We’re Just Older Part II

This story actually can stand on it’s own, meaning there’s no need to read Part I, but here’s the link Click here for the first half of We’re Just Older

The night of the swearing-in was crowded, more crowded than the town council chambers had ever been in Oak Town. People traveled from the north, south, east and west, and even some people from Oak Town were there.

Frank Birch had never seen it so crowded, and he was happy to be safe and secure inside the sound booth. Usually the room seemed a bit small, but tonight the sound booth seemed spacious in comparison to the town council chambers.

The weather, as predicted, was bitter cold, and everyone had on winter coats, sweaters and boots; so, this made the chambers seem even smaller as all the people seemed bigger.

Some of the people actually were bigger than others, they were bigwigs. They had come across bridges, tunnels, highways and byways, to see the swearing-in of the mayor of Oak Town, and they had come for a big, free meal.

It was always the ones who did not need anything who always wanted the most and more; and, so they had braved the cold and the wind for standing room only occupancy at the swearing-in ceremony.

There were Oak Town bigwigs there, the kind who once ran, or never ran, but always supported someone running for office; and, then there were the business bigwigs and their wives with big wigs; and the County bigwigs who were as big as they get in Oak Town.

Sometimes the wife was the bigwig, and in that case her husband would wear the big wig. But it was bigwig wall-to-wall, because anyone who was nobody would not stand for the swearing-in of the new mayor – they would prefer to sit at home and watch it on TV.

Frank knew that not many Oak Town residents were in the crowd, and most would be watching it on the Oak Town public access channel. He knew this because many people had told him.

“No fookin’ way.” they would say, “What the hell do I want to haul my ass down to the council chambers? I’ll watch the fookin’ thing on TV.”

The council would be taking their seats on the dais momentarily, and Frank wanted to do one more sound check before they entered the council chambers. He didn’t need to, but he liked to check and cross check, just to be sure. It was a habit at this point, but a habit he would have liked broken – at least for tonight.

The council chambers were packed with people, and it was beginning to smell. Some might say the smell of humanity, but Frank thought it smelt like sweaty wool and rubber. He eased out of the sound booth and went up on the dais to check the microphones used by the council members.

Councilmen Benson and Weggatellie were talking to each other but went silent when Frank approached to check the microphone. He had this effect on politicians, they would go silent when he approached as if he himself were somehow wired for sound and would broadcast their deepest, most ridiculous secrets.

At first he took offense to this cold shoulder, thinking they perceived themselves as better than him. Then he realized that they were simply afraid he would hear what they were saying. This of course made him suspicious, so occasionally he would make the microphones extra sensitive and listen into their private chatter as they sat on the dais before the meetings began.

One thing Frank did learn was that they actually did believe they were better than him. He knew this because he heard Benson say it, “I’m so much better than Frank.”

Frank continued listening in on that occasion, and a few more, till it was clear that none of them were better than him. In fact, he learned that they were not better than anyone, and eventually stopped listening in at all so as not to think any less of them. It would have been too easy for Frank to start believing he was better than them

A lot of folks in Oak Town were not very fond of Benson and Weggatelli, mostly because they talked too much without saying anything. They would talk during a council meeting and a second would seem like a minute, a minute an hour, and so on.

People would sit in the Oak Town Pub and discuss ways to make them shut up. Their plans often involved stuffing something somewhere, and sometimes stuffing stuffing somewhere. Oak Town folks would sit drinking pints for hours at the Oak Town Pub discussing these plans, and the hours would pass like minutes, and the minutes pass like seconds, and so on.

“How you doing there boys? Ready for the new mayor?” offered Frank as he double checked the microphone situated between the two councilmen. The councilmen were silent, and then Weggatelli broke the wind

“That should be me sitting in the mayor’s chair”, said councilman Weggatelli.
“You mean me”, said councilman Benson.
“Yeah, whatever”, said Frank as he abandoned his plans to check all the microphones and instead hurried back to the safety of the soundproof sound room.

Settling into his control chair, Frank watched through the one way mirror as the other council members assumed their positions on the dais and the new mayor took center stage. He was tempted to turn the sound on so he could hear the speech, but he resisted. He watched in the comfort of silence his 7th new mayor speak, lips moving, facial expressions, hand gestures, and Frank simply imagined the words.

“I promise to cook you all eggs, every morning, and serve them to you in bed. I promise to be the kind of mayor who will personally clean up your dog crap for you. I promise not to lie, cheat or steal unless I have no other choice. I promise to keep Oak Town the same as it always was, always has been, always will be. I promise to be the greatest thing since sliced bread.”

