The Bug Man quickened his pace. Bent at the hip, his shoulders thrust forward like a spinster with a crumpled spine, he could have easily been mistaken for a man trying to outrun an approaching thunderstorm. But there was no rain falling from the night sky of the capital city - just the swamp's notorious, sinful stickiness. Humid and heavy as always, the air pressed down like a heavy burden, or a heavy conscience. Tonight, though, was even tougher going for the Bug Man. He could feel an added pressure in the hazy atmosphere, a feeling that his life's work - his resilient diligence to the Party, his ruthless gamesmanship, his uncompromising corruption - had erroneously manifested itself as a punishing physical burden, like a pile of coal thrown into a bundle upon his back, which the Bug Man had no choice but to carry lugubriously through the night. He pressed on, moving swiftly down the leaf-cluttered street.
As he shuffled, alone, down the lonely Georgetown lane, a flurry of emotions flashed through his mind: retribution, sabotage, rage, violence. "'Do unto others,' the Bible says. And what if others fuck you over? What if they fuck you hard?" the Bug Man thought to himself. He paused for a second, then snickered. "Come on, Bug Man. This isn't the first time your back has been thrust, forcefully, against the wall."
"And it won't be the last," he said aloud, to no one.
He turned the corner and walked hurriedly to his destination, his house. Waiting for him there were his wife, his children, his beautiful little lies. For forty years, these were his dirty secrets, his endless facade. They were the daily reminders of a lifetime of duplicity. He stopped.
"What am I doing? I can't go back there. Not tonight. Not after what happened today."
For a moment he stood perfectly still, listening to the croaks of the bullfrogs along the Potomac and the yellow leaves falling delicately to the sidewalk. A moment of simple, unpredictable solitude, followed by an epiphany. The Bug Man would not be spending tonight with his wife. He alone knew whose touch could heal the wounds of his heart; whose body would be the balm that covered and closed his scars. He knew it deep in his blood; the simple realization of the moment seemed more clear to him than all of the senseless political agendas he'd spent his life so tirelessly fighting for. He reached into his pocket for his cell phone, already thinking to himself what he would say and how he would say it, and as he grabbed the phone's hard plastic casing his hand brushed against his growing erection, pushing against his pant's dark fabric, alert and aware, ecstatic and alive.
Brownie sat alone at the end of the bar, hidden in the dark shadows of the old mahogany panelling. "The Log Cabin" was the last place anyone would expect to find him, and Wednesday nights were always slow. He knew this place well from his Arabian Horse Association days - more than a few times he'd found himself frustrated with the incompetency of his staff and left, unnoticed, at four in the afternoon for a whiskey and a screw. Funny how the mind works. Funny how he could look back now and remember those times fondly. The halcyon days. The salad days.
"Fucking assholes," he muttered to himself. "What do they think I am, some kind of superhero?"
He felt the rage rising again, unmuted and righteous. He swung the thick, heavy glass in his hand in small circles, listening as the cubes of ice swirled and clinked together like windchimes. Already that night he'd tried to find some outlet for his pain, and for his desires. Already he'd bought drinks for three men sitting near him at the bar; already three men had recognized him and declined his offer.
"Thanks," one man had said. "But I'm not New Orleans."
In the glowing half-light of the television screen, images from his hearing, taped earlier that day in front of Congress, reflected off of Brownie's face. He drank the rest of his whiskey in one gulp, grimacing, then placed the glass down on the bar and pounded the wood with his fist.
"Damn these liberals," he said through gritted teeth. "Damn them to hell."
Brownie peered behind the bar and tried to grab the attention of Mike, the bartender, who seemed to be chatting to a young Asian man with soft skin and a well defined chest. It was clear the Asian worked out. His body was tight but not slight; his demeanor commanding but approachable.
"If only," he thought to himself. "If only."
Not even the shameful, darkened corners of "The Log Cabin" were a suitable place to hide from his bottomless wells of self-pity. Brownie felt beaten, mugged. Robbed of his pride.
"How dare they," he said to himself aloud. "How dare those bastards."
Something shook against his leg. A muscle spasm? Immediately he remembered what his doctor had told him, that the previous weeks' overwhelming stress could lead to a stroke or, worse, a heart attack. "Do they start in your thigh?" he wondered hastily. A brief moment of panic and then, with relief, he remembered. His number two phone, the outgoing only phone. The "Bat Phone". For a second, as he tried to push the fuzzy inebriation from his head, he sought to remember to whom he'd given this number. Certainly no one in his family. Certainly no one at FEMA, who never gave a goddamn about him before "The Disaster" and surely didn't now. No, no, it was coming back to him. There was one person who knew the number. One person he trusted, one person he wanted to receive a call from, at any time, in any situation. One person who made the little crony in his pants shake the sleep out of his eye and harden with vigor. He held the phone in his hand, then pressed it lightly to his face.
