I made it to Round 2 of the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. This time my assignment was political satire, a fundraiser, and a cartoonist. Here’s my entry!
“Sir, I think it’s a mistake to attend this fundraiser. You won’t find people friendly to your campaign.”
“That’s exactly why it’s the place I need to be, Walker. Those women don’t know my ideas are what’s good for them. Instead, they’re listening to that dried-up husk, Millie Highpoint, who wouldn’t know what to do with a man if he showed up on her doorstep naked and willing.” Thaddeus Trench tightened the knot in his tie and gave himself an appraising look in the mirror. “Going to Save the Moo Moos will show these women I support their breasts and understand their problems.”
Walker let out a snort of laughter which he quickly turned into a cough. “Mr. Trench, it’s Save the Ta–”
Trench held up his hand. “I don’t need to be schooled by a kid like you. I come from a long line of political men. My daddy and my granddaddy both served in the state senate. Come November, those women will line up and beg to vote for me. You focus on my speech for next Saturday’s debate, and I’ll worry about tonight. Any idea where my wife is?”
“She said she’d meet you at the gallery. She had some…um…errands to run.” Walker knew the errand was boning her new yoga instructor, Hans, but what the senator didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. Stella Trench paid him a nice healthy bonus every month to help hide her indiscretions.
An hour later, Senator Trench eased his SUV into the parking lot next to the gallery. It had taken him three tries to park, but he prided himself on his ability to maneuver big things into little spaces. He licked his palm and used it to smooth his hair into place. At sixty-one, he still had a full head of hair that he kept black with a bit of help from a bottle of dye he hid under his bathroom sink. Opening his door, he felt it slam against the silver Prius in the next space.
“Damn ridiculous,” he muttered. “Got spots for the handicapped, compact cars, pregnant mothers, but they can’t make a spot for a God-fearing man with a real vehicle.”
He strode to the door of the Middleton Art Gallery. At the entrance, he spotted Stella standing close to a deeply tanned man with a shaved head and small goatee. Trench reached out and grabbed his wife’s ass. She gave a squeal and whirled to face him, her face pink. “Dang it, Tad! You about gave me a heart attack!”
“Just keeping my little lady on her toes.” He held his hand out to the bald man. “Senator Thaddeus Trench. Good to meet you.”
“Tad, this is Hans Oliver, my yoga instructor. Remember I told you how much he’s helped improve my downward dog position.” Stella giggled. “I feel like a new woman after a session with him.”
Trench eyed him. A pink handkerchief was neatly tucked into the breast pocket of his jacket. It told him everything he needed to know about Hans Oliver. He smiled. “Glad to hear your helping my wife. You must really give her a workout. She comes home exhausted after her evening yoga class. Keep up the good work. I like to support your kind.”
Hans lifted an eyebrow. “My kind?”
“Yeah. You know…” Senator Trench lifted his hand then let it droop. “It’s okay. Your secret’s safe with me. I can’t say that I agree because the good book says it’s a sin, but I’m not one to throw shoes in glass houses.”
“Good to know you’re so open-minded, Senator.” Hans smirked. “I’ll be sure to let my kind know about you. Stella, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Stella watched Hans walk away, her eyes gleaming. “He really is a fine yoga instructor. I’m not getting any younger, Tad. Thirty is right around the corner, and I like to keep my body a temple.”
Trench ogled his young wife’s plunging neckline. “You’re the finest temple I’ve ever seen, darling. I got lucky the day you walked into my church. A beautiful and virtuous wife is a blessing to her husband.”
“Oh, Tad, I’m the lucky one.” Stella looked up at Trench from under her lash extensions. Trench didn’t know she had stumbled into his church by accident that Wednesday evening five years ago after drinking one to many mojitos with the girls after work.
“I’m glad you wore the dress that shows off your tits,” Trench said. “It will demonstrate to these women that you support their breasts, too.”
Stella rolled her eyes. Lately, she’d been replacing Trench’s little blue pills with vitamins similar in shape and size. After a few failed attempts on his part, her husband had retreated to his side of the bed and stayed. She couldn’t divorce him. She had her eye on the governor’s mansion one day. She couldn’t wait to host a cocktail party there and invite all the women who had turned up their noses at her. Once she was the wife of a governor, they would all have to kiss her ass. It was a finely molded ass, too, after all her sessions with Hans.
The two of them walked into the gallery. Stella snagged a glass of champagne from a passing waiter. Trench declined. He never drank in public. His constituents had certain expectations of a preacher and senator. If he wanted the governor’s mansion, he needed to maintain his façade and keep his liquor consumption private.
“Senator Trench and Stella! I’m surprised you accepted the invitation tonight.” A young woman with one side of her head shaved and the other side bedazzled with hues of pink and purple greeted them. “I’m KD, the featured artist for this evening’s charity auction.”
“Nice to meet you. What’s your media of choice, Katie?” Stella asked, looking around the gallery at the various sculptures and paintings.
