Posted June 23, 2012

Legacy

A Naptown Tales Sequel by Altimexis

Chapter 9 - All That’s Fit to Print - Bruce Warren

Sunday, March 22, 2043
2 Days after the Assassination

The mood in the car was somber as we drove back from St. Louis. It wasn’t often that, as a senior editor for The Star, I got a chance to cover my own stories anymore, let alone travel out of the area to do so, but it wasn’t often that David Reynolds, our city’s favorite son, would be visiting so close to home. Taking advantage of the opportunity, we arranged for our kids, Harry and Jenny, to be excused from school so they could witness a bit of history in the making. When Barbara and I set out with the kids on our trip, however, we had no idea just how much history David Reynolds would be making during his trip to St. Louis, and not in a good way.

Thank God Barb and the kids were visiting the zoo when it happened. I was in the motorcade, just a few cars back. I will never forget the moment when all hell broke loose, no matter how long I live. The rocket came out of nowhere. Suddenly there was a streak of light heading straight for the President’s limo. Within an instant there was an explosion and the limo was in flames. The man whose career had developed in parallel with my own - the man whom I considered to be a close friend - the man my son idolized as a role model for gay youth - was dead.

In many ways it seemed as if a dream had died on that bright, sunny day. The world would never be the same.

“Do you think they killed him ’cause he was gay?” Harry asked for about the sixtieth time. As a young gay teenager, Harry felt particularly vulnerable, which I certainly understood. When I was younger, I used to joke with my dad, after whom Harry was named, that since I wasn’t gay and because he was so accepting of gay youth, that maybe one day I’d give him a gay grandson. Still, we were all surprised when little Harry came out at the age of eleven. Reynolds had just won the election and Harry felt proud that the new president was gay.

At first we thought that Harry might just be identifying with President-elect Reynolds - after all, how many of us even think about our sexuality at that age - but when Harry joined the GSA in his middle school and started bringing boys home with him, particularly after we caught him making out with one of them in his bedroom, it was pretty hard to deny reality. My son was gay, he was out and he was proud. So were we.

But now my son was hurting. He’d actually met David Reynolds on a few occasions, back when David was one of our senators. Harry idolized David, particularly once he realized that he was gay, too. He often sent long letters to the President’s private e-mail address, and David always took the time to write him back.

“Well, do you?” my son again asked.

“What can I tell you, Harry?” I started to answer. “Yes, it’s possible, but with the terrorist attacks in Israel and now with the assassination of the Israeli Prime Minister and our Secretary of State, it’s looking less and less likely that that’s the case.”

“I hope you’re right, Dad,” Harry agreed, “but if he was killed out of hatred, it wouldn’t be the first time a gay man was killed, just because he’s gay, and it prolly won’t be the last time either.”

“You’re right about that, Harry,” I answered, “but people have and always will find a reason to hate someone who’s different. Thankfully, gay bashings, which were common when I was growing up, are now a rarity. By the time you have children of your own, I expect that the other kids won’t even care if you’re gay or straight, any more than they care about your eye color.”

“It’s already pretty much like that in school,” Harry countered, “and the vice-principals don’t put up with any name calling or bullying. It’s outside of school that I have problems. If I dare hold another boy’s hand in the mall or kiss a boy, I get all kinds of stares and called all sorts of names, mostly by adults.”

“You never told us about that,” Barbara responded. “If anyone gives you a hard time, you should go to mall security. There are laws to prevent that kind of harassment.”

“If I did that, I’d spend all my time in the Security office,” Harry said sadly. I’d had no idea he was going through anything like that but, then again, gay kids wouldn’t have dared to hold hands in public in my day - not that that ever stopped David Reynolds and Jeremy Kimball.

“At least it’s encouraging that it’s the adults and not the kids that give you trouble,” I added. “It shows that the next generation will be a lot better.”

“There is that,” Harry agreed.

