THE PUNCH, chpt 9
Lissa drove home along the empty county roads. When she pulled into her drive, the headlights of the car swept across the blue tarp covered piles of pine board and oak neatly arranged like bunkers in the yard. Right next to the driveway sat an uncovered half pallet of 50 lb concrete bags.
In the lawn, three foot tall blonde pine pillars stood like impotent obelisks tethered to the ground with picture wire. Each post was anchored perfectly perpendicular to the plane, all JD waited for was the concrete to cure. He was well on his way to completing this monstrous porch.
Lissa killed the car’s engine and the lights and made her way silently through the shadow posts standing sentinel in the yard. She waited until the front door closed solidly behind her, before she pushed the button and listened for the reassuring chirp of the engaged car alarm.
JD was asleep on the couch in front of the television. A six pack carton and five empty bottles sat on top of the table. Lissa turned off the television, ending the monologue of an overly tanned lottery winner as he sat in his garish Boca Raton home.
Lissa leaned over and kissed JD on the cheek. She grabbed his hand and tried to pull him up. JD roused and pulled her toward him. He kissed her on the mouth and ran his hand down her back. She kissed him back and allowed herself to be pulled down on top of him. Before long, Lissa was pressed up against the corner of the couch.
When they changed positions, this time with her straddling his legs, the television remote became lodged beneath them, and the TV turned back on. But by then it did not matter, his body was warm against hers and all she wanted was for this to go on exactly as it was forever. They rolled over and she was once again beneath him on the couch.
“Is that Richmond?” He asked.
He turned his head to look at the television. The blue hue of the screen reflected in the black of his pupils. Footage flashed on the screen of hurricane whipped beach front and cars just visible above swirling grey water. The television was filled with images of gutted homes and the innards of peoples lives spilled out on the curbside. It was a classic montage of disaster footage from some unspecified catastrophe, the type used by insurers to scare homeowners, which is what this was a commercial for, insurance.
Lissa tried to divert JD’s attention and pressed her body harder against his. “Turn off the TV,” she said.
He realigned his body to hers. This time she faced away from him, bent over the arm rest. But even when she pushed back and tried telling him what to do in her smuttiest voice, he was no longer there. Soon his penis flopped twice too many times against her and he was unable to work it back in.
They rolled over and lay together on the couch. The cool breeze from their central cooling system dissipated the sweat and warmth of their bodies, until Lissa felt cold.
“What’s the matter?” She asked.
“Nothing,” was his answer.
When she put her hand on his, he got up from the couch and walked to the kitchen. “Do you want some water?”
His bare soles sucked against the floor as he walked away. Lissa slid off her own socks and was completely naked. She admired him as he came back with the glass.
He was still, at the core, the same man she married, maybe a little looser around the waist, but he carried it well, even without a stitch of clothing. But he’d always been big, a big strong man, who protected her, especially when they were young living in the student ghettoes and real ghettoes during college. She never worried about her safety. She knew that in any situation he would take control, handle it. He would keep her safe.
JD sat sprawled, legs wide on the couch and handed her the glass.
“You ok?” He asked her.
“Yes, fine, you?”
“Could you not come?” She asked after swallowing a little water.
“No, it’s just, that I don’t know. I feel, frustrated, angry, sort of, seething.”
“Are you angry at me?”
“No, not at you, at people, like earlier tonight. I was watching Kimmel or Letterman, doesn’t matter and this commercial comes on showing all the blown out shops and harbors along the waterfront at the beach and the six feet of standing water we had ninety-miles away in downtown Richmond and all the crazy shit that happened. And I’m like fuck you.”
“It was one of those campaign things, put out by this Senator. And it laid all the blame on us, like it was our fault.” He shook his head, “my fault? I was there. Where were you? Huddled around your TV, braving the A/C, running water and a functioning toilet?”
