Andrew Jackson sat with his back to the window of the café on Main Street, waiting. Outside a cold winter wind whipped the snow across the pavement and piled it up in shallow drifts on the sidewalk. Storekeepers emerged periodically from their doorways to clear the walk, piling the snow up against the curbs, but that was a losing battle. And anyway, Andrew wasn’t interested in what was going on outside. Why would he be? He was comfortable and warm and the fresh cup of coffee on the table in front of him was enough to keep him occupied, although the aroma of frying bacon emanating from the kitchen was making him hungry. He was pondering the possibility of ordering something when the door opened and Randy stepped into the café, stamping the snow from his boots and surveying the room. He spotted Andrew at the window table and walked over to sit down.
“Hey Pops,” he said.
“Top o’ the mornin’ son,” said Andrew.
Randy grinned. “What? Are we Irish suddenly?” he said.
Andrew laughed. “Four generations back on my grandmother’s side,” he said, “there was a branch of Sweeneys. So there’s not much Irish left in you laddie.”
“Or in you either,” said Randy, still grinning, “judging by the quality of your Irish accent.”
“True enough,” said Andrew. “You want breakfast?” he asked, seeing that the waitress was heading over with a cup of coffee for Randy.
“I could eat,” said Randy.
Andrew spoke to the waitress. “Could we get two orders of bacon and eggs please?” he said. “Lots of bacon and lots of eggs.”
The waitress made a note on her pad. “How would you like your eggs?” she wanted to know.
“On the sunny side,” said Andrew. “Always on the sunny side.”
“I’ll have mine over easy please,” said Randy.
“Done,” said the waitress, and headed off briskly toward the kitchen.
“So, how’s things on the farm?” said Andrew when she was gone.
“Fine,” said Randy. “The cattle are liking the weather.”
“Yeah,” said Andrew. “Not too cold, not too warm. Definitely nice considering the dire warnings the Farmer’s Almanac sent out this year.”
“I heard on the radio that there’s an unexpected El Niño that’s going to keep the polar vortex at bay,” said Randy. “Apparently the almanac didn’t see that coming. Anyway, it sure is better than last year.”
“Anything is better than last year,” said Andrew.
There was a momentary lull. Randy took a sip of coffee, staring over Andrew’s shoulder at the snow swirling outside the window, then set his cup down on the table. “So, is Gerry Ritz actually going to give away the wheat board?” he said.
Andrew raised an eyebrow. “Oh, I don’t think it’s that simple,” he said.
“No?” said Randy. “You think there’s some kind of secret plan or something?”
“It’s the Harper government,” said Andrew. “There’s always a plan and it’s always a secret. Which is too bad, because sometimes the plan isn’t that bad. The thing about secret plans is that if people can’t get answers to questions and politicians refuse to back up their statements with any kind of evidence, people start to think the politicians might not have their best interests at heart.” He paused. “A tiny little bit of transparency would go a long way. Even fake transparency might help.”
“How do you fake transparency?” said Randy.
“I don’t know,” said Andrew. “I’m not a politician.”
“You think Harper’s going to win the next election?” asked Randy.
“I don’t know,” said Andrew. “I’m not a fortune teller.”
“That may be,” said Randy, “but you are a man who ALWAYS has an opinion. So, what’s your opinion?”
“My opinion,” said Andrew, “is that somebody is going to end up with a minority government. And my other opinion is that that’s the best possible outcome under the circumstances.”
“Why is that?” Randy wanted to know.
“Because a minority keeps everybody honest,” said Andrew. “And it forces the government to co-operate with the opposition so at least there’s a little bit of representation for people who didn’t vote for the ruling party.”
“I don’t know,” said Randy. “I think it might take more than a minority to keep politicians honest.”
“It was a figure of speech,” said Andrew. “I didn’t mean that literally.”
“Do you think it makes a difference who wins?” said Randy.
“Not to us,” said Andrew. “What’s that old saying? One of six and a dozen and a half of the other?”
“Six of one, half a dozen of the other,” said Randy.
“Yeah that’s it,” said Andrew. “That’s politics, in a nutshell.”
Randy raised his coffee cup. “Here’s to politics,” he said.
Andrew followed suit. “Politics,” he said. “Where you never get what you vote for.”
After December 15, visit Rollin Penner’s new online blog at www.rollinon.me.