by McCamy Taylor
Call me Jerry. Or call me Jake or Jason. Just don't call me John Henry
Henderson III----John Henry Henderson III has a warrant out for failure
to pay child support. I can't remember the name of the kid I fathered,
but his mother won't forget mine. Since all my shirts, luggage
cufflinks, and tiepins bear my initials, JHH III, I am limited in my
choices of aliases.
At the moment, all I have in the world are the accoutrements of a
successful businessman, a full head of black hair, a natural tan thanks
to my Cherokee grandmother, a square jaw that has not yet begun to sag,
the brains with which God endowed me and Ster, short for Sterling, my
partner in crime. Sterling is a war hero. Bona fide war hero--he has
the medals to prove it. Sterling also has a full head of prematurely
white hair, blue eyes that sparkle with wisdom and compassion as he is
feeding you a load of lies and a spotless arrest record---as in
expunged. Sterling's last name is Yarborough, and no, he is no relation
to those Yarboroughs, but a name is a name is a name.
As I gaze into the refrigerator at a lump of moldy cheese, a bag of
wilted lettuce and the tail ends of a loaf of Rainbow bread, I take
mental stock of my assets. Three bucks in change in my pocket. Shirts,
luggage, cufflinks, tiepins all but worthless except to some other man
with the initials JHH III. And Sterling. There must be some way I can
make some money off those medals.
Ten years ago, Sterling stood on a bouncing betty land mine in Syria
for twenty minutes so that his platoon and a school bus full of
kindergarteners could get to safety. Twenty minutes without so much as
twitching a muscle. By the time the bomb finally detonated, he was too
numb to feel the explosion that cut him in half from the waist down.
Thanks to the miracle of modern science and the generosity of the
Pentagon, the doctors at Langley made him as good as new. Better than
new. He has a mechanical heart that will never get clogged no matter
how much fat he eats, and his lungs can filter out oxygen from water. A
transplant made him whole again. Another casualty of war, a Syrian who
lost his head to a sniper, provided legs, pelvis, a spinal cord,
internal organs and a penis that would make a donkey jealous.
Briefly, I consider going into the porn business. Someone somewhere
must be willing to pay good money to see that Sterling Yarborough's
junk still works, even after he got blown to pieces on a foreign
battlefield fighting to defend who knows what American value. But the
live action porn industry is all but dead, killed by the Japanese
software that allows anyone to create any combination of characters
doing all manner of sick and perverted things to each other in the
setting of your choice filmed at the angle of your choice with a full
menu of moans, groans, "Yes, Jesus!" and squelching sounds to choose
from. I get hard just thinking about it---about all the money some
Japanese businessmen made out of their product, before it was pirated
by the Chinese.
My stomach growls. From the other room, I hear the sound of Ster switching channels. "Hey, John Boy. They're showing The Producers."
And just like that, it hits me.
You don't just run for office, even with a name like Sterling
Yarborough. First, you have to capture the public eye. In a city like
Houston, which floods every other day, that's not hard to do. Push a
wino into the Bayou during a rainstorm. Sterling jumps in after him,
drags said wino from the water. Pay a "bystander" to capture it in his
cellphone. Reporters do a quick search and discover that Sterling is a
decorated war hero with a bionic heart and lungs. Viola! Fifteen
minutes of fame, a window of opportunity ready to be exploited.
The Party comes to him, as if the idea of a Sterling Yarborough
candidacy was their idea, not mine. They need someone with a spotless
record and a full head of hair to run for a Congressional district that
is vacant, now that the old Congressman is slated to be the ambassador
to France as a favor to his wife who gave the President six million
during his last campaign. The previous U.S. Ambassador to France only
paid two million for his job. The new French Ambassador belongs to the
Other Party, and his district is considered a safe Other Party pick up.
But the entrance of a decorated war hero with a full head of white hair
and bionic heart and lungs throws a monkey wrench into the race, and
all of a sudden political donors are lining up to pour money into the
coffers of the two Big Party candidates and the two Third Party
spoilers. That's what Sterling is---a Third Party spoiler. Easy money,
right? Promise the sun and the moon to anyone who shows up with a
checkbook, deposit the check---you don't even have to launder the
money, it's all 100 percent legal thanks to the Supreme Court---into
your bank account. Siphon votes from the Other Party candidate. Allow
the Party to pick up a seat in a special election---
That's how it was supposed to work. But then the Other Party
candidate got caught with a Doberman and an under aged girl from
Guatemala, and suddenly, on the eve of the election, Sterling's numbers
shot up like a rocket. By the time the polls were closed, it was clear
that the Party's Third Party spoiler had won, which was cause for
(muted) celebration in Party headquarters.
