“Yes, she died last night.”
“I heard that there's a memorial service this Saturday.”
“A memorial service?”
“Yes, she's being cremated.”
“The family is afraid that someone will desecrate her grave if they bury her.”
“People are such animals.”
A companionable silence settled between the two as they continued sipping their drinks and absorbing the exchange. Barbara broke the silence.
“It's just terrible.”
“The people don't appreciate what she did for them.” She emphasized “the people”, expelling the words as though they tasted bad.
Debbie manipulated her face into a noncommittal expression and took another sip.
“Just one vote,” Barbara persisted. “Just one, and it was the right one.” She emphasized “right” with a flourish of her free hand.
“Unfortunately, 'the right' didn't appreciate it,” Debbie replied and smiled at her turn of phrase.
Barbara harrumphed at the reference and looked annoyed.
“Are you going?” Debbie asked.
“I can't. I wasn't invited,” Barbara replied and looked away, a faint red glow creeping up her neck. She squirmed in her chair as though her skirt had become twisted too tightly around her hips and Debbie smiled behind her cup. Barbara caught the look. “Well, are you going?” she demanded.
Debbie shrugged and made a moue. “I won't be in town.”
“Something you can't delay?”
It was Debbie's turn to squirm and she focused on a piece of lint on her sleeve as she concocted an excuse. “No,” she replied with an air of resignation. “I have nonrefundable tickets.”
“Where are you going?” Barbara asked leaning with her elbows on the table, closing in as for a kill.
Debbie temporized. “Out of town,” she said, then added, “on business.”
Debbie flashed a wan smile and took another sip.
Both women turned their attention to the pedestrians passing by the window as they allowed the pressure of the conversation to settle. It was Debbie's turn to break the silence. “Why must they vilify her,” she began “it was just one vote.”
Barbara closed her eyes and nodded remembering. “And it was the right... the correct vote,” she said.
“Yes,” Debbie agreed. “Ratifying the U.N. treaty was the correct thing to do. Guns are bad.”
“And gun owners are idiots,” Barbara added.
Both women nodded to acknowledge each other's sagacity.
Another woman sitting nearby, reading a paper and drinking a cappuccino snickered. Barbara and Debbie turned and scowled at her.
The woman ignored them.
The two turned their attention back to their own table when the woman failed to acknowledge their nonverbal attack. Debbie leaned closer. “It's people like that that make me sick,” she declared.
Barbara nodded in response.
“We were only trying to save them.”
The woman laughed again, louder this time.
Debbie turned to the woman at the next table. “Do you have a problem?” she asked.
The woman relaxed her grip on her paper and smiled at the two. “No,” she replied.
“It's not polite to listen to other people's conversations,” Debbie reminded her.
The woman mulled this over a moment before responding. “Even if you're talking about 'other people'?” she responded.
“We weren't talking about 'you',” Debbie demurred.
“Oh, but you were,” the woman replied. “I'm one of those people who helped vote out the Senator – you are talking about 'her', aren't you? The one who died last night?”
“You're proud of dismissing a dedicated public servant?” Barbara challenged.
The woman took a breath and lapsed into thought for a moment before smiling and answering. “Yes, as a matter of fact,” she said, “I'm very proud of voting her out as well as all the others who were more loyal to an ideology than the Constitution.”
The two women snorted in disgust. Debbie stammered, “Well, I never...”
The woman spoke, almost to herself, “I'm sure you have, many times.”
Barbara composed herself first. “Aren't you afraid?” she asked the woman.
The woman laughed. “No.”
“Why should I be afraid of them? Gun violence was dropping precipitously in the years before Obama signed the U.N. treaty even though gun sales had been rising even faster.”
“But...” Debbie interrupted.
“But, what?” the woman continued. “You asked why I wasn't afraid. I told you. I look at facts and statistics. What did the Senator use to justify her decision to support the President's political ploy to circumvent the Constitution?”
Debbie turned in her chair to mount a debate. “We wanted to put an end to gun violence.”
“My friend and I both work... worked on the Senator's staff.”
The woman nodded and responded with a simple, “Oh.” “But,” the woman continued after a moment, “as I said, the facts, the statistics didn't support those actions.”
“It was our intention to do what was right... needed, regardless of the facts,” Debbie countered.
Again, the woman nodded. “Yes, we could all see that,” she responded. “That is why my friends and I – and most other voters – decided she had to go.”
“Just because of one vote,” Debbie protested.
“Oh, no,” the woman replied. “That was just the final straw. Your Senator voted many times in her long career in Congress for legislation that had no discernible merit.”
Debbie's friend, Barbara, leaned forward as though getting ready to weigh in on the debate but the woman appeared tired of it and held up a hand. “I'm sorry to have wasted your time,” she said.
Debbie and Barbara hesitated not seeming sure what to say.
“The Senator has passed and it serves no purpose to castigate her further,” she explained. “Obama is gone. Control of the Senate has been turned over to a new set of rascals, and the U.N. treaty has been repudiated.”
The two friends sighed and then put on brave faces as the woman gathered her things and turned to leave.
“Someday,” Debbie announced, “the public will realize the blessing that the Senator was and build a monument to her.”
The woman turned back suddenly. “Are you kidding,” she exclaimed. “You want a monument to her? Let her husband finance it. He became a billionaire feeding at the public trough thanks to her influence.”
Debbie looked mortified. Barbara appeared ready to jump from her chair and grab the woman, but settled for a parting shot. “It's the public's responsibility to recognize the Senator's contributions.”
The woman stopped and bowed her head as though lost deep in thought. The two friends watched and waited until she looked up at them wearing a sad smile. “No,” she said. “We can't afford to build monuments to the politicians who bankrupted us.”