“Where are we going, Jeb!?” Ben Carson asked. He stared intently at the passing blur of green that streamed by outside the car window. “Do we have another debate today?”
“Yeah, buddy. A big ol’ debate. Everyone will be there to see you, champ.” Jeb! pat Ben on the head and gave his coarse salt and pepper hair a scratch.
Ben smiled and leaned his head against Jeb!’s arm. “This has been a great election, Jeb!. I’ve been having a lot of fun debating with you guys about ISIS and everything.” Ben turned and looked up at Jeb!, a content stare from tired eyes. “I, for one, think that my platform of faith-based values and common sense economic policy has resonated strongly with the middle and lower class families of America.”
“Of course it has, buddy.”
“I had a pretty strong showing in Iowa. I may have only received 3 delegates, but I think that the people will hear my message and come to the polls to support me. I don’t think any candidate has energized the people as much as I have,” Ben said. “I’m going to stay in this race until the end so I can give honest, hard working Americans someone to rally behind. I bet I’ll shatter expectations on Super Tuesday.”
“I you will. You’re…” Jeb! sniffled. “You’re…”
Jeb! slammed on the brakes. Ben sprung forward and back into his resting position without so much as opening an eye. Jeb! hunched over the steering wheel, bawling like child.
Ben nuzzled Jeb!’s arm.
“Are you alright, Jeb!? I don’t like when you’re upset.”
“I’m sorry, Ben. It’s… it’s nothing.” Jeb! wrapped himself around Ben and held him close. “I’m just so proud of you, Ben. You’re doing so good and I… I’m sure America feels the same way.”
“Oh, good. I think America likes you too, Jeb!. I bet it’ll be down to just the two of us and then they’ll elect a great president no matter what.”
Visions of hellfire flashed across Jeb!’s eyes. Great fissures rending the Earth in twain. The cities of man reduced to piles of ash and bone. Men, women, and children trying to scramble over the Wall to freedom as the bloodcurdling shrieks of Trump supporters fell down upon them with torrents of boiling oil. “Yeah, we’re gonna make it to the end, no problem.”
“That’s the spirit.” Ben yawned and curled up in the seat. “I’m going to take a little nap, all this talking has me feeling sleepy. Wake me up when we’re at the debate.”
Jeb! pressed down on the gas as the truck sputtered down the road.
* * *
Jeb! nudged Ben’s shoulder.
“Wake up, Ben. We’re at the debate.”
Ben Carson let out a strained yawn and stretched his arms overhead.“We’re in Miami already?”
“You were sleeping for a long while Ben. Come on, let’s get into the auditorium.”
Jeb! hopped out of the truck and was slowly joined by Dr. Carson, who lurched out of the cab like a slug. Jeb! walked up the gravel driveway slowly enough for Ben to keep pace. The two walked toward a small brick building the size of a double wide.
“This doesn’t look too much like a university, Jeb!…” Ben said as he craned his neck around to survey his surroundings.
“That’s just how colleges looks down here, Ben.”
“Well, that gives me another riveting talking point.” Ben scuffed his foot along the ground, kicking up some stray rocks. “The crumbling infrastructure of America’s schools. See, we care about the real issues.”
Jeb! didn’t say a word and kept walking, but Ben didn’t seem to mind. Silence put him at ease and he was more than comfortable having time to think and take in the world around him.
Jeb! reached the door and held it open. Ben plodded inside, his leisurely saunter slowly giving way to a labored march. Each step carried the weight of a lifetime. He entered a small room lined with gaudily upholstered chairs and year old car magazines. A counter at the far end of the room was manned by a woman in her early 20s wearing a pastel smock covered in paw prints.
“Oh, hello,” the woman said. “You must be Jeb!. And this is the poor guy here for-”
“For the debate, yes,” Jeb! interrupted. “He’s been practising his lines all week long. Isn’t that right, Ben?”
“I don’t want to brag, ma’am,” Ben said, “but I have a feeling that I’m going to put these other guys to shame.”
“The others are waiting in the back.” She lifted the latch on the gate and led Ben and Jeb! through.
Ben and Jeb! walked into a cramped room, with a large metal table surrounded by about a half a dozen of the other Republican candidates. Chris Christie stood in the corner. He looked over his shoulder, but his head darted away when he saw Ben enter the room. Marco and Ted spoke softly to each other, every so often shooting a quick sideways glance. John and Lindsey exchanged a teary hugs, patting each other on the back.
“Well, it seems like I’m the only person who rehearsed their lines for this one,” Ben said. “Don’t be upset, friends. You’ll do fine.”
“I think you’ve got this one in the bag, Ben,” John said, trying to force himself to smile.
“Yeah, buddy. Why don’t you hop on up to your podium?” Ted tapped the metal table with his palm.
Ben proudly walked toward his podium and tried to hoist himself on top of it. He lifted his leg up, but couldn’t get it a foot off the ground. He tried to pull himself up with his arms, but his elbows quivered under the weight. Chris and Lindsey each grabbed him under a shoulder and hoisted him up. Marco wheeled over a slender metal rack with a bag of fluid dangling from it.
“What’s this for?” Ben asked meekly as he scooted back on the table.
“Oh, it’s a new piece of equipment that we’re using to help you stay hydrated during the debate. Then you don’t have to stop and drink water and can debate non-stop,” Marco said.
“Ah, yes. I remember reading something about this apparatus in one of my studies. Water is incredibly important to the human body.” Ben smiled. “I’m sure you know that very well, Marco.”
“Now look here, I-”
Jeb! elbowed Marco in the side.
“I… I think that’s a great joke, Ben. I’m sure the people will love it.”
Marco grabbed Ben by the wrist and slid a needle into his forearm.
“Are we ready to start the debate now?” Ben asked. “I want to start talking about the War on ISIS.”
“Sure, buddy. Just… just start wherever you like,” Jeb! said. He tapped Marco on the shoulder.
Marco grasped a small piece of plastic that was connected to the IV line and clicked it up.
“Well, I think that the American people can… uhm, well… radical Islamic terrorism is… a… a president who won’t…” Ben stammered.
“Just keep on talking champ. The… the crowd loves you,” Jeb! said. Lindsey wrapped his arm around Jeb!’s shoulder.
“The… econo… a fla… flat tax… Imma… Imma retired neurosmur…,” Ben yawned. “Imsorryimjus… just so tired.”
Ben Carson struggled to keep the lead weighted lids of his eyes open. There was so much he wanted to talk about, from immigration to taxation to socialized medicine, but he was just so tired. Maybe he could just rest his eyes for a moment and jump back in on the next question, refreshed and revitalized. America would be waiting, as wide eyed and energized for the road ahead as he was. Ben smiled and rested his head on the podium, drifting off to sleep.