"We’re just having a few people over, Justin," Emma said. "Calm down."
"That’s not what you said when I wanted to invite all those people from the homeless shelter for New Year’s Eve," I said.
"That’s different," she said.
"The exact words you used, if I remember correctly, is that it would be the stupidest idea in the history of the world, and that I was a moron for suggesting it."
"All I meant was that it was easier for us to cater something at the homeless shelter than to have all of them here, you moron. Can you listen to me for five minutes?"
"I can listen to you for hours," I said. "But you haven’t told me anything. All I see is that you have a spread of inedible food placed out, and a big bag from the liquor store."
"There’s some celery over next to the buffalo wings, and some organic bean dip. You’re not going to starve. And I found a nice locally-sourced organic cider for you."
"Be that as it may," I said, "I don’t think that the rest of this is all for you. Certainly not the Miller Lite, certainly not the macaroni salad."
"What do your finely-honed political skills tell you?" she asked.
Political, she said, which meant that her family was not coming over, and that this was not an engagement party. We’d spent most of the last week with her family, at Emma’s grandmother’s house in Northern Michigan, and while I don’t have anything against Emma’s family, it had all been a bit much and I wasn’t anxious for another round of dealing with them right this minute. And as far as getting engaged, I hadn’t put any sort of thought in terms of buying a ring, much less anything festive.
"We’re hosting some local donors," I said.
"Bingo," Emma said. "They’ll be here in an hour, which is plenty of time for you to go upstairs and take a shower and look presentable, okay?"
I can take a hint. I got in the low-flow shower and scrubbed myself down with the no-lye organic soap, and air-dried because laundering towels is an offense to Mother Earth. I tried to figure out who the donors might be. I had argued with Emma at one point, saying that we didn’t need donors, that my dad would underwrite the whole campaign. She responded by calling my dad, and telling him that I said this, and he thought that this was the funniest thing that he had ever heard.
"If other people want to help you underwrite this campaign by giving you free money, why on Earth would you tell them no?" he’d asked. I tried explaining how we should get money out of politics, which was apparently an even funnier thing to say. So I would have to raise money for the campaign–Dad said that he wouldn’t pay for a landslide, which was funny back in 1960, when John F. Kennedy’s dad said it–and I was largely reconciled to it. But I didn’t know who these people were, or why they were there.
I walked downstairs a half hour later, well within the timeline Emma had set up, only to find that the donors were already there. I recognized a couple of them–the local Democratic Party chairman, the guy who had sold us our Prius, and the mayor of the largest town in the district–and the others looked like local businessmen. Nothing unexpected, except that they were early, and they were all sitting down. None of them got up when I walked in, not even Emma. It was an awkward moment.
Mayor McKenzie finally broke the silence. "Sit down, young man," he said.
"What’s going on here?" I asked. My voice came out kind of thin, even though this was my house and they were drinking my Miller Lite.
"Sit down, Justin," Emma said. "This is a brain trust meeting."
"So you’re lucky you got invited," Leland Campbell growled.
"This doesn’t look like a brain trust," I said. "This looks like an intervention." I meant it as a joke.
Nobody laughed, though.
"Call it what you want," the Mayor said. "Just sit down. Please."
I sat down.
"Look, Mr. Fairchild, we’re not out to get you," Gary Morris said. I hadn’t met Gary before. He was about fifty, and was one of Hanover County’s representatives in the New Jersey Assembly. He had run in 2014 against Mark Campbell, the Republican incumbent (who I understood was some kind of second cousin to Leland Campbell, Hanover County being a small place and all that). And he had lost, although I wasn’t going to make a big deal and point that out. "We just want to understand your political views a little more clearly, that’s all."
"There’s not much mystery," I said. "I am a Constitutional Trotskyite. I believe in overthrow of the current political and economic superstructure within the strictures of Anglo-American common law and liberal Constitutional interpretation, and the development of a Marxist-Leninist dictatorship of the proletariat, leading to full Communism within our lifetimes."
"This is not really the time for jokes, Mr. Fairchild," Morris said.
"We’re wasting our time," the Mayor said. "If he really believes this Communist bullcrap, then there’s no hope for him. He won’t get a single vote in Hanover County talking like that."
"We might as well have Gary run again," Leland said. "He couldn’t do any worse."
"I did it once," Morris said. "You couldn’t get me to do it again."
"If you don’t run," Leland said, "then we might be stuck with Pajama Boy."
"Who is Pajama Boy?" I asked.
No one answered. At length, Emma spoke up. "Justin, a couple of years ago, the Obama campaign had this website that told college students to talk to their parents about the Affordable Care Act. They used this picture of this college student in red pajamas. It’s kind of become a meme, in conservative circles, for liberal young people that are clueless about the real world. So they’re talking about you."
