Nashville the mood (part.., p.1
Nashville: The Mood (Part 1), p.1Donald H. Carpenter
NASHVILLE: THE MOOD
by Donald H. Carpenter
Copyright ©2013 by Donald H. Carpenter, LLC
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Cover design by Charles Hooper
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NASHVILLE: THE MOOD
Congressman Joe Caldwell had grown to hate meeting with the mayor of Nashville. The mayor was in the first year of his second term, and Caldwell had gotten along well enough with him the first year or two. But after that, it seemed like every time the Mayor called on him, it was about something more controversial than the congressman liked to deal with. The congressman was known for employing a sure and steady hand, and staying away from, or skillfully straddling, any issue that reeked of controversy. He had long developed a knack, probably from his father, a career politician before him, of seeming to say something that would satisfy both, or all if necessary, sides of an issue.
The congressman thought back, trying to remember when these calls by the Mayor had first begun. He knew that he hadn’t seen the Mayor for a couple of years; probably that was why he had gotten along with him as well as he did. Then the Mayor began requesting a session with him whenever he was back in town from Washington, or at least it seemed like it was every time. And the more he saw the Mayor and talked with him, the less he liked him. Maybe he didn’t really dislike him, or wouldn’t have if he had seen him in other circumstances, but he didn’t like someone bringing a controversial issue to him. To the congressman, controversy signified an opening for a potential opponent to drive a wedge into, and that was always bad news for a career politician.
The congressman had handled his opposition deftly for almost twenty years, and he wanted it to stay that way. He had only had a token opposition, mostly because he had straddled so many issues, and because his office had been excellent in handling routine correspondence and inquiries from voters. Occasionally, the congressman would even call a voter directly, if a voter had provided his or her telephone number in a letter or e-mail.
There was always a challenger, of course, but what the public didn’t know is that many of the challengers the congressman had had over the years had been conjured-up challengers, someone the congressman’s organization had sought out to provide a seemingly credible opposition, which the congressman could then relatively easily brush aside. The congressman had made so many efforts in his career to avoid controversy; the one thing he feared most was that his efforts to manufacture an opponent would come to light one day.
It was an unusual situation. The congressman, and his father before him, had been very adept at making friends in both parties, so that he didn’t really draw any serious opposition from either party; there was an unspoken agreement that powerful individuals in both parties would support him, or at least deter major opposition. In exchange for that, of course, the congressman adjusted any beliefs he might have had about particular issues to the needs of his constituents and the power brokers in his district, regardless of party.
The mayor was announced, and soon entered the room. He shook hands vigorously with the congressman and took a seat across the desk from him. The mayor was in his late thirties, some twenty-five years younger than the congressman, and although they came from the same party, the generational differences had been marked since the mayor had entered office. Privately, the congressman wondered if the mayor had eyes on his seat. Privately, the mayor had begun to think, although it had been a slow process, that the congressman had out-served his usefulness in the modern era.
After exchanging some small talk, the mayor got down to the reason for his visit. He wanted the congressman to meet with a group of prominent Nashville gay activists, whom the congressman had been gently rebuffing, or avoiding, for some time.
“Congressman, these people are feeling that you are not wanting to see them,” the mayor said gently. “I think you’re close to alienating them permanently, unless you take some steps to reach out to them, or at least let them reach out to you.”
The congressman leaned back in his chair and looked out the window. He hated some of these modern-day issues. Things seemed to be changing so rapidly he couldn’t keep up with them. Gay issues, in particular, were thorny ones. He really didn’t care much about it one way or the other. He had known numerous gay individuals in one aspect of his career or another, and as long as he was away from his home turf, it didn’t really matter. But his constituents had a much different view. Several years before, the voters of the state had overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The congressman had skillfully avoided taking a position on that one way or another; he had simply ignored it, and let the overwhelming voice of the people be heard.
“What do they want now, do you think?” Congressman Caldwell continued to look out the window, and his tone was one of information-gathering, not of any kind of judgment.
“I think they want to talk to you about this reversion therapy measure they want passed.” The congressman turned back to his desk, placed his elbows on it, and grasped his hands together. The mayor could see a bit of frustration on his face; he had seen it many times before in times like this.
“You know, we made it through the sodomy issue a few years ago without having to take a stand on it,” the congressman said evenly. “The Supreme Court took care of it. It was a little iffy for a while, but I never got cornered on it. Now we have this gay marriage thing that’s working its way through. The Supreme Court, hopefully, will take care of that without us having to take a stand on it. It’s one thing to take a stand on something where everyone already agrees with it. It’s another thing when the population is split fifty-fifty—or even worse, where they’re split eighty-twenty against you.”
