by Jake Christie

a story.

The Candidate was all things to all people. To everybody who wanted someone tough, he was the toughest sonovagun you could find. To everybody who wanted him gentle, he was as gentle as that gorilla who had that pet kitten – or, to use a more enduring comparison, as gentle as a lamb. His policies were agreeable to every last voter, his every position unassailable. He ran unopposed, because even prospective opponents realized they'd rather vote for the Candidate than for themselves. And so on. He was the shoo-in of all shoo-ins. Everybody fell in love with him.

Then, a few weeks before the election, the Candidate held a press conference. He stood at the microphone, bathed in the glow of the entire country's adulation, and said, “I don't think I want to do this anymore.”

The assembled press didn't – couldn't – say a thing. Across the nation, millions of jaws collectively dropped. The Candidate tried to smile that winning smile that everyone had fallen in love with, but he only made it about halfway.

“I'm sorry,” he told the American people, “I just don't feel the same way about you that I used to.” He mopped his forehead with a handkerchief. “I'm sure you'll find somebody else.” And with that he walked off. The press, for their part, were too busy feeling hurt to stop him. The reporter from NBC started to cry.

Over the next weeks, the Candidate was flooded with calls. “We can change,” said ordinary citizens. “Just tell us what you want us to do.” The Candidate stopped picking up the phone. He got angry messages in the middle of the night, messages filled with rage and invective, then messages of tearful apology the very next morning. His driveway was filled with heart-shaped candy boxes and teddy bears and bouquets. Somebody stood in front of the Candidate's house holding a boombox over his head. The executive boards of Fortune 500 companies laid in the street, their bodies positioned so that they would spell, “I'm sorry.”

On the eve of the election the Candidate stepped out his front door, where he knew they'd be waiting for him. He didn't need a microphone. Everybody held their breath.

“Please,” he said. “You have to let this go. I don't want you anymore. All these things – they won't change anything. You're a wonderful population. It's not you, it's me. I'm sorry, but please, you have to stop.”

He walked inside and shut the door without looking back.

Again, silence. The American people, in their homes and in stopped cars, in offices and stores, looked at each other. Did the Candidate look... happy? They'd all seen it. He wasn't haggard or sleepless like everyone else. He hadn't grown a beard. His eyes weren't puffy or red. He looked happy, which meant he was lying. He wasn't broken up. He wasn't guilty. It wasn't him, it was them. And if it was them, they could change – they could get him back. They just had to show him it would be different from now on.

He was elected by a landslide.

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