Alan Phillips woke up on a Saturday evening feeling excited and nervous all at once. The bedroom window had been left open from earlier, so there was a fresh breeze of Brisbane air flowing into the one-room bedsit. Alan fixed his gaze upon the white ceiling. The cool April air kept circulating around the mostly barren studio. He wondered if air ever got tired of doing the same job over and over again, providing life to all the various creatures of the world.
When he grew bored of the ceiling, Alan pulled his covers up to glance at the naked body lying beside him. June was still soundly asleep. Her stomach and small breasts rose up and down, and her long eyelashes fluttered. He figured she must be having a good dream. Most likely of all of the last several months’ work paying off.
“We’ll see tonight, love. Let’s hope for the best,” Alan whispered as he pushed her red bangs aside and planted a gentle kiss on her forehead. He rose from the bed and put on a cotton robe to go prepare for the night’s event.
The bedsit Alan had rented at the beginning of the year was comfortable enough for one, but he planned on getting someplace bigger once he and June got engaged. Hopefully that would happen soon after tonight. Hopefully many things would happen soon after tonight.
“You’re up already?” Alan heard June’s lilting voice call him as he walked towards the kitchen. He turned around and looked at her struggling to cover her body with the flimsy bed sheets. He loved how modest she was even after their earlier activities.
“Sorry, love, I didn’t mean to wake you.” Alan approached her and put his arms around her tiny waist.
“Oh, nonsense. I wanted to be up in time. I don’t want to miss a thing.” She looked up at him and smiled sweetly. “After all, it’s not every day that a girl gets to see her man become an upstanding member of the government, Mr. Phillips.” Alan chuckled to himself.
“We’ll see about that. I haven’t won yet, Ms. Juniper Thompson.” He reached down and kissed her. She pulled away quicker than he would have liked.
“Soon to be Mrs. Juniper Phillips, Alan. Let’s not use that silly surname anymore.” She took his slender hand, kissed it, and rushed to the bathroom to shower. Alan similarly readied himself by fixing a small meal of biscuits and coffee and getting dressed in his formalwear. After a few more stolen kisses in the confines of the bedsit, he and June departed each other’s company and walked in opposite directions on the Brisbane sidewalk. Alan located his car, an unblemished year-old FX Holden, along the busy street and drove in towards the city centre.
World War II had ended only five years ago, and, driving now down the scenic routes and winding streets he knew from childhood, Alan was impressed with how well Brisbane had survived the onslaught of battles and shootings and what have you. He had been at university farther south on the continent at the time of the war, but he always felt that he’d return to this city, even if it were in ruins. He hadn’t studied political science for nothing, after all. Alan had always been fascinated with the inner workings of the Australian government, and especially loved pointing out the Parliament of Queensland whenever his family drove by it. At least, that’s what Alan’s parents, during his childhood years, had always told him.
And now here he was, driving down to the headquarters of the election committee, about to discover whether he would finally become a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland. What an honour this would be, especially at such a young age, to be able to serve the city that Alan had been raised in and grown to love. At least, that’s what June, during his university years, had always told him.
Countless people had assured Alan that, as a member of the Australian Labour Party, it was inevitable that he would be elected. The ALP had been dominating the government’s positions in this part of the country for nearly fifty years. And Alan double-checked and triple-checked that he had gone through all the procedures to run for MLA. Thanks to his tirelessly supportive parents, he’d gotten the backing of two notable politicians already in Parliament. He was certainly above the minimum age of 18 to serve in the government. And his deposit came courtesy of June’s father, a renowned businessman along the Eastern coast. Alan had also spent countless days and nights interacting with the people of Brisbane, supposedly garnering their love and support. Everything was set in order. And today it would all pay off.
Alan wiped his eyes as he continued driving. He had risen from his nap later than expected, but he would never complain about spending some quality time with his beloved of seven years. June’s father was a hard man to please, and he had all but directly come out and said that Alan would never marry his daughter unless he could provide for her with a steady job.
“Nothing’s steadier than politics, sir,” Alan had said when the topic of marriage was first brought up. June’s father had merely given him a look up and down and nodded to himself.