Frank thought about sliced bread with butter, and not yet having had dinner, the thought made him hungry. When will this ever end he thought, and that thought left him confused because he immediately understood that it stretched over 40 years and 7 mayors.

The ceremonial swearing-in did end, eventually, and the bigwigs piled into big cars for the big mayoral inaugural celebration at Porcini’s Palace at the end of Oak Town. This is a hall that hosted many bigwig events, and all the bigwigs wanted to go, so they did.

The inside was elaborately done with gold painted chandeliers, dark red carpets, and a grand staircase entrance. The staircase in the entrance way did not really lead any where. The original owners of Porcini’s had built it to give the hall a sense of grandeur, which it did, but then it became a joke amongst the regular Oak Town folk.

It was literally a staircase that led only to the top of the stairs, at which point it hit the ceiling. No one could ever stand on the top stair, though sometimes children would go up there to escape adults during a boring bigwig wedding . The nearness to the ceiling made it cozy, and looking down on all the adults was a pleasing perspective for young Oaklandians.

Frank got to the celebration late as he needed to close up the sound room and close up the council chambers, so he was the last one to leave and the last to arrive.

Inside was mayhem, well dressed, but nonetheless, mayhem – as Frank expected. It was free food, free booze, and in mass bigwigs were still stampeding for seats, glasses, plates, drinks, food, knives and forks. There were hundreds of people, and Frank had never seen such splendor for a mayoral inaugural celebration in all his 40 years and 7 mayors.

It reminded him somewhat of those annual trips to Italy when he would visit his second cousin Fredrico, a childhood friend of the Pope. They would regularly attend international events at the Vatican as guests of the Pope. Interestingly, the bigwigs there did not act so big; and, he attributed this to people fearful of appearing vain in front of his Holiness.

At Porcini’s,  all the bigwigs and those wearing big wigs were walking on their toes and sticking out their bellies saying, “Look how big I am”. Or at least that’s what Frank thought they were saying, but he was not sure.

Conversations stopped as he approached, and continued just as he moved out of earshot. It was his gift, to silence politicians, politicos, and governmental bigwigs with his mere presence.The food was being served in the other room, but the line was long and Frank was happy to grab a cold beer and sit by the bar – though he was hungry.

His hunger grew as plates passed by him piled high with shrimp, lobster, clams and mussels; steaks of beef and venison; cakes, cookies and pastries. Occasionally a decorative piece of salad would peak out from the bottom of a plate, fall to the floor, and be trampled as people maneuvered to their seats.

One plate held an entire roasted chicken, and Frank’s eyes followed the bigwig carrying it. Frank was in awe that a buffet would put out whole roasted chickens. He was even more shocked to watch as the bigwig tried to slyly shove the entire chicken into his big wigged wife’s purse. It mostly fit, except for one leg slightly sticking up.

Just as the hunger was starting to move in on him, Frank heard a scream, “Help! Somebody help us!” It was a big wigged woman he recognized from the newspaper, The County Chronicle. Her husband was a County Freeholder and owned the County Chronicle, so their photographs were often featured prominently in the paper.

“He’s choking! He’s choking! Someone help! He’s choking!”

Frank pushed his way through the bigwig crowd against tide a tide of bigwig bellies. People were scurrying away as voices cried out, “Give him air! Give him air!” Leaving the Chronicle owner alone on the floor gasping for air as he choked.

“He’s choking for the love of God!” yelled Frank once he had assessed the scene.
“Don’t touch him!” ordered a bigwig. “If anything happens to him, you’re liable, you’ll be sued.”

“Fook off, asshole”, replied Frank as he knelt down next to the choking man. He could tell immediately what the problem was, and knew immediately what had to be done; unfortunately he couldn’t do it. The man was too big to lift and do the Heimlich maneuver.

But all was not lost; looking inside the man’s mouth, Frank spied the tail of a colossal shrimp sticking out. He stuck two fingers inside the man’s mouth and gained a finger tip hold on the shrimp’s tail. Holding it as tight as he could, he slowly started easing the obstruction from deep in the man’s gullet. Finally, enough of the shrimp protruded from the man’s throat that Frank was able to pull it out entirely.

It was the largest shrimp Frank had ever seen, and there was not a bite mark on it.

“How the fook did that get in your throat?” he asked the gasping County bigwig.

“I was eating so fast, I forgot to chew. Are there still more shrimp?”

Frank’s hunger was gone, he was going home.

Another lesson learned, another insightful moment that explained how he had managed to last for 7 mayors, and how he would last for 7 more mayors. – Frank chewed his food.

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  1. Charlie, you are a great writer, thank you for the many laughs.. Oakland needs more of your style to shake off the demons left by old politicians.. Happy New Year to you and yours!