David Reynolds was dead. I still couldn’t quite wrap my brain around it as we drove home. I’d been covering David Reynolds’ career since his first run for Governor, and I would never forget the first time I met him, when I was around Harry’s age. The Star was hosting a Fourth of July celebration in the park across from their headquarters, and they’d invited the North Central GSA in thanks for participating in the article my dad wrote on gay youth.

I was loaded down with food when David and Jeremy came up to say ‘hi’ to my dad. Even back then, when they were only fifteen, there was something special about them. It wasn’t just that they had movie star good looks, either. They just had a ‘presence’, especially David, but they both did. It’s like you could tell they were destined for greatness.

I met another kid at that party, Eric, who was really into World of Warcraft as I recall. So was I at the time, so we spent a lot of time together that afternoon. Turned out he was gay and was really thankful to Dad for writing his articles on gay youth. It was his parents reading my dad’s articles that gave him an opportunity to come out to them. I think I later read that he’d been killed in Afghanistan. Yeah, he was one of the first openly gay pilots in the Air Force to be killed in action. My dad was shaken up by it. At least Eric had been granted the right to die in the service of his country.

I guess I crossed paths with David and Jeremy at a Halloween ball sponsored by the Gay Youth Council, an organization started by David’s brother, Brad. I actually got to meet Brad and all his friends at the ball, since I sat at their table, but because we were all in costume, I didn’t even realize David and Jeremy were there too.

The next time I met David and Jeremy, along with their friends Trevor and Kurt, was at their double wedding. Dad was there to cover it, and Mom and I tagged along to see Boston. The thing that really impressed me the most was that David actually remembered my name. How many kids could remember another kid’s name from hearing it once during a brief meeting two years earlier?

Back then I had no intention of going into journalism. My sister was the one following in my dad’s footsteps, studying journalism up at Northwestern. I was going to do something different. I wasn’t sure what yet, but I knew it wouldn’t be in journalism. It was around then that I really got into Facebook and started running my own blog on current events. I had an opinion about anything and everything, and total strangers started writing me about how much they enjoyed reading my entries, and about how well I wrote. By the time I turned seventeen I was getting several hundred hits a day.

I started to think seriously about studying web design, but Dad took one look at my blog and told me, “Bruce, what you’re doing isn’t web design. You’re writing about current events. You’re taking information that you’ve read from a variety of sources, recompiling it, adding your own analysis and thoughts and putting it all together in a narrative. I know you don’t want to be a journalist but, guess what? There’s a name for what you’re doing, and it’s called Journalism. You’re doing what I do for a living and, truth be told, you’re writing is better than mine.”

Dad’s comments were a true revelation. Suddenly I wanted nothing more than to be a journalist. Of course it didn’t hurt that the very nature of newspaper publishing was changing. More and more people were turning to the Internet to get their news and tablet devices like the Apple iPad were slowly replacing the printed page. Within ten years there would only be six remaining daily newspapers in print in America - The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Daily News, The Chicago Sun, The LA Times and USA Today.

Unlike my sister, I’m not a real ‘big city’ person and so attending school in Chicago as she did was out of the question. Instead I decided to go to my dad’s alma mater, Indiana University, saving my parents a small fortune in tuition. Like my dad did after graduation, I took an entry-level job at The Star and worked my way up the ladder, with a little help from Dad, who was the senior editor for something called ‘Metro-Biz’ at the paper.

As a web-savvy journalist, I came along at just the right time - a time when millions of people had just bought shiny new tablets and were just waiting to have local content pushed to them. By interspersing tasteful, targeted advertising along with customized content from around the city and around the world, we were able to give our customers exactly what they wanted, when they wanted it, all at no charge. We ended up with far more readers than we ever had when we actually published a physical newspaper.

