It was finally time for the convention in Cleveland. The Quicken Loans Arena had never held so many people who held such little interest in the NBA. Outside of the arena, vendors hawked their wares, from knock-off red "Make America Great Again" hats, to Donald Trump action figures. Inside the venue, the Trump campaign had held nothing back. Everything was gold-plated, from water fountains to the men’s urinal troughs. In truth this was a ruse; a few of the remaining Cruz supporters, wary of the idea from the start, discovered a maintenance room full of gold spray paint, and proceeded to chip away at one of the fountains with a handy pocketknife. Still, the arena was a sight to behold.
Upon arrival, every entrant received a copy of The Art of the Deal. All of the men then received a shiny pair of cuff links. The women received a small bottle of Empire perfume. Contestants from all seasons of The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice were on hand to welcome VIPs. Everything went swimmingly well until singer Bret Michaels had to usher in Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. Sometimes every thorn has its thorn.
And there were tons of things for sale. Not just the typical Reagan/Bush 1984 t-shirts, or Crown Publisher’s typical set-up of conservative bestsellers, although all of Gingrich’s novels took prominent placement all over the arena. No, these hastily set up stores allowed delegates to purchase gold on the spot, while some even offered "feel it before you buy it" programs. Rumor had it that William Devane would be the keynote speaker at the second night of the convention. And he wasn’t even a Republican!
Jake and Charlene continued their conversations as they set up shop at their state’s designated floor area. As they settled themselves in, Jake was amazed at the sheer amount of discussion about the vice presidential pick. The word on the convention floor was that it would be Newt Gingrich.
"Don’t you think his marital past may be an issue with women voters?" Jake interjected to a group with Minnesota T-shirts. He was met with blank stares. The conversation promptly turned to a discussion about the wall. "Yeah, think about all the jobs it will create." Jake went back to putting on a pin, which prominently displayed the image of Bill Buckley, and struck up another conversation with Charlene.
And so the first day of the convention passed in a blur. Within a week, the convention’s opening day would be forgotten, overshadowed by later, more violent events.
The morning of the second day of the convention couldn’t come fast enough for Charlene, who had lain awake happily meditating on her connection with the striking Jake. She sought him out as soon as she arrived at the arena, and found him purchasing a breakfast of Trump Sausage, a derivative of Trump Steaks. Jake, for his part, was thrilled with both the taste of the biscuit and Charlene’s smiling face coming toward him. Charlene’s newfound confidence came from the new, pleat-free pants she sported with a form-fitting "Make America Great Again" t-shirt.
Jake was swooning, "Good morning," he managed to say between bites of succulent sausage.
"And good morning" she eagerly responded to his smile, "So I was thinking, there’s something I want to show you."
Jake was in heaven, and at that moment would have signed up for anything she threw at him. Which, in fact, was what he did. Charlene took him by the hand and led him to one of the conference rooms where eager GOPers could listen to pertinent talks from the experts. Although, this being a different kind of convention, Jake almost lost his step as Charlene led him into a room with a presentation about US foreign affairs and the coming of a one world government, hosted by the John Birch Society with the help of Pat Buchanan.
It was exactly what Jake thought it would be: three hours of discussing sinister European machinations involving almost every major Wall Street bank, punctuated by discussions of how the Rapture would play into possible End of Days scenarios. Charlene, however, loved it, and as much as Jake wanted to question this, and the whole direction of the convention, he smiled, took her hand, and suggested they get some lunch.
They ate a lunch under a huuuge banner of the prospective first family, all tanned with sparkling white teeth. They traded stories about growing up in different parts of Philadelphia and what it was like to cheer for the Eagles. Jake was going to bring up his infatuation with the Philadelphia Union, the area’s professional soccer team, but thought better of the idea- most of the Trump supporters didn’t seem to care for anything too "foreign."
"You’ve never seen anything like that before, have you?" Charlene asked, referring to their morning spent in the company of the John Birch Society.
"I can’t say I have. But it was very informative," he managed to say between bites.
"Just what will we do next?" Charlene asked, immediately regretting that she may have been too forward. Jake was inwardly thrilled that she wished to stay in his company. He had just the idea.
"Come with me," he reached out for her hand.
