The Debate

 

The Debate

By Sam Mossler


Each  candidate, with one exception, was grappling with enormous personal issues. Issues that had nothing to do with their candidacies, per se. Issues that could befall a person in any walk of life but just happened to befall a collection of candidates on the night of a nationally televised debate.

The most apparent was, of course, the only personal issue that had been made public. This was in the revelation that Lindsey Swallerman, Congresswoman from the great state of Tennessee, had a daughter employed by an S&M dungeon in New Orleans. Needless to say, this revelation had great political consequence and would likely ground a soaring political career that until yesterday had seemed destined for the nomination and, likely, the presidency.

All that aside, Congresswoman Swallerman was truly enduring profound shock as her daughter had been, by all reports, studying theology and athletics at Tulane but upon further investigation had been revealed, indeed, to be making a decent living in the kink industry and every proverb, every moral lesson, etiquette enforcement, gentle nudge, in fact every  loving act of parenting undertaken over the span eighteen years had been undone, cast aside like a sweaty vinyl boustierre in a matter of months.

Lindsey Swallerman was broken. And an effete young man , most likely with problems of his own, was dutifully powdering the Congresswoman’s nose while she stared directly into the blinding glare of destiny’s tail lights.

To her left was the tub of sweat whom Michigan called ‘Governor’. Wesley Schla was not the smartest candidate, nor the most charismatic, nor the most politically savvy, nor the most charismatic, nor the most rational, nor the most likely to help a friend move into a new apartment, nor would he likely be able to name h the delineation of powers and responsibilities implicit in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, Nor could he refrain from biting his finger nails or making fool’s bets or behaving abominably on airplanes. What he was very good at was going to very great lengths, often winding and arbitrary, in order to make a point or appear to be correct.And the fact was that his entire candidacy--and this is true in a very real, physical, and premeditated way--was an attempt to prove his father wrong. About everything.

And he was not really doing so well.

The polls were dismal and when another candidate made an early departure from the race, the media delighted in pointing out that his numbers were still better than Schla’s.

And they liked to make fun of his name. Schla. One flippant member of the press had posited that a distant ancestor must have abruptly dropped dead in the middle of a census interview. They were having a field day with Schla, alright.

And all the tension about his unsatisfying public persona and his smug father and his lack of credentials and his stupid name had begun to conspire to form such a karmic tumor that it was beginning to manifest physically in the form of a very noticeable stammer. It had begun three weeks ago, shortly after lunch, amid an interview with a high school newspaper in Escanaba.  Schla was discussing his favorite hobby, fly fishing, and he suddenly couldn’t say ‘lure’. He tried twice and nothing came out. But he refused to give up and emitted a train of strident “L-L-L-L-L-L-L-L”s. This went on for literally three minutes and the student editor was beginning to look uncomfortable as Schla implored her patience by saying, “P-P-p-p-P-p-P-P-P!”  His aide ushered the young journalist out of the room and gave her a tote bag.

In the passing weeks Schla had been unable to muster a single coherent word except for ‘Fuck!’.

And now the moderator was greeting the audience of millions and nobody knew who would be called on first. Governor Schla began to whimper. Audibly.

This caught the attention of old Pat Lueke, the silver back. He spoke through his grimace with patronizing mock concern:

“Everything okay, Wes?” as if he’d never seen a statesman in the midst of a meltdown.

Schla looked at him like he just wet his pants.

“Pull it together, boy.”


The moderator began to run down the rules of the debate. As futile as such rules ultimately were on a stage full of megalomaniacs, the network insisted upon them because they felt it would give the symposium the appearance of credibility.

As he listened to the rules being read, Pat Lueke licked his lips as he anticipated breaking every last one of them. If anyone had a right to, by virtue of their sheer, demented pomposity, it was Lueke.

What everyone present knew, with the exception of Lueke himself, was that his campaign was merely symbolic. He was, truly, the last living link to the last administration which had managed to finish things out without making the party look ineffectual and obsolete. Thirty long years ago he had served as communications director for the bold and revered and historically revised President Lipton.

It was fairly clear, even then, that Lueke was a loose cannon. And as he advanced in his public service his confidence in his own deranged notions of democracy increased and solidified. Everyone suspected that he had a drinkinng problem but he never touched the stuff. He was just naturally mean and crazy. Not a sterling mascot but essentially all the party had to keep the dialogue reminiscent of happier times.

What everyone didn’t know...What only Lueke and three other men knew, was that he had a tumor the size of his home district that had taken up permanent, inoperable residence in his intestines. He  was a dead man. But he was going out with six shooters ablaze and more verbosity and vitriole than he’d shown since the famous 1992 go around.

Mean time, Arnie Dunne was paying hush money to former lovers, Lenore Pringle was pouring all her resources into keeping her insider trading charges from the tabloids, Chris Norwoood was struggling with a million what-ifs and was seriously contemplating going back to school to study modern dance, and Ryan Cannadee had completely run out of money and would be dropping out of the race the following morning.

Every one had their emotional plate full.

Except for Vern Bushnell. Vern Bushnell oozed confidence. On his orange hued forehead dwelled nary a bead of sweat and his breathing was easy and his smile entirely life like. Vern’s candidacy was the surest thing going. It was ordained months before but the Swallerman girl had sealed it. And, naturally, his benefactors, the Snead Brothers, owned this night just as much as he did. It was their generosity and patriotism that had brought him this far. From a failing sporting goods business to presidential contender in a mere fifteen years owing to the Snead Brothers and their paper and petroleum empire. (Not to say Bushnell’s easy charm and political acumen didn’t play a part, but you might as well.)