“Well, it’s kind of like the civil rights era. We have to undo everything that was done before. Unwind it, step by step. This is the next step, and they want to talk to you about it. I told them it was better done state by state, and they should lobby the state legislators, but they have this idea that if you said something positive about what they want to accomplish, it’ll be a big help.”
The congressman sighed heavily. “Well, see if you can push it back as long as you can. I’m leaving town tonight, going back to Washington, and I’d like to avoid this on this tripDo this for me, and I’ll owe you one. OK?”
On a late afternoon in early spring, Joe Rudolph cruised down Murfreesboro Road, near the area where Parris Street, Fesslers Lane, and Foster intersected. He was on routine duty with the city police, just looking for anything that needed taking care of. He wasn’t especially looking for the streetwalker community, but he happened to be in the right area for it.
The streetwalker issue in Nashville was a lot less public than it used to be, and a lot of people attributed that to better law enforcement, community support organizations, and the like. But Joe Rudolph knew better; it was the Internet that had done it. He knew the volume of sexual services for sale had not decreased; it had increased dramatically. But it was diffused in many different directions, and many of the old workers had gotten off the streets and behind a computer.
There were still a number of women out walking, though, ranging in age from the early twenties to probably the mid-forties. It was a bright, sunny, cloudless day and the temperature was warmer than it had been in previous weeks, perfect weather for streetwalking.
Rudolph pulled over in a parking lot at a small grocery store, across the street from a rundown motel. The motel had had a reputation, for years, of catering to the sex trade. At one time, it had been seized by the Federal government as part of a racketeering prosecution, but now it was back with private owners, seemingly operating the way it had done for years.
The door to the convenience store opened, and a blond-haired woman in her early thirties came out of the store. She was about five feet tall, with hair that fell below her shoulders and reflected the sunlight brilliantly. She was dressed in tight shorts and a thin cotton shirt that showed her figure. She glanced at the patrol car and veered slightly in the opposite direction. After a second look back at the car, however, she turned and walked over to it, going around to the open window on the driver’s side.
“How are you today, Officer?”
“GoodHow is business?”
She hesitated, looking at him for a long five seconds. “Kinda slowToo much competition, too much heat.”
Reverend Wendell Whyte strolled through the middle of his church with one of his deacons. It was a Wednesday afternoon, and the church was empty, except for the two of them. There were a few small lights at the end of the walkway, but most of the light came through a skylight on the ceiling. Reverend Whyte always liked being in the church, but he reserved a special feeling for those parts of the week when it was empty of members and attendees, and he could sit and think by himself, or have a private conversation with an important member.
“We had the work done on the ceiling yesterday,” he said, pointing his guest’s attention upward. “It was a little more than I thought it would be, but it needed to be done.”
The deacon nodded slowly, looking from one end of the room to another. “It looks good. Yes, it was getting a little dangerous for my taste. Even churches aren’t exempt from liability these days.”
“Well, it kind of zapped our repair budget for a while. And we still have a roof to put on at some point, and some brick work to be done. The whole building really needs to be cleaned on the outside.”
“How have contributions been?”
“They’ve been down a little bitI guess that doesn’t surprise you.”
The deacon was silent for a few moments, and he looked directly at the reverend, almost as if he was trying to decide whether to say something or not, and more importantly, how to say it. Finally, he shook his head. “No, it doesn’t surprise me at all. And it shouldn’t surprise you, eitherIt’s your sermons, Wendell. I know you know that, and you’ve known that a long time. And I’ve known it a long timeYou can’t lecture people on their day-to-day activities anymore. You can’t tell them what they can’t do outside of the church walls. Everyone wants a positive sermon these daysOr—they’ll go elsewhereAnd that’s exactly what’s happening, and has been happening, for a long time now.”
The reverend nodded, but he seemed very frustrated. He looked down at the floor, and he shuffled nervously. He gripped his hands together and twisted them slightly, as if he was trying to restrain a stronger impulse. “It’s a sad state we’ve come to, when you can’t even discuss sin inside of a church. I know what I’m saying is the right thing, and I don’t believe I’ve even laid it on thick at all. If anything, I’ve been very moderate in my sermons. But you can’t make everything all fluff and candy, can you? There has to be some discipline in a sermon, even if it is a bad-tasting spoonful of medicine for the members.”
“I don’t know the solution. I only know the cause.”