Jake’s idea for the afternoon was for them both to attend an event sponsored by AEI on how to fix the federal budget process. It was a dull snooze fest, the kind only populated by wonkish policy nerds. Charlene lost interest sometime during the opening fifteen minutes, and they slipped out well before the panel touched on the controversial topic of earmarks.
Instead, they decided to get in on the carnival side of the convention. They bought cotton candy, won teddy bears at the NRAs shoot ’em up event, and won Reagan bobble heads at a ring toss sponsored by the Heritage Foundation. You could have put it to a happy pop ballad used as montage music.
And of course, the evening’s capstone event was another convention speech by Chris Christie, which was all about himself, again. (For the text, see the 2012 convention.) Following the boisterous speech, Jake was on a two-fold emotional high. The presentations had been awe-inspiring and surprisingly intellectual. As if that wasn’t enough, he felt his relationship deepening with Charlene, in a way he would have considered unimaginable only days before.
He just couldn’t bear to end the night and decided to go for it. "Somehow the Trump campaign didn’t book enough rooms, so I’m staying at the La Quinta. You couldn’t ask for a better continental breakfast – they even have the full size containers of Greek yogurt."
Jake wasn’t like any of the men Charlene had encountered before. None of her burly coworkers ever paid her the slightest attention, not like this paltry corporate type. Charlene didn’t want the night to end any more than he did.
"They even have a hotel bar," he said with a subtle wink.

An orange, La Quinta-colored light dimly lit the hotel room. Jake had just returned from the ice machine and pored lukewarm water into two child-sized plastic cups. The ice immediately began to melt. He pulled up a Western movie theme music playlist on iTunes. It kept him cool in stressful situations. He hit play as he waited for Charlene to come out from the bathroom.
He felt nervous. He knew that his pastor said it was wrong to engage in premarital relations, and more to the point, he knew the key to economic stability was through pro-family policies that left little room for unmarried intercourse. If this went the way he thought it would, Jake mentally agreed to a penance of sorts. He would read every article on the Focus on the Family homepage for a month – even the campy reviews about children’s movies.
He heard movement, and she appeared in the doorway wearing substantially less than she had before. The pleated pants were long gone. They moved toward one another, both quivering with nerves. Jake made the first move. If anything, Trump had taught him to be bold. He pulled her close and kissed her passionately. She couldn’t believe it either. Just how did she land this mysterious man, always quoting someone named Buckley? She responded to his strong overtures by letting herself be fully embraced by him.
For Charlene, it was happening just like one of the plots of the many romance novels that decorated her shelf next to the over-sized litterbox. She leaned forward, threw her arms around him and kissed him with as much vigor as he had first assailed her. He foisted her up, and with strength that came from nowhere, tossed her onto the bed as they fully succumbed to their animalistic passions. The William Tell Overture hit the cue in the playlist.
They woke up early the next morning. They had both agreed that if they slept past 7:15 they would miss all the good stuff in the continental breakfast in the lobby. There were only ever a handful of bananas to go around. Plus, that would give them time to make the Heritage Foundation’s panel on health care policy.
The health care event didn’t go all that long. It ended abruptly after ten minutes, when two pro-Trump panelists began to violently disagree about whether the ending of Obamacare would be merely awesome, or completely terrific.
The pair followed the abbreviated panel with another romantic lunch, where they oohed over one another shamelessly. The Trump steaks and Trump wine were especially delicious. Charlene suggested they attend another panel. She seized Jake’s hand as he happily went along to wherever she was going.
Until he saw the sign.
"Charlene, I can’t go to this one."
"Why not? I haven’t heard Trump talk about this one before. It seems like something you might like."
"I just can’t. You’re new to the movement, so you may not know that ‘End the Fed’ presentations by Ron Paul are the most sanctimonious, pseudoscientific claptrap on the right."
Charlene was taken aback. "I think you’re overdoing it."
"I’m not." The reply was terse.
"Maybe you should have an open mind. It could be fun."
"It won’t." He turned and started to walk away. He was getting angrier by the second.
"Was it something I said?" Charlene asked, the hurt obvious in her voice.
Suddenly, he couldn’t hold his secret back any longer.
"I have a secret, a dark, dark secret."