“I don’t think they’re blaming anyone individually,” Lissa said feeling defensive, “it’s more like national culpability for letting things like that, and even worse stuff, go on unchecked.”
JD raised his voice, “worse, worse? Then like twenty minutes later, there’s another fucking commercial for the same bitch, but this time it’s blaming me for the rise in miscarriages. That plus the other one, it stirred it all up. That whole year it felt like we lived out their disaster movie fantasy in real time. Then right when I felt like I was starting to climb out of the hole, I got knocked back down with your miscarriage. That was the cherry.”
“You, what about me? I was in hysterics when I woke up. I must have asked the ICU nurse twenty times where my baby was, before they knocked me down with Versed. I don’t even know what it looked like. It lived in me for seven and a half months and I don’t even know what she looked like.”
JD stared at her. She stopped talking and looked out toward the middle of the room. In the water glass, one of the ice cubes began to hiss then cracked, and there was a distinct clink when it settled again in the bottom.
“And you, you forget about all of it, move us all the way out here and act like nothing is supposed to change. I lost my baby. I did. Not you, me, I lost my baby.”
JD shifted in his seat and leaned forward with his hands clasped between his legs and his head down. He stared straight ahead, his mouth slightly open, before he got up and left her in the darkened room alone.
She sat there for a long time. JD listened for her through the darkness. It felt too long, to JD. He got up from their bed and walked out to the living room to talk with Lissa again, to apologize, to hold her, but when he got out there she was gone. He called her name, but there was no answer, eventually he walked back to their bedroom and went to sleep.
Lissa heard him walk around over head. The wood floors creaked against the joists with his steps. She heard him call her name, but ignored him. She waited in the dark of the basement for him to walk back into their room.
After he went to bed, Lissa felt along the wall for the light switch. The 24” fluorescent lamp that hung in the basement hummed and filled the space with a dull flicker of blue light. Now, alone in the basement, she went to work.
In the corner, the old steamer trunk looked like it came from some Hollywood production. Lissa stood it upright and swung open both sides. A few loose items fell to the floor when she opened it. She took special care in refolding them and placed them neatly atop the trunk.
Lissa arranged all the clothes on a blanket she spread out on the floor. She matched outfits according to age groups and sizes. She imagined the baby, as it grew into and out of each brightly colored outfit.
Then she pulled out some stray yarn and crochet needles from one of the drawers. From another, she pulled out a half finished newborn baby skull cap and knotted the loose edges. She worked in the new yarn and hummed calmly to herself as she worked. When she finished, she pulled it down over her bended knee and smoothed it out. She admired it for a few moments, pulled at a few loose knots, and then folded it and tucked it back in the trunk and put away all the clothes. She took a deep breath and held it, then went back upstairs.
She sat down at the computer in the dining room and went to the Linn for President Website. She checked the update page. There was a general call out to all the volunteers. The vendors for a planned barbecue rally had backed out. They needed volunteers and quick, to get this thing back on track. Lissa typed out an email to the person who posted the call, and sent it to some undisclosed address off the contact page.
She volunteered to pitch in. But what she really wanted was influence, autonomy, the power to push things in a new direction. She knew that when everyone jumped ship, it left a void for Captain. She wanted to dedicate herself to the campaign, but she wanted to do it her own way. Lissa never liked waiting around to be told what to do. She wanted the power to set things in motion. And in order to get that, she would need to talk to someone a lot higher up in the organization than some network admin who managed the Website.
She made a list of everyone she knew, no matter how distant, who could possibly have ties to the Linn campaign, either politically or socially. The names she came up with went some fourteen years back, all the way to the A16 protests of the IMF in DC, to the 2000 Inauguration black bloc, the DNC protest. Then she jotted down people she knew from her old job at the credit card company. The people that after the collapse and liquidation of the portfolio found their way up to the DC, or Frederiksberg, anywhere in Northern Virginia and started over.
