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20 May, 2009 / Erik

The Fuller Equation, Chapter Three

3. Little Devices

When Ms. McKenzie knocked on the door, I had been up for a good three hours. I had some liquor I pilfered from the limo and the replay on the news channels to keep me company. They kept going on about the lone individual who did not duck. And why didn’t I? Looking at your unconscious self is a rare gift only video tape can grant. Peer in closely and you can see me diving for Garland. As the dais cleared, I helped him to the floor. You can also see the lack of Secret Service. They didn’t rush in from the wings. I guess they went to hunt a Man dressed all in White.

All night, the media outlets were rabid hyenas with this. On some news channels they talk about brave actions and heroic people like me in these perilous times. A couple of them remember how much their news directors hate me and play back a “best of” reel; all my best fuck-yous to the established pillars of government. Why the hell does anyone keep someone like that on their payroll?

Heh.

I open the door and Ms. McKenzie is showered and recomposed; her hair all back in its bun and her thoughts back on the objective. “So, we’re not fired. They’re still considering what angle to play. They definitely want Garland’s funeral to be big. BIG!”

I catch the crack in her façade. “So big, you don’t get to handle it.”

She pauses. “Yeah … but they still have me on Fuller Detail, which means we need to get you cleaned up and ready for battle.”

“The Fuckhead and I are going one-on-one in the jousting arena?”

She gives me a puzzled look. “Um … no. I just want you to get in the shower and away from here. No cameras for you as long as we can help it until the funeral.”

“What am I supposed to do at the funeral?”

She pushes me to the bathroom and looks around for clothes not hopelessly wrinkled. “They still haven’t decided to let you speak.”

#

As I get dressed, Ms. McKenzie is pacing around my room and tapping on her little plastic gizmo. “There’s still the Valerija issue,” she says.

I look at myself in the mirror and remember standing in front of this mirror not a week before, as Valerija got undressed for some fun in the tub. “What’s the issue? I’m not going to talk to her about anything. Fired is fired.”

“She has your rolodex.”

“They still make those?”

“The electronic kind. Since you insist on not carrying a cell-phone, you still need an assistant.”

I start buttoning up a clean red shirt. Throw some mousse into my short black hair and get ready to face what little of this shitstorm I can. “So what does that have to do with her?” I open the door and see Ms. McKenzie hanging up some of the clothes left behind. She gives me the once-over and sighs. I’ve never lived up to her image for me. I’m not the impassioned young politician she assumed I’d be. How sad to have hopes like that.

“Well, no one else has a copy of your phone list but her and … well …”

“Ms. McKenzie, do me a favor. Tell the Party brass how essential her cell phone is and that it’s my property. Have them wake up the goon squad and remove it from her forcibly. Tell them to make sure she cries.”

Ms. McKenzie crinkles her face at that one.

“And if they can film it, that’d be great.”

I remember at one point during the run-up to the nomination, I had these silly bastards running circles around hotel buildings for me just so I could make online campaign commercials describing what the Honest Appeal would do to lobbyists and special interest groups. They lived in fear of me and it was the best thing in the world. We gave a TV the roof test for the hell of it, but I think we filmed it for a campaign ad. “To prove how much I believe in Senator Garland, I’m going to drop this television forty stories.” Of course, Valerija and I could’ve been very drunk at the time.

“Fuller,” she says, “you’re going to have to deal with Valerija yourself.”

“Do we know where she is?”

“Home.”

Aw, fuck.

#

After than night at the drive-in, I pursued a spot with the Garland team and found a local group already working feverishly for the Honest Appeal. Looking back on it, I think they saw more potential in my school system experience than my sparkling personality.

Heh.

Valerija jumped up to greet me when I arrived at the campaign office that first day. She was wearing a skirt that was way too short for this sort of job, but she was bursting with the sort of energy I only read about it stories. “Hi!” she yelled. No one else looked up, so I guessed this was normal for them. Introductions were made and she sat me down next to her desk. This being my first day in the campaign office, I was on the phone canvas. Oh, that was fun. To break the tedium, Valerija would cross her eyes or make funny faces. Occasionally, I’d look up to see her knitting a sweater. She couldn’t’ve been more than twenty at that moment.

At the end of the shift, she pulled me across the street for sushi at one of those boat places where the chef is actually Korean. She looked wild-eyed at a piece of salmon and dove in. Each bite was a revelation for her.

“So, how come you’re working at the campaign office?” I asked, trying to get some idea of who she was.

“I got bored at school and heard Garland on TV. They needed people for the phone bank. It’s something to believe in, y’know?” she said at supersonic speed between bites of sushi and gulps of tea. I nursed a bowl of miso soup.

“So you believe in the Honest Appeal?”

“Of course, don’t you?”

“Well … parts, I guess. I’m interested in reforming the education system.”

Deep blue eyes go wide. “You are?”

“I used to be a teacher. I got fired.”

“You were? Wha’did you get fired for?”

“I told my kids to watch a movie.”

“What, like a porno?”

“Heh, no. It’s called 1776.”

She looked quizzically at me. “I don’t know that one.” She grabbed a eel roll off one of the boats and put it in front of me.

