Maren Bradley Anderson
This is the eleventh chapter of Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store.
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Published by Maren Bradley Anderson
Copyright 2011 Maren Bradley Anderson
PRUDE ALERT: This book contains ADULT CONTENT. Enjoy!
How was it possible that Liz Stratton, Queen of all that is daytime television, was at this moment nibbling his ear?
They had locked the greenroom door under the pretences of hacking out a new speech before the rally, but they were actually trying to set a land-speed record for necking. Liz had his earlobe in her teeth, and Zeke had his hands up her skirt, kneading her ass.
“Goddamn sex strike,” she hissed through her teeth softly into his ear. “I so want you to nail me to the wall.”
“Don’t say things like that, or I won’t be able to stop, Liz.”
“Sorry,” she said, nuzzling his neck with her nose.
“I hope I live up to all this.”
“What do you mean?” Liz sat back and looked at him.
“Only that, with all this waiting, aren’t you afraid that we’ll fall short of each other’s expectations?” asked Zeke.
Liz grinned. “You won’t disappoint me,” she purred. “And no one’s ever told me that he’s been disappointed.”
“Come here,” he said, pulling her to him.
Someone rapped loudly on the door. “It’s Cal!”
Liz pulled her skirt down and opened the door. Cal took one look at Liz and closed the door behind her quickly. “Jesus, Liz! Zeke! Aren’t you pushing the risky business stuff too far?” She grabbed Liz’s chin. “I can’t believe I have to check my Presidential candidate for hickeys.”
“I know that I’d be castrated if I left any marks,” said Zeke. “Relax, Cal.”
“I’ll relax when you two behave like adults and not over-hormoned teenagers.”
“What crawled up your pantyhose?” asked Liz, not unkindly.
“Nothing,” Cal snapped and slammed a stack of papers onto the table.
“Wait. Isn’t that professor of yours supposed to be here tonight?” asked Liz.
“Nicolas can’t make it,” sniffed Cal.
“Oh, Cal. I’m sorry.” Liz gave Cal a hug. “You don’t think it’s because of the strike, do you?”
“I hope not. Because then he’d be an asshole instead of just a lame-o who has papers to grade.”
“Oh, sweetie. You don’t deserve this,” cooed Liz, rubbing Cal’s back.
“Nicolas was coming?” asked Zeke. He was more annoyed now when they forgot he was in the room.
“Yes, he was supposed to fly out here for a date,” explained Liz.
“A ‘date’?” Zeke asked. “He was going to fly out to Ohio from Massachusetts for a no-sex date? Does he carry his halo around with him, or is it in the saint bank?”
“It’s not too good to be true,” Cal said, pouting. “You’re waiting.”
“I’m the exception, remember? There are guys all over America trying every trick in the book to get back in bed with their women. I’ll bet stock in jewelry companies has tripled since this began.”
Cal sniffed again and sat down. “Well, I’m still disappointed. I thought he might be different.”
“Maybe he is, Cal,” Liz said.
“I’m not going to hold my breath anymore,” said Cal. “Ever onward. Just do me a favor and don’t flaunt it anymore, okay?”
“Will do,” said Zeke. “I could go kick the guy’s ass, too. Would that help?”
Cal laughed. “I guess I sound like a little girl, sitting by the phone, wondering if some dick is going to call me back, don’t I?”
“We’ve all been through it, Cal. It doesn’t get easier, does it, Zeke?”
“Living proof, right here,” Zeke said thumping his chest. “Ten years of sitting by the phone, she finally calls back, and we can’t have sex for who knows how long?”
“You’re right. It could be worse,” Cal agreed. “I am really happy for you two, you know that?”
“Thanks,” said Liz. “Persistence and luck.”
“Persistence and luck. That should have been our campaign slogan,” said Cal.
“‘Luck’ is too close to ‘fuck,’” said Zeke. “We’d have had to change it.”
The lights blinked on and off. “Two minute warning,” said Cal. “You ready?”
