After the gubernatorial debate televised just one month ago, polls show Governor Rollins and his democratic opponent, Raymond Jennings, to be in a dead heat, their necks stretching so desperately for the finish the voters can actually hear tendons snapping. Pundits expect the race to be determined by a mere drop of sweat on the tip of one lucky nose. In the meantime, any sudden gust may blow the lead right from the candidate’s brown snout. Even the most adherent partisans seem to have an antsy foot in each party ready to step into the tailored shoes of the other side, many tripping over their own legs as the standoff wears on.
Less than two months ago, even Jennings’ top advisors hailed Rollins as an invincible foe and the inexorable choice of the people, until the Governor’s infamous smear campaign was slung like handfuls of mud, which only served to uncover his own corruption and greedy misdeeds. Fortunately however, at last month’s spectacle, he managed to articulately transform his dull podium into an alluring pulpit where he exploited the vulnerable psychology of debate as if a high ground for firing his loaded politics down upon Jennings who was described as a frightened turtle cowering within its shell. If it wasn’t for Jennings’ notorious generosity and apparent saintliness, the Governor would surely be able to glide to election-day sparing millions of campaign contributions, yet he remains in this wrestling match locked in a draw.
“You’ve got to take Jefferson County,” goads Aidan, the Governor’s campaign manager and only trusted associate. “You get it and the election’s yours.” He stands before the state’s summit in the image of an imperial desk dressed in clutter under which a phone ceaselessly blinks the notification of highly important callers; callers easily ignored by the Governor’s selective attention that has currently selected the urgency of his throne’s veiled source of true power: Aidan’s forehead beading anxiety over a suddenly aged face flushed of confidence.
The color returns to his sagging cheeks as his eyes light with self-assurance. “I had a talk with someone from Jefferson County. He cued me in on a little secret that will bring a certain victory for us.” He licks his lips at the vivid feast lingering in his mind, nodding his head in satisfaction.
“Come on, man, spit it out,” the Governor commands eagerly, drumming an ink pen upon his desk, a pattern of the term’s constant tapping worn into its varnish.
Aidan shields his mouth from the paranoiac notion of lip-reading spies lurking upon tree limbs outside the office’s wide excessive windows like governmental displays of the confidential. He whispers, “The entire county votes according to the preference of one man—Myron Murdock. All you have to do is get him on our side and all of Jefferson County follows suit.”
The intercom’s nasally voice interrupts, “Governor Rollins, your wife is here to see you.”
“Tell her I’m in a meeting and I’ll see her at home.”
But he doesn’t return home tonight. Instead he makes for Jefferson County to find his electoral key to the Governor’s door; that of which threatens to close on his reign. Riding luxuriously in his bulletproof limousine—tinted windows; swanky leather; champagne and caviar—he fidgets with his tie.
“Lose that … and the jacket too. You don’t want to look too formal,” demands Aidan authoritatively.
“Why not? I’m the Governor for Christ’s sake.”
Aidan informs the Governor of the biography and idiosyncrasies of Myron for the duration of the ride, from the story of his first bike ride to the way he likes his steak. They pull into the gravel parking lot of a quaint little church, a glaring white with fresh paint, as Aidan explains, “Myron lives here in the church. He sleeps on a cot in the attic.”
The Governor asks, “Why?” rolling up his sleeves, unbuttoning his collar.
“You’ll find out.”
As they open the high arching luminous red doors to the church, Myron greets them in a shout of blended southern accents, “Y’ever hear'a knockin’?”
From his head to his feet he presents the image of the working class, a green mesh cap reading 'John Deer' and work boots with steel toes ripping from its weary soles. “I’m just joshin’ ya. Come on in.” He laughs, holding the straps of his jean overalls that tug downward from a heavy tool belt fitted around his brawny waist—a hammer bouncing on a firm, cumbersome thigh like a sturdy redwood trunk. He leads them to the front pew immediately facing a bronze cross hanging from the wall brandishing those legendary sufferings of Christ.
“I’ve been expectin’ ya’s.” He sits slouching as the Governor mirrors his mannerisms melting from his erect position into awkward casualness.
“You have?” asks the Governor. “How on earth did you know we were coming?”
“Well, everybody knows that if’n ya want Jefferson County, ya gotta get me on your side. In fact I had quite the chat with Mr. Jennings just the other day.”
“Is that so?” The Governor glances at Aidan with fire in his eyes. “So why is it everybody looks up to you so?” he asks merely as an entrance into conversation, already knowing the answer.
“I guess it’s ‘cause I’s the only repairman in town. Everyone’s got somet’n needin’ fixin’, ya know?”
Aidan interjects with his theory, “I heard that, not only do you fix things, but you do it all for free.”
“I may not get money but I do get respect and that’s worth a whole heck of a lot to me.”
“I also heard that you graduated from Harvard with a degree in engineering,” continues Aidan as to educate the Governor of the character with whom he is dealing. “So what happened there? Why are you living in a church?”
