Rumours lies, p.1
Rumours & Lies, p.1Timothy Quinlan
& LIES: A Collection of Stories
Copyright 2014 Timothy Quinlan
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are a product of the author’s imagination and should not be construed as real. Any resemblance to people, events, companies, or locales is coincidental.
For Edna, Jack and Ben
Table of Contents
The Politics of Middle Age
A Mother and Son’s Prerogative
The Illusion of Probability
Bullies and Frogs
The Man Who Feared Irony
Absence Makes the Heart
White Lies on Booker Street
The Pro and the Lunatic
My Brother’s Keeper
The Old Man and His Daughter
Eight Children on a Checkered Floor
About Timothy Quinlan
The Politics of Middle Age
They didn’t rent the limousine often, at least not enough for Russell’s taste. Lately, it’d only been used when the press were around, as a sort of credibility enhancement; a big shiny black reminder that their candidate was a “player”. Russell understood the deceit that was inherent in this premise more than anyone; their candidate wasn’t a player, even by the most generous definition of the term. What he was, was a painfully boring man; a man who melded into the atmosphere even when standing alone, and whose inner voice mightn’t be tolerable even to his own mind. But all of this didn’t matter now, not anymore. The election would be won, and Russell would be by the winner’s side at the victory party. It was a lock now. There was only one competitor left, and he had made a mistake. A mistake that they could pounce on. A mistake that they would sink their teeth into, and rip apart.
“That should do it folks. There’s no way this tanned playboy is going to survive this; he should be the poster boy for bad timing,” Russell said.
Murray Carson pushed his small round glasses a tiny distance back up the bridge of his nose while he stared at the screen in the back seat of the limousine. He ignored what his aid, sitting beside him, had just said.
“How stupid do you have to be to get caught smoking pot the week before an election,” Russell said louder, eyes wide, looking for some acknowledgement that he’d been heard.
“Enough Russell. Leave John Harris alone and focus on our own agenda,” Murray said, as forcibly as he had said anything in weeks. “What are these reporters going to ask me today?” The glasses were off now and being cleaned by a handkerchief sourced from his breast pocket, his squinting, unfocused eyes still pointed at the screen and John Harris, whose press briefing was playing for the thirtieth time that morning.
“They’re going to ask you what you think of your opponent getting caught smoking pot the week before the vote,” Russell said, his tone suggesting this should have been obvious. “This isn’t about inhaling thirty years ago in college; this is about actually smoking pot and breaking the law, days before the guy could, conceivably, hold a very important public office.”
“Gloria, how should we handle the press today?” Murray said, raising his eyes to the front seat where the second half of his election team was deeply engrossed in a newspaper article.
Russell Wren and Gloria Maynard were polar opposites. Russell was slick and street smart without an ounce, or a molecule for that matter, of moral fiber. He was a gun for hire, and played to that cliché in all elements of his persona, from his unwillingness to do anything perceived as grunt work, to his emotional detachment in his dealings with the campaign team. He saw in Murray, a chance to participate in a quick election win, a chance to add another notch to his belt which would surely lead to higher fees for the next candidate. To him, Murray Carson was the epitome of the standard, bred for political success, moron; he was white, had an impeccable pedigree, and had the most vanilla personality imaginable. But a win was a win, and by smoking pot, John Harris had just ensured that Murray Carson was going to cruise to victory, with Russell grasping his coattails along the way.
Gloria Maynard was, on the surface, bookishly shy and not as aggressive as Russell, but a camouflaged competitiveness lurked just below the surface of her demeanor. She was well educated, and actually cared and was motivated by what Murray Carson had to say. She knew that Murray wasn’t going to electrify anyone with his personality, but he was a moral man. He was steady, and that’s what Lister Falls needed right now in a mayor. A pot smoking rogue wasn’t going to lead the city into the twenty first century.
“Sir, I think you should express your surprise at the event. I mean it is incredibly surprising, but try not to go overboard. I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by piling on at this point. This story will take care of itself.”
“I agree Gloria; I’ll play it low key,” Murray said, again not taking his eyes off of the screen in front of him.
“Well, let’s not be too low key. I mean, we’ve pretty much got low key cornered already,” Russell added, treading the fine line between respecting his boss, and trying to gently nudge him in the right direction.
“What does that mean Russell?” Murray said, now looking directly at his aid, his brow furrowed, his mouth puckered into an angry little dot.
Russell contemplated telling his boss exactly what it meant, but then gave into his normal tendency towards self-preservation and very slightly shook his head while exhaling in a subdued show of protest. He looked down at his shiny black shoes, waited a moment, and then glanced up to see that Murray was still staring at him.
In the front seat, Gloria took a deep breath; she knew what was coming. Over the last three weeks, Murray Carson had shown a growing sensitivity towards his reputation as a bore. The local media had latched onto the theme, and it was clearly bothering him. Gloria had another theory which she hadn’t shared with anyone; she thought Murray might be going through some sort of mid-life thing. A week earlier, he had shown up at one of their early morning prep meetings wearing bright red wraparound sunglasses—the modern kind. Several staffers in the room had burst out laughing, thinking they were a joke, perhaps worn ironically as a light hearted jab back at the media. But they weren’t a joke, and Murray Carson hadn’t laughed. He had looked ridiculous.
“Russell?” Murray said a little louder, still staring hard and waiting for an answer to the question, angry tension all over his face.
“Sir, I just don’t think we should totally let this one go. I agree with Gloria that we can’t be seen as piling on, but the guy knowingly broke the law a week before an election for a very important office. Let’s nail his coffin shut with this.”
Murray turned back towards the screen, the annoyance on his face testament to the fact that he knew Russell had avoided his original question. He stared at John Harris in front of a press scrum, obviously answering question after question about his indiscretion. Harris was fifty seven with a deep tan and youngish rugged good looks. Looking at the silent images on the screen, Murray knew the conversation between Harris and the press would be free and easy. John Harris had charisma, and the press loved him. He was a wealthy man; owned his own transport company, and had entered the race for Mayor at the last moment. He wasn’t particularly knowledgeable about the issues, an
“Sir, everything alright?” Gloria asked, turning towards the back seat, and smiling in a vaguely condescending way as if talking to a child during a thunderstorm.
Murray didn’t answer, and continued to stare at Harris who was laughing now, along with the press surrounding him. Murray himself hadn’t really clicked with the press; there was a certain cordiality to their exchanges, but that was it—laughter was scarce. Murray didn’t feel comfortable being funny, or more accurately, he lacked the ability to make people laugh. Once, near the beginning of the campaign, he had attempted, in a humorous way, to draw a parallel between the city council’s attempt to change school district boundaries and the French revolution. Murray had laughed heartily, but the evening news had focused on the confused expressionless faces in the crowd surrounding him. Russell and Gloria had strongly suggested that he keep things as serious as he could from that point onward. They were gentle, and had alluded to his sophisticated sense of humor, but to Murray their message had been an ego buster, demoralizing and condescending all at once.
“Sir, best not try any jokes about the pot thing.” Gloria said, as if on cue.
“Don’t worry; I won’t attempt to be funny. I’ll bore them to death.”
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