Senator Max Baucus Leaves Five Tips
by a contributor
1 It was a bag of mulch, okay? Heavy as a corpse and heady with must – I dropped the bag behind the jeep to catch my breath. That’s when the woman—short blond hair, round little breasts—backed her car over my mulch bag.
I think she thought she hit a body. She jumped out of the car with her painted lips in an oh-no shape. Then saw what she’d hit. In the ecstasy of her relief, she laughed.
Had she not done that, we wouldn’t have needed the attorney, the lawyers’ and publicists’ lunch, the statement.
But she did laugh, and I know I wasn’t seeing straight but she looked just like that woman, Melodee, and I was overcome with the urge to punch her right in the teeth.
Which urge, to her great surprise, I satisfied.
Later I painted a sprawling, open vagina. I made it the color of moss, deep as a forest. Max leaned in my studio door and said Repeat after me There was no incident; I did not hit anyone.
There was no incident, I said. I did not hit anyone important.
Wanda, my husband said. You’ve become a liability.
2 It was not the first time she’d signed his name. She signed his official correspondence, signed for his packages, stamped his name on honorary diplomas. This was the first time, however, she had signed for his room service while standing behind a door with his dick nosing the back of her thighs. Max Baucus, she signed, considering but not adding, U.S. Senate.
He had ordered a single cheeseburger so as not to arouse suspicion with his expense report, and he crouched over the lacquered tray, cutting the burger into equal halves, his penis dangling loosely between his naked legs.
She dressed quickly and picked up her bag.
Melodee, he said. Where are you going?
His expression pleased her. He, implacable as varnish, capable of arguing for affordable health care or defending a corporate tax break without so much as a blip in his heart rate, looked almost wounded. As if this were the first time he’d done this. As if he might actually care for her—her: now in her forties, divorced, not yet the legislator she’d planned to be, the blond in her hair no longer natural.
One thing you should know about me, Baucus, she said. I do not like to share.
I told Stephanie before the rehearsal, don’t even try to have a conversation with a real man—that isn’t what this is. This is a fish you’ve caught who’s flopping in your boat and you need to thwack him in the head to end the pointless thrashing. Only he doesn’t know he’s gone. He still thinks he’s a human being.
pressured – pressured! Not to do it Not to
do it – Not to do it
He got pressured pressured pressured
I was in the room constantly – constantly
That is a totally untruthful statement
this is this person’s judgment
and you know what happened?
One by one they started to drift away.*
5 “That’s really sad,” Wanda said, and the reporter wrote it down. As if that wasn’t her, being interviewed, being left. As if she’d never been a Harvard prof and then a housewife and then just a woman punching another woman in the face over a bag of mulch. Someone else had been—his horrible word—indiscreet. Not her. She had left him, after all, with eyes like holes in his face.
Or it was mutual. A talking face, a wooden mouth, all of it sponsored—like a billboard. “It’s a man’s town,” she said. The reporter scribbled hungrily.
But she knew that Max, too, was exhausted. She knew he loved to dance, and Melodee would dance with him. Melodee didn’t resent his world, she was of it, and Max needed that.
“Sad” was the wrong word, but Wanda didn’t bother correcting it. She had always been—what did he call it?—imprecise. She covered her hands in paint.
*Note: Section 4 is a manipulated/redacted Senator Baucus quotation.
Kelly Ramsey lives on Fishers Island, New York, where she co-directs the arts nonprofit The Lighthouse Works. Her prose has appeared or is forthcoming in American Short Fiction, Orion, and The Material, and she will be a fellow at the MacDowell Colony this fall.