Bronson Borff, sandal mogul, creator of neon plastic sandals and chief backer behind Santorum For President, puts his unshod feet up on the footstool of his custom rataan Eames chair and positions a wireless keyboard on his lap, He unwraps a Cubana Majesta Grande, and trims the end.
On the 72″ LED screen of his LG wall-mounted monitor, the blue Skype signin window flickered and the call window appeared, followed almost immediately by the well-known goofy ringtone.
The image of Cheroot Carlson filled the entire screen.
Any face expanded to fill a 72″ screen, suddenly appearing inside someone’s living room, would give anyone a start. Clarence “Cheroot” Carlson’s face under such conditions and in HD to boot could cause muscular spasms that would require medical attention. Borff remained stoic. He had seen worse.
“Hiya, Mr Borff!” Happy as a dog, Borff thought briefly. It suits him.
“Hello, Clarence. First on the line, as always.”
“Cheroot, Mr Borff. Please. I’m real fond of that name.”
“Cheroot. Of course.” Borff marked a StickyNote with “Ch” in large letters, removed the page and stuck it on the end of the middle finger of his left hand. He held out that hand. A young woman of about nineteen, wearing a pale green floor to neck sleeveless dress, who had been standing against the wall to Borff’s left, stepped forward and took the note. Staying out of camera range, she walked to the monitor and attached the note to the upper lefthand corner of its border. Then she went back to her place. All Carlson saw was Borff’s hand, extending out of frame with the note stuck to it.
The goofy ringtone sounded three more times, and the screen filled with the added images of Julio Martinez, chairman of the Santorum campaign in Arizona; Chester Matheson, chairman of the Santorum campaign in Michigan, and Marty Lauter, advance man and troubleshooter.
Now, Borff beamed. “Gentlemen! The verge of the beginning of the end is upon us!”
Three of the faces grinned broader and nodded. Only Lauter seemed unmoved.
Borff continued, “The polling numbers are lining up 1,2,3. Michigan, Arizona, …”
“Washington!” said Cheroot Carlson, “Rick’ll clean up in all of them. Right, Mr Borff?”
“No, Cheroot, I’m afraid not.”
The idiotically happy grin faded from Carlson’s freckled face.
“No,” Borff said. “All those states will go to Romney. It’s what we’re working towards,”
Smiles had fallen from Martinez’ and Matheson’s faces, too. “Georgia, in fact all the South, will go to Gingrich, though Tennessee’s still not undecided. And there’s always the chance that California will go to Ron Paul.” Borff stopped a moment to wipe his nose. “That mummy reminds them of Harold Camping. I knew that would be a problem.”
“But Mitt Romney will prevail,” said Borff with renewed vigor. “And Rick Santorum will be his Vice President!”
Slowly, smiles began to reappear of the faces of Matheson and Martinez. Thin, twisted smiles they were, and they seemed to crawl up the men’s faces from their collars.
Marty Lauter sat still, looking thoughtful. Carlson continued to look thoroughly baffled.
He looked at the faces on his laptop screen. “Come on, guys. You can’t give up now! Look at the scare we threw into him last week! All we need is …”
“Cheroot, look. It’s like this,” Martinez said. “We all know, Rick Santorum is way out of his depth. He couldn’t handle the Presidency if it came with cue cards.”
“He doesn’t have the … well, the stuff for it,” Matheson said. “The first tough decision, he’d be down in the Chapel in a fetal position, waiting for God to give him a sign. He said so himself! The buck doesn’t pass that far, Cheroot.”
“But,” said Martinez, stepping in again.” He does have everything it takes to be Vice President, cause a Whiffle Bat could do that job,”
“So he becomes Vice President. What’s that to us? He sits on his ass, while we …” Carlson held out his arms to his sides. “What? Hang out?”
“We, gentlemen, run Congress.” Borff was serenely puffing his cigar, “Out of the glare of lights, out of earshot of the press, we … make laws.”
In the silence, looks were passed. Eyes locked through webcams.
Until the silence was broken by Marty Lauer.
“Fine, But what’ll we do if the schmuck wins?”