“We don’t have a candidate.” Brown said, wiggling his fingers like bait on a hook. “With Howard lying in that hospital bed, we just don’t have a prayer.”
“End of the road for all of us. One little heart attack, in a healthy young man.” Green said, pursing his lips. “End of the gravy train, and we only had just begun. We spent all this money in advance, and for nothing. Nothing.” He threw a paper coffee cup at a wastebasket, missed. He didn’t retrieve the misfired missile.
“We could try and put someone else out there.” Brown said. “Might as well. Would help us all get on our feet while we look for other campaigns to jump ship into. Practice, if nothing else.”
“A sacrificial goat” Victoria said. “But who? Is the local theater company looking for work?”
“I’ve seen that movie. That’s not a good idea.” Brown said.
“What else have we got?” Green said. “One of *us*? It just has to be for a few weeks, right?”
In the corner, with a laptop in front of him, Ned looked up. This was the moment, the moment he had seen in the dream, when the winged figure told him that his sins were forgiven, that his fortunes were going to change, that he was blessed by the Lord. The angel had told him that the way would be made for him, opportunity for him to bring the Word to America, and restore it, in his Name. And she had called him by his real name, his birth name. That’s how he knew it was real. He hadn’t even thought of it in years.
The staffers for Congressman Howard’s campaign all looked at each other. A half dozen people, none of them willing to act. It was a sign, a signal. Ned could see it.
“I should.” Ned rose from the chair as he began to speak., He could feel the power within him. He could see it in their eyes. “I should be the one to carry on Mr. Hornsback’s campaign. We’ve got the money already spent, we might as well not let it go to waste. I’ll go out and talk to the people. I can bring them to us. Make them see the need for change.”
The stammer, the shyness were gone. The dark years, of alcohol and violence, were definitely gone. The angel had taken them all away, just as she promised, and left something strong, and pure. The room of consultants looked at him, rapt.
“We’ll change the banners tomorrow. We should start planning more events in this area, beyond the slate we already had up for Mr. Hornsback. Cedar Rapids tomorrow. Collegeville on Thursday. The Amana colonies next week. Eat up the counties, and march on Des Moines when we’re ready. And then the rest of the nation.”
“We’re with you Ned!” Victoria cheered. Ned saw desire in her eyes. He had always wanted her, and now he would have her. But he would do it properly. He would marry her, first, of course. And she would.
“Knock em dead, Ned” Green said, swinging a fist like a drunken boxer. “Hey, there could be your slogan!”
“My name is not Ned” the man said, walking past Brown, through the side door and onto the stage. And, quieter, to himself, “Not anymore”
Fifty people were sitting at the tables of the Pizza Ranch, puzzled by the appearance of the dark haired young man instead of the older Congressman. But it was his eyes, and his voice that mesmerized them, and held them. And mesmerized the 500 people who livestreamed the event. And the fifteen thousand who watched it when the video went to youtube. And when the video went viral, twenty times that heard his words, and his call.
“I am here to tell you that America can become the blessed and holy and sacred place it once was. A place where the liberals and the gays and the Muslims and the social justice warriors and Morlocks no longer can tell you how to live, who to love, and who is a sinner. A place that is devoted to our faith and is devoted to our God, not the false gods who those sinners hold in their hearts and corrupt our country. For they are sinners, my friends, spreading their sin, blackening and fouling this country. Our once blessed nation is nearly lost—but despair not! I am here to help end that sin, to purge it from this once great nation. But I need your help. I cannot do it alone. I hope you will stand with me and help me in the greatest project of all—the reconsecration of the United States of America.”
“My name is Nehemiah Scudder.”