Mac Murphy. - Preview



 

By

Rick Stiller

 

 

Milly Clark knocked on the window of the engineer’s booth at radio station, WBFK, ‘World Broadcasting from the Konfederacy’, ten-forty on the dial, just outside Cincinnati. “Congressman’s here, where’s Murphy?”

Station manager Jack Hannah pulled off his headphones, “Damned if I know. He’ll show, he always does.”

“I’ll bring the talent into the studio, so at least he’s ready.”

“Great! Time’s a’tickin’.”

The secretary guided young Congressman Morgan Nance along narrow hallways, snaking through the little cinderblock structure that anchored a gigantic tower flashing W-B-F-K in vivid magenta twenty-four hours of every day. “Let me get you settled into the studio before Mac arrives. Can I get you coffee or ice water or anything?”

“You got a cold beer?”

“I’m sure I can rustle one up,” laughed the little woman pushing through the soundproof doors into a cramped and crowded studio built around a broad desk covered with piles of files, trinkets and memorabilia from the last three or four Republican conventions. One of several white WBFK coffee cups containing brown puddles of yesterday’s beverages overturned, dribbling into an overflowing orange ashtray and seeping under a well pawed-through stack of radical right-wing newspapers and magazines filled with salacious photos which had no connection to scandalous stories based on hearsay and rumors. Raw material for alcohol and amphetamine fueled hours of hateful rambling rants to rile up the ignorant and the gullible. Legions of dedicated small town listeners coughed up tens-of-thousands of dollars to bolster a phantom defense against legions of brown-skinned, pagan-worshipping immigrants waiting just beyond the horizon for an opportunity to pour into the country to steal our jobs, seduce our women, and contaminate ‘White America’.

 The Congressman sat on a stiff, unpadded straight metal chair, a vantage point that offered tunnel-vision through the clutter into the host’s lair. A large gray microphone erupted from the litter on the desk within easy reach of a well-worn executive chair framed by a tattered American flag and a smaller Confederate battle banner opposite a window into the engineer’s booth beneath photos of Woodrow Wilson, who segregated the federal government during his stay in the White House, a portrait of an intense bespectacled Barry Goldwater pasted over a nuclear explosion, Ronald Reagan speaking at the Berlin Wall, and Alabama governor George Wallace blocking the entry of black students to the University of Alabama with the comment, ‘Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!’ in shiny silver text.

She set a sweating can of Schlitz on the desk, offered a worn pair of headphones, and adjusted the microphone to hang just above his nose, where he would be forced to lift his chin to speak into it. “Murphy should be here any moment because we’re getting close to airtime. He’s always late but he almost always makes it before Jack Hannah’s finished the intro. If there’s anything else you need, just pick up that white telephone and dial 117, I’ve got to go check the phones.”

“Thank you.”

The green metal door at the back of the building flew open with a crash and Mac Murphy stumbled inside, bouncing from one side of the hall to the other to avoid piles of renegade equipment, stands, chairs, and junk that piled up over the years. Hannah opened the door from the control room and reached to grab him as he staggered towards the studio, scanning his bloodshot eyes, drool dribbling from the corner of his mouth onto the lapel of a rumpled blue blazer. “You’re in fine shape!”

Murphy straightened up, brushing his soiled old-school tie to cover brown coffee stains spilling down the front of a once-white shirt, “Never better.”

“Are you sure you can handle this?”

“Who’s the talent?” barked the opinionated barker.

“Representative Morgan Nance – 7th District – Missouri.”

“That piece of shit’s got his eyes on the big prize but he’s no more qualified to run for the presidency than I am,” rumbled Murphy, ramming through the door into the studio, bellowing, “Congressman, it’s so good to have a true-believer on the show tonight!”

Nance started to rise from the chair to shake his hand but the short cord yanked the headphones off his head and he fumbled to catch them. Murphy patted him on the shoulder, “Sit down sonny, the world is waiting breathlessly to hear your bullshit.”

“But…”

The host pulled off his jacket, loosened the tie, plopped into the big comfy chair, popped a couple of black pills with a swig from a bottle of Jim Beam that appeared from a drawer, pulled on headphones, adjusted the mike, propped his feet on the desk, and lit a cigar. Thin lips curled into a sadistic grin, his blue eyes dancing in amusement, as he glanced at the clock on the wall and pointed at Hannah in the booth, “Count us down.”

