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This is an excerpt from Chapter One of The Angry Buddhist. Purchase the book here.
Jimmy glances to where Hard Marvin is standing, behind the candidate. Sees the man looking at Mary Swain with the combination of awe and lust that seems to be the effect she has on males predisposed to her philosophy of a muscular military and no taxes. Notices Hard is fiddling with his wedding ring like he wants to take it off. Imagines the Chief is going tantric on Mary Swain in his head as he stands at attention behind her and the thought nearly makes him laugh.
Jimmy believes himself to be immune to the candidate’s charms. Mary Swain reminds him of the popular girls back in high school, batting eyelashes and sweet poison tongues. It’s not that he dislikes her actively, other than in the way he dislikes all politicians, the hurly-burly of government not something to which he pays much attention. Whenever he bothers to listen to a politician, it all runs together. America’s Future, God, My Opponent is against what you love. And Mary Swain seems a little angry, which is something to which Jimmy does not respond well. He notices the crowd today has become angry, too, and Mary Swain feeds off them as she launches into her closing, draws herself up to her full height—five foot nine in heels—and exhorts them to take back the government from the socialists and atheists and all the un-patriotic operators who have betrayed their sacred trust because our best days are in front of us and if they vote for her it will be morning in America again and our nation will reclaim it’s destiny as a beacon in a darkening world.
God bless you, God bless our troops, and God bless the U.S.A!
Jimmy remains in his position near the riser as the rally breaks up. He has nowhere to go, figures he’ll see if Hard spots him and whether Hard will say anything if he does. Mary Swain shaking hands with the sweaty crowd, people taking her picture, shouting encouragement. Jimmy watching Hard at her side, the sun glinting off his shiny head, shaking hands, too, smiling, backslapping; working it like someone with something to prove, someone who wants to matter. A few minutes go by, Jimmy standing his ground, Mary and Hard still pumping hands. Most of the throng has drifted back to their cars, but there’s still a scrum of diehards near the front who need their personal hit of the magic.
Jimmy’s waited long enough, pushes in, elbows through. Hard spots him and his smile freezes in a rictus of alarm. The Chief’s right hand drops to his sidearm, a Glock 9, Jimmy realizing the man thinks I might be a shooter. And he’s a little disappointed, his feelings hurt, because Hard, who knows him for godsakes, believes the slightest possibility exists that he could go Lee Harvey Oswald on Mary Swain. Jimmy wondering if Hard is actually going to make a move toward him but the big Chief holds his position. Mary Swain gripping the hand of a retiree in a Hawaiian shirt and a tan baseball cap with gold stitching that reads U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, the man trembling with excitement and gratitude. Then Jimmy thrusts his right hand out and the candidate takes it in hers.
“Good luck, Mary,” Jimmy says, holding his left hand away from his body where his ex- boss can see there’s no weapon in it.
“I hope I have your vote,” she says, her white teeth blinding.
“Oh, sure,” Jimmy says. He notices the slim hand with the French manicure, smells her cocoanut sunscreen. Up close, the visceral Mary Swain Experience ignites. Jimmy lets go and just breathes her in for a brief moment, the hair, the perfect skin, and that infinite smile.
Then blink she moves down the line, and Jimmy snaps out of it instantly. Now he and Hard are face to face for a moment full to bursting and he thinks, yes, people these days are gun-toxicated and ready to rock and he knows Hard knows it, sees him twitch, the man already wound tight as a blasting cap, ready to explode, and Jimmy, with the inborn mischief of a guy who doesn’t know how to stay out of trouble, can’t help himself. So he winks. In that moment he senses the other man’s discomfort and revels in his own enjoyment at having caused it. Jimmy cares how Hard reacts. Wishes he didn’t but, yes, he cares. He is still a prisoner of the idea that any of this matters. He understands this kind of delusion is not the way of the dharma. By his reaction to Hard Marvin, Jimmy knows that freedom from suffering is not imminent. Yet he yearns for freedom. And what is more American than that?