Across K Street

By Howard Smead


Chapter 1



Do not take the back roads. If you do, be ready for a bumpy ride.

In Davy Crockett's case, the ride was so bumpy he got bounced right off the road. And this particular road was taking him towards his life’s goal — a seat in Congress. Something he'd dreamed of and worked toward since college.

Perhaps Davy's detour —and it was major detour — was his own fault. Perhaps not. Your conclusion depends upon your political persuasion. That's the way politics works, isn't it? Your side is right; their side is wrong. And the devil takes the hind most. Davy most definitely was the hind most.

His campaign wasn’t exactly a headline-grabber. It one of those obscure House races no one knows or cares about, including most people living in the district. In addition, the local Democratic Party was a shambles. Not news to anyone east of the Mariana Trench, except for poor Davy. That discovery came as a shock to him. Still, against all odds, he was running ahead, if you could believe the polls, right up to the end when the race became national news — and the bubble burst. He was all set to become the second Davy Crockett to serve in the United States House of Representatives.

            He truly did give it his best, glad‑handing more bleary-eyed workers in front of more chain link fences and issuing more hardy guffaws than he thought ever possible. He attended more functions at more out of the way places and smooched more women, and a few men, than was wise for his health. In doing so, he also came to know the location of rest rooms in every shopping mall, department store and Saturday morning discount house in every precinct in my district.

            Hard work but something he'd wanted to do for years. Davy discovered had a natural affinity for people. As they did for him. Not once did he meet a stranger, even among the grease-guts slopping coffee and hash browns along the two-lane blacktops that lace his district together like an old woolen glove.   People liked him and were willing to hear him. Anyone would have found that gratifying. He certainly did.

The primary run proved a breeze, and more important inexpensive. Beyond the filing fee he didn't have to put forth much money or effort. His victory in that race, the first time he'd run for anything since he was elected Assistant Tool Foreman in Mr. Poffenberger's seventh grade shop class, indicated that he actually had a shot. His primary opponent was a for‑gosh‑sakes rummy who listed a bar in Frederick as his home address. When reporters asked him about his qualifications for office, he replied that he was “constitutionally qualified” and hit them up for a enough change for a pint of muscatel.

            He passed out while waiting to file for the campaign at the Elections Commission and barely made the deadline. Davy had to step over his urine soaked body to affix him name to the proper papers. He ran the race with confidence, trying out things he intended to use in the general election. A weak primary challenge proved a safe and painless way to bloody his sword. Before he managed to fall on it.

Like most every freshman politico, he really wanted to make a difference. To do that, of course, one has first to get elected. To figure a way to beat the system, that is, so stacked against challengers they seldom won.

            Maryland’s conservative and rural sixth district lies smack dab in Bush country. A sign off the Interstate: The NRA Welcomes You. Get Your Gun On. (This replaced: Register Communists, not Firearms which replaced: Impeach Earl Warren)  The district sprawls over four counties and parts of another. That's a lot of driving. Simply covering it took great stamina. But Davy subscribed completely to the belief that the grueling nature of electoral politics winnows the unfit and helps determine better leaders. He thought covering the entirety of Maryland’s sixth from shopping mall in Howard County to a Rod and Gun Club in Garret would steel him for the rigors of serving in Congress. It also helped him develop a profound respect for the fat cats to furnish a plane, or at least a driver and a comfortable car. Instead, he settled for 50,000 “Crockett for Congress” crickets.

            Wherever he went the crickets chirped Crockett for Congress, Crockett for Congress.

            He’d stuffed a good bit in the cookie jar. Unfortunately, enthusiasm gave birth to seriously flawed estimates.  He counted on spending just under 60K, including maxed-out Visa, Discovery and Mastercards. (American Express called for its card halfway through the campaign after they got a load of the bills he was running up.) Still, in all, not an unreasonable amount. But his opponent had lots of money and called up limitless reserves.