Then she signed in, logged on and authenticated her ID to various media sharing sites and started mining her social graph to send out a message. The message was simple. She was in Iowa, had the time and had done more with less. Hell, she helped organize a small army to feed 1500 kids in LA and again in Philly through Food Not Bombs with no budget. She had the management skills to follow through and make things happen. It was a plea for contact, and she tailored it to each group, the activist and the employed.
The first person to respond was an old friend from the Credit Cark bank, who was working for the GAO. He laughed at the idea of Senator Linn winning out, but said he’d pass her contact info to a friend at George Washington University, anything to put the pins to the other side, he said.
That led to a contact from SDS, who thanked her for her support and directed her to a generic party site. She responded back to the woman, an adjunct professor and PhD candidate with a curt thank you, then blocked her and the SDS from her graph-space.
The next contact came from a woman Lissa worked with years ago when they spent some days together putting out press releases to explain the need for the Black Bloc and direct action at some GOP event. But the woman was more concerned about tracking down somebody else, someone named Raven or Sparrow. She did give one good lead, an undisclosed contact to somebody that used to pass her information when she was still, in her words, caught up with the machinations of small minded men in politics. It might be dead, she said, but if it wasn’t, then whoever it was, was wired in at all levels.
Lissa took that address and sent an email. It was in fact not dead, instead it began a series of events that would forever changer her and would become the stuff of myth and legend among the halls of back office lobbyists, political staff and K street phantoms.
It was here at the collision point of politics and lobbying, analysis and implementation that Lissa’s contact info and call to action ended up as a text from some Republican fixer to Frank Dickerson. Frank, always a fan of novelty, loved that she reached out to the candidate and made contact at his level. He couldn’t help admire that she might be just the type of woman that they needed on the ground.
He forwarded her info to Marco with an ante-script, “M, we got one. Take a look @ her. This may just be the answer to our prayers. The next big thing? (F.)”
Marco emailed her directly, told her that he had set up a card and account at US Bank. All of this transpired in the space of six hours in the middle of the night. The hand of power had reached out and touched her. It was intoxicating.
JD found Lissa at the computer when his alarm clock went off. He stumbled out of the bedroom, sleepy eyed, and limped toward the kitchen. She was hunched over her laptop at the sideboard table. Her fingers beat out a discordant rhythm on the plastic keys. He fumbled with the coffee maker and swore aloud when he dumped grounds everywhere. Lissa looked up for a moment, and then went back to the screen.
A hundred experts agree, you don’t go to bed angry, but he didn’t know if she had slept at all. He wanted to go out there and hold her in his arms, tell her that he knows she suffered too. He was just too caught up in his own sadness to realize her pain. It was, in the language of self-help gurus, a sharing of feelings that JD wanted. But when he tried it, or even attempted to say something, he felt cheap, phony.
Instead, he turned on the coffee and went to the bathroom. He rinsed his body under the shower’s hot water. He let the water run over his shoulders while he tried to bull’s-eye the drain with a stream of urine. By the time he’d drained all the hot water from the boiler, Lissa was in bed. She slept with one of his white undershirts across her eyes to black out the morning sunlight. She didn’t move at all, while he quietly dressed in the walk in closet, nor when he padded out of the room holding his shoes in his hand.
In the kitchen, He wrote her a note and left it on the table. But before he left for work he picked it up and put it in his pocket. He read it again while he sat in the car in the driveway. Then he tucked it into the coin tray and started the car.
Out on W. Penn Street as he drove west toward the 380 interchange, a gust of wind picked up the note and it fluttered like an injured locust out the open window. Caught in the slipstream the note tumbled on the asphalt and ended up in the brush alongside a field of soybeans.
By then Lissa was fast asleep back at the house and somewhere out there Senator Linn was having another meeting with her campaign manager about where they went from there. Things were turning for them, but they had to capitalize. This barbecue, the Senator’s first on the ground appearance in Iowa after the punch would be her Quinceanera and it needed to be perfect.