Change is seldom easy, but moving into our new offices the final year of the campaign was anything but hard. Sandy decorated our campaign offices with style, comfortable furnishings, light- colored woods, and plenty of glass. She said her taste was as big as my pocketbook, and lucky for us, friends of the campaign had donated plenty of cash to do the job right.Sandy popped her head around the door. Dressed in a black skirt and form-fitting zebra print blouse, she carefully positioned the toe end of her black stilettos toward the floor to keep the door from closing. I could just see the faint line between her toes as her foot was flexed.
We had a tight spring closer installed right after one of my senior staff accidentally left the door ajar. There are a lot of sensitive issues discussed in here we would never want the rest of the office to know.
“Jack, you’ve got senior staff in 20 minutes.” Sandy’s voice had an almost musical quality. She rarely spoke to me in anything but the most dulcet tones, a trait which matched her pleasing personality.
“Hey, Sandy,” I jumped up from my seat and moved quickly towards her.
“Come with me; I want to show you something.”
“What’s going on, Jack? You seem excited.”
I didn’t answer – instead I led her gently by the arm toward the seventh floor elevator. We passed several staff members busy working at their desks, each calling out like dominoes, one after the other, “Hey Jack.” I smiled and gave thumbs up as Sandy and I hurried past.
“Damn, the elevator’s busy; let’s take the stairs.”
“Do we have enough time, Jack?” Sounding concerned as we turned the corner.
Ignoring the question, I pushed open the door and started down the steps. Sandy had one hand gripping the cold metal railing and her other digging into my arm for support, luckily she had short nails. A couple of years ago, I mentioned I didn’t like the plastic ones she was wearing. The next day she came into the office, plopped both hands down on my desk, and said, “I cut my nails, Jack!”
It was hard for her to move fast in high heels with her skirt fitted snug just above the knee. She managed by holding tight to my arm, scuffing along, taking quick small steps.
“I’m parked on the third floor of the parking garage. Keep going; it’s only one more floor.”
“Jack, I’m out of breath,” Sandy said as I pushed open the door to P3.
We entered a large open area to see a shiny sports car parked alone.
“It’s my new car; you like it?”
“What is it?”
“It’s a car,” Teasing, knowing what she meant.
“I know it’s a car, what kind is it? I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Don’t feel bad. I didn’t know either; I had to look it up. It’s French made, a Bugatti. The guy that delivered it said it’s one of a kind.”
Sitting before us was a machine that pushed the envelope to unreal. Lines so amazing it seemed to be in motion just standing still. The Bugatti Veyron is basically a street legal racecar. Exciting as all hell to drive. I never dreamed I’d own an automobile that could hit a top speed over 250 miles per hour. Truth is, before last night I didn’t even know I wanted one.
My version was custom painted black metallic with shiny chrome over dazzling wheel rims in a wave pattern over the single door. The porcelain moldings formed a body impossible to duplicate with steel alone. The styling was accentuated by a triple round grill that gave the car personality and elevated the handcrafted masterpiece to a work of art. To say this car was rare was an understatement; I’d seen only one similar car and that was in a magazine.
The Bugatti was hot, a real head turner, all eyes were on it as I drove to the office this morning.
Sandy said, “It’s beautiful, Jack When did you get it?”
“They just dropped it off last night.” I ran around the car and opened the passenger side door for her.
“Sandy, get in. Let’s go for a spin around the block; we’ve got time.” She tried to enter, first sideways then lowering herself gracefully as far as she could. Instead, she ended up plopping down, practically falling into the very low seat. She crossed her legs, trying to get situated and buckled in. The seats were so steeply angled, they looked like twin toboggans racing downhill. Watching Sandy try to get comfortable, I thought cars like these are not made for long drives or tight skirts.
Sandy warned, “I hope you’re gonna take it easy, Jack?”
“Engine on,” I spoke. The car was outfitted with prototype voice activated control. The engine obeyed, immediately humming to a start. The understated throatiness of the exhaust stood in quiet contrast to all the glass packs out there trying to Sound Street tough. All the gauges lit blue and the dials went to the hilt before settling down. The windows looked like mirrors from the outside and the interior cabin was nearly sound proof.