Early in my career, I was assigned to follow a very young and unknown politician who was running for Governor on the Democratic ticket - a young man I’d already met - a young man named David Reynolds. I was probably only given the assignment because everyone assumed he didn’t have an ice cube’s chance in Hell of succeeding. He was only thirty-one years old, and I was only twenty-nine at the time. I’ll never forget that first interview with the man who would be president. It was an interview that changed the direction of my career and would largely define my work for the rest of my professional life… at least until now.

 

Wednesday, June 5, 2024
Nineteen Years Earlier

“I’m sorry to keep you waiting, Mr. Warren,” the young campaign assistant who’d introduced himself as Barry Smith apologized. “I’m sure you know how it is… campaigns tend to take on a life of their own and seldom does anything run on time.”

“Sure, I understand,” I assured young Mr. Smith, but in reality I didn’t understand. What was more important than meeting with a reporter from The Star? My reporting could make or break Reynolds’ campaign, so why wouldn’t he make more of an effort to be on time for me? It was already twenty minutes past the time of our scheduled interview, and I was getting very impatient. Not that I had anything better to do, but I had my pride.

“Look, maybe we should reschedule…” I started to say when in charged a very harried David Reynolds, followed by his husband, Jeremy Kimball. Even with Jeremy’s hair cut relatively short now - a legacy of his having competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics - I’d have recognized the two of them anywhere. For his part, David stopped dead in his tracks and stared at me.

“Bruce? Bruce Warren?” David asked.

“I’m sorry, David,” Barry apologized. “He was a last-minute add-on to your schedule and I guess he didn’t make it into your briefing this morning, but he should be in the calendar on your iPhone. In retrospect I probably should have texted you with the update. We’re all new at this, and I’ll make it a point the next time there are any additions.”

Looking at me sheepishly, David said, “I’m sorry, Bruce. I was in such a hurry and I didn’t have the time to look for updates to my schedule. I thought the time after the rally was free, or I would have made it a point to get back here in time.”

I felt terrible for doubting him in the first place. David didn’t even know he was meeting with me. Chalk it up to inexperience on all our parts.

“Why don’t you come into my office?” David added. “Would it be alright if Jeremy comes in with us, too? He’s really my right-hand man.”

“Actually, I’d like to interview the both of you. It’s not everyday I have the opportunity to interview the man who’s running for governor and his husband.

“True enough,” David agreed. As we started to walk toward what I presumed was his office, he turned back toward me and asked, “Would you like some coffee? Thanks to our friend, Kurt, we have an espresso machine.”

“Really?” I exclaimed in surprise. “Can you make a macchiato?” I asked.

“Certainly,” David answered, and then turned to Barry and asked, “Would you bring us three of them, Barry?”

As we settled ourselves around a small conference table in David’s office, I remarked, “Not many people even know what a macchiato is, let alone how to make one. Not even Starbucks knows how to make one properly.”

“Meh, what Starbucks calls a macchiato is really a latté,” Jeremy chimed in. “David and I, along with Trevor and Kurt, who’s our real caffeine addict, honeymooned in Europe, spending a week of it in Italy. Now the Italians know how to make espresso. I never had better cappuccino than over there.”

“That’s where I discovered the macchiato,” I commented. “An espresso with just a dollop of foam. Unlike a latté or even a cappuccino, the milk doesn’t dilute the espresso, so the full flavor of the coffee still comes through.”

“The macchiato is Kurt’s favorite, too,” David replied. “Jeremy likes cappuccino the most, and I’m partial to a good mocha, but we all like the macchiato, too.”

A moment later, Barry entered the room carrying a tray with three tiny cups and an assortment of condiments. I added a little brown sugar to mine and took a sip. “Oh, is this ever good,” I sighed.

Chuckling, David responded, “There are advantages to having a friend who’s a coffee connoisseur.”

“Definitely,” I agreed.

“Well I know you didn’t come here to talk about coffee,” David interjected, “and look at you! You’re all grown up!”

“So are you guys,” I replied.

“And you’re following in your dad’s footsteps,” Jeremy added.