“Sure thing, chief,” Liz said. “What are we doing today?”
“Well,” said Cal, all business again. “This is an elementary school, and there’s a school carnival today. We’re going to be rallying in the gym before the festivities and then we’re going to mingle with the crowd.”
“Should be fun,” said Zeke. “Security must be going mad, huh?”
“Yeah. At least we’re inside.”
Liz, Zeke and Cal emerged from the greenroom and walked to the stage. Liz parted the curtain and peeked at the crowd of parents and little kids. Way in the back on some bleachers were the television cameras and reporters. She called Cal over.
“Hey. There are little kids out there.”
“This is an elementary school.”
“I, I mean, I’m not supposed to talk about sex with little kids out there, am I?”
Cal took Liz’s cards from her. “Here,” she said, handing one back. “Do this.” The card read “education.”
“I can’t talk for the whole time on this.”
“So don’t. Do what you can and then we’ll go to the carnival. The parents will be relieved that you didn’t talk until the kids melted down.”
Reassured, Liz stepped through the curtain to applause.
Liz’s spiel on education only lasted fifteen minutes, but that seemed to be plenty for the eight-year-olds in the audience who were jittery with desire for the blow-up trampoline humming in the corner of the gym. After the speech, Liz walked down the steps on the side of the stage and shook hands. Finally, the principal of the school stepped up to show her around.
“I’m Mr. Duval,” said the pleasantly plump man who was losing his curly black hair. “What say we start at this end an make our way around?”
The various television crews followed them as they wandered around the carnival along the perimeter of the gym. They visited the fishing booth where a clothespin was lowered into a “lake” where someone would clip a prize to it. Liz caught a happy-face sticker that she stuck to her lapel. There was a horseshoe pitch where Liz failed miserably. At the face-painting booth, she let someone paint a wiggly American flag on her right cheek. Liz was having a really good time.
A loud fan-fare blared over the loudspeakers and everyone in the crowd pushed back toward the stage.
“What’s happening, Mr. Duval?” Liz asked.
“It’s the big event,” he said. “It’s the hotdog eating contest.” He led her to the front of the crowd. “It’s always fun to watch.”
Long tables had been set up where Liz had just been speaking and piles of hotdogs, sans buns, were stacked in front of six seats. Five people ranging in age from seven to eighty stood behind the table variously readying themselves for the task at hand.
“Why is that seat empty?” asked Liz.
“I don’t know,” said Mr. Duval.
Someone official looking stepped forward to introduce the contestants.
“First is Angie from fourth grade, and her Dad, Steven. Parker from the fifth grade and his granddad Abe.” Cheers from their classmates rose from the audience.
“Last is Benny from the second grade. Benny’s dad was going to eat with him, but he’s home sick with the flu.” Benny looked around a bit worried.
“So, no one else is on his team?” asked Liz.
“Well, no. He wanted to go on, anyway,” said Mr. Duval.
“Can I go up there with him?” Liz asked.
Mr. Duval peered at Liz over his half-glasses. She was wearing a slim suit that showed off her trim figure.
“Are you sure you want to do that?”
Liz smiled. “Sure.” She made her way through the crowd and mounted the stairs. She spoke to the announcer and then stood by Benny.
“We have a late contestant,” said the announcer in surprise. “Ms. Liz Stratton is going to be on Benny’s team in place of his father!” A cheer rose up. Liz could see the cameramen shaking with excitement. Here’s a scoop that would be played all over America.
She leaned over to Benny and whispered, “Hey Benny. I’m Liz. Do you like hot dogs?”
The little boy grinned and nodded yes.
“Do you have any tips for me?”
A buzzer went off and the contest began. Liz leaned over the table and snatched a hotdog off the pile and shoved it into her mouth. Blech. It was the cheapest, nastiest little hot dog she’d ever eaten. Suddenly, this didn’t seem like such a good idea.
She looked down to see Benny chewing the ends off of three hot dogs at once. As he chewed, he looked at her and waved one hand in encouragement. The crowd cheered.
