Election Race – Round 1 Short Story Challenge 2016

I’ve been away, so I didn’t get to post my story as soon as the confirmation email came out. As previously discussed, NYC Midnight do a yearly Short Story Challenge. The object of the challenge is that they provide you with a set of prompts (genre, subject, and character for this challenge) and a deadline, and then you write it. In this challenge, the genre is absolute, the subject must be involved in the story, and the character really should be important to the story.

My prompts were:

Genre: Political Satire
Subject: A hoax
Character: An intern

Synopsis: Join us tonight for the season finale of Election Race – the show that lets you vote for the next President of the US of A. Interviews, controversies, and surprises are in-store for our two remaining contestants, so don’t miss out!

Election Race

When Election Race began, I was a bit of an idealist. The job listing said it all. “Intern required. Unpaid. One season of new reality series. Guaranteed employment at end.”

Fifteen months later, I was still an intern…

 

I walked into the room with two tall cups. Somehow my life had been reduced to retrieving orders of white chocolate cinnamon soy chai lattes and Earl Grey teas with a touch of lemon.

“Welcome back, America! To Election Race!” Jake said. His voice carried across the mansion. There was a certain inflection in it that I always found irresistible. It’s why he was the host.

“We have narrowed down our candidates from twenty-four to two, and at the end of our episode, you will be voting for who will become the next President of the US of A.”

I chuckled a little inside. What if I exposed the truth of this elaborate hoax?

Instead, though, I just gave them their drinks. Charlotte Lopez sat on the furthermost right side of the room. Her crossed legs showed more tanned skin than not, and one hand rested on the miniature Shih Tzu in her lap. She took the latte and nodded her thanks.

Next to Charlotte was Daniel Primm, wearing his customary blue suit with a white shirt and red tie that screamed ‘Merica!’ He straightened up and took a sip of his tea. In all the months of the show, he never once made eye contact with me. It was like I was nothing more than a well-dressed fly.

The cameras started to shift, so I shuffled out of view and took a seat.

“Before we open up for voting,” Jake continued, “we’re going to have each contestant make their closing statements.

“You, at home, can join along too, with the Election Race app – available on Apple, Android, and Windows phones, tablets, and smartwatches! You can watch past episodes, read candidate bios, and follow their path to success.”

Jake sat in a comfortable chair in his smart casual shirt and blue jeans—one leg atop the other.

“Charlotte Lopez,” Jake called.

Charlotte rose, lifted the dog, and tucked it under her arm like a handbag. The tiny creature made a solitary bark before it nestled its head down into Charlotte’s hand. Its furry ears were punctuated with pink bows that matched Charlotte’s tailored suit.

When she reached Jake, she bent a little more than necessary to accentuate her voluptuous bottom before settling down.

“Charlotte,” Jake smiled in his best Ryan Seacrest grin, “you were thirteen when you were discovered. You started modelling in your home state of Texas. In college, you won the Miss America pageant before moving on to acting. Your film debut garnered you an Academy Award and helped to launch your own reality TV show, ‘Charming Charlotte,’ in which you broke stereotypes by dating both men and women. You met your wife, Alice Mendelsohn, on the show, and you married her in the series finale. Since then, you have been a Glamour Woman of the Year, started your own magazine, and had two beautiful children through IVF. Is there anything you can’t do?”

Charlotte smiled and gave a flirtatious giggle before answering, “Yeah, Jake. I can’t pee standing up.”

I sighed, lowered my head, and gently shook it from side to side. Really?

Jake gave an awkward chuckle before going further. “Over the course of the last fifteen months, you have proven yourself incredibly capable with many of our challenges. What do you credit your success to?”

“Well, I thank God everyday for the opportunities He has given me, and it is through Him that my support comes,” Charlotte answered.

Jake grinned and took a moment for the words to sink in. I gagged a little. If only the public knew that she frequently cheated on her wife almost every week.

