungry or homeless. I like it when things don’t hurt. I like it when people don’t hate me. Mostly what people know is that they don’t want to bad things to happen. Human beings seem to often define their positives in terms of a negative. Those who actually know what they want in a positive way either want to do what they say we should all be doing or get crucified either literally or figuratively for telling that first group that they are wrong.”
“Oh sure,” Arturo replied, apparently missing the religious reference from my own world or simply ignoring it. “People are usually pretty screwed up when it comes to what they want, but deep down inside, they know. It’s just that they get confused when somebody finally gets around to asking them an important question. Maybe it’s because most of the time, they are never trusted to give the answer some want to hear. The world in general, and governments in particular take all of the important decisions out of their hands for fear that they won’t agree with what the government wants or is prepared to give. Eventually even the people themselves begin to think that they aren’t capable of making such decisions for themselves. The most fundamental of these questions therefore never gets a chance to surface for public consideration. Good people do like it though, when they are trusted to make their own decisions. That’s why people like the concept of freedom.”
“They like the concept,” replied, “It’s the reality of freedom and the attendant responsibilities that go with it that they always seem to have difficulty with. You sound like a philosopher or a poet my friend. There’s only one way to cure that,” I said as I made my way back to the bar. “Let me get you a drink,”
“No thanks,” came his reply. “Much as I would like to sit and enjoy a glass with you, I don’t have the body weight that I used to, and that means that I just can’t drink the way that I used to. I’ll just move on and check out the crowd. Nobody notices you when you’re down here.”
“I’ll keep your relatively altitude in mind for future reference,” I said. “Though I hardly expect that I would go equally unnoticed if I were to imitate it.” It then occurred to be to ask about the body weight reference, only to find that posing such a question would be difficult, as he had already trotted away. I wondered what the lot of a talking dog might be in this world, but quickly realized that such flights of philosophic fancy were too much for an evening already too crowded with things to think about and do. Such a topic would be better left for another day.
The band had taken a break, and our friends were back pushing the issues with a positive spin again. I had worked on a number of these speeches through the week and had begun to lose track of them, to the extent that I didn’t know if this was one that I had contributed on or not. It was enough like many of the ones that I had worked on though, so that I didn’t have to listen too intently. The message was going out efficiently, and I was part of the choir and needed no additional preaching. I had accepted my third glass of wine in as many hours of the evening when my elbow felt a tug again.
“Katie,” I started, turning and rising. “You’re doing a great job, you don’t need me to…” Then I realized that it wasn’t Katie that I was facing, it was Angela.
“That’s the problem Sean,” she said. “I do need you.”
A million things ran through my head in the space of an instant. I know that I should have been resentful for her having left me. I know that I should have been angry with her for the way that she had done it. I know that I should have been both angry and resentful for having been left with a note instead of a face-to-face departure. I knew a hundred other things that should have been running through my head at the time. As I have already mentioned however, I am wired a little funny. I settled for taking her into my arms and kissing her.
“You certainly know how to say hello. Or are you trying to tell me that you forgive me,” she said pulling back with a smile.
“Hello. Yes I do. Both. How have you been? How are you doing? Where have you been? There’s nothing to forgive, and a hundred other things that I just can’t think of right now. Then again, forget all of the questions that I just asked,” and I kissed her again. At some point we separated slightly to permit breathing again.
“I missed you too, and I do apologize Sean. The way that I left you was unforgivable, but I just couldn’t see past my own problems at the time. I guess what I realized was that even with the passing of the years, that I had never gotten over my father’s death. Oh sure, I mourned him at the time of his death; but with the trial, the election scandal, and the fact that they never found out who had killed him; I just never was able to put the whole thing behind me the way that I should have. With everything that was starting to go on around here, the past became not only real, but too real for me to deal with. I didn’t know whether to run, fight, or both in the end; and maybe I still don’t. Whatever it is that I decide to do though, I want to be doing it here with you.”
“Well young lady,” I grinned, trying to pull her even closer again. “I knew that I could always count on your sound judgment. In that case, your apology is not only unnecessary, but accepted; as is your current plan.”
“Good”, she replied, “then maybe you can explain to a girl's how her boyfriend fails to send her invitation to the party he throws.”
