(Scene: A sports bar in Tacarigua. It is nearing closing time. Mr Live Wire sips on his rum and coke and considers the current crisis facing the planet and the havoc it has wreaked on the lives of so many innocent people.
He shakes his head sadly as he wonders when a safe vaccine will emerge.)
Live Wire (mutters to himself): Maybe life will get better if Manchester United replace Solskjaer with Pochettino. Right now the only person feeling queasier about next month is Will Smith…
Stranger (sits down at Live Wire’s otherwise empty table): Ahhh, if it isn’t my good friend.
Live Wire: Hey man. What’s up? Ahmm… I can’t place the face…
Stranger: You can’t? I, good sir, only trouble you every couple years or so—but privately I am always there in the background, promising you a better, happier life.
Live Wire: Gonzalo Higuain?
Live Wire: Pardner, yuh see me happy by myself and yuh come to harass me with riddles? Who send yuh? Mih wife?!
Stranger: Hahaha. No, no, no. I, Shadow Moon, am the god of politics.
Live Wire: You’re Shadow Moon?
Stranger: No, I am the god of politics.
Live Wire: And your name is Shadow Moon?
Stranger: No, you are.
Live Wire: I am what? Who’s Shadow? Is there a full moon? I am confused.
Stranger: You’ve barely met me for five minutes and you’ve already forgotten your plans for the night and your legitimate questions regarding my presence and my motives. Instead you’re here all confuffled—reduced to pointless questions about yourself that, even if you found an answer, wouldn’t improve your life one jot. NOW do you believe me I am the god of politics?
Live Wire (thinks for a bit): Nah. That’s not good enough. I need real proof.
Stranger: Yes, I knew already that you’re of the cynical persuasion. Very well, Shadow…
Live Wire: Yo, ease me up on the Shadow thing nah. Yuh never hear about black lives matter or wot?
Stranger: All votes matter.
(Live Wire tries to figure out whether or not he should be offended by that.)
Stranger: Hand me 25 cents.
(Live Wire does as he is told and the stranger fiddles the coin skilfully across his knuckles. He then flips his hand around and snatches the shilling with a broad grin. When he opens his palm, the money is gone.)
Live Wire: Jesus! Okay, so you’re definitely a politician… Where did my hard earned money go?
Stranger: A true magician never reveals his secrets—that raises too many questions from the taxman.
Live Wire: I bet it’s in your pocket. (Narrows his eyes.) You is Colm Imbert?
Stranger: Your money is in my pocket? That’s speculation, not evidence. And you’d better have a damn good lawyer if you ever make such a spurious allegation about me again.
Live Wire: You robbed me and then legally bullying me on top of it?! Damn. You’re good.
Stranger: The best. Think of that shilling as a downpayment for the education you’re about to receive.
Live Wire (thinks for a while): What’s this about?
Stranger: My Shadow boi…
Live Wire (interjects): I am not your Shadow…
Stranger (carries on without acknowledging the interruption): These are exciting times, Shadow. The treasury is up for grabs. Keithos firing people. Kamla firing blanks. Anil weaponising race and trying to turn a delicious cookie into a hate crime.
Even your old friend Jack is back. I understand he has strong feelings about safeguarding the population by closing the borders indefinitely—particularly where US law enforcement operatives are concerned.
Where is Wired868 in all of this, Shadow? Your audience needs you.
Live Wire (shakes his head): Nah, I good. With just a few exceptions, politics is a beauty contest for the ugliest people you can find. I think I’m getting too old for it.
Stranger: Nonsense. The election doesn’t cease to be meaningful just because you pretend not to care. It is still impactful; and it will affect your life—one way or the other.
Live Wire (shakes head again): That is your best argument for me to leave my house on 10 August? That the other side worse than this side? Leave me out of that nah man. Why do you care anyway? Are you PNM or UNC?
Stranger: Neither. And both.
Live Wire: Steups. See why I can’t stand talking to politicians?!
Stranger: The PNM and UNC are like Coke and Pepsi; KFC and Royal Castle. So long as the two parties stand out in Trinidad and Tobago’s political process, then they both win—even if one is the ‘first winner’ and the other is the ‘second winner’.
Live Wire: I can’t tell if you just said something really smart, or really chupid.
Stranger: By this time next month, Keithos will either be picking his Cabinet or Opposition senators; same for Kamla. No matter how you look at it, if you want a way into politics, then the only way in is with one or the other. They control politics in this country. It is a duopoly.
One wins more on 10 August and the other wins less. But both win. Our political landscape ensures it.
Live Wire (pauses): Well, that’s the thing. The political machinery isn’t working as it should be for the benefit of the people. That’s what is frustrating me to be honest.
Stranger: What the hell are you talking about? It’s working perfectly fine.
