WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 5
He was dimly aware that he was the only person in the room who wasn't outwardly elated by the news that just flashed over the television screen.
Well, that wasn't quite accurate. (And he believed that it was always best to be accurate whenever one could.) The guy on the TV screen didn't seem particularly elated either, he noted. But then, that guy wasn't actually in the hotel room with them. He understood that despite all the hokey palaver about thanking viewers for inviting them into their living rooms, these talking heads on the TV weren't actually present in any corporeal sense.
"It's apparently official," the guy on the cable news channel just said. "With 100 percent of its precincts reporting, with a margin of victory of a bit less than fifteen-hundred votes, Hawaii's four electoral votes go to Iowa’s Governor Bill Laurel, giving him a total of 270 electoral votes, and the presidency."
It was hard to hear what was said after that, with all the shouting and all. And he could no longer see the TV screen with all the people suddenly standing in front of him, happily milling about.
"Is that all you are going to do just sit there and smile," someone asked. Laurel turned his gaze to the source of the question. It was Frank Allen. Laurel was pretty sure Frank was the campaign manager.
"Yep," the governor said. "Gonna sit here and smile. I'm a sitting and smiling kind of guy right now."
Frank was a smiling kind of guy too, Laurel decided. A loud, smiling kind of guy, though. The sound of his voice made Laurel’s brain ache.
The guy on the TV was talking about an interesting side note, as he called it. It turned out that someone named Mark Hardy, while being elected Vice President, had also been re-elected to congress in his home district in New York. The name Mark Hardy sounded somewhat familiar to the governor for reasons he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
"We gotta get you downstairs," Smiling Frank said loudly. "Gotta get you downstairs so you can talk to the people." Frank walked away, possibly to attend to the getting downstairs he had just talked about. He kept talking loudly and smiling as he walked away, though.
"What a night! What a night!"
He watched Frank walk over to someone else in the room and start talking to her. She was tall, delicate, almost willowy. She had black hair that hung to her shoulders. Pretty girl. It was probably Jill Aaronson. She was somehow involved in the campaign. Communications? Something like that. She was smiling too. Everyone was.
"What a night!" Frank kept saying. At least, Laurel was pretty sure that's what he was saying. He couldn't actually hear him over the din. Actually, it was more of a cacophony than a din, he thought. He could read Frank's lips, though. And he was definitely saying "What a night!" Laurel frowned at this. To be more accurate, it was morning. (And, remember, it's always best to be accurate when one can.) The results in Hawaii came in at just after midnight Hawaii time. That's what the guy on the TV said before he told them the results and before things got so loud in the room that Laurel had difficulty making one voice out from another and had to rely on his limited lip-reading skills. And it was just after midnight in Hawaii, which meant that it was just after 4 a.m. in Des Moines. And that's where they were. The capitol city of Iowa. Where he was governor.
He saw Frank coming back toward him. So he stood up.
"Ready to go, Governor?"
"Nope. Well, yeah. But not downstairs. Gotta go to the bathroom."
Frank seemed a little more taken aback than he should have been by this news, the governor thought. Not that he could really blame him for being suspicious, not after what had happened over the course of the past couple weeks.
"Just gonna poop, Frank. Nothing else. It is Frank, isn't it?"
Frank's smile faded, and then reappeared.
"Want me to go with you?" Frank asked. The governor knew what he was really asking. Frank was one of the people who were there last time he tried to do what he was going to try to do. But he decided to play dumb.
"Been poopin' by myself since I was a kid, Frank. I don't see why I should make an exception this morning." He smiled.
Frank looked at his watch. "Can you be ready to go in five minutes?" he asked. "They're expecting us downstairs."
Laurel smiled. "Might not even need that much time, Frank," he said. He put his right hand on Frank's shoulder, just to show how sincere he was in his desire to go into the bathroom just to poop and nothing else.
"I'm all right now, Frank. You have nothing to worry about." Then he smiled. "In fact, betcha I can be in and out of there in three minutes. Want to time me?"
Frank's smile disappeared again. "Three minutes," he said as he folded his arms across his chest.
"Start counting," the governor said. He smiled. "One Mississippi, two Mississippi..."
He kept counting like that, out loud, as he made his way through the crowd to where the bathroom was in the hotel suite. He would have probably gotten to the bathroom by fifteen Mississippi if not for the fact that everyone seemed to want to talk to him, to put their hands on him, to slow him down, to touch him. It was thirty-seven Mississippi when he was finally able to close the bathroom door behind him.
"Thirty-eight Mississippi, thirty-nine Mississippi, forty Mississippi," he whispered as he surveyed the bathroom. He knew what he was looking for. At least, he thought he remembered checking out the bathroom earlier that evening -- yesterday evening, that is, since it was morning now. He was pretty sure that he saw a sprinkler head in there, in a close proximity to the toilet seat. It struck him as funny then that there would be a sprinkler head right above the toilet seat. He remembered thinking that if that sprinkler head should turn itself on somehow while someone was sitting on the toilet, that person could take a dump and take a shower at the same time. That would be very efficient.
"Forty-seven Mississippi, forty-eight Mississippi, forty-nine Mississippi," he whispered as he pulled the lid down on the toilet seat -- not the ring a person sits on, mind you, but the lid. He would need to stand on the lid. He unfastened his tie tack. It was an American flag with the outline of the state of Iowa superimposed on it. He put the little brass backstop back onto the pin and slipped it into his right pants pocket.
"Fifty-three Mississippi, fifty-four Mississippi, fifty-five Mississippi," he whispered as he took the distant end of his tie, looped it around the sprinkler head, and secured it with a good strong knot. He gave it a tug to make sure it wouldn't slip.
He closed his eyes and concentrated on his breathing. A feeling of calm came over him with the knowledge that he'd be with her in a few minutes.
"Sixty Mississippi, sixty-one Mississippi, sixty-two Mississippi..."
Laurel’s eyes snapped open again as the bathroom door broke apart. Frank had kicked it down. “Pretty cheap hotel room bathroom door for a presidential suite,” the governor thought.
Laurel couldn't make out what Frank said over the crowd noise. But his lips looked like he said "Oh shit!"
"You said three minutes," the governor said. "That's 180 Mississippi! I'm only at seventy Mississippi!" He felt the rage growing in his belly.
"You owe me a hundred ten Mississippis!" he screamed as he stepped off the toilet bowl.
Causes Bill Schmalfeldt Supports
Parkinson's Disease Research
National Parkinson's Foundation
The Michael J. Fox Foundation