An elite Republican cabal conspires to fix
the 2008 presidential election,
“You really hit the jackpot, Jack,” bemoaned Marty as he scanned the sailboats in the Frostbite Regatta. They were tacking slowly through the narrows that defined the mouth of the Severn River as it flowed into the Chesapeake Bay. The brothers were sitting on Jack’s dock in Eastport, the nautical hub of Annapolis.
It was a gorgeous late October Sunday afternoon. The sky was that pure shade of blue it gets when summer’s humidity isn’t beaching it out, and the water glowed cerulean in its reflection. Kate and the girls, whom she had bribed with promises of ice cream cones to join her, were still on the annual fall house tour of some of the numerous decked out 300 year-old homes that lined Annapolis’ narrow streets and numerous alleyways.
“Hey, Bro, nothing’s stopping you! Just quit fucking around, find a nice woman and settle down.” He regretted the words as soon as they escaped his mouth. His comments had struck too close to the wounds of the recent past; not yet fully healed. He tried to recover. “You think I’m responsible for this? If Kate didn’t have a plan, I’d be living in a tent.”
Thankfully, Marty refused to rise to the slight. “Yeah, right, Jack. You always had big plans. Even when we were kids. You’d build the sandcastles, and all I ever did was knock them down. It’s just my nature to be a fuck-up, is all. Hey, I’m not jealous. Well, maybe a little. I like my life most of the time. But, not when I’m out of beer. Want one?”
Marty had no hesitations about making himself right at home in his brother’s house, and Jack couldn’t have been happier about it. After four years as Alfred roommates, they had pretty much gone their separate ways. Jack into research and politics; Marty into the Army and Special Forces. With Marty’s secret foreign assignments and Jack’s hectic congressional schedule, they had even stopped e-mailing each other, except for the requisite Christmas and birthday greetings. The one thing Marty always made time for was Jack’s daughters. He had sent them exotic toys and gewgaws from all over the world.
Both boys always had streaks of rebelliousness. Jack had funneled his into a variety of leadership roles challenging whatever establishment he happened to run up against -- the rigidity of the Jesuits in high school, the inanities of the Alfred administration, the Republican majority in Congress. Marty took more of a non-directional slash and burn approach, disrupting classes, taunting opposition linebackers on the football field and pretty much pissing off every corporate recruiter he spoke to in senior year, which eventually left him no choice for employment but a stretch with Uncle Sam. The authority and regimen of the military became a refreshing change from all those wimps he had been able to intimidate his entire life. When he applied for and achieved Special Operations and then Delta Force status, his temper and unconventionality were finally channeled into productive results.
Politics did not make the twins’ relationship any easier. As most career military, Marty was a Republican and conservative, ardently supporting the President’s decision to attack Iraq and scorning those who opposed him as mushy-headed dreamers who didn’t understand how the real world worked; his uptight, politically correct brother included. For Jack’s part, he had been fighting against these arrogant, America right or wrong hard cases all his life. The fact that his emotionally unstable, anti-intellectual, two and half hour younger brother had become one of them merely proved his point. Their parents’ deaths, nine months apart, had forced them to reassess their views of each other.
Jack and Marty had been nearly estranged when their mother passed away a year ago. Jack was running for reelection to Congress, and Marty was on temporary duty in someplace, which as usual, he couldn’t reveal. He was able to break away for all of four days. That was hardly enough time to travel to Buffalo and back, never mind spending time with their grieving father. But, at least it broke the ice. The brothers promised their dad and each other they would “keep in touch.” Mostly, they didn’t.
When Dad died in June, Marty was in the process of mustering out of the service after 20 years and using up accumulated leave. Jack had won reelection, and Congress was in July 4th recess, eliminating any excuse for not spending time together. Following the funeral, Marty stayed with Jack and Kate; his first visit to their new home in Annapolis. The girls adored their uncle, and he melted in their presence. Jack kidded him that for a tough Delta, he was such a sap around Gracie and Annabelle. It was just as well he hadn’t settled down and had kids of his own, or he would have spoiled them rotten.
The good natured banter that had marked their youth returned. Jack showed off his “hero” brother around town and towed him to the numerous Annapolis and D.C. Independence Day parties. He took him through the Capitol and to his Sam Rayburn Building office where, even though the cats were away, the mice carried on the daily work of government. The twins made a striking presence. Although fraternal, they bore an uncanny physical resemblance. Six foot, 200 pounds, strong Slavic faces and curly hair, even though Marty had long ago shorn his to the preferred Ranger “whitewall” look. But, their personalities were as distinct as their appearances were similar. Jack was dynamic, erudite and funny. Marty was reserved, street-smart and sardonic.
A week before Marty was to leave to finish off his tour of duty, Jack, Marty, Kate and the girls made the obligatory trip for all visitors to Annapolis to Cantler’s crab house for Maryland’s state dish. It didn’t matter that at this time of the year, blues all came from Florida. Hot, spicy and delicious, they were coated with Old Bay, residents’ all-purpose seasoning for just about everything from chicken to hotdogs. The crabs were steamed in beer and served on large sheets of brown paper spread unceremoniously on long plank tables shared cheek to jowl by complete strangers. Although over the years it had caught on as a tourist destination, Cantler’s was still the choice of locals. Jack was forced to spend more time than he desired waving, smiling and chatting with constituents. No one shook hands at Cantler’s; everyone was up to their elbows in crab guts and Old Bay. It was the only place where customers washed their hands before they peed.
The boys had plenty of beer to go with the crabs, and later rummaged through Jack’s liquor cabinet to see what might taste good for nightcaps. Marty settled on Jack Daniels on the rocks; Jack preferred Grand Marnier up. Kate and the girls had retired for the night, leaving the twins to wind down. As with semi-drunks throughout history, their conversation turned melancholy and soulful; both tearing up on more than one occasion. Jack apologized for too often berating his brother as being irresponsible, and Marty admitted it was true, even though he resented the reprimands. Jack admitted that, although both boys had been the same size, he had been cowered physically and was jealous of Marty’s easy confidence that often comes to those with money, looks, or in Marty’s case, physicality. Marty confessed he had been hurt when Jack hadn’t asked him to be his best man and the godfather of his daughters, but understood why. And, Jack disclosed that he was tired of living in a glass house, and that part of him would much prefer the free-spirited, action-oriented life of his brother. Both determined that Mom and Dad liked the other one better.
After capping the night more often than either could remember, the brothers ended the evening with loving hugs and promises of redemption all around. This time, it held.
“Okay, drive safe, and let me know how it turns out.”
Marty had been bubbling over since he walked in the door. Following his honorable discharge as a Master Sergeant, he had been recruited by a private security firm called Poseidon Inc. It was composed of former members of military special operations units, police SWAT teams and intelligence agencies. Because of the massive deployment of regular and reserve personnel, the Army was simply running out of specialists. Its answer was to privatize the war by hiring translators, interrogators, spies, demolitions experts, snipers, incursion teams and executive security personnel throughout the war zone from outfits such as Poseidon. Compounding the problem: the more the Pentagon shelled out $500-1000 a day in wages and benefits above the average GI pay scale, the more specialists left the services and signed up with private contractors.
Marty had passed the preliminary interviews with flying colors, and the next day was his final hoop -- meeting with its president, Tom Bishop. Jack couldn’t be happier for him.
Next in "Saecula:” Congress begins hearings on the Islamic War.