To say that everything going on around me for the next bit of time was irrelevant would be a tremendous understatement. Angela and I moved back to the table that I had recently left and sat quietly where I had hidden myself off to the side, mostly just looking at each other and holding hands. I know that that at some point I did manage to answer some questions about the campaign that she asked, so as to bring her back up to speed; but I can’t say that I remember any of the specific questions, or my answers. I might have remained in that daze for the entire evening if Angela hadn’t squeezed my hand and nodded towards the stage. Phillip had joined Lorelei, she having just introduced him evidently, and they stood together smiling at center stage (to what was a considerable ovation).
“Thank you everyone,” he began so softly that his voice barely carried to us. “I can’t tell you how happy that I am, not just to see all you out there having such a wonderful time, but to see and hear the spirit that has been exhibited this evening. When I listen to the sentiments that have been so enthusiastically and fervently expressed here this evening, it makes me sorry that we don’t get together to celebrate the good fortune that we have much more often. And that is what this is in the end, a celebration of our good fortune. We have lived for so long, under such a stable form of government that I think we sometimes forget how good things really are here. A number of people have stood before you tonight and spoken about how good our lives in general are. I think that far too often we might be taking all of that for granted. It's at times like this one, when we can all gather together to celebrate with friends, that I for one realize how blessed we are to be living in this time in history and this place.
It's only that the fact that such an occasion has come in the middle of what we call an election that takes anything away from that celebration, and it shouldn’t. An election should be a time when we celebrate the peace and freedoms that we have, most especially the freedom to decide the course of our own future. It's because that choosing is so important, that at times like this we should not be talking about how bad something or someone else is, but instead talking about how good things are in Macundo and how to keep it that way.
We shouldn't be calling each other names, but congratulating ourselves for managing to be lucky enough to be a part of this world, and calling on everyone to be the best that they can. We shouldn't be arguing about how badly someone else might run the government and guide that future, but arguing instead about what we ourselves can do to make things even better still. Let’s take a moment here and now, to take up that promise and that responsibility, not just to Macundo, but also to each other. Let's all strive not to be caught up in what has been less than perfect in our past. Let’s strive to move past the negativity and the mudslinging of the old ways. Let's look forward to the ways in which we can be positive about ourselves, our country, and our future; but not just because it's been that way for a while, but because we've done all that we can to insure that prosperity for ourselves and our children.
Well ladies and gentlemen, as well as hopefully having a good time, you’ve probably had enough to think about tonight to shock you. But before I leave you tonight, let me leave you with this. In the time that is left to me before the election; I intend to change the past and look to the future. Everything that's said and done by me and mine will be positive. If you hear me question anything, it will be how we can move forward and not look back. If you hear me talk about someone, it will be about the kind of leader that I think that everyone wants and needs. If you hear anything debated by this campaign, it will be the issues that we must take up to make this country the place that we all know it can be and should be. As we end this night, let us look forward into a new day of freedom, happiness, and prosperity. Bless you all this evening, and bless Macundo!”
That Phillip had brought the crowd to its feet cheering was not a surprise. After all, a good political speech (and Katie’s team had done their job) is not only designed, but counted on to exactly that. That I was the only one there who was still sitting may have been the only surprise; one thankfully unnoticed due to the out-of-the-way place I sat. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the speech and its importance. It certainly wasn’t that I didn’t agree with the sentiment. It was that the idea that had been hanging around in the back of my head for the last couple of days had finally decided to put in an appearance somewhere near the front. I wasn’t ready to say anything just yet, because I wasn’t sure if this was really an idea, or just a some wildly idiotic notion that might be trying to take control of my normally dysfunctional brain. Besides, I didn’t know if it was even possible to do the thing that I was thinking of.
The band was playing again, but the adrenaline level at the party had jumped significantly. The crowd was pumped up and feeding on itself and my guess was that this party would be going on for some time. I hoped for the local studios sake that none of our movie people had early calls for the morning, because I didn’t think that they would be worth much of a damn if they did. Andy, Arturo, Katie, Melissa, and Paul had discovered us (I suspected Arturo in this) and joined us at our little out of the way table. Not unexpectedly, everyone was crowded around Angela. They were all hugging and trying to talk at once. Arturo was hopping up and down trying to get the attention of anyone who would listen. It was only after some extended period of hugs, handshakes, backslapping, and rushed conversation filled with self-congratulation that anyone even noticed me.
