I motion to Harris; he looks up and finally grins. When I was a freshman at Duke, Harris was a senior. He got me into the fraternity and, years later, got me my first job here on the Hill. Mentor then, hero now.
"Look at that," Harris says to the Congressman. "I see you're wearing the logging mascot."
I turn toward LaRue, but he's staring at the ground to keep himself from laughing.
"Yeah . . . I guess," Enemark barks, checking the Lorax out for himself. Anxious to be done with the small talk, the Congressman leaves the bathroom and heads across the hallway to the House Floor. None of us moves until the door closes.
"The logging mascot?" I finally blurt.
"I told you there's still fun going on," Harris says, looking up at the small TV and checking out C-SPAN. Just another day at work.
"I gotta tell Rosey this one . . ." LaRue says, rushing out of the room. "Harris, they're gonna catch you sooner or later."
"Only if they outthink us," Harris replies as the door again slams shut.
I continue to laugh. Harris continues to study C-SPAN. "You notice Enemark didn't wash his hands?" he asks. "Though that didn't stop him from shaking yours."
I look down at my own open palm and head for the sink.
"Here we go . . . Here's the clip for the highlight reel . . ." Harris calls out, pointing up at C-SPAN.
On-screen, Congressman Enemark approaches the podium with his usual old-cowboy swagger. But if you look real closewhen the light hits him just rightthe Lorax shines like a tiny star on his chest.
"I'm Congressman William Enemark, and I speak for the people of Colorado," he announces through the television.
"That's funny," I say. "I thought he spoke for the trees . . ."
To my surprise, Harris doesn't smile. He just scratches at the dimple in his chin. "Feeling better?" he asks.
He leans against the inlaid mahogany wall and never takes his eyes off the TV. "I meant what I said before. There really are some great games being played here."
"You mean games like this?"
"Something like this." There's a brand-new tone in his voice. All serious.
"I don't understand."
"Oh, jeez, Matthew, it's right in front of your face," he says with a rare glimpse of rural Pennsylvania accent.
I give him a long, hard look and rub the back of my sandy-blond hair. I'm a full head taller than him. But he's still the only person I look up to in this place. "What're you saying, Harris?"
"You wanted to bring the fun back, right?"
"Depends what kinda fun you're talking about."
Pushing himself off the wall, Harris grins and heads for the door. "Trust me, it'll be more fun than you've had in your entire life. No lie."
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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