Anna was only twelve, but she was old enough to know that a lot of things were wrong, and somebody ought to do something about them. Her mom told her last year that she should write to the President if she really wanted to talk to somebody about it though, because she didn't want to hear it anymore.
After that, Anna wrote Mr. Obama a letter every week for three months and sealed them in envelopes she took off her mothers desk. She wrote to him about her neighborhood in Baltimore, about her mom losing her car, about how last month they had to close the school down for three days 'cause a little boy got shot, and about a lot of other stuff she saw around the city that just seemed like it was wrong. She also told him, for good measure, about how he was the best president ever and how proud she was that he was a black man who knew how to pronounce Pakistan (even though the only time she'd ever heard anyone talk about that was to make fun of him for it, she still thought it was better to say things the way you were supposed to, not the way everyone thought they should be said).
She gave each of the letters that she wrote to her mother, who'd pat her on the head and call her my little revolutionary, usually with one eye still on the TV and one hand holding her cell phone, probably in mid-text to Leon or Darnell, then she'd slip those letters into her purse and promise to mail them off the next day, and every day Anna would ask her if the little envelopes got into the mail, and each day her mom would say yes, and so she waited and waited and waited, and she wrote and wrote and wrote, but he never wrote back.
After a few months she started asking her friends what they thought about the President, and they just looked at her like she was dumb, so then she started asking adults, and everybody just kind of rolled their eyes about him. The guy at the 7-11 told her politicians don't give two shits about us, and her friend Barney at the barber shop told her that if she really wanted to talk to somebody about what going on, she should go to the church and pray cause those were the only answers she could actually hope for. But Anna didn't believe in God, she had decided that when she was seven years old and her father promised to come by to her mom's house for her birthday. She prayed and prayed and prayed that he would, but he never showed up. Then when her best friend's older brother got shot in the chest on his way home from school just four months later she decided once and for all that God could not be real, and her time was probably better spent on more important things. Like on Mr. Obama, the first black President ever. She remembered when he got elected and how all of Baltimore ran into the streets crying and cheering, except for her mother, but that was to be expected anyhow, and Anna decided right then and there that this President couldn't be all that bad—at least he was real.
Lately after school she'd been going to the public library and sitting on the free Internet there, looking up different things Obama would say about her neighborhood, trying to discern if he was reading her letters, and helping with any of things she asked him about, but he never really said much about Baltimore. There was some stuff on the Internet about him coming through for this or that meeting, but he never said anything 'bout her school, so then she thought maybe he just never got her letters at all.
One day she overheard Uncle Larry saying something over the phone. He said, "You hear Obama's gonna let those billionaires get away with not paying taxes another two years?" But when he got off the phone and she asked him about it, he just told her to leave him alone. The next day she went to the library and looked it up online but all she could find was a bunch of blogs ranting about rich people and poor people and it all got so confusing she went to the librarian, a bright, round, dollop of a woman named Annette who seemed more like she might want to be her mother than her own mom with the way she patted her head and talked to her all sweet and sanguine and every once and a while she'd pull her head straight into her enormous bosom and cradled it there like a sack; it felt comfortable there. Familiar.
Annette, being not busy at all on this particular day, sat down with her on the computer and looked up all kinds of stuff and read it out for her and by the end of all that the two of them both learned something about what Annette was calling the Tax Bill.
Jr. Senator from Vermont
Bernie had known for a while now that he and Dennis Kucinich were the only ones left with any balls, and normally that filled him with the kind of energy that sprung him out of bed with his fists clenched like two tight red mounds, but when he kissed his wife goodbye this morning, and she lovingly slipped a knish wrapped in three layers of soft napkin into the front pocket of his winter coat, he didn't feel like fighting anymore, and suddenly, for a fleeting wisp of a moment, he wanted to give in. Not to any of the idiot politicians that he worked with every day, who didn't know their own ass from a candlestick, or the difference between being a congressional representative and a gun-slinging gangster from the South Bronx. For them, he wanted nothing more than a fight to the death, and it didn't have to be a fair fight, either. He would call it a fist-only dual and wear brass knuckles on both hands, hide a switch blade in his sock, slip valium in a gatorade bottle and offer them a sip before they got started, like a peace offering or a warm up, and then shamelessly beat them until they bled out without feeling the least bit bad about it. No, it was definitely not them he dreamt of giving in to . . . it was age. Every day he considered what it would be like to put his tired feet in thick lamb's-wool and move back to New York, where he was from. To rewind time from before he moved to Vermont and was elected to the Senate, or spent so much of his time here in D.C. To spend the rest of his nights sipping sweet plum wine from a thick, cushy arm chair and watching all the old action blockbusters on TNT.
