"They're here," cried Wayne. "Canucks! Who took my gun?"
"Maybe it's someone with something to eat," Harvey brightened, and opened the door. Two beefy goons brushed past him, like a pair of tornadoes leisurely batting a tumbleweed aside. Behind them swaggered in an ugly little man with a snap hat covering his big, batlike ears, and with a big, bat-shaped wart sprouting from his chin.
"Good evening folks," he said, with smirking self-importance. "You may know me... I'm Bill Blood, your representative. I'm..."
And something dark dropped from the ceiling to cut the politician short, something fluttering towards Blood's dark wart. The bat! The politician roared and swatted at it with his hat; a dozen greasy strands of thin, exposed hair tumbled across his brow. The bat settled on his left ear with a high-pitched screeching. One of his entourage stepped forward, with a clumsy swing of his briefcase. The other picked up and brandished the fallen African mask. Blood held the hat over his eyes. The bat flew up and out the open door, which Howard quickly slammed.
"A fine reception," fumed the politician. "Where's Waldo?"
"He's not here. He's at the fire," Howard answered, innocently.
"Speak up, boy! Was there a fire, Tuggs?"
"I think I did hear sirens," conceded the big man with the mask.
"Damn!" Bill Blood swore, "He'd do that to me. You!" he pointed. Howard looked from side to side, but he was all alone... the others edging rapidly but silently away. "What's your name, boy? You live around here? Vote?"
"Yes, sir," said Howard. "Howard. Howard Slack, sir. Yes. And this is...
"Another one of Waldo's fuck ups," Blood interrupted, glancing about to see if any of the wives had cringed at his language. None had. It seemed to sadden the politician. "Well, did you happen to have seen if the fat fuck left an envelope for me? It would probably have been like this..." he held his hands apart, about nine inches. "Yellow. Unmarked... except, maybe, for my name, and that stupid owl of his. Hell, you know what I'm talking about, boy, you're not an idiot, are you? One of Waldo's?"
"No, sir. Yes, sir. Waldo's..." Howard added by means of an explanation.
"An idiot," Blood finished for him. "Never mind... any morons among the rest of you able to tell me where my money is?"
Nobody volunteered. "Place has gone to hell since Henry died," he growled. "So be it! Anyway, pleased to meet you idiots. Voters? Baggs... look up their names," he said to the goon with the briefcase. "All of you? Who are you anyway... besides being Waldo's people? Do you think for yourselves? Make plans? Hell, do you stand for anything besides getting in line behind the boss and grabbing whatever crumbs he throws over his shoulder you? Look at me..."
And Harvey presented himself with a silly grin and one of his lobster newburg-stained business cards, which Blood started to accept before turning, with disdain and with disbelief... motioning for Tuggs to accept it. From the other side, Wayne approached, grasped the politician's hand and pumped.
"Swell to see you here, sir. Do you remember? Wayne Ray! One of your volunteers. You might not recognize me," he added in a humbler tone, under Blood's steely gaze, "I'm not in uniform. The Civics?" he prompted...
Bill Blood continued to eye Wayne up and down. "Whatever," he finally conceded.
"I was just making these folks here understand," Wayne said with a renewed, undaunted eagerness, "that you're the man for what is right. Against..."
"What's bad?" Bill Blood suggested.
"Certainly!" Wayne leaned forward, friend to friend. "The way, you know, that the Canadians have muscled into our territories..."
"Why yes," said the incumbent, "I think Waldo did make mention." A hidden gear seemed to connect with another, and Blood stepped back. "It's just another incident of rot," he confided, eyes flashing and snap hat bobbing. Even the wart seemed to throb and flex its wings with righteous outrage at his words. "Tattoos, Canadians, fluorescent lighting, citizens. All that rot! Why, if re-elected, you can count on me to have Ziggy's Tattoo Parlor, over there on Bridge Street, shut down. That joint that's above the barber shop! There's no cause for young people to be painted up like... like Africans," he spat, nodding towards the mask that Tuggs was now holding, protectively, over his genitals in case of the appearance of more bats. "Like, uh... Canadians," he corrected, taking a closer look at the makeup-smeared wives. "Are you sure Waldo didn't show any of you a yellow envelope, about so big..." he trailed off, holding his hands apart again.
Two things occurred in rapid succession. Mimi Kull turned the hi-fi up. Karyl grabbed the politician by his shoulder, tapping her wedding ring against his ear.
"These men are dreadful dancers," she told Blood, as Nat King Cole crooned 'Stardust' for, perhaps, the twentieth time. "Oblige me! Please! I'll vote for you," she purred, as he backed out of reach.
"Get the limo started, Baggs," Blood grunted to the man with the briefcase. "Sorry ma'am, I can't be seen dancing with a married constituent. Never know when there might be one of Vogoroff's vermin in the bushes, with a Polaroid... sorry, my envelope..."
"Take me away with you?" the rented beatnik begged from his other side as Blood's words trailed off. "I am a poet... that is, in my middle name. I'll write your speeches... use words." He waved his phony beard... filthy, by now... disgustingly close to Blood's nose. "We'll go far, together... we have the same first and middle names! I think we do... mine's Zack, how many other William Z's can there be? We can go all the way to Washington..."
"Me, too!" Harvey suggested. "Did you bring anything to eat?"
Karyl Shea popped another bottle of blue champagne with an inhuman squeal of delight. The cork ricocheted from wall to wall, and William Z. Blood swatted at it with his hat.
"I want to go," Wayne said, too, "we all do. We'll all stand up against the tattoos, fluorescence and Canucks. The pencil factory and the Civic... I know everybody. They'll go, too! Take us with you..."
But William Blood, behind the bulk of Tuggs and Baggs, had bolted for the door, outrunning everyone but William Z. Morris to the white limo. A mob of salesmen and their wives chased Blood into the driveway, clamoring to be taken away with him.
The rented beatnik barred their way to the limo with his body. "You'll take me," he threatened, "or deal with all of them!" He held the phony beard up like a Bible, causing Bill Blood to sneeze, look backwards at the approaching mob of wives and salesmen lurching towards him... arms outstretched, feet muddled with the blue champagne...
"Get in!" he decided. Zack stepped aside, allowing Baggs to open the back door. Blood and Zack hastened into the back seat of the white limo, Baggs and Tuggs crowded into the front. "My middle name, by the way," the politician declared, "is Zebediah!" Then, the limo squealed backwards in a cloud of burning oil and churning driveway gravel... and the shouts of the abandoned constituents...
"Come back! Come back!"
But the limousine was gone, bearing the rented beatnik into a future Valhalla of rubber chicken meals, deals struck in smoke-filled back rooms, speeches written and surly, infected babies to be kissed.
Waldo's dinner guests trooped back inside.
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