The old man brightened up. “Isn’t that where there’s some kind of captive breeding program or something?”
“Well, in most cases yes, but I hardly think–”
“I want Pam Anderson.”
“There’s not going to be any breeding program!”
“Wherever there’s a hippy there’s a breeding program. But if I have to I can just roll my own.”
“I repeat. There’ll be no breeding program!”
“Then how do you think you’re going to get me to go?”
“Bailiff, are the nets ready?”
The bailiff nodded.
A startled look flashed on the old man’s face. “Bummer,” he muttered. Then, he disappeared under the conference room table.
“Bailiff, get him out of there.”
The bailiff darted around the table, trying but failing to grab hold of the old man who was scuttling about on his hands and knees. Women who were seated at the table screamed and pushed back their chairs.
“Bailiff, use the mace.”
A muffled voice rose from under the table. “I don’t want to go.”
“It’s for your own good,” the Senator shouted.
“Why don’t you let me decide that?”
“That’s not the way your government works. Bailiff, get him out of there.”
The bailiff pulled out a can of mace and sprayed a shot in the direction of the old man’s voice. There was a brief gasp from under the table. Then, the smell of the mace diffused throughout the room. Bailiffs, stenographers, witnesses, spectators—all started coughing. Some gagged and held their hands to their mouths as they stumbled from the room. In the chaos, nobody noticed the first puffs of smoke that billowed out from under the table. Soon, however, the smell of marijuana was unmistakable.
The Senator’s eyes were watering as he shouted under the table. “Stop that!”
There was no answer, just a swift intake of breath, and then a slow exhale.
“Will you come out of there?”
“So fuzz there can mace me? I don’t think so.” Another swift intake.
“We need to talk.”
“Come on down here, then. Just you.”
The Senator looked at his waistline, looked at his clerk, looked at the Bailiff, and sighed.
“And what about rock ‘n’ roll? Whatever happened to rock ‘n’ roll? It’s everywhere. Jimi Hendrix is selling Pepsi. Bob Dylan is selling lingerie. And the Rolling Stones sell Cadillacs. Cadillacs for God’s sake. What’s next – The Doors selling lighter fluid?”
“That’s capitalism, Mr. Toad.”
“No it isn’t. That’s hippytalism. Sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll. It’s all around you. We’re all around you. Hell, we’re not extinct. Hippies have taken over the world.”
“I hardly think–”
“We just morphed, man. I bet Sulphur’s running General Motors by now. Or should be.”
“We’re running out of time, Mr. Toad.”
“I told you, it’s just ‘Toad’.”
“I DON’T CARE IF IT’S ‘FROG’S ASS’.” The Senator stood and glared down at the old man, who leaned towards the Senator as he spoke.
“You know the problem with you guys? You think that, just because you’re the government, you can fuck with people’s lives; you can decide what’s best and how people should live. Hell, I lived my life so far without your help. Who says I need you now?”
“You aren’t going to let us help you?”
“And do what? Mace me? Net me? Make a bunch of rules for how I’m supposed to live? That’s a bad trip, man.”
“That’s not the way your government works, Toad.”
“It was five minutes ago.”
The Senator dismissed Toad’s statement with a wave of his hand. “You don’t understand.”
Toad spoke. “What were you planning to do, then, give me a bunch of money?”
“Your government doesn’t just throw money at problems, sir. It solves them.”
The old man took the remains of the hand-rolled cigarette out of his shirt pocket, looked at it in disgust and threw it away. “Whatever you’re smoking, it beats hell out of my stash. If you want to share it, you know where to find me.”
“We’re not through–”
“I am, man. I’m outta here.”
The old man glared at the Senator for a moment, and then his eyes softened. His right hand flashed a “V”. “Peace” he said. Involuntarily, the clerk and the bailiff responded in kind. The old man smiled. Then, he turned and walked from the room.
The Senator sighed deeply. “Bailiff, open the windows, let’s get some fresh air into this place.”
The bailiff walked over and opened the windows, and waved at the clouds of smoke that were the most tangible reminder of the old man who had just left.
“What’s next on the calendar?”
The clerk peered over his notes.
“We’ve got a Rastafarian at two.”
“High-jumping Jesus. Okay people, we’re going to take a break until two.” The Senator rapped his gavel, arose, and retreated from the Senate chamber.
Once safely inside his office, Senator Orpheus Broadchaser flopped in his chair. “Hey, Jasmine honey,” he called out to his secretary. “Hey, get me a drink.” The Senator took an orange prescription bottle from his pocket, dropped a pill on to his palm and swallowed it, using the bourbon his secretary brought him. After a brief grimace, he settled back in his chair. His eyes caught those of his secretary. She smiled a knowing smile and turned to lock the door. As he watched her hips sway across the office, the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” began to play over the piped-in Capitol sound system. Senator Broadchaser smiled. Life was good. He loosened his tie and decided that he would not let the delusions of an obviously crazy old man ruin his day.