The Unvarnished Truth

Submitted into Contest #88 in response to: Write a story about an ordinary person speaking truth to power.... view prompt



The traffic outside was loud! Marcus didn’t want to get up yet. His head was throbbing, it felt like the rhythmic beat of a machine gun. He knew he shouldn’t have stayed out late last night celebrating with friends. Now the 26 year old activist is what his dad calls “Paying The Bill”! It isn’t a bill he wants to pay right now. He looks at the clock through blurred eyes, it is 10:30 am. Too dam early, but he needs to get up and pull it together. So out of bed and on to the tread mill, a trick he learned playing baseball in high school , exercise will get the adrenaline flowing and clear the cob webs out of his head. It will also give him time to begin to think about what he is going to do next, now that he has successfully helped his friend get elected.

    Marcus finished his run on the treadmill, his mind was a lot clearer now, but his head still hurt. He took a couple of headache pills, then hit the shower before eating. He wanted to get online and see what the paper had to say about his former college classmate now State Representative elect . Marcus, opened up the digital addition of the paper and saw the picture of his friend raising his hands in victory. He then began to read the underlying story. At first he was elated, but as he got into the story, he began to be sick at his stomach. According to the reporter, the candidate, now Representative elect pledged to support the party agenda and state platform. Marcus was outraged, how could he do this. How could he turn his back on what he and all of his supporters worked for. Didn’t his friend realize this was the same thing that they had fought against? Marcus calmed himself down, he was sure that this was just a misquote. He would get it straightened out. He pulled himself together and got dressed. He was out of his apartment and into a ride service vehicle, he had to get to the bottom of this. He wanted to talk with his friend James. They had studied Political Science together at state university in Atlanta. Both of them had big plans, they wanted to change the system, they wanted to make a difference. This is why Marcus became an activist after he graduated. This is why he wanted to change things. Now it seems that he may have been wrong about many things!

   Marcus arrived at the campaign office, he saw people moving around inside, but when he went in, he didn’t recognize any of them. Marcus saw people packing up boxes and unplugging phones and computers. Marcus stopped one of the women running around and thought that she looked familiar, he couldn’t quite place her but she shook him out of his stupor when she asked how can I help you? How can she help Marcus thought in a simmering rage! He calmed himself and said that he was there to see James. The woman looked at him with a blank stare ,then he said Mr. Graham. The woman got wide eyed and said oh, well he isn’t here right now, but if you would like to make an appointment I will see if we can work you in sometime next week. Marcus lost it for a moment, in an angry tone, he asked the woman do you know who the hell I am? With a blank stare she said no, why should I? Marcus then began to explain to her that he was the campaign coordinator for the activist group that had gotten James elected. Still with a blank stare, the woman said no, sorry don’t know you. She then politely told Marcus that she had to get back to work. They were busy moving all of the stuff from the campaign office to the Representatives new office. In frustration Marcus stormed out and left the perplexed woman and the other oblivious drones to complete their work. After taking a short walk and calming down, Marcus tried to reach James on his cell phone. He tried several times but the thing kept going to voice mail. So in frustration, Marcus went into a coffee shop that was only two blocks away from the campaign headquarters and looked around to see if he could find his friend Felisha. She had been one of the hardest workers on the Campaign and his strategic planner for the group. The manager said that she didn’t work there anymore. Marcus asked where she had gone? The manager of the coffee shop said that she put in her notice and took her vacation. He said that she had a new job working in an office somewhere, but he wasn’t sure what she was doing. This was frustrating to Marcus, he couldn’t believe this! What was going on he pondered to himself? He decided to go back home and figure out how to get in touch with James so he could find out what was happening. Little did he know that he would run head long into a wall that he wasn’t prepared to deal with, nor did he expect how it would effect him.

