Second Coming

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Just the Issues

“What? Are you kidding me, you can’t get much better than that in times like these.” My boss bounced around his office after hearing of my half-hearted desire to take the Pastor up on his offer.

“I can’t see it going anywhere, though, to be honest.”

“And what if it does?” He asked, leaning across his desk to me. “Let’s say Joseph Cummings doesn’t get past the primary- lots of secondary candidates and their staffers get scouted by the opposition and have work all the way until election day. And after that, you never know.”

“Well, I was hoping you would offer the job back if Joseph did drop out…”

“I would, but why would you stop yourself there?”

“Because it’s nice here.”

He shook his head. “I know you’re not that lazy. Look- if you don’t take this, I’m firing you and you’ll have no choice. We don’t deserve you. Get more than this tiny no-name organization on your resume.”

“But-”

“But nothing. What kind of cake do you like? We’ll have to have you a going-away party. Tomorrow, even. The election year is here! Let me shoot out an email.”

The boss sat down to begin typing away, while I dug my phone out of my pocket to bring up the phone number I had gotten previously. It began ringing as I stepped outside of the building and began walking to my car. “You’ve reached the office of Pastor Joseph Cummings, Presidential hopeful, Sharon Cummings speaking.”

“Hey… this is Jude… Jackson.” I said.

A long pause made me double-check my phone to see if the call had been disconnected. “Let me transfer you to Joseph himself,” she replied suddenly.

Joseph’s voice came to my ear before I could make any other sound. “Jude, is it? Can… I take it you’ve made up your mind?”

“If the offer still stands…” I said, swallowing hard, “I’d like to accept.”

“Good man.” The pastor replied in a rambunctious voice. “You’re lucky, we decided to stick around in Tallahassee here, actually. Is there any way you could come by? I’d love to formalize a few things.”

“Uh, well…” I said, looking back to the cramped building that held my nearly former job. “My boss was actually quite fine with the idea of… me finding greener pastures. I doubt I’ll have any work lined up for me the rest of the day here, so about… three?”

“Perfect. We’re not going anywhere, so whenever it’s convenient for you.” Joseph hummed. “We’re at 1077 7th Ave- you can’t miss us.”

“7th is… are you across from the department store?”

“Close enough to it. Just keep an eye out.”

I ducked out of work early that day with the promise of a going away party the following day. At the address I was given, Joseph’s warning of not being able to miss him was true as day. The big vinyl campaign signs were strung up facing the road, and behind them in the parking lot of the store was their RV, with a profile of the Pastor’s face pasted on in decals.

After parking nearby, I neared the row of spots the vehicle took up. I caught sight of Joseph’s daughter peering down at me through the window. The man himself was quick to arrive at the door the same time to greet me. “Well, seems you found us just fine.”

“It’s a pleasure, once again,” I said, looking up the narrow stairs to the inside, and down to the welcome mat on the asphalt. I brushed off my feet and followed the Pastor up and inside.

“Excuse the mess,” Joseph noted, to which there was barely. The space was obviously lived in, with kitchen set up with dishes and pots, bed at the far end made as neatly as the space allowed, and laptops and documents on the fold-up tables. The teenage daughter, whose name I recalled to be Jess, blinked shyly at me. Sharon, whose name I had heard on the phone earlier, was standing ready to greet me.

“So great you could join this cause- our cause.” She smiled with pursed lips. “Have a seat anywhere.”

I obliged and found myself on one of the hard foam cushions at the dinner-seeming area. Jess picked up a smaller laptop and took it with her to the passenger seat at the front of the vehicle. Joseph sat opposite me.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Joseph stared into my eyes. “No, we won’t make you sleep on the pull-out.” He said with a slight chuckle. “In all seriousness, it’s quite nice, isn’t it? The RV really is just the thing for our current endeavors. Coming in handy too, already- we didn’t expect to be out there this long, but we made a few connections locally after coming by your place. God bless.”

I attempted my best coy smile. “Well, I found your parish online. It’s only a two-hour drive to where you’re at, right? For… such a job, it would have not been such a long way for me to move.”

“Oh ho ho,” Joseph smirked. He looked back to his wife, who had pulled out a stapled packet of papers from a plastic file tote otherwise packed full. “Like I said, we had more than one opportunity. If you’d be so kind, you can fill out the bits of this contract and the tax form so you may begin working for me earnestly, my boy.”

