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 WARNING: You are about to enter an alternate universe.

 It was during my campaign for a second term that my recollections arrive in the Twilight Zone. So surreal I do not imagine you will believe, but they are so, and although my memory might confuse the exact order of things, they all happened just as I will describe them.

 I had not enjoyed being a State Senator but without ideas leading elsewhere I decided to run for re-election. Besides, my favorite part was coming up, meeting with thousands of voters in a re-election effort, a goodly number of which had become friends.

 It was in that happy spirit that my first mailed vote arrived, a few months early, in a plain white envelope without any return address or markings.  When I opened the letter, its sole contents, a shiny, heavy lump dropped out and landed in my lap.

 Now, I had not been much interested in hunting since I was about 10 when I hit a dove with my Christmas BB gun and watched it die. As result, I cannot tell you the caliber. I wasn’t worried and didn’t even report it.   This was long before such threats and shootings became common place.  Asking around, no other Senator had received such a gift and I just shrugged it off.

 I was more concerned with the pending flop.  The flop being my major re-election fund raiser that disabled my toilet plunger and completely unable to handle the mountain of crap to come.

  It was about two days before the fundraiser when I pointed out to my wife that no one would be attending.  The “no one would be attending,” remark was referencing the event’s dismal ticket sales, and I thought served as a punch to her midsection, since it was she who was managing my campaign and presumably the fundraiser. She wasn’t hurt or concerned. She had her own life to run and had handed off most responsibilities to a campaign manager she had hired with the kind of skills and experience we could afford.  His name was “Broom” Hall. Broom, a name he earned for an ability to beat all comers in pool halls using only a broom handle.

 Anyway, the flop had been advertised as vaudeville, and as it turned out there were more people signed up to be on the stage than there were people in the audience.  It was a bit humiliating, but partly saved by the local firefighters and my brother Bob.

 The firefighters, who adopted me during the campaign, went backstage and put on pillowcases in such an unusual way that they made them all look like four-foot-tall Pillsbury Dough Boys without elbows or knees. They humored the seated dozen or so with five minutes of relief, and then we all went back to waiting for a crowd that would never appear.

 I walked over to my mother, who never wanted me to follow my father into political life and now stood there, as only my mother could, with that same cocked, rigid look that used to say, “It’s your bedtime.”

Concerned or just embarrassed for me, my brother Bob, who spent a few months on the streets singing my praises to anyone that would listen, didn’t like such events or crowds suddenly stood up.  Bob was not supposed to be part of the program, but he marched up to the stage and began an impromptu 15-minute monologue that had the lucky few howling with laughter again and again. More importantly, he made them and me feel all was right with the world despite the empty room.  It was a peerless performance that would later that night make me cry, and as unassociated as it was, tell my wife I wanted a divorce.

 The fundraiser had little to do with my decision to separate from my wife. The fundraiser failure was only an event, but I felt it made as good a catalyst as any, to make my long agonized-over position known. I was just coming to recognize a flaw in my character: no activity, no matter how initially exciting, ever sustained my interest.  I would get bored with most every game, sport, hobby, friend, or person I ever knew. I inevitably just wanted to experience something else.  However, as it applied to people, this did not mean I did not care or was not loyal. I was perhaps offensively loyal, always struggling to sustain any and every relationship, but much the way most keep the relics of their past in pictures, to recall how much fun it once was, I wanted to keep the people themselves, only at a space apart.

 I had not yet come to grips with this character flaw and so duped myself into believing that there were two episodes that caused the breakup.

 One was coming home early one day, some weeks earlier and overhearing my wife tell her friends how she had demanded that she be able to keep her own last name when we married.  She did not know I was there. 

 For days before proposing, I had agonized over the precise words and arguments I would use to persuade her to keep her maiden name. I had never understood why women gave up the name they had been born with and so closely associated with for their entire lives.  A woman keeping her maiden name was still unusual, but I was pretty sure Carole would want to but might feel a little uncomfortable talking to me about it.  I wanted her to feel great about keeping hers and thus in my marriage proposal I included a virtual insistence that she do so.

 My often-unforgiving nature in the face of some perceived injustice could not forgive this violation of trust.  This indirect condemnation of me in front of ultra-liberal friends was minuscule but impossible for me to choke down.

 More fundamental and perhaps not entirely as self-duping was that we were entering our thirties and she had informed me that she still did not want to have children.  I wanted them badly but was in no position to force her cooperation.

 My handling of the divorce was unconscionable. I would not make the slightest effort to reconcile or talk to anyone about it. She could have everything (which was nothing) and within a day she had moved to her parents, I had thrown out my campaign volunteers, locked the doors and went on a cowardly three-day binger, drinking as heavily as one can and remain breathing.  I had desperately wanted to make sure I was more miserable than I imagined I had made Carole, who I loved and greatly admired to this day.  I just could not live with her.

 When I did come out filthy, unshaven, and not particularly coherent, volunteers asked if I would see a doctor. Being there “leader” and still in my self-absorbed early years, I refused, instead deciding to give a little more door-to-door a try. It was then that one opened into the Twilight Zone.

 Getting close to home, maybe three blocks away, I knocked on a final door. A heavy-set woman, maybe in her 60s, in a coffee stained and tattered robe, threw the screen door wide open hoping to hit me. The hatred smeared across her face was real, possibly dangerous.  She backed me up the sidewalk with her thundering voice, “You bastard!  I heard what you did.” She kept coming at me.  “What are you talking about?” I blurted. “You liberal commie bastard! You think we all do not know what you did.  Everyone knows your wife caught you sleeping with that blond bimbo. We saw, we all know she chased you out with a frying pan.”   She kept coming at me. “I knew you were a lying bastard when I heard you moved here from Illinois with all that labor money. You lying, fucking bastard!”