“What’s the matter with laughing boy? Katie finally asked, seeing the look on my face. “Is he drunk, or just surprised that any woman would bother to come back to him?”
“I am not drunk,” I replied, finally looking up. “Neither am I surprised that this beautiful woman has finally realized that she cannot do without me. After all, resistance is futile.” None of them got the Star Trek reference that I thought was pretty clever, but I didn’t care, I had been dying to use the line since the first time I had heard it. Opportunities like that didn’t come around every day. “It’s just that I have an idea that I would like to share with the group that I think deserves some serious consideration.”
“If Sean believes that he has an idea that deserves serious consideration,” Arturo put in, “then he must be drunk.”
“I’ll remember that sir, the next time you’re looking for someone to scratch your ears.”
“You keep throwing out that threat sir, but I don’t believe for one minute that you are serious. I acknowledge it’s apparent seriousness however,” he replied with a sheepish (dogish?) grin.
“Now, if we can get back to what I was saying,” I continued. We are now committed, both by our own decisions and that of our leader, to the running of a positive campaign. He talked about opening a discussion about the kind of leader that this country wants and needs. He talked about opening a debate on the issues.”
“We know Sean,” Katie said. “We all knew what the speech was going to say before he gave it. After all, we wrote it.”
“I know, I know. What I’m talking about here is the last of those items, a debate.”
“What do you mean a debate?” she continued.
“I mean a political debate. In my world, when a big election comes along, very often the candidates will meet in the same place. They will take questions from a panel of reporters or political scholars and answer them. They will give their opponent a chance to rebut those answers. They will make statements about what they believe in, and what they think should be done by the government in the future for the benefit of the people.
I think that we ought to ask Phillip to have such a debate with Christy. I think that if he agrees, we should find a way to make sure that it happens. Now our boy Christy, and certainly his father, are not going to want to do any such thing if they have half a brain. We are therefore going to need to force Christy into being a part of such an event by any and all forms of embarrassment and humiliation necessary. When all of that is done, I think that we should schedule this debate for 48-72 hours before the election. That way, the last thing that any newsreel will be able to show, the last thing that any reporter will be able to write about; will be the debate. I can’t help but believe that if you put our guy and Christy in the same room at the same time, we will look good.”
“If Sean is drunk,” Andy put in, “I want a double of whatever he’s drinking.”
“Sean,” Katie put in. “Don’t get me wrong, any strategy that gives me a chance to cause anxiety, embarrassment, and humiliation to Christy and his dad are alright in my book. Do you realize though, that you want to ask Phillip and Christy not only to come out the traditional hiding of the candidates, but to meet with reporters right before the election? Don’t you think that any of this might be a little dangerous to our efforts?”
“Katie, Phillip already came out of hiding tonight. We have nothing left to hide any more. If we're going to be out, we want the other guy out there too. In the long run, it is probably more likely to be dangerous to the bad guys than to us. We’ve already admitted that we were doing a lousy job of playing by the other guy’s rules. If we’re going to change the rules, we might as well try to change all of them at once. It may be the only real chance that we have.”
“OK then, if you really think that this has a hope in hell of succeeding, then I'm in,” Katie said. “I think that it would be fair to say it’s too late in the evening to get started on anything of this complexity this late in the evening though. Besides, I want to do some thinking about this before we all sit down and talk next anyway. I for one would be grateful if we could take this up tomorrow in the morning meeting. In the meantime, it's a party. Now that the work of the evening is over, I say that we try, for a short time at least, to enjoy ourselves the way that our boss has told us to.”
I felt a tug on my arm pulling me up out of the chair. I was about to object when I realized that it was Angela. “Come on genius. You are going to need your beauty sleep if you expect to be both brilliant and convincing tomorrow morning.”
“Madame, I am fit as a fiddle and not the least bit sleepy,” I replied, allowing her to guide me away from the crowded party.
“Good,” she replied with what I now perceived as an evil grin in the light remaining from the party as we strolled back towards the Manor, “because it is my considered opinion that you won't be getting much sleep tonight anyway.”