The cab driver slowed the car as they approached Claire’s office. Protesters for and against SB 1257 had taken to the streets. The morning news shows had talked about the bill and now the people were angry. Claire rolled down her window, amazed at the showing. Signs for the bill displayed key phrases. Safeguard My Family, Protect Our Gun Rights, Keep the Government out of my Wallet, Protect Babies From Murdering Mothers, God is Good, Kick the Queers Out, Go Home Aliens.
The crazies were out in force. But it wasn’t just one-sided. A closer look exposed to Claire the other viewpoint. Keep the Government Out of My Vagina, Don’t Shoot Me Because Of My Skin Color, Religion – Church Not Government.
Claire had never seen such fast organization. Then the idea came to her. The instruction book for SB 1257, this must have been pre-planned. She threw her hand into her purse, groping for her phone until her fingers felt its cool metallic surface. Yes, God. I have to unload these photos. She checked the time, she had an hour before her meeting.
The clouds opened up, the sound of rain pounded on the windshield of the taxi. The driver stopped the car, unable to move anymore, people were everywhere. “Lady, you got an umbrella?” He twisted his neck, tilting his head to look at the sky. “This ain’t gonna stop anytime soon. An’ these protesters don’t seem ta’ care. What do ya want me ta’ do?”
The rain grew heavier, a virtual downpour. It seemed to rally the demonstrators, their shouting had escalated to a severe volume. Claire pulled her umbrella out of her briefcase, gave the man some money, and stepped out into the street, realizing it was the only way for her to get anywhere.
Sirens could be heard in the distance, the sound meshing with the rain was ominous. She had six, maybe seven blocks to go. “Excuse me.” She smiled at the people, as she gently pushed her way through them. “Please, excuse me.” Someone grabbed her umbrella, and laughed.
Throwing it in the air, the man chided her. “Lady, you gotta do this like the rest of us.” He shoved a sign in her hand.
“Stop it. Let me be.” She felt herself being shoved. Why did I wear these heels? Knowing the danger if she fell, dread filled her insides. She used her left foot to push down on her right shoe until she felt the freedom of its release, then she did the other shoe.
Her feet were bare.
The rain had drenched everyone, but it didn’t slow them down. Claire pushed, terrified with each step, making slow progress. It was just as she had read about, kids at a concert getting crushed in a mob.
She felt a hand grasp her arm. It was pulling her to the side of the street. Her knuckles were white from the tight grip she had on her briefcase. “Senator, don’t fight me.” The man was yelling to be heard over the sounds of sirens, chanting people, the rain. Claire’s fear was suddenly replaced with hope when she realized it was a reporter she knew. Finally, she was nearing safe territory, a clearing where a news crew had set up their equipment to get the scene on film.
“Frank, you are a Godsend, thanks.” She still had her briefcase, her purse, her body intact. Only her precious shoes were missing. She heard thunder and a new discharge of water dropped from the sky. But she was safe, away from the masses. “I’m trying to get to my office, any suggestions?”
“Sure, Senator. I’ll help you get there. These folks like to be on TV, they’ll let us get around as long as we have a camera on them.” He chuckled. “But, Senator. Can I ask you a few questions first? Our viewers want to know how you are going to vote on this bill.”
This was her payment. She knew she’d have to be interviewed before getting her magic carpet ride to safety. “Which bill are you referring to, Frank? We have two important ones coming up this week.”
“You are a funny one, Senator. I’ll go out on a limb and say that you’re going to vote for the Fair Payment Act. Am I right?” His white teeth glistened with his broad smile, the contrast to his dark hair astounded her.
“You’ve got me there, Frank. As for the other vote, I don’t know yet. I need to study it some more, it has a lot of things in it. And I’m a pretty slow reader.” Another bolt of lightning struck over their heads. The storm was now directly over them, hovering in slow motion. The stubborn tempest was stuck in a loop.
Frank let out a grunt. “Senator, that’s all I get for saving your life, eh?” He took her arm and led her to the van. He tucked her into the back and took a seat next to her. Then he directed the driver to start their voyage. His cameraman leaned out the passenger window with his camera to let the people know they would be on the evening news.
It took some time, but finally they reached the Dirksen Senate office building. Claire had never felt so happy to see the stately structure. It was the second office building constructed for the members of the US Senate, named after the late Everett Dirksen in 1972. It had been approved for construction by the Senate in 1949, but didn’t get built until 1958. Claire had never thought about why it was named so many years after its construction, but after today, she would make the effort to find out. She had a newfound love for her working home.
“Thank you, Frank. I do owe you for this.” She noticed him looking at her feet. Chuckling, she said, “A small casualty, don’t you think?” She laughed at his expression.
“Claire, if I see your shoes, I’ll have them returned to you.” He smiled, then turned to his driver. “Ok, let’s get back out to the trenches.” He waved as they drove off.
Claire took a deep breath, straightened her back, and with her head held high, marched into the building. Confidence is everything, she thought. So I look like a drowned cat with no shoes. So what? Then she laughed at herself. Since when do cats wear shoes?
She first went to her office where she gathered dry clothes, a towel, and toiletries. By this time, she didn’t care if she would be late to Clancy’s meeting, she needed to freshen up. That old pig can wait on me. Him and his precious Franchise Four.
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