“A CHECK IN THE HAND” (SHORT STORY)

Presidential hopeful Andrew Yang is in his sparsely furnished campaign headquarters getting ready to jump on a conference call.

Young campaign staffers are milling about. His campaign manager is scrolling through polling data and news stories on his phone.

Everyone is excited about the uptick in support. Everyone except creative director Philip Morris who’s been here before. Who’s seen too many Democratic contenders flame out once the race gets serious.

Philip has a few ideas on how Yang can go all the way.

All the way to the White House.

Rated NC-17 / 2,000 words / 8 minutes of persuasive reading pleasure

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‘The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.’ Niccolò Machiavelli

STEFANO BOSCUTTI

A CHECK IN THE HAND


Copyright 2019 Stefano Boscutti
All Rights Reserved

TIMES SQUARE - ANDREW YANG 2020 CAMPAIGN HEADQUARTERS - MAKE-SHIFT KITCHEN - MORNING (2019)

Midtown sounds slip in through old timber window frames. Car horns and traffic swirl, sirens tear the air.

YANG
Getting shot!

It makes sense that ANDREW YANG’S biggest fear would be getting gunned down. Running for President of the United States, meeting the people, pressing the flesh, squeezing the trigger.

YANG
That and, like, being forced to wear a tie.

Yang, 44, cracks a smile. He’s been on the road for weeks, ping-ponging from city to city, rally to rally. Pitching his Freedom Dividend as the $1,000 a month no-strings-attached bridge to a better future, peeling off Trump supporters, dragging progressives and conservatives forward.

Like Paul Revere, riding hard from town to town, yelling into the night, ‘The robots are coming, the robots are coming.’

Yang is meeting creative director PHILIP MORRIS, 40s, for the first time because for the first time it’s getting serious. The polling numbers have just tipped him into double digits.

Clatter of silver bracelets as Philip points to the Democratic Party’s light blue circled D sticker slapped on the fridge door.

PHILIP
Tom’s going to be calling you today.

Yang nods. There’s a photocopier on the left of the fridge. Philip ambles over to the counter on the right with scattered plates and mugs and cutlery and too many packets of Cheerios and breakfast cereals.

ZACH GRAUMANN, 31, wanders in, thumbing his phone and not looking up. Casually chewing gum.

Philip scratches his three-day growth, glances at his watch. He has to leave in 10 minutes.

PHILIP
Don’t take the call. He’s going to try and scare you into thinking you need senior campaigners, that you’re out of your depth, that you don’t know what you’re doing. Probably start dangling superdelegates in front of you, whispering sweet nothings in your ear.

YANG
Got it. Don’t pick up.   

Philip picks up a packet of Golden Oat Belvita Breakfast Biscuits.

PHILIP
Are these gluten-free?

Yang shakes his head.

YANG
I’m pretty sure they’re all gluten, all sugar, all saturated fat. They’re awesome.

Philip puts the packet down.

PHILIP
Getting shot is not your biggest problem.

Zach looks up. As Yang’s campaign manager, he’s been handling day-to-day operations.

PHILIP
Your biggest problem is being believed. Freedom Dividend, Universal Basic Income, $1,000 a month. You can stack up the facts as much as you like, and people still won’t believe you.

Yang smiles.

YANG
Like, what sort of asshole doesn’t believe in giving people $1,000 a month, no question asked?

PHILIP
Every candidate who’s lining up against you, every journalist who’s naturally suspicious, every economist who’s crunched some numbers. Everyone who’s ever seen a politician promise something they didn’t deliver.

YANG
So, like, basically everybody’s an asshole.

PHILIP
It’s survival instinct. People can’t see the future, you have to show it to them. People only believe what they see.

Zach stops chewing gum, mouth tightens.

PHILIP
Zach, I don’t want your job. What you’ve done with the team, with the fundraising is fantastic. But it’s not what I do.

ZACH
And what is it that you do?

PHILIP
I make your dreams.

Zach arches an eyebrow.

PHILIP
And then I make them come true.

ZACH
Spoken like a true adman.

PHILIP
Zach, everything is advertising. This office, the other candidates, your shirt sleeves rolled up just so. It’s all advertising. The only difference is whether it’s bad or it’s good. Whether it works, or it’s a waste of time.

