Saturday, February 19, 2011

Chapter Four -- The Councilman

 “A senator, Bill.”
“Stop it, Lucille. I barely won re-election to the board. I’m honored to be a commissioner.”  But Bill Wolf’s smile quivered about him like a happy puppy.
“Senator.” Lucille sighed the word more than said it. “Bill, listen to how this sounds, ‘Senator William A. Wolf.’ Wouldn’t you want to be senator?”
“It was lieutenant governor a mere hour ago,” he told his wife, fighting the smile threatening to engulf him. They were the exact words in his head. Plus, the governor tapped him before Harrison, that little prick. Thinking of Harrison successfully tamped the puppy quivering. “A primary against Harrison wouldn’t be much fun,” Wolf said. And now he sounded as he wished, brusque, annoyed.
Lucille smiled. “You can wipe the floor up with Harrison,” she said. She cocked her head in what had become their connubial code.
Lucille Temple Prentiss Wolf had a good face. William Wolf’s grandmother, a Haden County girl, had told him that after he’d brought Lucille and Shelby to Thanksgiving dinner. “She’ll age well,” his grandmother had said, “if she stays busy.”
He smiled now at his wife, looking a decade younger than forty-three with that geometric face that William Wolf found attractive and knew others did as well, but which was not actually pretty, perhaps cute, but a bit too extreme for cute.  Lucille’s face was triangular with high cheekbones and round eyes almost too large, like in the waif paintings his first wife had found endearing. There had been two staring him down in the bedroom. He would see them over her shoulder when she was on top, rearing back her head and shaking her red mane and acutely boring him. The night after the impossibly long day following the accident he had taken them from the wall and slipping them conscientiously from their frames broke them into halves then quarters as he walked through the house and out to the garbage pails behind the garage.
Lucille kept her hair cropped short. It was so black it reflected blue in strong moonlight. She kept it clipped raggedly about her face like Liza Minnelli but neater. Much neater. He had grasped the meaning of the word ‘coiffed’ when overhearing one of the councilwomen describing his wife’s hairstyle to another woman. “It caps her perfectly,” Lydia Prince had said, “a precisely coiffed ragamuffin.”
 Lucille was lean and nearly as tall as William Wolf, the fair-haired and proverbial prodigal son of Haden County. He had been aware from the moment the pursuit began that she had targeted him for marriage. He had enjoyed every moment of the pursuit and, well into a second decade later,  still enjoyed the fruits of this power balance.
 All of these thoughts – though not examined, never made cogent  – flooded William Wolf when he saw desire come into his wife. She was game for yet another race despite the exhaustive campaign they’d just concluded. His grandmother had been right about her in so many ways.
“You nailed her PawMaw,” he had told his grandmother the night he lost the senate seat. “I’ll have Grandpop’s seat back on the council in two years. You watch.” Old Helen Wolf had died before that winning election but not without knowing her grandson would hold it. If that had been said once at the quad-county wake it had been said a hundred times. The election ten days after her death  made truth of it.
Lucille had both known that Bill was aware of her intentions and also that without that absolute constant gurantee from her that she was absolutely there for him he would not remarry. There had been no children. He wouldn’t have had to. He could have made a fine political career for himself as his grandmother’s fair-haired boy. A wife would be helpful. Very helpful. But only the right wife. Lucille knew this. William Wolf knew this.
She approached William Wolf more than sixteen years ago and worked side by side with him on his first campaign; his failed senatorial bid against the same Republican incumbent who still holds the seat.  John Johnson had not faced an opponent since, not in five election cycles.
Maybe he was vulnerable now. This was what crossed repeatedly through the Wolfs’ thoughts. Maybe the state party was right.
“What if it’s Thompson they want you to run against?” Lucille asked. “He’s going to go see Harrison too, right? The governor?”
“Run against Thompson? Don’t be crazy. Stanley Thorne is going to run again. I’m not challenging Thorne in a primary. And certainly not for an unwinnable seat.”
“And Johnson’s is more winnable?”
Into the silence they both thought back sixteen years. They hadn’t at the time any idea at all just how young they’d been.
“You’d slaughter Harrison in a primary,” Lucille finally said. There was no doubt in her mind.
Nor William Wolf’s.

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