Expelling a soft dutiful sigh, he waded into the crowd, shaking hands and calling out names, doing his best impersonation of a small-town politician. An exMapleton High football star and prominent local businessmanhed inherited and expanded his familys chain of supermarket-sized liquor stores, tripling the revenue during his fifteen-year tenureKevin was a popular and highly visible figure around town, but the idea of running for office had never crossed his mind. Then, just last year, out of the blue, he was presented with a petition signed by two hundred fellow citizens, many of whom he knew well: We, the undersigned, are desperate for leadership in these dark times. Will you help us take back our town? Touched by this appeal and feeling a bit lost himselfhed sold the business for a small fortune a few months earlier, and still hadnt figured out what to do nexthe accepted the mayoral nomination of a newly formed political entity called the Hopeful Party.
Kevin won the election in a landslide, unseating Rick Malvern, the three-term incumbent whod lost the confidence of the voters after attempting to burn down his own house in an act of what he called ritual purification. It didnt workthe fire department insisted on extinguishing the blaze over his bitter objectionsand these days Rick was living in a tent in his front yard, the charred remains of his five-bedroom Victorian hulking in the background. Every now and then, when Kevin went running in the early morning, he would happen upon his former rival just as he was emerging from the tentone time bare-chested and clad only in striped boxersand the two men would exchange an awkward greeting on the otherwise silent street, a Yo or a Hey or a Whats up?, just to show there were no hard feelings.
As much as he disliked the flesh-pressing, backslapping aspect of his new job, Kevin felt an obligation to make himself accessible to his constituents, even the cranks and malcontents who inevitably came out of the woodwork at public events. The first to accost him in the parking lot was Ralph Sorrento, a surly plumber from Sycamore Road, who bulled his way through a cluster of sad-looking women in identical pink T-shirts and planted himself directly in Kevins path.
Mr. Mayor, he drawled, smirking as though there were something inherently ridiculous about the title. I was hoping Id run into you. You never answer my e-mails.
Sorrento folded his arms across his chest and studied Kevin with an unsettling combination of amusement and disdain. He was a big, thick-bodied man with a buzz cut and a bristly goatee, dressed in grease-stained cargo pants and a thermal-lined hoodie. Even at this hourit was not yet elevenKevin could smell beer on his breath and see that he was looking for trouble.
Just so were clear, Sorrento announced in an unnaturally loud voice. Im not paying that fucking money.
The money in question was a hundred-dollar fine hed been assessed for shooting at a pack of stray dogs that had wandered into his yard. A beagle had been killed on the spot, but a shepherd-lab mix had hobbled away with a bullet in its hind leg, dripping a three-block trail of blood before collapsing on the sidewalk not far from the Little Sprouts Academy on Oak Street. Normally the police didnt get too exercised about a shot dogit happened with depressing regularitybut a handful of the Sprouts had witnessed the animals agony, and the complaints of their parents and guardians had led to Sorrentos prosecution.
Watch your language, Kevin warned him, uncomfortably aware of the heads turning in their direction.
Sorrento jabbed an index finger into Kevins rib cage. Im sick of those mutts crapping on my lawn.
Excerpted from The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta. Copyright © 2011 by Tom Perrotta. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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