Jacob Morgendorffer, Esq.
The Wakefield Middle School Parent Teacher Student Association meeting ground to a merciful halt by eight-thirty. As usual, the ninety minute gathering could be boiled down to the PTSA officers being mock humble exaggerating the amount of work they did and the time they sacrificed on behalf of the children before segueing into exhorting parents to get more involved in extracurricular activities and cough up more money to fund this, that, or the other thing. Overall, somewhat less newsworthy than the latest Ebola outbreak but with both of his daughters attending the school Jake felt an obligation to be there just in case something of importance was addressed.
Jake looked about the auditorium. Across the room, he spied his youngest daughter chatting with some friends. His wife and eldest daughter begged off being present. Helen had some work to do and Daria said that she needed to count her toes. Jake groaned thinking about the excuse. A digit survey he thought would have been a better use of time then listening to Mrs Lagrange haranguing about how few parents were at hand as if somehow it was a calculated personal insult directed at her.
As he grabbed his jacket from the back of the chair, Jake saw Miles Rowe, the father of Quinn's friend Stacy, pointing at him. The seven people with Miles all nodded and made a beeline for him. Curious, Jake zipped up his jacket while he waited for the small band to troop over to him. Miles he had known for several years now. A crackerjack machinist, he owned a fairly successful business and usually managed to get around Lawndale Municipal Golf Course in the mid-eighties.
"Hey, Jake," Miles said. "Got a minute?"
"Sure, Miles," he replied. "What do you need?"
"You know Frank and Kate Moreno, Hugo and Billie Jo Tyler, Wilbur and Yvonne Campbell, and Edie White, don't you?" Miles asked.
"I have not had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Tyler before," Jake said extending his hand.
"Sergeant Tyler, Lawndale PD," corrected the tall, lean, balding man with a wicked looking scar across his cheek that ended where an earlobe used to be as he shook hands. "But call me Hugo. You probably haven't met me because I work a lot of evenings so I don't get to many of these."
"Or been arrested by him," Frank joked.
"Always that," the cop wryly said. "Miles says that you're not bad for a lawyer."
"Hugo," his wife said in exasperation.
Jake chuckled. "Miles says that only because I'm not a trial lawyer."
"You fork over a hundred and fifty grand because some pizza delivery guy cuts himself on a piece of metal and see how you feel," Miles said forcefully. "Hell, it is a machine shop. Keep your damn eyes open. Freaking bleeding heart judge."
"I understand." Jake replied mildly.
"Aw, nothing about you Jake, you know that," Miles said waving a hand. "Sorry for ranting. It just still makes me madder than a wet hornet thinking about it."
"Can't blame you," Frank said. "I gotta carry a ton of insurance on my deli just in case someone finds a hair on a sandwich or sumthan, ya know."
Edie cleared her throat.
"Okay, yeah," Miles said. "Look, Jake, you know when we were talking a couple of months ago over at Cranberry Corners."
Jake nodded. "You were looking for some blue topaz earrings for your girlfriend."
"She's my fiancée, now," Miles admitted bashfully. "Asked her Saturday night."
"Congratulations," Jake replied.
"Thanks," he said. "She's fantastic and she and Stacy get along great. A girl needs a mother, you know, and Stacy about to get to an age where she's gonna be asking questions about stuff I don't know nothing about. "
Edie cleared her throat again.
"Okay, okay," Miles said. "What I meant Jake is we were talking about sidewalks and the Maple Avenue Park and well, just how our side of town gets screwed over constantly. I know we're not Crewe Neck but we pay taxes too. You had a good take on things like I told everybody here."
"Cutting to the chase," Edie said rolling her eyes. "We want you to run for the Board of Aldermen for our district."
Jake blinked in surprise. "Excuse me?"
"Don't put on an act, Jake," Miles said. "You'd be great. We need someone who will look out for our side of town and you know about law and finance and taxes and all that."
"I don't even belong to a political party," Jake said.
Sergeant Tyler snorted. "Like the man said, 'there ain't a dime's worth of difference between the two parties' and besides, we're talking the Board of Aldermen not the governorship."
