I spoke with Mom and Jenny over the phone. I would go back to Wisconsin to help Jenny close up our house. Mom won’t be coming back to the city with us. She said she was too old to get used to the old way of life again. Things were slower in Clinton, and that suited her just fine. I planned on having that discussion again, once we were face to face.
My new job wouldn’t start until the end of January. As spokesman for an entirely new department, I didn’t have any examples or predecessors to fall back on, and I was a bit nervous. But I had come a long way in the past month, and I was ready to make tough decisions now, even if there was nobody to turn to for advice.
My departure was much less eventful than I had imagined it would be. There was a small security detail that would ride with me back to Wisconsin, but other than them, it was just Guttenberg. There was a news crew there to get images of me boarding the train, but there were no interviews, and it wasn’t Sherri. A week after the climb, and I was already becoming old news.
Guttenberg stood there, silently.
“Advisor,” I joked. “Sounds a lot like guide.”
Guttenberg smiled. It was good to see him smile. His eyes were still a bit red and I could smell on his breath that he had drank a bit the night before, but he was in better shape than he had been for most days of the climb.
“Except that when you’re a guide, your clients keep dying on you.” He shuddered for a second at the thought. “No. I don’t miss that job.”
“Well, I’m sorry if I pulled you away from your normal day-to-day work, Guttenberg, but I’m glad to have you with me.”
“The feeling is mutual.” He looked down the tracks at the oncoming train. “Are you sure you don’t want me to go with you?”
“No, Guttenberg, they would eat you alive. It’s not safe and peaceful like it is here in the city.” We both laughed. I really was glad to have him on board. When the President said they were hiring a coach and a PR manager for me, I had imagined the worst. Guttenberg probably wasn’t the best by any stretch of the imagination. He was judgmental at times, bitter about a lot of things, and drank a bit too much for his own good, but I liked him. “I’ll be back after the new year.”
“I’ll have your office and staff ready by then.” I couldn’t imagine me with an entire staff, but it seemed that the president and the general had big plans for me to boost morality across the country.
The train pulled to a stop. One member of my security detail stood in front of me. His hand was pressed lightly to me chest, telling me to wait until the car had been inspected. When the other two members waved from the door he removed his hand.
“All ready, sir.” I doubted I would ever get used to having a staff and a security detail, and definitely not being called sir.
“What’s your name?” I asked the guard who had instructed me to wait.
“When you say, ‘Sir’ I keep expecting to find the general standing behind me. Please call me Richard.”
“Sorry, sir. Can’t do that, Sir.”
I shook my head, turned to Guttenberg and laughed.
“I never did thank you for those goggles.”
“It’s not necessary, sir.” We both laughed.
“Still, I appreciate it.”
The security guard waved me on to the train. Guttenberg stood straight, looking on but not waving, as we started to pull out of the station.
As the train began moving, I realized how different the city seemed than when I had arrived. It’s amazing what one can get used to in a short amount of time.
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