Need a writing prompt?
Read on for my interpretation …
“In short, we have been telling ourselves some lies.”
“SOME lies?” Sarah ran her hands over her face. “Pretty sure what we’re doing is illegal.”
“Shh!” Toby gave a surreptitious look over both shoulders. “It’s not illegal … it’s collecting ballots … creatively.”
Sarah rolled her eyes. “Have you talked to Pennsylvania?” She leaned in closer to Toby and lowered her voice, “they actually papered the windows. Pretty sure they weren’t supposed to do that.”
Toby chuckled and shrugged. “Whatever it takes to get this done. We need that asshole out of office so we can get this country back on track.”
“And that justifies our” she lifted her hands and made air quotes, “creative balloting? What about the voters? You don’t think this is going to piss off a lot of people and they file lawsuits?”
“Who cares? They can try but ultimately, we have the media in our back pocket and the Republicans will do what they always do, cave. Even if …”
She interrupted, “WHEN Toby.”
“Fine, when, this comes out and Trump files his lawsuits, it will only serve to reinforce in the American people’s minds that he’s being a jerk, once again, and that he’s throwing a temper tantrum because he didn’t get his way. A sore loser. The media will call it and it will be very difficult for the Republicans to prove anything. The burden of proof is a bitch.”
Sarah’s mouth dropped open. “Wait. You’re talking like this has been planned for a while.”
“Are you seriously that naïve? We’ve had this planned since the Pandemic became public in January. This whole year has been a set up for this very moment. We all took an oath, early on, that we would do whatever it took to get Biden into the office. And if that meant selling some lies, well,” he shrugged, “so be it.”
“But that’s dishonest.”
“Sarah,” Toby cupped her elbow and guided her to a corner of the room. The command room was noisy to start with and he didn’t think anyone would overhear him, but there was too much at stake to risk it. “Is this your first time heading a campaign?”
She blushed and dipped her head. “Yes.”
“If you want to make a career in politics, you have to learn to bend your morals a bit.”
Sarah’s eyes widened.
“Oh, don’t act all innocent with me,” Toby snarled. “Politics is an ugly business and if you want anything done you have to play the game. And I assure you, Sarah, it’s a game. You have to understand the human psyche and once you have an understanding of what makes people tick, it’s really not hard to manipulate them. Now, I need you to check on Georgia and Arizona. Their numbers are looking dismal and I need to them to stop counting for a bit while we rally the troops.”
“You want me to … why would you stop the count?”
Toby released a long-suffering sigh. “Look. If you can’t do this job, I’ll find someone who can. You think you’re the only eager campaign worker looking to make a name for herself?”
“I’m not looking to make a name for myself.”
“Oh really,” he snickered. “So you didn’t apply for this job with the sole intention of furthering your political career?”
“Well ..” she blushed.
“If you want to make it in politics, you have to make hard choices. There is no integrity in politics, it’s dirty, nasty and pretty much a shithole. But,” he paused to take a breath, a slow grin spreading across his face, “if you do a good job, trust me, you WILL be taken care of. Your career aspirations are limitless.”
“So. Make those calls. Chop chop!” He clapped his hands prodding her into action.
Sarah walked briskly back to her desk. Her heart was pounding so hard her ribs hurt. She sank into her desk chair and slouched down in order to make herself invisible to her cubicle mates. What exactly was going on here? She fully supported Biden and his agendas but was she really prepared to cheat for him? Is this what politics was all about? She wanted to win fair and square. She hated Trump but what they were doing was morally wrong. They were cheating and in essence, making the voter obsolete. How was this helpful to the country? But on the other hand, if Trump stayed in office for four more years, could the country endure even more damage he would potentially cause?
She could feel sweat breaking out across her brow. It wasn’t often a person recognized a crossroads in her life but she knew she had reached one. What to do? Should she compromise her beliefs all in the name of the greater good? If she didn’t do it, someone else would. The deed would be done regardless of whether she did it or not. Did she want to be left behind? If she didn’t make those calls, it would ruin her budding career. Toby pretty much confirmed it. She hadn’t networked this hard for so many years only to abort it over a moral dilemma.
