Tina Millette told her boss, Council Member Gavin Kane, that a constituent was making life difficult in the public area of their district office.
“I can hear the shouting in here,” Gavin said. “What does he think this is? Democracy?”
“He says he has a right to talk to his Congressman.”
“Then send him to Lucas. I’m not his Congressman. I’m his Council Member. Maybe I’m not even that.”
“He lives in your district. I already told him your title.”
“It lacks a certain ring, don’t you think.”
“Better than “Council Member, Schmouncil Member.”
“What’s his problem?”
“He’d better tell you himself.”
Tina’s avoidance made Gavin suspicious, but the more time they talked, the more this confused guy would take up.
Seconds later, with Tina at his back, the elderly but all too fit constituent marched into Gavin’s office.
“Congressman Kane, I presume?” the anachronous old geezer said, though not offering a hand.
“Council Member Kane. If you have a federal case, go see Congressman Lucas.”
“I’m here now, so I’ll talk to you.”
Uninvited, the constituent sat down. Gavin was annoyed to see Tina disappear from the doorframe.
“What’s your name?” Gavin asked. Turning his PC’s screen to make sure the visitor couldn’t see it, he prepared to take notes.
“Gerald Finzi. I want you to put them out of business.”
“Point Pleasant Shoes.”
“You want me to put one of our great local companies out of business?”
“The only thing that’s great about them is their incompetence.”
Gavin thought better of saying it was the first he’d heard. Instead, he said, “Explain.”
“The pair of shoes I bought from them squeak.”
Gavin had to run his hand across his mouth to hide an involuntary smile. He said, “Both of them?”
“The right one. The left one’s okay, I guess.”
“How do they fit?”
“Like shoes are supposed to.”
Gavin, who had problems finding shoes that fit well, wondered what that meant, but he wasn’t curious enough to start an endless discussion.
“What do you want us to do about it?”
“Put them out of business, like I said.”
“A little drastic, don’t you think? Anyway, no court would approve. How about we have someone contact the company and ask them what’s up?”
“They’ll tell you they don’t squeak. They’re trying to convince me I’m imagining things—that I’m off my rocker.”
“Sometimes companies are more reasonable when we talk to them.”
It took a while, but eventually Finzi agreed to return to the public area and fill out a complaint form. After he left, Tina brought in the completed form.
“I’ll send this along to Consumer Affairs,” she said.
“Better not, unless you want him back again.”
“He’ll be back no matter what.”
“Look, it’s a simple case. Have Jimmy fax the complaint to the company’s CEO. He’s a contributor, so you have his contact info. Jimmy’s smart enough to smooth things out and make everyone happy.”
Jimmy was a twenty-year-old intern earning no salary but gaining lots of experience that was sure to make everything that came later in his life seem like a vacation.
Tina was wearing not particularly tight-fitting pants today. Just as well, Gavin thought as he watched her leave.
Next day Tina ushered Jimmy into Gavin’s office. Today she was wearing a short skirt, and Gavin experienced a flash of jealousy. Had she worn it knowing she’d be interacting with Jimmy? That train of thought needed to be derailed, and fast.
“What have you got for me?” Gavin asked Jimmy.
“They told Finzi to take the shoes in to be looked at.” The young man stopped.
“And Finzi isn’t happy.”
“He isn’t a happy man. I could tell that from the get-go. So could Tina. Nothing you’ll say or do will change it.”
“Now he isn’t happy because someone tried on his shoes.”
“Huh? Finzi says they squeak. They agree to take a look at them. One of their people tries them on. Do they squeak?”
“They said no.”
Tina jumped in. “Shoes fit everyone differently. Maybe these ones squeak only when Finzi wears them.”
Jimmy said, “It’s way beyond squeaking now. He demands a full refund and damages for emotional harm because someone else put them on.”
“This guy at the company who tried them on, do his feet smell?” Gavin asked.
Tina said, “What the hell kind of question is that? You want Jimmy going around there sniffing people’s feet? What difference would it make anyway?”
“If they were my shoes, it would make a difference to me,” Gavin said.
“You know, Gavin,” Tina retorted, “it’s no wonder you can never get any legislation written. You get so bogged down in distractions.”
“Please,” Gavin said, not happy but grinning for Jimmy’s benefit, “not in front of the children.”
Tina grunted in disgust.
Gavin returned his attention to Jimmy. “I assume you spoke to the company again.”
“I told them why Finzi is unhappy now.”
“With a straight face.”
“With a straight face,” Jimmy said, “which didn’t matter because I was on the phone.”
Tina snickered. Whatever doubts Gavin had before, he now knew for certain she was smitten with the Chinese stripling.
“And,” Jimmy continued, “they aren’t willing to do anything more.”
“Good for them,” Tina said. “I hate it when companies are in the right but they cave in anyway because the big nasty Congressman called them.”
“I’m a Council Member.”
“Okay, Schmouncil Member.” Exasperated, she continued, “Gavin, what does Jimmy do now?”
“Send a nice letter to Finzi and close the file.”
“He’ll be calling.”
“That’s reception’s problem. Tell them on no account to transfer his calls to anyone.”
“Which means they’ll transfer them to me,” Tina said.
After Jimmy and Tina had left, Gavin reached for his jacket’s inside pocket and drew out Libby, his wallet-sized electronic United States Constitution.
“Libby, what do squeaky shoes have to do with the Constitution?”
“Well, you could think about it in terms of the Tenth Amendment.”
Gavin knew that one. “Everything that isn’t specifically assigned to the Feds belongs to the states and the people. That means the Constitution couldn’t care less if we ignore them.”
“You’re saying I don’t care about the people?” Libby said, sounding offended.
“I know you’re a living document, but caring?”
“Well, I’d care if you helped only some constituents but not others. You can’t discriminate.”
“In other words, help all or help none.”
“It would make my life a hell of a lot easier if I shut down this office and never dealt with the public again.”
“In that case you’d lose the next election. You’re not doing all this just out of the kindness of your heart, you know.”
“Yes, I am. You’re just getting back at me for saying you aren’t caring.”
The blue light faded and Libby shut down.
Later that afternoon, after Gavin had worn out his voice and ear yakking on the phone in an effort to get his colleagues on board with his latest legislative proposal, Tina sauntered into his office and sat down in one of the guest chairs.
“Seen Max Morano’s tweets lately?” she asked. “Read his most recent one. I’ll fill you in on the rest.”
With foreboding, Gavin turned to his monitor and opened the Twitter feed of his hated Republican rival.
Gavin turned to Tina. “Morano got Finzi a refund?”
“A full refund, including tax.”
“But Finzi is in our district, not his.”
“Same street. Finzi’s street number is in our district, so Morano made a mistake, but I don’t see voters clamoring for his removal over that.”
Gavin typed, “Mad-dog Morano manhandles yet another local merchant.” He sent it without seeking Tina’s approval. That was a mistake because she would have warned him of the inevitable, devastating response.
Less than a minute later, as though Max Morano had anticipated the potshot, he posted a new tweet: “Kane hurls insults. Morano gets it done. The shoes fit.”