Fiction Contemporary Speculative

This story contains sensitive content

Sensitive content: This story may offend some people. It fractures a fairy tale, kills a sacred cow or two and stacks a shelf with rampant cynicism, on display for all to see. However, it is a work of fiction. Any resemblance or similarities to persons living or dead, as well as to events, incidents or other circumstances, are pure coincidence. --

Don't follow leaders

Watch the parkin' meters

Bob Dylan

Once upon a time in the very recent past, an aspiring politician was contemplating running for high public office. But he was frustrated because he was told by people who knew about these things, that he needed an impeccable resumé and a wheelbarrow load of money. He had neither, and he gnashed his teeth in anger and despair.

But he was an enterprising sort of fellow, and before very long he had fabricated a resumé out of whole cloth that was so impressive that he amazed even himself. Then, by standing on his fully-inflated curriculum vitae, employing imaginative chicanery, and working in some creative accounting, he was able to attract a substantial trove of political lucre from donors who fully expected a quid pro quo, the minute that he was established in office, or sooner, if it wasn’t too much trouble.

By chance an average voter happened by, just as he was putting the final polish on his dubious paperwork. “Ah there, my good citizen! Look at what a fine, upstanding fellow I am,” puffed the politician. “Can I count on your vote in the upcoming election?”

“No, my political friend,” replied the voter. “You probably wouldn’t live up to your promises, if I did.”

Au contraire,” cried the politician.

“In fact, I will be forever grateful to you, and will be at your personal beck and call, once I am elected. I promise! Have I ever lied to you? I am a man of my word! You can take that to the bank!”

The politician then went on television, white teeth a-flashing, shaking hands all around, proffering his profile and newly enhanced credentials for the viewing audience to see, and dishing out tasty barbeque from the bottomless barrel of pork that his generous donors had provided.

Seeing this smiling sincerity, not to mention the lip-smacking largesse, the voter’s initial skepticism vanished, and, feeling that he was bound by oath to do his civic duty, he voted for the politician. He also convinced all his friends to do the same. It was, after all, the right and righteous thing to do in a democracy.

Once the politician was elected to office, the voter sent him an e-mail telling him that a road was in very bad repair in his neighborhood, and reminding him of a promise that he had made to fix it, if he was elected. The politician scoffed, “What a fool you are! I am a very important and busy man. Why should I bother myself now, about your petty affairs?”

The voter begged the politician to fulfill his promises, but the politician produced a list with fifty-seven varieties of reasons as to why he couldn’t possibly attend to that immediately, because there were other, much more important things, to be accomplished. “Please! Please!” begged the voter. "You are going back on your word. Now, I believe that you may well be a liar. If you are not going to honor your pledge, you should resign from office.” And then he thought perhaps that he was being too demanding.

“Wait—I have an idea! Let’s ask the first three people that we find nearby whether you should fulfill your promises, or resign.”

The politician quickly agreed.

Seeing one of his friends nearby whom he had convinced to also vote for the politician, the voter first asked his friend what he thought, hoping the man would reply in his favor and state that the politician should own up to his promises, or resign.

But instead, his friend said, “What are you complaining about? He’s no worse than any of the others, and he has promised things to you. Don’t you understand about politics? If he hadn’t gotten elected, someone equally as perfidious but who we didn’t like, would be there. Someone not of our tribe! Don’t whine and cry about it—be a man!”

Then the voter, who was seriously disheartened, walked along a bit farther until he saw a limping man with an elderly, gray-muzzled dog on a leash. “My dear fellow, I appeal to your integrity as a voter and a citizen. Please, if you would, please tell this politician to own up to his obligations to his constituency. After all, I voted for him, and I convinced my friends to vote for him as well. Now he not only appears to be a liar, but worse, he is reneging on his promises to me.”

But the man walking the dog looked at him scornfully. “You are a credulous fool to expect anything from that politician! The man is not only a serial liar, but he is also a thief. Look at poor old Barney, here. He’s in a bad way and hasn’t got long left in this mortal world, good faithful fellow that he is. That very politician promised to raise a lot of money for Barney so I could take him to a veterinarian. I know that he raised the money, a bundle of it, but when I went to collect it to pay the vet bill, first he said that that he couldn’t pay me because his checkbook had been stolen, and when I went back a second time he denied ever having seen the money. You are a fool to believe anything that he says!”

The voter, now even sadder and more disillusioned, saw another man that he knew, also a constituent who he had convinced to vote for the politician. He explained the situation to him in minute detail, and asked for his opinion.

