Pork to the Future

Here’s a short story I wrote in 2007:

Pork to the Future

By Jon Becker

US Representative Blaine Spiceland chomped eagerly into the last bite of bacon double cheeseburger, savoring his late Friday afternoon snack. Sitting sated at his desk with an unconscious slight smile, he appeared Buddha-esque. With the next legislative session looming the following Wednesday, the congressman from Nebraska looked forward to one last relaxing weekend, perhaps with a few trips to the Georgetown bars. Only one more appointment remained on his calendar that day. Marshall, Rep. Spiceland’s young aide, entered the office, appointment calendar in hand, portable cell phone affixed to ear.

“Sir, your four o’clock has arrived,” Marshall announced.

“Give me a quick rundown, please.”

“Her name is Evon Linares, and she says she’s with a group called The Organization for a Broader Perspective.”

“Never heard of it.”

“Yeah, me neither. And I couldn’t find anything on Google.”

Rep. Spiceland glanced upward and swiveled back and forth in his chair. He contemplated aloud, “Hmm. Sounds like a euphemism for something.”

“Yeah, maybe an energy consortium. Sorry, I can’t give you more information but this was a last-minute appointment. She called yesterday and I decided to fit her in since you had an opening and she identified herself as a ‘potential contributor.’”

“Hey, we’ve always got time for money,” the congressman said with a sly grin, leaning back in his padded room of a chair. “Send her in.”

“Okay. By the way, you’ve got some mustard on your face,” Marshall pointed out.

“Oh, thanks,” Rep. Spiceland said as he cleaned the mess with his handkerchief.

Marshall left and shortly afterward returned to introduce the visitor.

Right away the congressman was taken aback by Evon. Svelte, tall, mocha-skinned, striking exotic features and long brown hair, she was stunning even in her conservative yet modern business suit. She greeted him warmly and handed him her business card. It read:

Evon Linares

Past Modification Agent

The Organization for a Broader Perspective

There was no address, phone number or email address on it; just a small pattern of dots and lines.

“Thank you, Marshall,” Rep. Spiceland said to dismiss his ogling aide.

“Interesting business card, Ms. Linares. What is The Organization for a Broader Perspective?”

“Just what it sounds like. An organization committed to a sustainable future through long-term planning and a global viewpoint.”

“Sounds like a mission statement.”

“It is, essentially.”

“Are you an environmental group?” he asked.

“Not exactly, that’s just a limited part of our interest.”

“I see,” Rep. Spiceland said. “Well, Ms. Linares, how can I help you today? Is there a particular issue you are interested in?”

“Yes, let me get right to it. Please hear me out because what I have to say will strike you initially as quite unusual.”

“Try me.”

“Rep. Spiceland, I come from the year 2109. Our organization sends agents like me back in time to create the changes needed in the past to make the world stable and habitable in the future. I’m here to direct you on key legislation.”

The congressman chuckled and said, “Oh-kay, that is a new one.” He would have called security if she hadn’t been so damn cute. He leaned forward over his desk, crossed his fingers and said with a smirk, “Alright, I’ll play along. What do you need?”

“First, I know you are doubtful that I’m from the future.”

“Somewhat, yes,” he said sarcastically.

“As you should be. Let me prove it to you.”

Evon reached into her purse, pulled out an envelope and handed it to the congressman. His meaty fingers wrestled the envelope open, and several photos spilled out onto his desk. Rep. Spiceland picked up the one on top for a closer look. It appeared to be a family portrait of him, his wife and their two daughters, except…except everyone appeared much older. And standing next to his daughter Bethany was a strange man and in front of them were two small girls, who looked like the spitting image of Bethany as a child. He rose up in his chair and leaned over to review the photos closer.

The next photo was of him and his wife in front of the Eiffel Tower. They’d always wanted to visit Paris but had not yet made the trip.

“What the hell?” he muttered to himself as he looked at the photo of his house, minus the old pine tree he’d been meaning to cut down. He sifted through the rest of the photos and tried to make sense of what he was seeing.

He swallowed deep and cleared his throat. “Ms. Linares,” he started and then paused to gather his thoughts. “You have one very talented photo doctor. I don’t know how you’ve done this or why, but I think I deserve an explanation.”

“Of course, you do. It is quite unsettling to see one’s future.”

“These are fakes,” he demanded.

“No, they’re not. I’m sure a part of you that you’ve refused to accept yet knows they’re not. They’re real.”

Rep. Spiceland looked again at the evidence and sighed.

“Am I being ‘Punk’d’? Where’s Ashton Kutcher?” he said as he looked around for a hidden camera.