“It wasn’t what I’d planned,” I admitted, “but I started a current events blog when I was fifteen…”

“I used to read your blog,” David interrupted. “It was very good.”

“Thanks, but it was my dad who pointed out that what I was doing when writing in my blog amounted to journalism. The rest is history.”

“As they say,” Jeremy concluded.

“Oh, before we go any further, do you mind if I record the interview and, if not, could I get your guys signatures acknowledging that the interview is being recorded, as well as on the release of liability form?” I asked.

“Certainly,” David answered, but then I was surprised when he actually read the full contents of both forms, including all the fine print. He did it quickly but it was obvious he was being thorough. “A politician never can be too careful,” David remarked as he signed and dated both forms, and only then did Jeremy do likewise.

“Mr. Reynolds,” I began to ask my first question, “You’re going up against a very popular incumbent and, as many have noted, you’re a complete political novice with no experience in running much of anything. What makes you think you can be governor? Why are you running now rather than getting experience in the State Assembly first?”

“To answer your question, Mr. Warren,” David began his answer, “If the current governor represents what a seasoned, experienced politician can do, the people of this great state would be a lot better off taking their chances on a novice.” I was about to open my mouth to ask a follow-up question, but David just barreled ahead anyway. “Popularity does not equate to competence, and the health of the capital hardly translates to the health of the state.

“This city’s in great shape, but that’s no thanks to the Governor, and I hardly think the residents of the capital appreciate having to spend two out of every three dollars of state tax revenue collected just to prop up the rest of the state. Terre Haute’s nearly bankrupt as is Evansville. Up north, the entire lakeshore has languished for years in spite of being adjacent to one of the most prosperous big cities in America.

“The agricultural sector’s severely depressed and with the end of most of the Federal farm subsidies, farms are failing at an alarming rate. I suppose the President’s farm policy will ultimately result in a stabilization of prices, once enough farms have gone into bankruptcy. By taking enough land out of production that will force prices back up again. Unfortunately by the time that happens, much of our state’s agricultural base will be gone and, with it, a major way of life.

“Industry has up and left small town America, heading overseas in search of cheap labor. Many of our small towns have become ghost towns as a result of this, and I have yet to see the current governor come up with any sort of strategy for revitalizing our rural communities. What good is a thriving capital city if the rest of the state is in the crapper, so to speak?

“I don’t claim to have solutions to all these issues but, unlike the current governor, at least I’m willing to acknowledge there are problems in the first place. At the minimum we need to invest in infrastructure throughout the state. Without infrastructure, we can’t possibly hope to attract new industry to the region.”

“But infrastructure improvements cost money,” I pointed out, “and that means raising taxes.”

“That’s what the Republicans want you to believe,” David countered. “Look, if you don’t maintain your house, sure, at first you’ll save money, but you’ll eventually end up spending more money on stop-gap measures than it would have cost to replace the roof and apply a new coat of paint in the first place. That’s where we are with the state - we’re spending more money to prop up failing communities than it would cost to build the infrastructure to attract new businesses and industry, create jobs and increase tax revenues without actually increasing taxes.”

“But now you’re talking about borrowing the money,” I countered.

Shrugging his shoulders, David interrupted, “A little borrowing, and a lot of shifting of resources. Yes there are risks, but it’s not like there aren’t examples where this sort of thing has worked elsewhere. For example, take a look at Newark, New Jersey. The demographics of Newark are similar to those of our lakeshore communities. Newark used to be an absolute disaster - a drug-riddled, crime-riddled welfare state, but now it’s thriving. Newark is the gateway to New York. Newark International Airport is almost as busy as Kennedy.

We have an international airport right on the lake - you can see the Chicago skyline from it - but it’s a joke. O’Hare’s the busiest airport in the nation and extremely frustrating to fly in and out of. I’m not negating the cost, but if we expanded and modernized our airport, upgraded the rail lines going into the city and maybe even set up a catamaran shuttle between the airport and The Loop, our lakeshore communities could become the gateway to Chicago. Instead of being a drain on the entire state, it could be an engine of economic growth.”