            So, Davy’s wallet got thin early, and he found himself relying on the generosity of people in cafes and diners for meals and hit his parents’ up for gas money. He campaigned out of the trunk of his car and slept in his old bedroom surrounded by my dusty SF novels and boxes of baseball cards, now worth considerably more than his future. Don't laugh. A Congressman on the Eastern Shore painted houses to tide himself over while he ran for office. And he won. Of course, he was a Republican. His party actually helped him.

            Davy was a Democrat. In Western Maryland’s Sixth Congressional District, that’s like saying you’re a Satanist. People are churched in these parts; a few have been known to handle snakes. The Democrats are moribund there — even though the state is heavily Democratic. They welcomed him like ... well, like the neophyte he was. It took no coaxing to get him shelling out for everything from pencils to toilet paper. Wearing bodacious grins of their own, they took his money — and when things turned sour, spit him out and walked away.

            During the 2000 campaign he’d stopped by the Democratic headquarters in his hometown to pick up a Gore poster for his parents’ front lawn. They didn’t have any and couldn’t say when they would. It was that bad for the Dimmicrats in the Western reaches of the state. Had it not been for Baltimore and the suburban counties around DC, Maryland would have swung to the GOP long ago.

            The only reason Spiro T. Agnew got elected governor way back in 1966 was the Democrats managed to nominate a racist whose campaign slogan was “Your Home is Your Castle. Protect it.” Agnew could run as the liberal and collect all those swing votes. The state has the sixth largest black population in the country, and this was in the middle of the Civil Rights era.

            Black voters put him in office, whereupon he turned on them with every bit as much venom as his Democratic opponent had. But then could you expect virtue from a small time Republican politician from an all-white suburb who’d been taking small time cash in unmarked envelopes? Please.

            Davy was trying to unseat GOP Radical Conservative named Venerable Barnhart, one of the GOP’s “citizen politicians.” He’d come in with the freshman class of ’94 and was one of the handful of congressmen who’d voted against condemning Newt Gingrich for his unethical conduct as Speaker of the House. Temporary Speaker of the House, as it turned out. (Newt’s excuse: But what my predecessor did was illegal. I didn’t break the law.” How Clintonesque!)

            When Davy read of Barnhart’s nay vote, he wrote him a plaintive letter. His response: “Our mission is too important to let such petty matters stand in the way of saving the nation.”

            Venerable Barnhart had to go to save the nation. He had ties to the militia movements, the League of the South, and the Council of Conservative Citizens. Not to mention the defunct Moral Majority and the floundering Christian Coalition. He was the right-winger’s right-winger. Everything was YES or NO with him. Mostly NO. On the other hand, he rarely showed up for votes or committee hearings. And no one in his party seemed to care. The people in his district knew him by name only. He was never around.

            But voters were frightened. Dark times were abroad in the land — all Bill and Hillary’s fault, right down to Enron, September 11 and Iraq. Barnhart stayed in office. Maryland’s Sixth was a rotten borough. Which gave Davy his opening.

            No one knew what exactly Barnhart did with his time. When Davy confronted him with this at the one candidate forum Barnhart consented to attend, he looked at his watch, the moderator and the door and changed the subject. He’d agreed to come to that particular event only if it was limited to half an hour. Half an hour! There were four candidates and an auditorium full of people, for Heaven’s sake. One of his aides actually jostled Davy out in the parking lot.

Venerable Barnhart, Big Man RepubliCAN


            As the weeks wore on and Davy developed a solid lead in the polls, the attack ads started. You have to hand it to Barnhart’s staff. They were solid gold: polished and brutally unfair. They tagged Davy a Big Government “liberalist” (presumably because it sounds more like “communist”). Davy responded with a smart quote from Lincoln that under girded his philosophy of government: “The purpose of government is to do for the people what they can't do for themselves, or do so well for themselves.” The polls didn’t budge.

            Then they tried “cultural Marxist” and trotted out the “acid, abortion, amnesty” slogan used against McGovern in the 1972. Davy returned the compliment, branding Venerable Barnhart a “Lennist-Reaganite” and wondered aloud at various church services if anyone could recall ever meeting Venerable’s wife, or, á la Reagan, seeing him in church. Davy threw in another little gem from Old Abe: “What is conservatism? Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried?”

