“Look, Mr. Fairchild, I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to accept it.”
“This is ridiculous,” I said. “It’s just wrong.”
“I understand your concern, sir, but you’re going to have to get used to the idea. You’re getting older, and you have a baby, and you’re running for Congress. This is all very stressful.”
“That’s not the issue.”
“But it is, sir. And maybe–I don’t like to bring it up–maybe you’re not eating as you should. I mean, with the WaWa across the street and all.”
It was true. I couldn’t deny it. I was putting on weight, and I had gotten to the point where I couldn’t fit into any of my suits. Emma had pointed it out, even though she still had a good way to go to get back to her pre-baby figure. Polly had threatened to put my name up on a poster in the WaWa, imploring cashiers not to let me get Butterscotch Krimpets. And now my tailor was telling me that I had to go up to the next larger size. And the worst part was that I wasn’t going to be able to lose the weight in time before the Democratic convention in Philadelphia.
“Okay,” I said. “A new suit, then, and make it look sharp for the cameras.”
“Of course, sir. It should look fine, as long as you don’t manage to gain any weight in the next couple of days.”
*
I made a quick detour over to the WaWa (getting a nice healthy cheese-and-grapes plate, thank you very much) and walked back to campaign headquarters.
“Did you get a nice suit?” Polly asked.
“Yes,” I said. “Navy, and it’ll go well with my red power tie.”
“And flag pin.”
“And flag pin.” I wished Polly wasn’t so interested in what I wore. “How’s the speech coming?”
“Difficult,” she said. “It’s hard to write anything original. You know, rearranging the same old platitudes.”
“Can we get some new platitudes?” I said.
I’d been given a speaking slot on the second day of the convention, early in the morning. I was supposed to talk about inspiring younger voters, which was a fine thing to speak about, but I also didn’t want Sanders supporters throwing things at me. It was a fine line to tread, which is why I had delegated it to Polly.
“I am doing the best I can,” Polly said. “I should have a draft to you by tomorrow morning.”
“How is the part going about attacking Trump?”
“Honestly? It’s been a slog. You can’t attack Trump on his age, because Hillary is just as old. You can’t attack him for being corrupt, because Hillary is just as corrupt. You can’t attack him for his foreign policy, because that reminds people of Benghazi and Syria. Basically, you have to just call him a billionaire racist and leave it at that.”
“What about the double standard?” I asked. “Why do we have to give that up all of a sudden?”
Polly sighed. “I’ve explained this. The only way the double standard works is not to draw too much attention to it.”
“Okay, whatever. I just… wait a second, my phone’s ringing.”
“Who is it?” Polly asked.
“Unknown caller,” I said. “Hello?”
“Mr. Fairchild?” It was a chirpy, chipper kind of voice. “You have a meeting with your attorney in five minutes.”
“No I don’t,” I said. “All my attorneys are in Manhattan anyway; even if I did have a meeting, I’d never get there.”
“But you do,” she said, and gave me an address. In Hanover. “See you there!”
I told Polly about it. “What do you think I should do?” I asked.
“Probably someone wants to serve papers on you for something,” she said. “Just ignore it.”
So I did. For twenty minutes, anyway, until it was time to go back across the street to WaWa. The woman with the chirpy voice stopped me before I got into the building.
“There you are!” she said. “We’ve been waiting.”
“I just want a nice, healthy snack,” I lied. “Please, let me go in.”
“Can’t let you do that,” she said. “Orders.”
“From who?”
My phone rang. It was my father. “Do as she says, son,” he said. “And be quick about it. I’ve got a raft of Chilean derivatives that are going to give me a peptic ulcer before the day’s through.”
*
“So what’s this about?” I said to the lawyer, whose name I cannot disclose for ethical reasons.
“I have been talking to a client of mine, who just happens to work for the Justice, Unity, and Service To Immigrant Neighbors political action committee. Sound familiar?”
“Yes,” I said. “And I’m not allowed to talk to him, if that’s what this is about.” I was not allowed to talk to my super-PAC representatives, for reasons that didn’t make a great deal of sense, but I didn’t want to make myself into the next Martha Stewart.
