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The Wandering Lost

A mayoral incumbent can’t compete with empty promises that stick.

By Brendan McGlynnPublished 2 years ago 5 min read
The Wandering Lost
Photo by Cong Wang on Unsplash

“Explain this one? ‘Richard Spade for Mayor, VHS! One tape at a time!” Mayor Ted Numbly tosses the refrigerator magnet on the growing pile before him, “What does that even mean?”

Ms. Primrose leans over the heap of magnets as if searching for a lost puzzle piece, “It implies, sir, that we have a considerable constituency of unemployed magnetic manufacturers pissed-off because the GE plant closed down, under your watch.”

“VHS tapes went obsolete; The Mayor’s office can’t control that!”

The Mayor rubs his graying temples until another colorful slogan catches his eye, “In any event, this one reads, ‘Phone Booths on every corner! Phone booths?”

“Where’s Superman going to change?”

“You’re not for real?”

“Superman is at least the dream of him. Phone booths help voters feel safe, subconsciously, because of the dream of Superman.”

“Perhaps I should just light a bat signal.”

“Don’t be absurd. The bat signal isn’t a symbol of protection; it’s a warning that things are so fucked up that only a bat-shit-crazy billionaire can save them, and that is NOT the message you want to convey. He’s promising what people believe they need. Like,” Ms. Primrose roots through the magnets, “here, ‘Have a Merry Christmas with Coal.’”


“People want what they know. They get coal. They understand coal in their guts. Mining makes sense, greenhouse gasses, not so much, that’s what he’s selling, and they’re buying.”

“Well, there goes my Victorian vote.”

“You lost them with ‘Richard Spade for Mayor, Gaslighting your future.” “Seriously?”

“He has a plan to change all-electric lamps into gas lights. He says natural gas is the future, coal and natural gas.”

Mayor Numbly stokes the mahogany desk, “I love this desk. I don’t want to lose it because some idiot promises puppies for everyone.”

“Nope, no free puppies in this pile.”

“Why magnets?”

Ms. Primrose shrugs while toying with a magnet. “Everyone’s got a refrigerator. The guy’s playing the long game. He believes getting his name into people’s houses makes him a household name, and you know what? He’s right. He thinks big, and people love him for it. Fox is airing his rally tonight. Want to turn it on?”

Mayor Nimbly nods as Ms. Primrose turns on the television.

“Here he comes, your future Mayor, Richard Spade!” the MC’s voice reverbs through the fanatic screams of supporters as Nirvana’s ‘Teen Spirit’ blares over the amplifiers. Then, when the racket couldn’t get any louder, Richard himself stumbles onto the stage like a ticket holder looking for an airport gate.

The spotlight follows him as he wanders toward the opposite wing where a young woman with a clipboard exchanges a few confusing hand gestures with him, and if you were a master at charades, you might make out the conversation:

“I don’t want to be late for that thing tonight.”

“Sir, this is the thing, here, now!”

“Oh, it is? Where do I stand?”

“Center stage, behind the podium."

“I’m on stage, now?”


“Well, I’d better go behind the podium then.”

Crossing back to center stage, Richard finds the podium, his tiny sausage fingers buffeting the PA system into sonic submission with horrible thunderous taps. “Is this thing on? Is it plugged in?” booms his voice over the crowd.

The audience goes wild!

“Someone come out here now and check this thing? I can’t hear myself.”

The music cuts out halfway through the lyric ‘I feel stupid and contagious as a roadie runs out on stage and checks the mic, “one, two.” Then the buffeting thunder continues for a few moments until Richard shoos the roadie away.

“You can’t get good help these days, am I right? They should have had this thing ready before I came out, but what are-ya-gonna-do? I’ll say things slow and loud so you can hear me!”

The PA squeals in feedback protest.

“Thank you for supporting me! In supporting me, you’re supporting yourself, and that’s what this is all about, right? Supporting me! So, tell me what you want from me?” Richard pulls a magnet out of his pocket and slowly reads it to himself, mouthing the words as he goes, “Do you want year-round snowmobiling? That’s cool, huh?” He throws the magnet to the crowd, “Snowmobiling? Have you ever snowmobiled before? I hear it's great fun, just great. I’ll sign a law about snowmobiling; how’s that?”

Richard pulls out another magnet and slowly reads it before throwing it to the crowd. “And smoking? Huh? I use to love to smoke, smoking cigarettes, smoking cigars, and smoking guns!”

And the crowd goes wild!

Richard looks pleasantly shocked at the response to a possible Freudian slip, “Here, there, everywhere! Am I right? Smoking guns, cigarettes and guns, and Gunsmoke! Wasn’t that a great show? Why don’t they ever reboot Gunsmoke! Huh? A vote for me is a vote for Gunsmoke!”

The audience blows the roof of the roofless Amphitheatre.

“A vote for me is voting for whatever you want. I’ll work just as hard as all these little magnets work holding up your kid’s art, or your grocery lists, or bills, or whatever you put up on your fridge! All those little things you think are so important; I’ll work holding them up for you! I’m so happy because it’s working! All these magnets got me into your homes! So tonight, I’m announcing the building of a magnet factory here in my city, where I can get you to work sticking my future on America’s refrigerator.”

Mayor Ted Nimbly turns off the television and stands up. Ms. Primrose holds her breath as he adjusts his tie and heads toward the office door, “I think I’ll retire to Canada. I hear they have a great medical plan.”

Ms. Primrose lets out her breath in a singsong voice saying, “And the snowmobiling is awesome!”

Short Story

About the Creator

Brendan McGlynn

3-2-1, liftoff! Major Rick felt the g-force as his rocket lost control. Ricky tossed his plastic toy in the air and caught it just in time.

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