“How are the polls?”
“Holding for now.”
“Should I be worried?”
“You always ask that as though there is a definite time one ought to worry.”
“When I go down in the polls, far enough down that you would be worrying in my shoes.”
“Well that depends. Are you self-destructive?”
Gordon Chase let out an aggrieved sigh and turned from the large window overlooking the landscaping below his office. The senator stared over the dark and glossy wooden desk at his aide of three years now. His body was lean for a man of his late fifties, and the thin vertical blue stripes on his white shirt made him appear even more serpentine. His hands were on his hips and the end of his navy colored tie swung gently like a pendulum following his sudden move. “You torment me sometimes, Vivienne. There is a devil’s streak in you.” His tone was amicable but tinged with anxiety, his light southern accent not soft enough to hide the hard edge of nerves. He scratched absentmindedly at his still thick salt-and-pepper hair directly above the widow’s peak.
Vivienne, a red-headed woman of her late thirties, sank into the chair opposite him, bending her legs to one side and smoothing her grey pencil skirt once seated. She motioned for him to sit also, but he missed the cue for a few seconds as he stared aimlessly over her head. “Why are you so worried?” She asked.
“The vote.” He sat and leaned over in the chair to take a bottle of water from the fridge hidden under his desk. He loosened his tie from around his neck where the veins and various bodily couplings stuck out like cords. “The vote will not be popular, but I had little choice. What the hell else was I supposed to do? I do what I can, but when the numbers just aren’t there . . .”
“Symbolic gestures go a long way.” Vivienne replied, bobbing her head slowly.
Chase took a few gulps of water and let out a blast of hot breath. “You aren’t exactly making me feel better. Hell, I have everything to lose here. How can you explain to these people that one must keep friends in the senate? Symbolic gestures look good back home, but it won’t get me backup when I want to get something through.” He leaned back in the executive style leather chair and brought a hand up to his chin.
Vivienne had looked down to her phone as he mused and tapped away, her fingers like the deliberate jabbing motions of a bird pecking at the ground.
Chase came alive suddenly. “What are you doing? Are you looking him up?”
“Would you prefer I didn’t?” She asked with one eyebrow raised.
He waved a hand at her. “Fine, fine. Must check him. Crazy though he is. Damned radical.”
Gordon Chase did not want to think about the insurgent man who had decided to run a campaign against him. Daniel Pandarus had coalesced from nowhere in the last few months. Well, not nowhere. The senator had put his best people on him and put together a dossier. He was a veteran back from some sandy place about six months back. He had garnered massive attention after commandeering the state fair main stage to give a barn-burner of a speech about how he had left a good state for the war and come back to find a rust-eaten ruin sold to people they would never know. He had made the senator a special project and started a grass roots organization of wanton iconoclasm. Chase could thank him for falling popularity and a growing ulcer.
“What’s he up to.” He asked apprehensively.
“He’s preparing a statement about the vote.” Vivienne replied.
Chase guzzled some water. “Already?! This man is a sadist, I tell you. He’s got a killer’s mind.”
“You’re being fatalistic.”
“Yes, yes. I suppose.” He rose and turned to stare out the window again. “Never been a vote yet. I wouldn’t expect it now. Too much burden of responsibility.”
“He’s going to speak soon.”
The senator’s upper half twisted partway around. “Should I . . ?”
She shrugged. “I would.”
He returned to his seat, some sweat collecting on his brow. “Alright, pull it up.” Chase pulled open a drawer to extract his bottle of maximum strength antacids. They tasted like chalk and triggered a neural terror-response deep within him.
Vivienne set her phone on the desk and tapped the screen. In an instant an image hovered between them, a pale sphere devoid of feature. A minute passed and the senator worked his hands around each-other. Finally a face appeared, a slightly haggard visage with dark sleepless eyes, hair combed tightly back and a short beard. The senator instinctively inched his chair back. The mouth opened.
“People of our once-great state. There was vote in the senate today, and our great representative was on the wrong side of it. Gordon Chase has once again proved that he does not give one damn about us, about our families, or about out fortunes. We have empty factories and shops which grow only weeds and dust. Entire industries have fled out to the corners of the earth. I came back to our state not too long ago, and I came to a land just as foreign as the one I left.”