“In Week 15, you stated that you believe it is important for a separation of church and state, but then in Week 23, you said that there was a War on Christianity and that needed to be addressed.”

“I’m really glad you asked that!” Charlotte said. “What I want more than anything is world peace!”

Jake nodded, “Are you saying that you think people of all religions should be treated as equal in our country?”

“That’s what I said, isn’t it?”

I wondered if she realised how hypocritical she sounded.

“When did you realize you could make it to the end?”

“I said it from the beginning. I knew I was better than all of the other contestants, just as I know now that I’m better than Daniel. My fans know it. The country knows it. God knows it,” she said, pausing for emphasis. “But there was this one standout moment that convinced me completely. That was during Week 32 when we had to run our own homeless shelters. I’d never seen a homeless person before. I didn’t realise how debilitating that disease was, and I had thought the stories of them had been exaggerated. But when that dirty old woman came and landed a kiss on my cheek, I knew then and there that I had touched the whole country.”

“Didn’t you scrub that kiss off your cheek, though?”

“Oh, sure! At the time, I was worried I’d catch homelessness, but I still felt the profound nature of it.”

“Right. Okay… That just about wraps up our interview, Charlotte. Do you have any further statements that you wish to make?”

“Absolutely, Jake! I think America really needs a woman in office. I bring to the table a perspective no one has ever had before! I know what it is to be in the public eye. Living in Texas, I know what it’s like to always be under threat of being invaded, so I have a great deal of understanding of foreign affairs.”

“I think it’s high time that the people of the United States know what is happening in the Oval Office, so my promise is to bring the cameras right on in and show America exactly what is going down.”

I was sure that she had been joking in that episode when she announced a reality TV show should be centred on the Oval Office. Clearly, she wasn’t.

“Oh and to all those haters that think I’m a walking contradiction, need I remind you that all people are created equal in the eyes of the Lord.” She raised her hand to the ceiling and lifted her gaze.

Jake smirked for a moment before he took a breath. “Thank you for your time, Charlotte.”

I felt my heart race. These two people deserved what was coming to them. I just hoped it would be as funny as it was in my mind.

“Hello, Daniel. Thank you for joining me,” Jake said. Daniel sat down and unbuttoned his jacket. “Daniel, since well before coming on Election Race, you have been a multi-billionaire media mogul. You inherited your wealth from your family, but as a savvy businessman, you have been instrumental in maintaining and expanding on that wealth over your career. As one of the biggest names in the country, you also have dabbled in reality TV shows before appearing on this one. You’ve proven yourself highly capable at any area of business, and have been known to make difficult situations go away with your wit and charm, and if that didn’t resolve it, money. How is it that you manage to do so much?”

Through extortion, secrets, and blackmail. Not to mention that his family’s company had actually lost money since he’d taken over.

“Jake,” Daniel said, inspecting his nails, “I see it like this. If you want something, you owe it to yourself and your family to just go after it. That’s the American dream.”

“You’ve had multiple successes on this series, Daniel, and some very controversial decisions have been made in your favour as well. What do you credit your success to?”

“Me, naturally. I am very good at what I do, and I do not mince words. Of course, God plays a part in there, as well, because He touches everything.”

But you don’t believe in God, Daniel. You’re only saying that to get the votes. How easily people forget what they don’t want to hear. Like the time you said that people who believed in a higher power suffered from a form of mass delusion.

“There has been some controversy about what you’ve said previously in Weeks 12, 23, 24, and 49 regarding our ethnic citizens. Do you have anything you would like to say about that?”

“I believe that the people of America understand what I mean perfectly well. Our great country was built on our individual freedoms, and there are people out there—murderers, rapists, terrorists—that threaten our way of life. We would be ignorant to ignore it. I only want this great nation to remain the strongest in the world.”

“So you are saying that you believe those people not from the United States need to leave?”

“I just want American citizens to be safe.”

