Neither Here Nor There

Peter
Peter Pickersgill
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Vote for the one who lies the least

My dear, my mind is starting to go. Only two mugs for breakfast coffee and even then I lose count.

BY PETER PICKERSGILL

She rinsed the coffee mug and put it into the draining rack. She reached down into the sink to get the other one, searching beneath the soapy water into all four corners.

She couldn’t find it. Scraping the bottom of the barrel, she thought. She looked over at the rack where the two mugs sat side-by-side, dripping dry.

My dear, my mind is starting to go. Only two mugs for breakfast coffee and even then I lose count.

When the house was full of kids, she’d had no trouble keeping track of a half-dozen mugs; some with coffee, others with tea, some with milk, some sugar, some both, some none. With the kids gone, and just the two of them left, you’d think it would be easier to keep track.

It’s not old age, she thought, it’s this election that’s got me drove.

I can't concentrate.

She sighed, wrung out the dishcloth and hung it to dry. Putting one hand on either side of the sink, she leaned toward the window and gazed out over the cove. Spring was just around the corner.

There had been a couple of those tempting shirtsleeve days with the sun’s warmth on your cheek, the kind of days that touched your elbow and helped you past the inevitable snow flurries and icy winds still to come. The last of the snow had disappeared, even in those shady spots in the lun, where the cliff’s base joined the top of the beach.

Across the way, Maisie had her laundry on the line already. Maisie was a good worker, kept a clean house, was efficient and organized.

She sized up a situation quickly and made a decision, and once made up, her mind was difficult to change.

They had talked about the election, she and Maisie. It had been a short conversation.

“Not going to vote,” said Maisie. “They’re all crooks.”

When she heard Maisie say that, she remembered a bumper sticker she had seen once that proclaimed in bold capital letters: ‘DON’T VOTE. IT ONLY ENCOURAGES THEM’.

Her father has been very clear on the matter. You must vote!

People fought and died to guarantee your right to vote. It’s a sin not to.

Her father had been gone almost three years now, but right to the end he had remained true to his word. They had a job to get him up over the steps and into the church hall for the last election, but he insisted on marking his ‘X’.

And she would too, no matter how foolish Maisie found it.

Her father’s words were reinforced by the pictures on the television screen that had for the space of weeks in late winter hypnotized her in the day, and infiltrated her dreams at night.

The people in North Africa and the Middle East wanted democracy. They wanted the ‘vote’.

There were tens of thousands of them. Encouraged by the knowledge similar demonstrations seeking the same goal were taking place in nearby countries, unarmed people faced the troops of dictators with courage, and many of them died. And were still dying.

Her father was right. She would vote.

For him, and to honour the non-violent young people who day after day with their babies in their arms thronged Tahrir Square in Cairo armed with nothing but their voices.

The thing about the demonstrators in Egypt that touched her the most was what they did when they finally succeeded in sending Hosni Mubarak packing.

After celebrating late into the night, hugging, kissing, laughing, crying and dancing with joy, they went home to rest. The next morning many of them were back, sweeping up the mess weeks of demonstrations had left and painting damaged railings and lampposts.

A memory of the scene brought a lump to her throat. A young woman on her knees, a paintbrush in her hand, replying to a reporter’s question.

“It is our country now,” she said. “We must take care of it.”

And we must take care of our country, too, she thought. No matter how hard they make it, and they often do, we must pay attention to what the politicians are saying and try to decide which among them deserves our support.

Even in the worst case, when none of them truly appeals, try to choose the ‘least bad’.

Vote for the one who lies the least.

If everyone did it, over time the political arena would become first, less dishonest, then gradually more honest. We can move things in the right direction, she thought.

She picked up the dishtowel and dried first one, then the other of the two coffee mugs. She opened the cupboard door and placed them on the shelf.

As she closed the door, she caught a glimpse of her own face in the mirror. She was smiling.

pickersgill@mac.com

Geographic location: North Africa, Middle East, Cairo Egypt

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