            His lead held.

            By then the national party stepped in. Control of the House and therefore the nation was at stake. When they took off the gloves, his foolish ass was grass.

            He thought he was on my way to Capital Hill and told his friends as much. His buddy Jitz Harlow, a columnist for DC’s fattest newspaper, warned him to keep his guard up and his pants on. Politics was quirky. Davy didn’t listen and paid the price. He was high flyin’.


Chapter 2

Bare-Naked, Out the Window


            He was returning from the Hancock Apple Blossom Festival where he’d hoped to corral Mr. Barnhart and put some questions to him. He was there all right —until he spotted Davy. Barnhart’s aides shuttled him off to his waiting limo, claiming pressing matters of state.

            As he was sliding into his dark Lincoln low-rider, he glanced at Davy standing at his window and said, “Good to see you.” And unleashed the mother of all smirks.

            Davy used the opportunity to point out that his opponent was camera shy. He drew a crowd and the incident made the local news. Times like those that made it hard for him not to get cocky.

            Waving all the way, Davy got into my sensible, Tennessee-built Saturn and headed back to Billingsgate to spend the night at his boyhood home.

            He ate dinner with my parents and tried to calm their fears. His father was devoted to concern for his son. The day Davy called home collect with the news he'd gotten his Ph.D., the very first thing he'd said — without even pausing for congratulations — had been, “I think you should go back and get a bachelor's degree in business administration.”

            His father was a traditional, hard-working businessman, and like his hero, Ronald Reagan, he had the ingrained notion that academics cheat the time clock and therefore the taxpayers. Davy tried to convince him to consider Congress a career move. But he thought all politicians except St. Reagan were bounders and poltroons. And he wasn't so sure about Reagan anymore either. Convincing him the House of Representatives was a good career move had been Davy’s first attempt at campaigning.

            After helping with the dishes, it was out to a meet-and-greet at the Little League in Boonsboro, a few miles down Alternate Route 40, the old national highway cutting through Maryland into the Cumberland Gap. Another well traveled two-lane blacktop, hardly a back road in the truest sense, unless you’re comparing it to Interstate 70.

            A few hours watching Kwanis lose to Rotary and Davy left for home, planning to stop off at one or two small places along the way to say Howdy. He stopped for gas at French’s Gas n’ Eat and went inside to pay. As he came out munching on a corn dog, which was their specialty they insisted he try, he spotted an unlikely blond leaning against his car, casting her appraisal his way.

            “I wouldn’t suggest doing that,” he said, referring to her reclined position. Her expression — one raised eyebrow — asked, Oh, and why not? “It hasn’t been washed lately. Wouldn’t want you to get you skirt dirty.”

            Her response was to remove the gas cap and begin pumping gas. Davy stood by trying to keep his eyes on the gauge. She gave his a glow of recognition, a look of such familiarity he glanced over his shoulder to make sure it was really him getting the glow job.

            He concluded she knew him from the campaign, smiled and tried not to look self-conscious. “Stop at ten dollars,” he said. “Please.”

            “Dollars or gallons?”

            But she’d already gone over. She topped it off, and, holding up an admonishing hand, went in to make up the difference. She returned, fixing her gamine eyes on him, a sleek mane of nearly baby-white hair framing them, lank-limbed, shapely, well endowed, and a tad less forbidding in her beauty than the young Grace Kelly. But only a tad.

            “How 'bout a ride, handsome?” nodding in the wrong direction.

            “I'm afraid I’m not going that way.”

            “I have to meet someone.”

            “I’d like to, but I'm headed the opposite direction.” Davy indicated the road towards Billingsgate. “I’m sorry.”

            “Can I come along?”

            Davy looked so startled she added quickly, “Relax, we got our signals crossed, that's all.”


            She tossed the hair from her eyes. “Well, how about it?”

            He shrugged. “Sure.”

            She climbed in mumbling, “I'd thought I'd missed you.”

