The Greatest PrizeBy Charlie McCormick | December 15th, 2011 | Category: Fiction | 1 Comment »
Originally Published October 5th, 2011
It gets boring blogging about Oakland politics, so this is a fictional piece set in Oak Town. It mixes the styles of Dr. Seuss and Flannery O’Connor. It’s a pretty short story in the old school style of having a meaning behind it. The plot revolves the greatest prize in Oak Town, winning the mayoral election
Oak Town was gearing up for another campaign season, and it was a mayoral election. More so than gubernatorial elections and presidential elections, a mayoral election in Oak Town always carried with it a peculiar heated energy.
No one exactly knew the reason. Oak Town was just a little town, in a little state, with very little excitement – which actually might be the reason. Like small towns everywhere, there was a plethora of sports, recreation, schools, religions, civic groups; there were beefsteak dinners, spaghetti dinners, potluck dinners; they had trick trays, 50/50s, door prizes; they had boy scouts, girl scouts, cub scouts and brownies; they had walk-a-thons, jog-a-thons, bake sales, and raffles.
Oak Town was small, but it had everything one could want, just no real excitement.
Except once every four years the cocks would crow from the republican party candidate and the democratic party candidate, and the picking, pecking, strutting, and scratching would begin in October. Only every fourth year, when the most coveted position, the grandest political prize went up for grabs – Mayor of Oak Town – did the cocks crow their loudest, peck their deepest, and scratch their hardest.
Many took the name calling and mudslinging with a grain of salt, “It’s only politics”, they would say, “And when it’s over we’ll all be friends and neighbors again.” But everyone knew that wasn’t true. Everyone knew that rivalries and grudges were passed down from generation to generation, because history was always alive in Oak Town.
It was, more than other places, a family town. People stayed in Oak Town, got married in Oak Town, raised another generation in Oak Town, and died in Oak Town. And again, no body really knew why so many people stayed, except of course because everyone else stayed.
This October, things were different, a stranger had come to Oak Town. He had come eight years ago, but that’s a flash in the pan for people in Oak Town. Twenty years, thirty years, forty years, fifty years earned you some respect. But eight years did not earn you anything; he was still a stranger.
People knew very little about the stranger. They knew his name, they knew his face, they knew where he lived, but they knew little else. Some thought he worked for the CIA or Special Forces, some thought he was an importer/exporter, and others thought he just exported. There was a small group who believed he was related to someone else – which was true – but they did not know who.
The stranger had ideas, and he had a blog, and he blogged about his ideas on his blog. No one really read it because he blogged too much; but some people did, and they talked about it, but only in whispers. He blogged mostly about government which was what led people to believe he worked for the CIA.
Reading his blog, it was evident the stranger did not like the government. Many people in Oak Town did not like the government, but the stranger really did not like the government. He thought that the government was evil, was corrupt, and was bought and sold at the highest levels. Everyone knew that the stranger was no fan of government, from the top hair on the president’s head to the longest toe nail on the Oak Town mayor’s foot- he did not like government.
This is why it created so much of a surprise in Oak Town when people learned that the stranger was going to run for mayor. It came as a bigger surprise because he was not running as a democrat, and he was not running as a republican, he was running as an In-de-pen-dent, Independent.
This made the local political cocks get their feathers in a dander. The stranger was not only running for the highest political office in the land of Oak Town, but he was not even a member of a party; he had not joined any groups; he did not go to beefsteak dinners, or spaghetti dinners, or potluck dinners – though he would buy the occasional cookie at a bake sale.
He never bought a 50/50, never entered a raffle, and never bought tickets to a tricky tray. He was not a Knight, an Elk, a Rotarian, or a Librarian.
He drove a small car, which many people approved of, but he walked too much. He walked at night and in the morning. He walked on the sidewalks, in the streets, and through the schoolyards, and he walked too much in the woods.
His campaign was uneventful, as all he did was blog, but news spread about his ideas, and to many they were not strange. He wrote of less is more with government. He wrote of a pioneering spirit, of builders, dreamers, inventors. He wrote of artists and scientists, parents and teachers; he wrote of plumbers, carpenters, lawyers and doctors.
He wrote that they all had been cheated, they all had been robbed, and that the time had come to seize back their government, the agent of common good, and make it their own.
The Oak Town cocks crowed very loud, from both sides of the aisle. The stranger was becoming more than a nuisance, more than a speck in the eye; the stranger was becoming a threat, because people liked his ideas.
It struck a chord in those who heard and read, something deep inside. It struck a chord passed down from generations long ago. It struck a chord of faith, of belief, of hope, and the Oak Town cocks knew this man was a wolf.
“The office of mayor is the highest office in the land”, crowed one local candidate. “My family has three generations living in Oak Town”, cried another cock. “We can’t let the stranger steal this position. The office of mayor must be protected.”
The woods were where it happened, where the end for the stranger came. It was early morning, the light shining through the still green leaves of October. The air was crisp, the sun warm, and the stranger hiked in the holy solitary sanctuary of God’s creation.
He ascended to the top of the mountain, and reveled in the glass texture of the clear lake water. Looking to his left, he saw two other hikers approach him, two men, two Oak Town cocks strutting in the morning air.
The stranger acknowledged them as they drew near, and was smiling neighborly when the first rock split open his head.
The repeated blows soon left him dead.