“My dear naive fellow,” said the man, “how incredibly silly you are to actually expect to redeem something tied to any political promise, and when it comes to this politician, well, expect nothing! Everyone knows that he has proven himself many times over to be a fabulist, a liar and a charlatan! I knew that when I voted for him, but you were very convincing and everyone else seemed to be voting for him as well, so I went along with the herd. It’s just the way of democracy, don’t you know?”

Hearing yet another negative testimonial, the voter turned back wretchedly, his heart having fallen off the balcony into the lowest depths of despair. On his way back to his house to ponder what he might try next, he met a journalist from the national news media. The journalist called out to him, “Why, whatever is the matter, Mr. voter? Is something bothering you? You look completely downcast, lower than whale excrement, if I may say so. How can I be of help?”

The voter told him all that had taken place. “How very interesting, but also somewhat confusing,” said the journalist, when the voter had related the story highlighting the gross deception of the politician. “Would you mind telling me that all over again? And spare no detail. I can’t make heads or tails of what you are telling me. We do live in a democracy, after all, and things work in a certain way. But, no one is above the law in this country and if he has committed a crime, he must be made to pay for it.”

The voter told the story all over again, in even greater detail, but the journalist shook his head in a distracted sort of way and said that he still could not understand, and would have to do some investigation to establish the facts.

“It’s very strange,” said the journalist. “It’s also curious, because so many of our tribe have given this politician the benefit of doubt. I suggest that we go to his very office and I will interview him to get his side of the story. Then I shall be able to give my opinion, and write about it.”

So they travelled to the politician’s government office, where the politician was waiting for the voter, sharpening his wits and preparing his story.

“Oh, it’s you again” growled the politician. “And I see that you’ve brought a friend from the media. Oh well, no matter. Let us get on with the interview!”

“Now we’ll get somewhere!” thought the voter. “Once everyone knows about this man’s contrivance and fakery, he will be outed and shamed into resigning.”

“First, give me five minutes, Mr. Congressman,” the voter begged, “in order that I may explain everything to the journalist here, so that we all understand why I am upset.”

The politician agreed, and the voter began the whole story over again, not missing a single detail, taking as long as possible to retell the tale.

“Oh, my aching brain! Oh, my aching brain!” cried the journalist, wringing his hands. “Let me see! How did it all begin? Voter, you were just standing there in the public square, and the politician came walking by. . ?”

“Pahh!” interrupted the politician. “What a fool you are! The voter was not there in the square, first! I was in the square, and then he came along.”

“Of course!” cried the journalist, feigning ignorance. “Yes! I was in the square there as well—no I wasn’t—dear me! Dear me! Let me see—the politician was there with the voter, and the square came creeping by—no, that’s not it, either! Well, don’t mind my muddle, but begin your story, please, so we may all understand!” 

“Yes, you shall definitely understand!” retorted the politician, in anger at the journalist’s perceived stupidity. “I’ll make you understand! Look here—I am the politician . . .”

“Yes, Mr. Congressman.”

“And that is the voter . . .”

“Yes, Mr. Congressman.”

“And that is the public square . . .”

“Yes, Mr. Congressman!”

“And I was in the square—do you understand now?”

“Yes—no . . . Please, Mr. Congressman . . .” “

Well?” cried the politician impatiently.

“Please, Mr. Congressman!—how did you get elected?”

“How!—why in the usual conniving way, of course!”

“Oh, dear me!—my head is beginning to spin again! Please don’t be angry, Mr. Congressman, but what is the usual way?”

At this the politician lost patience, and, jumping to his feet, cried, “This way, fool! Just by making a few promises and telling a believable and convincing story that doesn’t have to be grounded in actual facts! Now do you understand how things really are?”

“Perfectly!” said the journalist, scribbling in his notebook. “But you only said those things so you would be voted into office, right? You never intended to keep any of those promises, did you?”

“Of course not!” scoffed the politician. “Otherwise, how would we keep the political system running, and the pork in the barrels? So, I will definitely not resign, because I’m the victim here. So many people are calling me names because they just don’t understand how politics really works. Now, I think we’re done. I expect you to write nice things about me, and listen, have some barbecued pork on your way out.”

“Wait a minute!” exclaimed the voter, as they left the politician’s office. “Wasn’t this an allegory, based on the story of The Tiger, the Brahmin and the Jackal? This isn’t how it was supposed to end!”

“I know, I know,” explained the journalist, patiently. But that fable was written hundreds of years ago, and things are different now. You can’t always expect a happy ending or justice to prevail today.”

“Well, that sucks,” said the voter. Why is that, may I ask?”