   After Marcus got back to his apartment, he went online and tried to connect with James via email and through social media. The email came back unable to deliver and the social media accounts for the campaign had been changed to a generic format with a form letter if you wished to contact the representative. Even his friends personal social media pages were not taking any direct messages. He then tried to contact Felisha, but he couldn’t get in touch with her either. He reached out to a few of the others in his group and they were as perplexed as he was. They woke up this morning expecting to be part of a revolution but instead, they were left with a media blackout. Not one to be deterred, Marcus decided to go to James’s grandmothers, a place where he had often been invited to dine and spent weekends away from campus with his friend planning their political activities. James’s grandmother was Mrs. Elloise Marshall, a prominent figure in her neighborhood. She had been an activist of sorts herself when she was younger and James credited her for his passions and choices. When Marcus arrived, he paid the car driver and walked up to the house. He knocked on the door several times until Mrs. Marshall finally came to the door. She looked out of the keyhole and at first wasn’t sure she should open it, then she unlatched the door and saw Marcus standing there in a state of bewilderment. She smiled and said child what can I do for you. Marcus asked politely if he could come in and she opened the door wider to let him pass. Once inside, he hoped he would get information on why he couldn’t get in contact with the man he helped put in office, what he was about to get was disappointment.

   Mrs. Marshall asked him to sit down, she politely offered him a beverage as was her custom to guest. Marcus was very concerned at her demeanor, she was acting very different towards him. It was as if he were a stranger she met for the first time. Finally dispensing with the pleasantries, the kindly but stern old grandmother of 10 asked what can I do for you? That was an open ended question Marcus thought? With careful consideration, Marcus began to recount the previous night and the new morning and how the world seemed to have been turned upside down. James’s grandmother listened quietly and at the appropriate time sat back in her chair and took a deep breath. She then looked Marcus in the eye and said that it would be better if he ( Marcus) spoke with James. In a fit of frustration but with great reserve and respect, he responded that he had been trying to do that but that he couldn’t get in touch with him. Finally the old woman steadied herself and leaned forward and took Marcus by the hand. She said I maybe shouldn’t do this, but the two of you have been joined at the hip for years now, so I will invite you to come with me this Sunday to church then to a celebration that James’s parents are throwing for him in honor of his win. She said it is only right that you come and see my grandson so that you can get some closure. So with that, Marcus thanked the old woman and vowed that he would not be late.

   Sunday came all too quickly and church was over soon enough. Marcus had spent the past week pulling together the tattered remains of his group. Some had just outright quit, while others said they would take a wait and see attitude. Marcus found that the groups finances were in as bad a shape as his communication with his friend was. Money that had been raised by the activist group he founded was linked to the campaign and had been moved without his permission. Several thousands of dollars were gone, when he made inquires, the bank told him that the money had been transferred into a campaign fund used by his friend James, but that he no longer had any access. With a thousand questions swirling in his head, he arrived with James’s grandmother at a very large house that was just outside of town. It was a ranch design with a circular driveway and a stone walk way leading up to two large oak doors with ornate brass handles. When the door opened, a house keeper greeted them. She asked whom shall I say is calling, James’s grandmother announced herself and a guest. The woman let them in and took their coats. As they entered the home through the large foyer, Marcus could hear laughter and talking coming from a room towards the back of the house. As he entered escorting Mrs. Marshall, a few people turned their gaze towards the entry way. In that moment a realization hit Marcus like a bucket of cold water. He saw James’s parents, his siblings and Felisha. He also saw James standing next to a woman that had been at the campaign headquarters. Most of the people smiled politely and greeted the families matriarch, but James stood in silence with a look on his face that could have frozen water. Marcus stepped forward and held out his hand, James hesitated for a moment then took it rather tepidly. Marcus said what has been going on James, leading with an open ended question! Then Marcus knew who the woman at James’s side was, she used to work for the man that they had just beaten. She had been his office manager. James tried to speak, but Marcus had already looked around the room and saw several people who had formerly worked for the opposition candidate. With a sickly feeling in his stomach, Marcus let go of James’s hand and said we can talk later. So began the reality check for Marcus! As he made the rounds, he could feel the frigid reception in the room Felisha tried to hide from him, but he cornered her first. She smiled as politely as she could, but before she could speak, in a low whisper Marcus in an demanding tone ask HOW COULD YOU? Felisha was clearly uncomfortable and was now wearing nicer clothes than Marcus had ever thought she owned. He thought to himself, she was a half starved college student who shopped at the thrift store, but now she had designer clothes. With a piercing gaze that could see through a brick wall or the facade of any person trying to hide something, Marcus made Felicia brake away in tears. Not wanting to make a scene, Marcus didn’t follow her. The celebration meal went on for several hours, but Marcus wasn’t going unless they through him out. Finally when the crowd of well wishers had thinned out, James saw Marcus across the room again. This time they both knew that no one would be hiding nor would they be running away. So with much trepidation, James motioned for Marcus to follow him. The two men walked until they were in a study full of books and an antique desk. James closed the French glass doors behind them and went over to the bar and poured himself a drink. He motioned to Marcus to see if he wanted one, he indicated with his glare no thank you, what he wanted were answer!