“Now, sugarplum, we’re not talking about reporters tonight. I’m sure Miss–I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your last name,” Trench said as he placed his hand on the artist’s shoulder.
“I don’t use a last name, and it’s KD, not Katie.” She enunciated the letters. “I feel the use of last names by women supports the patriarchy. I’ve sloughed off the burden of years of female servitude and only go by KD. I’m a cartoonist, Stella. It’s okay if I call you Stella, not Mrs. Trench, right? I mean, you of all people should realize that we women have been on our backs to the patriarchy for much too long.”
Stella narrowed her eyes. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve never been on my back for the patriarchy.”
KD laughed. “If you say so. Let me show you one of the pieces I’ve donated for the auction, Senator. I’m sure you’ll appreciate it.”
KD led them over to a large canvas. A scarecrow with jet black hair and vacant eyes sat on a crate milking a cartoon cow with large udders. The words tax dollars were printed on the udders. “Rather telling isn’t it, Senator?”
“You’re darn tootin’ it is. This is a piece of work. You’ve captured the plight of the American farmer. I’m going to bid on it,” Trench said. He gave KD a predatory white smile. “You’ve got some talent. Have you ever thought about painting portraits? I’ll need one done when I’m elected governor of this great state. It would be a feather in your cap if you could capture my likeness.”
KD snorted. “I’m sorry, Senator. I don’t work with oil.”
“Darling, you’re missing a prime opportunity to be famous. Cartoons are for the Sunday funnies, but you can’t make a living with them.” Trench squeezed her shoulder. KD slipped from his pawing hand, her lips tight.
“Actually, I make out just fine with my art. I’m the editorial cartoonist for the Middleton Times, and my work’s been featured in several national newspapers.”
Stella tugged on Trench’s jacket and pointed. “Tad, look at the face on the scarecrow.”
Trench smiled. “I know. It’s great, isn’t it? KD has some real talent, even if it is only a comic. That scarecrow almost looks like a real person.”
“Tad, look closer,” Stella insisted. She pulled him in front of the piece. “You don’t see the resemblance?”
Trench squinted his eyes. “No, honeybuns, I can’t say it looks like anyone I know. Is it someone from your yoga class?”
Stella sighed. She wondered if she could make it to Hans’ apartment for a little stress relief tonight. She glanced at KD. A thin woman with graying brown hair pulled into a tight chignon had joined them. Millie Highpoint, her husband’s most vocal opponent in the state senate, gave her a tight nod. “Mrs. Trench, you look lovely. Thaddeus, I didn’t expect you this evening. An auction to raise funds for breast cancer research doesn’t seem like your normal venue.”
“I love breasts, Millie. Some of my favorite people have breasts. I’m happy to come out and support Save the Moo Moos. More men should support breast research.” Trench beamed at the women. “You all have great tits. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep them healthy.”
KD flushed cherry red. Her fists tightened at her side. “Listen here, you pompous–”
Millie laid a restraining hand on KD. “Sweetheart, I think we should give the Senator a chance to speak this evening. We need all the help we can get to raise money. I think the bids might reach an all-time high with Senator Trench’s inspirational words.”
“I don’t know, Mom. Do you really think it would help?”
“Mom? Millie, is this your daughter? I was just telling KD here that she has some real talent. She should consider doing portraits. Capturing the likeness of people could really boost her career. I’m bidding on this piece here. Such a powerful statement. I plan on hanging it behind my desk at the governor’s mansion.”
Millie’s eyes widened. She looked at the senator, then at the large cartoon scarecrow on the wall, and then back at Trench. “You might be right, Thaddeus. Capturing a face takes talent. Now, will you open up the fundraiser with a speech?”
“I’m happy to help, Millie. It shows real bipartisan support to our constituents. Give me a moment to compose myself.” Trench buttoned his suit jacket and popped a mint into his mouth.
“See you at the podium, Thaddeus.” Millie winked at KD.
“If you’ll excuse me, Senator. I see someone I need to speak to,” KD said and hurried away.
“Tad, do not tell these people you love tits,” Stella hissed. “It’s guaranteed career suicide.”
Trench patted Stella’s arm. “I’ve got this. You just stand next to me and smile pretty for the cameras.”
“I need to go to the little girl’s room,” Stella said. “I’ll join you in a moment.”
“Don’t take too long. This will be a prime opportunity to appear in the newspaper.”
Stella started walking towards the ladies’ room, but when she was out of Trench’s sight, she dashed towards the exit. She wondered how much she could hock her engagement ring for and if there was any cash at the house.
Senator Trench stood in front of the podium. He cleared his throat. Cameras flashed, and he gave the reporters and crowd his politician’s smile. “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to speak here tonight in support of this important fundraiser. As I look at this amazing piece of art from KD, I realize that women and cows have a great deal in common.”
At the collective gasp from the crowd, Trench’s smile grew wider. He knew in an instant that he had won them over.
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