For All Nails #278: Kaffeeklatsch
by David Mix Barrington
Christine Lillehammer had met the mayor of Brooklyn City only once before, in one of that endless sequence of parades and speeches after the first flight. Three years ago the most prominent female politician in North America had greeted the most famous woman in the world with official praise and enthusiasm, and not much more. It was only later that Christine had learned that the mayor was the mother of her own personal physician.
Now, it seemed, things were different. A one-on-one meeting, in the mayor's official residence. Part of Christine's visit to promote what was left of the Program, officially, but Miriam Levine clearly had something on her mind. And it wasn't too hard to guess what.
"Colonel, please sit down. April's told me so much about you, it's great to finally have a chance to chat."
"She's told me a lot about you as well, Your Honor. Please, call me Christine."
"And call me Miriam. Ah, here's the coffee."
The aide brought in what looked like a Dresden china coffee set and quickly left. The mayor poured herself.
"Black or white?"
"Black, please. I like to taste it." She did so. Quite good, was it Victorian? It couldn't be -- to the limited extent the mayor had a foreign policy at all, justice for the oppressed was at the top of it. Trade with the racialists was legal, but there were plenty of other places to get coffee. "Blue Mountain?"
"Tres Volcanes, from Guatemala, just south of the Canal Zone. Specifically, from a little plantation that actually pays their workers a living wage. Set up by the New Day people in '61. How does it taste?"
"It's wonderful, thank you."
"So just what, you're wondering," the mayor began, "do I want with you? Other than to check up on my daughter, of course. Let's see, it must be something to do with politics."
"Politics? I've never been much interested--"
"I'll admit I've thought about that sometime, in the distant future--"
"That's a year and a half from now."
"Plenty of time for you to wind things up with the space program. You'll run, and you'll win. The only question is which party you'll run for. I'd like it to be mine."
Which party indeed? Christine had no history with any of the four, and found something to admire in each. The People's Coalition had started the Program. The Masonists stood for morality and compassion around the world. Under Skinner, the Liberals were pioneering the protection of nature from industrial pollution -- she still remembered the shock of seeing the smoke of the cities from a hundred miles up, something had to be done. And Reform and Justice? They'd split from Masonism to back Monaghan on foreign policy, but retained the idealism and the emphasis on civil rights and women's opportunity. FN2
"Even if I were to run--"
"Any of the four parties would be overjoyed to have you. The way 1978 is shaping up, even one guaranteed seat is nothing to sneeze at. And it is guaranteed, we've got you at seventy percent even running as a Masonist. Your people love you, Christine, and they trust you."
"You're running surveys in Northern Vandalia?"
"With one more seat in Northern Vandalia?"
"You're worth a lot more than one seat, Christine. Look, I can't do anything to help you get into the Council, because you can get there without anyone's help. But you can help me a lot. You're a great speaker, a well-known figure, a beloved figure. You can become the national face of the Reform and Justice Party, campaigning around the country. Well, actually not the whole country, in the ten or twenty targeted districts where we have a real chance."
"You want to nibble around the edges of the Liberals."
"Exactly. And in this race, we can call our shots very carefully, because we'll be in electoral alliance with the PC and the Masonists."
"Why would the Masonists ally with you?"
"Because this time around the big question is whether Skinner keeps his majority. If he loses it, all three of the other parties have leverage from the chance to choose the G-G. If he keeps it, we all three sit in opposition for five years. Ryan Creighton-Young's a smart boy, of course he'll take a deal that increases his own chances and reduces Skinner's."
"He didn't mention that when we spoke last week."
"You were saying that you have no interest in politics, Christine? Ryan just happened to invite you in for a cup of coffee as well? Never mind. I like Ryan. There's a theory that he and I are natural enemies, because the CNA might be able to support three national parties but not four."
"Do you buy that theory?"
"No. I've made the RJP the leading party in the Northern Confederation and its provinces. Once they knock out Governor Macpherson in the fall, the Masonists will be in the same position in Manitoba. We're each reestablishing the old Dewey machines -- we won't win all the confed and local elections, but we'll be the party that the other three run against. That's a base that won't be easy to dislodge. The Liberals get that position in the S.C., the P.C. in Southern Vandalia, and we fight it out for the other two. Four parties."
"That'll make it very hard to elect a Governor-General, won't it."
"Exactly. 1968, 1973, 1974, those were all anomalies when you think about it -- majorities without the Masonists being involved. Skinner could pull it off again. He needs the economy to turn around, as it probably will, and he needs nothing too bad to happen with the war. The majority might happen one more time, but it's not going to keep happening. One of these elections the G-G's office is going to be wide open. And don't you want to be there when that happens?"
"You think I could be Governor-General. A woman?"
"Miriam, I'm also thirty years old. Shouldn't the first woman in the job be an experienced politician? Like you, for example?"
"Ah, Christine, don't think I haven't thought about it. I honestly think I could do the job. But it's not going to happen. Someday soon, the CNA will be ready for a woman. It will be a long time before it's ready for a Sapphist-coddling Jewish slut from Brooklyn City. You know, don't you, that I never married April's father?"
"Well, yes, though it wasn't something that ever came up in conversation."
"April's situation has always been, shall we say, complicated. I was in college, the war was starting overseas, and things just happened. I wanted the baby, so I took the semester off from King's College FN4 and had a "vacation" in the Catskills. That was how you did it in those days, especially with what the scandal would have done to Poppa FN5. My brother Shmuely adopted April for legal purposes, we all lived together in the Mayor's mansion like Turnerites, and it never got out to the general public. Until I wanted to run for mayor myself in '62."
"How did you handle it?"
"Of course, April was just starting medical school then, so it was sort of a moot point legally. We thought of just calling a press conference ourselves, but Poppa had a better idea. We leaked it to the Banner, the nastiest PC paper in town back then, three weeks before the election. You should have seen what they wrote about me. Of course it backfired on them completely -- we went from down five percent in the polls to up ten. People in Brooklyn City really hate to be told what to think, or how to vote."
"And people anywhere else do?"
"Brooklyn City especially. No, I'm never going to be Governor-General, Christine. But you might be. I'm proud of my daughter, Christine, and I would gladly have given up politics for her if I had to. But she chose not to go into the family business. When Shmuely didn't want to do it, Poppa picked me. Now I need a daughter to follow me, Christine, and I don't have another one of my own. Are you interested?"
Was she? Miriam was perfectly right about the speech, of course, and about her ambitions. And the mayor of Brooklyn City and leader of the RJP would be a very powerful ally. Ally, or puppetmistress? Christine couldn't help noticing that Miriam usually referred to her party as "I", and she'd as much as admitted to being a frustrated stage mother. On the other hand, her real daughter had certainly emerged as her own person, and a quite successsful person.
Christine had always been her father's daughter, Serjeant Lillehammer's daughter, particularly after Mama had died. And she had gone into her father's business, even her father's regiment. But that had been only the start of a path that had taken her literally beyone the ends of the earth, hadn't it? That was how real dreams worked -- someone else could start you on the path, but where you went with it was up to you.
"Let me say that I'm intrigued, at least, Miriam. I think we have a lot more to talk about."
Forward to #279: Flyers and Fulcrums.
Forward to 1 August 1976: Cole.
Forward to CNA politics: And This Bird You'll Never Tame.
Return to For All Nails.