By Robert J. Wetherall
What’s more fun than watching a bunch of public servants sitting around a big oak table, scratching their collective heads and searching for ways to prevent constituents from pestering them about things like housing, education, taxes, infrastructure, safety, and so forth? Okay, yes, I’m pretty negative on the subject, much to the dismay of my friend and mentor, Eddie Salinski, a celebrated writer and welder and also an old hand at politics.
“You’ve got to look at things from the perspective of the office holder,” Eddie told me one day while I was helping him tow his rusty Chevy Suburban out of the swamp behind his trailer. “You’ve got to remember that certain things are taken for granted when a person runs for public office.”
“How so?” I asked, as just then the top of the vehicle reappeared on the surface of the swamp.
“For one thing, always remember that candidates for public office will promise virtually anything if it will help them get elected. So when they fail to deliver on these bullshit promises, don’t hold it against them. It’s in their blood, kind of leukemia-like. And, once in office, they have to feed their families just like you do. So, naturally they look for ways to augment their income without robbing Seven-Elevens or rolling helpless old ladies in dark alleys. Bribes, shakedowns, backroom deals, and fancy bookkeeping are to be expected.”
“But you can’t condone the things these crooks pull off!” I exclaimed.
“Listen, Bobby-boy, have you ever wondered why so many of these vipers are re-elected by their voters, even after they’ve been caught with their fingers in the public cookie jar?”
“Yeah, I’ve thought about that.”
“Well, it’s because voters instinctively know that a crooked politician won’t get them into war or something really serious like that. They’re too busy chiseling the local treasury.”
Blackish water poured out beneath the suburban’s doors as the winch hoisted its backend onto solid dry ground. A little green frog leaped out through the open driver’s window and hippity-hopped back into the dank ooze.
“I ran for office once,” Eddie said.
“Really? I’m surprised. Somehow I can’t picture that.”
“I was elected Mayor of a little community in Mississippi. Mudhole Corners, population 458. Voters knew I was a writer and rightly figured I didn’t have enough brains to do too much damage. As it turned out, they were wrong.”
“Well, there was this old earthen dam that needed fixing real bad. In a regrettable lapse of ethics, I decided to use the repair money to buy a nice little business jet to help me travel around the country. Strictly business, you know.”
“Wouldn’t you know, we had six weeks of heavy rain. The old dam burst its seams, and a gazillion tons of water surged into the town. Damndest thing you ever saw. Dogs, cats, horses, and people watched it all from the safety of high ground outside of town. Lots of damage. No one hurt. Mudhole Corners just floated away into the next county where the Post Office gave it a new zip code. Of course, the kindly local folks re-elected me. I served another couple of terms then threw in the towel. Got tired of chiseling, I guess.”
“That doesn’t say anything good about you.”
“I know.” Eddie hung his head down for a moment. “But you know,” he said, quickly assuming a brighter mood, “When you start being a public servant, you start changing. I mean, you start believing you’re some kind of tinhorn god. Like, if your supporters were dumb enough to elect you, then they actually deserved to be cheated, lied to, ignored, bamboozled, and cornholed.”
“What made you change?”
“I was talked into joining a twelve-step program for politician s called Assholes Anonymous. Made a new man out of me, for sure. Still go to meetings every Tuesday night.”
Eddie unhooked the winch cable from the old truck’s bumper and, hands on hips, inspected the vehicle now clad in a thick coating of mud from stem to stern. “Ought to clean up real nice,” Eddie said.
“How’s Tessie doing?” I noticed his pet goat was stretched out flat under a nearby willow tree, her fur all muddy and messed.
“Oh, she’ll be fine,” Eddie said. “Just has to dry out a bit. Guess that’s the last time I’ll try to teach a goat to drive.”
Robert J. Wetherall
Last Flight Home
The Making of Bernie Trumble
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