"The guy's a living legend, Harris. Y'know how jaded we must be to let him walk by without saying hello?"
"He's going to the can . . ."
"You can still say hello, right?"
Harris makes a face, then motions over to LaRue, who raises the volume on C-SPAN. Whatever Harris is about to say, he doesn't want it heard. "Matthew, I hate to break it to you, but the only reason you didn't throw him a Hi, Congressman is because you think his environmental record is crap."
It's hard to argue with that. Last year, Enemark was the number one recipient of campaign money from the timber, oil, and nuclear power industries. He'd clear-cut Oregon, hang billboards in the Grand Canyon, and vote to pave over his own garden with baby seal skins if he thought it'd get him some cash. "But even so, if I were a twenty-two-year-old just out of college, I still would've stuck my hand out for a quick Hi, Congressman. I'm telling you, Harris, eight years is enoughthe fun's long gone."
Still standing at the urinal, Harris stops. His green eyes narrow, and he studies me with that same mischievous look that once got me thrown in the back of a police car when we were undergrads at Duke. "C'mon, Matthew, this is Washington, D.C.fun and games are being played everywhere," he teases. "You just have to know where to find them."
Before I can react, his hand springs out and grabs the Lorax pin from my lapel. He glances at LaRue, then over to the Congressman's jacket on the coat-rack.
"What're you doing?"
"Cheering you up," he promises. "Trust me, you'll love it. No lie."
There it is. No lie. Harris's favorite turn of phraseand the first sign of guaranteed trouble.
I flush my urinal with my elbow. Harris flushes his with a full-on grip. He's never been afraid to get his hands dirty. "How much will you give me if I put it on his lapel?" he whispers, holding up the Lorax and moving toward Enemark's coat.
"Harris, don't . . ." I hiss. "He'll kill you."
There's a hollow rumble of spinning toilet paper from within the stall. Enemark's almost finished.
As Harris shoots me a smile, I reach for his arm, but he sidesteps my grip with his usual perfect grace. It's how he operates in every political fight. Once he's focused on a goal, the man's unstoppable.
"I am the Lorax, Matthew. I speak for the trees!" He laughs as he says the words. Watching him slowly tiptoe toward Enemark's jacket, I can't help but laugh with him. It's a dumb stunt, but if he pulls it off . . .
I take that back. Harris doesn't fail at anything. That's why, at twenty-nine years old, he was one of the youngest chiefs of staff ever hired by a Senator. And why, at thirty-five, there's no onenot even the older guyswho can touch him. I swear, he could charge for some of the stuff that comes out of his mouth. Lucky me, old college friends get it for free.
"How's the weather look, LaRue?" Harris calls to Mr. Shoeshine, who, from his seat near the tiled floor, has a better view of what's happening under the stall.
If it were anyone else, LaRue would tattle and run. But it isn't anyone else. It's Harris. "Bright and sunny," LaRue says as he ducks his head down toward the stall. "Though a storm's quickly approaching . . ."
Harris nods a thank-you and straightens his red tie, which I know he bought from the guy who sells them outside the subway. As chief of staff for Senator Paul Stevens, he should be wearing something nicer, but the way Harris works, he doesn't need to impress. "By the way, LaRue, what happened to your mustache?"
"Wife didn't like itsaid it was too Burt Reynolds."
Copyright © 2004 by Forty-four Steps, Inc.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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