Second Coming: Chapter 3
Following Mayor Malcolm’s endorsement of Joseph, and the delivery of a list of local numbers to call, it seemed as if his following was finally beginning to grow out of the confines of his church group. Driving around town revealed signs of support sprouting up on lawns on every block, especially near churches. Under suggestion by yours truly, Joseph’s wife began answering any incoming phone calls from the news and the paper that they had reached ‘The office of Joseph Cummings, Pastor, and presidential candidate.’
A reporter from the biggest station in town arranged an interview with him in our office one day, to appear later on the evening news. “Joseph Cummings, known better by his title- The Pastor- is the rising star of the Panhandle this election season, looking to go all the way to Washington,” the voice narrated over some footage they had recorded earlier in the day. The transition brought Joseph and the pencil-skirted woman to the familiar interior of the office.
“Do you think certain voters will be turned away by your strong connection to your faith?” Was one of the questions asked.
“Well,” Joseph began in his usual contemplative tone, “We all know that this country was built on Christian values…” He said confidently, before the recording revealed his eyes turning to where I had been during the rolling of the cameras, “but… it was also a place where anyone could be free to believe in what they wish. Faith… is described as believing in a higher power. Not just God, or Jesus, heck, someone could believe in aliens as their higher power. Hah. Well, some people need something concrete to believe in… if that’s where your faith comes from, then know that if your vote ends up on my behalf, I will be that person in the oval office you can believe and trust in.”
Even hearing it a second time, I couldn’t help but hide my face in shame. Even Steven, listening to the TV from the other room, spoke up. “He’s… well spoken, at least.”
“We’re workshopping things.” I blurted out, half ironically. “Worst thing people can say is… he says what he means.”
Steven huffed loudly from out of sight. “You gonna’ ask him if he wants someone like me around? Those TV studio clowns sound like they’re painting him like a tool.”
“I’ll try and remember to bring it up…”
The national news also latched onto the Moniker of Pastor cemented by that interview. Their talking points varied like always, depending on which side of the political spectrum they spoke for. He’s attempting a bout of politics on the back of bible verses and church tithes, one source said. The Pastor is the kind of man who any good Christian would want to vote for and see in office, any office for that matter, was another take.
Randy Caine announced his campaign as expected midway through the week, beginning the tour of his home state of Pennsylvania. The Pastor took the news personally, but I managed to work him down from his talk of hellfire and mentions of the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah. I countered by laying out the points I had already taken down to counter the opponent on.
By my second week of work, my rotation around the office was already set in stone. We began in the mornings upon my arrival with a short prayer in a circle before breaking out to individual work. I silently nodded and listened along with Joseph’s encouraging words before finally being allowed to return to my desk. I would begin earnestly with taking in the results of various online polls about the news sites, as well as any current events that The Pastor could easily speak on come any sort of interview. Speaking of speeches, Joseph was always writing his own during the morning hours over a mug of decaf instant coffee. Whether he was going over multiple ones, or rewriting, revising, and adding to a single one, I couldn’t have known at the time.
My second task of the day during the late morning was to bring The Pastor up to speed with the details I had collected. He was always more than eager to listen to what I had to say, but the lack of criticism outside his quiet nods made me wary of whether or not he cared about the issues. It was that day that I decided to bring up other hires.
“The last thing I’d like to add for now…” I concluded, closing my binder of printouts.
“I believe it would be wise to grow our talent here.”
“Our talent?” Joseph said, finally sitting up and uncrossing his legs.
“Yes, even this early…”
“You’re plenty talented yourself, Terrence.” He praised, lips pursed as if flattering himself over being the one who had hired me.
“I mean-” I spoke up, “So far, we’re managing, but as soon as we head on the road, we’ll need to vary our staff, an adviser, technical adviser on that, speech writer, head staffer-”
Joseph jutted his neck out. “What did you say?”
“Head staffer, like someone to manage-”
“No- speech writer?”
I nodded. “Yes.”
Joseph leaned back across the desk to pull out a leather folio. “I’ll tell you, Terrence, I can handle something like that just fine. I’ve been writing sermons for years.”
“Of course, now,” I hummed, leaning forward on my knees. “But if we’re on the road, meeting folks, having interviews, photoshoots, you know- I might say your time will dwindle.”
He twisted his lips back and forth. “I suppose… you’re not off base.”
I smiled and stood. “No rush, of course. We’ve yet to even have our first rally.” I looked to the wall clock at the front wall of the space, and began to think of lunch. As I began to take up my binder off the desk to leave, Joseph spoke up.
“Oh, don’t worry about that.” He said proudly. “Saturday, we’re going to be in the plaza, just beside Town Hall, by the University too, I reckon? You must know it, right?”
“This is news to me?” I shifted about, puzzled, with a headache suddenly coming on.