            “Beg pardon?” When she gave him an attractive rendition of Come Hither, he blurted, “Where'd you say you were heading?”

             “Straight,” she responded. “Or the first decent motel you come to.”

            “How’s that again?” He wasn’t certain what she’d said because of the blood roaring in his ears. Nobody gets this lucky, he was thinking. He was right, but it didn’t dawn on him until it was way too late. At that point, all he could hear was the hopeful thunder of his throbbing heart.

            She repeated the magic words. “Motel. Okay, it doesn't have to be a decent one. The closest one would be best. How about the Dew Drop Inn over the next hill?”

            Caution flags were waving all over the place. This was too good to be true, and for once in his life, Davy had other things of greater import. Still, this was also once in a lifetime. “Where are you from?” he asked, as nonchalant as a six year old channeling the Croc Hunter.

            “Delta Charlie.”

            “Delta Charlie? Is that in this solar system?”

            “It’s in D.C.”

            Davy giggled. “I've never heard it called that before.”

            “My sister made it up.” She explained.

            “You mean there are two of you?”

            She thought for a moment before she said, “We’re not twins, if that’s what you mean. “

            They rounded the hill and sure enough off to the left, half a football field from the road was a Been-there, Done-that, No-Tell Motel called, Rose’s Dew Drop Inn. In rural Maryland it amounted to visual Muzak.

            He located the office facing away from the road behind a redoubt of spent kitchen appliances, pulled up and started to get out.

            “Don't bother getting a room,” his hitchhiker said. “It's been taken care of. We're in number 9.”

            Of course, no one else would have gotten suspicious at this point either. Not a bit.

            You could describe Davy Crockett as a testosterone-blinded fool who reconstructed red herrings like this only in retrospect. But the fact as he’d been alone in life for a good while and, despite the real friendliness of the crowds, was thirty-four years old and quite lonely.

            The sad and daunting fact of the matter was as follows: the utter bogosity of this situation was merely a gnat in his beet-red ears.

            No excuses, please. But the poor guy never knew what hit him. They strolled in. He fled to the broken down chair, thinking, Now what? She kicked off her shoes. Her toes were painted gun-metal. She had elegant arches. This latter, he almost blurted out, God help him.

            She sat down on the edge of the bed and said, “So, how’s the campaign going, Congressman?”

            “I’m not a congressman yet.”

            “You’re well on the way, wouldn’t you say?”

            “I would.”

            “I would, too.”

            “Let me ask you a question. Do you think I’m forward?”

            “Me? No. Why would you ask?”

            She laughed and disrobed, daintily turning away while she slipped off her under garments.

            This he found re-assuring. Catching his thought, she said. “I don’t usually do things like this, you know. Consider yourself lucky.”

            “Oh, believe me, I do.”  He was gapping.

            “Are you gonna leave me all alone with my Nebraska?” she asked.


Chapter 3

Davy Gets His Fifteen

Standing on the balcony at the Justice Department gazing down on Pennsylvania Avenue flooded with anti-war demonstrators, Richard Nixon’s Attorney General John N. Mitchell pointed to a particularly unruly group, heavily infiltrated by his own agents provocateur, and remarked, “There goes the hard core.” Mitchell added, “This country is going to go so far right you won’t recognize it.” He was right. Maryland’s Sixth Congressional District provides an object lesson.


    Jitz Harlow


            A short time later her cell phone sounded. She drove straight for her purse, which took her directly over him, elegant arches and all. “Where are you?” She snapped and hung up.

            “Who was that?”

            “Wrong number.” But Davy knew it wasn't.

            The door flew open and someone jumped into the room. The blond sat up as though to say, Well?

            The three of them squinted through the gloom at one another for a long second until this person, a woman, tangled brunette beneath the ball cap and bomber jacket thrust a video camera up to her nose and a little red light winked ‘Gotcha.’

            Any reverie Davy may have been entertaining ended forthwith as stage direction was hurtled in his direction, semi-coherent orders to we sit up, look startled — as if he had to be told — blink at the camera lens, etc., etc.