“And how would you pay for it all?” I asked.

“Floating a bond as a down payment on the project, you use that as leverage to attract a major airline to commit to using our airport as a hub. With the involvement of a major airline, you now have the leverage to attract investors who’ll fund most of the project and pay off the initial bond issue. With a major international airport and upgraded rail lines into Chicago, the lakeshore region becomes an attractive alternative for business considering a Chicago location. Done right, however, it doesn’t take anything away from our big prosperous neighbor… it grows too as we grow the pie, so to speak.”

“It sounds overly ambitious,” I countered.

“But what’s the alternative?” David challenged. “Continuing as we have is not an option. All it takes is vision. It was vision that saved Newark, it was vision that saved Indy,” and then with a smirk, he added, “It was vision that saved Apple and gave you that iPad you’re using.”

“Fair enough, but that’s only the lakeshore. What about the rest of the state?” I asked.

“Turning the lakeshore from an economic drain into a revenue generator would do a lot to begin reversing this state’s decline,” David began, “but you’re right… it’s not enough. We can’t reverse globalization, but we can take advantage of what we have to offer.

“A long time ago, this city’s planners took stock of what they had and considered their options. A unified city-county government allowed them to plan as a region rather than as individual communities each fighting for their meager slice of the pie. Realizing they had a lot of cheap land and access to more interstate highways than any other city in the Midwest, they marketed the city as a shipping hub and then expanded on that, getting a number of businesses to relocate here.

“We need to do the same sort of thing for the state as a whole, looking at each of our communities and the surrounding regions in terms of their unique assets. We need to plan regionally instead of locally and to invest in infrastructure. We need to revitalize our agricultural base. What if we were to become the first completely organic state? We’re a small enough state that we could do that. Our name would be synonymous with healthy produce.”

I had to admit that I was impressed - really impressed - but at the same time it sounded a bit like a pipe dream. At least David wasn’t ignoring the state’s problems. He was coming up with idea after idea and plausible ways to implement them. If he could transfer his enthusiasm to the rest of the state, perhaps he really could accomplish something.

But this was the Midwest. It was conservative and people were inherently mistrustful of big government and government-run projects. Plus there was the other thing. This was the Bible Belt, and David Reynolds was gay.

“Mr. Reynolds,” I began my final question, “do you think the state is ready to elect a gay man as governor?”

“Mr. Warren,” David answered, “My husband is half-Jewish, and his maternal grandparents experienced anti-Semitism firsthand when they were growing up. Not that long ago, many would have questioned whether our state would ever elect a Jewish governor and yet we have, more than once!

“Even in this day and age, a good many people in this state believe that the Jews, in failing to acknowledge Jesus, have turned their backs on God and doomed themselves to go to Hell. That’s pretty much what they say about those of us who are gay. When it comes to whom they trust to be their leaders, however, time and time again they have shown that their leaders’ religious beliefs are much less important to them than other factors. I have absolutely no doubt that the same will be true of sexual orientation.

“People tend to vote their pocketbooks and, when they realize just how much of their hard-earned cash is being wasted on failed economic policies, I have no doubt they’ll choose me to be their next governor.”

 

It was a truly amazing interview and Dad gave me high praise when he saw the article I wrote from it. As the campaign progressed, it became clear the Republicans had no idea what they were up against. They certainly didn’t seem to take David Reynolds seriously right up until The Star, a traditionally conservative paper, endorsed him. By then it was too late. David trounced his opponent in the debates and went on to win the election in the fall.

David was truly a force to be reckoned with and thanks to my coverage of his campaign, I went on to be the assistant team leader for State Government at The Star and their chief correspondent in covering the Governor’s office, all at the age of twenty-nine. So began a lasting friendship with David Reynolds as our careers progressed in parallel.

No one was more thrilled than I when he won the presidency… and now… he was dead.