“Hear that purr?” I revved up the 16 cylinder 1000 horsepower engine, flooring the accelerator several times, burying the tach.
“Look at this thing Sandy – it doesn’t red line until 12,000 rpm!”
Sandy was admiring the leather wrapped interior, running her hands over the dash settling on the round vent of the chrome airstream.
“We won’t need the air conditioner today,” I joked.
“You think? – It’s like 40 degrees outside; I should’ve brought a sweater. You hurried me out so fast I didn’t have time to think. ”
I told her, “You won’t need it in here; the cabin heats up in seconds.” The car must have been equipped with some type of radiant heat system.
I flipped the dial and we were warm almost immediately.
Sandy said, “I wonder how they do that; I freeze waiting for my car to heat up. You know, Jack, I never thought I’d say this about a car, but this one is sexy… I guess some guys need this sort of thing.”
I sank back into the driver’s seat richly upholstered in a diamond patchwork of raised blond leather. The headrests had the Bugatti Logo richly embroidered to adorn the center. Everything in the cockpit was chrome or leather trimmed with a fragrant new car smell.
It’s always amused me that people are willing to pay many times the intrinsic value of an item just to obtain the status of a brand. This was not one of those times. We were seated in an example of excellence, worth every penny of the $1.6 million price tag. It wouldn’t have mattered what they called it.
“Reverse,” I eased off the brake. My left hand barely guiding the wheel, I backed the car from its lone parking spot.
When I arrived this morning, the first and second floors of the garage were nearly filled with cars so I took the third level to have it all to myself. I knew I was gonna take at least one person for a ride today!
“Drive,” I said, and with both hands on the wheel at ten and two, I asked Sandy, “Are you ready?” Before she could answer, I pressed my foot down on the pedal. The tires spun, smoking for a second on the slick cement floor. I smelled the hint of burning rubber as we laid our first 10-foot strip.
We were off!
“Hold on, Sandy,” I warned as we slowed quickly to negotiate the first turn.
“Please be careful,” Sandy pleaded as we tore through it. The thick rear of the car fishtailing, tires screeching, turn by turn we made it to the ground level. We tested the acceleration, racing full throttle the entire length of the floor. I hit the brakes hard, skidding right through the exit booth. The attendant raised the traffic arm just in time.
Ceramic Brake Pads, built to withstand enormous heat, allowed the car to stop faster than it accelerated. Sixty to zero in a mere 2.3 seconds…on this stop, I could’ve used another tenth of a second for Sandy’s sake.
“Oh my God, Jack, you almost hit the bar. You’re the last guy on earth that should own a car that goes this fast.”
“Oh Honey, I knew we weren’t gonna hit the bar. This car was made for this type of handling.”
I really did know it as fact. In practice this morning, me and the kid worked it out. I slipped him a twenty.
“You think that was fast, you haven’t seen nothing yet!”
“No, I really have,” Sandy grabbed tight to the armrests.
Looking only to my left I hit the gas and we flew out into the street.
“Jack, are you sure…?”
I answered by putting the pedal to the floor, “We’ll just take her around the block.”
We could feel only mild vibration as we tested the claim of zero to sixty in 2.5 seconds. We were momentarily pinned back in our seats.
“Wow!” I said. Driving as fast as I could, barely stopping at one corner before speeding up to the next, each time announcing to Sandy how fast we’d gotten up to.
“She just kept saying “You’re gonna get us killed.”
“The last run was our best, Sandy, sixty-eight!” I told her, proud of myself. When we got back to our starting point, we turned into the garage. I stopped briefly, thanked the attendant and grabbed a ticket.
Sandy said, “Pleeease, Jack, can we just take it easy now?”
The cockpit was relatively quiet, even with all the commotion we created. Tires screeching, rear end fishtailing, burning rubber all the way to the third level.
On the way up, I told Sandy, “It sounds worse than it is!”
