Eldon Gantley stood on the street corner looking into a pocket mirror, observing himself as far up and down as the mirror’s size would allow in one glance. He moved the mirror up and down, behind his shoulder while craning his neck, returned it to his pocket, and stood erect and proud, as he licked his fingers and ran them over a cowlick in his hair. His brand new worsted wool charcoal colored pin-stripe suit shone in the afternoon sun. He adjusted his bow tie. He was ready, now.
So he stood there, smiling. He grinned the pearliest white teeth anyone ever saw, flashing them at men and women alike, and especially the children. Everyone eyed him suspiciously but noticed that other than his overly-friendly demeanor and perfect grooming they could really detect nothing that should make them suspicious. He stood there and waved at passing cars and pedestrians for hours, speaking to everyone who came within the sound of his voice. He was practicing the art of politics.
An interested political science student saw him standing there, watched him for a while, and decided she would go up and ask him his reasons for being on the street corner. He did not seem to be a street-corner evangelist, nor did he seem to be selling anything . . . he just seemed intent on being pleasant to everyone who passed while looking as good as he could. He smiled as she walked up to him.
“Hello,” she said.
He cleared his throat and in a voice that sounded just like it came from a Clear Channel radio station, he said, “Well, hello there, young lady. It certainly is a lovely day.” Extending his hand, he said, “I’m Eldon Gantley. Nice to meet you.”
She shook his hand and said, “Nice to meet you, too, Mr. Gantley.”
“Call me Eldon,” he replied.
They were silent for a moment as she gathered her thoughts. He just stood there, smiling, patiently, looking his best while standing his tallest in his brightly polished shoes. She asked him, “Mr. Gantley, do you mind me asking you what you are doing just standing here on the street corner with no apparent purpose?”
He threw back his head in a hearty guffaw, slapped her on the back and nearly shouted, “Oh! No, ma’am. I don’t mind at all.” He said this without answering her question. She waited. No answer seemed to be forthcoming. He just stood there showing as many teeth as he could.
Since he made no answer, she asked, “So what are you doing?”
“Haw! Haw! I thought you’d never get around to actually asking me!” he replied. “I’m posturing.”
“Posturing?” she asked.
“Yes, ma’am. Posturing. It’s the grandest thing,” he said. I learned all about it in marketing class while I was getting my MBA.”
“But,” she asked him, “What are you posturing FOR?”
“I’m going to run for Congress,” he said, proudly, “And the only way to win is to correctly posture myself. How am I doing? Is my posture good enough?”
Gantley struck a pose as dignified as a Senator on the Judiciary Committee interviewing a judicial appointee. He looked as dignified as a banker reviewing the balance sheet of a small business seeking a loan. He looked as dignified as a funeral home director at a graveside service. His posture was perfect she thought to herself. “You’re about as well postured as anyone I’ve ever seen,” she replied.
“Good,” he said. “I’ve been practicing for months now, getting ready for the elections. The research shows that this posturing will really pay off.”
“But what party are you with? What is your platform? What things do you hope to accomplish in Congress?” she asked.
“I know better than to affiliate myself with any particular political ideology. My platform is to perfect my posture for maximum results. My goal in Congress is to maximize my time there, further posture myself by making some clever speeches, winning some important committee assignments by my perfect posture and good looks, and bring home the bacon.”
“You mean, ‘Bring home the bacon for the district you will represent,’” she said, correcting him.
Gantley looked closely at his fingernails and polished them on his pants leg. “No ma’am, I mean bring home the bacon, if you know what I mean.” As he said that he stepped a little too close, violating her personal space as he winked and elbowed her so that she would know what he meant. She didn’t like this and decided that he was wearing entirely too much cologne. She wondered if that was also part of his posturing.
“Are you saying that you want to go to Washington to serve yourself rather than those who would send you to represent them?”
“Of course I would serve them,” he said. “They would be proud of me every time they saw me on TV, even on C-Span, because I will look so good and professional. I will always be displaying my best possible posture.”
“But what will you DO?” she cried. “What stands will you take? What positions do you have on any political topic?”
“Oh! No! No! No! None of that controversial stuff for me. I will simply look good, make sure I am close at hand every time the television news crews are nearby, and posture myself so that I get a lot of face time on TV. That’ll help me land a big book deal.”
“What would your book be about?” she asked, now beginning to think she must be in some bad dream, since she was having a conversation with the shallowest person she thought she had ever seen.
“It would be about Posturing,” he said. “It is the one thing I am an expert in.”
She thought he did look very handsome, and would look good on TV. He certainly had practiced so that his voice sounded articulate, strong and just like a TV announcer. No stammers, no “and uhs,” nothing but polish and sophistication, except for the overpowering smell of Aqua-Velva. But despite the looks, there seemed to be no THERE there.
“After the book deal, I’d probably bail out of Congress and get me a job as a TV news pundit. If they have the likes of Sarah Palin, Jack Abramoff and Elliott Spitzer on TV, if I can keep my nose clean, I’ll at least be a shoo-in for a spot on MSNBC.”
She understood him completely. She had seen his type before. There was no malice in him, he was not interested in hurting anyone; his vision was just limited to himself and not one inch further.
“Well. Good luck on your campaign, Mr. Gantley,” she said. “You know, elections were last year. There is no election this year.”
“Eldon! Of course,” he said. “I am pre-posturing, actually. There’ll be more precise posturing later, when the election season really starts. By that time, I will be so well postured that folks will demand that I run for Congress. I have a squeaky clean record, no hint of any scandal in my past, and will be hard to beat if I can keep up the good posturing.”
She thought about this. She said to him, “Sooner of later, you will have to declare yourself on the issues. You will have to be for some things and against others.”
“Of course,” he replied. “I am for jobs, the economy, world peace, prosperity, progress, better schools, children, families, better roads and bridges, better health and health care, the improvement of our communities, openness in politics, better government, increased personal safety, food safety, environmental safety, clean air, clean water, clean cheap energy, Senior Citizens, Veterans, lower taxes, more services, and the rights and dignities that should belong to all citizens and people around the world, and will fight to the last breath to bring these things to everyone in this country and the entire world.”
She nodded her head in agreement. “And how do you propose to accomplish this?”
“No! No! That is the controversial part. None of that for me. I am just FOR those things.”
“Well, what are you against?” She asked.
“I am strongly against war, crime, corruption, poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, prejudice, and any thing that stands in the way of the progress of the people, and will fight to obliterate all these maladies from the human experience,” he said, adding, “This will all be outlined and covered in my book. The first draft is looking pretty good.”
“But you offer no solutions,” she said.
“None, ma’am, none but posture. Perfect posture. It is my stock in trade and the thing that will help me achieve all my goals.”
She thanked him for his time, shook his hand as she turned to leave, deciding that not only was he electable, he would most likely be the next Congressman from her district, since he certainly would look good on TV and was for all the right things and against all the things that he should be against. She thought about his platform and decided that it was at least as good as any she had heard in recent times. She thought he seemed like an honest man, a decent man, and most likely, a good man at heart. The perfect candidate, he was. Perfect posture, he had. He certainly was honest about his goals. She found this somewhat refreshing even though he seemed rather vacuous.
Later on she realized that his name was remarkably similar to Sinclair Lewis’ Elmer Gantry. She shuddered at the thought. Elmer Gantry . . . Eldon Gantley; the perfect candidate, except, maybe he should have a different name.