A Coming Change, or, A New Hope

This is a short story that I wrote for a class.  I like it, but you might not.  You should read it anyway.  I don’t want to give you any background about the piece because I want to see if you understand or “get” this piece.  I don’t know, maybe it sucks.

It’s nearly winter, and as the tall, graying man walks up the steps to his living quarters, he’s winded.  The stress these past few years has been unbearable.  Not only is he responsible for sending employees into difficult situations oversees, but he’s got a budget in the red, revenues that are shrinking, health care costs that are rising, and bosses who aren’t very happy with his performance.  The recession has not been kind to him.  As he reaches the final step, the man is greeted by his wife, none too pleased that he’s late for dinner.

“Pumski, what took you so long in the office?”

“Just had some issues to deal with.  Working with the communications department on our PR campaign.  So what’s for dinner?”

“I had the cook make your favorite.  Shrimp and grits.  No one else in this house eats it, so they also made us some burgers and fries.  Anyway, the girls are watching Hannah Montana.  Can you get them to the table for me?  I’m exhausted after a long day of working on my initiatives to get people to eat healthier foods.”

“Alright, then.  I’ll get the girls.”

After sitting down to dinner, a dinner which he barely touched, the man’s mind kept wandering off to what was ahead for him later that night.  His bosses were in the course of deciding the future of the organization.  Many representatives within the company would be out of their jobs by the end of the night, with many of the pink slips handed out before sunrise tomorrow.  He couldn’t help but feel somewhat responsible for their predicament.  He asked too much of them and failed to convince his bosses to give them a second chance.  Some of that could be due to his strategy.  He suggested that his bosses were “confused” and “hard-wired to be fearful” about the direction of the organization.

It also doesn’t help that he had no prior executive experience before taking the job.  His bosses picked him because he was different from any other candidate in the organization’s history.  It wasn’t just his diverse background, oratory skills, and intellect.  It was something about how he made people feel; like picking him would somehow make up for all of the organization’s past shortcomings.  He washed away the guilt about how they acted in the past.  He even beat out a candidate who had a family connection to the position.  She was married to a former Chief Executive who held that position in the nineties.

But now that he’s got the job he campaigned so hard for, the man is showing his lack of experience.  He tried to take the organization in a new direction, even taking control of failing companies and pushing through a new healthcare initiative.  Yet the bosses remain unhappy.

Some, with the way he instituted his agenda, and others, with the agenda itself.  The higher-ups are getting hostile.

“Honey, what’s wrong?  You haven’t touched your grits.”

“Honestly, babe, I feel so rejected right now.  I thought this job would be easy.  Heck, if the last guy could do it, and he could barely speak English, why can’t I?  I don’t know.  I feel really depressed right now.  A bunch of people are getting fired tonight, and it’s all my fault.  I guess my bosses didn’t give me a mandate to “fundamentally transform” the organization after all.”

“Oh, sweetie, don’t be so negative.  I’m sure everything will turn out fine.  Besides, some of those people are dead weight anyway.  That Alan guy from Florida?  Heck, he’s a wacko! You’ll be better off without him.  And I never liked that Nancy woman either.  All she seems to do is blink a lot.  I’m not sure what’s wrong with her.”

The man laughed.  He too thought Nancy was a bit crazy.

“Alright, hon, I’ll try to look at the bright side of things.  What I really need is something to take my mind off my job.”

“Isn’t that why you go golfing so much?  If I remember correctly, you’ve played more than 50 rounds of golf since taking this job.  And you still aren’t very good at it.”

The man responded tersely:

“If I wanted golf advice, I would ask Tiger Woods.”

Displeased with her husband’s tone, the wife replied, half joking, “Why don’t you get PR advice from him while you’re at it.  Since he did so well after all his problems and all…”

“Excuse me?  This is not the time for jokes.  My allies are getting booted out tonight, and this is not a laughing matter.  Now I’m going to actually have to try working with the other side.  It was so much easier when I could just pretend to be bipartisan.”