“Off!” One final command and the powerful machine instantly fell into motionless repose.
“Jack! Driving with you feels like sitting in a rocket sled perched on a banana peel. I feel like I just lifted off in the space shuttle. You’re impossible! Really, Jack, you try sitting in the death seat with someone driving like that! I nearly put my foot through the floor trying to stop the car myself.” Sandy threatened with a look like she’d never get in my car again. This time I think she meant it.
“We have to take the elevator. This skirt is too tight for me to climb stairs.” I was laughing, exhilarated as we hurried towards the exit. Sandy was trying her best to keep up, one hand on my shoulder the other on my arm for balance. I pushed the button and showed her my watch, “See we made it.”
“Jack, we’ve only made it to the elevator,” she said slightly exaggerated, out of breath. She was shaking a bit. I grabbed her by the shoulders and looked down deep into her eyes.
“Don’t worry, I sent everyone a text before we left to hold off for 20 minutes. I just wanted to take you for a ride and have some fun. Wasn’t that an awesome adrenaline rush?”
“I just didn’t want them to blame me for making you late.” Sandy’s eyes were a little watery. She grabbed a tissue out of her purse and dabbed them dry.
“It wouldn’t have been your fault. Don’t cry Honey; I’m sorry you’re upset.”
“I’m not crying. Sometimes you’re a little wild Jack, really! When did you even decide to buy that car? Usually you have me check around…”
I cut her off, “It was a gift. Somebody Bud’s been working with, they just dropped it off.”
She cocked her head to the side and, wide-eyed, looked at my face, “Who would just give you that?”
I explained, “One of our key supporters in the East. I’m anxious to meet him. He’s throwing us a big fundraiser the night of the New Hampshire Primary in Upstate New York. Bud’s working out the details. I want you to come with us; it’ll be fun. Maybe you’ll meet some rich guy that drives his Benz like a little old lady.”
“Very funny, Jack. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with driving the speed limit. The way you drive, you’re gonna get somebody killed. Why did he give you the car though?”
“He wants to be sure that when I’m president, I’ll take his call. The car is his way of introducing himself. I’m not about to keep it. I’m gonna auction it off for charity after the election.”
“That’s some introduction, Jack. They sure know your weakness. I wish someone would give me a car.”
“Sandy, the super rich are drawn to power like moths to a flame.”
“Do you know what this means?” Sandy looked into my eyes, “You’re going all the way!”
I reached to her shoulders, “Sandy, we’re goin’ all the way!”
“Jack, I can’t wait until you expose these people.”
I started daydreaming about my speech… The wealthy want the status quo to continue, hoarding trillions… they move in a world that few people get a chance to see. We’ll get a big taste of that up in New York; that’s one of the reasons I wanted Sandy to come. She’s never seen this before. I wanted her to see this unbelievable wealth first hand.
Most Americans have no idea that the richest 1% control 50% of the income. The system is so broken. We have thirty-eight million kids who go to bed hungry every night while the wealthy in this country can’t figure out where to park their extra Mercedes.
“Jack… have you heard anything I said?” She knew I was deep in thought and hadn’t heard a word.
“Sandy, my parents have friends who would be embarrassed to stay too long in their winter homes for fear the neighbors would think they’d lost their minds or gone senile. All while millions of Americans are homeless. It’s messed up.”
“It’s awful, Jack The rich are so selfish they only care about themselves!”
“Well I’ll tell ya one thing, nobody has ever done anything about it.”
“The only thing I worry about, Jack: if you speak out against them, how are you going to get big donations for the campaign?”
“It’ll be like taking candy from a baby. It’s human nature. Every billionaire thinks he’s the exception and we’re not talking about him. You won’t believe how fast the donations roll in.”
“Jack, you know what I’ve never understood?”
“What don’t they have with all that money?”
“Peace of mind…they worry about what they might lose. You’ll see. They get jittery when administrations change and they’ll pay huge money to the frontrunners. For insurance, they have access to whoever wins the Presidency. You watch.”
“Next time I drive.”
Genre – Political Thriller
Rating – PG