The senator made a strangled attempt at a guffaw. “Come on now. This guy? He’s . . . He’s unhinged. I mean, come on.”
Vivienne merely stared back through the semi-opaque image.
The face carried on. “The trade deal passed by the traitors of the people will enrich the corporate interests of the nation, but it will bring us nothing. Senator Chase has once again put the interests of politics ahead of the well-being of his people. As you all know, I have compiled a long list of actions undertaken by our representative which have plunged us into years of stagnation, uncertainty and despair. Yet how could he know? When was the last time you saw him here amongst us. He has departed just as the spirit of good governance has left the state. He does not live amongst us or hear our worries and pains. I do not say this lightly but with a heavy heart. I move that we take an immediate vote on the removal of Senator Gordon Chase.”
“Oh Christ!” Chase breathed out suddenly.
“We must use the means at our disposal to take back our own power. By the hands of the people he was raised to his station, and by the hands of the people he will be removed.”
The face moved out of the sphere and a roar followed, applause.
The senator was on his feet. “Call the governor!” He shouted at Vivienne. “He must not let this happen! It cannot happen!” The phone on the desk rang, and he lunged for it.
Vivienne picked up her own phone and made the call. Their voices became an urgent and jumbled mixture as she paced near the door and he waved his arms while turning from the window to the room. Their calls ended nearly simultaneously.
“He can’t do anything.” Vivienne replied emptily.
“This precedent cannot be set!” The senator shouted, looming over the desk with his hands braced on the surface. “This will not happen!”
“Who was that?” She asked.
“Majority leader.” A tremor ran through his voice. “Going to try for an emergency veto.”
“Everyone is on recess.” She replied.
“Don’t you think I know that!?” He roared, a catch in his voice undermining the authoritative outburst.
An hour passed with no speaking. Vivienne remained glued to her phone, and the senator lay draped on his chair and staring into the surface of the desk. The phone rang again, but chase answered it slowly this time, his arm gliding listlessly to the receiver.
“Yes. Yes, I understand. I’m sorry too.” He did not even hang it up and merely let the thing drop to the floor beside his chair. “Call Daniel Pandarus.” He ordered hollowly. “If I must beg, then I must beg.”
Vivienne placed the call and handed the phone to the sagging politician.
“Hello.” The voice came through matter-of-factly.
“This is Gordon Chase.”
“I get it now, alright. You can call it off.”
“This is no bluff, Senator.”
“The people will never . . . They are not cruel like you. This is unprecedented.”
“What do you know of them?”
Chase took in a sharp breath. “Goddamn it! You cannot do this. It is merciless. It is cruel!”
“Tyranny, Mr. Senator, and anarchy are never far apart.”
With that last statement the call ended. Gordon Chase stared at the phone for a moment before returning it to Vivienne.
“The vote already started.” She replied quietly.
“Leave me.” He breathed. “Now.”
She departed wordlessly.
The senator swiveled his chair to stare out the window for a time. He reached down to the bottom of his bookcase for his bottle of bourbon and glass. The vessels rattled in his hands as he poured. Will I be the first of many? He wondered while sipping at the warming drink which anointed his throat with amber heat and his head with a bit of peace. It was growing steadily dark outside as the sun dipped orange behind the edge of the earth. He had seen the number of calls back and forth between Vivienne and Daniel Pandarus before he had returned the phone, and that had hurt perhaps even more than what might come. There is no one good enough. He concluded. The station demands too much of a human being.
He refilled the glass and leaned back in the chair. A slight vibration at the back of his neck brought sudden dread, a clearing of his sinuses as his heart leapt for his head. The vote had finished. The buzzing increased. The room erupted in sudden motion. The senator’s head exploded into a fragmentation of bits of bone, gouts of blood, and the bourbon-soaked grey matter within. The body slumped down lower in the chair and the glass tumbled to the floor. Gordon Chase: removed from office by popular vote.