With a shaky hand, she rolled through her rolodex and called Laura in Georgia first.
“Hi Laura, it’s Sarah in DC. How is it going over there?”
“We’re rolling along. What do our numbers look like?”
“Well,” Sarah paused and consulted her desktop. She pulled up the number for Georgia and cringed. “You’re behind. By a few percentage points actually. Toby wants you guys to stop counting for a bit.”
Sarah paused before answering. Laura’s eagerness to cross the line took her by surprise. It only served to reinforce what Toby said. “Minimum of four hours,” she responded, trying to smooth the tremor from her voice.
“On it.” Laura hung up.
Sarah slowly placed the receiver and swallowed the bile back down her throat. What was she doing? If her father could see her now, he would be very disappointed in her. She closed her eyes for a few moments before taking a breath, rolling through her numbers, she located the number for Arizona and picked up the phone.
“Hey Kyle, it’s Sarah in DC.”
“Yeah. What’s up?”
“Numbers are down and not acceptable. Toby wants you guys to hold off counting for a minimum of four hours.”
“That won’t be easy,” Kyle said. She could hear the frown in his voice. “We have quite a few poll watchers breathing down our necks.”
Sarah rubbed her temple and squinted against the pounding in her head. “You’re going to have to get creative.”
“Understood.” Kyle hung up.
She leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes. She had a feeling she just handed the conductor her ticket to hell. She jumped as her phone buzzed. She picked it up and frowned when she saw who it was from.
“Hey. Did you get the text?” Toby appeared by her side. His cool demeanor had evaporated and she noticed that he looked pale.
“Then let’s go see what she wants.”
Sarah snapped out of her chair and ran her hands down her suit jacket nervously. She snatched up her phone and followed behind Toby. They weaved their way through the press room. Sarah noted most everyone looked focused but extremely stressed out. She suddenly wished she was any place else. She needed to seriously rethink her career choices. But not now. She needed to get through the night first.
They stepped into the office and someone quietly closed the door behind them.
“Things are not looking good,” a female voice said.
Toby looked at Sarah and raised his eyebrows to prompt her to answer.
“Yes Senator Harris. I just got off the phone with Georgia and Arizona and advised them to stop counting.”
“We need votes, Sarah.”
“I realize that ma’am. But we can’t make them appear from thin air.”
Harris barked a laugh and thumbed toward Sarah while addressing Toby. “Is she for real?
Her bladder squeezed with nerves and she felt like she might pee her pants.
Toby faked a laugh and put out a consoling hand. “She’s kidding, Senator. Everyone is on edge. We’ll find some ballots. Don’t worry.”
“I don’t worry. I pay you guys to worry,” she responded then shooed them away.
As soon as they exited the room and the door closed behind them, Toby turned on her. “How stupid are you?” His face was turning red with anger.
“This can’t be happening, Toby. Are you suggesting we find ballots? How is that legal?”
“Look. I’m telling you right now. This is NOT the time to find a conscience. Either get on board or get the hell out,” he ground out before turning on his heel and walking away from her.
Sarah reached out to grab the back of a nearby chair. She felt faint and dizzy. She must be having a nightmare. Surely this wasn’t really happening. What should she do? If she left that would end any potential career she had worked years for. If she stayed, she wasn’t sure she could live with the consequences.
Her stomach rolled and grumbled and she lifted a hand to her mouth. She could taste bile in the back of her throat. She ran to the bathroom and vomited.
I was DETERMINED to write something today. I needed 1466 words today, according to the NaNoWriMo website. I saw this prompt and considering all that is going on in the world right now, I couldn’t resist writing a short piece. It was an off-the-cuff story with very little thought. I just allowed my imagination to write the scene.
But who knows. Maybe something similar actually happened. Truth is often stranger than fiction, right?