Since late last year he'd been sure the hearing in his left ear was beginning to go, not to mention that the bones in right leg still ached from when he kneed George W. in the balls at the White House Holiday Party a few years ago, just to find out the slick little bastard wore a steel-plated athletes cup. Apparently he'd worn it religiously since the whole shoe-throwing incident in Baghdad a few years back, and especially after the video games took off. Bernie had wondered, as he lay clutching his knee on the floor of the white house, trying to ignore the smug mug of George, who self-righteously shook his head and tapped the cup, if anyone had ever had the satisfaction of actually crunching knee to ball and watching the expression on that asinine cowboy's face change to one more closely resembling the monkey he'd descended from.
When Barack was elected, Bernie had been filled with the same unwarranted hope as the rest of America. And since then, every single day he was on the job was another day he'd been proven wrong. He was done waiting for that joker to grow some balls. Just plain done. The American people deserved far more honesty about their situation than this, and he was going to give it to them.
Maybe that was why Bernie was a touch more frazzled-looking today than normal. He hadn't had time to comb his hair with the soft gel his daughter'd bought him last year out of the blue, patting him gently on the shoulder and telling him, in all seriousness, for someone who was on TV every once and a while, you sure do have frizzy hair. Today it stood up at all angles, reaching out to the air like the teeth of an over-used, soft bristle brush.
At least he'd been sure to only eat a tiny breakfast this morning, cause he knew he wouldn't be able to go to the bathroom for a while. It was all right though— if his ancestors could survive thousands of years of persecution culminating in The Holocaust and then turn into murderous occupiers instead of pushover Jews, he could stand in front of the Senate for as long as it took to stall that god damned bill.
Just last night he had been at Dennis's house talking over what was either Obama's morose show of powerlessness or his confused idea of what it meant to be elected to office on the platform of hope. Bernie was not surprised, but he still couldn't believe Obama had rolled over and passed a bill that extended Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% and rolled back the estate tax, adding hundreds of billions to the deficit. Whether or not he actually believed that crap about these cuts being temporary was anybody's guess, but he figured he was at least smart enough to know Republicans weren't gonna change their minds when the next election cycle rolled around.
Anyway, he'd been talking to Dennis about his plan to stand up for the American people, and Dennis was ready, as usual, with words of encouragement that made it seem like he was at least six feet tall, but instead of Bernie flailing his arms and throwing out idea after ingenious idea as usual, with a fervor and passion that could move the foundations of the world, he sat uncannily quiet, with his hands in his lap, looking at Dennis's thirty-four-year-old wife, and that long red hair that ran like a ribbon down her back, sweeping against her milk-white skin like silk. And as he sat there, ashamed of himself, he thought how unfair the whole thing was.
During this short-lived but unprecedented show of distraction Dennis and Elizabeth were squished side by side on a white and gold embroidered love seat with their legs pressed together, holding hands and sipping herbal mint tea out of tiny English tea cups while he, Bernie, drank the last of their single malt Scotch, and twirled little half-melted ice cubes around the outside of the cup with his pointer finger. Elizabeth had pleaded with him to take it, insisting they never drank the stuff. Bernie wondered why they'd ever need to being so consistently love-drunk. And anyway, the scotch was a welcome consolation after coming over for dinner and finding out, between bites of seaweed salad and tofu, that vegan food was no replacement for a well cooked meatloaf. It was then, as he sat looking at them, fearing the empty roar of his still-empty stomach, and at the exact instant that Elizabeth reached her plump pink lips up to touch Denis's, that Bernie understood, all at once and with complete satisfaction: his own wife was the only woman for him.
Revived, his thoughts turned to considering how sickishly appropriate it was, somehow, that the only two senators left with any god damned balls were an old Jew from Brooklyn and a part Mic, part Croat from Cleveland who barely grazed the shoulders of a normal man. Between the two of them, there was about as much physical strength as you'd find in a pencil eraser and yet, since Feingold was out in January, it was official . . . they were the only ones.