 It was, of course, difficult to know exactly how to handle this particular voter, who had gotten her information from the Klingon Star Ship. But getting her vote was not likely, so I kept backing away. Bodily harm was her desire, but I was pretty sure I could out jog her slippers if need be.

 Her bit about a blond, money and Illinois, a state I had never been to – what the Hell was that all about?  I wouldn’t find out until sometime later when tens of thousands of leaflets arrived in voter’s mailboxes. For the moment, I was just thinking of an escape route. She continued to rant as I back peddled. I heard sirens approaching on our street and thought, please hurry. My hands were raised palms out in a gestured effort to pause the onslaught and protect myself from any knives or hatchets that might suddenly appear. I made it to the corner and my chance to escape. Spinning around I jogged down the street toward my house and it was then that I entered the Twilight Zone.

 The pace of my escape was as in a dream, where try as you might, with all of your might, you just can’t accelerate in the goo.  For as I gazed down the street, I saw a number of police cars at my house with two more squealing around a corner, doors popping and guns out.

 Starting with no supporters coming to my fundraiser, the kind of guilt that only comes from hurting someone you love, piled on by a neighbor and constituent’s revulsion of everything that is you, and now this massive police presence: Exactly how horrid a creature was I?

 I slowed as I approached home.  What I thought must be a policeman, only very nicely dressed in a suit, approached me. He explained the scene around my house as well as anyone could. “Senator Kimball, you and the President have been threatened.” The President of what I asked. “President Jimmy Carter,” he said. “Huh!” was the best I could manage.  He repeated himself and I struggled in vain to digest the comment. It was as if all the parts of my brain had suddenly become unscrewed.  I didn’t feel worried, threatened or concerned about anything that he said, I just couldn’t grasp it. I was only concerned with the crazy lady who I was certain must have tracked me and about to pounce from behind. Thankfully she had vanished.

 Oddly, as I began to mull over what the officer had said, I noticed that I felt a tiny twinge of pride. “The President and me you say?” Some wacko put us in the same category.  “I am with the Secret Service,” he said, “Please come with me.”

 We walked over to a group of Phoenix’s finest, who informed me that I couldn’t go into my home right now, that they were searching for the suspect and evidence. “Do you know who it is?” I asked. “We are looking for a fellow named Broom Hall.”

 Admittedly, Broom was a little strange and I had learned that much of his money came from an adorable little wife who made itsy bitsy stage outfits for strippers, but an assassin?  No, this was all wrong.  Despite his oddities, he seemed such a nice, even thoughtful fellow.  “Listen there has to be some mistake here,” I said to the various badges now surrounding me. “NO! There is no mistake,” the agent barked. “We deal with threats all the time; we had him on the phone for some time and this one fits the profile we do not mess around with. We have to find him, now.”

 An hour later I was to learn that Broom owned a number of guns that were now missing from his home, that he had gone after his pregnant wife because she knew too much. She was now nowhere to be found.

 The warning or threat began with a police caller, who the Secret Service, with little difficulty, figured out was Broom himself.  The caller had said that I would be taken down at a Democratic Party fundraiser scheduled for later that week by a man pretending to be and made up to look exactly like my campaign manager.

 The various officers in charge insisted that I not sleep at home for a few days while they staked it out.  After hearing about Broom, the guns and his wife, and the event to happen at the party fundraiser, I thought the idea of my sleeping elsewhere a good one, so I picked my jaw up off the pavement and dragged it down the street where my little brother had just moved into a little house.  

 Out of the blue, just as I was packing up a few things, Broom’s pregnant wife showed up. She was scared as hell and after the Secret Service interviewed her, she asked if I could help her find a place to hide out. I found a place that the officers thought a good one on the other side of town and then got us out of there.

 I didn’t have to go far, which was good, because I would still have access to my home office and files when needed, but what had been bizarre was about to go freakish.

  My littlest brother, who if anything spent more time in the Black Hole of adolescence than his four siblings had a surprise of his own.  My brother’s place was perfect, I thought. He wasn’t involved in my politics at all, few knew him, his house was just few doors away, and no one knew him. Perfect I thought, the police could stake out my house, try to trap Broom and I could still access my campaign files when necessary.

 A policeman escorted me over and agreed it would be fine. An hour after the officer left, I was putting some my stuff on the top shelf of my new bedroom closet and discovered that my baby brother was in the drug business. He had a little marijuana trouble with the law years earlier and spent months in a Mexican prison for it. There were two rather large foil-covered bricks of tightly packed marijuana.

 The coming headlines scrolled through my imagination!

 The Arizona Republic, the state’s largest newspaper, was led by a heavily-medaled military leader, who no longer served in the military but greatly enjoyed his uniform and commendations and wore them at formal occasions. It would later be discovered that he had never earned those ribbons or medals, or even served in the military, but unfortunately for me, this absurd masquerade had yet to be exposed and for the moment, he possessed real power and a lack of affection for me.

 When he got wind of all that was going on around my house, I thought he would have a difficult dilemma.  What headline would he choose?




 It would all be bullshit but that never seemed to matter to this fellow and his paper. I imagined that an after the fact simple headline might be the best result for me:


(New chapters will be added roughly once a week)

Richard Kimball, Vote Smart Founder

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Published inGovernmentPolitics