End of Truth (Excerpt #2)





Across the room, Michael spotted him. It was easy enough because Tony in profile presented a unique silhouette, his pregnant abdomen preventing any close contact with someone standing in front trying to have a private word, as Michael was about to do. Anthony Ricardiscio was a heavyweight, the local imprimatur stamp, at least in politics. The Party was his, through years of hard work and arm twisting. His brother’s Union status didn’t hurt either. Getting ahead politically in this city was only possible with Tony’s blessing…and that was hard to obtain. Michael had no contacts, no important family, not to mention, no money. But he had plans, ideas and determination, plus a military background as a glamorous fighter pilot, and on top of that, his dark good looks. The Party had been fading recently, the leaders aging. It was time for new blood.

Tony shot Michael a quick glance as he approached but otherwise ignored him, tossing the last of his cocktail, then twisting the empty glass by its neck, continuing to concentrate on the man standing in front of him. He was big in his own eyes, important, the center of things. His physical appearance was exactly right for the image he wanted to present: massive, overbearing, irresistible in an unmistakable manner of personality, but most of all, dominant. As he nodded in seeming agreement, his jowls shook slightly, the flesh between his eyes contracted, furrowing further his furrowed brow, an act of intense focus, because he wasn’t even listening but instead thinking about the young, attractive Michael just now pausing at his left elbow and waiting like a docile pet for his master to notice.

“Want another?” Michael suggested, breaking in, using a transparent excuse, still playing the required submissive role but nevertheless pushy enough to intrude. Without looking at him, Tony extended the hand with the glass, but without seeming to break his concentration, continuing to dispense valuable insight to the obviously more important fellow in front of him. In a short moment, Michael reappeared, armed with a full, long stem glass of potent alcohol and wearing an obligatory smile.

This time, Tony turned as he accepted the cocktail, his former conversation ended for now. “Thanks. You’re name is Michael as I remember. We met some years ago, I do believe.”

“Yes, I remember that also. It was in our home. You came to talk to Dad.” Michael smiled, waiting for an invitation to speak more. The reason for his intrusion.

“That’s a winning smile, Michael. Learn that in the Air Force?”

“You learn not to smile there. Makes you seem insincere, lightweight.”

“Yes. That’s an interesting viewpoint. …I hear that you are working…and married. Congratulations on that. You’re happy then?”


Tony smiled, his eyes narrowed, and he nodded slightly. “I can see that you have youth, vigor and poise already. What, then, can an old fat man do for you?”

“I want to be a congressman. They say you are the one who can help.”

“Such a compliment. Who exactly are the ‘they’?”

“It’s true, isn’t it?”

“A congressman! Why don’t you just run for President? Why go half way?” Tony laughed, nearly spilling his drink.

“Because I will be happy with just that. I don’t need more.”

Tony handed his drink to the man still loitering nearby, ready to resume their former discussions. “Come with me, Michael,” he said. With Tony’s impossibly large arm draped over his shoulder, they parted the crowd and went by nodding and murmuring political hacks of all kinds, each ready to greet Tony or do anything he asked. Michael could feel the eyes on him, on his back, his face, all wondering.

Tony closed the door to the small conference room and waved to a chair with his thick hand. He picked one across the table from Michael and turned it around before sitting with his arms across the back. The smile was gone but the ever-present beads of sweat were still there, as were the narrowed dark eyes which seemed to see through a person, measuring their merits or at least their willingness to cooperate.

“Now then, Michael,” he said. “Just how serious are you about this?”

Michael cleared his throat and unbuttoned his suit jacket, then leaned back, one arm across the back of his chair, a thin smile on his face. “You know that I don’t have any experience in politics, not even a college course in it. I’m green. A fresh face. But there is no hidden past, no transgressions, no demerits. I am what I appear to be. Determined.”

“And you think that’s enough?” Tony asked.

“Backing. That and money. I have the rest.”

Tony sighed. “Fine. You have desire. We all have desires, don’t you know. It’s not enough to have desires. There is one thing you haven’t mentioned. A cause. What’s yours?”

“A cause,” Michael repeated aloud while churning the concept over. He wasn’t expecting this one. A cause. The term sounded so simple, so…pertinent. Yes, he needed a cause. There was a long moment of silence before he responded. “The VA system. I have friends who were treated badly.”

“The VA?” Tony sneered. “There isn’t one in this area and besides, veterans account for a very small part of the voting public. And, don’t mention the homeless, the unemployed, the hungry, the racially or sexually disadvantaged. The other Party already has ownership of those issues. We generally go for topics about taxes or spending. Local stuff. Boring stuff. You sure you want to be in this Party?”

“What about corruption? Isn’t that an issue? I want to get rid of corruption,” Michael stated, like he had discovered the tomb of Jesus.

“Hell, boy. According to some, I’m corruption. And that is why you are sitting there, isn’t that right? You expect me to make you the next coming thing, but you are devoid of ideas and have no history. You are not political material, Michael. Not yet.” His last words were telling. Not yet did not mean never. There was, at least, a shred of hope.

“I understand, Mr. Ricardiscio. You are right. I’m not ready.”

“Hold on, boy, and don’t ever call me mister. My name is Tony to you. How about being alderman? Is that something you can see yourself doing?”

Michael brightened up and sat up straight, looking at Tony for signs of insincerity. “You mean it, Tony?”

