"Oh, come on," Polly said. "It will be fine."
"I don’t know about this," I said. "It doesn’t seem like a very good idea."
"We’re just going out to get lunch," she said. "That’s all we’re doing, like anyone else would on a random Thursday. And we’re getting Mexican food, which is yummy and delicious."
"I don’t like Mexican food," I said. "I’m a vegetarian."
"I have called ahead," Polly explained. "They understand. Well, they don’t understand, but they can make you a vegetarian Mexican lunch if that’s what you want. I am getting the chicken tacos, myself."
"It seems… wrong," I said. "Like cultural appropriation."
"You celebrated Kwanzaa last year," Polly said. "And you’re whiter than Bing Crosby. It’s a little too late for you to be playing the cultural appropriation card. Besides, going out for Mexican food on Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of the best thing in all cultures, which is tacos."
"Tacos made with vegetable oil, not lard," I said.
"Yeah, yeah, sure. Come on."
*
I am not an idiot. I want this understood. Polly, who is one of my favorite people in the world and my super-smart campaign manager, calls me an idiot almost every day. Emma, my beautiful, wonderful wife, calls me an idiot more often than that. But I’m not. I have a degree in social justice studies from Amherst. I have worked in the corridors of power in Washington. I own a house and am pretty sure how to turn the hot water heater on and off if I ever need to. I am not an idiot. My focus is a little different than some people, and I approach things differently, and sometimes it takes me a little time to process things that might be obvious to you. But I’m not an idiot. I don’t go out of my way to set myself up for ridicule. It’s just that, well, sometimes things happen to me that I can’t control. Like, you know, ordering a taco bowl on Cinco de Mayo.
*
It was a very nice taco bowl. Crisp container, deep-fried in vegetable oil (I checked), filled with black beans and pico de gallo and locally-sourced sharp cheddar cheese. Polly took a picture of me with the taco bowl, and put it up on Instagram. She got three chicken tacos and tucked in. My taco bowl was just spicy enough that I was able to wash it down with the imported tamarind soda that they had. All in all, it was a very nice meal, although Polly spoiled it somewhat by discussing the Baltimore Orioles at length. I didn’t get any black bean sauce on my white Oxford shirt, and I had my picture taken with the restaurant staff, which also went up on Instagram. I am not sure if anyone there was registered to vote or not, so I don’t know that I actually got myself any votes, but it was a good event with good visuals that showed my connection to the Hispanic community in Hanover County. Polly was pleased with it, anyway, and that lasted until we walked the two blocks back to campaign headquarters.
"There they are!" an exited voice called out when we walked in the door. "Thank God."
This was a young woman with the very unfortunate name of Florence Lawrence who was our best campaign volunteer and Polly’s right-hand woman. I’d met her at the local college, and she’d arranged some kind of work-study thing that allowed her to hold down the fort at headquarters whenever Polly and I were both out.
"What just happened?" Polly asked.
Florence just handed her an iPad mini (which just so happened to have the Fairchild International logo printed on the case; we’d gotten a good deal on surplus tablets from the IT department). Polly looked at the image, and her face went white. "Oh, my God," she said. "Justin, look."
"It’s Donald Trump," I said. "So what?"
"Look. Look what he’s eating."
"It’s a taco bowl," I said. "So what? I just had a taco bowl. It was delicious. Maybe a little too much cilantro, but otherwise fine."
"Justin," Polly said. "Track with me. Donald Trump just ate a taco bowl, and he tweeted about it. And you just ate a taco bowl."
"So, like, what, taco bowls are trending on Twitter now? Big deal."
"Read the comments," Florence said. "Not on Trump’s tweet, but your Instagram. People are furious."
"Wait, seriously?" I said. "Give me that."
*
Can’t believe that Fairchild would be that insensitive. Sad!

Why is Fairchild joining Trump in his efforts to marginalize Hispanics?

Big misstep by the Fairchild campaign to tie their candidate to controversial Trump statement.

