Council Member Gavin Kane, Democrat, was incensed. Max Morano and his Republicans had vowed to fight a proposed law to make sexual harassment a firing offense. Gavin signed into his Twitter account.
“Once again, Max Morano stands in the way of human rights and fundamental decency.”
* * *
At Max Morano’s district office, Irma Jansen knocked on her boss’s door and announced, “Another shot from Gavin Kane.”
“Bean Pole Kane’s the biggest hypocrite the world’s ever known. I’d love to expose him.”
“So hire a sexy blonde private investigator and have her get a job with him.”
“She’s standing right before me.”
“One, I’m not sexy. Two, I’m too old. Three, I’m not a licensed private investigator.”
Oh, but she was sexy, hence his daily prayer, “Deliver me from evil.” And thirty-one wasn’t exactly old. Fifteen years younger than him was perfect. Definitely perfect for that hound dog Kane, if there was any truth to what people said. Which there was.
“Listen, the idea is tempting, but it’s too risky. Give me something else.”
“Tweet the world that unlike Kane, you’ve never received a harassment complaint.”
Oh, but I’ve come so, so close, he thought. Aloud, he replied, “The world will see it as self-serving.”
“Then I’ll send it out on your behalf.”
“So loyal, Irma. But then you’d become a target, and that’s the last thing you deserve.”
“Don’t be so protective.”
“Which is worse? Protective or harassing? Don’t answer. You just told me how to flatten that scumbag.”
Max opened his Twitter account and fired back: “Gavin Kane wants to coddle women. Women can look after themselves, thank you.”
* * *
At Gavin Kane’s district office, Tina Millette, his chief of staff, walked into his room without knocking. “Your tweet got an answer.”
“I’m looking at it now. Good old Max. He makes it so easy. How about, ‘Why must the burden always be on women? All they ask for is respect.’”
“Boring. And patronizing.”
“Okay, your turn.”
He got up from his chair and gestured for her to take his place.
At the PC’s keyboard, she typed, “Right, women don’t need coddling. But Max Morano?”
“It will get his attention,” Gavin said. “Speaking of attention, that’s a nice short skirt you’re wearing today.”
“I like what it reveals.”
She headed for the door.
“Thanks, Tina,” Gavin said to her wiggling backside.
“Any time,” she said, not turning.
* * *
“That schlump Kane claims I need coddling!” Max Morano shouted at his screen.
Irma Jansen knocked on the door, opened it and said, “What are you going to say now?”
“It’s Gavin Kane who needs coddling. Democrats are always projecting their gaping flaws on to us Republicans.”
“Don’t get into a pissing match. No one’s taking that comment seriously.”
“How about, ‘Women deserve respect. Not so Gavin Kane.’”
“You’re getting away from the issue.”
“A good thing. Honestly, how many people really care about this law?”
“Lots of women do.”
“53% of women voted against Hillary,” he reminded her.
“53% of white women. Hardly all women.”
“Okay, okay, spare me the facts.”
“Besides,” Irma persisted, “I know you respect women.”
“Of course I do. I just hate passing yet another law. We have too many as it is.”
“Okay, then, make it personal. Send that message. Distract him.”
Max clicked “Send.”
* * *
Gavin Kane yelled, “I can’t get any work done with fat Max Morano tweeting at me all day long. What’s this about ‘Women deserve respect? Not so Gavin Kane’? What happened to respect for your opponents?”
“Don’t keep reacting,” Tina said, appearing at the door and taking one of the chairs across the desk from him.
“I can’t let him have the last word.”
“I don’t see either of you having the last word. You both have endless ammunition.”
“Okay, you’re saying take the high road. Tell me how I do that.”
“Ignore his taunts and make a policy statement.”
“Oh, like, ‘When Max Morano fights a law voters overwhelmingly support, what is he hiding?’”
“Impugn his integrity. I get it.”
“Assuming he has any.”
* * *
Four blocks away, Irma was also lecturing Max. “You need to stop all this bickering and make it a matter of principle. This legislation would turn the workplace into an abstraction—more than it already is.”
“Abstraction. Hm. That’s good.”
Max tapped into his iPhone: “Men will be men, women will be women. Kane’s law is against the laws of nature.”
* * *
An immediate answer came to Gavin, but he decided to run it by Tina before sending it. “How about this?”
She edged around the desk to look at the screen and he shifted his chair back. “You have a crease in the back of your skirt,” he said, reaching.
She yanked her behind away. “Uh-uh uh-uh.”
“Just trying to be helpful.”
“We both know what you were trying.”
“Whatever you say, Tina. How about my tweet?”
Gavin placed his hands on his chair’s arms and gripped tight.
“Okay,” she said, moving back to the screen. “Let’s see. ‘Max Morano wants to revert to the caveman age. Aren’t we better than that?’”
She turned to her boss. “Hey, don’t I recall a photo of him wearing a caveman outfit at a Halloween party?”
“Great. Go forth and Google. A drink after hours to celebrate?”
“Keep your mind on your work.” Leaving for the door, she did that wiggle thing again. In his forty-six years on this earth, Gavin had never known he could be so attracted to a black woman.
* * *
“Where did they get that picture?” Max Morano shouted.
He expected Irma’s knock on the door, but this time his cry for help got no immediate response.
It was another ten minutes before her knock came. All the while, Max had held his head in his hands. How could he have let his wife persuade him to wear such a costume for the Fred Flintstone Halloween bash?
“Look at your email,” Irma said, sitting down.
The first item was a message from her. He clicked on the attachment. “Nice,” he glowed. Attached was a photo of Gavin Kane massaging the bare shoulders of big donor Harriet Winks at a Democratic fundraiser. Someone had obviously taken a shot with a smart phone camera. La grande dame looked about as happy as Angela Merkel had when George W. Bush tried the same trick on her.
“How could I forget?” Max said in awe at his chief of staff’s resourcefulness. “I’m glad you didn’t.”
“It’s what you pay me the big bucks for.”
“This could sink Kane and his stupid law.”
* * *
Gavin Kane pulled Libby out from his jacket’s inside pocket. “Are you going to dump on me, too?” he asked the wallet-sized electronic United States Constitution.
“What for?” Libby said.
“You know I’m going to ask you about our proposed sexual harassment legislation.”
“Why would I criticize you for that?”
“Forget it. I need to know about women’s equality and the U.S. Constitution.”
“The women’s Equal Rights Amendment died in 1982.”
“You’re being difficult.”
“What’s your question?”
“Are women entitled under the Constitution to be spared sexual harassment? Max Morano is one of those Constitution-hugging Republicans and he says no.”
“And you’re one of those Constitution-hugging Democrats. Look how you’re always consulting me.”
“I’ve already answered your question.”
“The ERA was defeated. Is that all you have to say?”
“Well, you could refer to federal legislation, and maybe from there extrapolate a Constitutional argument to make to the Supreme Court one day.”
“You sound doubtful.”
“It’s a devil-in-the-details thing, isn’t it? Like Morano said, men will be men, and so forth. For one thing, how do you define ‘sexual harassment’ and how do you, Gavin Kane, do so with a straight face?”
“I can do a straight face anytime it’s called for.”
“I know,” Libby said, shutting down.
* * *
The Council passed the law with a sizable, bipartisan majority. But if the public had forgotten before, no one forgot again the image of Gavin Kane’s hands on Harriet Winks’ shoulders or her expression of pure disgust.