Trembley's Candidate: NYC Midnight Short Story Competition

Synopsis: When campaign manager Trembley finds out that Ronald Klump, his candidate for the Republican nomination, is a vegetarian, he knows his campaign is headed for the crapper unless he can hide this liberal ideology from the GOP constituents. However, when Klump's shocking alliance with the liberals is revealed, only respected colorectal surgeon, Susan Anthony, can discover just how full of shit this candidate really is.

Ronald Klump's Campaign Headquarters
"A damn vegetarian. How do you like that?"

Trembley shook his head, his thick jowls quivering with the effort. He moved to run a hand through his sparse gray hair. Thought better of it. Stuck his hands in his pockets. Outside, rain pelted the window.

"Look, Trembley, none of us knew. It wasn't like he was broadcasting it. That reporter from Channel 12 picked it up with the shotgun mic. How I was supposed to know?" Mark screeched.

Mark, Trembley's computer-hacking aide, should have known. He was paid to know.

"He ordered the chickpeas, Mark."

"A lot of people like chickpeas."

"No one in their right mind likes chickpeas, Mark. Eating chickpeas is punishment. Like watching Citizen Kane or going to your wife's Christmas party. People order chickpeas when they're damn vegetarians."

Mark sighed heavily, brows bunching over his aquiline nose. He sat back in his chair, long legs splayed in front of him. "I just assumed…"

"Yeah, and you know what that makes you and me, don't you?" Trembley crammed his hands farther into his pockets. Jingled the change. "You're paid to notice this kind of thing. Use all those fancy computer skills to spy on Mr. Klump. Get to know his tastes. Discover his weaknesses. Everything he doesn't disclose to me."

"I just didn't see it."

Trembley snorted. "You didn't see it because of your particular 'fondness' for him." He put air quotes around the word.

Mark blushed so furiously he damn near set off the sprinklers.

"I may be a lot of things, but I am not a miracle worker. I can't get a vegetarian the Republican nomination, Mark! It's almost like Klump is working for the liberals." Trembley rubbed the back of his neck with a meaty hand.

Mark shook himself out of his embarrassment, stood and crossed the room to join Trembley at the window. "He wouldn't. He would never do that."

"Don’t be so sure," Trembley cocked an eyebrow. 

Mark blanched. "You're just upset about the veggie thing. Look, there has to be something you can do. Not all Republicans hate vegetarians," he offered feebly.

Trembley snorted again. "And not all Republicans like guns and the color red."

He pulled out his phone, checked the ratings. They'd already dropped four per cent.

If Trembley knew anything, and he knew a lot since he'd been a campaign manager for 20 odd years, it was that a vegetarian was not, under any circumstance, going to win the Republican nomination for president. Set aside the fact that they were (until about two minutes ago), leading in the polls, they still had to win open caucuses and shut down everyone else at the primaries. Up until this very second, that had seemed easy, despite his candidate's seeming inability to act with basic human decorum.

There was the "blood coming out of her tampon tunnel" comment to the female moderator at the debate. Trembley had assumed there would be a complete meltdown by the right after that comment, but Klump's ratings had remained stable. And then, when Klump had worn the hijab and shaken an AK-47 at a crowd in Tulsa, (which Trembley had passed off as a publicity stunt), the crowd had gone out of their minds with glee. And last week, when his candidate had called the president an "ISIS-loving monkey-humper" at a press conference in D.C., Trembley had been shocked when the ratings had actually soared. It appeared that Republicans could forgive Klump almost anything: unshakable bigotry, profligate boasting, mean-spirited backstabbing and outright insanity.

But vegetarianism? That was unrecoverable. The vast campaign that started two years ago and raised $8.9 million dollars to date was on a downward spiral straight into the toilet. This campaign was shot unless he thought of a strategy. And quick.

"Cripes, why did I say yes to this job?" Trembley pulled a roll of antacids from his back pocket, shook four into his hand, popped them into his mouth, and chewed.

"Because the pay is good?" Mark ventured, raising a delicate shoulder.

Trembley rolled his eyes. "Pole dancing and shaking your pasties at middle managers pays good, Mark. Doesn't mean you want to be screwed at the end of every night."

Rally in New York City

"I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me —and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words." 

"Thank God," Trembley muttered under his breath.

