“Who’s he?” Carol asked, skimming the flier.
“He’s, um, the Constitution Party of Maryland’s candidate for governor,” Danny said, pointing awkwardly to words on the paper Carol held in her hands. “We’re here in Clear Spring all day today getting out the vote, trying to educate people about Hobson and the party, and encouraging people to vote for us next week.”
“Who is ‘we?’” Carol asked. She folded the flier exactly in half, pulling her thumbnail along the crease.
“‘We’ is the Constitution Party of Maryland,” Danny said.
“Is Cal Moritz with you?”
She remembered him all right – from the look in her face, the monotone voice, at first Danny had thought she somehow didn’t recognize him, but she recognized him all right. “No,” Danny said, laughing a little, “Cal’s not with me. Not into politics.” Carol wasn’t laughing. She tucked the folded flier under her arm, crossed both arms in front of her, observed Danny with the passive disinterest of a cat watching out a window. He wondered if she had practiced this. “How have you been, Carol?” Danny asked her, somewhat to his own surprise.
“What have you heard?” she asked in reply.
“I actually heard you went through a bad patch,” Danny said. “But that was a while back. You look good now. Are you good?”
“I’m good,” Carol said. “You heard I went through a bad patch.”
“Yeah.” Danny looked at the floor. The dark hardwood of the hallway became dull white linoleum beyond Carol’s threshold, where Danny saw a child’s muddy sneaker-prints.
“I never heard from you,” Carol said.
“Hearing from me wouldn’t have helped.”
“Wouldn’t have helped you, you mean.”
“Either of us,” Danny said. He stared down at the stack of fliers he held in front of him with both hands, breathed a sigh and looked up at her. “It was a long time ago. But I’m still sorry about how things happened.”
“You’re sorry,” Carol said, her voice even and sharp like stretched piano wire. Danny looked her in the eyes for a moment and then had to look away. “Tell me about your man,” Carol said. Danny looked at her and she nodded toward the fliers in his hand. She unfolded the one he had given her and read over it again. “What’s he going to do for me?”
“Well, he’s going to lower your taxes, for one.”
“I don’t make a lot of money, and I have a kid, so I don’t pay much taxes,” Carol said. “But I don’t expect he’ll lower taxes, anyway.”
Carol folded up the flier again and shrugged. “It’s not in his interest.”
“Where do you work now?” Danny asked.
“I work at Wal-Mart.”
“Well, okay. So do a lot of other people in this county. In this state. Bobby Hobson wants to represent the interests of you all who work for Wal-Mart, not the interests of Wal-Mart, the big corporation.”
“And how’s he going to do that, this Bobby Hobson?”
“For one thing, by telling you the truth,” Danny said. “You been watching the ads on TV? Ehrlich and O’Malley haven’t been telling you the truth.”
“What is that?” Carol asked.
“The truth,” Carol said. “What’s the truth?” She took the folded flier and creased it in half again. “How is telling people the truth going to get your man elected?”
“It helps that he’s the only candidate for governor doing it,” Danny said.
“Why? How many people ever won an election by telling the truth? How many people ever became President because they told the truth?”
“I don’t know. Maybe nobody. But that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t tell it. People want to hear the truth.”
“People don’t want to hear the truth,” Carol said. In her voice, just enough so Danny could barely detect it, there was a touch of insistence. “People want to hear what they want to hear.”
“How old is the kid?” Danny asked her suddenly.
“Ten next month,” Carol answered, voice once again perfectly modulated.
“Boy or girl?”
“Boy. Casey. Casey William.”
“How are you with his father?”
“His father is not in the picture.”
“The two of you are divorced, or . . .”
“I never got married.” Carol glanced at her watch. “My son will be home from school soon, so you should go.” She retreated a step into her apartment and started to close the door.
“Carol, I had no idea you even lived here,” Danny ejaculated. “If I had, I wouldn’t have bothered you.”
“Yeah.” She withdrew behind the door until all he could see of her was her face peeking out at him. “What was it, Danny?” she asked him, allowing herself to sound vulnerable for the first time since she opened the door. “It’s been a long time, you can tell me the truth. Was it me? Or was it you?”
Danny fixed his gaze on those two glistening brown circles and held it there. He didn’t speak for what must have been a very long time. “It was me,” he finally told her. “It was me and I’m sorry.”
Carol nodded. “Danny, I forgive you,” she said, and shut the door.
There was another apartment on this floor. Danny skipped it, went back down the stairs and outside, got in his car and drove toward home. A tingly-warm blanket of guilt surrounded him most of the drive, but he lost it after he reached the other side of Williamsport and gave the car some gas past the bridge. He caught sight of his pile of fliers for Bobby Hobson, held down on the passenger seat by a box of campaign buttons, corners flapping in the rushing air. Hadn’t he just now done what he should have done – what any good politician would have done – and told her what she’d wanted to hear?