The alarm blared and the Governor’s eyes snapped awake in the darkness. No time to dillydally today. He picked up his phone, swiped upward, and turned off the alert. He lay there for a moment with his thoughts floating . . . floating . . . until they congealed into more solid flashes of the day’s coming events. Truly, he didn’t need his alarm. His assistant, Drew, was more than capable and could handle anything and everything without him. He glided softly across white Egyptian sheets, then buttressed himself on down pillows propped against a mahogany headboard. He clicked the light on the bedside table, put on his glasses, and surveyed the room. This suite was quite pleasant, not luxurious, but acceptable.
An early morning knock at the door brought the breakfast cart, and, with it, the familiar rattle of china, crystal, and silver. The domestic remained suitably silent while she rolled the cart beside him. He lifted the polished silver dome and examined the food: fresh-squeezed orange juice, kopi luwak coffee, fresh, diced fruit, two strips of bacon, a soft-boiled egg, toast, and honey-drizzled semolina pancakes. The domestic poured orange juice and coffee into their respective vessels, placed the luxuries atop a walnut breakfast tray, and served it to him. Once the Governor took the first bite, she replaced the towels and toiletries, turned, and walked out the door, unnoticed.
Like clockwork, Drew knocked on the door and breezed into the room with a leather satchel containing paperwork and a laptop. Of course, he went everywhere with his smart phone. He unloaded the papers on a desk as he spoke into an earpiece,
“Yes . . . the Governor understands. He . . . yes . . . He is aware. I’ll . . . yes . . . I’ll verify his schedule and get back to you. Thank – thank . . . yes . . . Yes, I will . . . Thank you, Senator.”
Drew sat a little over three feet away from the Governor in a Chateau Beauvais armchair. His orchestral fingers “played” the phone like writing a musical manuscript. He looked up with a little smirk.
“Good morning, Governor. I hope you slept well. Having a good breakfast today, Sir?”
“Fine. Get on with it,” he answered.
Drew grinned, arrogant and unflappable. He rose from the chair and peeled back the floor length curtains encompassing the room. A breathtaking view of the city’s brilliant lights was uncovered from the pinnacle. The Governor rolled his eyes. No need to open the drapes at 4:30 in the morning. Drew spoke nonstop as he walked past each window.
“Today, Sir, you have that eight-minute television appearance on QRS-TV, and a 6.5-minute appearance on Media Morning. Both, of course, to discuss your campaign.” He stopped for a moment once he reached the desk. “Questions and information were sent in advance, and are here,” he said, covertly tapping a manila folder. He returned to the curtains and continued the day’s whirlwind agenda,
“No media blitz today, since you have other scheduled events. You have a short meeting at 11:00, a thirty-minute phone conference at 1:15, and around forty-five minutes, give or take a few, for lunch before the first event.” Drew sat at the desk and opened his laptop. He gazed at the screen, and simultaneously juggled papers and SMS.
“About the first event, Sir. You will be speaking at Sellars Labor and Voltage Electric,” he said, casually strolling toward the Governor and offering a printout. “After which, you’ll mingle a little with the workers. Take questions, shake hands. This event lasts approximately one hour. Our second event, Sir, is the town hall we scheduled at 7:00 p.m. We’ll have plenty of time to prepare your answers on possible issues. Several questions have been screened,” he said as he patted the manila folder again. “However, sometimes, as you know, Sir, one or two sneak in with less palatable agendas.” He cocked his head and raised an eyebrow at the Governor.
“Yes. Yes,” the Governor agreed as he moved the breakfast tray.
“Make sure,” grumbled the politician as his feet made their way toward eager slippers, “that I have disinfectant wipes waiting in the limousine after each event. People aren’t very sanitary and the smell . . . lingers.”
“Yes, Sir. I’m texting that request to your driver now.”
“Well, they weren’t waiting for me last time and I was forced to use one of those vulgar facilities. What all must I sign or consider?”
Drew quickly gathered papers and rushed toward the Governor.
