Well, I think we better go
Seriously better go
Said the feds are here, you know
Seriously better go, oh no
Well, I think we better go
Said the feds are here, you know
Said Rebecca better know
Seriously better go
— Chocolate, The 1975
The mayor’s office was lit up and phones were ringing everywhere. He found his way to the mayor’s desk and sat in his chair. It wasn’t adjusted right, so he set it how he liked it and leaned back.
“What do we have on television right now?” he asked.
“Traffic is all fucked up,” someone said.
“We told everyone to stay home,” he said.
“Something’s coming up,” someone said.
The television was turned on. A man on the screen started to speak.
“What we’re doing right now is we’re having a standoff with the cops,” he said. “They’re up there with their water cannons and tear gas. This is people power in action.”
“Jesus Christ,” he said. “I wish we had water cannons. Where is the mayor?”
“He’s supposed to go on a call-in show soon,” said an aide.
The voices on the television continued.
“The plan is to take Seattle and have fun with it,” said a protester.
“What’s the WTO all about?” asked the interviewer.
“It’s all about greed! For these young kids on the street today it’s about their future being traded off by corporations who frankly don’t give a shit about what happens to them.”
“Is this over the air?” he asked.
“Yes, we’re getting this on all channels.”
“Does the mayor have his talking points,” he asked.
“Tell me what they are. Now!”
“Expressing opinions is an American birthright, we welcome a vigorous debate about the issues, but violence is unacceptable.”
“Isn’t she a little young to be out here,” asked a woman.
“Nobody is too young to stand up to this,” she responded.
But she did wonder. Was this too much?
“OK, honey,” she said. “Put this over your face.”
She did what she could to protect her girl from the tear gas they knew was coming. All around them there was movement. The police advanced and then they moved back. Then they would take more ground.
“Momma,” the girl asked. “What do we do when they throw those smoke things at us.”
“We run,” she said. “You stay with me.”
“Can I throw them back?” the girl asked.
“Don’t touch them,” she said. “Stay with me.”
“Momma,” she said. “I will. Can we fight back?”
They ran from street to street and alley to alley.
The police followed, the air was thick and toxic.
“Yes, baby,” she said. “That’s what we’re doing.”
“The mayor is on any second now,” someone said.
“Ok, get it on the screen,” he said.
As they fussed with various buttons images of chaos in the streets flashed in front of him.
“Hey,” a young staffer said. “Someone has said your wife is out there.”
He looked at the young man.
“Yes,” he said. “I know.”
Just then the feed from call-in with the mayor came on one of the screens.
“We had officers standing in line for many long hours taking everything from rocks and bottles and insults and worse and they didn’t react,” said the mayor.
“Fuck,” he said. “What’s he saying?”
The room was silent except for the mayor’s voice.
“You didn’t see the officers using their sticks this way, which is clubbing people.”
“Why is he talking about procedure like that?” someone asked.
“Whoever asked that better start working on your resume,” he said.
The caller to the show responded.
“You’re lying through your teeth,” said the caller.
“Well, Dan is probably not going to vote for me again,” said the mayor.
“Turn this shit off,” he said.
He stood up and walked over to a young staffer.
“Get a city car and drive up to Whidbey Island.”
“I need you to go pick up the mayor’s brain,” he said. “He left it there.”
“Who’s going to speak for the people arrested?” she asked.
“Well, we hoped you would,” the man said.
They stood in a makeshift shelter on the corner of 4th and Pike.
“I need someone to take care of my daughter,” she said. “I can’t be away from her long.”
A woman said she’d help.
“We need these people released,” the man said, handing her a list.
“Fine,” she said, “I’ll go to the county jail. Be sure there is a crowd and media there.”
“Hey,” a woman said. “You need to see this.”
A television in a conference room off the mayor’s office was showing a scene in front of the King County Jail. A woman with her hair in two braids was taking a bullhorn in front of the jail.
“This is a message to the mayor,” she said. “We want the political prisoners in this building freed!”
There were cheers. He could hear them; City Hall was less than a block from the jail.
“Fucking hell. Shut it off,” he said, “You, come with me.”
He pulled a police officer who was standing in the room with him. They rode the elevator down to the first floor, then they walked a short half block to where she was making her speech.
He pushed his way through the crowd and toward her. And then they saw each other.
“Here comes the mayor’s man!” she said into the bullhorn. People booed and hissed.