"I am not Pajama Boy," I said. "I am a proud inheritor of the liberal tradition, and I aim to be a leader for progressive voices in Congress. I would welcome your support, but I don’t need it, and I don’t want it if you’re just going to come in my house and drink my cheap American beer and insult me like that."
"So you can stand up for yourself," Michael Powell said. He was the owner of Powell Toyota, and Powell Honda, and Powell GMC-Lincoln-Mercury, and the soon-to-be-opened Powell Kia. "That’s good. But you’re going to need to be able to convince us that you can be an effective candidate. There aren’t a lot of Constitutional Trotskyites in Hanover County."
"I understand that," I said. "But I believe I can be an effective advocate for progressive causes outside of the non-violent overthrow of patriarchal civil society. Climate change. The pipeline issue. Fair pay for women. Common-sense gun control. Bringing good jobs to Hanover County."
"Justin understands what’s at stake in this election," Emma said. "And he can be an effective advocate. And he’s a transgender ally, so he can take on Mark Campbell once he announces his sex-change and still be credible."
"You know about that?" Leland asked. "I mean, I know about that, he’s my cousin. But I didn’t know that anyone else knew. How do you know?"
"I was told by someone associated with the Clinton campaign," I said. "I think they said he was trying to get a reality TV show." My best guess was that the Clinton campaign got it off an NSA wiretap, but even if I knew that were true I wasn’t dumb enough to say it out loud.
"Look," Mayor McKenzie said. "Justin, here, has a lot of things going for him. A famous name. Young and handsome, with a very attractive wife. Lots of money. But the way he’s been acting makes me think that he just isn’t going to go over well in Hanover County. Democrats can win here, but not if they’re just unreasonably super-liberal. Until he can show that he can run a real campaign and understand the issues of voters here, I don’t see how I can support him. And I don’t want to run for Congress myself, but I will if Justin can’t convince me he can run a credible campaign."
"Nobody wins by having a primary fight," Leland said. "And Justin can out-spend you into oblivion."
"You can’t just waltz into Hanover County and buy a seat in Congress," the Mayor said. "You shouldn’t be able to, anyway. You ought to have to deserve it, and right now, he doesn’t deserve it."
"What does Justin need to do to convince you?" Emma said.
"He needs a campaign manager," Morris said. "Like, yesterday. He needs someone hard-nosed, who can talk to him and have him listen. Ideally, someone local, but I don’t know who that would be. Someone who can put the fear of God into him."
I wanted to say that God didn’t exist, but I decided that it wasn’t the time to talk about my atheism.
"We both have some experience in Washington," Emma said. "And ties to the Clinton campaign. I’m sure we can find a campaign manager who can fit the bill."
"I know somebody," I said. "She’d be perfect."
"I don’t want to manage your campaign as a full-time job," Emma said. "I’ve got my hands full as it is, with the house, and the baby on the way."
"I know somebody else," I said. "Gentlemen, I appreciate your sage advice, and I will definitely take it. I can show you that I can be the candidate this district needs."
"I hope so," Mayor McKenzie said. "You’ve got until the filing deadline. If you’re still floundering around, though, I will make a race of it, and I will win."
"Okay, then," Leland said. "It’s settled. I say we all repair into the kitchen and polish off those buffalo wings."
"I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about the intervention," Emma said.
"It’s okay," I said. "You did what needed to be done. I understand. I’ll call the campaign manager tomorrow morning and have her come up here."
"You say that like you have someone in mind already," Emma said. "I thought you were just bluffing. Who?"
"You remember Polly, right?" I asked. "She helped us with that one project with the campaign."
"Oh, no," Emma said. "Not her."
"What’s wrong with Polly?" I said. "I know she needs the job. And she’s very politically astute. They want someone who can put me in my place, and she knows how to do that better than almost anyone."
"You still have a crush on her. Admit it."
"I do not!" I said. "I love you. I’m not the least bit interested in her. But she would be a good campaign manager."
"You love me," Emma said, "and what."
"And what?" I asked.
"You love me, and what."
"I love you, and…"
"And I want Polly to be my campaign manager."
"Try again."
"I love you, and I don’t understand what you’re talking about?"
"I think you do. Try. Again."
"I love you, and I want to get married?"
"Why, Justin," she said. "I thought you’d never ask. Yes. I will marry you."
"And I can hire Polly as my campaign manager?"
"You are the least romantic person in the world, Justin Trudeau-Fairchild. But yes. You can interview her, anyway. If she wants the job, fine."
"Okay then," I said.
"Well then. Shall we celebrate our engagement?"
"You can have the rest of the buffalo wings," I said. "I’ll finish off the celery."
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