Myron traces the patterns of the tiles on the floor with his eyes, his vision fading into memory as he recalls, “When I graduated, I just wanted to do somet’n great, somet’n that would change the world. I figured the best way to do that’d be locally. So here I am, changin’ the world.”
The Governor strays off course, forgetting the plan of ingratiation, persuasion, and conversion as he follows his own curiosity. “But you could be making a six-figure salary workingfor NASA or designing new fuel-efficient cars. Aren’t you ever tempted to try an actual job? Don’t you want a home and family?”
Myron gazes upon the figure of Christ with the depths of some unpronounceable spirituality reflecting over his bright visage. “My job pays better than any other. I’s workin’ for the Lord, ya see. That’s what I do; that’s who I am….What about a home? Nobody’s home here; we’re all but visitors on this earth. As for a family—I had a girlfriend one time. I was gonna marry her, have babies, the whole thing. But she cheated on me. She promised it wouldn’t happen again and I believed her, but she went and did it again … and again and again. Every time she’d talk me into trustin’ her and I’d forgive her until one day she never came back.
“I was hurt. I was mad. And I tried drinkin’, sleepin’ with strange women, and all kinds of foolish sinnin’— but I couldn’t seem to distract myself from the pain. Finally I found Jesus and I lost all those desires that got me into so much trouble.” He smiles upon his guests in silent suggestion.
Aidan nudges the Governor who sits quietly enthralled, intimating his advice of return to politics in a subtle gesture. The Governor turns to Myron extending a most companionable tone, “You seem like a real trusting person. I hope you don’t make the mistake of trusting my opponent. He’s promising a lot of things to a lot of people that he can’t deliver.”
“Yeah, I trust Mr. Jennings. I trust you too. I trust everybody, ya see? Give ‘em no trust and they’ll give ya nothin’ to trust in.”
“Would you say you’re a Republican?” guesses Aidan.
The Governor stammers, jumping quickly into response, “Well, I may run as a Republican but I assure you I have many Democratic leanings.”
“I’m no Democrat either.”
Aidan sighs, “What are you?”
“I’m a follower of Christ. That’s what I do; that’s who I am.”
“So what do we have to do to get you on our side, Mr. Murdock?” asks Aidan setting before Myron upon the ledge of a lofty dais with his short legs dangling, as to mollify his intimidating appearance of officialism.
“There was a bill that you’ve vetoed many times. It would’ve taxed the rich to provide for the poor; even the middle-class would benefit, but they can’t afford lobbyists, ya know.”
With a wry grin forced upon his pallid face, the Governor cautiously replies, biting his tongue to the taste of blood, “But my opponents will cry ‘communism’ and besides, many of my supporters are wealthy.”
“Maybe I’ll vote for Jennings then. He does have a record for helpin’ the poor.”
First thing the following morning the Governor orders this bill, seemingly proposed by Robin Hood and his foolhardy sect of utopian idealists, into immediate effect, overriding many of his powerful constituents. Without visiting his long abandoned home, he returns promptly to the Church of Jefferson County ignoring his wife’s relentless calls as he rubs the forlorn thought of sleep from his eyes. Myron answers the door in the same clothes with the same childish smile.
Brusquely refusing Myron’s offer of entrance, leaning on a readied foot pointing towards the limousine, the Governor asks, “The proposal passed; now can we count on your vote?”
Myron grins mischievously. “I have a friend in prison. Ten years for growin’ the marijuana. He’s a good man, a good father, and a good husband. The real crime is takin’ a decent man ‘way from his family, ya know?”
“So you want him pardoned?” asks Aidan, accepting Myron’s welcome into the church as if to transform themselves from door-to-door salesmen into guests—the subtleties of politics by which the Governor would be repetitively defeated if not for his cunning sidekick.
“I was lyin’ when I said ‘a friend’—please forgive me, Lord,” Myron pleads to the sky. “I have a lot of friends in prison all over the state for nothin’ more than drugs.”
The Governor speaks brashly, “I thought you Christians were against drugs.”
“Ya know,” muses Myron, “I think it was Gandhi who said, ‘your Christians are so unlike your Christ’. Ya see, Christ wouldn’t of punished those with addiction. He would’ve helped ‘em…. Punishment should be reserved for those who harm others. It’s not the government’s job to police a man’s body. You guys aren’t parents slapping the hands of children from the cookie jar. No. You’re ruinin’ the lives of adults, with adult responsibilities to a society lackin’ an important ingredient in their absence.
“Me, I get by just fine without drugs. I got the Lord. But some, they’re needy. They need somet’n to help ‘em through the day. Just like you, Governor—you’re addicted to power, ain’t ya?”
Clearing his throat as if clearing the air of this unsettling notion, the Governor evades the question, responding, “So you want drugs decriminalized, is that it? Well, I’m sorry but that will cost me a lot of votes.”