“Are you just going to sit there?” Barbara asked, bringing me back to reality. I suddenly realized we were parked inside our garage. When the hell did we arrive home?

Checking my mobile phone as we entered the house, I immediately noted a message from Bob Jamison at Corporate to call him when I got home.

“Bob, what can I do you for?” I asked when he answered his phone.

“I’ll get right to the point,” he answered. “Tomorrow morning David Reynolds’ body will be loaded onto a train to make its way back east. Because of the large number of people expected to turn out along the route and particularly because of the security measures that will be taken, the train won’t arrive your way until tomorrow night. The following morning the train heads north to Chicago before continuing its journey east, arriving in Washington four or five days later.

“The entire Reynolds and Kimball clans will be boarding the train as it passes through and heading with the President’s body to Washington to attend his funeral. I’d like you to go with them and cover the story. No one knew the President better than you, no one knows his family better than you do and I know you’re still one of the best reporters in the entire organization. You won’t just be reporting for The Star this time… your stories will appear in all our papers, including USA Today.

“Wow!” was all I could say. By ‘papers’, I knew that with the exception of the print edition of USA Today, he was referring to our websites and - shit - our video feeds.

“Will you be sending a camera crew?” I asked.

“Still and video holographic,” Bob confirmed. “They’ll actually be boarding the train tomorrow in St. Louis. You might want to bring a few of your best suits with you.”

“I’m not a news anchor,” I pointed out.

Laughing, he said, “I know that, Bruce, and we’re also sending Collins from St. Louis, but you have insights on the family that no one else in the organization has, so don’t be surprised if you end up in front of the camera, too. I have confidence in you.”

“Thanks,” I replied.

“I’ve been thinking about bringing you to McLean for some time,” Bob added. “Not to make you nervous or anything, but this spot could be your big break. We could use someone with your talents at Corporate. Do a good job with this and your promotion’s virtually assured.”

Man! I was shocked. Never in a million years did I think there was a role for me at the corporate headquarters in McLean, Virginia, but it would be the opportunity of a lifetime. I wasn’t sure I even wanted to uproot my family and move to the Washington area, but at Corporate I’d have the opportunity to influence the direction of our news reporting at the international level. As one of the more liberal editors in an otherwise conservative organization, I could really make a difference.

“You’ve really given me a lot to think about,” I responded, “but rest assured, I’ll give it my best, regardless of whether or not there’s a promotion involved.”

“I know you will,” Bob added, “which is one of the reasons I think you’d be an asset in McLean.”

“Thanks,” I replied.

My wife, who’d been standing next to me the entire time, interjected, “Honey, I’m worried about your safety.”

“Bob, Barbara’s worried about my safety,” I related to him.

“You can reassure her that the train will be better guarded than a nuclear convoy during wartime,” he replied. “You can bet the military will be taking no chances, particularly with the President’s family on board. You’ll all be traveling in armored train cars with bulletproof glass, there’ll be anti-missile defenses interspersed with the cars and there will be sharp shooters stationed along the entire route. You’ll be safer on that train than in your own home.”

“My own home wouldn’t likely be a terrorist target,” I countered, “but I trust that everything will be done to make it safe. I’m not worried… much, but I wouldn’t miss this opportunity for the world.”

“I didn’t think you would. Now get packing! You have a job to do, and I’m counting on you.” he teased me.

“Aye-aye, sir,” I joked in return.

The author gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance of David of Hope in editing, Low Flyer in proofreading and Ed in beta reading my stories, as well as Gay Authors, Awesome Dude and Nifty for hosting them.

DISCLAIMER: This is a fictional account of the assassination of the first openly gay president of the United States. Except as noted, all characters are fictitious and the reader is cautioned against attributing anything from the story to real individuals. There are occasional descriptions of consensual sex between underage boys and it is the reader’s responsibility to ensure the legality of reading this material. The author retains full copyright.