Guess what language the main branch’s new “Spanish-Speaking Librarian” doesn’t know?
Following is installment 2 of an end-of-the-year fictional serial. About a fictional mayoral campaign. In a fictional city. With fictional characters.
(Click here for the previous installment, GOP Finds Mayoral Candidate.)
Repeat: This is fiction.
- * * *
Lenora Garvey looked again at the sign on the door. Just as she thought. It said “Spanish Speaking Librarian.”
And it was just where her cigar buddy and campaign manager, W. Wheelock Willoughby III, had said she would find it. The library. Main branch. Second floor. Back behind the children’s room and the custodial closet.
The Spanish Speaking Librarian’s Office.
Wheel had heard that Hispanic politicos were turning their backs on seven-term Mayor Al “Elbows” Pneumonie (“Alfred E.” for short). For three decades Hispanics had been a crucial cog in the Democratic machine that kept the city a one-party cesspool of corruption, cronyism, incompetence, and deadly redevelopment — not to mention never-ending tax hikes. Was the machine showing its first signs of cracking?
And if so … would the city’s Spanish Speaking Librarian — who like everyone else in government got her job by spending election days rounding up votes for the Democratic machine, and tithing her government paycheck to buy tickets to mayoral campaign fundraisers — be willing to help Lenora make a pitch for the Hispanic vote? Would she translate Lenora’s mayoral campaign announcement speech?
It was worth a try.
Over the four days since their Bourbon-induced decision to change places at the top of the Republican ticket, Lenora and Wheel had put together a plan for a formal announcement on the library’s front steps across from the Green. Now the 1 p.m. announcement was nearing. Lenora had 15 minutes to track down the Spanish Speaking Librarian and make the pitch.
Lenora had pulled an all-nighter writing and refining the four single-spaced pages containing her announcement speech. She’d gone through three drafts. She’d accumulated a pile of Cato Institute studies and dog-eared Rand and Schumpeter and Locke volumes retrieved from her bookshelves, along with a learn-Spanish-quick volume. Her new geology grad student love interest, Abby, had lent a hand.
Now Lenora was bringing the speech to show the Spanish Speaking Librarian. A woman, according to the library’s web site, by the name of Colores Salud.
Lenora had rehearsed her greeting.
“Hola! Yo soy aspirante para alcalde,” she said as she entered Colores’ office.
The person at the desk didn’t look the way Lenora imagined Colores. For one thing, she was a he. He had blonde hair and ghost-white skin. He wore a university pin on his lapel. He looked 22, tops.
And he didn’t appear to understand Spanish. From his chair, he looked up at the five-foot ten, 200-pound black woman suddenly filling her office doorway.
“Soy…. Oh, never mind. My name’s Lenora.”
She put out her hand. He hesitated, scanned her face, extended his own.
“You wouldn’t,” Lenora continued, “happen to be Colores Salud?”
“Oh, no, not at all. I’m the new guy. I mean, the new Spanish Speaking Librarian.”
“Do you… speak Spanish?”
He pointed to a book on his desk. Berlitz: Fry An Egg & Learn Espanol in 30 Minutes. The same volume Lenora had been referencing the night before.
“It’s my first day,” he offered by way of explanation.
“Hola,” Lenora said.
“Miss Paella should be right back,” responded the Spanish Speaking Librarian. “She’s packing up her things.”
- * * *
LENORA WISHED THE “new guy” luck, then walked back out — only to bump into a short stocky woman in a hurry heading toward her.
“Hello. I’m in the process of moving out of my office. There’s a new guy…”
“I know about that. I’m not here to see the new guy. I’m here to see you. My name is Lenora Garvey. I’m running for mayor. I’ve heard wonderful things about you.”
“For mayor? Against Elbows?” Colores’ face brightened. “So pleased to meet you!”
“Is there a place you take… I mean used to take… coffee breaks around here?”
Colores shooed Lenora into the custodial closet. Not a mop or pail to be found. The closet had a table, two chairs, an assortment of Starbucks coffee options, and an array of splattered blue-and-white “Reelect Mayor Elbows” mugs.
One cup and seven minutes later, Lenora not only had a translator. She had a story that blew her mind.
“I might not need this speech after all,” she told her new volunteer, pointing to the four-page single-spaced print-out.
“Smart thinking,” Colores said. “That speech was a little rough. Take this line here, for instance.”
The sentence Colores was pointing to read as follows: “This nefarious neo-Socialist machine has swept the fertile ashes of creative destruction into a bin marked ‘Bureaucratic Asphyxiation’! Our productive human capital has been severed on the igneous rock of political expediency, our inalienable rights abrogated by the twin predators of identity politics and Keynesian regulatory myopia…”
“I could translate that, Miss Garvey,” Colores said with a doubtful look. “But no one would understand it.”