“Live in four, three, two, and…”

“Good evening folks, this is Mac Murphy broadcasting unfiltered truth to the world from WBFK in the heartland of America. Please welcome second-term Congressional Representative Morgan Nance from the seventh-district in Missouri, as our guest this evening. Nice to have you on the show.”

The young Congressman took a sip of his lukewarm Schlitz, wiping the froth from his lip with the back of his hand, “Thank you, it’s an honor to be here.”

“Rumor has it that some influential people have a surprisingly high opinion of you and there’s talk that you might have a very promising future.”

Nance blushed, “I don’t know about that, I’m just trying to do my best to represent the people of Missouri and protect our state from the over-reach of the federal government. I will say that I think when we have a competent conservative Republican president to partner with our Republican Congress, this country can begin moving forward again.”

“But for now, you’ve just started your second term as another incompetent cog in the broken machinery of the federal government.”

“I ran on a platform of dismantling the status quo, eliminating unreasonable restrictive regulations, reducing the highest taxes in the world, rescinding the laws that allow doctors to butcher unborn children, heathens to threaten our religious freedom, and traitors to oppose our right to carry a firearm for self-protection anytime, anywhere.”

Murphy laughed and took a big swig, “So, tell me about your solution to the Middle East crisis and how many troops do we really need in Central Africa and why they’re there in the first place and why can’t we stop Russian intrusions into the Ukraine? What do you think about the president’s appointment of a new Chairman of the Federal Reserve? Do you even have a clue about monetary policy or what the Fed does?”

“Well, I…”

“How many times have you spouted that same list of platitudes since you started your first campaign three years ago?”

“It’s the whole point of my candidacy - to take power from the deep-state conspirators and give it back to the working people of this great nation.”

“Sonny, the folks who run the deep-state conspiracy bought you some fancy suits and pumped your meager little brain with simplified triggers, designed to piss off ignorant voters, until you could work through their script without missing a beat.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Of course you know exactly who I mean! You spent three weeks in all-expense paid intensive training at a very exclusive private resort in Utah, over the summer, along with two-dozen other promising candidates and a small army of future campaign officials, being drilled on the latest research on turning voter preferences, the most effective propaganda, carefully crafted to rile up the fanatics and sully the reputation of any and every opponent. Then they gave you an experienced campaign director to guide you through the most effective use of the millions of dollars that are flowing into your campaign from deep-pocket sponsors around the country. We both know they’ll expect your absolute loyalty to their best interests in return for their generosity and when they’re done with you, they’ll toss you out like one of their purebred dog’s messes.”

“That’s completely insane,” snapped the Congressman, taking a hit from the beer can.

“You’re not even a good liar,” replied Murphy, slugging his whiskey. “I might support everything you claim to stand for but we both know you don’t really believe any of the crap you’re spewing. Your scripted talking points use the exact same words and phrases as all the other numbskulls that graduated from ‘Gee, I’m gonna be the next president U.’ and none of you have the brains to be much more than an incompetent dog-catcher in a very small town.”

“I don’t have to put up with this,” shouted Nance, “I’m a Congressional Representative!”

Murphy started laughing and leaned close to the mike, “Folks, he doesn’t seem to understand that there are a million patriots out there listening to his hokum and all of you understand that the power brokers pay idiots like this moron to recite their lines in exchange for reliable votes. The big guys bolster his campaign with millions of dollars, soggy with the musty mildew of corruption and manipulation. My friends, I’m willing to bet that all that cash doesn’t buy your vote! They can’t empower these fools to actually think, to comprehend that the world is a complicated and unforgiving place, or to value anything beyond blind ambition because every second of their miserable perverted lives will be exposed for all the world to see. I guarantee that every one of these carbon copy candidates lack any qualifications for the offices they occupy for the moment, let alone the ones they might lust for in the future.”

“You’re finished as a spokesman for the conservatives,” said Nance, tossing the headphones on the desk and dumping the metal chair to the floor with a clatter as he stood to leave.

“No, sonny, I don’t think you understand how this works. I’m gonna be here talking to my people tomorrow night and every night and I’ll predict that we’ll see your resignation within the next couple of weeks, because it’s become painfully obvious that you’re a terrible actor and don’t have a clue about what it takes to represent the American people. After this fiasco, I’m fairly certain that your handlers will be anxious to move on to your replacement.”

