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Aug
05

PLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY

RECAP: Ronnie Stein is a starving website developer, three years out of college. She inadvertently landed a double job opportunity for Mayor Jonathon Steadman.  But the mayor, to Ronnie’s chagrin, has more intentions for her beyond designing his website and polling young demographics. He wants a personal relationship, with sex, and he is married. Ronnie’s terribly conflicted about this situation.  And so far, nothing has been finalized.  We pick up the story with Jon Steadman’s home life. 

 

PLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY  Will she buy it?   [Part 4 of 8]

 

Jon’s cell phone is ringing. It lies next to his keys and wallet on a bedroom chest of drawers. Why isn’t he answering it? Because Jonathon Steadman is currently having sex in the shower, and in no way will this event clean up his act. Jonathon Steadman, a married man in his forties, is pumping a twenty year-old redhead porn queen named Lusty Charm, in a hotel bathroom.

 

*****

 

Jon saunters into his kitchen, looking very much the confident, impeccable mayor he seems to be on TV. “Hi hon,” he says to the woman standing at the counter. She throws him a glare, then turns back to the televised evening news. Lauren Steadman, mid-forties, is well put together with dark coiffed hair, a somewhat zaftig frame and round attractive face. Jon closes in for a behind-the-waist hug. She pushes him away. “What?’ he asks, surprised.

Without turning, she coldly answers, “You were supposed to be home early today.”

“Why?”

“Because you missed the play.”

“What play?”

Lauren pivots, nose to nose, steaming. “Your son’s play!”

Jon rocks back. “Oh shit. Where is he?”

“In his room.” He heads for the door. “It’s too late, Jon!” He stops, turns to his wife. “Four hours too late!” she spits out.

“I’ll make it up to him.”

“You can’t, Jon! You missed parent’s day last month!”

“You know why that happ–”

“You promised Andy you would never do that again!”

“All right! I’m sorry!”

“Where the hell were you tonight?!  I called your cell.”

“I didn’t hear it.”

“I called your office. They said you left hours ago!”

“I was with Max, going over strategy. It went long and I just–”

“Bullshit!”

Jon strides back to the counter, grabs the phone and points it at her. “Call Max! No! I’ll do it.” He starts dialing.

“Put the phone down, Jon.” He keeps pressing buttons. “Put it down!” He does, grateful that she didn’t call his bluff. But Max would have covered for him anyway. He has done it before.

Jon’s shoulders drop with a tired, defeated sigh, the perfect act. He thinks a moment, then steps closer to his wife. She backs up. “Lauren. I am absolutely shit-smacked over this.  I’m overwhelmed. This campaign, it’s taking me down.”

“And your wife and son.”

“I’m sorry.”

“You keep saying that.”

“Because I am.”

“Sometimes I wonder.”

“What was that suppose to mean?”

She moves back to him, eyes to eyes now. “Jon, you’re pulling away from me. And Andy. You never tell me what you’re doing. Where you’re going. The people you’re meeting. The city problems. Your problems. It was never that way before. But it is now. You’re starting to crack. I can see it.”

“I’m okay.”

“Well I’m not! And I won’t live like this, Jon! It’s not fair to Andy either.”

“You knew what you were getting into–”

“Yes I did! And we talked about what it would be like to have children. And what did I say to you?”

“C’mon Lauren…”

“I said that I would not raise our child alone. And you agreed. And now what do we fight about all the time?”

No answer from Jon. Instead, he goes to the fridge, looks inside, retrieves a beer. Twisting off the cap, he turns back to his wife. “You know, there’s a good chance I won’t get re-elected.”

“Maybe that’s the best thing that can happen to you.”

“No. No… No.”  He reopens the refrigerator, searches for something else. Maybe cheese.

“Jon, look at me.” He looks at her. “You’re not sleeping. You’re forgetting things. You’re depressed all the time.”

“I am not depressed.”

“And we haven’t made love in four months.” THE PHONE RINGS. Jon moves to the counter. “Don’t answer that,” she commands.

He reads the caller ID. “It’s Max. I have to.” He presses TALK. “Yeah, Max.”

“Bad mistake, Jon!” Jon jerks the phone away. Max is so loud, Lauren hears him from across the room. “Fucking bad move!”

“You mean 4350?”

“You voted yes on that!”

“I had to.”

“You did not have to! Goddamn it, Jon, you’ve gotta go right on something! Try school lunches. Anything! You hear me, Jon! They’re burying you! With fuckin’ bags of money, which you, my friend, have yet to raise!”

“You’re asking me to be something I’m not.”

“I am? Well you’re not gonna be mayor either if you don’t follow the fucking program! I’m ready to walk, Jon.”

“Max, please–”

“We need a turn-around speech. You’ve got four weeks to get somewhere close to the middle. Gimme your go-ahead. I’ll write the words.”

Jon sighs, something he’s been doing a lot lately. He shifts his gaze to his wife…or where she was. She’s gone. He drops his head, shaking it. Okay… Write it up.  I’ll look it over.”

