Volume III (Summer 2008)
ISSN 1934-4324

Sean Trolinder

Sean Trolinder lives in St. Cloud, Florida. He earned his B.A., summa cum laude with Honors, in Creative Writing from Florida State University in 2007. He is currently a M.A. Creative Writing candidate at Kansas State University. This is his first publication.


Taymor Polini

Taymor Polini had not pressed pencil to paper since The St. Oldenroof Chronicle gave him the sack. A local celebrity since the Carter administration, Polini charmed the hearts of small town folks with his vivid political cartoons, ranging from national issues—such as oil—to local issues—like Ryan Sullivan’s tree house being bulldozed down to make room for a highway. Despite a petition with one thousand and thirty-seven signatures, Polini could not be saved from the damage done by his final cartoon.

Ingle Greensburg was elected the thirty-first congressional district in 2002 and The Riley Sentinel ran a story entitled “The Honest Politician: Greensburg a Model for the 21 st Century” which honored him with the title “the cleanest politician in American history.” After a night out at the theatre, Polini went into a back alley to smoke a cigarette, only to see Greensburg kissing the neck of brunette woman with curves. They were behind a dumpster, out of sight and out of their minds. Greensburg’s wife, Matilda, was a dirty blonde with a fat ass so Polini didn’t need to rub his eyes in order to get the picture. Polini always carried a small sketchpad, so he made a note to himself while slowly backing out of the alley.

As Polini smoked his cigarette at a nearby café, he watched the gap in the alley to see who would emerge first. After ten minutes, the brunette stepped out with a wedgie, but before picking it she called for a taxi. A man in a dark suit—the chauffeur—blocked the alley two minutes later, only to have Greensburg appear, whispering something in his ear. They walked a couple of blocks, as if heading back to the office—no foul, as long as you were not caught.

Polini’s cartoon was entitled “Kissing a Mannequin at Victoria Secrets.” He sketched an exaggerated version of Greensburg—thick lipped, a one inch receding hairline, and a forehead much too big compared to the rest of his body. There was a rack of bras circling around a mannequin with flawless curves wearing a secretary skirt and a tight leopard skinned bra. Greensburg was within this circle, licking the neck of the mannequin. In the background, there was a plus-sized woman with light hair that had her hand on an attendance’s shoulder, saying, “Does the skirt come in a size twenty-four?”

It was not Greensburg who was outraged by the cartoon, but rather an organization with the acronyms W.R.I.G.H.T—or simply Women’s Rights in Gaining Higher Truth. The spokesperson, Dolores Slumber, was the sister of a local baker’s wife in St. Oldenroof. After hearing the news, Dolores tried to talk with an editor from The St. Oldenroof Chronicle, but the paper refused to comment. That was when the crusade began. A week later, Dolores was on nationally known morning television shows speaking about how disgusted America was with Polini’s cartoon. In that one week Polini did not hear a complaint, not even from Dolores’s sister.

A reporter from The Riley Sentinel came knocking on Polini’s door two days after Dolores’s rant on Today. He asked several questions: Do you have a girlfriend? How did your mother raise you? What do you think about female cartoonist? Who did you take to your senior prom?—to this Polini had to raise his eyebrows, but the reporter assured him it was only for a cross reference. Polini called this a bunch of journalist mumbo-jumbo, and declined to comment.

The situation got so out of hand that Polini himself got an invite to Larry King Live. King’s people claimed that Dolores Slumber would be on the air and that would be the appropriate time to clear the air, or at least apologize. Polini didn’t think he had anything to apologize about, but he watched the program anyway. Dolores not only pointed out how the cartoon’s quote was offensive to the average woman, but the portrayal of the mannequin was sexist and unacceptable to be printed in a newspaper. There was not one mention of Greensburg in any interview. Polini took King to be the type of man to point out the true significance of the piece, but King seemed drained that night, unable to make a rebuttal even if he felt strong about the issue. The highlight of the show was when Dolores picked up the cartoon and shredded it right in front of the camera. After the confetti storm, for the first time Polini thought he would be in true danger.

The next morning Dick Clam, the head honcho at The St. Oldenroof Chronicle, gave Polini a phone call at six a.m.—an unusual time for a political cartoonist to be summoned for a meeting. This was no donuts and coffee situation; the tone in Dick’s voice assured that. Polini went to the office around eight o’clock as requested. Clam had on a red tie. He only wore red ties when someone was about to get canned, so Polini didn’t rush taking his seat. Polini left the door opened on purpose, but that didn’t stop Clam from making the trip across the room.

“I’m going to keep this simple Taymor,” he said adjusting his tie. “You have been a loyal employee here for years. You are a legend and your work is impeccable. Coming from a small print, your cartoons have been published in history books, have won awards, and hell, students—at least in this state’s university—have wrote dissertations about you. You— ”

“I thought you were going to keep this simple,” said Polini.

Clam paced behind his desk before picking up a newspaper on his desk. He folded it for effect, using it as a pointer. Polini felt where he was aiming and found it to be rude.

“Did you read The Riley Sentinel this morning?” he asked.

“I only read the Times,” Polini said. “You know every newspaper is a rip-off of—”

“This is no joke,” said Clam.

“Who’s joking?” asked Polini. “It’s my job on the line, right?

Clam threw the paper in front of Polini and on the front cover of The Riley Sentinel was an article that read “The War of the Mannequin: Polini’s American Dream” with a profile picture of Dolores Slumber, yelling, placed next to Polini. Only a paper like The Riley Sentinel would make this their lead story. Polini cringed, not because his photo looked so weak, but because he could never imagine seeing his face next to his foe. It was like the newspaper was promoting an amateur version of Celebrity Deathmatch, with the article reading as a recap.