“Yes, Sir,” he began, presenting each document as he went along. “Three recommendations from the Labor Department; a proposal to consider from Treasury; two corporate bids; four Legislative Bills to examine; a couple of possible pardons . . . and a partridge in a pear tree.” Drew chuckled as the Governor snatched up the papers, flipped through the pages, and passed them back to him.
“Take them with you on your way out,” he muttered. “I’ll look over everything at the office.”
“Yes, Sir. I’ll be waiting for you in the lobby, Sir,” Drew’s voice drifted out the door.
The Governor poured another cup of coffee and sipped it at the window while he looked down at the city. Suddenly, from such a height, he remembered something he’d heard before about people being compared to ants. Darkness slowly retreated with slices of morning light, and a hazy radiance buffered the city. The light did nothing for the Governor’s muddy aura. His face soured like a bitter pill.
“Not so,” he scoffed, “Ants are industrious without tongues.” He turned and walked toward the shower.
After which, he swagger-bounced toward the desk and picked up the documents. He skimmed but did not read them. He day-dreamed past them – that is, until one set of papers pierced his eye. Disgust smothered his face.
“Damn it,” the Governor muttered. His jaw clenched. Drew purposely neglected to discuss these papers.
Polls. Those damned “necessary” statistics revealed voter opinion and ramped up backing. Thus, he had days like today doing these contemptible events. He loathed them. Each one wearied him, though not with a general fatigue. No, keeping up the façade exhausted him. It was all the low people. He could smell the working class right now: pencil lead and soot, a faint unwashed sweat, and gummy, oiled t-shirts. The aroma was invasive and appalling. His breakfast rose up and gerded in his throat. He closed his eyes and swallowed. He was offering, after all, a kindness. The same kindness that had endured for centuries.
He left his thoughts at the desk and moved toward the closet. He removed his Oxford wool and cashmere suit from the hanger and dressed himself. The fine cotton shirt popped crisp and smart. The tie spoke a stark black. The suit itself wrapped him smoothly in a quasi-camouflage. Amedeo Testoni fit his feet like heaven. A full-length mirror presented what he loved most. He posed, straightened his posture, and tugged on his suit jacket.
His manicured fingers smoothed back his hair and lightly touched his salt and pepper temples. He beamed at his reflection. His thoughts raced through the predictable types of people who come to these events.
They would gaze at him with the usual awestruck plea, a soundless hopeful petition he “could relate to.” Their gimme-gimme eyes and grubby-grubby hands asked for a look and a hand out.
He was tired of hearing about granny’s old house being foreclosed on, and could he please use his connections to help her?
“Humph,” he sounded. “Here’s my advice: Help yourself. Don’t live beyond your means.”
His face somehow broke into appropriate concern when some single mother talked about how she had cancer and couldn’t get insurance and could he please help her find assistance? A grimy baby on her hip, a dirty toddler behind her leg caused him undeniable queasiness. He would placate her with a profound thing or two just in time for him to smoothly slip away.
At the town hall, he could anticipate kissing and holding pasty, slobbering babies. This guy would bullshit with the Governor before telling him “You’ve got my vote.” That woman would flirt her way into telling him she’d vote for him. At one point, some humbled man would approach him, hat in hand, and beg him for a job so his family wouldn’t get put out or starve. The Governor would pretend to listen but his internal monologue would incessantly berate the man. Photos were torture. And selfies. Selfies were downright agony. He always posed with a flawless plastered picture grin. When he shook hands, the scent traveled from hand to arm to nostrils where it lingered like skunk spray. Sometimes, it took three or four days for the after-smell to leave.
He could use a drink. Under normal circumstances, he’d pour himself a scotch on the rocks, even this early in the morning. But this was campaign season and the zealots musn’t smell liquor on his breath, even though they didn’t blink an eye when he invited them to socials. They loved an open bar.
He turned from the mirror and sauntered toward his desk. The manila folder sat like a neon sign atop the dark wood. He grabbed it and stuffed it in his small briefcase. He’d read the contents on the way to QRS-TV. He walked, confident and reserved, toward the door, opened it, and slipped on a masked grin, that century’s kindness, as he crossed the threshold.
**Featured Image from davidherin.org article: “LIE: Christians are sinners saved by grace”