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The great debate -- II

"Now that our nation has a newly elected leader, we should expect a number of changes," I stated innocently enough from behind the evening paper. "Is change a good thing, Dad?" asked my 12-year-old son, wrestling with a biographical book report assignment.

"Absolutely. A new broom sweeps clean, says the old maxim."

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"Do you realize," said my 19-year-old daughter, sweeping the kitchen floor, "that you've always been the unchallenged head of this household?"

"Perhaps it's time for a change around here," suggested my wife, on her knees trying to erase muddy footprints from the hallway runner.

"Why don't we have an election to decide who will head this household for the next four years," my son suggested.

"Right on!" agreed his sister. "Let's have a Great Debate for the Office of household Head one week from tonight, to be followed by a secret ballot. Glenn and I will be The Panel and Mom and Dad the opposing candidates. A new broom will be officially presented the victor."

"Now you're talking," my wife said with gusto. "May the best candidate win."

I had the uneasy feeling I had just been sandbagged.

Every night The Panel caucused in the basement, presumably to select a format and compose its questions.

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"The kids seem quite serious about their little charade," I remarked to my honorable opponent while drying the dishes.

"Better be prepared," cautioned my wife. "They're going to uphold the election results. It could be rough."

"Do I look worried" Everyone knows the incumbent has the advantage."

"That may be, but the only votes we can be sure of are the ones we cast for ourselves," my spouse pointed out.

"Keep in mind," I said, "if there's a tie vote, the incumbent remains in office."

"I won't forget," promised the dishwasher.

"All right, we're ready for you!" announced my son from the living room, signaling the commencement of The Great Debate. Two chairs faced a bridge table behind which sat The Panel. A robust log fire crackled in the fireplace. My opponent appeared, clutching a soiled apron, shamelessly attired in paint-splattered jersey, Levi's, and torn sneakers. As befitting my office, I was formally suited, shaved, and pleasantly cologned. I carried a leather notebook bulging with documented proof of my administration's accomplishments and highlights. My wife and I took our seats.

"Here is tonight's format," my daughter began. "Each candidate will be allowed a brief opening statement; next, the panel will explore the candidate's qualifications for HH, and then we will elect by secret ballot. Dad, you may start."

"First, may I thank this august panel for providing your humble servant with an opportunity to review my administration's laudable achievements," I began, crossing my legs in relaxed fashion. "Since I have assumed the high office of Household Head, our mortgage has been more than cut in half, weekly allowances have trebled, school grades have steadily improved, there have been no major conflicts to speak of, and, because of this administrationhs ambitious program of automation, many tedious chores have been eliminated. Overall, a rather impressive record, wouldn't you say?"

"Thank you, Dad," replied my son. "Mom, it's your turn."

"Would you all excuse me for a moment," said the other candidate. "I have to check on a chocolate cream pie in the oven."

"Go right ahead." My son waved her toward his favorite dessert.

"That's a cop-out!" I charged.

Five minutes later my opponent returned with a bowl of popcorn for the panel and her sewing kit. "Would the panel mind if I forgo my opening statement. I'd like to finish this job."

"Permission granted," allowed my daughter, for it meant her ski outfit would be ready in time for her weekend plans.

"Could we get on with the bnusiness at hand," I asked testily.

"Of course," my daughter said. "Dad, how long have you held your present office?"

"I suppose ever since I married your mother . . . I mean . . . I just assumed that . . ."

"Longer than some dictators. Right, Dad?" interjected my son.

"Now just a minute, young man. . ."

"Excuse me," interrupted the aproned candidate, "I think my pie's ready."

I jumped up. "Say, what's going on here!" I demanded, as neatly typed pages of past performances spilled at my feet.

"Who wants a piece of pie?" my wife called from the kitchen.

"Put some chocolate sprinkles on my peace!" yelled her son.

"Order!" gaveled my daughter. "I think we've heard quite enough. It's time to elect."

An hour after the election, I was poking at the embers of a 25-year retrospect of exemplary leadership and wailed, "How could such a thing have happened?"

"A reliable source reports that our newly elected HH bought the election," explained my disappointed spouse.

"You mean there was some wheeling and dealing going on in the basement?"

"Precisely," she confirmed. "It seems our daughter's desire to win resulted in a trade-off.Her old stereo system was up for sale and the price happened to be --"

"-- her brother's vote." I completed bitterly, sweeping up the ashes of the old regime with the symbol of t he new.

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