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“Oh, okay,” she says, half her brain seeming tight as a fist and focused on the Mace in her purse.
“Well, they said that they’re just about ready to leave,” I say. “Where should I sit? Is he getting in the back?”
“I don’t know, I’m not sure,” she says, furrowing her brow and looking over her shoulder, toward the park, where the crowd is just beginning to disperse.
“Well,” I say, “should I get in the front or the back?”
“Umm,” she says, meaning every m. I wait for a moment, long enough to watch her blink the concentration completely out of her eyes.
“Why don’t I get in the front?” I say. “We can always switch around when he gets here.”
“Yeah, get in the front,” she says, clearing papers off the seat and stuffing them into the center console amid schedules, itineraries and napkins. I climb in and open my messenger bag, take out my notebook and start to unpack my recorder. She introduces herself as Mary, and I give her both my real name and my cartooning name, Mr. Fish. Mary swears that she knows my stuff, but then describes a cartoon with an angry penguin as one of her favorites of mine. I don’t tell her that she’s thinking of Tom Tomorrow.
“What a great turnout,” Mary says. “Don’t you think?”
“I guess,” I tell her.
“It’s really important for people to hear what Dennis has to say.”
“That’s why I’m here,” I say, wagging my notebook and pen in the air.
“Uh! There they are,” she says. “Here we go.”
“There who is?” I say, looking around. She puts the car in drive and edges out behind a dark-blue Oldsmobile. “Wait a minute,” I say. “Where are we going?”
“To the airport,” she says. “That’s Dennis in front of us.”
“What?” I say, glimpsing Kucinich and his wife in the back seat of the car in front of us. “But I’m supposed to be with him! I’m supposed to be interviewing him!”
“Let me in, let me in,” she says, talking to her side-view mirror. “Thank you, bastard,” she waves politely. “Fucking California drivers.”
“Can we stop?” I ask. “I need to interview him — this is my only chance.”
“Maybe he wants you to interview him at the airport?”
“I need more time than that!”
“Well, I don’t think we can stop. His plane leaves at 11:35,” she says, rooting around for Kucinich’s flight information.
“Aw, Jesus,” I say, closing my notebook and stuffing it back into my bag. “I give up.”
“Sorry,” says Mary sweetly, her right foot nullifying the sentiment by slowly pushing down.
We ride in silence for a while, as I, never more than 30 feet away from the back of Kucinich’s head, wonder which narrative of the day’s events the congressman wants me to believe: (1) that he was too much of an idiot to remember that he’d promised me an interview, or (2) that he was smart enough to figure that the press I was attempting to give to his candidacy was a meddling distraction to the vaguely progressive platform that he was running on.
Ten minutes into the drive, Mary’s cell phone rings and she answers it. It’s Marcus calling from Kucinich’s car in front of us. He wants to make sure that his GPS navigation isn’t feeding him bogus directions.
“I don’t know,” says Mary. “I’ve never been to Burbank.”
“We’re fine,” I say.
“What?” Mary says.
“Tell him that we’re headed in the right direction.”
“Mr. Fish says that we’re headed in the right direction,” she says.
That’s right, I want to say, the fucking genius who makes you laugh so hard by drawing that fucking penguin with the goddamn visor will get you to the airport on time, just so you can drive him home again afterward.
“Huh?” says Mary into her phone. “Yeah, the journalist . . . he’s with me . . . I know . . . He says that he’s supposed to be with you . . . uh-huh.”
“Ask him if I can do my interview with Dennis over the phone?” I ask, shooting in the dark, not caring who I hit. She holds up her finger, asking me to hang on for a second.
“Yeah . . . yeah. Can he interview Dennis over the phone?” She pauses. “All right,” she says, and then turns to me and asks, “Do you want to interview Dennis over the phone?”