Wednesday, November 25, 2054

Chapter Thirty-Two

The next day, Paul flew up to New York City. Addie, Nicki, Darrell and Jesse were along for the ride. Paul would be appearing on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Addie thought Paul would do better with a younger audience until the campaign had built some traction. She also privately didn’t want to place him in any hostile situations this early in the game.

The one thing none of them were completely comfortable with was the fact that The Daily Show would purposely be looking for the comedy in the situation. While that could work to their benefit, it also introduced just enough of an element of unpredictability to make them all just a little nervous.

On the whole, Paul was feeling pretty good. When he’d checked his email just before leaving he’d found a note from Tom Selleck. It was just a short note saying he’d thought the announcement was terrific. No promises of support, but an assurance that he’d be watching with interest. Just like a regular guy.

From the moment they’d left his house, things had been different. The State Troopers who had never completely abandoned their overwatch on his house were formally back. Without anyone’s prompting, they offered an escort to the airport and then led his two car motorcade with lights and sirens the whole way. When they checked in at the airport, they were shown to a private room to await boarding and then ushered onto the plane moments before closing the door and leaving the gate.

Paul hadn’t had any complaints about how he was treated at Letterman but his arrival the Stewart’s studio was treated entirely differently. Jon Stewart and his senior producer met Paul at his car and then escorted him to a private dressing room. There was a separate room supplied for the rest of his party. Jon thanked him for picking The Daily Show first and assured him that they were expecting a great show. While the two of them were schmoozing, a make-up artist and a hair stylist made quick work of him. There was a constant stream of Production Assistants offering coffee, soda, whatever Paul might want. When the fourth one showed up, Paul started to say he was fine and then said, “Do you think you could find me some wristbands?” The P.A. said he was sure he could and he’d get them right away.

Paul was scheduled to be on after the second commercial break, so he watched the opening segments from the dressing room. Shortly before they ended, a P.A. came to fetch him. A few minutes later, he found himself standing in the wings waiting to be announced. While he was waiting the P.A. from earlier came running up, out of breath and handed him a brown paper bag. Paul looked inside to find it was full of fluorescent yellow wristbands. He thanked the P.A. who smiled and said, “I had to go ten blocks to find them and I didn’t think I’d get back in time.”

They finished prepping for Paul’s segment and Jon was cued that tape was rolling. He began, “Before we bring out tonight’s guest, I’d like you to take a look at these clips.” He turned to the monitor behind the news desk where a clip from the announcement speech ran. It was purposely cut so that the audience would know it was a hatchet job. The only portions of the speech that played were the ones in which Paul had enumerated his many vices and transgressions. When the clip was over, Jon turned as if speaking to someone off-screen and said, “Wasn’t chopping that up a little redundant?”

He turned back to the camera and said, “Yesterday, Paul Harkness stunned the nation once again by announcing that he’s running for President. Tonight, he’s here to explain himself. C’mon out here, Paul.”

Paul made his entrance to enthusiastic applause, took a seat at the news desk and shook Jon’s hand. Addie, it seemed, had chosen a receptive audience for his first post-announcement appearance. Jon stepped right in with, “Is it ok for me to call you Paul? I mean you only just started to be big deal, right?”

Paul smiled and said that would be fine.

Jon continued, “So are you, like a really real candidate or just a kinda sorta candidate? I mean you chose a fake news show to go on first, after all.”

“I’m really a real candidate Jon. And don’t sell yourself short. You’re more real than a lot of shows that claim to be real.”

Jon had noticed the paper bag when Paul made his interest and asked about it. Paul said, “Oh, just some props. Do you mind if I talk to the audience a little?”

Jon took this in stride and said, “Well we did have a script, but by all means, go ahead. I’ve always thought restraint was overrated anyway.”

The audience laughed and Paul turned to face them directly.

When they quieted, he said, “O.K., if you were old enough to vote in the 2002 mid-term elections, I want you to stand up.” All but 7 people stood. Paul gestured to a P.A. in the wings and tossed her the bag of wristbands. “Could you please give one of these to each of the folks still sitting? They get a pass” He turned back to the audience “If you’re not a U.S. citizen, you get a pass, too. Go ahead and take your seat.” Two people sat down and the P.A. quickly moved to give them wristbands. “O.K., now, for those of you standing, if you have a problem with anything our government’s done since that election, keep standing.” No-one sat.

“Now, everyone who actually voted in that election, go ahead and take your seat.” About a third of the audience sat down. “Great! Those of you who are sitting are all invited to come out for a drink or a cup of coffee, whatever you want when the show is over. Grab a wristband when the bag comes by. I’d like to discuss with you what I’ve got in mind if I win this election. I’d also be interested in hearing any opinions you might want to share.”

“And I’d like to say something to those of you who are still standing. Every one of you could have voted in the last election and you didn’t. The next time anyone is talking politics or finance or anything else related to how your city or state or federal government runs, you should just keep your mouth shut. If you don’t vote, nobody gives a rat’s ass what you think. I’m not telling you this because I want you to vote for me; I’m telling you because you need to vote for somebody. Voting doesn’t hurt and it doesn’t take long. In November, you’ll get your next chance to do the right thing, but until you participate, just shut the hell up.”

The standees were shocked into silence. The ones who were seated made enough noise to make up for them.

2 comments:

kimberly-ann said...

Nathan,
I have spent the whole morning reading...WELL DONE!
While it does need editing, the story is strong and one that leads the reader to want to continue to read. I have read the last few chapters out loud to my husband, and my teenager. They agree. It is a book that would find its way onto our bookshelves (plural..as in rooms full of them).
While I am not American, I share in the same ideals as your main character. The EVERYMAN. While i do support a political party, I have been known to turn away from it when there is someone I KNOW can do well for my province/city/country.

Keep writing....you are onto something here!

(and i have now officially de-lurked on both of your sites :) )

Nathan said...

K.A.

Thank you for your very kind words. Its thrilling to know that someone is reading and enjoying.

I'd like to be really clear about one thing, though. My intention is to write a novel, an entertainment, a complete fiction. While it would be impossible for me to write this without injecting some of my own attitudes and opinions, this is not meant as a political manifesto. In fact, I've previously made reference to the fact that Paul's policies will horrify folks on both sides of the aisle. In coming chapters, he'll lay out some of those policies. Some will be ideas with which I agree, and some of them (very purposely) will be ideas that would...horrify me.

I should have a couple more chapters ready to post soon. Thanks for de-lurking.