Lenora took another glance at the prose over which she’d labored. It had sounded pretty good last night. Today was a new day.
- * * *
BRIGHT LIGHTS NEARLY BLINDED Lenora Garvey as she passed through the library’s main entrance out to the marble front steps. Unfortunately, the lights came from the mid-day sun, not TV lights.
Where were the reporters?
She looked around. One lanky man with a pockmarked face looked like he could be from the press. He didn’t dress the part — his scruffed jeans and tattered army jacket seemed all wrong, even for a reporter. But he did have a notebook, pocket camera and mini tape recorder.
A young woman standing behind him looked, if anything, a bit overdressed. She had a business-like skirt and short-sleeved blouse, straight long brown hair. And, as Lenora noticed upon further inspection, a tattoo on her left forearm. “Destiny,“it read.
Lenora checked her watch. Twelve fifty-eight. She scanned the landing at the top of the stairs.
Where were her fellow Republicans?
Off to one side she spied a double stroller with a sheet scrunched around it. Looking closely, Lenora made out some of the words: “Strike” “With” “…vey!”
Genuine campaign supporters! Two of them too young to walk. And a third who appeared to be their nanny.
Wheel rushed up to Lenora, a sheaf of papers in hand, nearly tripping on the stairs.
“You made it!” he said. He sounded surprised. Lenora realized that they rarely if ever had seen each other in daylight. Or sober. Or outside the sanctum of Wheelock’s Clubroom.
“I made it. But it seems like the Republicans and the press had other plans.”
Wheel lowered his head. “The fax machine broke,” he said. “I tried all morning to get someone from the phone company to come fix it. But ever since they were bought by a Texas conglomerate, I get lost in all the recorded commands before I can ever reach a human being…”
“Did you email the Daily Tribune? The Weekly Wrap? WLIE?…”
“The only reporters left on the radio work two states away. LIE hasn’t had local reporters since they were bought by …”
“Wheel, we don’t have time for a civics lesson now. And since when did you start hating free enterprise? You sound like an undergraduate. Except undergraduates these days have heard of email. You might check it out sometime. It’s even faster than pigeon-carriers …”
“I’m sorry Lenora. We don’t have time to argue now, either. Although — this is our first argument, isn’t it?”
He smiled. She smiled.
She stopped smiling.
“What about the Republicans? Couldn’t you find more than two babies and a nanny? “
“Republicans? I told you I’d do my best. But Republicans are even harder to find than true gentlemen in this town nowadays…”
“How about those two over there?. The skinny black guy and the preppy white girl. How did they get here? Are they reporters?”
“Beats me. I’ve never seen them before.”
- * * *
“HELLO EVERYONE! Welcome to the public library!” Wheel called out. “Thank you for coming to our important announcement.”
The male reporter lifted an eyebrow as he opened his notepad.
“My name is W. Wheelock Willoughby III, second-generation proprietor of one of our city’s most venerable downtown private eating establishments as well as the Republican candidate for mayor in our fair city.
“That is, I was the Republican candidate for mayor. Today I am announcing that due to pressing personal business I have relinquished my spot at the top of the Republican ticket. At an emergency session, the Republican Town Committee…”
Republican Town Committee? Lenora wondered who that could be. Oh. Presumably her and Wheel.
“… has selected an exciting, dynamic new candidate to lead our party and our fair city to victory on November Sixth. She is a newcomer, a woman of vision and intellect and business acumen who brings a breath of fresh air into our stale one-party political city!
“Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the district manager of the downtown branch of Regiontrust Bank, and the new Republican candidate for mayor: Lenora Garvey!“
Wheel clapped. The nanny clapped. Then she stopped clapping in order to shush the shrieks emanating from the stroller.
A man on crutches hobbled toward the library entrance with a look of casual interest. The two apparent reporters watched on in silence, as did a handful of book-toting passersby now sitting on a ledge by the stairs.
“Good afternoon, New Haven!” Lenora proclaimed. “And thank you, Wheel. I am here to declare: I am a candidate for mayor of this beautiful city. And I’m not going to stop running until Nov. 6, when we will take over the office of mayor and return it to burdened taxpayers and property owners!”
She paused amid the renewed sound of four hands clapping and infant lungs screaming.
“I had a speech I was going to read to you today,” Lenora continued, walking to an outdoor trash ban. She dramatically deposited her four single-spaced pages. “But I have a story to tell you instead. It’s a story about a woman grievously wronged, and a city cheated by a government that’s out of control
“I’d like to introduce you to the woman on my right, Colores Salud. She’s going to translate my words into the language of our newest hard-working entrepreneurial class…”
Colores shot Lenora a look that needed no translation. It meant, “Cut the fancy words.”