Liz swallowed and shoved another dog in her mouth. She cursed the egg-white omelet she’d had for breakfast. After the next one, she cursed the Caesar salad she’d had for dinner the night before. Before long, Liz was cursing every cappuccino she’d ever drunk. She cursed the zipper on her skirt. She cursed the German town of Frankfurt. By the time the end buzzer indicated the end of the contest three minutes later, Liz, who normally lived on espresso drinks and salads, had eaten six hot dogs.
Benny had eaten ten.
The winner ate fifteen. Angela was a healthy girl.
Liz watched footage on the news from her hotel bed with Zeke and Cal perched on the edge.
“You look like a pro,” said Cal. “Look at that. Not a speck on your outfit. How did you do that?”
“I like your technique,” said Zeke. Cal swatted him. “No, really. One at a time, end first, sucking them in like spaghetti. It works for me.”
Liz laughed at a close-up shot of her inhaling a hotdog. “It does look like I’m blowing a chain of wieners.”
“The fake news shows are going to love this,” said Zeke. “I’ll see if I can’t get John Stewart to give us an interview.”
Liz smiled. “Let’s be sure to bring him a pound of wieners if I go.”
A few days later, Liz stood. She stood in the wings of the The Daily Show with Jon Stewart awaiting her cue marveling at Cal’s connections. She held a small pail of wieners.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Jon Stewart said when the music bringing him in from commercial stopped. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are honored tonight to have an actual presidential candidate in our studios tonight. She is the first woman to run for the highest office of the land...and have a chance at winning it. She’s also the force behind the most popular talk show on daytime television, Spare Me! Now she’s here to explain to me why I can’t stand up to shake her hand on air! Ms. Liz Stratton!”
The music rose and Liz strode onto the stage smiling to very loud cheers. Jon did stand and shake her hand, and she gave an extra wave as she sat, placing the pail on the desk before her. Several women in the crowd kept cheering even after the music stopped.
After a moment, Jon said, “Ms. Stratton, can you make them stop that, too?” The crowd laughed. “How are you?”
“Just fine, Jon. Call me Liz. Thanks for having me on the show.”
“Thanks for being here,” Jon said. “Now, I was start off by asking, why?” The crowd chuckled as he cringed a little. “Why a sex strike? But…um…you seem to have brought something on stage with you.”
“Just a little present,” Liz said with a smile, sliding the pail towards him.
Jon peeked into it and sat back in mock shock. He peeked again. “Uh, this appears to be a bucket of…wieners.”
“It is. It’s the exact number of wieners I ate during the contest. This show broadcast the clip earlier this week.”
“Did we?” Jon gingerly tipped the pail over and the hot dogs slid out. “Gee, that’s not as many as I thought.”
“What do you mean?”
“Uh, well, I mean…”
“I know. A ball-buster like me should be able to eat more than six wieners in one sitting, right?”
“By that logic, the little girl who won should run for President. She ate fifteen.”
“Fifteen? Oh, my God.”
“I know. Look out for Angie Olson in 2036!” The crowd laughed.
Jon tried to regain control. “Okay, Ms. Stratton. Why a sex strike? I mean, why not a shoe strike? Or a PMS strike?”
“Jon, I think you’re missing the point,” she said. “Men want those kinds of strikes. If we had a, say, leftover casserole strike, no one would do anything to end it, right?”
“Tell me how this particular strike came about,” Jon said, leaning forward over his desk. “I mean, have you…used it before? Like on a boyfriend or anything?”
Liz laughed. “Well, to be honest, what woman hasn’t? Think about it. Let’s say you had a fight with your wife, Jon.”
“Oh, that never happens,” he said with a straight face.
“Really?” Liz grinned. “Okay, pretend you had a fight with Stephen Colbert’s wife.” Jon laughed in spite of himself. “How often do you get to have sex if you are in the middle of an argument?”
“All the time,” said Jon. “And it’s fabulous!”