"Although the incumbent is a Republican," Edie said. "So it would probably be better for you to run as a Democrat. You got a problem with that?"
Jake shook his head. "I've voted Democratic as often as Republican."
"Good," Edie said although her face betrayed her thoughts about a single vote cast for the Republicans. "I don't expect an answer right away, Jake. Take a few days and talk to your wife. If you're in, I'll host a meet and greet at my house, oh, let's say a week from Friday."
"Edie's on the Democratic Party's County Executive Committee, you know," Miles supplied.
"No, I didn't know that," Jake admitted.
"Please, tell me that you at least registered to vote," Edie said.
Jake smiled. "I haven't missed an election since I turned eighteen. It's a privilege to be able to vote for your government."
"Good," Edie said brightly. "You're a soldier, too, right?"
"Active Reserves," Jake verified.
"Good, good," Edie said. "That helps with the independents and one less issue for the opposition to exploit."
Jake took a breath. "I have to point out that you really don't know much about me. I might have ideas that you don't agree with."
Edie laughed. "I'm sure you do," she replied.
"I inhaled," Jake said.
"I was a heroin addict a couple of lifetimes ago," Edie countered. "As well as an alcoholic but let me point out two things, Jake."
"Shoot," Jake said curious as to what she had to say.
"I was actually thinking about you as a candidate even before Miles brought your name up tonight," Edie began. "I've seen you here, at School Board meetings, and at Board of Aldermen meetings. That tells me that you care about what's going on which goes a lot further with me than some idiot who looks at being an Alderman as a stepping stone to being President."
"Second, you seem to get along with most everyone here," she continued. "And people here like you."
"Okay." Jake slowly said a little surprised by her revelation.
"Most everyone here are working stiffs," Edie said. "Blue collar or small business owners but your firm deals daily with the big money types. Plus, you're a vet. Do you belong to a church?"
Jake nodded. In the aftermath of his father-in-law's death, he found himself drifting back to the church of his youth. Occasionally, his wife and eldest daughter would join him but like the PTSA meetings, it was usually just him and Quinn. "Saint Wenceslaus Lutheran," he replied.
"And a stable family man," Edie said. "You bridge a lot of groups, Jake. If we created a candidate from scratch, we'd come up with something pretty close to you."
"Handsome, too," Kate said not entirely joking. "You have my vote already."
Edie smiled than sobered. "As I said, take a couple of days to think about it and, at the risk of losing you, let me tell you what a political consultant told me several years ago when I first got into politics."
"Which was?" Jake asked.
"His advice to people seeking local office was threefold," she began. "First, do you have about a dozen friends and family that'll knock on doors, hand out flyers, that sort of thing. You practically got that right here."
"You like lists, don't you," Frank laughed.
"You don't kick H without being methodical," Edie retorted.
"Or methadonical," Sergeant Tyler deadpanned.
Everyone groaned as Billie Jo said, "Oh, Hugo that was terrible. Edie, I'm sorry."
"Forget it, Billie Jo," A grinning Edie began again. "Anyway, second, you need to be able to raise five thousand dollars. I guarantee you could get twice that amount without leaving the room. Third, think of the three most embarrassing things in your past. Can you handle it if they appeared on the front page of the Lawndale Sun-Herald tomorrow?"
"No, Jake, seriously think about it," Edie said. "Trust me, if it's there, it'll be found and it'll be right out in the open for your wife and girls to read right along with your neighbors."
"Good," Edie said satisfied that Jake was heeding her words. "Give me a call in a few days one way or another."
"Sure," Jake replied.
One by one, they all shook his hand before leaving him alone in the middle of the room. Jake twirled his Washington Senators ball cap on his hand before putting it on his head. Lost in thought, he did not notice Quinn had joined him until she spoke.
"I'm ready to go, Daddy," she said.
"Anywhere you need to go before we head home?" he asked as they turned for the exit.
"No," she replied. "What did Stacy's dad want?"
November 8. 1994
The house was abuzz with energy. More than thirty people crowded into the parlor. Most were busy chatting and munching on hors d'oeuvres although a dozen hovered around the television avidly watching the returns. Groans erupted more often than cheers as the extent of the Republican victory nationwide became more apparent. Before their very eyes both houses of Congress were passing into GOP control for the first time since 1948.
