A Friday Fiction
In which Hillary, Bernie, and Bill Maher Vie for the Soul of our Heroine
“He didn’t say that,” Amy snorted.
“He did,” Jason replied, calm and a little condescendingly.
Amy’s blond ponytail high on her head bobbed as she skipped a step to keep up with him. Good thing she wore her sneakers and school sweat set. The leaves on the parkway trees had already fallen, and she thought for a second how silly it was for an arid desert state to plant trees like they had in Chicago, where she was from, just to try to look homey, like all the places the people came from when they were actually trying to leave all that. She had come to help out on the election with her roommate Madison from U of I, who was a super brain from a little town right outside Champaign. Jason, who was a grad student at Berkeley, had chosen her from their group at the election HQ to help him walk precincts and talk to possible voters for Brendan Oust in District 39. It was close and the Democrats did not want the Republicans to take it back. Students were here from all over: kids from Harvard, who wore all black and were unapproachable, and the kids from Missouri, who were fun. She had tried to get on the Hillary team but they were full.
Now they were arguing about some things Bill Maher had supposedly said. Something about Bernie was a cancer in the party and the party was a bunch of hypocrites—it had to be an exaggeration. As if he would not know how deeply problematic the Republican Party really is and how Bernie was just the reaction to the wreckage of the late stage capitalism, the Iraq War and 9/11, the wreckage that the other party had caused. She watched Bill Maher every Friday with a group in the dorm when they got home from the bars and they always laughed and learned a lot too.
Jason stopped and checked his list. He looked up and said, “Go leave a brochure on their door.”
He saw her glare back and shrugged, “Please.”
“I thought we were going to talk to everybody,” she countered.
“It’s a weekday. Nobody’s home. We’ll come back on the weekend and ring doorbells,” he answered.
Oh, was he asking her to come back?
On that thought, she turned on her heel and walked up to the door. She slipped the brochure around the knob, on top of two or three other ones already left by other people running for other offices. She noticed one on the bottom of the stack: the flyer from Brendan’s opponent. She slipped it off the knob and held it up for Jason to see. He flashed a big thumbs up, and she walked back with her prize.
“Good catch,” he said with a big grin. “Those other guys will do any kind of dirty trick to win.”
Of course: the Republicans.
She looked at him more closely, relaxed now that they were getting things done in sync like a real team. His jeans and shirt were wrinkled and torn in place—torn for real, not torn when you bought them so you could look poor. He was probably poor for real. The creases on his hands had stains from dirt maybe on them and underneath his fingernails was smudged too. His hair was long, pushed back behind his ears. So hippie or homeless; she couldn’t make up her mind. Sort of like those old pictures of Carlos Santana on the albums that her mom had, wild and brilliant but messy.
They finished their precinct and walked back to Jason’s car, an old Saturn. She figured that owning a Saturn was an ironic comment on cars, so bad for the climate. It was late afternoon and getting chilly as the sun sank in the distance. Jason got in the driver’s seat and started the car and turned on the heater, full blast. He reached into the back seat and grabbed two beers with one hand. He popped open a can and handed one to Amy. At first she hesitated.
“Come on,” he said, “You’ve earned it. We’ve earned it.” And he pushed back his seat, took a long draft and sighed with satisfaction. Amy popped hers too, and honestly the cold beer tasted great after all that walking and talking and the dry winds.
Before she was half done, he reached back and got another one for himself. After a couple drafts, he leaned over and kissed her on the cheek, almost right at her neck.
“Thanks,” he whispered. She didn’t reply, because she wondered “thanks” for what. For being on his team? For letting him kiss her? When she really didn’t even see it coming. Then he moved his lips over and kissed her lightly on the mouth and rested his hand on the waistband of her sweat pants. As his hand began to move down between her legs, she tensed up and slid backwards and sideways into the corner of the seat.
He pulled away, shook his hair, and said, “Whew! Better get back.”
“We better,” she said.
As he shifted into gear, he turned to her and said softly, “You know, you’re … special.”
It was now late afternoon and the sun was fading. As they pulled away, Amy looked down the block they just covered and noticed two young men dressed in black dress pants and office shirts and ties walking down the sidewalk, brochures in hand. As Jason turned the Saturn towards the freeway, the two men walked up to a house and slipped the brochure off the door Amy had just put there earlier and replaced it with their own.
Jason’s apartment was kind of a disappointment too, like his car. He had a surfer poster up on the wall above the couch, which was a futon on concrete blocks. His TV was pretty small and it was perched on top of an ottoman across from the couch. If you looked at his apartment and his car you would never guess he was a total radical from Berkeley. They made out on the couch for a while and messed around, without doing it and then he took her back to HQ. She was turned on by him but wanted to be sure it might be going somewhere first.
It was Tuesday night, finally, election night. It was looking good for Hillary, and pretty good for The 39 too. Jason had not contacted her about working on the weekend, or maybe going out, so she sat in the office making calls, making photocopies, picking up sandwiches. Her team leader did assign her as a Get Out the Vote Assistant, so she drove around with a local girl, Grace from UCI, a cool Asian American who had a car, and they went up to each house with a registered voter inside who had not been counted yet at the polls. They would ask if they had voted and if they needed a ride. It was a shock that so many did not even realize it was Election Day. Or maybe they were just trying to avoid going to vote. They drove two or three to vote and back home again, including one man with the flu, who they really had to talk into voting, and who threw up on her shoes as they walked out of the voting location.
“That’s retail politics,” Madison laughed, as Amy wiped off the barf on the wet grass.
Later they all met up at a bar right down the street from headquarters. It was totally campaign people by the time the polls closed. Girls were starting to cry at the thought of the first woman president. It was wonderful. It was why she came all the way from Illinois, to be part of something so beautiful. Even the Harvard people were loosened up and cracking jokes and dancing—and probably doing lines of coke, as she had noticed all weekend. It was early though and we all know what happened.
She looked for Jason but couldn’t find him anywhere.
She and Madison eventually left through the back door into to the parking lot behind the bar. In the row farthest away from the bar, sat the Saturn. She thought she saw Jason sitting in the driver’s seat. “Just a sec,” she said to Madison and they walked over together. Jason turned towards her and looked surprised. His hair was messy and his eyes were half closed as he lay back in the seat. She looked down and saw a girl with her face in his lap.
“OMG,” Madison screeched and pulled her away. They almost ran to Madison’s car.
On the way home, Madison didn’t say much. Amy must have looked crestfallen so Madison said soothingly, “Stay away from him. He hits on everybody.”
“Hmmm,” Amy replied.
“You know?” Madison asked, trying to get a response.
“I know, of course.”
They drove on in silence.
“Did you know Bill Maher said the party was a bunch of hypocrites?” Amy asked.
“Who was?” Madison sounded puzzled.
“Bernie really should have won the nom,” she replied.
Madison asked, “But—well, do you think so, too? I mean, about the party?”
“I mean, Hillary is such a better candidate,” Amy replied and just shrugged.
After a minute, Madison said quietly, “He didn’t say that.”
“Yes, he did,” Amy said.