“I am proud to fight in this election. I am proud to fight because I am fighting under the banner of Marxism. I realize that’s not a popular banner to fight under in this country, but I intend to keep fighting it just the same. I am fighting for the proletariat against the capitalist oppressor. I am fighting for revolutionary change instead of slow incremental change. I am fighting for the truth that lies behind the dialectic. I am fighting against the forces of darkness and superstition and religion. I am fighting for the communist future of mankind, in the footsteps of Leon Trotsky, and it is a fight that, one day, working together, I know we can win.”
The two Bernie Bros in the office clapped, once they finally figured out that I was finished talking. Florence Lawrence, our receptionist, clapped a little bit longer, but she looked over at Polly and stopped when she saw that Polly was rolling her eyes.
“What did you think?” I asked, although I knew she thought I was an idiot.
“It is maybe not right for the speech for the Veterans of Foreign Wars,” Polly said.
“Well, no,” I said. “I was going to talk about how the Republicans are blocking increases in the VA budget.”
“And I don’t think it’s maybe quite right for the speech to the New Jersey Coalition of Day Care Center Employees.”
“Again, I was going to talk to them about how the Republicans are blocking subsidies for child care.”
“So this is for…”
“Friday. The Union of University Scholars conference in Hoboken. They invited reporters from Mother Jones and The Guardian.”
“Of course they did.”
“You told me you were behind re-booting this campaign on constitutional Trotskyite principles.”
“I was drunk, and I thought we were going to lose. And maybe we still are. All I am saying is that if you are going to definitely give this crazy speech, maybe you want to think about giving it in a forum where, you know, there aren’t any reporters. Even friendly reporters, and a friendly audience.”
“I want everyone to know that I am taking a stand for true progressivism and revolutionary Marxism,” I said, hoping that I wasn’t mansplaining too much.
“Which is fine, as long as you don’t actually do it in Hanover County, okay?”
“It’s a message that people in Hanover County need as much as anyone else,” I say. “You guys agree with me, right?”
The Bernie Bros looked up from the vegetarian snack bar we’d put in across from the copier. “Yeah, bro,” one of them said. “Righteous.”
“You’re out of organic cashew butter,” the other one said.
“Got it,” I said. “See? We’re already building a solid base of support.”
“Excuse me for being a progressive,” the first Bernie Bro said, “but I threw out the cashew butter. It’s not a native plant to the Northern Hemisphere.”
“So what?” the second one said. “Some of us have peanut allergies. Cashew farming is totally sustainable and supporting organic cashew cultivation supports anti-deforestation efforts in Brazil. Unless there’s something anti-progressive about the rainforest.”
“Microaggression. You’re forgetting the carbon footprint of shipping cashews to North America. And the cultural appropriation issues. You could just as easily eat almond butter.”
“Oh, really? Have you looked at what almond growers are doing to the ecology of central California?”
“Microaggression.”
“Yeah,” Polly said, “that’s a solid base of support you got there. You can really build a political movement on that.”
*
They didn’t have organic cashew butter at the Union of University Scholars conference. They had bagels and cream cheese and a tiny little hunk of smoked salmon and that was about it. It didn’t bother me. I was too keyed up to be hungry, and I knew I could always hit the WaWa for snacks on my way back to Hanover County. I was going to announce to the world, for the first time, that I was going to run for Congress as a constitutional Trotskyite. I had my best suit on, with a bright-red tie. (You can actually get red ties with yellow hammer-and-sickles from this one store on Etsy, but they don’t offer free shipping, and so I didn’t actually order one.)
I took a look at the program. There were just three presentations before I gave the keynote address. There was what looked to be an interesting discussion on the labor movement in Nigeria, a panel discussion on Stalinist apologetics, and a convocation on the role of deconstruction in revolutionary Thai popular music. However, I didn’t think that I would stay around for the presentation on the development of alternate symbolism for next-generation socialist mathematics. Sometimes the revolution of the proletariat asks too much.
“Oh, my goodness, Justin, is that you?”
I turned around, and just barely restrained myself from smacking myself in the head. I should have known Agatha Smallwood-Bates would be here.
“Hello,” I said. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m sorry, I have a quick phone call I need to make.”
“You’re not getting away from me that easily,” she said. “How are you? I haven’t seen your mother in ages.”
Agatha Smallwood-Bates was the Isadora Duncan Professor of Socialist Interpretative Dance at the University of California-Berkeley. As you no doubt will have guessed, the only other person in the country who has an endowed chair in a similar discipline is my mother, who is the Carl Fairchild Professor of Interpretative Dance and Socialism at Yale. And, as you also no doubt will have guessed, the two of them are incredibly bitter rivals who haven’t spoken to each other since the Berlin Wall fell.
“She’s fine,” I said. “I really do need to take this call.”