For the partisan assembly, the rare bright spots were in Maryland itself. The Democratic Governor was winning an easy re-election along with their Democratic US Senator and all of the Democratic incumbents in the US House. Unfortunately, the party could not dislodge the Republicans from any of the House seats they held in the state.
Jake purposely spent some time with everyone present. To his amazement, several people volunteered to help his campaign whom he thought barely knew that he existed. The purple and grey Morgendorffer Alderman District 1 signs with an eye-catching logo designed by Jane sprouted like mushrooms after a rain from one end of the ward to the other thanks to their efforts. Not a single home in the entire district failed to get any of the flyers or the pamphlet they put out in the final week before the election. Win or lose, he wanted everyone to know that he appreciated their labors; that the faith they showed in him genuinely touched him.
Helen sidled next to him giving him a peck on the cheek. "I haven't been this excited about an election since Daddy's first run for the House of Delegates," she said. "He would have been very proud of you. I know that I am and the girls are, also."
Jake smiled and kissed her. "Then I've won already," he said.
Edie White walked over clutching a tall glass. "Rough night," she said. "I can't believe people are putting those idiots in control. Times like this ginger ale just don't cut it."
"One day at a time," Jake replied kindly.
"Yeah, yeah," Edie said as she sipped. "If I didn't fall off the wagon when Reagan won, I don't think I'll do it now."
She glanced at Helen, giving her a long speculative look. "I met your father once," she said. "Back in '75 when he was still a Congressman."
"Really, now?" Helen asked.
"At an Earth Day rally of all places," Edie replied. "We were down in DC protesting the pollution in Chesapeake Bay when he came over and talked with us. He was a little too reactionary on social issues but he was correct when it came to the environment. He really knew his stuff."
"Daddy had a deep love of the land," Helen said.
Edie nodded. "Have you ever considered running for office?"
"No, Edie, I haven't," Helen laughed. "I think one politician per generation is enough. I'll stay on the sidelines with a rose in my mouth cheering on Jake."
"He's a good one to cheer for," Edie said finishing her drink. "Damn, I could use something stronger."
"We've got root beer," Jake replied.
Edie squeezed his arm and move away.
Moments later, Daria called him from where she was sitting on the couch. "Dad, KSBC is switching to the local races."
Thirty people instantly went silent as everyone turned to the television set.
"In the Oakwood municipal elections," the news anchor began.
Whatever the results were in Oakwood were lost in a loud group groan. It was several minutes before he finally said. "In Lawndale."
Jake found himself leaning forward. "With one hundred percent of the precincts reported, Republican Mayor Gwen Hathaway was won re-election with fifty nine percent of the vote."
Edie muttered something into her root beer. Jake chose to believe she said mucking witch.
"In the District One Alderman's race," the anchor continued as the room grew still. "Again with one hundred percent of the vote tallied, Democrat Jacob Morgendorffer has defeated three term incumbent..."
The television's volume was no match for the bedlam that erupted. It seemed to Jake that everyone was slapping him on the back and grabbing his hand at the same time. Helen slipped through the throng and pulled him into an ardent hug. Trent and Daria leaped from the couch. He spun her around before planting a big kiss on her lips. He turned to high-five his friend Jesse leaving a very stunned girl in his wake.
The hubbub died slowly. "Speech! Speech!" A dozen voices called as soon as the racket settled below ear piercing.
"Say something to your constituents, Alderman Morgendorffer," Helen whispered to him.
Jake beamed as Quinn pushed an ottoman over for him to stand on. Running a quick hand through his now mussed hair, he stepped onto the stool to the cheers of everyone present.
"I'm thinking of that famous line from The Candidate where Robert Redford's character wins the election than turns and asks 'What do I do now' of his manager," Jake said. "Well, for me that's easy. I listen to you and work hard for you and that's what I'm going to do!"
Edie sipped her soda, a feral grin forming on her lips. "See you in '98, Gwen Hathaway," she thought to herself.