“And the words Colores is going to translate are her own story.”
As far as Lenora could tell, no one on the steps needed a Spanish translation. It would still make good political theater. She spied the young tattooed woman pulling a digital camera from her pocket and aiming it at them.
“Ms. Colores Salud has worked hard for this city for 30 years at this very library,” Lenora began. As a Libertarian, Lenora didn’t really believe that government should tax citizens in order to hire a Spanish Speaking Librarian. Just the thought of it made her shiver, almost as violently as the mention of “bilingual education.” Come to think of it, Lenora wasn’t crazy about a “public” library, either.
She’d have to improvise to give this the right spin.
“She gave our newest citizens, immigrants from lands such as Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, here seeking a better life, the tools to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps. She helped them learn to read. So they can succeed in American without needing the help of Big Brother. So they can read for themselves about the misdeeds of a bloated government that claims to want to solve all their problems for them. So they can vote as educated, informed citizens rather than mindless followers of a corrupt paternalistic Big Daddy machine…”
Colores raised an eyebrow. Lenora reined in the rhetoric.
“But what is Colores Salud doing today? Besides lending her needed voice to a campaign that will shake City Hall to its foundation? And return our government to the people?
“Colores Salud is moving her belongings out of this beloved library. As of today, she is no longer the city’s Spanish Speaking Librarian.
“That’s right. She got a pink slip. Laid off. And replaced — replaced by a young man who doesn’t even know what the word ‘uno’ means! Let alone ‘trabajo.’”
Lenora smiled. So did Colores. That was a nice touch. Colores raced ahead with a translation, as Lenora prepared her next volley.
“And why the change? Because Colores Salud sees her job as serving the people — not serving tax-and-spend politicians!
“Because Colores Salud was no longer in favor with the Democratic machine that runs this city for its own power and benefit.
“So out she went.
“And why do we now have a Spanish Speaking Librarian who can’t speak Spanish?
“Two reasons, my friends. One: He is loyal to the machine.”
Lenora hoped that part was true. She hoped he at least knew somebody who worked on a campaign. Some campaign. Any campaign.
“Reason number two: Union rules. He was next in line for whatever job opened up at the library because grant money ran out for his old job. So the Democratic machine — beholden to inane dictates of Big Labor bosses — slid him in there. And your tax dollars are paying for it!”
Colores did not translate that part.
“Come November,” Lenora resumed, “voters in this city will say, ‘Enough! No more Spanish Speaking Librarians who can’t speak Spanish! Not with our money!’”
This time Lenora swore she heard more than four hands clapping.
- * * *
IN FACT, A SMALL CROWD HAD gathered. Lenora asked if “members of the press” had any questions.
“Ms. Garvey,” called out the young woman with the “Destiny” tattoo. “Will you be participating in the new Money For All Fund?”
Lenora wasn’t sure she liked the sound of “money for all.” Although… “all” presumably included her. Still, she sensed a trap.
“As Mr. Willoughby mentioned, I am a fresh face, new to town. What is the Money For All Fund?”
“It’s the new system set up to level the playing field of mayoral elections,” the young woman recited, as if reading from her notebook. Yes, she was reading from her notebook. “Candidates who can raise a small amount of money qualify for public funds to run their campaigns if they agree to spending limits.”
Lenora had heard enough to know what she thought.
“Count me out! I have no intention of taking a cent from the taxpayers to run my campaign!” Lenora responded. “This smacks of precisely the liberal Big Government scourge we are running to put mercifully out of its misery. So no, I won’t be participating in the Money for All Fund. Who would do that?”
Colores Salud struggled to keep up. Lenora was talking fast.
“Mayor Pneumonie is participating, as is the candidate from the Pickle Party,” pressed the young woman. “The mayor says that even though he could raise more money than his opponents, he supports this experiment in good government. He believes it gives everyone a chance to run. Even if they are new to town and have no base of support.”
Ouch. Lenora wasn’t being interviewed. She was being debated.
“Any other questions?” she asked, turning to the lanky man with the pockmarked face.
He answered with a drawl, enunciating each syllable as though he were onstage.
“Mizz Le-NOR-a GAR-vey,” he began, infusing his words with a conspiratorial edge. “My name is Bugs Fletcher. I am the publisher of City Underground News as well as the host of ‘Underground Live’ on PTV. I have a question about … your … CAN-di-da-cy. Is it or is it not true that you have been put up to run for office as a front for a shadow group of University officials and alumni with connections to the CIA who are planning a new co-VERT strategy to keep the city’s African-American community under constant surveillance and revive and UP-date the machinery of the police department’s no-TOR-ious illegal wiretapping operation?”
