Friday, October 9, 2015

Chapter 40 / Kitchen Cabinet

The Times Union editorial board interviewed Kathleen on Tuesday. They sounded tough but fair, reported Jaime, who rehearsed Kathleen on Monday and chauffeured her to Albany on Tuesday “so you can be a proper candidate and review your notes and such while I drive.” 

After the Times Union, they negotiated parking in downtown Albany, delivering Kathleen with five minutes to spare to her appointment with the real estate developer. This encounter was deemed fair and miraculous. He agreed with Kathleen that she needed TV for a level playing field in the campaign. He would wire the maximum allowable donation to her campaign committee, which would cover a package of TV ads in the Albany area, which reached the entire district. For creation of the ad, he referred her to the “communications” agency that he used. 

The children returned home from school that Tuesday to find Kathleen and Jaime having a glass of red wine at three o’clock in the afternoon. They swarmed like puppies, sniffing the wine and screwing up their faces, even Conor forgetting his indoor voice, demanding, “What happened! What happened!” 

“I want to tell the whole thing once, when Dad gets home,” said Kathleen, putting out their apples and cheese. “But I’ll give you the best and the worst.” When they had washed their hands and sat down at the table, she said, “The best was that everybody I met treated me like I had something to say. The worst was driving around downtown Albany.”

“But if you’re a state senator, you work in Albany,” said Conor. 

“In Albany, and here, in our district. I’ll learn how to drive in Albany. And maybe we’ll get an apartment there, for when something exciting is happening.” 

“But we’ll still go to the same school,” said Katrina, who was eight. 

“Yes,” said Kathleen. “We’ll still go to the same school.”

Wednesday and Thursday were filled with soccer games, a parent night at school and working with the PR group via phone and fax to write a 30-second ad that Kathleen believed in. 

Friday Jaime met the kids’ school bus while Kathleen was in Albany taping the ads. Driving home in her Mommy Van, she had almost, she swore, been run off the parkway.

“No groceries tonight,” Annie told Andrew on the phone late Friday afternoon. I’ll pick you up for a meeting of Kathleen’s kitchen cabinet. She’s terrified.”

“Did she tell the police?”

“Yes, but she was scared and didn’t get the license number. They attribute it to some drunk, which is possible . . . if a drunk in a black sedan with tinted windows would carefully edge into you, no matter which lane you were in or what speed you were going.” 

*     *    *    *    *

“Stay off the parkway,” said Andrew. The six of them sat around Kathleen and Doug’s kitchen table, talking quietly. The children were by now bored with campaign meetings, waiting only for the next road trip in the yellow VW bus that sat in the driveway, festooned colorful, positive message posters.  

“I didn’t sign on for this!” hissed Kathleen.

“Yes you did!” snapped Andrew. “Sorry. But you’re running for state office here, not dogcatcher.” 

“I signed on for a clean race—issues only.” 

“And who brought up your solidarity trips to CuscĂștlan, to Cuba? Your dirty-tricks opponent. Who dug out that you were once a nun, and Doug was a priest. Not to make you look thoughtful and values-oriented but to make you look unbalanced.” Andrew bit off the word: un-balanced. “Your filthy opponent.” 

“Andrew,” said Doug, Kathleen’s husband. He paused, in his deliberative way. “Don’t lecture Kathleen. Please.”

“I—” You could spend life thinking. Or doing. “I’m sorry,” Andrew said, meaning it, and then, more gently, “Try to have someone else in the car.”

“I have my children in the car! Will you let Annie be in the car?”

Annie had been gazing beyond the circle of light, envious of the children in the living room. Conor was reading while the younger ones watched a movie that Liam had set up for them on the TV. Two issues of the Observer had been published now, without reporting on el Neanderthal, but Harry, the ad salesman, who was close to the Witches and their husbands, said that the paper would endorse Kathleen, early, saying it was time for a change. 

Annie returned her attention to the adults and said, “I’ll drive you in my car whenever I can. Whenever the Witches let me out.”

“I’ll be in the car,” said Andrew. 

“I’ll be in the car,” said Jaime. “I’ll get the damned plate number.” 

“You won’t be in the car,” said George, Jaime’s husband. 

“Yes I will!” said Jaime “And we’ll stay off the parkway. There’s always another way to get somewhere.”

*    *    *    *

“Andrew—we haven’t bitten off more than we can chew here, have we?” They wouldn’t really try to kill her, would they?

“No,” he said immediately, and she reflected on that, too, that he always replied quickly, as if he knew the answer, even if, like now, he shook his head, as if to convince himself. “They want to scare her. Bastards.” Again biting off a b-word. He tossed his cigarette out the car window. “Get her to withdraw from the race, thirty days to go.”   

“You’re muttering.” Annie was driving Andrew back to Schuyler; then she’d go home. They both had to be at work at eight the next morning. 

In his head, Andrew saw her car, leaving the little city, its outskirts, the next rural town . . .  “It is scary.” Andrew paused. “While I was in the city yesterday, someone got into my house.”


“They didn’t take anything. Not my thrift-shop TV or microwave. I don’t keep cash there, and I had my laptop with me. I’d suspect someone in my neighborhood just checking the place out, but somebody shat in the toilet and didn’t flush it. I see that as a warning.” 

“Yuck. At least it was in the toilet.” 

“Exactly. But I want to keep the laptop at your house for a while, OK? And tonight, drop me at the top of the hill. I’ll walk home from there. Check things out. Protect my little castle.” 

“—OK.” Her car wouldn’t be seen near his house.” I’ll call you when I get home.” 

“OK. If I don’t answer, it just means I’m walking around.”

“And you’ll call me when you get home.” 


“Did you tell the police?”

“No. Nothing taken, no forced entry. Someone small got in the bathroom window and let the others in. Then they walked out the front door. At least they closed it. 

“I could hear the police telling me that I forgot to flush the toilet and lock the door. But I didn’t, and I didn’t leave the bureau drawers open and check all the pockets of my pants and leave them on the floor, or drink half a gallon of orange juice and toss the container on the floor.” 


“Might be. Or someone who wants me to think it was kids.”

Copyright © Debby Mayer