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Tomorrow they decide: Election fiction
Election fiction by Frank Peters, West Hollywood, California
A small spasm, tension no doubt. His upper lip quivered. That long Irish upper lip which made him appear solemn, pensive and which he privately believed gave him an air of paternal concern. After all, in politics, perception is often everything. Even when it is self-serving.
He had promised himself a good night’s sleep before the election. He wanted to be rested when he went to the polling place in the morning. The press would be there. Reporters chattering with their inane questions. Cameras, stripping away every pretense, invading his morning, requiring that plastic smile he had long ago mastered. A few close allies had promised to be there as he cast his ballot. Without sleep he knew he would look wan and tired and he would not be as sharp as he should be.
Perhaps some warm milk with a shot of brandy might relax him enough to be able to sleep. It was already after eleven and he needed at least six hours of rest. In the meticulously appointed bachelor kitchen he found everything to prepare the potion. He hoped it would ease him into the caress of sleep.
He returned to the living room, and sat heavily into his favorite chair thinking that even if he fell asleep there it would be better than no sleep at all. He sipped the warm milk, the tang of the brandy announcing that it was ready to bring him respite from his thoughts.
The cat who shared his otherwise solitary existence silently appeared, rubbing against his legs. He reached down and pulled the purring creature onto his lap. The cat would also soothe him with its gentle and affectionate presence.
But, a respite would evade him. The toddy, the feline attention - none of it was working. His mind raced on like a microfiche machine, displaying images more rapidly than he could properly evaluate. Faces, scenes, crowds, flashing lights, murmurs of unintelligible voices - all played on the screen of his mind. All those years compressed into just a few moments of memories. He shuddered. The cold feeling of regret for things undone, friends discarded, compromises he hated – all these were elements of his unwanted reverie.The warm milk had failed to do its work and he was now more awake than before.
This is not good, he thought. He stood abruptly and the startled cat scurried from his lap. He began to pace from the living room into the kitchen and back. He noticed that his palms were sweaty when he placed the empty mug on the counter-top. What if this is my last term? What will I do if I’m turned out? His breathing was quick and shallow and his heart gave a start when those thoughts came into his mind. What the hell is happening? he asked himself out loud. The sound of his own voice made him stop the pacing and he took a deep breath to recover his equilibrium. This was one of the very few times he wished he did not live alone. Another human could have brought him back to a calmer state of mind.
This pre-election period had been a particularly contentious time. Contenders for his seat had resorted to tactics which had been out of place for so many years in this tight little city, his nearly private venue. They said I was too isolated, that I was not aware of thee changes going on around me. They said I forgot my mandate, the original plan for the city Were they right? he asked aloud.
Is it possible that my intentions for the well-being, for the future of the city - what the hell! I really don’t have any doubts about my actions. I followed the dream that propelled me into politics here in the first place. I did it! I was steadfast and single-minded and made things work. They have no right to impugn my motives when the results speak for themselves, remembering some of the more vicious comments and charges made against him. Don’t they realize what I’ve done for them? Why do I have to go through this agony every three years? Ungrateful….
He quickly went back to his chair and turned on the television. A late night movie, perhaps. Something stupid and dull might be the proper soporific, might settle me down.
Turner Classic Movies was showing All The Kings Men. Bad choice. And his thoughts once more began to reel out of control.
This could be it, he surmised. Those loud, obnoxious people could take me down this time. Time? What time is it? The clock on the table showed in bright LED numerals that it was now two-fifteen in the morning. He stood up. His pajamas felt tight, heavy and uncomfortable. He found it difficult to hold his focus on any specific object in the room and the clock figures appeared indistinct, fuzzy. The silence caused by turning off the television now became so much white noise, with occasional increases like waves crashing onto a shore. He felt dizzy, and unable to hold a thought for more than a second.
Shower. I’ll have a shower. Cold water. Well, maybe cool water - that would help. I’m not going to get any sleep, I know it. But I cannot stay in this state any longer. I need to get a grip on myself.
He had never before taken a cold shower, thus he started with a comfortable temperature and felt he could slowly work down to a cool setting which would wake him up to prepare for the day. He was quite timid and did not get past a pleasant, warm setting. Instead of causing exhilaration, the spray relaxed his body and reduced the turmoil in his head and he barely made it to his bed where, still wet from the shower, he passed out.
God, my head hurts. It’s morning. Morning! What time? Ringing. My head! What is that ringing? Ringing? My phone! Find the phone! Here. Hello? Jimmy? What time is it? Oh no, that late? Of course I’ll be there. Actually, could you come and pick me up? Yeah. Of course, slept like a baby.