"This is good, right?" Sterling asks, his usually smooth brow
slightly puckered. He can see from my face that it isn't good. Not good
"Hell no, it ain't good!" I revert to my roots when I get angry. We
are in the dressing room at Third Party headquarters in Houston,
getting Ster ready for his televised acceptance speech. The makeup boy
is done. The white hair gleams. The blue eyes sparkle. The American
flag pin is placed just so, right beside the Purple Heart and the
Congressional Medal of Valor. The press is already starting to talk
about a 2024 presidential run. "Do you have any idea how much the
Mexican weed guys paid you to make their product illegal again? And how
much the Medical Marijuana folks paid you to keep the law the way it
is? You owe nuclear a new cap and trade bill. Oil wants you to quash
cap and trade." And that's only the tip of the iceberg. Under the
table, I have collected close to ten million dollars from various
special interests, some American, most foreign. And several of these
special interests, like the Bangladeshi donor organs cartel are not
good with the word No.
Something has to be done, and done quickly, before Sterling gets
sworn in. Before his donors start demanding a return on their
Ster is looking at me in the mirror, lines of worry etched deeply on his brow. "Now, John Boy, don't do anything rash."
"I'm not gonna kill you," I promise. Assassination was the first
thing I thought of. But me and Ster go way back. And a phony
assassination is too hard to pull off. Where would we find a ringer
with an artificial heart and lungs?
"We could give back the money," he suggests.
"Dude, if a bookie offered to refund your bet after you won a 200 to one long shot, what would you do?"
We are silent, considering the carnage that would ensue if a
professional bookmaker tried something like that. And politics is the
biggest betting racket around, nowadays. Campaign spending in the U.S.
has surpassed the health care budget if you count foreign donations.
Everyone wants something. An exclusive contract with the government.
Rights to water, oil, gold. Environmental protections exemptions. An
ambassadorship. A piece of the moon. A piece of Mars. A pardon.
The door opens. A bright young thing dressed in navy blue chirps "Two minutes to airtime!"
Automatically, Ster graces her with his vote winning smile. "I'll be right there, honey." Blue eyes twinkle mischievously.
The bright young thing bobs her head to hide her blush. Her blonde
pageboy catches the light. Over her shoulder, I glimpse the Third
Party's political control room and its wall of monitors. Most of the
local news feeds are covering the election results. A camera pans over
a crowd of supporters and protesters. A grim faced woman carries a hand
lettered sign that reads America For Americins.
Inspiration is a funny thing. You can be walking along minding your
own business---and then it hits you like a ton of bricks. They say that
the right parietal lobe of the brain is where we get our eureka
moments. The right anterior-superior temporal gyrus to be precise.
Maybe they are correct. I know that after I have a brainstorm, I often
get a headache on the right side of my head. They also say that using
hallucinogenic drugs can build up certain parts of the brain that
govern creativity. If so, I should be a fucking genius, considering all
the peyote and acid I have dropped over the years.
Anyway, I am staring at the monitor when the words America For Americins set off a chain reaction that goes something like: Americins,
lol, just proves why we needs a steady stream of immigrants to keep the
collective IQ up, I wonder what kind of immigrant cost her husband his
job, probably Mexican, if she looked at me, she'd think I was Mexican
even though my Cherokee ancestors were here long before hers, but the
immigrant might be Syrian, the local refineries are hiring lots of
Syrian refugees right now, Sterling is part Syrian, at least from the
chest down, that's where his skin turns from pale pink to light brown,
if the white supremacists out there could see Ster's legs, they might
have second thoughts about their candidate, physically, Ster is more
Syrian than American, you have to be American to run for public office…
The actual eureka moment lasts a fraction of second. And when it is over, I know. The knowledge is bright and clear and clean like the light that God made on the first day of creation, and like light, it is good. Good enough that I don't mind the headache that follows.
Ster delivers a great acceptance speech. "This isn't just my
victory. This is a victory for the American democratic system. Tonight,
we proved that this nation is big enough for more than two parties."
The Third Party supporters in the crowd cheer loudly. The Party folks
nod their heads knowingly. "Tonight, we've put Washington on notice."
More cheers. His blue eyes glitter like twin sapphires. Give him a
white beard, and he could be Santa Claus. Or Jehovah. "No more business
as usual in the halls of Congress…"
Meanwhile, I am on my iBrain, calling in some favors. No details,
not over open lines. You never know who is listening besides every
Next day, the first Sterling Yarborough in 2024 Super Pacs are
formed. Three of them. A few weeks later, as interest in the election
is beginning to die down, one of the "alternative" news sites, the one
that was started by the old hippy but is now owned by Disney runs a
story about the grieving family of Syrians who lost their son to a
sniper--the Syrian whose body is now attached to the head and chest of
the newest Congressman from Houston. Thank God I never had time to take
a meeting with the representatives of the Mouse. They don't own a piece
of Sher, so they have nothing to lose by taking him down.
Four days later, the family members of the dead Syrian are in New York, demanding the return of their dead son's remains.
"Here it comes!" I tell Ster gleefully as we watch the news on the screen that covers an entire wall of our suite in the Hilton.
He grimaces. "Here comes what?" He takes a sip from his gin and
tonic. He isn't supposed to drink. Something about the anti-rejection
drugs, but it has been a hard week. "I'm not giving them back my body."