“Thank you!” CLICK.  Max has just hung up.

 

*****

 

Jon slowly opens the door to his son’s dark bedroom. Nestled under the covers, Andy’s looks to be asleep. Jon tip-toes in, gently sits on the bed, and stokes his ten year-old’s long curly hair. “Daddy’s sorry, Andy. Daddy’s really sorry. And Daddy loves you.” He kisses his son.

Jon steps into another dark room. This time it’s his own, and Lauren’s. Like his son, his wife is also in bed, eyes closed. He whispers. “Lauren? I’m sorry.”

“No more sorry’s,” she mutters. “Come back to us.”

“I want to.”

“Just do it.” She rolls over to face the wall, her back to him now.

He shuffles into the hallway and enters the guest bathroom, locking the door. He’s got his iPad. Raising it for viewing, he opens his email and sits on the toilet. What does he see? He sees the photo of a naked tattooed younger woman, maybe thirty. And under that picture are the words, ‘Jonny boy, cum in me now! I love the way you make me hurt!

The mayor stares at her picture, and her sex message below it. Thirty seconds lapse. He types an answer, and drops his drawers.

 

To be continued…08/12/2011

 

Part Four is loaded with REVERSALS, which lead us to expect a result as we are taken to an entirely different outcome. This technique keeps the author ahead of his/her readers. The following are some examples.  In the first scene with Jon in the shower, we expect the woman to be Ronnie. She isn’t. The second scene shows that Jon’s wife is NOT fragile as he said she was earlier in the story. In fact, Lauren is stronger than Jon. Next comes the call from Jon’s campaign manager, Max. This scene depicts the mayor as having political integrity even though he lacks it in his personal life. His behavior is both a contradiction and a reversal, and shows how some people “compartmentalize” their lives.  Finally, Jon expresses remorse to his son and wife, but then continues his sex addiction. All of these plot twists help to keep the reader wondering, WHERE IS THIS GOING?

So what do your think?  Just who is Jon Steadman?  Where is the story going?

 

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10 comments

  1. Mark says:

    At first I thought Jon was a ruthless, womanizing, motivated man, now I am wondering if her is a man of his own destiny, or a puppet of his own whims and others desires. He might be the one losing it all, not his wife or the “fragile” college girl who wants to work in the mayors office.

    1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

      Well losing it ALL is certainly a possibility. We’ve seen this situation happen time and time again within the political arena, and in big business, and small business, and in NO business, like a neighbor’s backyard. People are continually losing their judgment about risking it ALL. And I ask, WHY? What needs are SO important, that people are willing to risk all they have to get that one thing…NOW? This is the theme of my story. Welcome to the ride!

  2. Jerry's cousin says:

    Jon exhibits a typical narcissistic personality common in many political figures of our current times. These people are not capable of putting an organization’s needs before their own needs. These guys are usually arrogant, exhibitionistic, vain, manipulative and greedy. They make lousy husbands and poor fathers. The women that marry these guys usually know what they are getting into and want that challenge. The kids are the ones that suffer.
    Jon will probably continue on this path until he is brought down by someone or something bigger than him. His wife will probably hang on like Hillary Clinton. His son will probably go into counseling and Ronnie will move on to someone or something else, if she is smart.

    1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

      Hello again J’s Cousin!

      I generally agree with your assessment of narcissistic political figures. But have you figured out WHAT MAKES A PERSON NARCISSISTIC in the first place? From a fiction writer’s point-of-view, these are crucial questions to ask, and be answered. Because this kind of behavior is shaped from core unfulfilled needs and a vacuum that sucks up all validation. From a day-to-day real life scenario, it’s a good idea to answer those questions as well. And we will be discussing them as this story moves forward.

      I’m not so sure all women who marry narcissistic men know what they are getting into when the marriage kicks off. Many times narcissism expands as fame and fortune expands. This would also apply to extremely successful men in business. Women who marry them while still in college might not recognize the ego traits while they are still in check. However, I can’t disagree with your general premise. Women are attracted to powerful men.

      As for your prediction about where this story will end up… I’m not telling!

  3. Les says:

    Very cool! On the story goes …
    I have a feeling we in for some surprises in the next few installments – so am not inclined to venture guesses on plot direction. But ah sho is enjoying how things are developing. thx!

