A VULGAR DISPLAY OF POWER
In a first floor bedroom of an old ranch-style home, a red rotary phone rings. A woman named Penelope picks it up. “Hello?”
A voice that smiles comes across the line. It is sunshine on a cold day. “Hello, Penelope. This is Michelle.”
“Hello, Michelle. How can I help you?”
Penelope’s hands had begun to sweat. She was hoping this wasn’t who she thought it was. She was hoping this was a different Michelle. She was hoping this wasn’t the call. She was hoping that the secret code wasn’t about to be spoken.
“Yes. This is Michelle with the PSA – the Public Service Association. Would I be able to schedule a meeting to discuss some of the wonderful opportunities we have coming up?”
Penelope is silent. Her mouth goes dry. Her eyes go dry. She coughs and her throat cracks.
“I would be. I would be very much. Yes. Thank you.”
She hangs up.
“Who was that, my little Vermont walnut?” Bernie walks out of the kitchen eating a tapioca pudding cup with his finger. “Pen?” He looks at her face and instantly knows that it’s time to release his secret invention.
It was time to unleash Joe Kennedy on the world.
He was also going to put in a call to a very close friend in Bel-Air.
McCain sits on the edge of his bed, curling seventy-five pound weights in each hand. His body is sagging muscle. He stares into the mirror, allowing his eyes to drift down his aging body.
What happened to you, Johnny?
You know what it was. The Bitch-Triplets. Age. Time. Death. They’re unstoppable. Sisters. You’re a rotten piece of fruit. Every dog has its day. You think you were going to escape them forever? Hell, son. You almost did, didn’t you? Gave ‘em hell in Hanoi and you’re damn proud of it. What you did was heroic. You walked into the lion’s den and told the lion to sit down and shut up. I’m coming for you, Trump. I am coming for you hard.
Sweat runs down his face and he tastes the salt on his lips.
“You don’t need to be remembered, John. But they will remember you. They will write about you in the history books. They will burn your name in lights. You will be a hero once again. You will show a second generation what it looks like to be a good man.”
His phone rings. It’s a Motorola Razor. The buttons are easier to press with his old hands and snarled knuckles than the newer touch screen smart phones. He doesn’t recognize the number, which is strange because he has over 1,000 numbers memorized ranging from Harry’s Pizza to Donald’s cell phone.
There’s one number he wouldn’t recognize. There is one number.
He flips it open and holds it to his ear. Says nothing.
“This is Michelle with the PSA –“
“I’ll be there.”
He clicks it shut and keeps pumping iron.