Fiction: The Journal

This is a work of fiction. Saturdays are reserved for stretching creative muscles. This is my creative work; do not steal, do not repost without permission, do not reproduce.

“And as America, we are obligated to keep this world free of oppression, free of tyranny and free for all people to make choices for themselves.”

John McIngham yawned and ran his hand through his short, brown hair as he listened to his father drone on about America and freedom.  He’d heard the speech a hundred times before—his father practiced reciting it to him, his mother and sister to make sure he had it perfect.

Everyone at the Bostonian Tea Cottage stood up in the room and burst into applause.  Frank McIngham, smiled, waved and gave his signature “thumbs up” sign to all in the room.

John rolled his hazel eyes as he stood up with his mother Marian and younger sister Caroline.  He clapped resignedly with not even the hint of feigned interest while his mother beamed pink with pride.  He glanced over to his right at Caroline—the perfect daughter, she grinned proudly as well, maybe hoping that one day, she too could be a great senator representing Massachusetts.

Everyone sat down as they returned to dinner and the emcee came up to announce the next speaker.  Frank approached the table and sat next to Marian.

“Oh, honey, that was wonderful!  You executed that speech so well!” she exclaimed, leaning over to kiss him on cheek.

John picked his fork at his uneaten, partially pink filet mignon.  “Yeah, dad, that was great,” he muttered.

Truth was, John hated politics.  And he hated his father for it.  Politics to him was nothing but the ultimate form of bullshit and dishonesty.  And he knew his father played the game involving Triple A’s—acting, appeasing, and ass kissing.

Growing up as a child just a half-hour outside of Boston, John watched his father work his way up through the Milton school board to the Milton City Council and then win a term as Milton mayor.  He watched his father transform as a man who was sincere—a concerned citizen and parent taking action to make the Milton school district better—to a man who basked in attention as the veteran Massachusetts Senator. His father received all sorts of perks as a Senator—exclusive trips to Hyannisport, a getaway home in Martha’s Vineyard from those who lived in Florida during the winter, and extravagant trips to Europe and Asia—all of course, as an ambassador for the United States.  All in the name of freedom.

John watched his father shed pieces of his “I want to make a difference” soul to become a man who ruthlessly demanded free ski trips to Colorado based on his status. His father, a Democrat, claimed to represent the working people of Massachusetts, while giving tax breaks to the rich and heavily taxing those who could not afford it.  John had walked down Beacon Street near his alma mater, Boston College, and watched the Mexican immigrants carefully landscape the lawn. He realized that to make ends meet, twelve of those immigrants probably packed in a house and collectively put money together to pay the mortgage.

And the high property taxes?  Well, that just helped his father get to Ottawa by 9 a.m., have brunch with the prime minister of Canada then fly back to D.C. in time to vote in Congress at 2.

John wanted nothing to do with politics.  But here, gazing around the Tea Cottage, he watched the residents of Massachusetts chatter excitedly over his father’s rousing speech over freedom and America’s obligation as a superpower to protect the world from tyranny.

Don’t you all know it’s a lie? he wanted to shout.  He doesn’t care about you.  All he cares about is the money you put in his pocket and re-electing him to his post so he can squander more of your money.  I know firsthand! I’m his son.

John excused himself from the dinner table and walked outside of the Tea Cottage to have a smoke. He pulled out a cigarette, lit it, and took a long drag.  My God, he thought, what would the media think if they saw Frank McIngham’s son smoking? The fucking bastards.  I hate the media.

A tap came on the shoulder.  John spun around to find Caroline standing behind him with her hand out.

“Carol, I can’t give you a cig. You’re only 17.” He smirked. “What would the media think if they saw Senator McIngham’s daughter smoking underage?”

Caroline sighed.  “Shit.  You’re right.” She looked around suspiciously. “I bet they’re out here somewhere watching us.”

John took another long drag and blew it in Caroline’s face.  “Probably.” He smiled with satisfaction, knowing as the oldest, he was able to both legally drink and smoke.

“Gosh, I hate having to be good sometimes.”

John rolled his eyes. “Please.  You love being good.  You eat that shit up.”

“I’m good when I need to be,” Caroline responded.  “Which is more than I can say for you.”

“Whatever, Carol.  I get my good grades, I’m on the fuckin’ honor roll, I’m in a fraternity and I’m a responsible, growing adult. I’m just a guy.  Guys are supposed to be a little bit more rowdy than chicks.” He took another drag and let it out his nose steadily.  “You’re a girl.  You’re supposed to be prim and proper.  Like Mom.”

Caroline sighed with dissatisfaction.  “I guess.”

John took one last drag before dropping the butt on the sidewalk.  He blew the smoke out through his nose and mouth. “We can’t have you acting crazy now, can we?  You need to carry on the torch for this family in politics.  Make a name for the McInghams in Massachusetts and America.  Right?” He raised an eyebrow.

Caroline nodded, her brows furrowed in thought.  “Small sacrifices for a big time future.  It’ll be worth it, I suppose.”

“That’s the spirit! But whatever you do, don’t smoke pot.” John grabbed the handle and opened the door. “You know the media.  You might forget that you picked up a joint, but they’ll be sure to resurrect that memory from someone somewhere.”  He walked inside the hallway back to the dinner table with Caroline following him at his heels.

He sat down as his father gave him a stern look.  “Were you outside smoking?”

John stared at his father. “Yeah.”

“Did you give Caroline a cigarette?” he asked gruffly.

“No.” John smiled sarcastically. “We can’t tarnish your image, Dad. What would the media say if they found out that your underage daughter smoked?  Especially not after you pushing for that underage tobacco bill in Congress.”

“Good,” Frank replied, his face breaking into a smile.  “You think like me, Son.  You could go far if you considered politics as a career choice.”

“Doesn’t Carol have that covered?” John replied, grimacing at Caroline.

“She’ll have her time, but I want to make sure you start learning what you need to know now so that when the time comes for you to take the reins, you’ll have no problem.”

“No, thanks, Dad.” John picked up his spoon and picked at the lemon meringue slice sitting in front of him now. “I already told you, I stay away from politics and law.” He glared at his father. “Namely professions with a reputation for dishonesty.”

Marian broke in. “Now, John, all professions have people who are honest and dishonest.  It’s up to the individual to restore integrity and honor to his or her profession,” she stated matter-of-factly.

John gritted his teeth and pursed his lips. He fought hard not to roll his eyes in front of his mother.  His mother was the epitome of a Senator’s wife: her hair always was perfectly coiffed, she said the right thing at the right time and always backed her husband on important issues—whether he was right or wrong.

At that moment, the Senator’s Chief of Staff, Mike Hadley, walked in. John looked over at him and could tell by his hurried pace and grim, troubled face that something was wrong.  Mike leaned over and whispered into his father’s ear furiously.

Frank’s look of concentration broke into shock and disbelief.  “Are you serious?” Frank hissed.

Michael nodded and whispered some more.

“That’s impossible!  It can’t be…” Frank managed to say before Mike cut him off again.

“Then let’s go,” he said to Mike.  Then Frank turned to his family.  “We’ve got to go back to D.C. now.”

John was puzzled. “Why? I thought we were staying here until—“

“The president has called an emergency session of Congress tonight.  We may be going to war with China and North Korea as early as tomorrow.”

Marian, John and Caroline all froze and dropped their jaws in shock.  “What?” they all exclaimed.

Frank wasn’t waiting for them.  He was already out of his seat and putting his jacket back on.  “Come on.  Let’s go.”

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