   For a tense moment the air was frigid between the two friends. James just standing there with his drink staring at Marcus. Them as Marcus started to speak, James interrupted him and said I guess you want an explanation? An explanation Marcus retorted, YOU ARE DAM RIGHT! James raised his hand as if to say calm down, but Marcus wouldn’t have it! He said you have some explaining to do real quick! James said I don’t know where to begin. He started with a profuse apology for not speaking to his friend sooner. He then tried to explain to Marcus that things weren’t what he thought they were. Marcus retorted, yeah I see what they are, you have sold yourself out! James tried to calm his friend, but Marcus wouldn’t have it. James ask him to try to understand, things aren’t like they were, they are different now. Marcus then began, how are they different? I don’t see what is different. James tried to speak but Marcus cut him off. He said I dug deep for you because I thought we would be able to do some good! Instead, I see you here in a fancy house and Felisha wearing nice clothes, where did this come from? The question was really an opened ended one as Marcus already knew the answer. He went forward telling James how this is what we fought against this is what we didn’t want! James then responded, it might not be what you wanted, but there are dreams and then there are realities in life. Marcus was again furious, he went on a lengthy rant about how he believed in James. He told him that he wasn’t going to do anybody any good by becoming what he said he hated. James cut Marcus off before he could continue, he retorted that Marcus was just envious of his success. James said that he had worked hard to get here! He said that he hadn’t forgotten what they were fighting for, he tried to reason with Marcus, but Marcus wouldn’t hear it. With a look of disgust, he called James a Judas and told him he hoped he enjoyed his 30 pieces of silver. With that the conversation was over. Marcus composed himself and found James’s grandmother. She looked at him and asked him what was wrong, he simply replied that he wasn’t feeling well and needed to go. As Marcus waited for his ride to pick him up, Felisha came out and stood beside him. He just shuffled his feet trying to ignore her. Felisha looked at him with piercing eyes and asked are you not going to speak to me? Marcus half turned to her and said with a down cast gaze, what is there to say? Another open ended question, Felisha tried to take his hand, but he pulled away. Marcus’s car had arrived, he looked over at Felisha and didn’t know what to say. She was half embarrassed and half relieved that the situation was over. Marcus said see you around as he got into the car and was taken away.

   Many things took place after that day, on the ride back to his apartment, Marcus had time to reflect on what had just happened and what had been said. He read in the paper that James and Felisha were now engaged and soon to be wed. What was left of Marcus’s political group met a few times, but he wasn’t into it. He finally told them he was suspending the organizations activities until he could get it back together for himself. In the mean time, Marcus had to clean up the mess left for him by James and his activities. He spent several weeks filling out paperwork for the state elections board and preparing tax paperwork on the funds that had been removed by James’s campaign. While in truth the money was raised to help get James elected, bills still had to be paid. Marcus was the only paid employee of his group so he had been stiffed for his salary. There were several people who were owed money, printers, vendors etc. . The upside was that he could direct them to James’s campaign for their payments, the bad news was that he likely would never see a dime and the people to whom he had made promises, meaning the people who voted for James were left wanting an explanation. They wanted to know when their agenda was going to be addressed? They wanted to know when they would begin to see change? The problem was that Marcus couldn’t answer them. He didn’t know the answers to any of these questions. The only thing he did know was that he had been played and that he wouldn’t not go away easily or quietly. He was going to pull it together and he was going to continue his fight to get the change he had been promised. To get the change he told others would come, if they would only stand with him.

April 09, 2021 05:12

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