"What is it?" she looked up at him with genuine concern, "You can tell me anything, sweetheart."
"I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m part of the establishment." He began to weep.
She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
"I went to a Rubio rally with some friends…" His voice trailed off. He remembered the crisp spring morning like it was yesterday. There were thousands of upper-middle-class Republicans in Patagonia jackets, pouring into the seats of an upscale private school football stadium. They were all cheerfully sipping lattes and buying donuts they wouldn’t eat to help fight human trafficking. After an hour of networking and discussing their portfolios, he came out, and the crowd just erupted.
He came back to reality, "But there’s more to it than that," he confessed, "I read Peggy Noonan, David Brooks, Ross Douthat, all the folks at National Review– I just can’t help myself. They’re all so compelling."
Now it was her turn to cry, "Stop, just stop" she said between bursts of tears, "I can’t believe you lied to me! You’re a traitor. You know that Hannity told us those people are wolves in sheep’s clothing."
And with that she ran out of the main convention floor. Jake hesitated for a second and then tried to catch up with her, but was thwarted by the West Virginia Delegation, as the large group headed to the bathrooms following an hour of spontaneous cheering after Trump had tweeted a declaration that coal was a terrific energy source.
Jake tried to break through the crowd, but it was useless. There was no point trying to fight his way through a large group of middle-aged Trump supporters on their way to relieve themselves.
He had lost her. And why? And for what?
He knew he had to find her. Jake had never felt this way before with anyone. And so, when the foot traffic finally cleared, he started to run toward the exits.
It was complete chaos outside the arena. As with any Trump event, a massive crowd of protestors and hangers on had assembled outside the arena. It was a mix of the usual upper class collegians looking for a reason to protest, coupled with the usual groups frustrated with wage equality or nuclear proliferation.
If this wasn’t bad enough, Jake looked to his left, at what appeared to be two different groups of conservative protesters. When did that ever happen? If he wasn’t mistaken, Glenn Beck was leading a battalion of homeschoolers marching forward to the tune of Onward Christian Soldiers. He looked around desperately, unable to see her in any direction. The groups were already throwing small objects at one another. A riot could start at any point. It was at that point when Jake realized that all lives didn’t actually matter, only one did, and the fate of his beloved Charlene was in his hands.
He ducked under several lines worth of caution tape and began to wade through the posters and the protesters. He handed over a one hundred dollar bill to a stoner for his "Feel the Bern" t-shirt. His casual corporate look temporarily disguised, he searched the myriad faces for Charlene.
And then he glanced her. She had taken refuge in a TGI Fridays restaurant just across the street, cowering with two waitresses under the table. They locked eyes for a second, enough time for Jake to mouth, "I’m sorry."
The next instant shook the political world to its core. The FBI was never able to determine who fired the first shot, but a cascade of gunshots from both sides followed. Protesters screamed amid a scene of mass bedlam. Jake went to take a step forward but felt excruciating pain. He looked down. He had been shot in the chest. His situation was grim. The next thing he knew, a few of the Beck supporters were dragging him into the main lobby of the TGI Fridays as the fighting raged on outside.
So this was it. Jake would die at the hands of a left-wing protester, who had used a gun no less. Even in his dying moments, the irony wasn’t lost on him. He looked up at Charlene, who was a mix of anger and overwhelming grief.
"You must," he said between gasps, "You must not let Trump enact his trade policies. It will literally kill the economy."
"I don’t understand," she sobbed uncontrollably. "I don’t understand why?"
He took a labored breath, and forced out the words, "retaliatory tariffs…"
"Huh?" she continued to weep, "I don’t see how bringing back the jobs will hurt. I believe you, I just wish you would be around to actually explain all this in terms our side could comprehend. I love you…"
"I’ll always be… in your mind," he smiled at her. And with that, he died.
Charlene sat at the bus station, awaiting a return trip to the city of brotherly love. Her eyes were still damp with tears. How would she get by without him? Would she ever know love that strong again? Would there ever be someone to guide her and love her?
At that moment, she felt a firm hand on her shoulder.
"Is this seat taken?" a masculine voice echoed from behind.
"No, it’s not" she said softly. She looked up behind her, and saw a handsome, smiling Corey Lewandowski adorned in a V-neck sweater.
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