I wanted to slap the man. He had once said he thought all Muslims should wear a piece of clothing to show that they were Muslim. Who was he? Hitler?

Jake sniffed slightly and swallowed before resuming, “What about your assessment of foreign affairs?”

Daniel puffed out his chest. “There was no better candidate to deal with foreign dignitaries as me. I have 40 years of business experience, and much of my success has come from foreign investors and businessmen. The political world is not unlike the business world, and I have proven that through the course of this show.”

“But you also –“

“Jake, let me finish,” Daniel said. “I also think that America has all the industry it needs to run the country without foreign assistance. Let’s stop sending jobs overseas and employ real American people to do our work.”

Primm Industries owned sweatshops in China. I wondered if anyone thought about that.

Jake smirked at the camera and continued, “Were there any specific moments on the show that you realised you might be able to make it to the finale?”

“I always knew. I never would have come onto the show otherwise. I am a winner, and I only ever start something that I know I can finish.”

If only he knew. The only reason he was still on the show was because he was a giant dick to everyone.

“There weren’t any key moments in the show for you, at all?”

“None. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate all of the support that the country gave me during this show, but it was a bit unnecessary since we all knew from the start I would be the best candidate.”

“Hmm. Okay, then,” Jake said. “Are there any parting words you want to make before we start the voting?”

“No,” Daniel said. He stood up and walked away.

“Voting has now opened,” Jake said with a flourish of his hand. “Call the number at the bottom of your screen and simply vote Lopez or Primm at the prompt. For those with the app, you can vote now at the main screen, and for those with a PC or Mac, visit our website election race tv dot com. Vote now to see who the next President of the US of A will be! While you do, here are some highlights from the show!”

The cameras lowered, and Jake walked away from the two would-be politicians. He motioned to me, and I walked over to join him.

“What are our ratings?” Jake asked.

I studied my iPad and shook my head, “Still at one million viewers.”

“We kept the two people that the public demanded to see, but we still lost viewership. How does that happen?”

“Boredom, I guess. No one enjoys watching a bunch of grown men and women act like children for 65 weeks.”

Jake sighed and studied the two remaining contestants. “Do you think they know?”

I shook my head and snickered. “They’re too self absorbed to pay attention.”

 

Fifteen minutes later, Jake stood between Charlotte and Daniel. Their arms were around each other with an American flag as a backdrop behind them.

“And we’re back!” Jake said. “Your votes are in!

“Over the last fifteen months, we have had some ups and downs, but Election Race has been all about one thing: your support! The network and I would like to extend our thanks to everyone for your continued viewership. We would also like to thank the crew here, for all of their efforts in bringing this show to you week in and week out.”

Daniel cleared his throat, and Charlotte shifted her weight closer into Jake.

“Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, the new President of the US of A is… Charlotte Lopez!”

Charlotte pulled away and screamed at the top of her lungs. Then her hand clasped over her mouth, and she bent over, nearly losing her dog in the process. Its terrified barks punctuated her jubilation. Daniel stepped away, a look of scorn heavy across his face.

Jake let the moment sink in. I handed Charlotte a crown. She snatched it from me, without realizing the stupidity of it, and placed it on her own head.

“Charlotte,” Jake said. He motioned me back to the flag. I pulled the rope to loosen it and watched it start its descent. A smile spread across our faces. “You are now the President of the United Syndicate of Asses.”

The American flag fell to the ground revealing a large group of people bent over showing their bare-bottom posteriors on the front lawn.

Charlotte’s excitement ceased. Her face turned red. She clung to her dog before her eyes rolled into her head, and she swooned.

Jake made no attempt to catch her. He was too busy laughing to see the right hook coming.

“You son of a bitch!” Daniel said as the blow landed.

Jake fell to the ground and shook his head—mouth agape.

I doubled over with laughter. It was so worth not getting paid for fifteen months to see this in person.

I guess I’m not really an idealist anymore.

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