Democracy in China

By AL DIAMON  |  December 31, 2008

The grave was no prison. In 1998, Martin won back his old House seat, whereupon he transformed himself into a shadowy behind-the-scenes specter. In 2000, he moved to the state Senate, rising to the assistant majority leader's post. In 2008, he again eluded the term-limit stake in the heart, shifting back to the House, where he found a developing leadership vacuum he could exploit to his benefit.

Hannah Pingree was the new speaker, but would be term-limited out in two years. Normally, that would have meant she'd be succeeded by the current majority leader. But John Piotti, the Democrats' second in command, was also termed out in 2010. That left only Majority Whip Seth Berry standing between Martin and his vengeance.

Berry, a two-term legislative lightweight, was no match for the Prince of Darkness. His bloodless corpse was found in an unused committee room. Imprinted on his forehead was an ancient curse that read, "Indefinitely postponed."

"Democracy may have come to China," said Martin, as he seized the speaker's gavel, "but I rule by other means."

That frightful vision was shattered by the ringing of the telephone. I blinked awake, safe in my bed. Had it all been a nightmare?

I looked out the window. The sun was rising in the east. The river was flowing toward the ocean. Wolves? None. Temperature? Normal.

With relief, I picked up the phone. It was a friend who works in a sporting goods store.

"Something strange happened yesterday," he said. "This crazy guy came in. He had red skin, horns, a tail, and cloven hooves."

"That's bizarre," I said.

"Oh, that's not the odd part," my friend said. "We get lobbyists in here all the time. They all look like that.

"The weird thing about this guy was he wanted to buy ice skates."

Damn me with faint praise or clear contempt by e-mailing aldiamon@herniahill.net.

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