Sonia sat there, reading her Special Ed notes, glancing up occasionally at the television. The President was about to move on, when another reporter stood up. “A follow up on that question,” the reporter began. He introduced himself as from some Alabama newspaper. “Some of our local communities are reporting to us that they’ve requested permission to conduct more extensive sprays to control the mosquito population and that they’ve been denied by the EPA. They’re –“
At that President Jeantel interrupted, holding up his finger in his pedantic manner. “Allow me to say something right there,” he began, cutting off the reporter. “There are some reports that this disease is spread by mosquitoes,” he continued, his voice taking on the staccato delivery and resolute tone he used when he sought to close off discussion. “The doctors are not exactly clear on this. That being said however, what is perfectly clear is that, as I said during last year’s flu outbreak, the root cause of these outbreaks is global warming and global climate change.”
He paused, a derisive grin coming to his face. “The air gets hotter, you get more bugs,” he said, breaking into a smile, “Even a child knows that.” The press room broke into the hum of suppressed laughter that typically greeted President Jeantel’s mocking, accompanied by calls of encouragement among the students watching in the lounge. “This is simply more proof that we need to adopt the Carbon Exchange Credit plan that has sat without a vote in the Congress since my inauguration.”
“Well yes, sir,” the reporter began again, “But-“
President Jeantel raised his finger again. “It is well past time to start acting on the business that the American people have sent us to work on. Revanchist elements want to distract and divide us from what’s truly important – global climate change, the health of our children – spreading false and scurrilous rumors, exploiting sick children to make cheap political points against the Omnibus Health Reform Act.” He looked about, nodding, his brow tightened in his expression of steely determination. “Well, I’m not going to allow that to happen,” he went on, his voice growing sharp, words clipped, “I’m going to continue the work I was sent here to do, and that’s serving the American people.” And at that he turned and strode off the stage, bearing the same imperious posture with which he entered.
“Damn,” one of the students exclaimed, “He sure put that hick from Alabama into his place.”
“What’s a revanchist anyway?” another student asked. Sonia looked up curious; President Jeantel was prone to using arcane vocabulary, especially when dressing down someone he regarded as an opponent. She had never liked that quality in him; while Jeantel was extremely popular with most college students – almost excessively so – she was always put off by the thin-skinned and bullying air he tended towards.
“That’s someone who wants to return to the past,” another person answered.
Sonia looked back down quickly. The person answering was one of the Teaching Assistants in the English Department. He taught the 200 Level English class she took as a Sophomore and was quite interested in her, asking her out several times. She deflected his advances as best she could until, after the third time, she told him that it wasn’t appropriate considering her status as a scholarship student, wording her concern in such a way that a threat to complain was couched within.
At that point he got the message, ignoring her, at least directly; he seemed to still put on a show while she was present, although being a hectoring blowhard may have just been his nature. “Boy if that don’t sum up President Jeantel’s enemies,” another student said.
“They just don’t like him as President, never have and never will,” the first student agreed.
“I don’t know,” the student who complimented Sonia earlier chimed in. “The answer on the medical evacuations didn’t seem right. A lot of people are reporting on them, some even coming here. Check this out.” A cluster of student’s moved around the table, Sonia even craning her neck to observe.
The student waved his fingers over the screen of his iPad, producing a video. It was a grainy sort of thing, the black and green image common to night vision cameras. It showed a military cargo plane, the kind with the high wing and the ramp in the back. The ramp was open and there were several trucks clustered around the back.
“Man, that video doesn’t show shit,” one of the students scoffed.
“But they’re deliberately blocking view of it,” another student, a skinny-jeans hipster type, retorted. “And the people who posted it followed the truck, it went straight to the hospital district.”
Several of the students groaned in unison. “More bullshit against the Health Care Act,” another student, this one female, interjected, “Just looking to trash President Jeantel.”
Sonia recalled some conversations with customers at the coffee shop about the reputed outbreaks in Asia but said nothing. Last thing I need is to get caught up in a political argument, she reminded herself. She checked her phone; two bars, she saw with relief, enough to get me through my last class. She unplugged her charger, returning it to her purse still connected to the phone.
Everything Jeantel says always ends up sounding up like everything else he’s ever said, she thought as she slid her notebook into her book bag and stood to leave, always and without fail.