Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.
Christmas Eve, 2019
Jackson, Capitol County
"I think we can safely say that we're all havin' a good Christmas," Grandpa McHale chuckled, ignoring the egg on his upper lip.
The pair stood side by side, overlooking the ongoing festivities below. The Congressional Christmas Party had started around noon, several hours earlier, and had yet to stop. A jukebox with only Christmas songs had been brought in, and decorations had been donated by the members of Congress. Bing Crosby softly played in the background.
Esa nodded to the old man. "Austin's been a huge help. He's a good kid, William."
The Southerner smiled, dipped his head, and then added a swig of whiskey to his eggnog. "Yep, that's my Austin... He did pretty good when he talked to Percy 'bout lettin' the you-know-what through."
Esa moved a stray hair out of her face. "He did. We've passed it, added new states, and coordinated with the other states better because of him."
"I never thought that New England, Erie, New Pennsylvania, New Ohio, and Delmarva would become states in a million years." The old man took another sip of his eggnog. "It's because of that I'm sorry to say you can't be my vice president."
"I know," Esa replied calmly.
"Now, don't get upset-- what?"
"I know, William," the Kentuckian repeated. "You need a reliable Yankee. Or, at least, a Southerner the Yankees will like. I've been working on a list."
McHale sighed and shrugged his shoulders. “I wanted it to be you. We gotta unite the party before it can even divide. I was a Republican. We need a former Democrat.”
“Well, then we have a few options,” Esa said. “We can always go with Vance. She’s a safe pick: educated at Harvard and NYU, popular in New England and the South. She’s the best way to secure Alabama and Texas, but we’d lose Virginia and Erie.”
“So, then what do you recommend?”
“You won’t like it, William.”
“Because he ran for president in the last cycle.”
Grandpa McHale sighed, stirred a little more whiskey into his eggnog, and then drained his mug. “I hate that man.” He looked back down into the crowd below, watching a young couple peck one another’s lips underneath the mistletoe.
“Senator DuBois may be an idiot, but he’s a well-educated, popular idiot.”
“He tried to take the presidency just as soon as Tennessee pulled itself back together. We all know he lost 2016.”
"Esa, it's Christmas," the old man sighed. "If you're going to talk politics with me, at least do me the pleasure of not mentioning that idiot."
"Alright, I won't mention him again." Esa gleefully drank from her hot chocolate as the Senate Majority Leader drank his eggnog. "I think we need some Christmas Elvis. What do you think?"
"I think we need some Christmas Sinatra," Grandpa McHale replied. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a few quarters. "Go find th' jukebox, will you?"
'Of course. Merry Christmas, William."
"You, too, Esa."
The Kentucky woman hugged McHale. "It's her, isn't it? Your wife?"
"What was her name?"
"Agne DuBois. The idiot's aunt."
"I'm sorry, William." As the woman left the old man to drink his spiked eggnog alone, a handsome younger man in his forties approached the Tennessean.
"William," he said, nodding his head towards the old man.
"Francis," McHale answered him unhappily.
"Not Virginian or DuBois? You must be in a good mood..."
"I spiked my eggnog. You'd do well to stay on my good side."
"That's Mr. Senator to you."
DuBois sighed, stroking the brown stubbles that made up his short beard. "We're in the same party, Mr. Senator--"
"No, DuBois we aren't," McHale said firmly. "You've made it clear you still wanna be a Democrat and that you hate this new system."
DuBois flashed McHale a politician's smile and pulled a cigarette out of his left pocket, a lighter from his right. Lighting it and taking a puff, he leaned over the railing and into the celebrating members of Congress and their families below. The Virginian watched as Esa tinkered with the jukebox, sharing words with Austin before starting up some Sinatra holiday classics.
"Senator, I need a favor. Before you say--"
"--that, I want you to know that it means the remaining Democrats would owe you big."
"What's that?" McHale asked, somewhat curiously.
