...a married man straining toward middle age, dashes into the neighborhood poll booth in order to "exercise his right," before heading off to work.
His hair is kept short, but has lately begun showing signs of wear, with a graying tint. An old grease-stained work T hangs from his shoulders, and an aged pair of denim carpenter's hide the tops of his ancient work boots.
While he grew up in a strictly Republican household, with age he's come to realize that he can no longer claim loyalty to either party. He considers himself a "tweener," casting his vote for what he feels would be best for his family rather than remaining true to some political cause or fattened agenda.
He quickly slides his identification card into the machine, hoping to be back on the road before his car's engine has a chance to cool, when his finger hesitates over the touch screen.
A school levy asking for additional funds generated through an increase in everyone's property taxes in order to make improvements to the local high school. Having a couple of kids enrolled at the school, he had anticipated on voting "yes" on the issue.
Then he thought of his elderly neighbor. A couple nearing seventy and in jeopardy of losing their home. They can't afford to pay their taxes as they are. An increase would no doubt force them to leave.
That neighbor of his is the nicest man he'd ever met. He'd borrowed countless tools from him over the years without the batting of an eye. And now...
His finger hovers over the touch screen, trembles, then lowers. The machine makes a clicking sound and the screen changes.
A group of people up north want to build a casino by the lake. The jobs, the money, a chance to right the ship in a state wallowing in debt.
Again his index finger lowers, then stops. Gambling is an age-old sin. It brings with it crime in every shape and form, like a pair of inseparable mobsters, both weilding tommy-guns under their knee-length trenchcoats.
But the money. A hundred million dollars leaves the state and get pushed into slot machines in states above and below us every year. So why not keep it here for a change? Why not help ourselves for once?
But the crime...our children.
A minute passes. His finger comes down. The machine clicks, moves on.
Voting on city officials. Republicans and Democrats. Ancient rivals with deep lines drawn in the sand. One can almost pick them out of a lineup at this point.
He thinks of the Vice President of the company he works for and his brow lowers, his jaw clenches. A sixty-something finger-pointer who liked standing behind or on top of machines while in operation, in order to keep an eye on his employees. To make sure there was no mischief on the shop floor. Never mind figuring out who the culprit was who repeatedly stole everyone's drinks from the refridgerator in the break room. Or that guy who takes pleasure in drawing racist graffiti behind the closed stalls in the lockeroom. Let's ignore them in order to make sure the machine's continued to hum, and products shipped, and money pocketed.
A Republican. No doubt.
Then he thinks of the owner of an impressive collection of boogers which have been smeared upon the walls of the restroom directly above each urinal, naturally at eye level for proper convenience. The simple foulness of the act causes his head to shake from side to side, and yet he couldn't help but grin. The level of maturity somewhere down below the crumbling leaves in his front yard.
Had to be a Democrat.
He glances at the names. Recognizes a few, squints at others. Then makes his choices.
He retrieves his card, pockets it and leaves.
He surprised himself on a few decisions, stuck to his guns on others. He doubts he'll be cast into the pits of hell over what he's chosen, or be issued a golden key at the Pearly Gates. But he did his best. Did what he thought was right. And in the end, he hopes maybe that's enough.
And he prays that the owner of all those boogers used a different voting machine whenever he showed up and made his selections...
Update... "Broken" is currently being read by a local publishing house, and a well-known agent from Los Angeles.
"Maji" will be entered into a short story contest in hopes of publication.
The second part of "The Fall" is on draft number two, and will be sent off to an E-magazine for publication when complete. Feeling confident over that one.
And "The Fellas" is currently being hammered out in between mortgage payments and overtime in the pressroom.
Still hoping...ever waiting.