“I saw your name on the agenda. What are you going to dance for us? I do hope it’s not that piece your mother choreographed based on those Khrennikov concertos.”
“Oh. I wasn’t going to…”
“I always thought you were so talented. You started young, and that’s the important thing. I thought you had a much better sense of balance and poise than your mother ever gave you credit for.”
“I stopped dancing when I started high school,” I said. “I had to prioritize my studies.”
“Of course, you were a little hefty then. I never thought that was a real barrier for you, though. A good seamstress could have done wonders for you, just by letting out your tights a little.”
“Professor Smallwood-Bates,” I said. “It is so nice to see you, and I appreciate that you remembered me, but I am running for Congress now. I am making a political speech. I am not here to do any interpretative dancing. If you’ll excuse me.”
“Just like your mother,” she said. “Putting petty partisan politicking ahead of the demands of the art form. Disappointing.”
I had to wipe my face a little after that–there were a lot of p’s in that sentence–and went out into the foyer to pretend to make a phone call. I got buttonholed by the representative from Mother Jones, who turned out to be an unpaid intern from Oberlin.
“Ah, yes,” I said. “Oberlin, the Amherst of the Midwest.”
“Microaggression,” he said.
“Sorry,” I said.
“No problem. One of my ex-roommates transferred to some tiny liberal arts college in New Jersey, and he’s working on your campaign. He e-mailed me a copy of your speech. Are you really going through with it? With all the Trotsky stuff?”
“Well, sure,” I said. “It’s what I truly believe.”
“That is so awesome,” he said. “I can’t wait.”
*
It was a good speech, I thought. I was about a third of the way through it when my phone started vibrating. I ignored it, because I figured that it was my mother calling to warn me that Agatha Smallwood-Bates was at the conference, and that I shouldn’t dump a pitcher of water over her head unless I had the opportunity to make it look like an accident. But it kept buzzing, and I had to keep ignoring it. It was a distraction, but I knew what I wanted to say and I was going to say it. I was winding through my normal stump speech, because I had saved all the good stuff for last. I hadn’t said anything remotely controversial yet, and it looked like all of the attendees were starting to nod off. It was time to go for broke.
And then I saw the intern from Mother Jones catapult out of his seat to ask me a question. “Mr. Fairchild! Mr. Fairchild!”
“I appreciate your enthusiasm,” he said. “But I’m not taking questions until after the speech.”
“There’s a call you need to take,” he said. “It’s urgent.”
My heart froze solid in my chest. What if the calls I was getting weren’t from my mother? What if something had happened to little Richie, and Emma was trying to call me? What if there was a real emergency? If I had ignored something important to give a speech, I’d never forgive myself.
“If you’ll excuse me,” I said. I ran off the dais and went backstage. I tried to fish my phone out of my pocket, and managed somehow to accidentally toss it halfway across the room. I picked it up and the screen had cracked, but it was still operational. There were twelve voice mail messages, all from Polly’s cell phone. I dialed her number.
“Oh, thank God. Justin, you can’t give that speech.”
“Is everything all right?” I asked. “Emma? The baby?”
“They’re fine,” she said. “You need to shut up and not say anything about Leon Trotsky that you can’t walk back. Do you hear me?”
“No,” I said. “I don’t hear you. I am going to do the courageous thing, the smart thing. I am going out there and tell those people that I’m a proud Trotskyite and that I’m running as a Communist revolutionary.”
“Do it, and I put an ice pick in your brain.”
“Ha.” I said.
“You don’t understand. The Washington Post just got hold of a Donald Trump tape where he talks about sexually assaulting women.”
“What?” I asked.
“I am serious. I’ve seen the video. This thing is toxic. It’s going to totally derail his campaign. And that means you have a real chance of winning this thing, if you don’t step on your weenie.”
“You’re not serious,” I said.
“You need to get out of there, pronto,” Polly said. “Get in front of a camera and denounce Trump, and denounce Campbell for supporting Trump. Anywhere you can, any way you can. This is going to be a huge story, and it helps us so much.”
Just then, Agatha Smallwood-Bates made her way backstage. “I can’t believe you’re keeping us all waiting,” she said. “How horribly rude. You are just like your mother.”
“I have to go and denounce Donald Trump,” I said. “Please make my apologies to the audience.” And I walked right past her, just long enough to see the contempt on her face. Sure, politics is a vicious game, but you have to believe me when I tell you that it is small potatoes compared to the hatred and enmity you’ll find in the socialist interpretative dance community.
*****
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
Week Twenty-Six:The Wiki Leak
Week Twenty-Seven:The Baby Bjorn
Week Twenty-Eight:The Passport Agency
Week Twenty-Nine:The Media Buy
Week Thirty-One: The Torricelli Option