Stealers Wheel

Yes I’m stuck in the middle with you,
And I’m wondering what it is I should do.
It’s so hard to keep this smile from my face.
Losing control and running all over the place.

Clowns to the left of me!
Jokers to the right!
Here I am stuck in the middle with you.

“Your candidate just isn’t conservative enough,” said the small man in a suit said from his chair on the other side of the desk.

“I don’t believe we’ll spend our money or our effort — which is substantial— on him.”

The small basement office they sat in had one window, and the lights were off. A beam of sunlight illuminated the shadows. Maps and charts covered most of the walls. There were at least 7 people in the office.

“I’m sorry to hear that my candidate isn’t scoring well with you”

“And we’re not impressed with his choice of campaign manager either.”

“Oh me,” he said pointing at himself. “Me. You have a problem with me?”

“We do”

“Well this is an HR thing now,” he said. “Everyone has to leave. I need to hear this, just me and you.”

“Fine,” the small man said.

People shuffled out of the room. A woman in the small crowd looked at him and made a face, an expression that conveyed concern. A look that said, “Don’t do it.”

As they left he leaned back in his chair. It was set just the way he liked it, so he could rock back and forth while he was thinking or listening.

He leaned back and looked at the small man.

The door closed.

“I’m listening,” he said. “What’s the problem you have with me?”

“Your family,” he said, suddenly conveying discomfort. “Your, well your wife is some kind of agitator, and she’s your ——“

He cut him off.

“One of my best friends,” he said. “I mean, like I’m sure your wife is to you, right.”

The small man’s discomfort was growing.

“And you are,” the small man said with the same clenching discomfort, like saying the words was like handling waste. “A Mexican.” 

Now he leaned way back in the chair and laughed.

The woman and everyone were pressed against the walls of the office trying to hear what was going on.

“Oh shit,” one man said. “Oh shit. He’s laughing. Fuck.”

“Shhh!” the woman said. “Shut up I can’t hear.”

“Now as for my wife, yes she’s unconventional,” he said. “And yes, our, well, relationship — you know — it’s unusual.”

“Now we aren’t wanting any trouble,” the small man said.

“You’re right about me and my wife, he said. “But I’m not a Mexican.”

He swiveled his chair around and put his boots up on his desk and his hands behind his head.

“You see,” he said. “I’m a New Mexican. Really New Mexican.”

Then he stood up and walked around the desk and sat on the edge looking down at the little man.

“See, I’ll admit it, I’m weird. My background. My family. It’s all fucked up,” he said.

“But that guy who’s running, he’s a good man. And I believe he’s going to win,” he went on.

“We don’t care about winning,” the small man said. “We want people who—“

He cut him off. “You want to judge people.”

He looked at the little man over the top of his glasses.

“Now do you want your ass kicking here and now…”

“Oh my God,” said the woman with her ear pressed against the wall. “I think I heard ‘ass  kicking.”

“Shhhhh!” all the others hissed at once.

“…or do you want it on the front page of tomorrow’s paper?”

“What?” the man gasped. “I don’t have to take anything…”

“You do not,” he said “But those young boys you’ve been seeing. What does your wife think about them?”

The small man stood up.

“You wouldn’t dare!”

“I already did,” he walked around the desk and held up a sheet of paper. “This is ready to go just as soon as you walk out that door.”

“This is,” the man stammered. “I mean. It’s blackmail. This is madness!”

“No, no, no,” he said. “This is politics,” he said, emphasizing each word like a preacher.

The door flew open and the small man stomped out just as the campaign aides scattered and tried to look as if they had been doing other things.

The small man looked around indignantly then marched out the front door of the office.

The staffers all bumped into each other trying to get through the door of the small office.

They all looked at him expectantly.

He looked back at them, feigning bewilderment at their enthusiastic interest.

“What’s going on?” he asked. “Is it pay day or something? What do you all want?”

“What happened?” the woman asked.

“Oh that?” he said, “You mean the old self righteous fuck that just left?”

They all looked at him.

“We’re getting the endorsement and the money,” he said.  “Send this one out now.”

He held up a different piece of paper that was next to the one he held up to the small man.

They all cheered and hugged each other.

“Ok, ok,” he said, “Back to work!”

“You are amazing,” the woman said, lingering in the office.

“No I’m not,” he said. “I’m no better than him. You know that.”

They looked at each other in the eyes for a long moment.

“I have to make a call,” he said. “Close the door behind you.”

He picked up the phone and dialed.

“Hello.”

“Hello, I just need to hear your voice.”

“Well, you’re hearing it. What’s going on?”

“Well, you know, when something big happens, something good, you call the person you care about and share it, right?”

“Well, yeah. What. Are you coming out of the closet? What’s happening?”

“Oh well, we just raised a shit load of money.”

“Great. For your right wing candidate and that girl you’re fucking in the office.”

“Oh God. Ok. My mistake. Forget it. Maybe I’ll tell you about it later.”

“Yeah. You can tell me later.”

They paused and sat on the ends of the phone line. There was a long silence.

“Yes. You share this shit with people you care about,” she said. “I’m glad you called. I’m happy for you. But I gotta go.”

“Ok, yeah.”

He hung up the phone and sat staring at his desk blankly.

The woman slowly opened the door and peaked around it.

They made eye contact.

“Hey,” he said. “Let’s go get a drink and celebrate.”