Monday, November 5, 2012
“In your little monkey dreams,” Vern returned cheerfully. “Why not just retire now and save yourself the grief?”
“And here we go,” Louie grumbled. They’d gathered at Miss Elly’s diner—now Mrs. MacMahon’s—for their regular Tuesday night poker game, but cards had taken a back seat to political sniping for most of the evening. Since the cards had been running cold for Louie all night, he hadn’t complained until now. “We got another whole week of this shit. Can we put a sock in it?”
“Some of us can,” Vern said. “Others may feel a need to do some last-minute desperation campaigning because they’re falling behind in the polls. Right, Lance?”
“You actually pay attention to the polls? Those are worthless. You’ll notice we’re neck and neck in every survey out there. Nobody wants to be accused of influencing the election. Not to mention no one in the media wants to be shown up as wrong.”
“He’s got a point,” Louie said. “I ain’t serving no alcohol until after the polls close. Neither’s anybody else in Talbot’s Peak. People show up drunk to vote, it ain’t gonna be my fault.”
“The survey outside the movie theater had me ahead by a wide margin,” Vern insisted.
“And who did they survey? Carnivores,” Lance said with a triumphant flourish of his winning hand. “If you survey the herbivores or the humans, you’ll get a whole different response.”
Vern threw his own hand on the table. “Who cares what humans think?”
“They do. They’ve been putting me back in office for the last ten years. They don’t even know who you are.”
Miss Elly came in from the kitchen with a fresh pot of coffee. “They at it again?” she murmured to Louie.
“They been at it. You might as well rejoin the game. It ain’t gonna get any better anytime soon.”
“As for the herbie vote, you can kiss that good-bye,” Lance went on. “There’s no way they’d vote a wolf into office. I told you from the start, old dog, you were setting yourself up for failure. Being married to a herbivore won’t help you.”
Something deadly flashed through Vern’s eyes. “That’s not why I married her, and I’ll prove it. Elly, m’love, say the word and I’ll drop out of the race right now. Hand the Peak back to the monkey here. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve won the only race that mattered.”
“Awww,” Louie said. “I’m getting all misty-eyed over here.”
“Forget it,” Elly said, pulling up a chair. “You’re not throwing that on my back. If you want to drop out, go ahead. I was sick of this damn election the day after campaigning started.”
“The bane of politics,” Lance agreed. He passed the deck to Elly, who shuffled and dealt a new hand. “You were doomed from the beginning. I’m ahead of you alphabetically on the ballot. That’s often the deciding factor.”
“You’re not the only one running, Lance,” Elly pointed out. “What happens if neither of you wins?”
Lance and Vernon stared at her. Then both started to laugh.
“What?” Elly said, miffed. “What did I say?”
“You don’t really think those other doofuses stand a chance, do you?” Lance said. “Todd Lang and his Stag Party? Give me a banana-loving break.”
“Lang’s the elk, right?” Louie said, inspecting his hand.
“Lang’s the asshat,” Vern said. “He runs in every election, for every position. I guess he figures sooner or later he’ll get elected to something.”
“And then there are our good friends in the UAU,” Lance said. “Hopeless but persistent.”
“United American Ungulates.” Elly discarded two cards and picked up replacements. “Bison mostly, but with goat, elk and sheep members, and the occasional horse. Todd broke off from them and started his own party when they wouldn’t nominate him for anything. I think they’re running Jose Sandoval this time around.”
“Sandoval,” Vern muttered. “Bull, right?”
“Steer. Bad marriage, messy divorce. He doesn’t like to talk about it.”
“And then there are the write-ins,” Lance said. “There’s always a segment of the population that likes to throw away their vote in an effort to be clever. Patty O’Furniture almost got elected treasurer one year, as I recall.”
“You gotta watch out for that. It can come back to bite you on the ass,” Louie warned. “We had that happen in Jersey once. People got ticked at the two jokers running for state senator. A whole mess’a people voted for Mickey Mouse. It was like one’a them, whatchacallits, collective unconscious things. Trouble is, there really was a Mickey Mouse out in Seaside Heights. Well, Mikey Maus, but that was his nickname and everybody knew it. After the election he came forward and claimed he won and they had to swear him in. Waddaya gonna do? He did a good job. They re-elected him twice.”
“I don’t think we need to worry about that happening in Talbot’s Peak,” Lance pronounced. “Those who do vote take their civil duty seriously.”
“I’d be worried, I was you,” Louie told them both. “We got our own poll going over at Rattigan’s. The both of youse fell off in the first week.”
“Who’s ahead?” Elly asked. “Patty O’Furniture?”
“Justin Bieber, last time I looked.”
“He a shapeshifter?” Vern said.
“It doesn’t matter. He’s not a resident,” Lance pointed out. “I trust our side bet is still on? When I win, you cook me breakfast. Banana flapjacks with nuts. I like them nice and golden brown.”
“Better brush up on your own culinary skills, Emeril. I like my eggs over easy, my ham pan-fried and my bacon nice and chewy. Don’t forget real cream in the coffee. None of that powdery crap.”
“Don’t you forget who’s won every mayoral election for the last decade,” Lance reminded him. He laid his cards on the table. “We’ll see next week, won’t we?”
Elly spread her hand on the table next to Lance’s. Four queens, two aces. Lance’s grin dropped off his face. Louie swore.
“Yes,” Elly said, with a wink at her husband. “We’ll see.”