The First Gardener
- Wednesday, August 03, 2011
He was back to pacing. “Yeah. Have time to shower?”
“Sure. Maddie’s out with Oliver. She’ll enjoy not being rushed.”
He wiped the top of his head with the sleeve of his shirt. “Maddie figured out what kind of pizza she wants tonight?”
Sunday nights at the governor’s mansion were pizza nights. Maddie’s favorite. The child could smell a pepperoni six streets over. She spotted pizza deliverymen quicker than Mackenzie spotted a nice pair of shoes.
“She’s not branching out this week, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
He laughed. “I guess after almost three years of the same meal every Sunday night, I should quit hoping. But what’s life without a little hope, huh?”
She smiled. “A little hope got us a long way, didn’t it?”
“That’s what I’m saying.”
The phone rang on the side table by Mackenzie. She picked it up. In a few moments she said, “Sure, Joseph, send him up.”
Gray looked at her. “For me?”
She nodded, certain the disappointment showed. “Yep.” She had hoped for an entire day to themselves without an interruption.
He looked at his watch. “Well, we made it almost twenty-four hours. Unfortunately not all of those were in the same day.”
The buzzer sounded at the entrance to the mansion’s family quarters. Mackenzie watched as Gray walked down the long, carpeted hallway.
This was a piece of the sacrifice—the only piece that really got to her. The capitol hill bickering she tried to ignore. The picketing of events outside the mansion she saw as people’s rights to their opinions. The media’s interest in Gray’s breakfast choices she simply found silly. But the constant interruptions to their life and the heavy demands on their time challenged her on her best days.
Gray opened the door to Kurt Green, his frazzled-looking chief of staff. Kurt’s white polo shirt hung loosely over his khaki shorts as he hurried through the door. He had been in a rush since Mackenzie had met him. And except for his bald head, he looked virtually the same as when he and Gray were Kappa Alphas at the University of Tennessee.
Gray closed the door and moved past Kurt. “What happened to your phone? It’s Sunday. You should be doing something. Family something.”
Kurt’s flip-flops beat against his heels as he followed Gray across the thick damask carpet and into the living room. “Okay, sure. I’ll call next time.” He extended a folder from his hand. “But today we’ve got a lawsuit on our hands.”
Gray reached out and took the file from his friend’s hand. “I know. The lawsuit from that victim's advocacy group over the prisoner release.” He raised an eyebrow at Kurt.
“The lawsuit we agreed to look over next week.”
“That was before the press got wind of it and decided it would make a great Monday morning headline.” Kurt ran his hands across his hairless skull—a bad habit Gray jokingly claimed had led to his present state. “Stuff like this is what completely destroys reelections.” Kurt had been thinking about the reelection since the day Gray took the oath of office. Maybe even before.
Gray scanned the file. “A reelection campaign won’t prevent me from doing what needs to be done, Kurt.”
Kurt shook his head. “Well, that’s fine, Gray, but we’ve got to respond to this now. There are Democrats and Republicans alike who want you out.”
“And there are Democrats and Republicans who will change their minds tomorrow. It’s those same Democrats and Republicans who have left this state with no choice but cutbacks. I would prefer to not release prisoners either. But it’s nonviolent offenders only, and it’s better than firing schoolteachers.” Gray closed the folder and handed it back to Kurt. “Though I still haven’t ruled out shutting down the government and letting everybody go a couple of months without paychecks.”
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