The marching band lined up along the avenue, belching snare taps and horn squawks. Retirees toddled back to lawn chairs left as markers along the parade route hours earlier, grandchildren in tow. The air hung heavy with the smell of fry bread and popcorn. Meanwhile, Congressman Dirk Fostle emerged from the back seat of a Chevy Impala in the alley behind Toot’s Saloon.
“Congressman, it’s worse than we thought.” Fostle’s aide sweat like a Roman fountain.
“It’s a Fourth of July parade, Clark. How bad could it be?”
“I put our sign on the side of the truck and someone threw a flaming bag of chocolate at me.”
“I’m pretty sure that wasn’t chocolate, Clark.”
“What?” he gagged. “Oh, this day just keeps getting worse. Point is, the people are angry. They don’t want to see politicians this year. If you go out there, you’ll get pummeled.
Fostle thought. He didn’t get to this high office by backing down from a fight. He got there by marrying a widow who owned a trucking company.
“Well, strip the signs off the truck and we’ll just walk the parade,” said Fostle. “I can take a few insults.”
He had almost finished enunciating his last syllable when a walker hurled by a surprisingly spry octogenarian clocked him across the face. The next thing he saw was a bouncing tennis ball on the pavement as the spitting lady flipped him the double guns.
“So it is bad,” said Fostle, struggling to his feet. “We’ve got a lot of work to do if we’re going to fend off that whippersnapper Scut Fergus who’s running against me.”
A clear, smarmy voice bellowed, “You’ve got that right, old man.”
“Fergus!” said Fostle, directing a steely gaze to the the waffle magnate and former male model. “Why don’t you go congregate with your kind instead of bothering us?”
“I would,” said Fergus, “except my party’s presidential candidate is Donald Trump. I’ve been advised to keep 50 feet away from members of our own party at all times. Mostly I eat hot dogs at the gas station and ask truckers how it’s hanging.”
“Why didn’t I think of that,” muttered Fostle. “Well, I’m not afraid of being seen with anyone on my side. We’re the party of progress and OOOOOFFFF”
Just then a hipster had run up and gut punched the Congressman. “Bernie Sanders!” he yelled.
“Why?” groaned Fostle.
“Because you’re a neoliberal superdelegate, man. By the way, vote Bernie at the convention. You’re our only hope.” He fled into the crowd, pausing only briefly to offer a withering glance that would forever demoralize a kid in the marching band.
“HA!” laughed Fergus. “That’s what you get for running with Clinton. Oh, here’s my guy Charlie.”
Charlie was holding something yellow and blue. “Scut, I’m going to need you to wear this during the parade.”
Fergus unfurled the fabric. “Charlie, this is a Donald Duck costume.”
“That’s right, sir. People don’t really like you, but they love Donald Duck. I’ve got the numbers right here.”
“I can’t argue with numbers,” said Fergus.
Congressman Fostle soaked this in. “Clark, is that true? Do we have polling on cartoon characters?”
Clark hesitated. “I’m sorry … we’ve had polling for weeks. I was afraid to tell you.”
“Tell me what?” Fostle insisted.
“This.” He held out a Mickey Mouse costume and a grim polling memo.
Thus it was recorded that the two leading candidates for Congress in this sleepy district disguised themselves as cartoon animals to avoid being recognized in the Fourth of July parade. And it almost worked. Halfway through, the pair began sniping about Benghazi and Trump University and the jig was up. They were pelted with frozen treats from a nearby vendor.
The pair were last seen clambering up the side of the Hawkeye dump on the west side of town, their costumes stained into rainbows by iron ore and slushies. Some say you can still hear them arguing when the zephyr winds blow.
Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, July 3, 2016 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.