“Certainly,” said the journalist. “With the twenty-four news cycle, we can only spend so much time on a story before we have to move on. Also, these days, we’re dealing with an audience with the attention span of hummingbirds.”

“I don’t understand, said the voter. “I don’t see what that’s got to do with…”

“Listen,” said the journalist. “I would really like to help, really I would, but…oh look, a squirrel!”

“Bummer,” said the voter.

He went home, turned on the television and quickly switched the channel to catch the latest exciting reality show that the network had advertised that very minute.

March 11, 2023 13:06

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Ken Cartisano
05:51 Mar 23, 2023

It's hard to like a story like this. To lampoon a living lampoon is not as easy as one would think, it requires anvil and sledgehammer-like precision with industrial strength sarcasm, which you have clearly brought to the table, but is it worth it? It’s like trying to tar and feather an elephant. In the end, no matter how the elephant looks, you don’t come across looking much better. Let me put it this way. If you’re going to write a story about a stinking cesspool, you’re going to need a good reason, to write about a cesspool. Or an angl...


Richard E. Gower
12:55 Mar 23, 2023

Thanks, I think.-:) But an elephant doesn't deserve tar and feathering....-:) RG


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Mary Bendickson
18:23 Mar 18, 2023

Me thinks you have led the life of a voter!


Richard E. Gower
21:14 Mar 18, 2023

Methinks you are correct....but I am only one of millions...-:)


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13:11 Mar 16, 2023

Richard this was a very pointed use of the fable! Your depictions were sadly accurate, even though you exaggerated things for the sake of the story. I especially enjoyed how you maintained the fable tone, even with the modern setting! Also, nice break of the fourth wall at the end with the voter questioning his story’s outcome! Well done!


Richard E. Gower
15:36 Mar 16, 2023

Thanks very much for the read, Hannah, and the kudos. -:) I appreciate it, immensely. -:) As for whether or not there can be too much exaggeration in a parable about modern politics, I think that's a question that's best settled in person, over double martinis. 😊 Merci, again.-:) Cheers! RG


17:27 Mar 16, 2023

You know, on second thought, you barely had to exaggerate at all xD but the conversation would still be lovely! Best of luck in the competition, my friend <3


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Laurel Hanson
16:50 Mar 15, 2023

Great application of the fairy tale to the modern world with results that are both depressing and funny. Extremely well told and apt, but I have to hand it to you - the ending. The jackal/journalist tricks the voter instead of the politician, but (to me) the whole story tricks the reader who is anticipating the journalist to expose the politician, kind of pulling a double whammy on the whole political shebang. Nice. Oh - I love your disclaimer!


Richard E. Gower
20:45 Mar 15, 2023

Many, many thanks for your kind and generous kudos. -:) I appreciate comments like yours more than I can properly express, except to say, again, merci beaucoup. RG P.S. It's difficult to come up with a happy ending for a parable, when it involves modern politics. 😊


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Michał Przywara
20:40 Mar 14, 2023

Ha! Perfect ending. Remastered, retold, updated for the modern world. Funny and cynical, like a good satire out to be. "Someone not of our tribe!" - Oof. Voting in one sentence. "so I went along with the herd" - or maybe this is voting in one sentence? So many good/depressing sentences here :) The moral is dire though, quite depressing. Or maybe not. Our protagonist tries to lay the blame at the feet of one (deserving) person, but this isn't really an issue with any one individual, is it? It's a bit bigger than that. Maybe that's why w...


Richard E. Gower
22:30 Mar 14, 2023

Thank you so much, Michal. I do so appreciate feedback like this. Many, many thanks. It means a great deal. -:) As for politics, and what work might be done in the real world: What was it that Billy Crystal's character said in Mr. Saturday Night? "Don't get me started!" Merci again.-:) RG


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Wendy Kaminski
14:18 Mar 11, 2023

Well done, Richard! I think this conveyed the prompt so well, as well as conveying the *problem* so well, and the reasons that no encouraging solution is forthcoming. This was truly enjoyable to read, and I am going to keep this around for those days when I feel like I must be the last sane person on the planet. "It's just the way it is," while not encouraging, is also unfortunately the case, and we'd do better to fix the system than scream pointlessly at those who worked it. Thanks for the great allegory!


Richard E. Gower
14:29 Mar 11, 2023

Thanks very much, Wendy. -:) I always look forward to, and very much value, your acutely perceptive take on life and supportive comments. -:) It's just my little nod to Bruce Hornsby....(sigh)...and, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose... Cheers! RG


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