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For All Nails #94: My Father was a Gambler Down in Georgia

by David Mix Barrington (with major help from Johnny Pez)

Henderson Dewey Arms Hotel
Dewey Field, Indiana, CNA FN1
15 July 1974

Gustav Skinner looked around the room and felt young. Every other man there was his father's age -- the senior staff that had guided Lennart Skinner to the Georgia governorship, to the leadership of the Liberal Party, and soon (God and the voters willing) to the Governor-Generalship itself. A formidable crew to be sure. At twenty-four, though, Gus knew he was ready to act in his own right, and not just as a surrogate for Pappy. His only worry was whether these men would take him seriously,

Daniel Charles, of course, was next to the large tray of pastries just delivered by the hotel staff. God, that man could eat. Meetings at these big airfield hotels were convenient, particularly when the participants had to fly in from several different cities. But since the hotel felt obligated to keep any meeting well stocked with food, Gus wasn't sure it was the best thing for Dan's health. Gus joined Charles at the table and grabbed the last chocolate-covered croissant.

"Gus, my boy, how was Delaware? FN2"

"Fine, thank you." Gus had just appeared at a campaign rally at Webster University in Newark. "Roth Williams has got a real shot there. I'm thinking we ought to bring the Governor in for a personal appearance."

"We're up against the RJP there, right? Open seat?"

"It's a three-way with a Deanite, but yes, the last survey had the RJP man Tribbitt over us by 42-35-23. We can do it, though, I think that lead's very soft and we picked up a lot of college volunteers on my visit."

"Uh-huh. I think the Governor's in Philly a week from Thursday." He raised his voice to reach across the room. "Betty?" Betty Richards was still called the Governor's "personal secretary", but Gus knew she was the final authority on his schedule, which meant that she was actually managing the logistics for the whole campaign apparatus that traveled with him.

"Philadephia on the 25th?"


"How hard to throw in Newark? FN3"

"New Jersey or Delaware?"


"Could do it if the Governor wants, quick in and out with the train."

"Could we map out a speech at Webster? Young Gus here thinks it might be the difference in Delaware if we can afford it."

"I'll let you know."

"Thank you, Betty."

Gus' moment of elation was interrupted as his father and Michael Murphy abruptly entered the room. The foreign policy advisor, as usual, looked worried, but Pappy's sunny gaze lit up the faces of everyone there, and everyone instantly hung on his words.

"Good morning, gen'men, Betty. Michael and I have just been talking to the CBI, and it seems we got ahselves some new dee-velopments. Michael, you can sum it up better'n I can."

"Thank you, Governor. Our weekly briefing had some surprises, as you say, most of them to do with New Granada. First. On Wednesday, the Kingdom of New Granada and the United Empire are announcing a comprehensive military and economic cooperation agreement. Second. At the same time they will announce the marriage engagement of King Ferdinand with Princess Sophia of Great Britain. Third. There's a buildup of cazadores and conventional FANG forces near the border with Quito -- not enough to overwhelm Quito if they resist but very large, very worthy of concern."

"I'm sure you realize that a formal alliance between the UE and RNG presents us with a policy problem. The Liberal Party has maintained for years that excessively close ties with the Empire risk getting us into foreign entanglements against our true interests. On the other hand, we have also argued that the CNA's highest priority is to contain the power of Mexico, and working with this new bloc may offer the best way to do that."

Tucker Marshall, the campaign political director, seemed to have heard enough. "So what exactly do you-all propose we should do, Michael?"

"I think the sensible policy for us is a cautious middle course, between outright support for them on one hand and concern for the other national sovereignties in the region, on the other."

"G-d damn it!" Marshall's pudgy face was reddening. "Don't you realize that politically, the cautious middle course is the one thing we can't do? We been hecklin' Monaghan for eight years now about how he can't make a decision, how he wants to try to be friends with everybody, how he won't take a firm stand. And we know he's gon' be taking a cautious middle course. We gotta pick one side of the G-ddamned road or the other!"

Nods around the room. Michael Murphy was often a minority of one in these discussions, just as he was the sole Catholic and the sole UNO graduate among a close-knit group of Baptists from the University of Georgia. Pappy moved to defuse the situation.

"Now, Tucker, it ain't Michael's job to assess the po-litical implications. Once we get in office, we gon' be damn glad to have someone in the Foreign Ministry who can keep all these countries straight." He beamed his sunny face on Murphy, who brightened noticably, then addressed the whole room. "On the other hand, gen'men, I think Tucker's 'bout nailed the bung in the bung-hole when it comes to what we gon' do now. We cain't be lollygaggin'. The Brits and the New Granadans are startin' themselves a new team. Are we with'em or agin'em?"

Armin Gregory, the communications director, spoke up. "Everyone seen that boy on vita last Friday night? He had Walt MacAnuff eatin' out of his hand, and that ain't easy to do. I don't fancy runnin' against him, 'specially now you say he's gon' get himself a pretty fiancée."

"Princess Sophia, you say. She that good-looking? Whadda we know 'bout her, anyway?" asked Charles.

Pappy shrugged. "Got me trussed and hog-tied there, Dan. I didn' even know ole' King Henry had a daughter."

Murphy smiled a thin smile. "The British government tend to keep information on the Royals tightly controlled, and no wonder. They trot them out for a few ceremonial occasions, cut the ribbon on a new stopless, that sort of thing, and otherwise keep them out of the news as much as possible. From what I understand, though, Sophia seems to be the white sheep of the family. At least, nobody's linked her to any murders, or snapped any photos of her exposing her bottom."

