Flash fiction inspired by the a story published at CNN
“And God Bless America.”
The crowd rose and clapped. The cameras panned and people shook hands, talked, clapped, and forgot about everything that was just said. Of course it was hard to tell at the time, but it was a speech that he had heard before.
“Darling,” he said. He motioned her over with his empty glass. “Make it a stiff one, will you?”
The bar was empty but it was loud. In the other room there were tables and there were families who were just finishing up with dinner.
The bartender brought back a cold brown drink and set it down in front of him. He raised it up in her honor and took a big gulp.
There were four heads on the TV screen now. He listened to them over the din in the other room. They argued about how the President had said something, or hadn’t said something else. They argued about how brilliant of a speech it was, and how devastating it was to his presidency. They argued and forgot about how they had crossed over the aisle to sit with one another. Red and blue on one side. It made for a great picture. A great talking point. It symbolized something that didn’t exist. And after it was over, it was obvious to everyone but them.
“The greatest show on earth,” he said, and took another drink.
In the other room he watched a man slip a piece of plastic between the fold of a big black padded check book. He never opened it to see his bill. He just placed his card in the little slot and moved it to the edge of the table. The waitress picked it up and smiled and he leaned across the table to whisper something to his wife.
His boy was standing on the seat, looking over the backrest at the people at the other table, and his daughter was clawing at his mother’s shirt. There was a car seat on the ground and a little baby was tucked away inside, his eyes closed, sucking on a blue pacifier.
“A year of action,” he thought. It was a nice slogan. It wasn’t any “yes we can,” but it was good.
“A year of action,” this time he said it out loud to himself. He liked the way it sounded and wondered if anyone out there was drawing up some sort of poster that would go down as an iconic piece of political memorabilia.
“Darling,” he said. “Make it a stiff one.”
There was a loud crash in the kitchen that silenced the rest of the bar. But slowly, the chattering din came back and he watched the man pick up his son, put on his jacket, and lead his family out of the restaurant.
She placed a brown drink in front of him and he raised his glass up in her honor. “To the future,” he said. He took a big gulp of his drink and wiped his lips with his sleeve.
There was another man giving a speech on TV now. His eyes were red. He didn’t know who he was, what he was talking about, or who he was talking too. But he watched the TV blankly and sipped his drink. He’d read about it in the morning.
He put some money on the table and stood up. The girl smiled at him and he tipped his hat. He made his way out passed the bar, passed the small tables of fed families. He walked passed the hostess who handed him a mint, and out into the frigid Chicago air where a hundred cars passed him all at once.
He walked down the long straight sidewalk thinking to himself.
“A year of action,” he mumbled.
It really did sound nice.
Flash fiction inspired by a story published at CNN: He talked a good game of acting on his own if necessary, calling for 2014 to be a “year of action, but President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address showed he knows that true progress depends on cooperation with a divided and recalcitrant Congress.
photo credit: Werner Kunz via photopin cc