Reading the email, it seemed as if she’d woken to an alternate reality.
You are invited to meet with Senator John McCain. Thank you for your concern regarding the successful removal of his tumor. The Senator applauds your diligence in writing so persistently.
Indeed, she had been nothing if not persistent. An email sent every single day for eight and a half months. Two-hundred-fifty-nine days since November 9, expressing her gratitude for his seeming sanity in a decidedly insane climate. The cancer diagnosis had seemed like a sign. It might have given him a new view of life.
* * *
She was ushered into his office which was more casual than she’d expected, with a strong Southwestern flair. He sat behind his desk, grinning with that crooked smile. There was a bandage above his eye and he seemed thinner than he looked on TV. She wasn’t sure whether it was the camera and its fabled ten pounds or the assault on his health.
He invited her to sit in the chair facing his desk. She sank into its large contours, feeling small and almost skeletal within the arms of the chair.
“What can I do for you..” He glanced down at his desk, and read the paper in front of him… “Ms. Ashe.”
“Nine hundred and twenty-four dollars.”
He smiled nervously.
“Do you think that’s a lot of money, Senator?”
“It’s a decent amount.”
“That’s what I pay for health insurance, not very good health insurance, the cheapest plan there is, every month.”
“And you’re fortunate to live in this great country where we have good medical care, even the plan that isn’t the absolute best.”
“It’s very difficult for me to afford. I can’t afford to save for retirement.”
“You have to prioritize.” He smiled.
“But I paid for the removal of your tumor.”
He picked up his phone and tapped out a message. Before she could speak again, the office door opened. “Time is up, Ms. Ashe.”
“Don’t you feel anything? That I pay for your platinum health care and I can’t afford my own?” Her voice was loud, filling the room.
“The men and women of congress devote themselves to serving the American people. Health insurance is part of our compensation. We’ve given up lucrative careers in the private sector. To serve you.”
“But I can’t afford…My premiums are going up if you don’t…Another two hundred dollars!”
The woman at the door spoke. “Ms. Ashe…”
I stood. “You don’t feel ashamed? Guilty? Anything at all?”
He put his hand to his heart. “I have a responsibility to demonstrate fiscal integrity. We need to reign in government spending. Big time.”
She leaned on his desk. “We could reign in your insurance. How about that?”
The woman took her elbow and propelled her toward the door. Behind her, the Senator coughed, but didn’t speak again.
* * *
The sharp, rough cry of a two crows fighting in the branches of the redwood tree at the edge of her backyard woke her. There was no alternate reality after all.
From the corner of her eye she saw a rush of black as the crows swooped out of the branches onto the ground. They shrieked with delight, having found some dead flesh they could pick over for the remainder of the day.