“I imagine so,” Liz said through her chuckles. “Most of us, however, suffer a dry spell if we’re angry with each other. Eventually, one party apologizes and then there’s the make-up sex.”
“So, this is all a ploy for national make-up sex?”
“Doesn’t that sound wonderful, Jon?” Liz asked.
“That does sound wonderful,” he admitted. “I want them to declare peace tomorrow. You know the whole country would call in sick the next day, though, don’t you?”
“I’m willing to endure a day of lost productivity for this cause, Jon,” Liz said.
“So, tell me, Liz. How did you get from hosting a talk show to running for President?”
“Well, my friend Calliope Talmadge ambushed me.”
“Really? So you didn’t know what she was going to propose when she came onto your set that day?”
“No. Actually, she wasn’t even scheduled that day.”
“No, it was supposed to be Ethan Falconwright, but his son fell and broke his arm that morning and he had to cancel.”
“So, if Ethan Falconwright’s son hadn’t broken his arm, I’d be able to go home and get it wrongways from Mrs. Stewart tonight? Damn you, Falconwright spawn!” Jon shook his fist at the camera.
“I’m sure Ethan will write you a letter of apology.”
“Do you know who he is voting for, incidentally?”
Liz laughed again. This was fun.
“Another thing: Why are your news conferences so…entertaining?”
Liz couldn’t help grinning. “Why, what do you mean?”
“I think the media is referring to your last news conference as ‘The Spectacle.’ Do you have any idea why?”
“Why, no, Jon. Whatever do you mean?” she said, batting innocent eyelashes.
“Well, we just happen to have a clip that might explain it.”
The clip showed Liz in her shiny suit, flanked by showgirls and Elektra. When it was over, Jon sat silently a moment.
“You know,” he said. “I think I need to see that again, just to get the full effect.”
She laughed, but the ten second clip did roll again.
“So, that woman standing next to you is your running mate?”
“Elektra Sampson. Toughest, smartest woman you’ll ever meet.”
Liz laughed. “She’s 60 and married.”
“Was this just an attention-getting mechanism? This Spectacle?”
“Did it work, Jon?”
“Yes. Yes, it did.”
“Jon, we want to focus attention on our issues, so we’re using every tool in our repertoire. I’m sure if Bill Ostrem looked good in a two-piece, he’d be out flaunting it, too.”
“Thank you for the image in my head,” Jon said with a shiver.
“So, Liz, when I introduced you, I said you were the first female candidate who actually had a chance at winning the Presidency. Was I lying?”
“Actually, no, Jon. The last time I checked, the race was neck-in-neck. We’re at 29%, and the others are in the 30-35% range. It’s anybody’s guess what will happen come Election Day.”
“Amazing. And you’re not worried that you might be a spoiler for one of the other candidates like Nader or Perot were?”
“Jon, I wouldn’t be running if I wanted either of the other guys to win,” Liz said. “I agree with some positions of each party, but I’d vote third party this election if I weren’t voting for myself.”
“Is that because you are a woman and just can’t commit to one guy?” Jon asked. He winked at her as the crowd laughed.
“No, Jon. It’s because I’m a woman who’s seen her share of losers and doesn’t want to be associated with them anymore,” she responded. “I’d go to a party alone before I went with either of them.”
“So, why is the war such a big issue for you and your constituents?”
“Jon, as good as the war had been for the comedy industry,” she began, “it’s been devastating to the families and economy of this country. We’re running out of young men and money. We’re sick of it, and we are willing to give up the best thing in life until it’s done.”
“So, you admit you like sex?” Jon asked, with interest.
Liz grinned. “Jon, sex is my favorite thing, ever. I like it better than chocolate ice-cream or week-long trips to Hawaii.”
“How about chocolate ice-cream on the beach in Hawaii?” asked Jon.
“Um...nope. Sex is better.”
“So, why a sex strike?” Jon asked again. “If you like it so much?”