            The brunette reached down and yanked the sheets away from the hitchiker bedmate, exposing her breasts, in addition to, well, her favorite state, tattoo and pierced navel included.

            Davy leapt out of bed. Snatching up his clothes one item at a time, trying to hold them against him.  “What the hell is this?” he spit at the blond. The hurt in his voice distinct and discernable in the confusion only increased his humiliation.

            She pretended she didn’t hear. He got down on his hands and knees and fumbled under the bed for his wallet. He retrieved it, gathered his belongings and jumped through the open window, unleashing a string of epithets that would soon be aired on Imus in the Morning. Stills from this scene, with modesty boxes across his dangling evidence and his unadorned butt as he was feeling for his wallet showed up in just about every supermarket tabloid and high gloss magazine out there.

            Davy got his fifteen minutes, whether he wanted them or not. Videos were soon available for download at the cost of an e-mail address courtesy of any number of websites offering the best in amateur porn and underage girls gone wild. Lovely, just lovely.

             “I’m single,” he shouted. Not that it would matter. At that point in the ever-changing perception of good versus bad, his sin wasn’t having a fling with Paris Hilton’s role model. That might well have garnered me votes. No liberal fairy, that Davy Crockett His sin was getting caught on video with Ole Betsy flapping. He was fucked. Like totally.

            Five miles later, he thought maybe he’d better go back and confront these two. He returned to the Dew Drop Inn. The blond, the brunette and her camera were gone.

            He was tempted to put it aside and continue with the campaign. That little delusion lasted all of six hours. That’s how long it took him to learn a valuable lesson.

            In politics, as in governance, things happen slowly — until the roof caves in. Then they happen so rapidly there’s nothing you can do about them. To survive you have to stay one step ahead. Playing catch-up means you’ve already lost.

            Once the scandal broke neither Davy’s popularity with the voters nor Barnhart’s nearly nonexistent record helped. And Tom Brokaw mispronounced his name the one time he mentioned it. Victory was Venerable Barnhart’s to savor. Davy was left trying to link him to the two women. He failed there as well.

            On election night he sat at home with his parents, the three of them watching the returns in the undisguised gloom of a darkened house, as though Ma and Pa Crockett were hoping no one knew they were home. “Well, son, there's always the School Board,” said dear old dad with enormous sympathy.

            The one fortunate aspect of his cheapo-cheapo campaign was that he didn't have to show up at a hotel ballroom to make a hail and hearty concession speech to misty-eyed followers. Davy ended his noble dream with a telegram to Venerable Barnhart, saying, “Congratulations on a fortunate campaign and victory. You have inspired me to try again in two years. Until then, I wish you much success working on behalf of the good citizens of the Sixth District.”

            Not the most gracious of concessions. He already knew there wouldn’t be a next time. Short of a Born Again conversion, those images from the motel would be impossible to slough off. He wasn’t about to pretend to embrace the 1baby Jesus for political gain. He had one or two values left, believe it or not.          Oh well, sigh one sigh and get on with it. The trick was not surrendering his beliefs to a fit of post-election cynicism. He wished his folks pleasant dreams and repaired to his bedroom, where he spent a fitful hour trying not to think about his monumental stupidity by going through a box of childhood memorabilia that his mom left out for him. A laminated newspaper photo of kids donating “a grand total of $8.17” to the Red Cross for flood relief, the proceeds from a neighborhood variety show. The photo of Davy and his friends their upturned faces devoid of all pretense and guile proudly presenting their tiny wad of cash brought him the closest he ever came to tears.

            Clutching that picture, he fell into burdenless sleep — until several hours later his mother crept in cloaking her robe and gently disturbed the covers around his shoulders. “You have a phone call,” she whispered.

            “At this hour? It must be the media,” He felt for my watch, mumbling, “Why on earth would they want me now?”

            “It's after three AM. It's a woman.” His mom still didn't like the idea of him dating. “There's plenty of time for that,” she'd advised when he went off to college. As he graduated and started his career, she further advised him to wait until he was established.  “Then you can have your girlfriends.”

