JJ stood in line to vote for the President of the United States. There were about fifty people there and the polls were about to open. His phone buzzed. “It’s 7:00 AM, man, what the fuck,” he said. The old guy nearby looked at him.
“You’re awake,” Carl said.
“I’m in line, waiting to vote.”
“Oh yeah,” said Carl. “Listen. I’m sleepin on the couch. I’m gonna leave tonight but I can’t go to my mom’s.”
A voice boomed from the front of the line, “The Registrar of Voters from ____shire County proclaims the polls for Precinct 5 open!” There was a smattering of 7:00 AM applause and people began to shuffle forward.
“I know she’s fuckin him. I just know it. That little shit won’t even look me in the eye. I just know it,” Carl was saying.
“Listen,” JJ said. “I can’t really talk. I gotta vote…” He was nearing the entrance to the cafeteria.
“I can’t stay with my mom. It’s fuckin demeaning. I can’t stay here. I’ll fuckin stab her or something…”
“Listen,” JJ said as he turned the corner into the cafeteria. “I can’t talk. I’m going in now. To vote.”
“I can’t stay here and I can’t go there. Do you fuckin hear me?”
“Sir!,” a voice boomed. It was the Registrar of voters from _____shire County. “No phones in the polling place.”
“Gotta go,” JJ said.
“…your place,” Carl was saying when JJ hung up.
JJ gave them his address and name and they gave him a ballot. He walked to the little desk with blinders. He cast his vote for President of the United States of America and looked around the room at the earnest citizens hunched over their own ballots filling in the ovals with vigor and concentration. He looked over the rest of the ballot. The Registrars, Representatives, Council Members, Sheriffs, and Senators didn’t move him, though he paused at a familiar name. A vaguely unpleasant sensation, like seeing a remarkably large road kill, maybe a fat possum, passed through him. Yes, that was the guy with the nanny…no…he was the one who said something about rape…maybe…didn’t he have a Nazi father? Oh, fuck it. JJ just took the ballot to the checkout desk.
“You’re the third voter from the precinct,” the lady said as she crossed off his name.
“It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it,” JJ said.
She frowned and pointed. “Insert the ballot into that machine.”
The man in front of JJ was having a hard time getting the machine to accept his ballot. He had a stained coat and gray hair matted on one side of his head. “The machines…these machines,” he groaned. “Hey,” he yelled. “Can I get a person over here?” Then, turning to JJ, “This fucking machine.” The machine looked suspiciously like a paper shredder.
The man got his ballot in and JJ inserted his own. He took an “I voted” sticker from a plastic bowl next to the door and headed out. The line had grown. “This is a big election,” JJ thought and his phone buzzed. A text from Carl.
“jj pls help need a bed”
JJ sighed and walked into the November morning. People with their campaign signs had arrived and stood just beyond a cordon of police tape. It was cold and most held a sign in one gloved hand and a coffee in the other. As JJ walked against the flow of arriving voters, his phone buzzed again, a call this time. He answered and said, with a sense of duty and a sinking heart, “Just for tonight, Carl.”