Philip smiles. If he wanted to impress Zach, he could tell him the brand of his slim-fit blue cotton shirt, the brand of his classic analog watch with the dark blue and green nylon band. He could tell Zach every brand of everything he owns in a blink of an eye. All the preppy details down to the styling products that keep his swept-back hair in place.

PHILIP
Do you know what good advertising is? Good advertising is an idea so self-evident that it sells itself, perpetuates itself. It doesn’t even need a media buy. 

Philip looks out the windows into the morning light.

PHILIP
I’m going to tell you a story about the richest man in the world and the worst mining massacre in American history.

A handful of campaign staff are moving between desks. Most staff have already moved two floors up to a larger space. 

PHILIP
It’s April 20, 1914, and John D. Rockefeller controls 70 percent of the world market for oil. Workers at his Colorado Fuel and Iron company had been on strike for better working conditions for months. Rockefeller had evicted thousands of striking workers and their families from company-owned homes. With nowhere to go, these strikers pitched tents in a town called Ludlow.

Creak of worn timber floors.

PHILIP
It was a Monday night, dark under a waning crescent moon when the company’s militiamen stormed in and machine-gunned the camp before setting fire to the tents, killing women and children trapped inside. In the aftermath, the Red Cross reported finding 26 dead bodies.

Shuffle of paper across a desk.

PHILIP
The next day The New York Times ran the story with the headline - “Women and Children Roasted in Pits of Tent Colony As Flames Destroy It.”

Whirr of photocopier warming up.

PHILIP
John D. Rockefeller was ripped apart in the press. The nation was shocked, furious. People picketed outside Rockefeller’s office in New York. Months of negotiations, mediations, and talk of settlement came to nothing. The family name was tarnished forever.

Scrape of glass entrance doors opening.

PHILIP
Until a man by the name of Ivy Lee came along. Lee was an early purveyor of public relations. Lee invented the press release.

Flick of light being switched on.

PHILIP
He advised Rockefeller to carry around fresh dimes in his pocket and hand them out freely to people in the street, especially children. It was a simple gesture, caught on newsreels of the day. It spread like wildfire.

Yang thrums his fingers against his thigh.

PHILIP
Rockefeller went from being the most reviled man in America to the most loved.

YANG
All for the price of a dime.

Philip smiles.

YANG
You want me to hand out checks?

PHILIP
I want you to reach into your blazer pocket and hand over signed $1,000 checks.

YANG
And tell them there’s a check just like that every month if they vote for me.

PHILIP
Not ‘if.’

YANG
What?

PHILIP
‘When.’ There’s a check just like that every month ‘when’ they vote for you.

Yang thinks. Philip shrugs.

PHILIP
You want to be the presumptive nominee? Be presumptive.

YANG
Holy crap, do I really have to give $1,000 checks to everybody I meet?

Beat.

PHILIP
It has to be random. 

YANG
Variable ratio schedule?

Philip nods.

PHILIP
The MC as you step up to the podium for your next campaign rally, some stranger when you’re walking through the next town, Anderson Cooper when you’re next on CNN.

Yangs laughs.

YANG
On camera? Hand him a $1,000 check?

Philip nods.

YANG
And tell him there’s a check just like that every month when he votes for me?

PHILIP
Cooper has around 1.2 million viewers. That’s not huge.

YANG
But that’s not the point?

PHILIP
Every other anchor, every other journalist, every other news outlet is going to report it.

YANG
And that’s huge. 

PHILIP
It’s the best $1,000 you’re ever going to spend on television.

Philip turns to the open glass entrance door. Yang 2020 campaign posters are taped on the glass.

PHILIP
Okay, I have to go.

They hug.

YANG
So no more advice?

PHILIP
Keep your dick in your pants.

YANG
What?

PHILIP
No fucking the interns or the aides. Or the honeypots coming your way.

YANG
Hey, I love my wife.

PHILIP
We all love our wives, Andrew.

Philip walks away.

PHILIP
One more thing.

Philip passes through the open glass doorway.

PHILIP
Don’t get assassinated.


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Copyright 2019 Stefano Boscutti

All Rights Reserved


No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing.

Stefano Boscutti acknowledges the trademark owners of various products referenced in this work. The publication or use of these trademarks is not authorised or sponsored by the trademark owner.

This is a work of fiction. While many of the characters portrayed here have counterparts in the life and times of Andrew Yang and others, the characterisations and incidents presented are totally the products of the author’s political imagination. This work is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It should not be resold or given away. Thank you for your support. (Couldn’t do it without you.)

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