Friday, February 12, 2010

Found First Line Experiment #1: Speculative Politics

What's the Found First Line Experiment? Well, I just made it up, sort of. It's vaguely based on a writing exercise I read about in Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones. I clicked into Google News, picked the third article down, took the first line, and wrote a story starting with that line. I'm trying to post more creative explorations here, and also trying to do more "fun" writing experiments that I can use to simply let go and enjoy myself...and why not share some of the results? If you decide to try it, too, leave me a link.

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Not every rookie political wannabe gets to have his campaign announcement on national TV. It's why I felt lucky. Not charmed; not privileged; but lucky. I didn't have any famous family members, I wasn't part of any East-Coast old-money political dynasty. I wasn't involved in the city council or the school board. I'm not even very telegenic. I'm told I have big pores.

What do I do? Well, I used to teach. I volunteered at hospitals on the weekends.

So when they picked me, I felt like the luckiest guy in the world.


They put me up there behind this podium that was draped with dark blue and affixed with the Grand Seal of the United Western States. I felt like I'd won a contest. In reality, it was more like a random drawing. The way they do things these days is supposed to be the most equitable method of leadership selection yet to be devised.

We've gone through some seriously kooky changes to our election process over the years, but get this: after you pass a citizenship test, you get enough names on your petition to meet the minimum and you get one entry; every 2,000 names after that earns you another entry. Into the hat, as it were, though it's really more like a silk-covered box printed with the humpback whale emblem. Political party is not a consideration. Five different names are drawn and those are the ones eligible to campaign. No exceptions. No write-ins. And no backing out.

Once the campaigning starts, it's no holds barred. Any strategy is perfectly legal as long as you can pay for it and don't get caught breaking any Western State laws. You can even, say, bribe a doctor to certify another candidate is legally insane and not fit to lead.

The bright stage lights hanging above the podium made my eyes water, but that only helped my cause, mistaken as they were for tears of emotion. I was grinning like a fool, and maybe I was one. Because once you're on the road to campaign glory, it's assumed that you wanted it enough in the first place to throw your hat into the ring.

I guess the only problem was, I didn't want it enough.

I scratch my day-old growth of beard, stare out the window onto the perfectly manicured grounds, and sigh as the orderly hands me my morning pills. The television in the common room is announcing that Fergus Smith is the new President of the United Western States. The screams of triumph from his supporters sound like the discordant and chaotic jabbering of the deranged.

And I may not have a choice about it, but I can't help thinking I'd rather be in here.

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