“October Surprise” is a short story I have written as a warning for the Sanders movement against complacency. I am reprinting the first part of the story here. If you want to read the whole thing, leave your email on my blog either by subscribing or in the comments with the words October Surprise and I’ll send it to you free as a pdf file, about 19 pages.
© 2020 by Henry Hitz
“I’m really not political, Conner,” Zack told his best friend since kindergarten.
“I know, Zack. Just come to the rally, would you? For me?”
It was August 2020. A democratic socialist had recently won the nomination for President as a Democrat and now he was battling it out with the incumbent, a blowhard quasifascist with a dedicated following of white supremacist goons.
Zack and Conner were both 25 now, holed up in Zack’s messy bedroom in his parents’ house in Oakland’s Fruitvale district, sucking on a bong as usual.
Tall and lanky, Zack wore his hair in a big unkempt natural.
Conner was skinny too, half Filipino, half white, hair down to his shoulders.
“Forget politics,” Conner continued. “You need to get out of the fucking house. You’ve been like comatose since Adrianna broke up with you. Wasn’t that like almost a year ago?”
“Politics is all bullshit. I forgot to vote in the primary. I probably won’t vote in November. And yeah, relationships are all bullshit too. I’m perfectly happy vegging out like this.” He didn’t’ tell anyone, not even Conner, that he voted for the blowhard in 2016, just for the hell of it, his personal fuck-you to the world. Black mother, white father, he had no idea where he belonged, if he belonged. He understood that after Adrianna, he had embraced a funk so deep he didn’t give a shit about anything. He sleepwalked to his deadend job at Peet’s – better than Starbucks, but not by much – and in his spare time worked with his brother restoring old Indian motorcycles, the one thing that gave him any pleasure.
“All right, man,” Conner said. “The rally’s Saturday. We hear the Daily Stormer shitheads are coming to start some shit. Could be exciting.”
“With excitement like that, who needs sex?” Zack quipped.
“I’ll call you Friday.”
“I won’t have changed my mind.”
Conner left with a hand-shake shoulder bump. Zack took another hit off the bong.
Zack woke up at
ten Saturday morning. He was lying back in bed staring at the ceiling, thinking
about nothing, when Conner materialized in his bedroom doorway.
“Who let you in?”
“What do you want?”
“I want you to go to the rally with me.”
“What part of ‘no’ didn’t you understood, Conner?”
“All of it. I hate going to these things alone. Please come with me.”
“Fuck. Ok. But only if you ride on the back of Pocahontas. It’d be crazy to try and park there. And, I do need to drive the thing to break in the new piston rings.”
“I can’t believe you call your bike that. So racist,” Conner said. Zack knew Conner hated to ride on the back. “Okay, asshole, whatever it takes,” Conner sneered.
They piled onto the Indian. Zack loved the throaty roar it made as he kickstarted the behemoth. They drove from the Fruitvale to Oscar Grant plaza in front of city hall, which was packed with people gathered to hear the old socialist. There was a line a mile long to get into the secured area.
“I hate standing in line,” Zack whined. “You know he’s just going to say what he always says.”
“Yeah, but Zack, feel the energy.”
“Yeah, okay.” The excitement was palpable. That the guy got the nomination was a miracle.
“You might meet someone.”
“Last thing on my mind.”
“That’s when it happens.”
“Fuck you,” Zack said, pushing Conner and smiling.
It took almost an hour to get through security. Once they were in, Zack said, “Can we leave now?”
They found a place at the edge of the crowd and sat on the steps. Local luminaries were pontificating platitudes. “Not me, us,” they had the crowd chant. Zack just groaned.
There was a girl in a jacket with the candidate’s name on it and a yellow arm band standing near them. She was smallish, Asian, dressed all in black except for the blue jacket. Her hair was chopped in an abstract form with red highlights. She smiled at Zack. Without meaning to, he smiled back, a reflex.
Conner noticed and winked at his friend. Zack socked him on the arm.
The candidate outlined his program. Health care is a right. Housing is a right. College is a right.
Right, right, right, Zack thought to himself utterly bored. He took a hit off his vape and closed his eyes, trying to nod out.
Suddenly a man near them shouted, “Commie traitor!”
Then another guy shouted the same thing. Spread throughout the rally about half a dozen infiltrators tried to chant.
Zack watched as the Asian girl walked up to the redneck near them. “Commie bitch,” the guy shouted at her.
She shouted back “Fascist scum!”
The guy began slamming her with his hands. Zack pushed through the crowd on impulse and shouted at the infiltrator, “Leave her alone, asshole!”
The guy turned toward Zack and pointed. “Nigger, nigger, nigger!”
Zack smiled, stood between the guy and the girl. “I said, leave her the fuck alone, motherfucker!”
Bam! Zack felt the fist against his jaw. And again. He fell against the ground with the girl’s face hovering over him, surrounded by stars. He was vaguely aware of a number of rally security forces surrounding the disrupter and escorting him out of the area.
The girl was stroking his hair. “Are you all right?” she asked.
He shook his head to get rid of the stars, which she apparently took to mean “no,” and she called for a medic.
“No, no, I’m fine,” Zack said. He started to stand up when he saw her smile at him again.
“Trying to be a hero,” she said.
The smile persuaded him to lie back down, and she cradled his head in her lap.
She finally helped him to his feet and had him lean against her as she helped him over to a bench at the edge of the rally. He caught himself pretending to be more disoriented than he was to prolong the contact.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Like President Taylor?”
He didn’t know what she was talking about, so he said “You?”
“Like the pilot.”
“Yeah but not lost.”
She sat with him on the stone bench with her arm around him in a sisterly way. He didn’t say much, but at least this time he had an excuse.
“You know, I didn’t need you to rescue me. I have a black belt in Tae Kwan Dao. I could have snapped that asshole’s neck.”
“I just wanted you to know that you weren’t alone.”
“Alone? Surrounded by 20,000 of the candidate’s supporters?”
“It was an impulse.”
“Not such a good one. You need to let the white allies fight the white racists.”
“You’re not white,” he said.
They stared at each other for a minute. The Deborah Cox song popped into his head, “How did you get here? Nobody’s ‘sposed be here, I’ve tried that love thing for the last time…”