An entry in the Crocodile Prize
PNG Government Award for Short Stories
THE 2012 national elections had been done and dusted for some months and the Pub Politician was having a hard time coming to terms with his electoral demise.
His foray into politics had left him emotionally and financially scarred and he knew a quick recovery on both fronts would not be easy.
He was spending less time at his favourite haunt, the ever popular Fifth Floor bar, and, although a welcome change as far his missus was concerned.
His predicament was also a major setback for his “political advisors” from the roundtable and it was agreed that planning for nation al elections 2017 would have to start in earnest as soon as the Pub Politician had settled back into some sort of routine.
Along with his hopes of returning with the letters “MP” after his name dashed at the polls, as well as the perks and privileges that materialise for the successful, he was also nursing a severely bruised ego at home and in the office.
The occasional jocular shout of “member” or “daddy boss” from his colleagues at work did nothing to bolster his self-esteem to pre-election levels. Neither did the fact that his home, which had been turned into a care-centre of sorts during the election, showed no significant decrease in its residential population.
The strain on family life was evident in the incessant nagging from his wife and children demanding more of this or a little less of that, so it was not surprising that the PP was missing his usual outing to the Fifth Floor.
He felt strongly the absence of the camaraderie of his advisors, their egging, general banter and off-the-cuff quips on one topic or another.
He missed the afternoon ambience created by the murmur of voices competing with 80’s music, the heavy discussion under dimmed lights, the haze of cigarette fumes and the aroma of Elizabeth Arden blended with cheap imitation Tabu and someone who had gone slightly overboard with Old Spice.
Sitting at his desk this balmy Thursday afternoon, he resolved to go down for a “quick one” as soon as the clock struck 4:06pm.
Calls to several of his inner-circle advisors were met with a surprising tone of detached unfamiliarity.
Was he losing his touch? Or perhaps it was because it was only Thursday. He did not want to spend an hour alone staring at that round table in the outer bar. He needed the company of at least one advisor if not to shed some of the domestic burden accumulated over the last few weeks, then at least to dream together about “what might have been”.
A cursory glance at his watch showed the time was chasing 4pm in a hurry and without a single positive response from any of his advisors. PP thought that he might have to forgo his usual haunt.
But fortunately his most ardent follower (AF) from the nearby Lagatoi Building called with minutes to spare. And yes, a “quick one before 7pm” would be on the cards provided PP did ramble on about lost opportunities or anything depressing. And so it was agreed, no reminiscing, and definitely no politics.
PP saw the crowd of regulars already dropping back the handles and others going full steam on their typing lessons, some going at 35 words per minute whilst the more experienced or chancier going all out at 70 per minute.
A few were going frustratingly slowly at 14 or 21 words per minute. He muttered softly to his AF about when he thought those aspiring typists would graduate. They both held back sniggers and headed to their usual spot.
True to his promise, PP did not bore AF with lamentations or politics. In fact, the session progressed well heading towards 6pm and, after a schooner or two, AF was feeling upbeat. Surely more of the roundtable group should have turned up.
The music was turned down around six for the news brought by the self-professed number one television station and PP could hear some of the patrons, who were clearly over the six glass safety limit, mouthing away at a piece on the latest parliamentary sitting.
He paid a passing glance at one of the randomly placed screens and spotted the politician who had won the seat he contested, the person who had dashed all his expectations of perks and privileges, dreams of grandeur, and ticket to the land of milk and honey found just before the country’s museum and art gallery.
AF noticed with much an effusion of froth at the corner of PP’s mouth and his trembling hands and knew that any thought of enjoying this small interlude was over.
AF had known it was difficult for aspiring politicians to assimilate back into normal society once their dreams were shattered at the polls.
He had heard of aspirants having difficulty settling back into routine life and getting on with whatever job they had prior to entering the race. Nevertheless, it was disconcerting for him to sit there and watch his friend die a slow and tortured mental death.
Fortunately, the bar was not as crowded as it would have been on a Friday night so their quick getaway was inconspicuous and, after a short drive to the care centre, AF dropped off PP with a feeling of trepidation as to whether he would survive his family and be well enough for work tomorrow.
But AF was not too big on fraternal empathy and made a beeline for home, thinking that politics was certainly not for those of lean pickings or small pockets or faint heart. Because when the spark is doused, they are embraced by more than darkness.