Ecochondriacs [3]

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The Dying Candidate

Brock Tilton stared at his personal physician balefully. He trusted his doctor’s medical expertise completely, but did not trust the “life coach” lessons that Timothy Zizousias would try to offer him from time to time. Zizousias was the one who had, about six months earlier, delivered the news to him about his congenital heart disease, and how serious it really was. He was also the same doctor whose complete silence had been purchased for quite a handsome fee. When it came to raw physical stamina, Tilton was something of a draft horse, and that is why deception on the point was even a possibility. He didn’t look like he was going to keel over any minute but, Zizousias assured him, that was coming up pretty soon. “Fitness is not the same thing as health,” the doctor had just said. “You can just be stubborn for a little bit, and maybe a little bit more. But that’s it.”

The thing that made this interesting on a broader scale was that Tilton was the Democratic nominee for the presidency, and on some days his race against Mike Pence looked like it was neck-and-neck, and other days it looked as though he had a better than even chance. Other days Pence was ahead. This was according to their internal polls, as opposed to the public jokes that were good for nothing other than trying to manipulate the public. Anybody who believed the polls offered up for public consumption was as big a joke as the polls were.

Anything could happen, as Tilton well knew, and so he was resolved that one of the things that was not going to happen was any news getting out that the Democratic nominee had only months to live, six or eight, give or take. And as it happened, Tilton’s veep nomination was a young up-and-comer named Del Martin, barely old enough to be president.

Depending on how stressful the campaign appeared to be to observers and bystanders, Zizouzias would come in periodically with life lessons from an aspiring life coach. If only Brock retired, took it easy, hired the very best physicians—he had lots of money—he could probably live another couple of years. And if he got a good match for a heart transplant, he could go fishing for years.

The problem with all such proposals was that even though Brock Tilton was a cold-hearted bastard, he did have one hot passion. That one hot passion was the jet fuel he used in order to fly his insane ambition up to his own private heights. By this point in his career, he almost qualified as an astronaut.

If he could just be elected to the presidency, and have that particular accomplishment next to his name, he didn’t care what happened after that. If he lost the election, he wouldn’t mind having a battery of doctors take a look at his ticker, but that would likely mean kissing good-bye to any chance of running for the presidency in the future. And he did not want to take that chance. He would rather be president for three months and then dead than not be president for three years and then dead. He had worked it all out in his head, and it hadn’t taken that long. He was a man who knew what he wanted.

Nobody knew about this particular medical issue except for Timothy Zizouzias. Nobody. The party didn’t know, his advisors didn’t know, his donors didn’t know, his wife didn’t know, the God Brock didn’t believe in didn’t know, and his running mate Del Martin didn’t know. The only two who knew about it were sitting in that little doctor’s room, staring coldly at each other. It was not cold most of the time, for they had an understanding, but it was cold sometimes, like now.

“I know you don’t want to hear about leaving the race,” Zizouzias said. “I just have to bring it up from time to time in order to salve what’s left of my medical conscience.”

“The only salve you need is cash,” Tilton said, “and I have made sure you will have plenty of that. More than you will know what to do with, more than was decent, and way more than market rate. If we were to judge the state of your conscience by how much cash it took to make it feel better, we might have to conclude that your conscience doesn’t have a lot to say to us in this conversation.“

Zizouzias winced and decided to drop it. “Are you going to tell Del Martin?”

Tilton shook his head brusquely. “No need. He’s a big boy. A bit too pragmatic for my taste, but he will be much better than that cardboard cutout Pence. And if the base turns out in sufficient numbers to get me in, they will remain powerful enough to keep Del from getting seduced by all those Wall Street boys. Man, I hate those guys.”

He was talking this way because Tilton was a hard leftist from the old school. He had been a reddiaper baby, and was steeped in the wit and wisdom of Saul Alinsky from his earliest days. But over the years he had learned the delicate art of covering over his communism with the Verathane of a populist and democratic feel-good jargon. As a consequence, his whole career was pretty shiny by this point, not to mention sticky. However, all close political observers knew that Tilton was the closest thing to an actual Trotskyite ever to have an actual chance of living in the White House.

The fact that he was virtually a communist was well known in rightwing circles, but the mainstream media was resolved to see nothing whatever that was problematic to the left. And there wasn’t much room to their left anyhow. He could count on them to prevent the word from getting around widely. He could also count on them not to circulate the photos of him partying with Fidel Castro. He could count on them for lots of things. Somebody could prove that he had been Vladimir Lenin’s roommate in college, and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. He wouldn’t even need to point out that the chronologies didn’t fit at all—Lenin having died long before Tilton was even born. There was that, and it would be a cinch to prove, but it wouldn’t even be necessary. He could grant the facts behind the devastating “roommate ad” that the RNC just put out, and that would not change his levels of support from the media.

Tilton stopped his daydream and shook his head again. “No. No, Martin will be fine. He will wake up one day, not knowing that he is going to become president that day. He will be fine if the base yells at him loud enough, and frequently enough. And I think they are in the mood to do just that.”

Their conversation then turned back to practical medical matters, and the regime of medications that Zizouzias was using to keep Tilton vertical and somewhat energetic. It was a complicated regime of pills, and somewhat experimental, but Tilton had been making a good run of it.

The ethics of the whole thing aside, Zizouzias was actually pretty pleased with himself.

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Todd Van Voorst
2 years ago

loving this! just an editorial/continuity note: the Dr.’s name changes from “Zizousias ” to “Zizouzias” after its first few uses.