            Mom was right, of course. She must have had strong intuition about that. “Give me a break, Ma,” he'd said to her. “I'm only thirty-four-years-old.”

            “You're closer to forty than I am.” Her problem was she wanted grandchildren and no daughter-in-law. “I wish you wouldn't have your women calling you here. Your father needs his rest.”

            “Did she give a name?”

            “Don't stay on long. It's late.” She handed him the phone and went back to bed.


Chapter 4

Register Columnists, not Firearms


… “Upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed?” From Maryland’s Sixth to the California’s Tenth and back again to North Carolina and Florida, do these men and women really believe they can aspire to leadership while carrying on like life’s a frat party? Not only did before the voters, they have handed the country over to zealots so far to the right their own mothers fear them.


‘The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves’ Mitchell went to jail and then on to Hell. But he was right. The hard core right took over the country. Et, tu, Brute?


                                                                                                  —Jitz Harlow


            Thinking better of disturbing his father more than he already had, Davy made his way down the steps and onto the back porch despite the chilly air.

            “Hello,” he shivered.

            “Is this Crockett for Congress headquarters?” a woman’s voice tittered. Sounded vague familiar. But before he could match the throaty, ironic, smart-mouth with a face, it handed off the phone —whiskey gave way to cigarettes. Too many cigarettes. “You asshole.”

            This voice Davy knew. “Calling to rub it in, huh?”

            “Feeling sorry for ourselves, are we?”

            “Only for getting out of a comfortable bed to take your call.”

            “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

            “You warned me.”

            “That’s what I get paid for.”

            “Warning people? I doubt it.”

            “Dispensing unwanted advice.”

            “You seem to be taking particular joy in it.”

            “What are you going to do next?”

            “I haven’t thought about it.”
            “You sorry piece of shit. You didn’t think about a lot of things, did you?”

            “Who’s the one with the barroom voice lying beside you?”

            “Sitting, I’m at work still. A friend.”

            “You mean another groupie you’ve brought into the newsroom on election night hoping you’ll get lucky?”

            “You’ll meet her soon enough. Look, I didn’t call to rub it in. I called because I wanted to make sure you know, personally and not through e-mail, that if you need anything, if there’s anything I can do for you, give me a call.”

            Davy felt a lump forming. “Thanks, Jitz. I really appreciate it.”

            “Your friends will help you, Davy. By the way, check out my column tomorrow.”

            “You’re not gonna do a number on me, are you? You’re the whoremonger, not me.”

            “That may be, but I’m not the one who got caught with my pants down.”

            That throaty laugh played in the background again. Jitz hung up and Davy went back to bed. Enough of late night phone calls.

            His friend Jitz Harlow was widely read and celebrated in journalistic circles and among suburban professionals who didn’t know him the way Davy knew him. Classic: small town lad makes good, his star rising straight out of college and shot ever upward. There seemed no limits to the dimensions of his fame and influence. He went from news aide to the Metro Desk in a year. A front page series on gang warfare in the suburbs won him a Neiman Fellowship and a book contract. The book flirted with the bestseller list and became a TV series. He returned to work on the national desk and had himself a column at the end of his second year.

            After his on-air fistfight with Sean Hannity, he became the darling of the chattering classes — and perhaps, so the gossip went, CBS’s long sought replacement for Eric Sevaride. He featured himself as the next Walter Lippman. What a coup for a fatherless boy whose mother spent much of his teenage years “dating”.

            Jitz, Davy and several other townies left Billingsgate for the state university and from there embarked on various careers in the DC area, all of them seeking fame, fortune and the love of women. They’d stayed friends over the years via monthly Friday night dinners. Jitz, a Secret Service agent, and others scattered in and out of mid-level government and private industry jobs. Davy had stayed in college until there were no more degrees to be had and defaulted into teaching. Now he was headed back to academia, licking his wounds.

            The following January he returned to his previous future, a future he’d hoped to leave behind, a future where he’d spent the previous half dozen years teaching American history.

