The Challengers!

“Don’t make me angry. You won’t like me when I’m angry,” spat Karl. He’d be damned if he let some senile old waiter bring out a tray of canapes without doilies. Without doilies! Might as well ration the butter and sleep with Stalin’s corpse. Headquarters were icy, just the way he liked it. Usually they met in the hollowed-out center of a melting glacier, but because of tonight’s event a hotel kitchen freezer would have to do. The Pretty Boy, the Moody One, the Dummy, and the Best. All hand-picked by him to run. All strong armed by him to win.

Karl spent as long choosing the candidates as he did selecting the guests for tonight’s fundraiser. Only the crustiest of upper society were invited. They’d pay up, they knew how important it was. These midterm Senate elections were everything. If they could break the Democrats, really slice ‘em up and scatter their remains over M Street, then they’d put an end to this “hope” trash spoon fed to the iPod generation. With the cold, soft money of wealthy America in his pocket he could takeover the world! Post-colonial countries would prove challenging, he knew that, but he’d placate them with Coke and How I Met Your Mother. They’d bear their allegiance in no time.

Then he’d finally get the respect of the man he yearned for.

Photo Art by Anne Park

Karl focused back on the task at hand. He knew at a certain point tonight the fundraiser would be out of his hands and onto the shoulders of four men. His marionettes, the hand-picked team: The Challengers. With their powers combined they could raise enough money in one night to bankroll fifty mudslinging ads—per battleground state.

Across the room he caught Steele sex-eyeing the bartender.

“Michael, guests arrive in five. Do as I said and round up the team. Don’t flirt. And do not under any circumstances pull out those shirts,” snarled Karl. Last week Steele showed up to a fundraiser with t-shirts of his face that proclaimed: “light black is the new black.”

Karl ripped out a flower from a nearby hotel arrangement and smashed it between his palms. It felt good. No one would ruin tonight for him. No one.

Steele burst in to his freezer. “They’re all assembled! Dick’s on his way.” Steele’s hands were raw and red. Karl worried briefly, then remembered that he didn’t care about Steele. Not tonight, anyway.

Art by Anne Park

They filed in, one-by-one, each shorter and whiter than the last. Scotty Brown first, wearing some god forsaken pleather tie and that shit eating grin. Pat Toomey next, still shell shocked that he was endorsed, much less invited. Then the white knight, the crown jewel of his recruitment efforts and the man to put a stake in the heart of Biden Deleware, Mr. Mike Castle. John Boozman followed closely on his heels, slower than the rest and smelling vaguely of Sour Patch Kids and brandy. Then, finally, Dick. His brother, his confidant, his best friend, his sometimes more than best friend ... He looked great today, but that didn’t surprise Karl. Dick always looked great.

Boozman sat criss-cross applesauce on the floor. Scotty grabbed a chunk of ice off the wall to smooth his side part with it. The team looked around, breathing in the familiarity of it all. Once Karl felt ready, he began.

“The time has come, gentlemen—”

The freezer door burst open and a woman with bright blue eyeshadow toppled in. “Sorry I’m late, boys! Traffic was murder.”

Linda “WWE Nightmare” McMahon. “Linda, I told you you’re not invited. We don’t want you. Your own state barely wants you.” She looked too much like Kate Gosslin to be taken seriously as a candidate. Or a person. “I brought $100 million, and I’m willing to arm wrestle for more.” Well, that changed things. Linda took a seat on a frozen pile of pork.

Dick cleared his throat. “Any final questions?” asked Karl. Toomey raised his hand, cowering. “They—they like us, right?” Mike chuckled, “Of course they like us, Patrick! We’re the good guys. We clean up the streets.” “Bus the homeless away!” added Boozman. “Look out for the big guys,” said Scotty.

That’s right. Dance, my little marionettes, dance. Karl reminded them they were all heros in the eyes of God and President Reagan. They heard John Ashcroft warbly belting “America the Beautiful” in the ballroom. It was time. Karl brought them in for a huddle. “You get out there and you charm. Do you hear me? Charm!” Powerful silence followed as they prayed to God and President Reagan for the strength to carry out this most important of missions.

Dick spoke for the first time all night: “Now, go make us money.” The team cheered, whooped, and USA-chanted their way out of the freezer.

Karl got shivers. There was something so ... sensual about Dick’s lips.

Karl watched the Challengers station themselves. They turned to him. He made the agreed upon hand motion (a flying dove) to signal the commencement of Operation Benjamins. Scotty flirted with desperate women and men in skinny ties. Toomey talked to old people. Boozman played with children under four. Castle worked everyone else. Smiling, laughing, it was going well! He didn’t even care that Linda was arm wrestling Rush Limbaugh.

And then it happened. Right before Mike’s opening speech, Steele happened.

Mike was clearing his throat at the podium when Steele jumped out from behind him holding up a self-promotional t-shirt and shouting “50 boxes on sale in the black! I mean back!” His hands were raw from carrying all those boxes! Mike immediately began apologizing. He would have had a decent shot at saving it if Scotty hadn’t push him aside to deliver a monologue from Top Gun in an effort to fix things himself.

All the commotion only made Toomey more melancholy so he started crying, which scared the old people he was with, so much so that one man suffered a heart attack. Boozman took the old man’s convulsions as a sign that he needed a hug, so he squeezed the poor geezer till he turned green. Things got pretty hazy after the cops arrested Boozman for manslaughter.

John Ashcroft came back on stage, this time with a patriotic rendition of “Send in the Clowns.”

All the singing made Karl miss Dick. They locked eyes from across the room. One end of Dick’s lips curled up. Karl swooned at this, until he realized Dick was staring at Paul Wolfowitz. Karl knew he was being toyed with, but he didn’t care. He lived for Dick’s tender caress.

Then, just then, the rail-thin body of a graying man burst in from the ballroom double doors. “Muahaha!” The crowd gasped. Harry Reid! With him were one-hundred dirty hippies and the Ghost of Ted Kennedy. “Show’s over, Challengers!” Reid said. “The Majority has arrived.” The hippies charged. The rich people clutched their cutlery in fear. It. Was. War.

Stay tuned for the fall edition of The Challengers!