This story is by Skyler Vincent and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Parson Dolus remains diametrically opposed.
He strolls out of the meeting area, desperately holding onto his pride while several sets of eyes follow him out. His stature persists despite passing glances in the hallway as muscle memory leads him to his office. As soon as the door closes behind him, his body releases its fierce tension and his back hunches forward. He quickly locks the door before throwing himself into the nearest chair.
Dolus refuses to admit defeat. It is a trait he has carried since his youth, and he will not accept failure yet. However, listening to his morals is difficult when he remembers the disappointment and resentment in the other representatives’ eyes as the vote was announced: twelve opposed and five in favor. Nine of the opponent party and three of his own rejected the bill, leaving the remaining four of his supporters and himself as the minority. He at least hoped to see improvement since the first two voting sessions. Now, his odds seemed to have worsened. For the third time, he drew the jack of spades in a deck full of diamond aces.
Footsteps echo in the hall just outside his office, and Dolus feels every muscle clench in anticipation. He silently prays no one has come to find him yet. He is not ready. He needs to seek them out on his own accord to ensure he is not backed into a corner. This time, Dolus will not be caught off guard.
The footsteps continue passed his door and fade away. Dolus exhales the weight of the universe out of his lungs.
Rationally, he knows he cannot avoid them for long. They will not wait until the next meeting in two weeks. He recognizes they never bluff; either he accepts their attempt to bargain, or his life crumbles around him. Dolus is surprised they did not follow him into his office. It seems they have a sense of humanity after all.
Finally, Dolus straightens in the chair, hearing several joints snap and pop. He does not yet have the power to make it to his desk, but he can start by sitting like the professional he is. Or everyone assumes he is, at least.
Across the cramped room, Dolus can see the prized picture of his daughter on a shelf. In the past, the metal frame kept guard over the documents on his desk. However, it had been moved when they intruded after the first failed vote. One of them has plucked it from its spot an gazed at it almost with sadness. Then, as they left, the picture was left on the highest shelf in the room. He has yet to return the frame as it has morphed from a symbol of joy to a taunt. Change your proposal to win the votes you need, the motionless face of his only child seemed to say. Or else I will know what you did, and I will never forgive you.
Dolus recalls their straightforward warning every night as he returns to bed. Remove a part of the proposal to satisfy the majority, or watch as members of his own party- the very same who voted against him- destroy his legacy with the help of the opposing team. Do everything in his power to pass the bill. They made it very clear his downfall was a promise, not just a threat, unless he compromised.
Dolus glances at the documents stacked on his desk. He had worked endlessly for the last year on the idea, writing through extended meetings and basketball games. Nine hundred and fifty pages to completely renovate the state’s healthcare system from the wreck it has shown to be in recent years. He will defend every word in its dozens of pages. Their anger is directed at the largest section of the proposal which ties the rest of the plan together. How do they expect him to chop the torso off a person made of paper and black ink?
The tick as the clock strikes each second reminds him of his dwindling time. If he waits too long, the choice will be made for him, and he will not gain anything. He needs to make the decision and face the consequences. Dolus has let the dilemma stir for too long. It will only get worse from here, regardless of his choice.
Slowly, taking great care to quiet his footsteps, he stands and finds his desk. The chair has never felt quite correct underneath him in the hundreds of hours spent in the office, and it seems especially uncomfortable today.
Briefly, Dolus dares to hold eye contact with his daughter’s picture. In her green soccer uniform, she smiles back at him. However, he cannot help but feel it is a fake expression, as if she already knows what he will choose and is judging him.
He thinks he knows what to do, too.
Dolus skims the proposal again. He knows every word by heart, and every page is indexed in his memory. He eventually comes to the controversial section over payment, and he decelerates his reading to absorb every word. Take the funding from legislature pay and increase taxes and place the money in a state-operated healthcare system. Honestly, the wording and ideas are a masterpiece. It is his Mona Lisa, yet thieves wish to erase his brilliance. He will not let this fade in history.
There is a knock on his door. It’s time.
The captain goes down with the ship. Dolus inhales, whispers an apology to his daughter, and sinks into the ocean’s waters.