            Because Davy’s student evaluations ranked him at the top of his department, he was able to get the same two courses he’d taught prior taking leave for the election. These student ratings had maybe beguiled him into running for Congress in the first place. His chair brought him in to sign his contract, shook his hand and exclaimed, “God, I hate adjuncts.”

            “Me, too,” Davy replied.

            His school hired to teach most of their courses, at one eighth the pay and no benefits. That meant limited office space, no parking, telephone calls or free photocopying. Forget about travel and research grants. If they were able somehow to take a semester off to do research — or run for office — they risked loosing their job to another desperate adjunct.

            This is one half of academia’s dirty secret: Adjuncts such as Davy Crockett are the people parents go into hock to pay to teach their kids. Adjuncts earned less than the graduate students that assisted them. That’s the other half.

            Davy shared a converted storage closet with two other adjuncts. He had the afternoons. They split mornings. Several professors balked at removing their filing cabinets and spare journals so there was no place to put his course materials other than in cardboard boxes on the desk. His three graduate teaching assistants assigned to his 240 student survey course sat on the floor when they met with him. Working for Davy had a funky sort of caché.

            Davy also resumed living in the same apartment he’d been in since grad school, a mildewed, one-bedroom basement apartment in Takoma Park, ten minutes off campus. The rent was low, the upkeep nonexistent. An altogether great place to live when your prime concern is comprehensive examinations, orals and a long-haul dissertation. Otherwise, it wasn’t exactly condo heaven. In fact, by this point in his life it had become a place he never invited anyone to visit.

            That made it all the more surprising when he returned home from class late one afternoon to find a box of cookies wedged between the doors. They were of the homemade chocolate chip variety with M & M’s pressed into their scorched upper surface. Judging from the black scoring beneath, these babies were the work of an undergraduate. No note was attached, but the box was a used large Pizza-U-Go complete with a disc-shaped grease stain. The cookies rattled around like marbles.

            Davy ate them for dinner. Hard as marble, too.


Chapter 5

Twice Bitten

Neo-conservatives, paleo-conservatives, cultural conservatives, Christian conservatives, compassionate conservatives — what’s going on here? Paleos are isolationist. Neo-cons are Imperialists. Cultural cons are disgruntled frumps. Christian cons are zealots. Compassionate cons are liars. They are all ‘Leninist Conservatives’, which makes them ruthless relativists.

Theirs is a radical vision at odds with both the Declaration of Independence        and the Ten Commandments. In additions, these Radical Conservatives are far more elitist and condescending than the liberals they despise. 


                                                                                    —Jitz Harlow


            Monday of the second week of the semester a student showed up during office hours to get help with the course work, claiming she had fallen behind. Her first words once seated were, “Dr. Crockett?”

            The simple fact she wasn’t sure she was who he was should have sounded all the tocsins.

            “Do I know you?” He made a throwaway gesture with his hand, adding when shook her head too quickly, I guess it’s from class.”

            “Did you get the cookies?”

            “Those were yours?

            She nodded.

            “Thank you. Very thoughtful. I was surprised you were able to find my place. It’s sort of hidden.”

            She said nothing. Continued watching him, as though waiting for something to happen. In the cramped space, their knees were all but touching. Davy got up and slid past her to make sure the door to his closet space was open. He didn’t want to risk any accusations.

            By this point he was gun shy. Besides, she was so bewitching he didn’t trust himself.

            Bewitching and then some. Beneath the inspiring nest of raven-hair that reminded him of crumpled bed sheets, was the pouty face of God’s teenage daughter and a leggy body straight off the catwalk. He cleared away what clutter he could and rested his elbow on the clean spot. “What’s your name?” he asked.

            “Miss Virginia.”

            “No, no,” Davy laughed. “I mean your name, not your title. Although I’m surprised it’s not Miss America.