“Where the hell do you get off saying that you don’t buy into his journalist mumbo-jumbo?” asked Clam. “And what is this little bit?” he pointed to a highlighted phrase. “When asked about Ms. Slumber did you say, ‘I’d kill Slumber,’ and ‘drink a cup of Joe’ doing it?”

Polini tried to wrap his mind around what he could have said. The reporter did come rather early, as if he were planning that scoop for days. As he recalled it, the reported was asking several questions—most of them dumb and killing his brain cells in a half comatose sleepwalk—and the reporter said something about Dolores. He was sure that he said, “No comment. I was not attacking women,” but the reporter rephrased the question—how do you feel about Slumber? Sleep sounded good at six-thirty in the morning, but so did coffee. Polini said, “I want slumber, but you rang my doorbell seven times. As you can see, I’m still…you know. I’d kill slumber, but I’d need to drink a cup of Joe.”

“That shit-head took what I said out of context,” said Polini. “I meant sleep, but— ”

“Damn it, what type of idiot doesn’t connect slumber with that woman?” asked Clam. “My phone has been ringing off the hook, there are people wanting to see you tar and feathered in a public square, and you talk of sleep? I overlooked those TV shows. Hell, I overlooked Larry King and you know how much I love King.”

Clam went on a long rant about the ethics of the newspaper business and personally showed him to the door, after his things were packed. Polini had to ask if the reporter had proof about what he said, just in case his sleepy memory served him incorrectly. The reporter tape recorded their conversation, but before he even challenged the tape, he was sure that it would be edited to make his story legit. Local fans sent warm letters and cards to Polini’s home, which inspired him to continue writing political cartoons, but without his attachment to The St. Oldenroof Chronicle, he felt that his purpose to reach a wider audience was missing. The magic was lost and though Polini spent a year trying to regain it, he lost hope and decided to stay in his home—only to go out when he needed groceries, beer, or the occasional pretzel.

The drainage hole in E.J. Smith-Murphy Memorial Park would not be the first place anyone would expect inspiration, but sometimes the smallest gems can be found in puddle of mud. Polini had come out of a nearby restaurant that sold freshly baked pretzels every hour, on the hour. He nibbled on his Garlic-Oregano powdered pretzel when he tripped over his shoelace. The fall was rough, yet quick. He stared into the face of a four-leaf clover with the stem on the verge of snapping. Polini was not much of a believer in the meaning behind nature, but that was until a long grass snake woke up from underneath it. Its tongue gave Polini goosebumps and quicker than he could say hi, he found his footing. The snake slithered in the opposite direction.

As he walked up the slope, a pigeon ate the remainder of his pretzel. It ate it quick and squawked at Polini before flying away. The sky was full of birds: pigeons, blackbirds, and robins. It was as if Polini stared into the future—if the birds were flying cars, this would be The Jetsons—or so he thought. Polini crossed the memorial bridge, heading the same way as the snake. Polini kept checking over his shoulder, making sure one of those birds didn’t try to spear him from behind. Most of the birds flew at a reasonable level, yet three blackbirds glided toward the grass before flapping their wings to slow down.

Two of the birds chirped, communicating something Polini couldn’t figure out. The other bird kept pecking its head into the grass, as if digging for worms. Polini was about to cut loose and not think about the snake or birds any longer, but that was until he heard one of the birds screamed so loud that it sounded like a warning from the Emergency Broadcasting System.

The bird who kept sticking its beak where it didn’t belong tried flapping its wings really fast, but there was something around its neck in the shape of a rope. The two other birds kept pecking at the loop and, at one point, the struggling bird had its tiny feet way above its head. It took the loop ringing around the bird’s tail feather for Polini to realize it was the snake.

The scream was loud and clear, announcing the bird’s fear and integrity. The snake bit into the bird’s forehead. The other two birds slapped and pecked the snake until it released its grip. Polini stopped and noticed that the birds hovering overhead flew away from the scene. He expected some more blackbirds to fly down as reinforcements. He classified blackbirds as cowards from that moment on. The snake coiled up into a striking possession and snapped at the wing of another blackbird. The one bird that had not been attacked yet bit the snake’s tail and tried flying away, but the weight of the other bird kept it from getting far. Peckerhead bird, the first to be attacked, lay on the ground. Every time it tried flapping its wings, the bird would wedge itself into the ground. Polini knew the bird was blind because it couldn’t sense its direction. Polini wondered why he—being the most dominant specie present—did not put a stop to this.

The bird with its wing caught by the snake flapped free. It was about to fly away with its friend, who still had the snake’s tail in its mouth, until it recognized the snake bending itself in position to strike. The free bird bit into the snake’s neck, flying away with their prize. Polini stood for a minute, cautious about approaching Peckerhead.

Peckerhead kept flapping its wings and Polini was unsure if the bird could sense him. He felt a slight twitch in his arm. He surveyed the ground, just in case another snake was slithering around the drainage hole. The bird’s cry grew weak, almost to the point where it’d open its mouth and nothing would come out. Polini was the only one who could help, but he didn’t. He just stood there, trying to get a good look at the bird’s eyes. Peckerhead was definitely blind and missing its right eye. Peckerhead eased its way onto its feet and tried flying upward, but the bird wore itself out. Its chest looked like it was going to explode one minute, but deflated the next.

Polini still carried around his sketchpad, just in case he felt the impulse to draw. He drew the bird, but spent close to ten minutes perfecting the ellipse that made up Peckerhead’s available but blind eye. It was a wonderful feeling, catching this moment and knowing the object was unaware he was there.

It brought him back to a time when drawing was not about politics.