“Arranged it with the Mayor over the phone the day after we met up.” He said proudly, leaning back in the chair. “Don’t you worry yourself.”
I rubbed at my brow. “Well… congrats. As your manager, sir, I’d love to be included in these decisions as well, in the future, though.”
“Suppose you’re right.”
“And I think I’d be interested in looking over any speech you’d plan on delivering then.”
The phone on Joseph’s desk rang suddenly. He looked to his watch. “Shoot, already? Sharon, if the lunch order gets here, just put mine in the fridge, okay?”
I watched as Joseph’s attention quickly shifted to the call with an easy “Yello?” I stepped out and made eye contact with the Pastor’s wife, who was attentively seeming to wait for me.
She leaned over the desk and whispered in a low voice. “Don’t worry, Terrence, I’ve been proofreading his speeches as well, nothin’ to worry yourself on.”
“I mean… well, yes, I suppose if I can’t put faith in Mr. Cummings, then who can I, right?” I said with a shrug.
Sharon winked at me and returned to her work without a word. Farther back inside, I came to my desk, with the back of my chair facing me, moving about under the force of something unknown. I grabbed at it and spun it around.
Jess looked up at me from my own seat. “You’re good with computers? I need your help, if you’ve got a chance?” She said, smiling wide.
I sighed and plopped down the binder atop the desk. “Yeah? I suppose…” I said, glancing to the back of Sharon’s busy head.
Jess popped up. “Come on.” She instructed, leading me out the back and to the rear parking lot. The RV was parked with hookups leading to the main building. The teen opened the narrow door for me and walked me up the steps.
“Something for your online class?”
“I need to be able to type into something called a ‘PDF’.” She said, plopping down at the seat and table where I was once interviewed for my current position.
“That’s not too hard…” I said, finding another seat in reach of the installed laptop. The screen was shoved my way, where the file folder was already up. I began to work toward installing the proper software when I noticed Jess’ eyes unwavering from me. “It… must be annoying to have to live cramped up here with both your parents…” I mumbled out.
“Ugh,” was the sole response back, followed by a slump into the cushion behind her.
The progress bar from the download crept slowly, trickling through the minimal bars of wifi coming from the office space. “If we make it to Washington like we want, you’d be living in the White House.” I attempted to joke.
“Please.” Jess said with a roll of her eyes, tucking up her knees to her chest. Her cutoff jean shorts revealed thin, pale legs, and I averted my eyes. “I didn’t have many friends to begin with, home school and all, but now the few I had are all the way across the state.”
The download finally finished and installed, and after a few tweaks of the settings, I rescinded control to the girl. Her hands crossed my wrists, and I caught her eyes once again on mine. I looked to the window for anyone outside. “Well, all done,” I concluded, pulling away and standing up. “Just look for the highlighted boxes.” I straightened the bottom of my shirt before dancing down the steps to the parking lot and back to the building.
Just inside the doorway, I nearly collided with Hank, holding a plastic bag with a foam take-out container inside. “Whoa, hold on there cowboy.” He reeled back, pushing the food toward me. “Was jus’ lookin’ for you.”
“Jess had a question for me. Was helping her out.”
“That so?” He pursed his meaty lips. “Well, eat up, can’t have hunger distracting you from your important work.”
The third and final part of my day at the office was usually reserved for making calls from our calling list provided to us from the local political office, asking for political donations. In our case, it was usually the churchgoing type, and to no great surprise of mine, a great many of those from the state were more than happy to accept the call for a donation toward The Pastor they had heard about on the news. Despite the many positive calls, the news from Joseph that day laid heavily on me.
The day was winding down when I found a time that both Joseph and myself were off the phone. I performed the ritual knocking upon the frame of his door into the section of office to gain his attention. “Oh? Terrence, what’s happening?”
“I… don’t think I properly congratulated you on getting us on the road with a proper rally.”
“Oh, well,” Joseph said, slumping back in his char. “The Mayor has been of great support, ya’ know? Not that you haven’t either.”
“Right on.” I nodded, trying to find the words to segue on. “The news’ll be there, and all, you think?”
“My friend, roommate actually, asked me to ask you if you… would consider him for a video production position. I’d imagine he could help out with the tech side, too, he’s good with that sort of thing.”
“That so?” Joseph stroked his chin.
“Jess is great and all with your social media… but perhaps we can give the public a taste of what you’re really like…”
“Something more substantial than what the news is doing these days. If we record the rally, put it together all nice, we can make a big impact and have more people on your side.”
Joseph held his head on his hand, nodding up and down. “Tell your friend he better be there bright and early Sunday. Hmm, I’d like badges for our people so we’re not going to get caught on the sidelines…”
I nodded and began to retreat as he returned to monologuing. Just as I was out of the doorway, his voice came back my way. “Terrence?”
“Yes?” I said, back-stepping.