Gus knew what Murphy was alluding to. Unlike his older sister, the Prince of Wales had been photographed with his royal arse in open view, and there were dark rumors that King Henry (in the days of his own dissolute youth) had once beaten a servant to death in a drunken rage. There were times when Gus wondered whether old Tom Jefferson hadn't had the right idea about kings.

"Of course," Gregory interjected, "maybe all that means is that Sophia's more circumspect than the rest of her family."

"Well," Pappy chuckled, "my Pappy always said, 'Son, if you cain't be good, be discreet.' As long as the girl's either one or the other, our boy Ferdi oughtta do just fine outta the match. But Ah don' think you answered Danny, Michael, she good-lookin' or not?"

Murphy reddened a bit. "Sweet sort of face, a bit pale, wears her hair in ringlets. As I said, they don't let her out much to be seen, but I'd say she's rather attractive, yes."

Gregory again. "And she's a real, honest to G-d storybook Prin-cess. I can see now, the dime paper's'll be all over the storybook couple, praisin' 'em to the skies. A dam' lot of our people want a King, Governor, and given a better choice than the one we got, they're gon' fall in love with both him and her. I don' think we can afford to muck around with that kind of popularity, not if we got a choice."

Pappy took in the room again. "Well, Ah think we do got a choice. Armin, you done laid out part of the downside of goin' agin' Ferdi and his new Brit friends. What's the downside of goin' with'em?"

"If I may, Governor?" Murphy again. "There's a substantial risk of political embarassment from aligning ourselves with two countries whose policies we don't control or even influence. We might discover that the occupation of Trinidad and Tobago isn't as benign as the RNG says it is. The RNG might go and invade someone else -- I told you there's something going on in Quito. The new government in Victoria could make another move to alienate our Negro voters. Or the British royal family could revert to type -- either Princess Sophia or one of the others. Any of those events during the campaign could really hurt us."

Marshall suddenly slapped Murphy on the back with genuine warmth. "Michael, my friend, now you're talkin' like a politician. I agree with him, Governor, there's a lot of different ways them foreigners could put us right in the middle of the hog waller. But I might point out that as it sits, we're losing this G-dd-mned election. We got to break through in Indiana to get a majority. And this might be the way to do it."

"Go on." Gus realized that Pappy still hadn't decided which way to go.

"We each got our core supporters -- regions, ethnic groups, and most of them ain't gon' move parties in the next four weeks. But there's one group we can move. The military, the West Indians 'cept for the ones from Trinidad, a lot of the Anglicans -- England and the Empire matter to them. They've been with Monaghan for the most part on account of his style -- he's got better breeding than any of the real lords. But now if policy toward the Empire becomes an election issue, and we're on the pro-Empire side, well, it could shake things up. And we need 'em shaken up."

"Uh-huh. Michael?"

"There's another risk of aligning with the Empire and RNG, Governor. If we win, we've got to govern. We've got to deal with Mexico, both the President and the Secretary, and with every country in the hemisphere. Can we afford to be so committed to what might be one side in a major conflict?"

"There's 'fore the election and after the election, Michael," Pappy answered, "and they ain't necessarily the same thing. Oh, Ah get your point, Ah know it ain't our boy Ferdi who's in charge in New Granada, it's that Colonel Elbittar. I'm not the kind of man to be hornswoggled by some tinpot colonel, Ah tell you, and Ah don't think you are either. You're right, we cain't go whole hog on this, we got to leave ahselves some wiggle room in case the situation changes. But I think we got to roll the dice."

"Armin, get to work on a speech for Wednesday night, welcoming the new alliance as partners and ready to slop on Monaghan for all the cautious things he's gon' say that afternoon. Make sure you go over ever'thing with Michael so we're real sure our rumps are covered." He'd crossed the Rubicon, Gus thought, just like that, set the direction of the entire rest of the campaign. A true gambler. Pappy had never had trouble making up his mind. That was what separated him from the Carter Monaghans of the world, and why he should be the Governor-General.

"Um, Governor? I just thought of something."

"Yes, Danny?"

"Didn't Dean get the same CBI briefing that you and Michael did? Should we worry about this leaking before Wednesday?"

"Uh-hum. Whadda you think, Armin?" This was directed not to Armin Gregory but to Armin DeWayne, FN4 the closest they had to an expert on the curious mental processes of their secondary Masonist opponent.

"Nah. Dean's not gonna go off on the basis of a CBI report. He thinks the CBI is lying to him all the time -- he'll think they're trying to set him up."

"You don' think the CBI is lyin' to us?"

"Nope. Anthony's FN5 the original straight shooter. He won't necessarily give us everything he's got, but what he gives us'll be true and what he keeps from us won't be for political advantage. He's got some hope of keepin' his job if we get in. Wouldn't be the worst idea in the world, either, keeping the CBI out of trouble on our watch."

"Then, gen'men, we have our work to do." The meeting began to break up, Pappy exchanging a few words with each of them.

"Gus, my boy, Ah understand you think Delaware's back in play?"

"Yes, Governor." By long-standing custom, Pappy was never "Pappy" in public.

"Then Ah'm gon' get in there and give them Delawareans a speech they won' forget. Betty, when can I do that?"

"All worked out, Governor, a side trip from Philadelphia on the 25th."

The sunshine of Lennart Skinner's face beamed once more, on the faces of his secretary and his son.

Forward to FAN #95: Get Shorty.

Forward to 16 July 1974: "Local Hero Comes Home".

Forward to CNA Politics: Southern Man Don't Need Him Around Anyhow.

Return to For All Nails.