Unnecessary error.

We knew Fairchild loved Canadians, but who knew that he hated Mexicans?
*
"Justin? Justin? Speak to me, pal. Come on."
"What did he just do?" Florence asked. "Is he having a seizure?"
"I don’t think so," Polly said. "Here. Help me get him off the floor and into a chair. Like that. Come on, Justin."
I tried to say something, but it came out with a beeping sound.
"That does not sound good," Florence said.
"Beep," I said.
"Snap out of it," Polly said.
"Maybe he had a stroke," Florence said.
"Maybe he did. If we’re lucky, it may have just affected the speech center of his brain. Justin, are you in there?"
"Beep," I said. "Beep-beep."
"He’s hyperventilating," Polly said. "Get me that brown paper bag out of the trash."
Florence tried to hand me the bag, but I wouldn’t take it. "Beep," I said. "Beep-beep-beep."
"You need to breathe, Justin," Polly said. "This will help."
I shook my head. "What… was in the… beep-beep bag?" I gasped.
"I don’t know. Florence, was that your lunch?"
"Yeah," she said. "Turkey Reuben. It’s empty now."
"I think he wants a vegetarian bag," Polly said. "Justin, just this once, work with me, okay?"
I took the bag. It smelled like Russian dressing and sadness. I breathed from it, deeply, rhythmically, and after a couple of minutes recovered a little of my composure.
"I think I’m gonna beep okay," I said.
"You need to be better than okay," Polly said. "You’re going to start getting media inquiries any minute now. We may need to call a press conference."
"Beep," I said.
"No. Not beep. The beeping needs to stop, right away."
"Beep," I said.
"You had better not be doing this to mess with me, Justin Fairchild, or I will go out of my way to personally injure you."
"I am–beep–not doing this on purpose," I explained. "This is how I sound when I get the beeping hiccups."
"How do we get them to stop?" Polly asked. "You need to talk to the press, try to defuse some of this."
"If I knew–beep–I would stop."
Florence looked up from her cell phone. "I asked Justin’s mom what to do," she said.
"You did beep?" I asked.
"We’re Facebook friends," she explained. "She said that the hiccupping is caused by mental trauma, and the only way to stop it is with physical trauma."
Polly kicked me in my left shin. Hard.
"Ow! I said. "Stop that." And then she kicked me in my right shin, harder this time. "That really hurt."
"It’s supposed to," Polly said. "Did it work?"
I took a deep breath. "I don’t know. I think so."
"I would have smacked you in the face, but I was afraid it would leave a mark."
"Thanks," I said. "I think."
"You need to say something longer, so I know you won’t beep," Polly said.
"Oh. I was going to tell Florence that a Reuben actually has corned beef or pastrami. You can’t actually have a turkey Reuben, it’s not really a thing."
Polly let loose a sigh. "Sounds like you’re back to normal. Sort of. Let’s go repair your reputation in the Hispanic community."
"Beep," I said. Polly’s face turned brick red, so I had to explain. "That wasn’t a hiccup, honest. That was just a burp from the beans."
"Next time, I am going to kick you someplace that will really hurt," Polly said. "Come on."
So I spent the next hour explaining to local reporters that I sincerely liked Mexicans and wasn’t trying to associate myself with Trump’s tweet, while trying to ignore the bruises on my shins. I knew going the distance would be painful, but this was ridiculous.
***
Next week’s episode: Week Nineteen: The Trending Topic
Check out the previous installments:
Last year:
Week Forty-Nine:The True North
Week Fifty:The Garden State
This year:
Week Four:The Brain Trust
Week Six:The Snow Day

Week Seven:The Coin Flip

Week Eight:The Wicked Witch
Week Eleven:The State Dinner
Week Twelve:The Maple Leaf Rag
Week Thirteen:The Large Endowment
Week Fourteen:The Transit Authority
Week Fifteen:The Ten Forty
Week Sixteen:The Bachelor Party
Week Seventeen: The Refugee Crisis