MacAuley's was that comfortable, dimly lit, upscale chain restaurant just off the Interstate (far, far from the violence) which had been commandeered by the Coalition for a New Consensus’ Bar Caucus; here, nonlawyers Glenn and Anne dutifully worked their way through mashed potatoes, peas and the inevitable rubber chicken, smiling mindlessly at and exchanging banalities with the other couple assigned to their table… local Conks whose lapel badges bore the names Irv and Tanya Stolz.









          "Nothing much changes," Irv suggested, leaning forward with a mouth half full of peas, as Glenn revealed that his was a return voyage. "The U's the same as ever; Virginia Hall... where they still give the bar exams... put up a new gymnasium, though, what was it Tan, six years ago?"

          "Fieldhouse," his wife corrected him, nasally. "It's a Fieldhouse, Irv."

          "Right. Fieldhouse, shithouse, shithole, gym, same fuckin’ difference… basketball team’s still shithouse, football gone... baseball team's OK, but who pays attention to college baseball?"

          "Too bad the Bearcats moved to Ohio," Glenn made conversation.

          "Jeez – talk about the good old days of the Twentieth Century! Too much population lost here, not enough interest to keep attendance up for even the minor league baseball.  Face it… we’re sub-minor league, now.  People downtown talk about getting a team from the rookie league, but it's not much of a priority. They'd want a stadium of their own and we've got smarter fish to fry.  This plague!  That weird recession!  Whole fuckin’ country burned out and wanting to go on the dole, so they have to hire those... those people... at the Gas Monkey.  Trump was crazy, OK, but “no hablo ingles?” Thank that Motley Fool and the rest that I didn’t sell off my stocks while the Dow was stuck in the plague.  But with Mayor Potter inclining towards the Coalition," Irv added with a confidential smirk, "all thanks to Henri, I do trust that this will be only the beginning of great enterprises once we get that gang of Socialists out of Washington and things turn ‘round. Though I do hope your quitted... ah, retired... Congressman Parnell doesn't burn his bridges with the Democrats like the coffee fellow did... we had a very close election here on account of the redistricting and that unfortunate primary, and your people made a difference last November.  Ten percent of the students are frothing at the mouth with crazy shit, they voted for Kanye… believe it?..., the rest don’t even vote."

          "It's always important to be of help at the local level," Anne volunteered, laying down her fork. “And Pin... Peter... always has been so, well, full of ideas."

          "Oh that he is. He is!" Irv declared, spearing a glazed baby carrot and measuring the aüslanders as if deliberating whether to surrender a particularly juicy morsel of local gossip. "You know, some political people here in the past... well, they were traditional, not so friendly towards the University as circumstances might dictate…"

          "Rednecks?" Glenn retorted, intuitively.

          "Oh no! Not here! Unless there's such an animal as a left wing redneck... people who'd rather save owls, Bradley or Chelsea Manning, whomever that trannie traitor is, running for Senate, and Costa Rica and, meanwhile, pass laws criminalizing “offensive glances” and tearing down statues of George Washington.  What about keeping the buses running and the potholes filled without Federal handouts?  Like the animal lovers who burned that AIDS research lab down on account of the rats… as if we don’t already have enough rats… or the so-called “community activists” (and he emphasized the quote with his fingers) who prevented the U. from constructing a state-of-the-art robotics facility because it would mean demolishing a few dirty old, falling-down tenements that, they said, have character.  Not to mention plenty of rats!  And… you know… those people!  What Peter did in his first term was to communicate the importance of linking education and employment just like Jack promotes, laying foundations, so to speak.  And now, it's time to take action. We always just seem to miss the technology waves coming out of, well, the smart places... Austin and Boston and Silicon Valley... fiber optics and neural networks, smart people stuff like that robot bomb-throwing machine they used against the bank robbers in Dallas and Columbus Day protesters in New Mexico… well Mayor Potter says at least we haven't encumbered ourselves with corrupt and hyper-obsolescent infrastructures, because we don't have any structure – infra, ultra, anything, period. We're poised to catch the next wave without having to be protective of existing job sectors..."

          "And this next wave?" Anne inquired, "...it would be..."

          "Whatever the media, the investor and inventor classes and deep state say it is, I guess," Irv shrugged. "Biotech, I hear. Cloning. Recombed-over... what do they call it, GNA?  Viral banking?  Virtual currencies?  The Cloud… whatever that is?  Space tourism?  Anything the smart people decide… that guy wants to open an Amazon warehouse up in Cap City that raises rents and property values and runs employees round like robots?... well, I'm only a divorce attorney with a quarter share in a private investigating conglomerate, cashing in on all that sexual harassment shit that happens around universities!" he chuckled deferentially, "making a fair living on the absurdities of the system. Mayor Potter and the Catfish are going to raise this old town right up out of the doldrums and back to world class standards, isn't that right, Tanya?"

