Panjandrum

man_panjandrum.jpg

 

panjandrum

1. a self-important or pretentious official.

 

Ethan resisted the urge to roll his eyes. They only had five weeks left of campaigning before the first televised debate and already his stomach was churning. He was eating antacids more than he was drinking coffee and he was always drinking coffee.

“That guy is such a jerk,” someone said from behind him.

“And a liar,” Denisse said, somewhere off to his right. Her Cuban accent was unmistakable.

Ethan kept his eyes glued to the screen. He didn’t disagree, but he wasn’t one for name calling. That would reduce him to the level of his opponent and he wasn’t willing to stoop that low and grovel in that dirt and filth. He simply shook his head and wondered how things had spiraled out of control. The most unlikeliest opponent had somehow risen to become their most formidable candidate–and he was using that term very loosely.

He drained the last of the burnt coffee, the new, overeager intern had brought to him, the one who smiled a little too much, and turned on his heels to find Maura. He needed her to have spun gold for tonight’s upcoming speech. The polls were giving them only a slight advantage in Indiana and they were tied in Virginia. Winning Ohio was looking more unlikely each day.

Ethan chewed on  a handful of Tums and grabbed his insulated tumblr of cold brew he’d made at 3 in the morning. It was lukewarm but better than what the intern had brought him.

He barely slept at night anymore. Instead he napped occasionally when he wasn’t awake studying voting patterns, key issues in each state, and the shaky foundation of their opponent’s platform. The more Ethan studied, the more worried he became at the idea of a panjandrum in any governmental position with actual power. Losing was one thing. Losing to someone who was not the best candidate was something completely different.

“Maura, what’ve you got,” he said, holding out his hand to check the proposed speech.

“A little nostalgia, lots of Americana, a smattering of hope and a dash of fear,” she said casually, handing him some papers. “Tonight we’re talking blue collar, mom-and-pop shops, so I pull on the heart strings a bit, remind them of the nonexistent better days of the past and tell them how we can have those days again if they vote the right way.”

He quickly reviewed her work, nodding his head and pursing his lips as he made mental revisions.

“You need a better opener–it has to grab their attention, And watch your language, it’s coming off a bit condescending and we don’t need that–especially right now. Soften it up a bit.”

He handed the papers back to her and exited the room, in search of the smiling intern he needed to fire. Rumors had been flying all week about the new intern and a couple of Ethan’s married colleagues. And the last thing they needed was a scandal.

With quick steps he located the new smiling intern, now smiling in Robert’s face and noted Robert’s newly-revived energetic laughter he had lost somewhere in the first two months of campaigning. Ethan caught the gaze of the intern and nodded toward the hallway where security would be waiting for them. He had to make this quick so he could get back to running things, trying to win a presidency, and possibly saving the nation.

He sighed deeply and followed the intern out the door as he mixed some Advil with more antacids, washing them down with his last bit of coffee, wondering how it could only be 7 in the morning.

 

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