The Candidate

By: Josie Brown

“Nothing to forgive.” Because he knew she was right. In this town you were judged by the company you kept.

And right now Ben had no friends.

Then he remembered Andrew Mansfield’s offer.

Chapter 3

“If Mansfield offers you a job, you’d be a fool to turn it down.”

Supreme Court Justice Roberta Gordon was knee deep in manure—literally—and loving it. Mulching her organic garden with the stuff was her favorite way to pass a blustery winter weekend.

And because Ben would always appreciate everything she’d done for him, he hung in there with her, even though the stench was nearly intolerable.

While a college freshman at Berkeley, he had worked on Roberta’s first campaign for California state attorney general. By her third term in that position, he was advising her re-election bid, along with the campaigns of a half-dozen other politicians in the state. It was during that term that she had been nominated for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

In time Ben’s own successes also brought him to Washington. Many of the candidates he’d worked for had heard about him from Roberta, who sang Ben’s praises to anyone who asked.

His loyalty to her was just as steadfast. In fact, she was the only politician he’d ever truly come to trust.

Sadly, she was also the only woman who’d earned his trust. Which was why he’d asked her, on numerous occasions, to just name the day and he’d marry her.

Without fail, she’d blush at the thought, then mutter, “Why Benjamin Brinker, I’m old enough to be your mother! Besides, if I wanted my very own boy toy, I’d certainly choose someone a bit younger—although your upper body definition isn’t bad for someone of your age. That said, you’ve only yourself to blame if you can’t find a woman who’ll put up with you.”

Today though, instead of debating their chances of marital bliss, she kept him focused on a topic he refused to take seriously: why he should take Andy Mansfield up on his offer to run his campaign.

He knew she meant business when she dumped a wheelbarrow of cow dung onto the rosebushes then clapped her hands to indicate that it was his duty to spread it around. “Seriously, Ben, when did you give up believing that candidates should stand for something? Otherwise you’re no better than a K Streeter, or a beltway bandit.”

“Ouch, Roberta! That’s cruel.”

“The truth hurts more than a smack upside the head. Although lately I’ve been tempted to give you the latter.” Her smile faded. “You couldn’t do any better than Andy Mansfield. And let’s face it: he certainly votes with more care than a lot of our clan.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know.” Gingerly he patted the manure around a bush tagged Pink Double Knock Out. If she insisted on these hands-on tête-à-têtes, the very least she could do was provide a facemask. As it was, the only thing that saved him from heaving his Five Guys burger into the dung heap were the thick gloves she’d tossed his way. He smiled slyly. “Why are you so enthralled with this guy, anyway? You can break it to me gently: Should I be jealous?”

“Ha! You just wish someone would sweep me off my feet so you’d be off the hook.” Dusting the dirt from her sleeves, she stood up and surveyed his handiwork. The glint in her eye told him he could now plop down on one of the two sun-bleached Adirondacks and pour himself a hot toddy from the thermos on the side table. “Besides, Mansfield is head over heels in love with that sweet Vandergalen heiress he married, so that will never happen.”

At least with Mansfield I won’t have to worry about bimbo eruptions, thought Ben.

“I’ll bet you didn’t know that he’s the only member of this Congress who has ever argued a case in front of the Supreme Court, and won.” Roberta took a satisfying sip.

“Ha. No wonder you’re so high on the dude.”

“Darn tootin’ I’m high on him. During his summation, he was succinct, reverential, and quite persuasive. He even had our esteemed chief justice eating out of his hand.” She shook her head, marveling. “It was about two years before he was elected senator. The case revolved around a convicted alien’s rights: some guy from Venezuela who’d had the misfortune to get arrested driving a stolen car. Turned out the car had been stolen by his employer, but they were going to deport the Venezuelan anyway. The suit was filed against the U.S. Attorney General’s office.”

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