          Mrs. Stolz, Glenn noted unwoke-ily, had a bosom deep enough to contain a bird's nest - as long as it was a small bird, with small eggs... a hummingbird, or sparrow. "Ohh..." she twittered, "definitely. They want to put up a wonderful cultural center out there, in the East End ghetto. It would make poverty so much nicer."

          The tapping of a finger against a microphone interrupted everybody's machinations. A cheerful, dark-suited man on the far side of seventy... babyfaced by the genetic draw and redfaced from good cheer – round as a Munchkin-faced Wizard from “Wizard of Oz” or the comedian W. C. Fields… gestured for attention...

          "Judge Claymore," Tanya Stolz informed the table, waving a fork, upon the end of which a very gristly morsel reposed, like the skull at the tip of a witch doctor's voodoo stick. "He's very..." and she turned her palm flat in the air, shaking it ambiguously.

          "I don't remember him," Anne shook her head.

          "Oh he's new, relatively, in from out of town. Sent up from the Capitol... Irv, how long was it, before or after the Fieldhouse?"

          "If the President doesn't get right with his right and put those increases in Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block to pay for his tax cuts, they’ll coalesce around either Gavin Newsome or Andrew Cuomo… that former Governor up there in New York.  Harris?  If they draft some liberal like Elizabeth Warren’s sorry ass or Hillary again, I’ve heard it said that he'll kiss off the party and maybe even support Jack," frowned Irv as gristly chicken slid off the edge of Tanya's fork and plummeted to the tablecloth. "As for Claymore, he’s about six feet to the right of Justice Beer, maskless man Gorsuch and their homeboy, Thomas, but there's something old, something personal he has against the former Attorney General,” Irv pointed at the still-posturing politician. “Oh... and the church lady.  Well maybe he thinks black cats are the Devil's familiars, not the calico!  Self-hatred thing, like that last Negro Republican fellow after the pizza guy who said Covid was imaginary, then died… that, uh, sleepy doctor?  Who sold off the public housing and threw all the poor onto the streets to beg or rob people?  So he's playing two of three sides, just like the rest of us… or maybe four, counting that dot-commie billionaire if the donkey boys… as Jack calls them… do nominate a Socialist, all crowding into the clown car as independents.  Make that five, with the coffee man, or as many as seven if the legendary, elusive black nationalist/Evangelical deal ever manifests.  If the donkeys were to buck tradition by choosing somebody reputable instead of some ancient relic like Hillary again… not Bernie Socialist, of course, or that other loud woman up in Massachusetts, but like Joe from the Mansion or that General Zimmer, maybe Ehrenberg despite, you know..." and Tanya sighed as Irv stroked his nose and then some with an acrid smile.  The plump, cherubic Judge smiled, tapped his microphone, somebody coughed back.

          "I wanted to thank you all for your attendance here, tonight," Claymore began, "representing the Coalition for a New Consensus which is, after all, a bipartisan... tripartisan… hell, call us a polypartisan organization... and one dedicated to progressive change through traditional law and procedure. That's an important distinction, especially on days like today, with anarchy raging in the streets..."

          "I think they just told him about the riots," Tanya pouted.

          Anne sat up. "What riots?" she began, but the Judge continued speaking.

          "And of even more concern than intermittent, random and sectarian violence… from all sides, of course, as our former President liked to say… the decay and paralysis confronting us daily, stretching from halls of power in Washington, Iraq and Wall Street to the hospitals and high-tech laboratories of Boston and Stanford to the humble storefronts of Main Street…"

          "What riots?" Anne repeated, but Irv and Tanya shushed her.

          "You know, a wise man... a wise man from Harvard, in fact, so ever the rarer... asks if we are to treat the so called dispossessed, drunks and vagrants, really, with the harsh discipline they deserve, are we being unfair? And he admits... perhaps... but is it fair to quail before an onslaught of hundreds, even thousands of penniless vandals and vagrants, most bent on the passive destruction of our communities, our property values, our family structure but a growing number of whom we see in our streets – purging our values and history, assaulting bystanders and destroying property?  Pushing women off the subway tracks in New York?  Let us not ignore the warnings given by Thomas Malthus two centuries ago, a man esteemed by both Austin Tillerman and Catfish Jack Parnell, however they may differ on certain other issues... hard as it may be, our sons and our daughters must be taught that dependent poverty must be made disgraceful again so that independent poverty may be combated with education and military service and, where necessary, public sector jobs.  The plague is over – so let’s get America back to work again.  Today’s Democrats aren’t like our fathers who pulled the lever for JFK or our grandfathers for FDR, so we must take a common stand to promote strong measures, take these people off our streets and rehabilitate them with tough love... but in a way that even Hollywood liberals like Tony Manuzzo can appreciate..."