When the election committee headquarters came into view, Alan parked his car along the street. He took a deep breath and tried unsuccessfully to calm himself before exiting the car and walking onto the sidewalk. He plastered a smile over his face and straightened his clothes out before entering the grey and tan building.
People were running around carrying papers and ballots and other documents that Alan assumed to be important. All the men had taken off their jackets and were sweating due to the heat and the frenzy they were all in. Alan recognized one of the taller men as being a coordinator for the elections. He was talking on the phone in the back. Alan walked through the sea of white shirts and scrambled papers and cleared his throat before speaking.
“Hn.” The man grunted and held up a finger to stop him from talking. After a few moments, he slammed the phone down. “God damn fuckwits down there not doing their job right.” He turned as if to leave, but stopped and eyed Alan with his elevated stature. “Who are you now?”
“I’m Alan Phillips, from the Labour Party.” Alan felt the room grow ten times hotter. “Running for MLA. I just wanted to check and see if the final results were in yet.”
“They’ll be in when they’re in. We’re only human you know.” The man pushed by, knocking Alan’s shoulder. But a moment later, he turned back around and called out, “What did you say your name was? Phil Allen-something?”
“Alan Phillips, sir.”
“Phillips, right.” The man drew a hand down his face with exasperation. “Well, if you’re really that anxious I reckon I can check the ballot counts so far and tell you. They’re mostly in anyway.” He motioned Alan over and pointed to a beige chair for him to sit on. “This’ll just take a moment, wait here.”
“Thank you, sir, it’s much appreciated.” Alan sat down and shook the man’s hand.
“Yeah, yeah, just hold on.” The man pulled away and rushed to the back.
The next few minutes seemed to slow down. The clock’s hands trudged along. The sounds of the machines became a dull background noise. Even the people, rushing around beforehand, now seemed to being moving in slow motion. Only when the tall man returned did Alan feel that time had been restored to its original status.
“Well, based on how the votes are coming in now…” The man filed through some papers. “… There doesn’t seem to be any mention of a candidate with the surname of Phillips.” The man had no edges or jumps in his voice. Alan thought that there would be no difference between the way he was saying the results and being stabbed through the heart with a dull blade. “Now, I could be wrong, and there’s still time for the polls to close. But the way it looks, you’d need about 30% of the city’s population to vote for you to even have a chance, and—”
“Thank you for your time,” Alan mumbled. He pushed his way through the still-frenzied building, rushed along the sidewalk, slammed his car door, and drove along aimlessly until he came to an intersection. The lights were red, so he stopped and looked up to the roof of the car.
That was it. There went everything he had worked for since June gave him this crazed idea at university. There went his brilliant bachelor studies in political science. There went his chances of making something of himself like everyone always said he would. There went the impetus to ask June to marry him. There went a promising, fulfilling career. There went his life.
Alan gripped the leather steering wheel. It would be another three years before he could make a run for the position again. That was three years too long. He would be nearly 30 by then. No, he wouldn’t wait. He couldn’t face June and tell her that they’d have to wait even longer.
Alan came back to reality when he heard a growing chorus of honks and shouts from the various cars behind him. The lights had changed to green since he had stopped at the four-way intersection. Whether three seconds or three minutes had passed, he didn’t know.
He was about to pull forward when he held his hand still on the clutch. The green neon light above Alan was making him think. What if he did the opposite of what was expected? What if, for once in his life, he made a decision that was his own? What if he finally became the boss of himself? Alan smiled. This didn’t have to be the end after all.When the crowd stood around the broken up FX Holden in the intersection and stared as the policemen pulled out the bloodied and lifeless driver whose mangled face somehow seemed familiar—hadn’t he been involved in politics, they wondered—June Thompson was calling Alan’s parents to tell them that she had just heard on the radio that their lucky son had won a seat in the Legislative Assembly in an incredibly close vote and wasn’t all this such wonderful news and could she please speak to Alan to say how much she was proud of him and loved him and couldn’t wait to congratulate him later in person?