“No, sir, this is no joke. Let me show you something.” Evon pulled a bright red, white and blue book out of her purse and set it in front of him. He picked up the book and saw an older, more distinguished version of himself staring back under the title “Leading the New American Revolution: My Life and Times.”

“Read the highlighted section on the page with the bookmark,” Evon said.

He flipped to the page in the “Humble Beginnings” chapter. There in highlights was a line reading, “I’ve never told anyone this but my childhood dream was not to become a lawyer or politician, but rather an actor. But with a pragmatic, hard-nosed colonel for a father, I knew that choice would never fly.”

Rep. Spiceland felt chills as the doubt spinning in his head slowly came to a stop. Like the book said, he’d never told anyone about his early thespian aspirations. It had always remained locked away in a private corner of his mind. He looked up at Evon, who was smiling warmly, not in a smug I-told-you-so way, but in a comforting way.

“I know this is a lot to accept. Take a minute if you need to,” she said.

His hand trembled somewhat as he wiped some sweat from his forehead.

“Okay, I’m still a little skeptical, but I admit you’ve gotten my attention. What do you want from me?”

“Before we get into that, I have a gift for you,” she said.

Until now, he hadn’t noticed Evon had brought with her a small rolling suitcase. She lifted it up and, rather boldly he thought, set it in front of him on top of his desk with a heavy thud. She unzipped the zipper and pulled back the top, revealing the contents.

From side to side, top to bottom the suitcase was packed with shimmering, glimmering gold bricks.

“Ms. Linares, how in the world did you get this by our security?”

“Sir, I have traveled over one hundred years in time to deliver this to you. Do you think a few rent-a-cops are going to be an obstacle?”

“Uh, good point.”

“Look, don’t worry about how it got here. The important thing is this gold is real, obscenely valuable, completely untraceable and one hundred percent yours.”

The rotund congressman brushed his hand over the smooth bars and glanced suspiciously out the window like a buzzard guarding a buffalo carcass.

He wondered what the gold would be worth. He’d received over-the-table and under-the-table contributions before, but nothing in the same ballpark as this. In fact nothing in the same universe. He closed the suitcase and slid it beneath his desk.

“What do you want from me?” he asked quietly.

“We want you to propose certain legislation and vote a certain way. The future depends on it.”

“What is the issue?”

“Issues,” she corrected. “Our interests cover just about everything.”

“Can you give me specifics? How will I know what to do?”

Evon set a three-inch thick, three-ring binder in front of him.

“We’ve made it easy,” she said. “Here is a list of how to vote on every vote you’ll encounter for the rest of your political career.”

He opened it up and perused hundreds of pages filled with lists of dates, bill numbers, and descriptions, each marked with a bright red “FOR” or “AGAINST.”

“The ones with asterisks are ones you proposed,” Evon clarified.

“Whoa,” Rep. Spiceland muttered at the bewildering breadth of the volume. He scanned the descriptions of the bills he was to propose: ‘a bill to promote and implement cleaner, alternative energy sources,’ ‘to authorize increased funding for family planning programs in countries with a critical need,’ ‘to provide for permanent protection of the Social Security program,’ ‘to cancel the debt of impoverished nations,’ and so on.

“Well, I’ll certainly give careful consideration to your suggestions, but I’m not sure I agree with what you have here.”

“I don’t think you understand, sir. These aren’t recommendations. This is how you will vote.”

“I beg your pardon. What if I don’t?”

“Oh, you’ll do it. We already know you voted that way. In fact, what you’re reading is a record of your votes.”

“But…but what if I don’t?”

For the first time Evon seemed slightly annoyed. “Use your imagination,” she said. “I could come back in time again for another visit, perhaps not so friendly. I can make your life quite, um, difficult. Besides your grandchildren and their children live in the future. We know who they are. You wouldn’t want them to be held accountable for your actions, would you?”

He pursed his lips and breathed deeply through his nose as that thought rolled around in his mind. His eyes turned to the photo of his family on his desk. After a few moments, he turned a harsh gaze toward Evon.

“This is blackmail, dammit,” he growled.

She playfully feigned confusion. “Not if you take the gold. Then it’s merely a bribe.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

“You do it all the time. How does it make you feel then?”

“You little…”

“Take a look at the legislation, please. What we are asking you to do is to make wise, prudent decisions? Why wouldn’t you want to do that?”

“Wise and prudent for whom? These bills won’t help my district,” he said and glanced down at the volume again. ‘Reducing federal subsidies for unsustainable agricultural practices’? How the heck am I supposed to get re-elected in Nebraska voting like that?”