          And, as the diners in MacAuley's applauded politely, Irv Stolz smirked and tiffened his shoulders. "Boys kicked a little ass today..."

          "Your boys?" Glenn puzzled.

          "The police! Who did you think I was talking about... the Turks? Sheesh! It's all over the news, nationwide too, of course… the Guard helped out some, they're practicing for redeployment in Costa Rica. And some... ah... private people.  Well, OK... I thought the Vietnam War went on too long, and all those adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq didn’t even help the oil companies keep their prices low once that Kenyan raghead let Iran back into the game, but, this time, we're protecting our own interests. Like taking out Jihad Johnnie, General Whatsisname, Osama and those others. Venezuela’s lost, Costa Rica goes, then Mexico, then you've got ‘em swarming over the Rio Grande into Texas.  A pile of piss, even if it does flip a few electoral votes.  Why do you think they call it Brownsville, down there, talk about shitholes?  So what did happen to the Donald’s fuckin’ wall?"

          Anne daubed her chin with one of the MacAuley's cloth napkins as the Judge droned on and a stolid, young Caucasian waiter removed their leavings, setting down paper plates of angel or devil's food cake, as guests preferred. "Sorry," he said, sotto voce, "the dishwashers were deported, yesterday, Immigration..."

          Irv squinted. "You an English or Journalism postgraduate?" he asked rudely, just loud enough to be heard between Claymore's increasingly hoarse, random remarks. "Wait... a History major!" He dropped a dollar on the plate, spooning a couple of peas over it and then, with another smirk, pointed to the devil's food as Claymore took a step back, grasped the lapels of his jacket like Jimmy Stewart about to testify, and then resumed.

          "And, would it be such a bad thing if we did split the vote and a Republican… a sensible Republican like Eisenhower… took over?  A Kasich or Ben Sassel; maybe not Romney because… you know… Bit by bit, we're overcoming the lies that the Social and Socialist media have spread since that first day when, argues Mister Darwin, some monkey picked up a rock to smash nuts with, and so invented the concept of private property. Not you, Teddy, stand up... folks, that's Teddy Canfield from the Journal in the back, he's alright with the Coalition! Don't beat him up!" And nervous laughter rippled through MacAuley's. "The Coalition, dispensing both firmness and compassion, has awakened America to a moral universe of choices that exist beyond the frontiers of despair... we have taken back good, old-fashioned virtues like private charity and common sense, the way so many Americans have come to the aid of Baby Claire. So, on behalf of Austin Tillerman, I also congratulate Congressman Parnell, and welcome all you delegates to a momentous, shining enterprise... one I may hope shall, for its while, maintain its independence and scare the pants off both the major parties. With this, I'd like to introduce you to my alt-left-wing devil's advocate; the CNC National Affairs Co-ordinator, Pat O'Neraghty."

          A tall, thin man with a receding blond hairline, Hollywood stubble and pastel suit, blue as a Turk's beret, rose out of the shadows cloaking the far end of the long VIP table. Irv Stolz glanced towards Glenn, as if to ask whether Parnell’s man had anything useful to contribute.

          "Reyna's reptile," Glenn volunteered, contemptuously.

          "What?" started Irv.  Anne stood up.

          "I have to make a phone call," she explained, snapping open her cellular. "Excuse me.  Oh, and by the way, Kanye changed his name to Yee."

          Glenn angrily motioned the waiter to take away his plate as she stalked off, giving the appearance of walking out on O'Neraghty, yet to speak... still basking in the applause of his captive delegates.

          "What the hell's gotten into her?" he wondered aloud.  “Yee?  Who does he think he is, some Chinaman?  Wasn’t he the Democrat who promised everybody a thousand dollars... as if inflation didn’t exist since 1972?”

          “That was Yang,” Anne snapped over her shoulder on the way to the Ladies’.

          “Yin, Yang... Gawdalmighty,” Glenn shook his head.

          Embarrassed, Irv shrugged. Tanya, scrutinizing O'Neraghty and pouting, as if she'd detected something missing, raised a napkin and polished off a smidgen of potato off his chin and leaned forward, confidentially. "Maybe," she commiserated, "it's... you know... her time?"   









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