During the limousine ride from the casino back to Stan’s office, Stan tried to prevent Belinda from quitting.
“It’s not a big deal,” he said. “Okay, so I went off track a little, sure. The snail thing might not have been my best stuff, but I get that now. We’ll chalk that one up to experience and move on, lesson learned. It was just one speech.”
“But it’s not just one speech,” said Belinda, on the verge of tears. “It’s every time. You never learn your lesson. I told you to stick to the notes. We pay speech writers an exorbitant amount of money to make you sound like a man of the people, and then you go and call everybody little snails!”
“It was a metaphor.”
“I can’t take any more of your metaphors, Stan! Yesterday you said voters were the mouldy oranges of society. And what about at the election campaign launch the other week? You compared small business owners to the Viet Cong.”
“I meant they were resilient.”
Belinda shook her head. “I can’t do this anymore. It’s fine for you, but I’m the one who has to spin every off the cuff statement you make. I’m so stressed.”
“Hey, come on now,” said Stan. He reached over and squeezed Belinda’s hand. “I need you. The party needs you. If I’m not re-elected, then this state is doomed. Everyone will be dead within a year.”
Belinda sniffed. She breathed slowly in and out, then glanced carefully at Stan. “Do you ever think that maybe… maybe we’re overestimating our importance?”
Stan chuckled. “What? What are you talking about?”
“I mean, all we do is talk politics. We spend every day with other political people, always focused on re-election, always trying to look good in the press, constantly strategizing to beat the opposition—but what if it’s all not really that important? What if… What if most people don’t really need our help? How much of a positive impact do we really make?” She shrugged and dabbed a tear with a tissue. “I don’t know… I’ve been thinking… Maybe everyone would be better off if we just went and got normal jobs…”
Stan leaned in and looked at her closely, then burst out laughing. Clutching his stomach, he rolled sideways with a mighty belly laugh and clunked his head against the window. “Ow-ho-ho!” He rubbed the side of his head and looked at Belinda. He burst out laughing again. “Oh, that is priceless! Normal jobs! Can you imagine?” He wiped the tears from his eyes and tried to stifle his giggling. “Oh wow, my stomach hurts. ‘Normal job.’ That’s a good one. Oh wow, seriously. Me, work a normal job? I’d rather shoot myself in the head. It’s not even close. If there was a gun here right now, and you said, ‘Stan, you have to either shoot yourself in the head, or go work as a… I don’t know, a bricklayer, then I would blow my brains out in a second.” He laughed and sighed. “Oh dear, that is a good one.” He smiled and patted Belinda’s knee. “We do make a difference, Belinda. The people of this state need us. They aren’t as smart as we are, and they don’t understand what is good for society. If state premiers didn’t tell people what to do, the place would fall apart. Crime would be through the roof, no one would have a job, people would spend all their money on beer and football games, sick people would be left to rot in the gutters, and children would grow up no smarter than baboons. And how would people know to fear Covid? Good grief, do think the average citizen would have enough foresight to buy a stockpile of three hundred million booster shots for the state? No, it takes a leader. Do you see? Politicians are the most important people.”
Belinda nodded obediently.
“That’s the girl. You always understand.” Stan smiled. “And you always know how to cheer me up.” He leaned back in his seat and chuckled. “Normal job. That’s a classic. I’ll have to remember that one.”
Belinda’s phone rang. She took it from her bag, checked the screen and then looked at Stan. “It’s Canberra,” she said.
Stan’s eyes widened and he shrunk in his seat. He swivelled away and shook his head. “I’m not here,” he said. He chewed his thumbnail and stared nervously out the window.
Belinda answered the phone. “You’ve reached the office of Stan Berserkervich, the sexiest state premier in Australia. How may I—”
A deep voice cut her off.
“Yes sir,” she said. “Off course. I’ll notify him immediately.” She put the phone back in her bag and stared at Stan.
Stan looked at her, still chewing his nail. He steeled himself with a deep breath then asked, “Did he sound angry?”
Belinda gave a tiny shake of her head and smirked.
“Wait a minute,” said Stan, leaning forward.
Stan’s eyes lit up. “You better not be fooling me.”
Belinda shook her head. “He wants you in Canberra. This afternoon.”
Stan slapped his hand over his gaping mouth and leaned back. He stammered for words. “This is… Oh wow, it’s happening. Is it really? I always dreamed… Oh my goodness, just breathe, Stan…” He looked at Belinda. “He wants me in Canberra this afternoon—those were his exact words?”
Belinda nodded and laughed. “This is it, Stan.”
Stan fell back in his seat and stared up in wonder. He laughed then pumped his fists out in front of him. “I’ve been summoned!” he shouted. “Ha-ha! I knew it. I am the best premier. It’s finally happening. Stan Berserkervich is going to the show!”
© 2022 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED