Forgotten Autumn

by Kenneth Lowe


It got so desperate, and the polls so close (and so nasty) that Rick took me aside and in that slick and smooth and totally insincere way he had, told me that I was getting an important job: LeBlanc.

“This could make or break her, Johnny,” he lied, and would lie to Marcy and Diana, who were waiting outside after me to be given DeKalb and Oswego respectively, two other places that would neither make nor break anybody, least of all Wendy. “That’s why I need you.”

Rick was – Rick is – a guy whose dick is in your face day and night, figuratively and in my case very nearly literally, as he is 6′ 5″ and I barely clear 5′ 7″. If that is not a great image, well, try working for him. But, and I observe this as an expatriate, he fit right in to the country at that time.

I was too young to remember too much about Clinton (42, not 45), but I remember being eight and suddenly having his goddamn dick in my fucking face, everywhere, such that even Animaniacs had to change its opener. And it’s never the fault of the dick’s owner, you’ll notice. He shrugs and shakes his head, all like “What can you even do?” We’re all just along for the ride. We can try for a dick forecast, but you really never know.

“What’s the ground game like there?” I asked. Whenever you want to convince somebody you have been listening, you should highlight portions of what they have said and devise three follow-up questions. If I ever do this to you, you will know the sheer degree of effort I am putting forth not to fall asleep out of disgust.

“We’re opening it up, it’s a new front,” he said. “We just got a great donation from the Party and it’s going to get us all set up for a real grudge match. I think you’re just the guy for it, Johnny.”

I go by “Jack,” but not to a guy like Rick. Rick makes his own names for people. He respects no sovereignty but his own.

“Well,” I said. “I guess I better get started.”

Out in the hall, Diana was making a pointed effort at ignoring me, and I her. Marcy might not have been able to talk for Rick’s door being open, but then the Batphone rang and she leaned in close. Her face is about 75% eye socket, as if campaigning has well and truly sucked the marrow out of her bones. Back then, she had dyed-purple-black bangs and wore two sweaters in the late September heat and still managed to look as if she were barely able to keep from shivering.

“What fuck-pit is he sending you to?” she asked.

“LeBlanc,” I said. “Guess it’ll be DeKalb or maybe Taylorville for you. Maybe flip a coin.”

I was half-right. That’s about my percentage on all political prognostication, and yet they keep hiring me.

Marcy was never one to sugarcoat her views, but Rick hung up the phone and called her in and it was the last time we would see one another for a number of years. In she went, and the door closed behind her. As I walked by Diana’s chair I had the unmistakable impression that I had seen her stir in the corner of my vision, but when I looked back over my shoulder she was just poking at her smartphone. I hurried to the stairs down the hall and headed back out to the L, the city closing about me like a whale’s maw made of noise and light and the jackhammering heat.

© 2015 by Kenneth Lowe. Reprint with credit. Contact the author at nixonhacker at gmail dot com.