The candidate settled a haunch, shifted the other, let his head sag against the headrest. The lights had been dimmed, the engines throbbed—too loudly, as always, but everyone had heard them for weeks or months, and now their sound didn’t really matter. A woman’s voice tinkled from down the aisle, and a man off in the darkness said, “That’s what’s going to surprise them, right down there in the Iron Range—” The candidate kicked the seat in front of him: thud thud thud, but quietly. Nobody was in the seat; he just felt like kicking. “Uh, uh, uhhh uh-uhhhhh,” the candidate said. “Uh, uh, uhhh uh-uhhhhh… But you find sometime… you just find…” He fell silent. “Jared,” he said.
From across the aisle, Jared said, “Yeah, dad?”
“Got ’em worked up,” the candidate said. “You feel that?”
Jared, who hadn’t been at the rally, said, “Electricity.”
“Oh yeah. Got something moving. The crowd, you know? They love it. Yeah, connecting.” Up ahead the man was still talking about the Iron Range. The candidate said, “She can’t do that. Forget it, that fire hydrant? With that voice? She’s got to pay people to go to those things. Who’s gonna—I mean, look at her. Stand her next to a fire hydrant and tell me which is which. But a fire hydrant doesn’t make that noise. ‘This Ah-mar-ka…” He was imitating the other candidate. He stopped. “Uh, uh, uhhh UH-uhhhhhh,” he said. He stopped again. “What is that song?”
“The Stones,” Jared said. “On the sound system at your rallies.”
“Yeah, but the song, the song. What is that? I know that song. ‘But I know sometimes… it is beside… his kneeees. Beside his kneeees.’ The fuck, I know it.”
“At your rallies,” Jared said. “On the, uh, the speaker system.”
“Ahhhhhhh,” the candidate said, imitating the chorus. He was still trying to remember. His voice rose in pitch. “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh,” he said.
“You know,” Jared said. “The Stones, it’s one of their—”
“Nah, nah,” the candidate said. “I want to remember. Gonna get this.” He began kicking the seat again, still quietly. “Uh, uh, uhhh UH—” he said, and then he broke off. “Doing great in the Iron Range,” he said. “That’s what I’m hearing. Kind of crazy turnout, they’re saying, and the people… Like a ton, we’re talking a ton of people out there going to vote, so it’s nuts and that’s great. I mean, that’s how we’re going to surprise… Uh, uh, uhhh UH-uhh… Polls. You believe those polls?”
“I don’t believe those polls. Last week they were this, the week before they were that. I mean, Florida? They’re talking about Florida? Early turnout? Early turnout’s gonna settle it? Come on. And the Lah-teen-noes? Come on.”
“Sure, nobody believes that. That’s something they say on television.”
“Right, on TV. Neh-vah-dah and the Lah-teen-noes? Bullshit… Those polls, where they got me? Come on, bullshit. Come on, this ain’t over. No way is this— Hey, Jared.”
“You’re a good kid.”
“A good kid. You’re all right. Hey, Jared.”
“You ever get scared?”
A brief silence. Then: “No.”
“Damn right. Right answer. You got it, that’s the answer. Because me neither. Listen, the pussies get scared.” The engines throbbed. Nobody could be heard now; maybe they were asleep. “I’ll tell you this,” the candidate said. “One way or the other, Ryan is fucked. Oh, I am gonna— It will be a thing of beauty, okay? That boy’s gonna bleed when he shits. He’s gonna bleed a lot. He’s gonna reach behind with the toilet paper, and there’s gonna be a hole—I mean, a big hole. I’m gonna put a big, big hole there, and he’s got the toilet paper, and he’s reaching behind, and he’s going to have blood up to his elbow. He’s going to have blood in his armpit. And he’s going to be like, ‘Hey. Hey! I was just going to wipe and I got this blood, and why that big hole?’ And he’s going to say, ‘Oh yeah, oh yeah. Trump was here.’”
Off on his side of the aisle, Jared laughed.
“One way or the other,” the candidate said. “Win, don’t win, Ryan’s gonna have— But we’re gonna win. Jared, I’m gonna win this thing.”
“You’re going to win,” Jared said.
“Uh, uh, uhhh uh-uhhhhh,” the candidate said. “Uh, uh, uhhh UH-uhhhhhh.” And then he was asleep.
—Follow C.T. May on Twitter: @CTMay3