"You want to keep out the Mexicans?" Mark whispered.

"Don't be an idiot." Trembley propped his butt against a table backstage. Mr. Klump was at the podium, rallying New York for his cause, and seemed to be making an in-road with the voters who'd turned when it had gotten out that he preferred beets to beef. Around them, volunteers, lookie-loos and security personnel bustled around like they had something important to do. Trembley leaned forward and snatched a doughnut from the post-show spread. Bit into it.

"This is what recovery, looks like, Mark. Recovery," Trembley said around the bite. As he spoke, little puffs of powdered sugar exploded from his mouth. "I can distract the GOP from the vegetarianism with the Great Wall of Klump. That'll raise Cain with the dems. There will be so much backlash that the Republicans will forget all about Mr. Klump's problematic eating habits and will rally behind him in support against the left-wing nutjobs. It's perfect."

"You know what isn't perfect?" Mark sniffed.

"What's that?" Trembley said, stuffing the rest of the doughnut into his mouth.

"Klump's belly."

"Yeah, I noticed that, too. Says he's been bloated. All stopped up or something. I gave his wife a bottle of Ex-lax, told her to pass it along to him."

"Think she will?"

"She'd better. He doesn't look so good."

At that moment, Klump exited the stage to some mic feedback and a smattering of applause. He joined them backstage.

"My IQ is one of the highest – and you all know it. Please don't feel stupid or insecure. It's not your fault," Klump said, his lips pursed with either pain or great satisfaction. Trembley couldn't tell.

"Yeah, Mr. Klump. We know. You did great out there. How's that gut pain treating you?" Trembly asked, swallowing his bite. He searched around for a napkin. Found nothing. Wiped his mouth with the cuff of his shirtsleeve.

"It's fine. Couldn't be better." Klump grimaced.

"You sure?"

"Well, the raw crudités from the lavish dinner party I hosted in my lavish dining room a few nights ago didn't sit well with me. That's all."

"Well, you look gray, which is almost impossible for a man of your coloring."

"I'm great. I'm better than great. I'm the greatest there's ever been…"

Just then, Klump crumpled to the floor in agony, clutching his abdomen. Mark dropped to his side, fear marring his handsome features. "Trembley! Should we call 911?"

Trembley took a knee beside Mr. Klump, who was now flailing in pain. "Mr. Klump, what's wrong?"

"The pain! Oh, the extreme pain!"

"This is all because of that vegetarianism, Klump! You had to know that it was going to bite you in the backside. No red-blooded American Republican is a damn vegetarian. You should know that! Why don't you recant and eat a rib-eye?"

"I can't. I'm committed." He reached a shaky hand to Trembley's collar. Trembley batted it away. "Trembley, I can't eat anything with a face."

"That's not what that little blonde number said last Tuesday."

Klump groaned and rolled to his side.

Trembley shook his head and leaned in a little closer. "And Mr. Klump, you'd better be careful with that kind of talk," he hissed, glancing around the room. "People are going to think you're actually a democrat."

Mr. Klump's eyes slid sideways to his wife, Malaria, who was frantically punching numbers into a tiny cell phone wrapped in gold. "I can't get dis to verk."

Trembley held up a hand to her. "Mrs. Klump? Give that to me."

He grabbed the phone, then put his mouth as close to Klump's ear as was humanly possible without disturbing the ginger comb-over.

"Mr. Klump," he whispered. "I can call an ambulance, but there's gonna be some bad press if I do. The dems will capitalize on your weakness. Say it's a ploy to gain sympathy. Can't you just go sit on the crapper?"

"You know it really doesn't matter what the media say or write, as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass!" Klump bellowed, gesturing wildly to Malaria.

Trembley sighed. Pulled out his cell.

As Klump flailed and Trembley shouted at a hard-of-hearing 911 operator, a quarter-sized lapel pin that said "Donkey Forever" rolled from Klump's pants pocket and settled, unnoticed, under the food service table.

 Mount Sinai Hospital, NYC

Trembley chewed his lip in the private surgical waiting room. Gray-flecked carpet tiles muted the tense chatter coming from the Klump children, who sat arrayed in their finest attire from eldest to youngest. Malaria had asked for a bottle of Perrier upon arrival, but Trembley had drawn the line when she'd requested take-out from Jean-Georges.

