Angela Vikander stood anxiously upon the balcony of her expansive highrise, overlooking the main thoroughfares of the city. She wanted a cigarette badly but had decided to quit, a move to improve her image; it had been Erlen’s idea. Vikander cursed her campaign manager under her breath. Damn him. Why the hell do I need to quit smoking? No potential voters is going to know or much care what the fuck I do in private. No one cares what people do in the privacy of their own homes. Look at those genderqueer freaks… no one bats an eye any more about them and their bizarro protests, their period fetishes… any sane person would gag seeing those loons. Yet you see the news hen-pecking them, Erlen? Fuck no. No one gives a shit.
These were inappropriate thoughts, she well knew, thoughts which, if given voice, would sink her campaign almost as quickly as the CAF albatross which had been thrown about her neck. Everything was coming apart at the seams. She inhaled deeply and leaned against the cool steel of the balcony as a voice echoed from behind.
“You look a little stressed. Did I come in at a bad time?”
She turned to address Erlen Straik. He was a short, thin man, with immaculately styled hair, designer glasses and a swooning way of moving that Vikander had always found infuriatingly effete and affected.
“No. What is it?”
“You need to see this.”
He moved to the table in the middle of her make-shift conference room and laid out a news article. The headline read: CAF Attacks Art Gallery. What Part Did Vikander Play?
Angela sighed, “That from The Trumpet. They’ve been pro-Layne since he announced his campaign.”
As Straik pulled his phone out of his pocket and swiped the screen, illuminating his face with dim, blue light.
“That isn’t all, it gets worse.”
He showed her a online article from his news-feed, the title read: Prominent Democrat Backer, Damien Holt Declares End of Support For Vikander Campaign.
“That bastard… He didn’t even call me!”
“It’s pretty bad. I hope you don’t take this the wrong way but… what were you thinking? Arguing with Layne in the middle of a public gala?”
“He made a snide remark. When he saw me he smirked like the smug fuck he is and said, ‘Surprised to see you here, figured the Epstein Institute would be more your speed.’”
“I don’t get it. The what-now?”
“The Epstein Institute. Geez, you’re supposed to be my campaign manager how do you not know this?”
“I’ve been busying doing damage control all morning. So sooorry.”
“Don’t do that.”
“That bitchy little lisp thing.”
Straik shook his head and then looked to the would-be mayor once again.
“So why’d this make you angry again?”
“The Epstein Institute is some weird art center, all contemporary abstract stuff, you know, paintings of white squares and statues of police men beating immigrants, all either on-the-nose or political propaganda or some kind of “deep” art that is beyond everyone but the artists who make them.”
“So he was saying you were a pretentious snob?”
“God you’re slow… yes, Erlen, he was implying I was a pretentious snob. So I made some quip back at him, I can’t even remember what I said, it was all a blur – the doctor put me on these shitty pain meds, been messing with my short term memory – anyways, we were there arguing one moment and then those CAF freaks broke in and-”
“Those CAF ‘freaks’ are some of your biggest supporters.”
“Their vote is as good as any. Besides, we can turn this to our advantage. We already know how this is going to play out.”
“Do we? I was never much of a student of history but the one thing that I learned from reading it is that assumptions concerning the future almost never pan out accurately.”
“Almost. Pretty big almost.”
“Ever heard of Nostradamus?”
“Nevermind. So what’s rattling about that devious brain of yours?”
“Well, like I was saying, we know how this is going to play out because we know Layne and his base. Nativist populism almost always manifests itself in the exact same way. They’ll say that CAF are terrorists, that they’re threatening the public’s safety – especially after the recent cold-cocks which Layne’s taken – and they’ll try to directly tie you to CAF so that you take responsibility. So we can then say that if you are to be blamed for the unurged actions of your supporters, then Layne must be blamed for the actions and words of the actual Neo-Nazis and fascists which support Layne. We just have to be sure that we pound the table the loudest.”
Vikander nodded in silent affirmation before responding.
“Put out a memo.”
“You should also probably drop this thing with Partridge.”
“The fuck I will.”
“You can’t beat him in the press.”
“We’ll see about that.”
“Why are you so dead-set on getting to him anyways? Because he supports Layne? I mean, ok, but I just don’t get it.”
“Lynder Partridge is one of the most influential people in this city, he’s the one who put Layne up on the pedestal he now precariously occupies. If Partridge goes down in flames, so does Layne.”
“I don’t know that that is necessarily true. I mean, Layne has kinda become his own thing. His supporters – I mean his die-hard supporters – at this point would follow him for him not because of his big backers or even for the change they think he can bring.”
“Yes, all those slavering “patriots” consider him their dear, little leader… But he’s not really in control. He’s just a puppet.”
Erlen gave a sudden wry chuckle.
“Aren’t we all?”