“Of course not. And I am not allowed to reveal confidential information that JUSTIN may reveal to me.”
“I haven’t revealed anything to you,” I said.
“No, JUSTIN the super-PAC, not you, Mr. Fairchild.”
“Right. JUSTIN can’t talk to me, and I can’t talk to JUSTIN, even though I am Justin.”
“Very good. But you can talk to your attorney, who can advise you, and that conversation is of course confidential.”
“So you can talk to me, and you can talk to JUSTIN, although I can’t talk to JUSTIN, and if JUSTIN has anything to say to me, then… wait, I’m confused.”
“Don’t be,” the lawyer said. “As I said, I can’t reveal any confidential information. But it is not confidential that there is an internet site called WikiLeaks, and that you are free to go and visit it on your own time. You know, just to check and see if anyone at, say, the Democratic National Committee has been talking about you behind your back.”
“I’m going to need to write that down,” I said.
“Please don’t,” the lawyer said. “Just remember the one word. WikiLeaks, and search for Justin Fairchild.
“I can do that,” I said.
*
Subject: Recruiting Failure in NJ-13
Hey Cory,
So I’m watching MSNBC, and they’re doing an interview with some idiot named Justin Fairchild, who is apparently our candidate in NJ-13. How the hell did we come up with this clown? Were we not able to recruit someone good? I guess he’s one of those Fairchilds and can self-fund his campaign, but still. I can’t stand watching this moron, although God knows there’s dumber people in the House. Think about who we might want to run in 2018 when you get a chance, because there’s no way we’re going to win with this pansy.
*
“I don’t see why you’re so upset,” Polly said. “I mean, just because she called you an idiot. I call you an idiot all the time.”
“I am not an idiot,” I said. “I was told that I was recruited to run for this seat because of my political talents. Well, that, and I helped Hillary Clinton destroy a whole bunch of computer equipment one time. Which I probably should not be telling you about.”
“Okay, so Debbie Wasserman-Schultz thinks you’re an idiot. There are worse things. Suck it up.”
“That’s not the point! The point is that… that I’m smart, not like everyone says. I’m smart, and I want respect.”
“You realize you’re quoting The Godfather, right?”
“The what?”
“Okay, you don’t realize. Look, she didn’t mean for you to read this, right? No big deal.”
“It’s a huge deal. It’s WikiLeaks. Every political reporter probably read this. Mark Campbell definitely is reading this. And who knows who else?”
“Look,” Polly said. “What’s the worst thing that can happen?”
*
“They delivered your new suit,” Emma said.
“Don’t care,” I said.
“But it’s the one you’re wearing to Philadelphia,” she said.
“I’m not going,” I said. “They gave my speaking slot to an undocumented immigrant activist.”
“Oh, that’s terrible, Justin.”
“It’s the WikiLeaks thing. They called it a scheduling mix-up, but the truth is that they don’t want someone on the stage who might say something idiotic.”
“You are not allowed to get down on yourself,” Emma said. “You are not. This is not your fault.”
“I thought Julian Assange was supposed to be one of the good guys,” I said. “Why is he doing this to Democrats? It’s not fair.”
“All I can tell you is that nobody really thinks you’re an idiot. You’re a good father, and you’re running a good campaign, and you’re going to win. Isn’t that enough? Who cares what Debbie Wasserman-Schultz thinks?”
I knew she was right, and I wanted to believe her, but there was a part of me that said that what she said was true, and that I was an idiot, and that I’d never be able to go the distance. I thought that for a long while, and then I went downstairs and ate a tube of cookie dough, and then I went to sleep. The good news was that the new suit fit perfectly.
****
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
Week Eighteen:The Taco Bowl
Week Nineteen:The Trending Topic
Week Twenty-One:The Blessed Event
Week Twenty-Two:The 3AM Feeding
Week Twenty-Three:The Stuffed Elephant
Week Twenty-Five: The Turkey Jive
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