In the campaign headquarters' kitchen, he poured another drink and looked at the office suite in the yard. The half-dozen desks weren't in the orderly rows they had been and the cords trailed into the grass instead of being plugged neatly into the walls. Except for that, things looked much the way they had in the war room -- computers sat dumbly on the desks, a fax machine was lifeless on a sideboard.
He took a sip of his milk and considered.
Unopened boxes of T-shirts, hoodies, fleece were in stacks a few feet away. Written on the side in an unsteady hand he barely recognized was "UNWORN. MUST TAKE AS-IS." Chairs were convened in a meeting around a table with a lazy pile of bumper stickers and shot glasses and hats in the middle. A credenza hosted a guacamole bowl and coffee mugs. A lone coffee table canted into the parking lot with a floor lamp next to it. Two armchairs were having a conversation behind it.
He had run an extension cord on out there and everything was connected. Things worked, no different from how it was when they were inside.
Now and then a car slowed and people stared. But no one stopped. It occurred to him that he wouldn't, either.
"It must be a yard sale," the pollster said to the consultant.
This pollster and this consultant were furnishing a little Super PAC.
The consultant pulled into the parking lot and stopped in front of the coffee table.
They got out of the car and began to examine things, the pollster touching the fax machine, the consultant plugging in the TV and turning it to Fox, the pollster picking up a box of pens, the consultant clacking away on a keyboard.
He sat down in one of the armchairs and watched.
The pollster sat down at one of the desks. "Come here, Mark," she said, "Pull up a chair."
"Wouldn't it be funny if," the pollster said and grinned and didn't finish.
The consultant laughed, but for no good reason. For no good reason, he switched on the floor lamp.
The man came down the sidewalk with a sack from the market. He had tortilla chips, milk, cookies. He saw the car in the driveway and the consultant at the desk. He saw the television set going and the pollster sitting next to the consultant.
"Hello," the man said to the pollster. "You found the desk. That's good."
"Hello," the pollster said, and got up. "I was just trying it out." She patted the desk. "It's a pretty good desk."
"It's a good desk," the man said, and put down the sack and took out the cookies and the milk.
"We thought nobody was here," the consultant said. "We're interested in the desk and maybe the TV. Also maybe the credenza. How much do you want for the desk?"
"Name a figure," he said.
He looked at them as they sat at the desk. In the lamplight, there was something about their faces. It was nice or it was nasty. There was no telling.
"I'm going to turn off this TV and put on the radio," the man said. "This radio is going, too. Cheap. Make me an offer."
He ate a cookie, washed it down with milk.
"Everything goes," said the man.
The pollster picked up a mug off the table and held it out. The man poured.
"Thank you," she said. "You're very nice," she said.
"Please clap," the man said.
The consultant cocked his head. "What? What did you say?"
"Nothing," the man said. "Nothing."