“If you don’t I guess it’ll cost ya Jefferson County, won’t it?” Myron readies himself for the day, strapping on his tool belt.
“Alright,” Aidan jumps in repeating, “Alright.” Scratching a relentless itch upon his balding head, he puzzles, “You know, you could have used us for your own personal gain. Why do you care so much about helping others who likely would never lift a finger for you?”
“Helpin’ others is what I do; it’s who I am.”
The next day thousands of inmates are freed into the waiting arms of their families. Consequentially, the polls show Jennings moving into the lead. Dedicated to this single voter, the Governor remains in Jefferson County where from a snug motel room he conducts business over the phone, making it all the more difficult ignoring his wife’s calls. He stares at this familiar number grown so strange continuously lit upon his cell phone, while he distractedly conducts the business of his state.
“Drugs are now decriminalized thanks to you. Please tell me I have your vote.” The Governor stares with glazed eyes drifting in and out of sleep—but an alien concept for the past few days. He acridly greets Myron who smiles through his pursuer’s sickened mood.
“Come with me, guys.” Myron with a near frolic in his step leads them on a long walk across town, the Governor’s shirt increasingly transparent with sweat. Aidan trails in a mortal pant.
Finally they arrive at a hospital, a permanent gray cast over its irreparable structure. They take the stairs to a neglected top floor where amidst the decrepit and the crippled lies a wee boy of six years, the energy seeping from his flesh leaving but the pale reminder of life in the exposed veins over his fragile body.
Holding the boy’s hand, beaming innocence from a struggled smirk, Myron explains gravely, “Little Jacob here needs a new heart. His parents can’t afford to put his name on the transplant list. You probably know a lot of the millionaires who are on that list, at the top even: old misers too spoiled and greedy to allow children like Jacob a life. They’re so afraid of dyin’ ‘cause of the hell that waits for ‘em on the other side.”
Urging Myron to the hallway, he whispers, “I do know men on that list. They funded my campaign. They can just as easily fund Jennings and that will surely mean the end of me.”
“No. That’ll only be the end of your career. We’re talkin’ ‘bout the end of a boy’s life here. Let me tell ya somet’n; this boy was visited by the Make a Wish Foundation. They offered him a shoppin’ spree at the toy store, autographed baseballs; a day with his favorite rock star. But ya know what he wished for?
“He made a little friend in the hospital who was sick with cancer. The hospital had to release him ‘cause the boy’s parents couldn’t afford to keep him here. His Mom and Dad both worked overtime every night in a factory, barely findin’ the time to spend with their dyin’ son. So Jacob wished that they could have better jobs as bosses. The foundation granted his wish and both parents were given high-powered titles at the foundation. They proved themselves more dedicated than any other employee and their titles became more than just a facade. With this job they were eventually able to afford therapy for their son who was actually cured. Jacob saved that boy’s life, ya know? With a weak heart he gave the most compassionate gift. Imagine what he could do with a healthy one.”
The Governor scowls in suppression of his rising temper. He’s never handled conflicting choices very well. They have always been decided according to their price tags. He looks to his sole confidant for answers as Aidan nods his head, saying, “We need Jefferson County.”
With a single phone call, Jacob rides safely atop the list. Myron shakes the Governor’s hand saying, “Ya got my vote.”
They parade through the streets, Myron calling out his influence over the people who flock from their jobs and idling vehicles in traffic. All for the political show, the Governor accompanies Myron on his daily route of small jobs here and there, plumbing; painting; carpentry; mechanics, the townsfolk following. He carries Jefferson County’s vote in the bag and finally returns home where his wife paces tracks into their hardwood floors. Still, in his locked office, he ignores her up to the day of the election when he loses every county but Jefferson.
He fumes, stomping back and forth in front of the television, “It’s all that rat bastard’s fault. Damn Myron! He knew it the whole time. He knew I’d lose if I did what he asked. Clever bastard, he must have been working for Jennings.”
“It’s not his fault,” cuts the Governor’s wife into his thickly layered tirade. “It’s my fault.”
The Governor silences as she seats him in a coax upon the sofa. All he can mumble is, “What?”
She explains as her eyes stream and gush so that her entire head must be brimming with tears. “I went to Myron and asked him not to vote for you. He said he’d do me one better.”
“What? Why?” the Governor blurts with a quivering jaw.
“I miss you so much—not the Governor … but my husband. I couldn’t make it through another term, I just couldn’t.”
Her pain penetrates his frozen exterior as he sees beneath her rumpled skin the teenage girl he fell in love with all those years ago when he held the future in his hands. He takes her in his arms, consuming her love one gentle kiss at a time.
He pulls back looking into her glowing eyes and asks in sudden curiosity, “Why didn’t you come to me?”
“I tried.” She rests her head on his chest.
Stroking her hair he asks, “But why Myron?”
“I was told that he fixes things. That’s what he does; that’s who he is.”