He walked toward her and motioned for the bullhorn.
“I am here on behalf of our mayor,” he said. The crowd booed. “Do you want me to negotiate with this woman to free your people?”
The crowd cheered. She was not happy. She grabbed the bullhorn back.
“Do I go and negotiate with this emissary?”
The crowd cheered.
Now the conference room was filled with staffers on one side and just her on the other.
“I need everyone to leave right now,” he said. “Just me and her.”
There was a moment of hesitation.
“Now!” he said.
Chairs moved and people got up and walked out.
One staffer said to another as they walked out, “Do they know each other?”
The room was empty except for them.
“I’ve got your list,” he said.
“Good,” she said. “We want those people freed. Charges dropped.”
He looked at her.
“What’s with the hair?” he said. “Are you supposed to be Sacheen Little feather?”
She felt rage boil up inside her, but she knew this wasn’t the right time.
“Someday,” she said calmly. “I’m going to creep into your bedroom at night and choke you to death.”
“That’s why I always sleep with a hammer under my pillow,” he said, smiling.
He took the list of prisoners, pushed the lead out his mechanical pencil, then wrote a name at the top of the list, and then spun it around and pushed back toward her.
“That’s the name I need,” he said.
She looked at it. Then she laughed.
“That name,” she said. “She’s not here. She’s back home, in New Mexico.”
“No, she’s not,” he said. “I’ve checked with them and with our on the ground people. You had her out there in that mess.”
“Fine,” she said. “I’ll send her to you. But you free those names.”
“She’s our girl,” he said.
“Yes,” she said, “She is.”
“How could you put her out there like that?”
“Fuck you,” she said. “You’re the one that was firing tear gas at us.”
“When she’s with me, you get your fucking acolytes”
“Do you think you’re saving her?”
“Yes,” he said. “From you. Saving her from you. For now.”
There was a silence that embraced them both. She put her head down and exhaled.
“I can’t fucking believe this,” she said.
“You always have to make this such a fucking drama,” he said.
“Me?” she asked. “I do? I make it a drama? You extort our daughter while the world is on fire, and I am the drama queen.”
He let out a sigh.
“The world isn’t on fucking fire,” he said, “In your head it’s on fire. The reality is you’ve created a bunch of Republicans with this bullshit.”
“I doubt that,” she said. “This is the beginning of a big shift.”
“Well, you’ve tested Seattle’s ability to deal with a huge logistical cluster fuck,” he said. “We’re ready to host the Olympics now. But I don’t’ think your ideas won. People were late for their kid’s soccer game and a few people were inconvenienced. This is hardly 1848, Karl.”
“We should have met somewhere else,” she said. “Where I could seriously kick your ass without all the heat.”
“Proof your arguments don’t work,” he said. “Like I said before, when you don’t believe in anything all that’s left is force.”
She glared at him, and he glared back.
“Do we have a deal or not?”
“Yeah, you fuck,” she said “We have a deal.”
“Well, looks like we can walk out of here as winners,” he said.
They stood up and walked toward the door. They knew what was happening in this room was far more exciting and important than anything else happening in the world at the moment.
“Your guy is going to lose the election,” she said.
“Yeah,” he said. “I know. Thank you. Once again bad ideas win out over no ideas at all. But what you did with your hair, that’s fucking sexy.”
“You think so?” she asked, stroking the braids. “The boys like it.”
“What was it that Epictetus said about being an actor and accepting it?”
“Remember that you are an actor in a play, the nature of which is up to the director to decide. If he wants the play to be short, it will be short, if he wants it long, it will be long. And if he casts you as one of the poor, or as a cripple, as a king or as a commoner – whatever role is assigned, the accomplished actor will accept and perform it with impartial skill. But the assignment of roles belongs to another,” she said. “Or something like that.”
“Yeah, that’s it,” he said. “The Discourses. You and your memory.”
He reached to her and she reached back, almost embracing.
“That was in English, Dobbin’s translation, because you wouldn’t understand the Greek.”
“Yes, you’re right. Just make sure our girl is safe,” he said.
“She always is,” she said.
“Come here,” he said.
He led her to the Mayor’s office, and from there they could see smoke rising from various spots downtown. The Mayor’s desk had pictures of his family, and was scattered with papers.
“I wish this wasn’t so much fun,” he said watching the chaos below.