“Jon, I love sex. But I can live without it until we end this war. My guess is that the people in charge of ending the war will have less resolve than I will or the people following my lead.”
“So, you’re counting on old men want to have sex in a worse way than the women who follow you.”
“Throwing in the odd gay couple, yes.”
“Do you think it’ll work?”
“Has anything else worked, Jon?”
“Do you think you’ll win the election?”
“Maybe,” Liz said. “But I’m sure we’ll end the war. I have shown that I don’t need an oval office to represent a large portion of the country and incite them to action, or inaction, as the case may be.”
The crowd cheered, and Jon smiled at her. “Ms. Liz Stratton, everybody!” The music rose and carried them out to commercial.
Later in the dressing room, Liz was surprised when Jon Stewart came back to see her. After she let him in, he sat in a chair across from her, leaned his elbows on his knees and looked into her eyes with that earnest gaze.
“What you’re doing is great,” he said. “I wanted you to know that my wife and I support what you’re doing 100%.”
“Yeah. You know I have a lot of politicians on the show.”
“Sure. I’ve been envious of your guest list for a long time.”
“Right. You’ve had your share on your show, too.”
“So you know that ninety percent of them are total sleazebags.”
“Yes!” Liz sat back in her chair and put her hands over her eyes. “They talk out of both sides of their faces! It’s so weird!”
“Liz, I don’t get that from you.”
“No, I’m serious.” Jon said, still earnest. “I wasn’t sure about you before you came on the show. I mean, for research, I watched about five year’s worth of your show.”
“2006 wasn’t my best year.”
“I don’t know, I thought the ‘Tranny Grannies’ episode was gold,” Jon laughed. “But the point is that I wasn’t sure you were the real thing until I met you tonight. You’re serious about this. You’re not in it for the power. You’re not here for the glory. You don’t tell people what they want to hear. You’re here because you think you can make things better.”
“Thanks, Jon,” Liz said. “I, I’m so flattered.”
“It’s the truth,” he said. “I’ve met so many politicians that I can see them, you know? In all their glory. It’s why it’s my job to make fun of them. People need to see them as they are. You do it, too, on your show.”
“They’re afraid of us, you and me, Jon.”
“And they should be.”
“Thank you,” Liz said. “This really means the world to me. It’s been brutal lately, you know? I can’t watch TV anymore because the ads are so mean.”
“You hang in there,” Jon said. “You do good work. Ignore the ads and stuff. That’s where I come in.”
“What do you mean?”
“We’re starting a new segment attacking attack ads. It’s going to be fun. And since your campaign is the only one that doesn’t run such garbage...”
“...You’ll basically be helping us out on the sly.”
“Well, not officially,” Jon said. “We’ll just not ridicule those running ignoble campaigns.” He stood. “I’ll let you go now. It was a real honor to have you on, Liz.”
Liz stood and gave him a hug. “If this Presidency thing doesn’t work out, will you come to LA and be on Spare Me!?”
“Oh, and Jon? I do, you know?”
“Miss sex. A lot. I want this war and strike to be over more than you know.”
Jon looked at her face carefully. “Oh,” he said. “Something, or someone new has happened, hasn’t it?”
Liz looked down before she could catch herself.
“Don’t worry. It’s a secret,” Jon Stewart said, smiling. “Goodnight, Liz.”
Liz sat a moment after the door closed behind him, basking in the high praise. It felt good coming from someone in her industry who actually understood where she was coming from professionally. Plus, she knew that Jon Stewart was as smart as they come. He understood politics better than most politicians ever would, but the two of them were on similar missions. And he supported her. That was something she could hang her hat on.
Liz was still in revelry from her conversation with Jon Stewart that night as she sat in bed with the TV on to some old movie as she killed time before The Daily Show with Jon Stewart came on at eleven p.m. She heard a familiar tap on the door, so she stood and let in Zeke and his bowl of popcorn.
They curled up together on the bed and watched the film together, but Liz wasn’t paying attention to it at all. Finally she put it on mute and turned to Zeke.
