Two cypress trees framed the steps leading to Amy’s porch. I rang the doorbell and breathed the lush perfume of honeysuckle. It had been a while since I’d dated and I’d heard things had changed. The door opened.
“Hi! Come on in.” Amy’s complexion glowed with health. She had wrinkles in the corners of her eyes and her lips curled into a perpetual smile as if she shared a secret with the universe.
Amy was a physician’s assistant. I’d met her at the gym. After we discovered a mutual love of Italian Neorealism, I’d asked her out. She showed me into a ramshackle living room, the kind most working mothers had.
“This is my daughter, Julie.”
“Hey.” Amy’s teen daughter lifted her head and then turned back to her smart phone.
“And who’s this?” I pointed to a gray-haired man with a double chin. He wore a white suit and a string tie.
“Oh, that’s Senator Mitch Buzzkill,” Amy said. “He’ll be joining us because the Supreme Court ruled that all consenting adults’ intimacy is subject to his whims.”
“Do I have to buy him dinner, too?” I whispered.
“Just go along with it.” Amy touched my forearm. “If we keep him happy, he might leave us alone.”
It was a Saturday night so Republican politicians crowded the restaurant. With the pandemic that had killed a million Americans, January 6 insurrection, inflation, shortage of baby formula, and war in Ukraine it was amazing how they found the time to chaperon thirty and forty-year-old couples.
“What will you have, ma’am?” the waiter asked Amy.
“How about the BLT lettuce wrap?”
“Excellent choice, and to drink?”
“A Harpoon IPA.”
“And you, sir?”
“I’ll have the Bangkok Street noodles.” I handed the waiter my menu. “Just water to drink.”
“And you, senator?”
“I’ll start with foie gras and the wagyu steak tartare.” Buzzkill said. “Then bring me the branzino with a green goddess salad. And toss in a bottle of Château de Chasselas, too.”
Too stunned for words, Amy and I sat in silence until the waiter brought our plates. I reached for my fork.
“Aren’t you forgetting something?” Buzzkill bowed his head. “Dear Lord, we thank You for this bounty…” He began shoveling food into his mouth after the amen.
I guess nothing works up an appetite like ramming your religion down other people’s throats. At least with Buzzkill distracted, Amy and I had a chance to talk.
“How do you become a physician’s assistant, anyway?” I asked.
“Earn a master’s degree and take a board exam.” Amy bit into her lettuce BLT. “This is good. Want a taste.” She cut a piece and placed it on my plate.
Instead of bacon, it was made with smoked lamb. I tasted aioli and heirloom tomatoes, too.
“Much better than mine,” I said.
But Senator Buzzkill’s meal was better than both of ours. A reduction of figs in balsamic topped his foie gras, his steak tartare came with fresh wasabi and shaved radish, and the fish was broiled to perfection. His salad was a salad.
“Graduate school was a struggle as a single mom, especially after Ron died.” Amy reached for another lettuce wrap but Buzzkill beat her to it.
“Waiter!” Buzzkill yelled. “Another bottle of Château de Chasselas!”
I needed to take out a second mortgage to cover the senator’s meal and that of his two Secret Service bodyguards who trailed him like a pair of remoras. The night was young so I suggested a movie.
“I want to see Everything Everywhere All at Once,” Amy said.
“Negative!” Buzzkill said. “Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is more in line with my family values.”
So, we watched a movie about a video-game character while Senator Buzzkill sat between us, rustling candy wrappers, guzzling soft drinks, and gorging on popcorn. At evening’s end, he allowed me to kiss Amy goodnight.
“Keep your hands where I can see them,” he said, “and no tongue.”
Once she was safely inside, he handed me a campaign pamphlet.
“Hope you’ll donate to the RNC. Unlike those Democrats, we’re the party of personal freedom. Well, got to round up the riot squad. Kids have been playing hopscotch in front of Susan Rollins’ house again.”
Jon Wesick is a regional editor of the San Diego Poetry Annual. He’s published hundreds of poems and stories in journals such as the Atlanta Review, Berkeley Fiction Review, New Verse News, Paterson Literary Review, Pearl, Pirene’s Fountain, Slipstream, Space and Time, and Tales of the Talisman. The editors of Knot Magazine nominated his stories “The Visitor” and “A Story for the Rest of Us” for Pushcart Prizes. His poem “Meditation Instruction” won the Editor’s Choice Award in the 2016 Spirit First Contest. Another poem “Bread and Circuses” won second place in the 2007 African American Writers and Artists Contest. “Richard Feynman’s Commute” shared third place in the 2017 Rhysling Award’s short poem category. Jon is the author of the poetry collections Words of Power, Dances of Freedom and A Foreigner Wherever I Go as well as several novels and short story collections. His most recent novel is The Prague Deception. http://jonwesick.com