Hillary stuck her left hand against her hip and gestured toward the front of the bus with her right arm. “Just go get me my fucking V8, will you?”
The young man sprinted up the aisle and off the bus.
“Maggie?” Hillary called, leaning over and looking out the window as her meager audience continued to file sporadically into the junior high school gymnasium.
Her campaign manager popped her head up over her seat a second later. “Yes, sir?”
“That guy who just spoke to me — who the fuck was that?”
“That was Todd,” said Maggie. “He’s been one of your regular assistants for the last eleven months.”
“Senator Obama is ‘playing’ the Astrodome tonight, he tells me.”
Maggie glanced at her watch. “In about an hour, yes, sir.”
“Maggie, I thought I was going to win Texas.”
“You were, sir,” said Maggie. She bowed her head, sighed, looked up and flashed Hillary a radiant smile. “By which I meant, you are, naturally.”
“Whatever,” said Hillary, shaking her head. “I want that guy fired.”
“That guy, the guy I was just talking to. I want him off the bus immediately.”
Maggie scribbled something onto her clipboard. “I’ll take care of it.”
“And say it was gross negligence or something, so I don’t have to pay him for this week.”
“Stealing bumper stickers, something along those lines?”
“Do we have anything more expensive than bumper stickers?”
“Not right now, no.”
Hillary looked aside and rubbed her chin. “Didn’t we used to have those really nice silk-screened ‘Hillary 2008’ t-shirts?”
“Where’d all of them go?”
“We couldn’t spare the room to keep hauling them from place to place on the bus, so whatever we couldn’t give away at rallies, we just donated to the Goodwill.” Maggie glimpsed her clipboard. “In Canton. They were going to shred them and sell them as car rags.”
Hillary waved Maggie off. “Go fire that guy. And see if he’s got my fucking V8 yet!”
Maggie walked up the aisle and stepped off the bus, only to return a moment later, rushing back down the aisle toward Hillary.
“What is it?” Hillary asked.
“Roger Clemens is outside,” said Maggie.
“Roger Clemens? What the hell is he doing here?”
“Apparently you requested he appear with you here in Houston several months ago,” Maggie said, flipping through pages on her clipboard. “We’ve made several attempts to cancel in the last week, but we’ve been unable to reach him in person.”
Hillary spun Maggie around and shoved her back up the aisle. “Well, for Christ’s sake, go get rid of him!”
“What if he wants to come on and talk to you?”
“Don’t let him!” said Hillary, waving Maggie toward the door. “Tell him— . . . tell him I’m not here! Tell him I’m already inside!”
“Okay.” Maggie stopped before she reached the door. “What if he goes inside and tries to talk to the audience?”
Hillary shook her fist. “Fuck! All right, um . . . where’s Bill? Where the fuck is Bill?”
Maggie skimmed over her clipboard. “He has the next hour and a half scheduled for ‘personal time,’ it says.”
Hillary pulled out her cell phone. “My ass,” she said, dialing. “Hello? . . . Who is this? Well, Jeannette, would you mind putting the owner of this phone on? . . . Thank you, Jeannette.” She held her hand over the phone. “I lose this election, and his ass is so divorced, okay?” She lowered her hand and barked into the phone, “Who the fuck was that? You’ve got them answering your phone now? What if I had been a reporter for the Houston Chronicle? . . . No, I didn’t mean instead of a senator, you . . . Listen, get over here. Now, goddammit. I need you to run interference for me while I get ready to go in and talk to these people tonight. . . . Roger Clemens . . . Yes, that Roger Clemens . . . Yes, I know, he won lots of Ty Young Awards . . . well, whatever, how close are you? . . . In the school kitchen?!? Well, get your ass out here and keep him distracted! Don’t let him talk to the press, and for Christ’s sake don’t let anyone see you with him. That’s all I need, to be associated with the local steroid cheat two weeks before the primary. . . . Yes, you can ask for his autograph, fine. . . . No, you can’t pay for it out of campaign funds. Just get your ass over here. . . . Yes, I’m sure it did taste like tater tots. Good-bye.”
Hillary hung up the phone and stuffed it back in her inside breast pocket.
“I’ll go keep Clemens busy until Bill gets out here,” said Maggie, turning toward the door again.
“Send someone in there to meet him,” said Hillary, “make sure his shirt’s tucked in and he doesn’t have any . . . you know, on him.”
Maggie stepped off the bus. Hillary sat back down in her seat and opened her laptop back up. An instant message appeared:
annielew2112: great newz,hill! ann richards’s kid just ndorsed u!
hillrod2008: which 1?
annielew2112: duno y? duz it mater?
hillrod2008: uh, yeh, it totaly maturs!
annielew2112: the one frum planned parenthood, i think
Hillary looked up from her laptop. A triumphant grin spread across her face. “An endorsement from one of the most powerful political families in the state of Texas! Beat that, Senator Oback Barama!” The grin faded after a moment. “Ah, who am I kidding? I’m fucked.”
Just then, Bill popped onto the bus, waving a napkin in front of him. “Hill, look! He gave me his autograph, for free! He never does that! Oh, and hey, when you get a minute, I want you to smell my fingers!”
“Which,” Hillary said to herself after Bill had disappeared, “might not be all that bad.”
Checking her watch, Hillary realized she had nearly missed supper time. From the overhead luggage compartment, she removed the red picnic cooler and opened its lid. Inside was a perfectly chilled bag of O-Negative, taken, the label assured her, from the veins of an infant boy born in Houston this very morning. She twisted it open and felt the cool, sticky plasma trickle across her tongue and down her throat. Delicious.