Les heaved his immense, doughy buttocks up onto the table and sat near Stan and Gary. He sighed and wiped his sweaty forehead. “You two have made things difficult. Do you know why you have made things difficult?”
Stan and Gary stared straight ahead and kept silent.
“I’ll explain it for you,” said Les. “You two—” he pointed a chubby finger at them “—are complete f**king morons. I put both of you in power, I handed you your careers on a platter and made you rich. But then, somewhere along the way, you two dipsh**s got it into your heads that you had something to do with it. You started to think you were smart. You started to think you were actually leaders.” Les shook his head and stared at Stan and Gary. He hopped down from the table, adjusted his robes around his belly, then paced behind the premier and the prime minister. “And you got greedy. You started talking as though you had something useful to say. You wanted to be celebrities, so you put your ugly bloody faces in front of the news cameras every day. You two spouted so much scientific fairy dust that you actually started to believe you were experts. You short-sighted little pricks went all-in on restrictions and mandates and lockdowns, because you got a kick from having that kind of power, didn’t you? Yes, you did. You thought you were political masterminds, but you backed yourselves into a corner, and now our minions in the press can’t keep up. We’ve got a twenty-four-hour-a-day media machine spinning for us, and even that can’t stop the stench of your bullsh** from seeping out to the public. We had a nice little plan in operation, but you two have damn near derailed it.” Les thumped his mammoth hands down onto Stan and Gary’s necks and squeezed them. The two leaders winced and squirmed but refrained from speaking. Les leaned down between them and whispered, “You f**ked up royally, boys.” He released his crushing grip on them, shoving them forward. Stan and Gary rubbed their necks and fixed their robes. Les sat on the table again. “Silly little boys. You’ve been hiding in your bubbles so long you started to think everybody in the country was lining up to kiss your arses. Meanwhile, it seems you haven’t noticed the poll numbers have you two ranked about as popular as a kick to the testicles. Do I need to remind you what a kick to the testicles feels like?”
Gary and Stan trembled and shook their heads. Gary glanced at Les.
“Do you have something to say, Gary?”
Gary looked at him, then lowered his eyes and said, “We… We control the elections though, don’t we?”
“We?” said Les. “No, Gary, we don’t do anything. I control the elections. You have nothing to do with it.”
“Oh yes,” said Gary, “that’s what I—”
Les slammed his fist on the table and bellowed, “I control the elections!”
Gary and Stan cowered and lowered their heads.
Les took a breath and wiped the side of his mouth. His face was like a sweaty tomato. He brought his voice back down to just above a raspy whisper. “Yes, I decide the election outcomes. But the next election is three months away, and if I put a pair as repulsive as you two back in office, people are going to start asking questions. And I don’t like it when people ask questions. That won’t do at all. I want the right election outcome, and I want people to believe that’s what they voted for.” Les folded his hands together on his belly. “So, I have two options. One, I ‘Harold Holt’ the both of you…”
Gary groaned and buried his face in his hands. Stan stared up at Les in terror.
Les smirked. “That’s right, Stanley. If an Australian prime minister can disappear mysteriously, no one would bat an eye if a lowly state premier went missing.”
Stan’s eyes widened, and his lips quivered. The colour drained from his face.
“Damn it, Stanley,” said Les. “If you start crying, I’ll take that chair you’re sitting on and beat you into a coma.”
Stan sniffed and huffed, trying to compose himself.
“Sit up straight,” said Les.
The two leaders sat upright.
“Option two,” said Les, “is to make you both likeable. It’ll take a bloody miracle, but I think I can work it.” He leaned threateningly toward Gary and Stan. “But it will require your absolute… f**king… obedience.” He glared at the two men, then leaned back and sighed. “Now I know how hard it is for you two to follow instructions, so I’ll let you make the choice—option one or option two. Would you like me to have you killed, or do you think you can keep your egos in check until after the election?”
“Option two,” said Gary. “I can do what I’m told.”
“And what about you, Stanley?”
“Option two for me as well, please,” he said.
Les inhaled a long breath through his nostrils, then nodded. “All right then. Good. Now, it turns out there are circumstances we can use to distract the voters. I’ll get to work on that. What I want you two to focus on for now is dialling back the Covid safety measures. Start talking about easing restrictions, lifting mandates—”
Stan looked at Gary, then back at Les. “End the mandates?”
Les closed his eyes and breathed slowly and loudly. “Stanley,” he said, “if you interrupt me again, I will sit on you. And I’m a heavy man, Stanley.” He sighed and loosened the robes at his neck. “No, I did not say to end the mandates. I said lift the mandates. If we lift them, that means we can put them back whenever we want. Understand?”
“Right. So talk about lifting mandates, open a few businesses, let schoolchildren take their masks off at lunchtime. Give vague timeframes, let people know it will be dependent on the science—the usual bullsh**. Until the election is over, make the voters see a light at the end of the tunnel.” Les’s eyes narrowed, and he licked his lips. “If you throw a dog a little treat, it’s amazing how quickly he’ll forget you kicked him.” He got down from the table and adjusted his robes. “Now, there’s someone else who wants a chat with you.” He turned and waddled around the table and disappeared into the darkness.
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