“It’s these new feel-good churches,” the reverend said quickly, almost seeming to lash out at the deacon. “They’ve always been around, but they’ve been growing on us like a curse the last thirty years, maybe more. People want a sales presentation these days, kind of like going to a multi-level marketing convention. They don’t want true religion anymore. I get so frustrated about it, and then I start getting angry about it.”
Jarad Barnum listened to his attorney talk about his ongoing litigation with a growing sense of frustration. Barnum had lived in Miami, Hartford, Connecticut, San Francisco, Dallas, and Baton Rouge, either owning or managing medium-sized businesses in all of those communities. During thirty years in the commercial world, he had been exposed to more than his share of litigation. As he listened to his attorney speaking, he again cursed the fact that he had wound up in Nashville. He thought that the food there was the worst of any city in which he had lived, and he realized that that probably colored his other perceptions of the city and its people. He had discovered early on what a bad dining experience a person could have in Nashville, and although it had gotten better over the years, it still lagged behind other major cities.
But the attorneys there also left much to be desired, in his opinion. He had never encountered a more lethargic or uninventive bar in any other city; he had never felt that his own interests were served less forcefully than in Nashville. When you hire a Nashville lawyer, he thought, you don’t get an advocate, someone pressing your position—you get a person interested in becoming a judge, someone who doesn’t want to hurt the feelings of anyone else, above all the opposing attorney, or even the opposing attorney’s client.
As he half-listened to his attorney, he tried to remember where he had found this guy. Anderton Washburn IV talked a good game, and he clearly knew a lot of people around town. But over a period of years, his outcomes had been less than desirable, in Barnum’s view. He always seemed to carry a case for a long time, never communicating well, and then after months of silence would emerge with an unimpressive result, either a small settlement, or a dramatic failure in court, if it went that far.
“I’m going to file a motion to compel this afternoon,” Washburn said drily, almost in a bored tone, but at the same time seeming to be making a dramatic announcement of some sort. He sat up ramrod straight in his chair, his posture the result of years of tennis playing and prep school training. “The other side won’t be expecting that, and it will throw them quite off guard.”
Barnum winced at the phrase, in fact at the entire combination of words. Washburn often announced that he was filing a motion of one sort or another, as if it was a dramatic development, but looking back it was easy to see that such motions accomplished very little as far as the final result. Barnum had gingerly pushed him to give more specific feedback on what each step would accomplish, but Washburn had nimbly resisted such feedback. It was obvious he was going to stick to his method of practicing law, no matter what, and it was up to Barnum to change players in that regard. Barnum had quietly resolved that at the end of this particular case he was going to indeed change attorneys, but he felt he was too deeply into this one to pull the case from Washburn.
“What is this going to accomplish, Anderton?” Barnum asked in a tired voice. “What is it you’re hoping to see come out of this particular action?”
Edward Griegson strolled down a city sidewalk in an obscure area on the edge of the business section. It was an area that had seen
Griegson’s companion on the stroll was City Councilman Dale LaTrout. LaTrout was one of the newer members of the city council; he had only been in office a little over two years. Griegson had been one of his main supporters, but several of the city bluebloods had been behind him as well, and that had helped him tremendously. He had won a narrow victory over a one-term incumbent who had been tainted by scandal but still had a following.
Griegson stopped by a small doorway off to the side of a plate glass window that had been covered with dark curtains. He looked up and down the street, and seeing the two of them were alone, made a gesture of quiet frustration with his hands.
“You know, twenty years ago I had hopes that this street would be cleaned up one day,” he said, sighing heavily. “Even back then it was attracting a certain type of organization, maybe a certain combination of organizations. Outside of the mainstream—you know what I mean?”
LaTrout nodded even though he wasn’t sure exactly what Griegson had in mind. “Yes, I think I understand what you’re talking about.”
“It’s almost as if people wake up in the morning and decide what new limit they can push,” Griegson replied, seeming not to notice whether LaTrout was really listening to him or not. “Look at this one. I noticed it driving past a few days ago, and I couldn’t believe it. I did a U-turn and came back around, and even stopped the car and got out and went to the door, to make sure I was reading it correctly.”
LaTrout looked at the small sign on the door, a sign that would have been barely noticeable if one hadn’t gone looking for it: The Sodomy Society. There was no sign on the window itself, and one would have had to turn into a short walkway to get to the door where the sign rested inconspicuously.
Nashville: The Mood (Part 1) by Donald H. Carpenter / History & Fiction have rating 4.8 out of 5 / Based on19 votes