Getting up from the table, the man wandered to the living room, where he sat down in the big, blue recliner.  He turned on the 52 inch LCD TV but quickly shut it off after seeing what was on.  The TV was tuned to MSNBC, his favorite cable news outlet.  Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow were discussing the problems that the man’s been having.  Apparently this is such a big story that MSNBC brought out its most professional journalists for the occasion.  The man turned the TV on again but smartly changed the channel to ESPN.

In the kitchen, his wife was cleaning up from dinner.  She was taking her time.  Her husband was in one of his moods.  She would try to avoid him if possible.

An hour later, after SportsCenter finished up and college football started, the man got up from the chair.  He wasn’t a big football fan.  Besides, he wanted to sleep.  It was early, but he wasn’t feeling well.  Tomorrow was going to be a difficult day.  Regardless of the bosses’ decisions, he was going to be addressing them the next day at 1 P.M.

A night of tossing and turning followed.  At midnight, he was awoken by the high-pitched ring of the telephone.  Thinking it was some emergency, he quickly grabbed the cordless landline and pushed in the “talk” button.  He was so startled that he actually dropped the device, knocking out the battery and turning it off.  He ran to another room and picked up the receiver.

“Hello.  This is President Barack Obama.  Should I head down to the Situation Room?”

“No, Mr. President.  This is David Axelrod, your Senior Advisor.  I’m calling to inform you that Republicans have taken back the House of Representatives.  Michelle told me you went to bed early and didn’t watch the results on T.V.  Boy, you should have seen Keith Olbermann tear Boehner a new one after he cried in his speech…”

“Shut up!  Why the hell did you bother me?  Can’t this wait until the morning?”

Mr. Axelrod, used to Mr. Obama’s naiveté, responded politely.

“Actually, you should call Leader Boehner and congratulate him.  After all, he’s going to be the Speaker of the House and you’ll need to work with him.  Or rather, he’ll need to work with us.”

“Alright, can you connect me to Boehner?”

“Right away.”

What was to follow was one of the more awkward conversations in Mr. Obama’s history.  He actually began to feel humbled by that night’s happenings.  He congratulated John Boehner for his takeover of the House and said he looked forward to meeting in the Oval Office to discuss unemployment, health care, and golf.  He threw that golf reference in there, knowing full well that Boehner is an avid golfer.  What Obama didn’t mention was a possible golf outing:  Mr. Boehner has a 6.3 handicap, making him one of the best golfers on Capitol Hill.

By one A.M. the President was back in bed, but he couldn’t sleep.  When he finally did doze off, he had that nightmare again.  It was election night 2012, and the T.V., tuned to Fox News, showed that Hillary Clinton was leading over Sarah Palin.

“Why aren’t I in this race?” the one-term President asks his wife, Michelle.

“Oh, Pumski, can’t you remember?  Mrs. Clinton challenged you for the nomination, and she beat you.  Don’t worry, hon.  You’ve got a great job teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago.  Plus you wrote a memoir.  So far it’s just barely being outsold by Glenn Beck’s new book.”

“Nooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!”

The President jolted from his slumber, sweat dripping down his forehead.  It was seven o’clock, time to prepare for his one P.M. press conference.  He’d practice with the teleprompter a few times, running through whatever Jon Favreau, his speechwriter, wrote for him.  He’d answer the questions honestly but with caution.  His former supporters in the media were probably disappointed with him.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton was overseas in Kuala Lumpur, planning her comeback.  Nancy Pelosi, slightly hung over from the wine last night, was mourning the loss of her gavel.  Harry Reid, barely victorious, was thanking God that his opponent, Sharron Angle, was as dumb as a pile of rocks.

As the President took to the podium, he realized he better call Bill Clinton, that former Chief Executive from the nineties.  Somehow he got reelected in ’96, despite Republicans winning control of Congress in ’94.  He would have to pivot to the center, like when Bill Clinton declared that “the era of big government is over.”  As he moved to call on Savannah Guthrie of NBC News, the President sighed.  So much for Hope and Change.  He had no hope, and the Congress just changed.

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