“Rep. Spiceland, once you explain the logic and big picture vision of your decisions, your constituents will use unselfish rationality to open-mindedly concur with your wisdom.”

Silence hung in the air for a few seconds. Nothing Evon had said so far had shocked him as much as this. She stared straight at him blankly, belying no irony. “Really?” he asked.

She cracked into an uncharacteristic outburst of laughter. “Of course, not! They will be as furious with you for not looking after their short-term, local interests. And in the next election, you’ll be well on your way to being defeated by a smarter and better-looking but even less principled opponent.”

“Thanks, and by ‘less principled’ do you mean unbought by your agency?”

“Correct,” she said with a congratulatory nod. “But don’t worry. We have a large organization with many agents and a lot of resources. We have made…or should I say we will make sure that you get reelected time after time. After all, our future depends upon it.”

“So how do you do that? Can you alter the votes?”

“Oh, no. We would never cheat. There are plenty of other ways to win an election fair and square. Perhaps we’d entrap your opponent in a good old-fashioned sex scandal,” she explained, crossing her lovely legs. He gulped. “Or maybe we’d falsify or distort information about their experience or personal life. Attack their patriotism or military service. We’ll take modern campaign tactics to the next level.”

“Damn.”

“Or in some cases, the way to go is to boost your own popularity through activities that are completed unrelated to your record or competency. We might arrange for you to make an inspirational speech right after some natural disaster or terrorist event. Or maybe we send in fake doctors to diagnose you with a fake illness to trigger sympathy votes. Heck, we could even set you up to heroically save someone from a burning building. The options are limitless.” Evon crossed her hands and smiled reassuringly. “Look, I don’t have the details of how your elections get fixed here with me, but as you can see from your 20-plus year record of votes in the House and Senate, you’ll have a long, successful political career.”

Senator Spiceland?” The words rang in his head like a tuned bell.

“Yes sir.”

Rep. Spiceland looked at his wall. The plaque of commendation from the US Farm Bureau. The photo of him speaking to the Nebraska Mayors Association. The head of the 10-point buck he’d shot during a hunting trip with his buddies at the state pork council. His stomach churned in turmoil and, perhaps, indigestion.

“I tell you what,” Evon said. “You have existing allegiances. I understand that. I know these positions won’t be easy for you to support and stand behind back home. I want to erase any doubts you may have. I want to assure you there will be future similar payments from my organization to you, more than enough to reaffirm your decision to cooperate with us.”

The legislator raised his eyebrows and nodded agreeably.

She continued, “And in those cases where certain individuals become exceedingly disruptive to our process, we may send an agent to visit them with a gift. Or they can be eliminated from the situation. Trust me, in one way or another, they will be dealt with.

“Your organization is certainly well-funded.”

“More than you’ll ever know. But you want to know something funny? Ever since we mastered alchemy in the late 21st century, gold has become virtually worthless. Few people even wear it anymore. It’s seen as tacky and low class.”

Rep. Spiceland’s heart pounded. If this episode was a dream, it was certainly intense and tangible.

“Sir, I should probably be going now. I know I’ve thrown a lot at you. You’ll soon receive more details on the legislation you are to propose. I encourage you to read thoroughly the information we provide so you’ll become well versed. Who knows, you might even come to agree with some of it. In any case, can I count on your cooperation?”

Rep. Spiceland didn’t seem to hear, his thoughts still muddled, his gaze on the Capitol out the window. “What?” he turned back toward her. “Oh yes. Yes, you can count on me.”

“And don’t go telling anyone of my visit. They’ll think you’re crazy.”

“Of course. But before you leave, there’s one thing I have to ask…”

“How did I travel back in time, right?” she interrupted.

“Um, yes.”

“Rep. Spiceland, time travel is a top secret your generation’s not privileged to know. All I can tell you is Einstein was very close to the answer in his calculations. He just forgot to carry the remainder.”

The congressman squinted his eyes and tilted his head, straining to discern if that was a joke.

Evon rose and reached out to shake his hand. “Thank you, Rep. Spiceland. I enjoyed meeting you and will check in with you again down the road.”

“I look forward to it,” he said, engulfing her hand with his massive, sweaty paw. He rushed around the desk to open the door for her. She exited and took several steps past Marshall’s desk before turning back toward Rep. Spiceland.

“Oh, I almost forgot.” She reached into her purse pocket for something. “I thought you might want this.”

She tossed him a coin and glided out of the office.

He examined the coin. It was a US dollar, dated 2088. On one side was a bald eagle. On the other was his face.

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~ by jonwbecker on January 13, 2009.

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