“I guess we’ll see about that,” yelled the Congressman, slamming the door as he rushed into the narrow hallway. Murphy’s raucous laughter echoed through every speaker in the station, as Nance stumbled through the clutter searching for an exit.

“If those powerbrokers plan to control the world, why would they put that punk kid up as a candidate? Everyone knows he’s a frightened fraud!” yelled Murphy. “Hell, I ought to run for president. At least y’all know that everything I say comes straight from the heart!”

The light on the intercom in the booth blinked and Hannah picked it up, “What?”

“Put your board on auto-pilot and come help me answer the phones! As soon as Murphy said he ought to run for president, the lines lit up! This is crazy, they think he’s serious!”

“Yeah, he’s just spouting off, I’ll be right there,” said the engineer. He motioned for Murphy to cut to a taped promo and said, “You hit a note with that last bit, keep going, the phones are ringing off the hook!”

As the jingle ended, Murphy took another swig and a long slow drag on the cigar. “Seems some of you think my candidacy isn’t such a crazy idea, that the Republican Party hacks represent the elite and arrogant one-percent, who are dedicated to maintaining the Wall Street barons and the status quo, while our voice speaks to the soul of America - the factory workers, miners, farmers, and truckers - the folks who built this country with their bare calloused hands, the folks who raise their kids with rock solid traditional values, and believe in the teachings in the Good Book.

We’re the people in all those Rockwell paintings, who defend our flag, rights, and freedoms with our blood, sweat, and tears, and we demand protection for our most cherished beliefs against liberal domination of the laws and the courts! The weak progressive agenda is destroying everything that America stood for in the world before we became the laughingstock of the entire planet!”

He put a gray Confederate infantryman’s hat on his head and swiveled the chair to salute the flags hanging on the wall, “If you’re sick and tired of insane bureaucratic incompetence, followed by the same old fumbling excuses, when big government screws things up…if you want the administration to keep its nose out of your business and its hand out of your wallet…if you want to put an end to a perpetual migration of undocumented immigrants pouring across our borders to sully our pride and purity…if you want real change for real people, then send your contributions to the ‘Elect Mac Murphy’ Exploratory Fund at WBFK, P.O. Box 1040, Cincinnati, Ohio. I promise every penny will go to shutting down the noise, so the voice of the people can finally be heard!”

~

Murphy tumbled off the couch onto a pile of empty bottles, pizza boxes, and greasy white bags that smelled as if they once contained something that might have been edible, scattered on a precious antique Oriental rug, now stained and tattered, as he took a wild swing at the ringing telephone buried in the clutter on the coffee table, launching the handset into flight along with the overflowing contents of a giant ashtray that erupted into a gray cloud shrouding leaded glass tinkling to the floor from the ensuing impact with a window in the intricately carved door of a fine old French cabinet.

His thoroughly scrambled brain sputtered electrical impulses that fired spastically between completely disconnected synapses, disrupting any potential for cognitive function. Bloodshot eyes drooped like an aging hound in the August heat, his tongue thick with fibrous tufts of something dead and furry, and the bile in his stomach threatened ignition at the scent of noxious poisons oozing from his rotund body.

A muffled voice, emanating from someplace in glittering shards of glass impaled in a heap of crumpled newspapers and trash, kept yelling, “Murphy, pick up the damned phone! Murphy, are you there?”

The table tipped over with a painful crash of broken crockery, moldy food, and mysterious liquids splattering in all directions when he tried to crawl over it to retrieve the handset so he could bash it repeatedly on the stone hearth, until that voice stopped screaming at him!

Finally, he held the receiver in front of his face, trying to figure out why Jack Hannah would interrupt his ruminations at this early hour on a weekend. “What the fuck could you possibly want at this hour of the day?”

“Well, it’s three-thirty in the afternoon and I’ve been trying to reach you since this morning.”

“The question remains, what could you possibly want?”

“I take it you haven’t seen the paper?”

“What paper?”

“The newspaper, you old drunk. Someone’s taking your candidacy seriously. They wrote an op-ed suggesting that you aren’t any worse than all the boring traditional candidates, who are vying for president by repeating the same old tired crap that didn’t work the last time and won’t work the next time either. It even offers a compliment about how you could probably offer a refreshing perspective on the political turmoil we’re going through.”

