It was a fine spring evening, that brief time when you forget about
opening or closing windows to keep the temperature right, and just
enjoy life. Alice and I were sitting on the
swinging chair in the screen porch, admiring the bats' acrobatics, when
she jabbed me in the ribs and whispered to me, "There's someone hiding
out in the bushes." "Well, " I said, "Part
of running for president is learning to live a public life.
There's no such thing as a private hair cut, or singing a little
Beach Boys song among friends... I expect it's the paparazzi,
trying to get a photo of us to go into a tabloid newspaper."
"What, you mean, get our lives turned into a headline, like the
neighbors, the Dorkelsons? I don't know if I signed on for this
when I agreed to let you run." "Alice, please, don't let them hear that! You didn't let me run--I decided I was the best candidate..."
"Yes, then you asked me if I thought it was a good idea, and rather
than respond to that question directly, I said go ahead and run...
I thought it would get you out of the house more..."
"How were you to know I'd be the first purely Internet candidate, not
needing to leave my home for campaigning?..." "Okay, so about this guy in the bushes. Shall I turn the sprinkler on, or call 911?"
"Let's try reasoning with him," I said. "COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS
UP, OR YOU'RE DEAD MEAT!" I shouted in all capital letters.
"He'll think you have a gun," Alice pointed out, in a stage
whisper. "He may shoot first and find out later."
"DON'T SHOOT!" I said. "We give up." "No we don't, " said Alice. "Just go away and leave us alone." "Is that really what you want?" the stranger said. "Well, we don't need any insurance, in case that's what you're selling," I said. "No," he said. "I don't want any either. In fact, I'm a lot like you." "Do you play banjo?" I asked. After all, that's one of my defining features.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, but only the 6 string kind, which banjo
purists, if there is such a thing, can't stand... Anyway, I was
just out in the bushes, hoping for some ideas for the stories I write
about you." "Oh, so you're a reporter, hoping to dig up some dirt on me to throw my candidacy off track."
"Phil, your candidacy is so far off track that no one knows you're
running." This could have been said by either the Stranger or
Alice. "I've gotten pledges for votes on Youtube," Phil countered. "Two," the stranger said. "Wow," said Alice, "This guy really does his research."
"Did you ever see the play, Peter Pan?" the stranger asked.
Phil said, "Probably. I know the characters--everyone knows them.
I've no idea how the Disney movie related to the book or the
play..." "Nor does it matter. The reason I
mention it is, at one point, Tinkerbell is down for the count, and the
audience is asked to really believe in fairies, to help her get well.
At least it happened in the version I saw. At the tender
age I saw the play, it was the emotional crux of the play."
"Look," said Alice. "It's been nice visiting with you, but
discussing old plays isn't really on the agenda. What's on the agenda
is that you were hiding in our bushes, and we want you to leave."
"Well, that's kind of my point, getting back to Tinkerbell. You
see, I'm writing your adventures on the web, and your stats are
way down. I'm guessing it's probably that most people don't want
to read a novel a paragraph a day. If they are like me, they can't
remember what's going on from one day to the next..." "I'm like you," said Phil... "Yes," he said, "Except I've never claimed to be abducted by aliens. Not even once." "You haven't lived until you've been abducted by aliens..." said Phil. "Actually, YOU haven't lived, is more accurate." The stranger said.
"So, the question is, should I keep thinking up your lame adventures
for the 3.5 people per day who check the webpage? "Lame adventures?" said Phil. "Thinking up?" said Alice.
"Don't worry your fuzzy heads about it," the stranger said. "The fact
is, that like Tinkerbell, this world is facing THE END. Unless
the boys and girls out there in Internetland make a reasonable plea for
the stories to continue." "What, you're holding us hostage for tawdry public approval?" said Phil. "This reminds me of an Old Testament story," said Alice.
"Alright, Alice, at last some redeeming social purpose! And
what does it remind you of?" said the stranger.
"Well God was going to smite this place down bigtime, and somebody like
Abraham starts negotiating with God, and saying, well, maybe it's not
all bad--what if there were a hundred good people in the place, and in
stereotypical sales fashion he succeeds in talking God down to saving
the place even if there were only one good person in the town." "And was there one good person--was the town saved?" the stranger asked. "I don't remember," said Alice. "Neither do I," said Phil and the stranger together.
"I think that's something to do with quantum uncertainty. At
least I'll waggle the term about as proficiently as lots of other
authors," said the stranger, in spite of never even taking calculus in school. "You mean like the
Schroedinger cat thing--you can't know if the cat has been killed by
deadly radiation until you open the box?" "Well,
I think in the context of the biblical story, it means we're all
getting older and none of us won prizes for biblical scholarship in
Sunday School." said the stranger. "Look," said
Phil, "you're getting on my nerves. Are you saying you want
people to email you in support of documenting our valiant lives and my
ongoing bid for the presidency, or what?" "Yes," the stranger said.
Phil said, "At this point you can't stop me, anyway. I've got
those two votes sewn up. What with electronic voting machines, you
can't know where I'll turn up on the Internet. I might win
Florida." "We'll think about what you've said,
but for now, we'd just like you to leave," said Alice. "Talk
about rocking our world..." "Yeah, well, it was fun and all," the stranger said. "We'll see how it comes out." The stranger went off down Maine Street. "Nice evening," said Phil. "Too dark to see the bats, but the stars are out," said Alice.
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