"No, you're gonna do better than that. You're gonna give them back their son."
His blue eyes widen. "How am I going to do that? I'm not Jesus."
"Shhh!" Close up of the mother, a woman who is probably about forty,
but she looks seventy, what you can see of her behind her veil. Big
tears in her dark brown puppy dog eyes. Abdul Aziz was her only son, a
medical student in the wrong place at the wrong time. The U.S. stole
her only son, his spine, his legs, his organs and gave them to one of
Every third world resident who ever sold a kidney on the black
market gnashed his or her teeth. Every American who ever bought a third
world kidney on the black market felt a little pang of remorse. The
Pentagon produced papers showing that Abdul Aziz's family agreed to the
organ donation. The family insisted that no one knew what they were
signing, since the document was written in English---
Three days before he was scheduled to be sworn into office, Ster met
with the grieving family of his Syrian organ donor. The meeting itself
was private. Just the Congressman elect and his closest adviser, me,
and Abdul Aziz's mother and sister and an Arab interpreter and one
carefully selected cameraman. Sterling was at his best. He had studied
hard in the last two days, and though his Arab vocabulary was limited,
his accent was perfect.
Abdul Aziz's mother, Asmat was swathed from head to toe in black.
The dead man's sister, Saleeha wore more modern clothes, a long grey
skirt and a white blouse with a simple black head scarf.
"I am so sorry for your loss," Sterling began. And then, in Arabic he added "Ummi."
Mother. The Sterling Yarborough charm was turned up to ten. His work
shirt complemented the blue of his eyes. The sleeves were rolled up to
expose a few inches of pale forearm, but the legs that were visible
below his khaki shorts were brown. Abdul Aziz had a birth mark, a mole
in the shape of a crescent moon on his left calf. When Asmat saw it,
she burst into tears and threw her arms around Ster.
"My son! My son!" she exclaimed in broken English. The camera caught it all. The tears, the smiles.
Never doubt the power of motherly love to work miracles.
Sterling was not able to attend his own swearing in ceremony. He was
in Houston, officially changing his name to Abdul Aziz Yarborough.
Under nationality, he wrote in the word "Syrian." "As a Syrian
citizen, I'm not qualified to hold elected office in this country," he
told Simone Perez of CNN in a private interview later that day.
"What convinced you that you are really Abdul Aziz and not Sterling Yarborough," asked Perez.
"When I looked into my mother's eyes, I felt a bond that only a
mother and child can feel. Not so surprising considering that over 60
percent of my body belongs to her son."
Perez leaned forward. Her voice was solemn. "Would you call what you had a spiritual revelation?"
Words like "spiritual" did not scare Ster. Nothing scared him,
that's what made him so good in our line of work. "God--Allah--works in
mysterious ways. But one thing I know---only Allah can make a man.
People who think they can mimic God's work are fooling themselves."
Perez smiled, the satisfied smile of a journalist who knows she has
recorded a classic interview, one that will still be up on YouTube when
we are all dust in the grave. "What are your plans for the future? Are
you going to apply for U.S. citizenship? Will you go back into
"Eventually. But first I want to spend some time getting to know my
mother and sister again. My mother has always wanted a doctor in the
family. Maybe I'll go to med school."
That "eventually" was what saved us. None of the donors wanted to
demand their money back from a man who might well be in Congress in a
few years. All those millions in under the table campaign contributions
stored in offshore banks---all ours with no strings attached. Life did
not get any better than that. I bought a car. And a house. Sterling
hired a tutor to help him study for the MCAT. Asmat and Saleeha moved
into the guest house out back. No, life just didn't get any better than
that. But it could get a lot worse.
I tried to keep my back to the camera as much as possible when
Sterling was being interviewed, but his meeting with Asmat and Saleeha
went viral. The cameraman caught a brief glimpse of me in profile. The
light was bad, and my hair was in my eyes---hell, even my own mother
would not have recognized me if she was still alive, bless her soul,
but facial recognition software has gotten scary good in the last
And so, one bright, sunny June morning as I was letting the cat out
of my new house in River Oaks, the last person in the world I wanted to
see showed up at the front door. It was my ex-wife, Sandy and our son,
whose name I couldn't remember, though I recognized that square jaw and
the straight black hair that I got from my Cherokee grandmother. Behind
them, wearing a big grin was a Eurasian man dressed in a dark blue
suit. The Eurasian was an attorney. A divorce attorney. He opened his
brief case and took out a document which he handed to me.
"John Henry Henderson the Third, you owe my client back child support."
I glanced down at the crisp sheet of paper, then did a double take.
So many zeros after the seven. Who knew it cost so much to raise a
child in the United States?
I guess Ster will have to cut short his vacation from politics.
© 2013 McCamy Taylor
Bio: McCamy Taylor is the long fiction editor for Aphelion Webzine.
E-mail: McCamy Taylor
Comment on this story in the Aphelion Forum
Return to Aphelion's Index page.