            “Miss Virginia is my name. Miss Virginia Dick,” she said. When she smiled at him, time stood still. She had a big gomer of a smile, the sort that has made movie stars out of several beautiful women,. There was certain resemblance between Julia Roberts, Amanda Peet and Miss Virginia, now that he paused to consider it. But that wasn’t quite it. Something was queer about this.

            “Which class are you in?” he asked her.

            “History.” It sounded like a question.

            “I teach two.”

            “Oh….” She wasn’t carrying a book bag or notebook, or even the school newspaper. Nothing more than her car keys, to which she clung with white knuckles.

            “Are you parked at a meter?” Davy asked.

            To her uncertain nod he mimicked the turning of a meter key. She nodded somewhat more vigorously.

            “How much time to you have on it?” he asked, “Those fines are excruciating.”

            She shrugged. “Enough.” This comely student was winging it, exhibiting the sort of emotions students don’t develop until they flunk an exam or two — or want a letter of recommendation based upon shoddy work. This wasn’t about any of that. It was far too early in the semester. And even then, most women students, even those as beautiful as this one, blush. Male students play St.Vitus and look out the window. This one maintained a steady gaze.

            “Do you have the syllabus?”

            “Actually ...” Ms. God was probably in her mid-20s, which made her all the more appealing.

            He handed her one from each class. She glanced at the packet of papers in her hand, holding them as she had received them. “Which course are you in?”

            “This one.” She said without hesitation — and without indicating which syllabus. She’d chosen the survey course, 240 students knee to back in a large lecture hall, sufficient to explain why he wouldn’t recognize her even if she had been to class. Which she hadn’t. There seemed to be some question about her attendance in this or any class on campus or off.

            Leaning forward in his battered folding chair, which squeaked like the bleating of a rusty alarm bell, he pointed to the readings for the first two weeks. As he did she raised a finger ever so slightly so that it brushed mine.

            Davy sat back in his chair, watching her apprehensively That little move had been too well calculated. When he spoke, his voice was weak and unconvincing. “You should also talk to your TA about what’s expected of you in discussion. It’s thirty percent of your grade … but you haven’t been to discussion class, have you?”

A shake of the head, a toss of the curls. Christ, why bother with college, why not

go straight to Maxim or the Hot Issue of Rolling Stone?

“You don’t know who your TA is, do you?”
Toss of the mane.

            “Why are you here?” But he thought he already knew. His head swirled with inchoate stages of paranoia. What have I done to deserve this, he wondered?

            He stood up and motioned to the door. “Lecture is this afternoon. Do you know where the classroom is? Or the building?”

            She didn’t bother with an answer. Instead, she ran a nervous hand through her hair. It had the effect of sweeping tangles from her face on one side.

            “It’s right downstairs.” By now, he had abandoned all pretense and was staring. He was sure he knew her from another place. Somewhere other than a crowded lecture hall. With half her face exposed, her appearance changed enough that it became still more familiar to him.

Brushing past him on her way out, slowing only, it seemed to him, to release the death grip on her car keys. Her knuckles were bled-white.

            Then it struck it with such fury he lurched against the door. “You’re the one with the camera!” he shouted.

            “Come back here, goddamnit. You’re not getting off this easy. You owe me an explanation!”

            Other professors sitting in their offices, male and female alike, looked up at her from their laptops — and yes, startled at Davy’s craven outburst, as they would report when asked. They would also report on the tears sluicing along the young student’s face and across her neck.

            She filed sexual harassment charges the very next day on grounds of verbal abuse and creating a hostile educational environment. Charges corroborated by his colleagues. To seal the indictment, Miss Virginia Dick was, or had been until that day, a student in his survey course. Whether she’d ever attended was moot.

            The day after his hearing was announced his Chair removed him from his classes for the protection of the students. He might just as well kept the door closed and groped her. Too late, though he would always remember the mane.

            No one. No one at all paid much attention to his complaints that he was being set up. Davy’s accusations she’d been involved somehow in a nefarious plot to discredit him and ruin his congressional campaign and teaching career, were scoffed at and dismissed.  He’d used foul language against a female student. She was traumatized. He was fucked, again. Like totally.