The story (500 words or less) had to have a ‘party’ of some kind in it, as well as a ‘button’, and include the words ‘The air was thick with…’ Australia had not long concluded a Federal Election so I guess that theme was foremost in my mind. Here’s my entry:
I Care by Denise Newton
for the I Care party?’ The volunteer’s
face was hopeful. She clutched narrow black and white leaflets close to her
chest like a protective shield.
people pass by her on their way into the polling place. Some shook their heads
in a curt dismissal. Others gave an apologetic smile. Most simply ignored her. None
took the proffered paper. I was intrigued. She didn’t falter, even when a young
man made a rude gesture at her with his finger and knocked the papers from her hand,
scattering them like clumsy confetti on the ground. At that point, I stepped
across to help her pick them up.
She gave me a wide smile as I held out the leaflets to her.
don’t mind me saying, it looks like no one’s interested in your party,” I said,
as gently as I could. Why was she persisting in the face of such apparent
do you bother?” My question was blunt, but I wanted to know what drove this
young woman to volunteer her time on a chilly election day, standing in a
blustery wind that nipped at the edges of comfort.
well…” she undid a button on her coat, before slipping some of the leaflets
into an inside pocket. “I want people to know there’s a point to it all, you
my head, bemused. “A point?”
get all riled up about things. I just want them to know that some people care.”
about them.” She smiled at an approaching couple, and held out a leaflet. They
sidled past. Her smile didn’t falter.
does your party promise to do?”
don’t promise to do anything. Just care about people.”
to chuckle. “Don’t all parties promise that?”
course not. They promise to build roads, or employ nurses, or turn back boats. No
one promises to care. But the I Care party—that’s
the only promise we make. Everything follows from that.”
examined her. She didn’t appear to be psychologically disturbed, but then I was
no expert. Perhaps the I Care party
was a cult of some sort? She was dressed normally, no weird hippie gear, and
she didn’t look undernourished, as I thought a cult member might.
would you do if your party won a seat?”
a small shrug, as if the answer was obvious.
care, of course!”
I gave a
little shake of my head. “OK, well, nice to meet you. And—er—good luck.” I held
out my hand. She shook it, her blue eyes crinkled in another smile.
her then, entering the polling place to cast my vote. The air was thick with
the odour of antagonism, carefully hidden beneath a screen of civility.
voting cubicle, I watched in disbelief as my pencil marked a ‘1’in the box next
to the I Care party candidate.