“If they could see me now they’d have second thoughts,” mumbled the prospective contender, rubbing his eyes, trying to focus on the hands of the clock on the mantle that had not been wound in months.

“Well, lots of people seem to be reacting. The post office box was overflowing this morning and Milly Clark’s desk is covered in stacks of cash and checks.”

“How much?”

“I have no idea but I’m pretty sure it’s just the beginning. You need to sober up, so we can have a chat about what the hell’s going on, before it gets completely out of hand.”

“Buy me a whiskey and a steak and we’ll talk.”

~

Jack Hannah pulled into the unpaved parking lot of Katie’s Chicken House, just down the highway from WBFK, noting Murphy’s aging gold Cadillac convertible angled across three spaces in the flickering yellow radiance of the colossal neon chicken on the roof of the building. Gusty breezes swirled trash off the floorboards through the open driver’s door and the canvas top was suspended part way out of the trunk. With dark clouds rolling in and the probability of rain, he walked over to slam the door and tug at the accordioned roof, until it settled on top of the windshield.

Katie’s giddy daughter, Sara, was tending the register and guiding guests to tables in the tiny restaurant to the right. She nodded toward the ‘Tropical’ lounge, where Murphy was slumped against the faux teak bar with two empty shot glasses and a third halfway to his mouth. He raised his glass to the station manager, “Glad you finally showed up, I was just getting ready to order another round!”

Hannah slid onto a stool and Katie’s husband and barkeep, Bernie, grinned while he poured a Rhinegeist draft into a tall tapered glass, “You guys got folks riled up with that show last week. I had a table-full of drunks screaming and yelling over there in the corner and had to threaten to turn your show off, if they didn’t simmer down.” He pointed to Murphy, “This guy keeps telling me he doesn’t know nothin’ about running for president.”

Jack lifted his glass, “We’re going to have a big coming out party. Maybe we should have it here.”

“I’ll go for that,” laughed the bar tender. “You say when and I’ll only charge you double.”

“Hell, we haven’t even started negotiating yet,” said Murphy, offering an empty shot glass. “Fill ‘er up.”

Bernie filled the glass and wandered away. Hannah surveyed the future candidate who had managed to shower, rake a razor over parts of his ruddy face and dress in a fairly clean white shirt and a blue blazer that was only terminally rumpled. The flabby muscles in his jaw clenched and released, an amphetamine rush grinding his molars, and tremors in his hand sloshed the whiskey in the tiny glass while he attempted to lift it to his lips. He coughed, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and turned to Hannah, “What the fuck is happening?”

“Some very stupid people think you’re serious about running for president after your shtick on the show the other night. Folks are sending in envelopes full of cash and we’re getting calls from networks and wire services wanting interviews. Hell, someone claiming to work for the RNC, called wanting a biography for their donors.”

“Anyone who knows me, could give you twenty good reasons why I’m completely unqualified and ill-suited to be president,” said Murphy, hoisting his empty glass, “and this is just one of them.”

Hannah tipped the tapered schooner and leaned on the bar, “We’ve had a hell of a run and we’ve produced some great shows but you know and I know it’s all bullshit. You don’t believe any of the crap that goes out over the air, so how are you going to rectify the dichotomy?”

The candidate straightened up, “Shit, you know more about this than I do, I’m just the talent, an actor playing a part in a nightly comedy. It’s kept us out of the poorhouse for the past four years and given a voice to a whole bunch of folks who’ve been ignored and ridiculed, since before they started keepin’ time. They might be dumber than mud but that’s the price of democracy and they deserve the chance to scream and shout about the stuff that’s important to them, even if I, personally, don’t agree.”

He took another swig, “If we do this, it’s just a bigger tent, wind me up and lemme go. We’ll cash in until someone figures it out and the whole charade falls apart. Then we can retire to earn millions of dollars writing books that justify our bad behavior and unbridled bullshit. I’m not proud, hell, I’m not even greedy, and we both know there’s no chance in hell of winning the Republican nomination, let alone the election. That’s not even worthy of consideration.”

Jack’s tension relaxed into a schemer’s grin, “So, you’d do it for the money?”

“Yeah, make that lots of money, good booze, and some fine pussy and I’m in!”

“I’ll make some calls.”    

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© rick stiller 2019