“It’s a musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence.” I examined the roll with my chop sticks. Valerija huffed.

“You’re holding your chop sticks wrong!” she said, putting her own sticks down. She snatched mine from my hand and grabbed my hand. “Look, like this.” She placed the sticks back in my hand to conform to how she held them. “See, now pick up the roll.”

I did as she requested. She smiled. “So, what was so wrong with the movie?”

“Oh, it’s not the most reverent telling of the story. There’s a number where John Adams and Ben Franklin ask Mrs. Jefferson about his, um, prowess.”

With her mouth full, she asked, “What? Like how he fucks her?” I scanned the room and noticed a few people looked up at her.

“Well, with more subtlety, but essentially, yes.” I replied.

“Oh. So how’d that get you fired?”

“Some of my students got together to watch it and one of the parents got offended.”

“Oh.” She was now eyeing something with tentacles peering out from the seaweed wrap as it floated by on the boat conveyer.

“Garland talks a good talk about returning critical thinking to the school system. Something worth fighting for, I think.”

She reached up and grabbed the tentacle thing as it passed again. I could only assume this was octopus. “Yeah, totally. Want some?”

On the way out, she wrapped herself around my left arm. It was still December and what little cold we get in Southern California makes wimps of us all. “Say, do you have a car?”

“Yeah.”

“Could you take me home? Please, Fuller?”

I weighed my choices. I would have to sit next to her for the rest of my time in the local campaign office. Could I deal with her being mad at me when she approaches everything with the sort of intensity that brings on migraines?

“Yeah, sure.”

“Yay, Fuller! You are the best!” She gave me a peck on the cheek.

Twenty minutes out of my way later, she gave me another kiss and told me goodnight.

That Friday night, she got me to go drinking with her college friends and at some point, in the backseat of her friends’ SUV, we started making out.

#

I open the door to the apartment and I see nothing disturbed. No clothes on the floor. No posters ripped off the wall. I hear water running. She’s in the shower. On the table by the door, I find my mail and the phone; a little purple thing with a color screen and a QWERTY keypad. It’s starts playing a Nick Cave song. On the screen, it says, “Imagelady calling.” Valerija runs out of the bathroom in a towel; her long black hair all dripping on the hardwood.

“Oh,” she utters.

The pressure is building behind my cheeks and the sinuses. “I need the phone,” I say.

“Oh.”

“It is mine, y’know. I pay the bill for the stupid thing.” The song stops playing and somewhere, Ms. McKenzie is listening to the obnoxious voicemail message Valerija and I put on it.

“Sure, but the campaign reimburses you. In fact, you have check for last month on the table.”

I grab the mail.

“Guh, I won’t steal from you.” She stamps her bare left foot on the floor.

“You’ll forgive me if my capacity to trust is wavering.”

Her eyes start to water.

“You’re still mad?” she meekly says. What a bizarre question. She’s seen me in all states. The fact I’m not raising my voice or ranting should be enough indication. I’m a neutron bomb. I’ll incinerate only flesh.

“Yes.”

“Look, I know it was stupid—“

I raise my hand to stop her.

“We’re done.”

She takes a step forward.

“Leave a message at the office when you’ve moved out. I won’t be back until then.”

“Please, Fuller.”

“I’ll trust you won’t actually steal from me.”

#

After the first TV interview, when the local office became all abuzz with my supposed eloquence, Valerija started jumping up and down and insisting she could be my assistant. We were at my place.

“Why would I need one of those?” I asked.

“Well, if you’re going to be more important to the campaign, you’ll need someone to … um, I don’t know. Answer your cell phone?”

“I don’t have one.”

“Fuller! You gotta have a phone! Oh my god, how do you function? I mean, people gotta contact you, y’know?”

I smiled.

“But there’s other things, too. Like … make appointments for you. Oh, if you’re going to be on TV, you gotta do something about your hair. I mean, really. Someone’s gotta file for you, too. I’ve seen the way you keep things here.”

I got up out of bed. “I’m sure if they’re serious, the campaign will find me their own handler.”

She smiled and winked. “But not one that can handle you like me.”

“Point.”

She crawled across the bed to me and ran her nails up my back. “C’mon, it’ll be fun.”

Back then, before a person’s touch could tell me their life story, I could still sense the ride of campaigning turned her on.

“If I suggest this to the people at the office and they run with it, you have to be for real. You have to do the job. No half-steps. We on?”

She reached up and kissed my neck. “We on.”

#

I drive a good ten minutes south and find “Imagelady” in the phonebook, but only after fighting with the interface. Valerija picked this thing out.

“Hi, Fuller. How’d it go?”

“As well as could be expected. Got the phone, but I’m going to need a place to stay while the bitch moves out.”

“I’ll let the office know. Should I tell them you need a new assistant?”

“Not yet. Let’s see how the funeral goes.”

“You’re thinking of quitting?”

“Confidentially?”

“Of course.”

“I will never stump for the Fuckhead.”

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One Comment

Leave a Comment
  1. Erik / Jul 8 2009 4:57 pm

    Continue on to Chapter four: http://tiny.cc/fuller04

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