    1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

      If you COULD predict where this story is going, I would not be doing my job very well. Staying ahead of the reader is THE priority for any any writer of fiction. As I develop the plot, I dig deep into character motivation to find the truth there, so that I understand their REACTIONS and can write realistic BEHAVIORS once I insert EVENTS to block my character’s path. I generally reject most all of my first ideas about where the story will lead. Usually they are the most obvious. And if I think about them first, so will you

  4. Edwin Tucker says:

    As a reader of this story I am experiencing ever greater tension, tension that at this point
    is coming from what seems to be the unfolding of a tragedy. I believe that one of the
    definitions of tragedy is that it is the isolation of the main character from society – the process whereby this occurs. And here we seem to be witnessing just that as the mayor
    appears on the brink of personal catastrophe that he is knowingly or unknowingly bringing on himself. Two statements from philosophers/theologens of the past come
    to mind which might or might not be applicable to this situation. In Gerard Groote’s
    spiritual diary from the 14th century is found this “Those who are most highly esteemed by men are often most exposed to danger, because of their over-great confidence and security in themselves.” (ch.20 #19). In the last century Martin Buber wrote (I paraphrase from memory) “The great sin of men are not the sins they commit, for the temptation is
    great and their strength is small; the great sin of men is that they could in any moment
    repent and turn , but they do not.”
    This last statement is to me most applicable to the mayor’s situation. His wife knows that something is going on, perhaps it is just the job or the campaign, she seems not to be centrally interested in the details, what she requests of her husband, what she asks of him is that he just “come back to us”. Ah, there it is, he can so easily return, we have no information that would indicate his at this point having to
    be publicly shamed, having to make detailed confessions to his wife and public, he can come back now, it is not too late. The reader I think knows that he is about to step off the cliff, but the character is either blind to the danger or so swept up by his passions that he cannot do but be enslaved to them.
    The great stroke in the story at this point is the figure of the wife and her simple request to the mayor to just come back to the family.
    As a reader, one may not have held a position of power and one’s temptations and unrestrained passions may have been on a more pedestrian level, but have not most of us fallen at one point or another headlong into one or another feverish passion in which we were ready to “throw it all away” so to speak? And so can we not feel how the mayor is being drawn to where he would in a healthy state not want to go, and can we not feel some of the turmoil in his being, of which he might in fact be trying to deny?
    All of these comments I have made are only the reaction of the reader at this point in t in the story. As a reader I am expecting the plot to unfold along its present tradjic trajectory; our author however has created live characters, and like real live one’s their actions are not always predictable.
    So, what will happen? I don’t know. I have a certain dread, but really I don’t know, and the author is wanting us to be in this state of uncertainty and tension I think.

    1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

      Thank you Edwin, for your in-depth review of this segment. I appreciate that you referenced very old wisdom about men messing up. Seems some of us never learn.

      Yep, the Mayor is horribly conflicted. He knows what he SHOULD do. But he is pushed off the line by his need to feed his ADDICTION. What is it? He never, ever, can get enough validation and approval. This is a short piece so I have not, nor will I, explain WHY Jon is so needy. But I AM showing that he is, which is the underlying motivations for his sexual romps outside his marriage. By understanding his desperate need to “matter” I can write believable actions and words. They will hint at his hidden agenda, AND show his gamesmanship. Any time a character has to explain to the reader who he is, the story will go flat. Jon did tell Ronnie his story in the restaurant, but his motivation was to gain her sympathy and respect. It was not specifically an expository writing device, although it DID work in that way as well. Generally speaking, every sentence, every scene, should be working on at least two levels simultaneously, hopefully three: adding plot development, back story and further character development. So you can see, behind the curtain, there is much preparatory homework to do.

  5. Max says:

    I’m not to sure if I see the reversals intended. Steadman is having sex with a porn star in a shower which seems completely in line with his character. That it’s not Ronnie seems completely in line with hers. He comes home and he lies to his wife This seems in line with his cheating. Since she never raises the prospect of an affair she must not be suspicious and is weak intellectually. After all , he’s coming home late, avoiding contact, and it’s been 4 months. He seems to have pulled the wool over her eyes. He characterized her as weak to Ronnie and this seems to corroborate this view. When confronted by Max via phone over some political issue, 4350, which he voted the “wrong” way on, he relinquishes and agrees to some turn-around speech; another example of his integrity, or lack there of. This too seems in line with the lines he fed Ronnie about “the people” over lunch.
    My curiosity occurs when he goes to bed. His wife’s there having previously mentioned the 4 months absence and yet he makes no move to reconcile or seduce. For a “sex-addict” (not my phrase) wouldn’t the temptation be to great to let pass. As character wouldn’t this show his power over women, or at least his ability to play them to get what he wants at any cost? Maybe he doesn’t want to hurt her? I don’t know.
    I’m not sure what Andy accomplishes. Is he the silent child? Is he a reflection of Steadman as a child where the sins of the father have come full circle. I don’t know because he doesn’t saying anything to Daddy about being late or missing the play, or why his hair is damp…
    Where is the story going? I do not know. I can fantasize about probable story lines that I’d like to see but that’s not my job. There’s nothing showing that will really force Steadman to change. He’s getting everything he wants and at the end of the day getting away with it. I guess Ronnie’s next.

  6. Tim says:

    Jon is a narcissist. He has a wife and son. I think its irresponsible to ignore his sons life. A good father is always there when his son or daughter needs him. If someone can’t do that he shouldn’t get kids. He hasn’t got any time for his family. I think his wife will break. That is probably the best she can do!

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