"Focus on farmers, fixing prices in place temporarily, and reclaiming land east of the river. Trust me."
"And why would I do that?" Grandpa McHale asked.
The Virginian took another puff of his cigarette. "Because Smith cost me the nomination in 2012. We both have our agendas, Uncle, and for now, they coincide. Do it."
Before McHale could reply, DuBois turned and left. Grandpa McHale watched the people below, not noticing that a man in torn clothes was silently approaching him.
“M-mister William McHale?” the man stammered.
The old man quickly turned, surprise etched upon his face. “Good Lord, man, you nearly gave me a--”
“I know, sir, and I’m v-very sorry, b-b-but I need to t-t-talk to you alone.” Fear and worry had stained the man’s face, and bruises covered the parts of his body that McHale could see.
“What is it, son?”
“My n-name is B-Beauregard L-Loxley,” he stammered. “I w-work for the Prime M-Minister of the UK. I’ve risked my life to come here, sir, and the Fascist States of America is coming. The Führerin is coming.”
It was late, the hour hand nearing midnight. Loxley had been given a hot bath and fresh food, two delicacies he had not received since before he arrived in Canada. He’d lost weight and become gaunter, and he was weakened by hunger and exhaustion.
Loxley nibbled at the bread and cheese some teenager had brought him. There was more, of course-- roast beef, Christmas goodies, wines, water, various other foods-- but it was the bread and cheese that he would be able to keep down.
He was in the Jackson home of a Mrs. Esa Schwartz. Instead of someone referring to her as “Governor” or “Madam President” as he had expected-- it had been her leading Kentucky, hadn’t it?-- she was called “Senator.” He sat in a comfy armchair, warming himself by a small fireplace, pondering this while he ate. What were the implications of this? Did PM Birkwood know?
Before he could ponder it for too long, one of the doors to Schwartz’s parlor opened. In walked the woman, the teen male that had brought Loxley food, McHale, and a younger man.
The younger man nodded to Loxley and took a seat beside him. "Beauregard Loxley?"
The Brit nodded."
"I'm Godfrey Smith."
"Y-you're r-really alive?" Loxley stammered.
Smith nodded and smiled kindly. "Senator McHale says you have some information for us."
Loxley nervously nodded. "Of c-c-course, M-mr. P-p-president."
"Call me Godfrey," Smith answered. "I understand that you worked for Ellen Birkwood?"
Again, the Brit nodded. "She sent me t-to America, sir. To see w-what the W-west was l-l-like."
"I just want to know how you escaped--"
"For God's sake, Smith, he's been through enough. We can talk to him tomorrow," McHale grumbled. "I brought you here to welcome him, not interrogate him."
"N-n-no," Loxley said, stumbling over his lone word. "I... This n-needs to be heard now."
McHale looked at Loxley, concern filling his eyes. "Are you sure?"
Loxley tried to relax, but he felt it was impossible. So, after he asked for and received some stiff whiskey, he started to recount his escape from the West.
"After Mr. Weiler b-b-bought us, he used a truck to sh-ship us t-t-to Colby, K-kansas. He was using it t-to let sl-slaves g-go free by selling them t-t-to abolitionists."
The teen nodded, both he and Schwartz taking notes. "What happened next, Mr. Loxley?" the teen asked.
Loxley nibbled his lower lip for a moment. "They moved us in individual cars and trucks all over K-Kansas and Oklahoma. I was l-l-lucky-- my escort t-t-took me t-t-to Conway, Arkansas. I've walked from there. I... On the way here, I saw soldiers. They're g-gathering near P-P-Pine Bluff."
"Pine Bluff..." Smith's gaze darkened. "McHale, effective immediately, you are Acting Secretary of War. Esa, go grab your colleagues, I want him confirmed tonight."
"Smith--" McHale began.
"This is no time for reservations, McHale," the president snapped. "Get it done, immediately."
"Of course... Mr. President."