"I want you to demote me," Brownie whispered. The voice on the other line panted, the breaths heavy. Brownie went on, encouraged. "I want to feel your feeding tube inside me." He waited for a reply, hoping he hadn't gone too far.
"You'll have to indict me first," came the voice on the other end.
"Are you asking me to be your special prosecutor?"
"Only if you can promise prison time. And only if I get bottom bunk."
"Oh, you've been a bad boy, haven't you?"
"Guilty as charged."
Brownie put the phone back in his pocket and tried to compose himself. Sweat gathered in the creases of his palms. He stood on one leg and tugged at his slacks, trying to hide the bulge of his enlargening genitals, the hibernating bear that finally, after a too-long winter, smells the scent of salmon in the rivers and feels the urge - that innate need - to hunt and to kill and to gorge. It was stumbling toward the entrance of the cave, ready to see the springtime sun, ready to splash in the mountain river, ready for its destiny.
The entrance door opened and the bar fell quiet. Only the sound of the jukebox arm, pivoting and whirring and reaching for another record, could be heard. The door closed and a man in a trenchcoat walked toward the corner, toward Brownie. As he inched closer, the jukebox glowed and snaps from the needle hitting the dusty record popped over the speakers. A piano, then a voice.
When the shades are drawn
And the light of the moon is banned
And the stars up above
Walk the heavens hand in hand
There's a shady place
At the end of the working day
The Bug Man stood next to Brownie's stool. He stared into his eyes, remembering the hot summer nights they had shared together. The golfing trips to Scotland. The box seats at the baseball games. The quick getaways to Korea, the secret trysts that not even Abramoff knew about. He looked at the man sitting next to him and tried to see something new and beautiful in his lover's eyes. Finally, Brownie met the Bug Man's gaze and spoke, softly, haltingly.
"Couldn't find any Indian chiefs to fuck?"
The Bug Man held his stare. "It's people like you that make me ashamed to be an American."
Brownie stared back, then turned to play with the empty glass on the bar. "Not a fan of bureaucrats, Tom?"
Brownie smiled and nodded. The Bug Man knew where to hit, where to stick the knife and how far to turn it. A little too much and it was painful, dangerous. But just enough and it was ecstasy, it was a dance on hot coals, that strange erotic thrill of being spit on and slapped.
"Must be tough having such high standards," Brownie countered.
"Not exactly something you'd know about, is it, Brown?" Turning, turning, slowly twisting the blade.
"Pretty rough words for an alcoholic Orkin Man."
"Oh, I'm sorry, can you not handle rough?" the Bug Man asked, placing his hand on Brownie's thigh and squeezing, rubbing.
"I can handle anything you've got."
"I've got a natural disaster brewing in my pants. Can you handle that?"
"I'll do a heck of a job," Brownie replied. He grabbed the Bug Man's hand and moved it the four inches to his groin, needing so badly a hand there, needing a man's hand.
"And if I ruin your ass, you won't blame someone else?"
"I'll blame you, you son of a bitch. I'll blame you, I'll tell everyone about-"
The Bug Man kissed Brownie passionately, forcefully. He thrusted his throbbing lobbyist into his lover's equally swollen, fully-competent political appointee.
"Why did I have to fall in love with you?" whispered Brownie. "You're a disgusting, evil man."
"Shhh..." the Bug Man softly said, putting his fingers to the other man's lips. "Let's not speak of love tonight."
They paused and held each other, gently, tenderly, and listened to the softly playing jukebox . For us, they think. For us alone.
There's a jukebox plays all night
And we can dance real close
Beneath the pulse of a neon light
"I want you, Tom," Brownie said, breathing hotly into the soft folds of the Bug Man's shirt. "I want you to destroy my infrastructure."
Lord have mercy
You can't sit still
You can't sit still
Tom pulled Brownie's face toward his own and looked into the man's magical, delicate eyes. "I'm going to redistrict your rectum."
"Oh God, I want you to hammer it. I want you to hammer it hard."
"I can hammer it. I can hammer it and I will, I'll hammer it, I'll hammer it, I'll hammer it..." his whispers getting softer and softer, his hand clasping his lover's, the two of them then walking toward the door, through the shadows, into the humid capital city night, into each other's arm, into love - if only for a night.