Everything didn't have to be a circus.

To anyone else, Trembley would look nervous about the outcome of Mr. Klump's emergency surgery. After Klump had been through all the tests – the CT scans, the X-rays, the prodding, the scopes, the pokes and the plungers – he'd been sent under the knife with strict warnings to be returned whole.

Trembley's anxiety, however, had nothing to do with the state of Klump's small bowel. Trembley was anxious because of Mark's mission. 

He wasn't exactly sure where Klump was going with the "can't eat anything with a face" comment, but he was pretty damn sure he knew where Klump had been. Instead of inviting Mark to the hospital, much to Mark's anguish, he'd sent his computer-hacking aide to peruse emails from a very loud former Secretary of State who happened to be pushing for the Democratic nomination, and would, in all likelihood, win it hands down. And if her bets were right, and they most certainly were, all she needed to do to win the actual presidency, was run against a Republican with absolutely no shot of winning. But since no Republicans would ever agree to lose, she'd have to lure a Democrat to pose. 

Trembley figured her game plan went something like this:

1.      Find a Democrat with no interest in winning the actual presidency because the White House would be a step down from his digs. Done. Klump.

2.      Entice Klump to pose as the irresistible combination of a planet-hating, gun-toting, rich-as-Croesus rightwinger.

3.      Ensure that Klump secures the Republican nomination.

4.      Encourage Klump to become more and more irrational and ridiculous (shoot flamethrowers into the audience at rallies, put the entire state of California under an embargo).

5.      Act demure, yet competent when winning the presidential race.

Luckily, she'd recently made an egregious error with her emails. And since those emails had all been disclosed to the Inspector General, and Trembley happened to have a certain agreement with said Inspector General, Mark should have had no trouble locating the incriminating evidence of her deceptive plan.

And destroying it.

Trembley's job was to get the candidate nominated. Trembley always did his job. Those emails were all that stood in the way between Klump and that nomination. 

Mark burst through the waiting room doors, misery written all over his face.

"I knew it!" Trembley growled, exploding out of his chair like a cat fired out of a cannon.

Mark sank to his knees, sobbing dejectedly into the crook of his elbow. "I love him, though. I don't care that he's a phony."

Trembley's eyes rolled back into his head. "ARE YOU TRYING TO RUIN US COMPLETELY?" he screamed.

From her dainty perch on a nearby stool, Malaria's Botox-filled face would've read confusion had it been capable of making any movement at all for any reason.

The Operating Room

Mr. Klump lay with guts exposed on an operating table, horrifyingly close to the small group raising their eyebrows and doing their best to ignore Trembley's outburst in the surgical waiting room.  He mumbled in his anesthesia-induced stupor, but Eric, a surgical intern focusing with all his might on not succumbing to lightheadedness, couldn't quite grasp what Klump was saying.

"So, what are you plans for this weekend, Doctor?"


Doctor Susan Anthony, a colorectal surgeon of high esteem, was wrist-deep in Mr. Klump's small bowel. "Oh, I was thinking of stopping by Klump's rally scheduled for Saturday. Just to see what crazy really looks like in person."

"Is he going to make it there? I know I'm new, but this doesn't look so good." He nodded to Klump's bloated intestines.

"He'll be fit as a fiddle as soon as I can determine exactly where his problem lies." She stuck a finger into his colon and tugged. Then paused. "Wait a second. Is he saying something?"

"But everyone has the right to marry. Gays should be happy too…"

"Did he just…"

"It appears he did, intern. Here. Grab this. I'm getting closer to the problem area."

Eric did as he was told.

"Free, universal healthcare would benefit everyone. It's a fact or my name isn't Ronald Klump."

Eric's eyes widened in surprise. "Isn't Klump a Republican?"

"Well, that's what we've been led to believe." She grunted, as she squished around inside the cavity. "But you see, intern, I believe I have this all figured out." She pulled out a length of Klump's small bowel, which was impacted with an assortment of partially-digested, raw crudités from a lavish dinner party in a lavish dining room.

"What is it, Dr. Anthony? What did you figure out?"

"Well, intern, the problem is…" she made a small slit in the bowel, sending excrement and little bits of celery sticks flinging all over Eric's bright blue cotton surgical scrubs.

 "Mr. Klump is full of shit."