Lenora paused to consider her questioner. She had no idea what he had just said. She noticed for the first time that he had a glass eye. His limbs jangled with nervous energy.
Wait a minute. Did she hear him right?
“Did you say you work for ‘Pee Tee Vee’?”
Bugs Fletcher chuckled, a deep chuckle, a knowing chuckle, a chuckle that suggested that Lenora knew full well what media outlet he meant.
“People’s Television. P-T-V. Now are you attempting to duck my question, sister? Because I know all about you.”
Lenora burned. African-American men were free to call themselves “brother” all they wanted. That didn’t mean she was their “sister.” It most certainly didn’t mean that this supposed sibling knew the first thing about her.
“You do, do you, Mr. …?”
“Fletcher. Bugs Fletcher. I know, for instance, that ‘Garvey’ is hardly your slave name.”
Big whoop. It didn’t take a spy to figure out that Lenora had grandparents interested in the Back to Africa movement.
“I happen to know as well the name and lo-CA-tion of the private clubroom where you drink bourbon every evening. And why.”
This was getting creepy. Lenora looked around the steps. To her left, the tattooed woman was staring at her through her digital camera, apparently recording it all. To her right Lenora caught sight of a passel of young men dressed in black suits, wearing small black beanies. They were running toward her, reddish-brown forelocks and white cloth strings flying from their waists.
“And I know about the alleged psycho-THERAPY group you fronted for in Lincoln, Nebraska,” Bugs Fletcher continued. “I know about your ties to The Yeshiva. And I also know” — now he was outright grinning — “who put that ticket on the windshield of your Hummer.”
“This press conference has officially ended!” It was one of the men with the beanies shouting. There were six of them. They had formed a sudden wall between Lenora and Bugs Fletcher. “Time to go home!” he declared.
- * * *
LENORA WAS CONFUSED. She looked for Wheel; she couldn’t see him. No sign of Colores either.
The six young men had formed a ring around here. They moved as a group down the steps, guiding her along in the middle of the circle.
Then it hit her. Orthodox Jews! Ultra-Orthodox Jews. She had encountered them in Nebraska. They were part of a sect that worshipped some rabbi as having been the new messiah, even after he died. Or so she assumed. They had invited her to their home for a couple of delightful Friday night dinners. These men escorting her away from the library were wearing yarmulkes.
She wasn’t sure whether she was supposed to thank them. Bugs Fletcher had unnerved her. But she wasn’t exactly scared of the “brother.” She could take him easily, if it came to that. Still… How did he know those random facts about her past, mixed in with those wacko conspiracy theories?
There was more to this city than Lenora had bargained for when she accepted the bank transfer. Maybe more to this mayoral campaign, too.
Without realizing it, she had arrived across the street from the library to the spot by the Green where her Hummer was parked. Three of the men moved away from the driver’s door and gestured for her to enter.
A fourth, a chubby-cheeked red-haired man (boy? they all looked between 16 and 24 years old, as best as Lenora could guess), reached to the ground. He had a face any mother, or “sister,” could love. He retrieved the eight-foot-wide “Strike Back With Lenora!” sign that had fallen from the side of her car to the ground. He handed it to her.
He appeared to be the group leader.
“I should thank you, I guess,” Lenora stammered. “You’re with the Bubbekvetchers, right? I knew your rabbi in Lincoln, Nebraska.”
“The Bubbekvetchers are idol worshippers!” the man blurted out. For a moment Lenora was afraid he was going to pull out a pistol and shoot her, he looked so mad.
The storm passed almost instantaneously. The man was smiling again and reaching into his pocket.
“We have nothing to do with Bubbekvetchers,” he informed her, handing her a business card. “We are with the Yeshiva on Bishop Boulevard. We are true Jews.
“We also represent the Precinct 24 Men’s Moped Militia, an armed citizens security squad formed to do the job that our incompetent city government has failed to do on its own, to keep our neighborhood and our families safe.”
A militia! A warm Second Amendment rush coursed through her tense body. She sensed a meeting of the minds. She also sensed that she had gained her second campaign guide in less than half an hour.
She glanced at the card: “Rabbi Binyomin Basar.” A Star of David. “Captain, Precinct 24 Men’s Moped Militia.” A cell-phone number.
“We are ready to escort you back to your office,” Binyomin said as he and his fellow patrollers hopped on mopeds that arrayed around her Hummer.
“But my office is only two blocks…”
Lenora’s protest was drowned out by the grinding of six motors ignited in unison. So she made her first executive decision as officially announced mayoral candidate of the Republican Party. She grabbed the parking ticket from her windshield. Ripped it in half. Got in the driver’s seat, closed the door, and started her engine.