Inside the Belly of the Beast
by Darren Stewart

Little Wars, with Words

There we were sitting last week having a post-work drink at a bar popular with our social circle, minding our own business. We were three: a journalist, a webzine editor and a member of the communications shop of a major government department. We were sipping a drink and feeling fine, talking politics, life; talking about the nationís capital and the people in it; laughing out loud. Our mental palates were cleansed of the dayís doldrums. Everything was as it should be. We felt we belonged.

But the music.

My friend had with him a small collection of jazz CDs which he often brings to work, to bring cheer to his drab cubicle environment. The waitress obliged us, and soon we were sipping our beer to some smooth Charlie Parker. The night progressed. More drinks were had. The waitress allowed us to put on other jazz CDs. More conversation and laughter ensued.

But our music stopped, suddenly.

The waitress:

"Iím sorry. Thereís a table full of MPs up front that were complaining so I should take it off. They're MPs..."

We looked over to the offending crew huddled in a corner table in front of the front window: A cadre of Canadian Alliance MPís sitting smugly. House Leaders Chuck Strahl and Grant Mcnally with Party Whip John Reynolds, and others. Folks who occupy the middle seats of the opposition bench of the countryís parliament, travelling in a pack, complete with aides, complaining about our music.

We fumed, we plotted, and we decided we would establish contact on the way out, demanding an explanation. We stood up and stormed toward the table, none of us believing that the others would actually do anything.

The first of us, a writer of press releases and speeches for a high-ranking cabinet minister (who has closet political aspirations, a ingenious knack for soundbite discourse and spur of the moment campaign speech lines, which have earned him the nickname "the president") launched into an angry diatribe.

"It must feel good to have a party leader, who, like a Gladiator on a Chariot, burst on to the federal political scene on a Sea-Doo!"

The MPs, the aides, myself, the waitress behind the bar, both my friends were shocked at the sudden peace disturbance.

Time stood still for a second. Silence.

An aide stood up awkwardly, knocking over his chair, and faced us. He was a short balding man, but suddenly he was the secret service protecting the president.

Grassy Knolls, Lee Harvey Oswald, tension, we squared off.

My other friend, who has a knack for freestyle rapping on any given topic, accosted the aid with sudden frenetic rhymes about how right-wingers have bad taste in music, about jazz being good for the soul and about Stockwell Dayís doomed political future.

The speechwriter cackling madly in the background, slung lines like a New York City coke dealer at an eighties gay house party:

"You donít like our music, we donít like your crazy politics."

"Stockwell Day is no Christ!"

"Joe Clark whups his ass on the floor every day, you hear?"

I was dumbfounded for something to say so I crossed my arms, and tried to look menacing. I was worried that the MPs would recognize me as the guy in the press box always wearing the loud shirts.

The aide, confused, frightened, straightened his chair and sat down. He looked sheepish. The MPs, wide-eyed, were too confused to speak.

My speech writer friend, now worked into a frenzy turned to lead us out into the night, swayed slightly with drink, and spat final words:

"Itís a good thing your leader wears a wetsuit because your ship is sinking!"

The MPs looked baffled, confused, silent and maybe scared as we stormed out laughing and garrulous.

In the street, outside the window, we slapped hands like idiots. Apparently this kind of thing happens in Ottawa all the time.


Darren Stewart's mom runs a daycare in Victoria BC and reads Forget Magazine
almost every day. She thinks the magazine would be better without so many "F
words," and often tells him so.






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