Monday, November 12, 2012
And the Winner Is ...
“We’ve never had such a turnout before. Not that I can remember,” Elly said. She patted the empty chair Lance had abandoned. “I’m sure we’ll be hearing any minute now. Sit down. And no more coffee.”
Gil clamped his hands protectively around his half-empty mug. “How am I supposed to stay awake without coffee? We were up half the night. Nobody wanted to go home.”
Vern yawned and scratched his beard. He’d flamed out around two in the morning, even though he had a stake in the race. He wasn’t so tired that he failed to hold Miss Elly’s hand. Or failed to snipe good-naturedly at his political rival. “Did Dolly remember to vote?”
“Of course she voted,” Lance snapped.
“Did she remember to vote for you?”
“That’s enough, boys,” Elly said. “The election’s over, and so is the scat-slinging. Play nice.” She sat up, peering through the diner’s large front window. “Here comes Paul. We may have a winner.”
“At last.” Lance yanked open the door and hustled his assistant inside. “You’d better have good news.”
“That depends,” Paul hedged. He eyed the pot behind the counter longingly. “Coffee?”
Vern got up and fetched the boy a brimming mug. Paul sipped appreciatively. When he looked up again, he found himself flanked by two agitated males, both of a species known for mayhem. “I guess you’d like to know the results,” he said.
“That would be nice,” Vern said dryly.
“Um, okay.” Paul fished a folded, stained sheet of paper out of his pocket. “You’ll be pleased to know almost every registered voter in Talbot’s Peak came out yesterday. It’s the best turnout we’ve seen since who knows when.”
“The winner?” Lance prompted.
“The winner. Yeah. That was the problem. We’ve been checking the machines and recounting the votes all night. Most of them were write-ins.”
Vern lifted his grizzled brows. “Write-ins?”
Lance groaned. “Just tell me Todd Lang didn’t win.”
“Todd Lang didn’t win,” Paul said. “Neither did you.” He turned to Vern. “Or you.”
“Lemme guess,” Louie said. “Mickey Mouse is the new mayor.”
“Sort of. Having a wolf on the ballet brought out the herbies in droves. A lot of people in town were tired of Mr. Link, but no way did they want a predator in charge. Then the bunnies organized their own campaign and started the Grass Roots Party. You know how many bunnies we have in Talbot’s Peak?”
“So Bugs Bunny won?” Louie said.
“No, they wrote in an actual person. I told you, organized. The new mayor of Talbot’s Peak is … ” Paul consulted his paper. “Gilbert Peskosky.”
“Who?” Vern and Lance asked in concert.
Gil spit coffee all over the table.
“Say that again?” Vern said.
“The winner,” Paul said, carefully pointing to the choking Gil, “is him.”
“No!” both Lance and Gil blurted. “He wasn’t even on the ticket!” Lance complained.
“Neither was ‘that wolf dude from Twilight’, and he got a hundred votes. Sorry, boss—I mean, Mr. Link. It’s official, and it’s legal. We just spent the whole night verifying that.”
“But—but—but—” Gil sputtered. “I didn’t run for anything! I didn’t even campaign!”
“The patrons of Rattigan’s beg to differ. You had a huge surge in popularity after the dinner rush.”
“What, that fake poll we ran? That was a joke! I was losing to Justin Bieber, for God’s sake!”
Lance had swung around to glare at Louie. “Hey, don’t look at me,” the rat said. “I didn’t serve no liquor till nine.”
“It wasn’t that,” Paul said. “Exit polls said it was the gun incident. The herbie population in Talbot’s Peak still outnumbers the carnies three to one. Anybody small and furry who points a gun at a carnie is okay folks in their eyes.”
“But—but—” Gil choked out.
Vern grabbed his hand and pumped it heartily. “Let me be the first to congratulate you, Mr. Mayor. So what if I didn’t win? Neither did Lance. That’s the only result I was hoping for.”
Gil stared at his hand, still tingling from Vern’s hard grip. “I don’t know the first thing about how to be mayor.”
“Exactly,” Lance snarled. “It’s a delicate balancing act—humans and shifters, carnies and herbies. It’s not a game for amateurs. You need a leader with experience.”
“Which he got,” Louie said. “Gil here works the bar. I seen him handle drunk bison at one inna morning. You think that don’t take diplomacy? And human? He was born human. He knows ‘em better’n you, Mr. Ape. He seen the human side from experience. Same for the shifter side. You’s gonna make a great mayor. I’ll help you through the political crap. Rats always know where the bodies are buried. Or,” he added with a significant, sidelong look at Lance, “where the banana peels are stashed. First thing you wanna do, you wanna audit the tax returns of some of our public servants. Funny how much people’ll blab when they’re full-fed and drunk.”
“I should go,” Lance said hurriedly. He grabbed Gil’s hand, shook it once, and bolted out of the diner.
“Guess I won’t be cooking him breakfast,” Vernon said.
“Nah. Ain’t nobody cooking but me today, if Miss Elly’ll lend me her kitchen. You want something?” Louie added to Paul.
“Just wondering if I still have a job. Do I still have a job?”
“Yeah, sure,” Gil muttered. “Whatever.”
“Kewl. I’ll go get your office ready. I’d better hurry, too, before Mr. Link gets hold of the records. See you this afternoon, Mr. Mayor.”
“I get an office?” Gil looked dazed.
“You betcha.” Louie delivered a hearty slap to the new mayor’s back. “About time we got the monkeys out of the way and let the squirrels take over. And ya know what’s best about it? Squirrels work for—”
Gil brandished his coffee mug. “If you say it,” he said, “I’ll have to kill you.”
# # #
Sitting at his kitchen table, Bernard “Bugs” Bunny muttered into his morning carrot juice. “A write-in," he grumbled. "I should’a won a write-in. What’s up with that?”