The packet was slid my way, followed by a pen. I flipped through and glanced at the pages of what seemed like a regular employment agreement, then began to fill out the fields. Joseph cleared his throat and spoke up. “Perfect. As my brand new campaign manager, I suppose… we’d have to discuss what comes next. You see, your Mayor Malcolm here has graciously organized a rally for us. This weekend, in fact.”

“That’s perfect.” I nodded, flipping through the remaining pages. “I’ve never met the man, but having someone like him offer his support is certainly something.”

“It’s in the plaza downtown. Across from the University, so I suppose you know it.”

I scanned the last few bits for anything I had missed, then plopped down the pen. “It almost sounds as if you don’t need me at all,” I said with a chuckle.

Joseph raised an eyebrow to me. “Oh, well I think we certainly do. I looked at the data online, and the number of young folk like you, university students, and the such, are not so hot on going to church and the like.”

“I promise you, it's not out of spite of god, just the desire to catch up on sleep during the weekends,” I said, leaning back against the uncomfortable backrest. Joseph crossed his arms and frowned while staring off into space. I leaned forward, preparing myself to speak up. “But, as your campaign manager, I can certainly workshop something with you to rouse them this weekend. Do you have any talking points you’d like to present? I’ve had a great deal of practice with public speaking.”

Joseph’s face finally reverted to its positive glow. “Well, you don’t have to sell yourself, you’re already hired, Jude. But here I am counting on your already. I have more than a few things I’d like to say. It’s our first proper rally outside of the home town, so we gotta give it our all.”

“No doubt,” I said, drumming my fingers on the table.

Sharon stepped up beside the table, her hands at her waist. “Mr. Cummings has been writing his own sermons for a good many years now. He’s no stranger to rousing a crowd. Coffee?”

“No thank you,” I said, smiling slightly up at the wavy salt-and-pepper haired woman.

“And Mrs. Cummings has been making her wonderful coffee a good many years now,” Joseph spoke up, wiggling his nose at his wife. “Decaf, of course, but I wouldn’t be doing any rousing without it nonetheless.”

“…Perhaps I shall take some of that, then,” I said, watching as the woman perked up and made the two steps across the aisle of the RV to the drip brewer on the opposite counter. “Mr. Cummings, you know…”

“Joseph is just fine, my boy.”

“Joseph.” I echoed his words. I glanced once again at the now signed papers and pushed them out of the way of my elbows. “I’d say, to begin with, we need to attract the right people. There are a good many conservative voters here in this area already, religious folk too. But if you’re after the younger voters, I think that focusing on the issues, especially the economy and the environment, is going to get you the most traction.”

Joseph tilted his head away from me and to the laptop screen beside him before saying with a sigh, “Issues, huh.”

“We’ll have time to built a platform on all these things, but the basic things you could focus on are the deficit, student debt, the climate… first amendment rights are always a good way to go too.” I finished my list and caught sight of Joseph’s eye’s glazing over. The coffee maker guzzled in the background in the awkward silence. “Hmm, to narrow things down, we can look into the areas that Randy Caine are excelling in, and see if we can’t counter him and win over a few voters from him.”

“Randy Caine.” Joseph sat up. I even saw Sharon jump slightly as she set aside a pair of coffee cups from the cabinet. “That man is a heathen.” Caine was the incumbent vice president, running on the same ticket, and would be our biggest competitor. Last I had checked at that point was that he was leading the polls up in the north. “If there’s anything I can do, It’d be to make sure that man doesn’t end up in office again,” Joseph said, a slight energy returning to him.

Sharon jostled my elbows that I had propped up on the edge of the table. “Manners, Jude,” she declared as she brought by the dark, cloudy cups.

“My apologies.” I hummed, feeling the warmth of the contents in my hand. “It may be a lot to think about, Joseph. I’d say, perhaps, try to tackle the rally this weekend in the way you best see fit. Nothing wrong with the people seeing who you really are.”

Joseph returned to a tight-lipped smile to face me. “I can’t argue with that,” he hummed, dragging the finished contact across the table to himself. “Let’s see, we’ve got your email here as well. I’ll get you the details on the rally. Can I hope to see you again before then?”

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