“Sure I do. It’s going to mean a lot of footwork on your part, the house to house stuff, the pressing of flesh, the kissing of babies, the press interviews. If you want it, though, I’ll back you. What do you say?”

“I’ll do it.”

“Great. Now go home and start coming up with a cause or two. Call me back when you are ready.”


Alexander Francis

End of Truth (Excerpt #1)




He looked up as the boy approached, an eyebrow raised in anticipation of a troublesome problem of youth, one that only an elder could answer in his detached, worldly view, a straight answer shorn of moralizing. Peter Robsin took his pipe from his mouth and turned his head stiffly to face Michael. One glance and he could tell that he had anticipated correctly. This was going to be a consultation, one requiring both knowledge and diplomatic skill.

“Grandpa,” he began, smiling in that disarming, charming manner of timeless youth, his curly hair spilling over his ears, reminding Peter of some magnificent work by a nameless Ancient Greek sculptor. The boy had his father’s good looks, his smooth, unwrinkled yet untested skin and level blue eyes, which could captivate in a glance. “I have some questions.”

Given Michael’s recent transformation into an adolescent from a child, the result of profound hormonal changes beyond anyone’s control, Peter assumed that his question would involve rapidly changing relationships with the universe of women. And this presumption would shortly prove correct.

“Yes, Michael. Any question you have, you know, is between you and me, man to man, and any answer I give will be treated with the same respect. What is bothering you on such a fine day?”

“It’s about girls. You seem to know everything, at least you always have before. But do you know bout girls?”

Peter put his arm around Michael’s waist and drew him closer to the chair, an act in preparation for the shared intimacy of a timeless question, and an equally timeless answer. “I know that girls and women are of the opposite sex. You, of course, know that also, but I suspect that we might dispense with the fundamentals and go straight to relationships between men and women. Would that be the direction to start, Michael?”

“They confuse me. They seem to dislike being around me even though I try to be pleasant, to be interested in their conversations. Each time I try, I feel belittled, as if I am some kind of inferior. Why do they do that?”

Peter Robsin put his tobaccoless pipe back in his mouth and looked away, trying to organize his thoughts about women and put his answer on an appropriate plane. He softly cleared his throat before answering, then let Michael go and nodded to the chair beside him. Michael seated himself and put an elbow on the arm of the chair, his chin supported by his hand, waiting patiently for a succinct answer to an issue which has perplexed the male sex since time began.

“We are men, and as such, are not allowed to fully understand women or girls. We are separated by only a small fragment of a gene, but it is enough to make our bodies and thoughts different from each other. It’s not a bad thing, these differences, but a very, very profoundly good thing. We are complementary in that way. Divergent enough to make us interested, our strengths and dispositions meshing in ways that make a whole, a human race. We are attracted to females and they to us. But we necessarily develop into adults along slightly different paths, our hormones and DNA directing us into maturity along lines which will insure propagation of our species. Girls are a marvelous and wonderful creation, are they not? I feel that, in some special way, a man can appreciate women even more than they can themselves. We notice how they are different from us, how they stand and move, how their laughter is compelling to our ears, how they can hold us in their eyes in that mysterious way and how they appear delicate but are really so strong of body and of mind. You will become larger and stronger than most girls, yet never start to think that you are tougher, more resourceful, or smarter. You are not and neither am I, nor is any man. They engage in social activity more easily than do males, the interactions, the teasing, the alliances of their youth becoming the traits which create a family and hold it together, even an entire society.” Peter paused, his thoughts continuing without words, his memories flashing in his mind’s eye before continuing.

“I just want to talk to one, just talk and be around her. Is that a lot to ask?” Michael persisted.

“The way will be found with patience, Michael. You must be willing to listen to her, to be there when she feels like teasing, and to leave when she grows impatient. Be respectful always, because you are, not because you are pretending just to be near her. When she breathes, listen, when she moves, watch, when she asks, respond. Never degrade yourself, never grovel, because she won’t respect you for it, but be willing to give her your time, your effort, your loyalty. Some things she will say or do may seem trivial to you, but resist that notion, instead seeing the beauty in her, the innocence of her, the very wonder of her in everything.”

“So, Grandpa, your advice is to just stand around and be insulted?”

“Not really, but at times, you have to avoid having a thin skin if you are sincere. You should also understand that your interest may not be shared; she may not be ready for you. In time, she and you will mature and comprehend each other by differing measures. It may be that you no longer will see her in the same way nor she you. Time will tell.”

“How do I talk to her…what should I say, Grandpa?”

“Understand that you can’t force anyone to like you, especially the opposite sex. Talk about yourself very little, and concern yourself with what interests her. Listen and keep your eyes on her, be complementary but avoid excessive praise. There will always be unknowns in an adolescent relationship because so much wisdom has yet to be acquired. At your age, you should look for friendship, nothing more. Part of your delight will be finding, discovering, the other half of humanity, the part of us which has been refined for millions of years, attaining not just nearly, but absolute perfection. Imagine…we are the only species which can appreciate beauty, and the most beautiful thing of all is ours to behold.”

Michael nodded and stood, fixing his grandfather with love in his eyes. “I’ll remember your words, Grandfather. Perhaps they will return to me when I can better understand their meaning.” He gave his grandfather an affectionate kiss on the cheek, then disappeared back into the house, leaving Peter Robsin to wonder if his little sermon had helped, even a little.


Alexander Francis