Live Wire (confused look): But you just said it yourself. The people are not benefiting…
Stranger: What does politics have to do with benefiting people?
Live Wire: Cheups. You’re playing smart with dotishness yes. Who votes them into office?! Not the people?!
Stranger: Hahahaha. My dear Shadow, this is so beautiful. You mean you believe all that nonsense? Let me ask you a question. If Esmond Forde or David Nakhid is elected MP, who would have put him there?
Live Wire: The people of Tunapuna.
Stranger: Shadow, no wonder you don’t write about politics. You have no idea how it works. Esmond was put up for the seat by a few PNM party groups and a screening committee in consultation with the prime minister. There were probably less than 50 people involved.
And Nakhid? Well, most people know more about what goes into a hot dog or Rufina’s secret sweet sauce than how the UNC selects candidates. By the time you go to the polling station, the real selection process was already done long ago.
Live Wire: But it is still the people who vote them into office in the end. What chupidness yuh talking?
Stranger: Imagine, you’re Esmond and you’re in the Cabinet. Your position exists totally on the whims of the political leader. So who do you think about first before you vote on government policy? Not what would Keithos think?
Live Wire (pauses a bit): Well, okay, I get your point there. But…
Stranger: Now of course you want to be re-elected. Right? So that means second you think about…
Live Wire: Exactly. The people of Tunapuna.
Stranger: Cheese and rice. Have you been following anything I said at all?! No, you think about the 50 or so people involved in the selection process. They’re the ones who can give you a smooth path back to the ballot in five years’ time. So yuh have to wet their beaks, so to speak. Woe to the MP who forgets that much.
Live Wire (thinks a bit): And then you consider the people?
Stranger: Well, it hardly matters by then does it? Who the hell can multi-task that well? Even Penguin sang about having a ‘deputy’. A man must not spread himself too thin, you know. You ent learn nothing from Tiger Woods?
Live Wire (thinks some more): Well if that’s the case then what do you need me for?
Stranger: Because it is important that you legitimatise the process by staining your finger, Shadow. You must look for your solution within the game. That’s what civilised, rational people do. That is your duty to your country. Anything else leads to chaos and disorder.
Live Wire: But the game is rigged.
Stranger: All games are rigged. That doesn’t mean they aren’t exhilarating or important.
Live Wire: You know when you sat down dey, I just knew you were on nonsense. I shoulda follow my mind and applied physical distancing one time…
Stranger: You can’t run from your own ignorance, Shadow. Your problem is you have no skin in the game. It’s like watching NLCB announce the winning Lotto numbers but you don’t have a ticket. Obviously you’re not going to enjoy the draw, are you?
Live Wire: But even if I have a ticket, I know I’d lose.
Stranger: But there’s a chance you will win.
Live Wire: But I won’t.
Stranger: But you might.
Live Wire: Steups. Listen, I vote because I want to see my country do better. Otherwise what’s the point?
Stranger: The point is you pick the side you like—even if it is not for any logical reason. KFC or Royal Castle. There is no such thing as an ‘educated voter’; that’s like being the tallest midget. Just vote for one and applaud if they win. How is that so different to cheering for Manchester United when you’re in the middle of Tacarigua?
Live Wire (pauses to consider that): Well… Ahmm. Football is still mostly harmless entertainment. As opposed to a politician thief-ing money that coulda fix a pothole or improve a hospital?
Stranger: You’re looking at it wrong. Anything that strengthens your team, strengthens you. Think about it as money the other team now doesn’t have the chance to steal. Besides, wouldn’t the other team have stolen even more? Why thank the god of politics that it’s your team in charge of stealing now then!
Live Wire: That’s the most depressing thing I ever heard.
Stranger: That’s because you’re listening wrong.
Live Wire: I’m listening wrong?
Stranger: All I’m hearing is a bunch of whining about ‘me’, ‘me’, ‘me’; ‘me and my country’, ‘my community’, ‘my this and that’… You’re too selfish, Shadow. That’s your problem.
Live Wire: That’s absurd!
Stranger: Do not try and bend the spoon, Shadow; that’s impossible. Instead, only try to realise the truth… There is no spoon. Then you will see it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.
Live Wire: What?!
Stranger: I heard that in a movie once. Thought it might help.
Live Wire: It didn’t. Hear nah, I going in the bathroom fella. One minute.
(Live Wire leaves the table for a few minutes before returning. The stranger has vanished. The bartender motions towards a bill on his table. Live Wire looks at the price and gasps.)
Live Wire: Buh wha de mudda…?!
Written on the bill was a message from the stranger: “First lesson in politics—nothing is free. And you don’t stop playing because you walked away from the table. Hahahahaha…”
Editor’s Note: Eh… Vote on 10 August 2020. For somebody. Anybody. Your country needs you…