“Do you think we’re going to win?”
“The election?” Zeke sat up a little. “I don’t know.” He reached out and traced her lovely jaw with his fingertips. “You should win, if there were justice in the world.”
“I’m serious,” she said, smiling and taking his wrist in both her hands.
“So am I. You’re the best candidate, especially given the scum you’re running against.”
“I’m better than scum, thanks.”
“Much better,” Zeke said, kissing her. “God, the things I could do to you...”
“Mustn’t even talk about it, or we’ll lose control,” Liz said. “Remember the rules.”
“First rule of secret affair: Don’t talk about secret affair.”
“Second rule: Don’t talk about sex re: the secrete affair.”
“Third rule: Don’t have sex re: secrete affair.”
“Last rule: Don’t break rules 1-3.”
She rested her head on his chest and let his heartbeat fill her head.
Finally, Zeke said, “Are you afraid of winning, honey?”
“Yes,” Liz said quietly.
“What are you afraid of?”
“That I’ll fuck up. I mean, if I fucked up at my old job, someone turned off the TV and I didn’t get a paycheck. If I fuck up as President, people could die. Lots of people.”
“Do you want one of the other guys to win instead?”
“No, because I know they’ll fuck up.”
“Then you’re kind of stuck,” said Zeke. “If you can’t trust someone else to do a better job, then you have to do it yourself, right?” He stroked her hair and kissed the top of her head. He did find it ironic that he could be comforting the future leader of the free world, but he assumed that first ladies had always done this kind of thing.
Liz sighed deeply and looked at the clock. “It’s eleven,” she said. Zeke picked up the remote and changed the channel. The theme music for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart filled the room and Jon’s earnest face flashed on screen. Liz smiled and so did Zeke.
“I think we might do it,” said Liz.
“I hope we do,” said Zeke, pride and love swelling him beyond what he thought possible.
“I don’t know what you paid Jon Stewart to give you that kind of interview, but it was worth it!” sang Cal as Liz sat down at breakfast.
“Here.” Cal thrust the morning paper in front of her.
She read “The Daily Show Bump Hits Stratton and Sex Strike.”
“How can they know that already? It’s only been a day.”
“All they need, apparently.”
The article reported that polls since Liz’s appearance on the show had raised her numbers to over 30%. “That’s amazing,” Liz shook her head. “That comedy talk shows could have this much clout.”
“Well, between you and Oprah, you have the book, diet, and pop-psychology markets cornered,” said Cal. “Just try to get on the New York Times bestseller list without O’s approval.”
“This is different than a book club, but I see where you’re coming from,” said Liz. “I’m not sure I like why it happens, but I’m glad for the bump.”
“You are?” asked Cal. When Liz looked at her curiously, she added, “Zeke told me he was concerned about you the other night.”
Liz rubbed her forehead. “I’m glad for the bump,” she repeated. “Winning...we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
Zeke sat next to Liz and squeezed her knee in greeting. “How are you this morning, kiddo?”
“Just fine, thanks. Here’s the paper.”
“Wow. I don’t know what you did to Stewart before the show, but I hope you saved some for me later.”
Liz laughed and squeezed his hand. “Be good, or you’ll pay for it.”
About the Author
Maren Bradley Anderson is a writer, teacher, podcaster, blogger, and alpaca rancher who lives in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. She has written short stories and plays for years, and has recently taken to writing screenplays and novels. She teaches live and online classes on literature and writing at Western Oregon University. She has Master’s Degrees in both Literature and Teaching Writing from Humboldt State University and a B.A. in English and Studio Art from Mount Holyoke College. Maren hosts a podcast about alpacas (Paca Talk) with her husband, and blogs about alpacas and writing. Her alpacas win ribbons for conformation and fleece, plus she thinks they are darned cute.
Connect with me online!
Twitter – http://twitter.com/#marenster
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/
Writing Blog – http://closingthestore.blogspot.com
Smashwords – http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Marenster