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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
p align="center" style="text-align:center;"> This is a work of fiction set in the real world.
Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously
Any other resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Capitol Hill - Summer of '22 Book VI - 3. Political Party

“No!” Liebe kicked at the white, satin slippers in her grandmother’s hand. “Quiero los tacones rojos.”

Pam looked confused while Owen grinned. Although the terrible-twos tantrums did not manifest themselves often, Liebe was opinionated and headstrong. At CJ’s request, she agreed to wear the same white sundress she walked down the aisle at the Michigan wedding in. Her fathers simultaneously shrugged when they looked at each other after her footwear complaint.

“What the heck, mate; it’ll look cute.” Owen opened a cabinet once CJ nodded his agreement and retrieved red Converse hi-tops; the fathers had bought them for her soon after returning to Washington. “Here, Mum; put these on her instead.”

“Is this what she asked for? I swear, she mixes English and Spanish so much, I have trouble understanding her at times.” She held the white slippers in front of the girl one more time. “Are you sure, Liebe? I think these would look cuter on you.”

“No!” She pointed at the sneakers. “I want those.”

Standing in the doorway, Geoff chuckled. “Little bugger knows what she wants and isn’t afraid of demanding it. You boys were right. She’s bossy.”

“You have no idea, Dad. Once she sets her mind on something, she’s relentless. Much like CJ. I blame him for it.”

“Screw you, Oz.”


The car dropped them off in front of Forbes Grille, the private dining club CJ had belonged to for years. Located in an ornate, two-story building midway between the U.S. Capitol and the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, the establishment catered to politicians, lobbyists, and business people. With Liebe in his arms, and Owen beside him, CJ smiled the moment he walked into the surprisingly modern reception.

“Mr. Abelló, Mr. Liston, welcome back.” The older man with a head of silver hair held out his hand for the two men to shake while looking at Liebe. “You, little one, are a sight for sore eyes. You look adorable, and I like your red shoes.” His smile matched CJ’s.

“It’s good to be back, Nelson. You’ll see more of us now that we’re in Washington again.” He turned slightly so the man could see Pam and Geoff clearly. “These are Owen’s parents, Pam and Geoff Liston. They’re visiting from Australia.”

Nelson Wheatly, the establishment’s long-time maitre’d, slightly bowed his head. “Mr. Liston, Mrs. Liston, welcome to Washington and Forbes Grille. I hope you enjoy your time in our city.” The man was in his seventies, had previously retired, but returned to work when members disapproved of his successor.

“Listen, Nelson; we’re meeting


The shout interrupted him midsentence. He cast his eyes sideways for a moment and nodded. “Marco.” CJ immediately returned his attention to Nelson. “As I was saying, we’re” He was again interrupted.

“I was horrified when I heard about what you went through in Mexico. I’m so happy to see you’re all doing well.”

CJ ignored the man. “Nelson” For the third time, he was unable to finish his thought; Pam was the one interrupting him this time.

“CJ, you’re being rude. Aren’t you going to shake his hand and introduce us?”

“Mum!” Owen sounded appalled. He reached for Liebe. “Come on, Munchkin, I’ll hold you for a bit.”

Unencumbered by the girl, CJ loudly exhaled and faced his mother-in-law, trying to control his anger and not rip her face off. Reaching out, he took one of Pam’s hands in his and patted it. The action and his tone were intentionally condescending. “I’m not being rude, Pam. But in a city full of hypocrisy, I try very hard not to jump into the quagmire. I prefer not to shake hands with people I have zero respect for.”

Pam’s jaw dropped, Owen smirked, and Geoff placed an arm around his wife’s waist, pulling her back a step.

“When an elected official who swore to support and defend the constitution tries to overthrow the government, everyone should be appalled. But it turns out some who took the same oath would rather remain quiet in the face of an insurrection. They are cowards and do not deserve respect.

“In my opinion, when someone supports passing a law stripping women of the right to control their bodies but deem efforts to protect my marriage to Owen as unimportant and unnecessary, they deserve nothing but scorn.” Although CJ maintained eye contact with his mother-in-law, Owen’s facial expression told him his words were hitting home with Rubio.

“And when those same cowards, running for reelection themselves, buy into the homophobia spewed by their state’s governor and plan to air campaign ads vilifying the gay community, claiming we recruit boys to turn them into girls, they cease to exist in my book.”

Nelson was next to interrupt CJ. “Senator Rubio, my job’s to ensure our members enjoy their time in their club, and you’re upsetting Mr. Abelló. He’s a member, and you’re not. Would you mind waiting for your host over there?” He pointed at the far side of the lobby.

CJ returned his attention to the maitre’d. “Sorry about the outburst, Nelson.”

“No need to apologize, Mr. Abelló. You were interrupted while trying to tell me something?” Nelson acted as if CJ trashing the senator, and he dismissing the man, were inconsequential events not worthy of further discussion.

“Yeah… We’re being joined by another gentleman

“I’m here.”

Turning, CJ found James Fairfax raising his camera.

Nelson spoke before CJ could. “I’m sorry, sir. Photography’s only allowed in the private rooms.”

“My apologies.” James stashed the device in a pocket.

“Since your party’s all here, we can sit you right away. Would you prefer the main room or one of the small private ones?”

Owen was the one to reply. “The main one.”

Nelson smiled. “Excellent choice.” He handed five menus to the server waiting a step behind him. “I’ll have someone bring a booster seat for the little one.”

“Thank you, Nelson.”

“My pleasure, Mr. Liston.”

On his way to their table, CJ waved at a man and a woman sitting with two others. His greeting was returned as Owen sat the girl between him and his mother.

Geoff was the first to speak. “Bloody hell, what was that about?”

“Give me a break, Geoff. Can I at least order a cocktail first? Oz?” Owen vigorously nodded while retrieving a sippy cup from their backpack, and CJ turned to the server. “We’ll take an apple juice for the girl, and the two of us will have Hendricks on the rocks with a lime.” He waved a hand at the others. “Who wants what?”

Once their drinks had been delivered, and they had ordered food, CJ sipped his cocktail, sighed, and glanced at his in-laws. “That was Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Geoff.”

“He obviously knows you guys.”

“Yeah… I interned for him here in Washington in 2015. In 2016, he ran for president, and I coincidentally happened to be in Miami on the day of his official announcement. He invited me, and I attended. Afterward, he asked me to work on his campaign. I declined.”


CJ noticed the reporter had placed his phone on the table and assumed it was on. They had previously agreed to be recorded. He reminded himself to be careful with his phrasing. “He refused to support same-sex marriage, which the Supreme Court was considering at the time.”

“Did his being a Republican have anything to do with your refusal to support him?” The reporter had also placed a small notebook on the table and furiously scribbled on it.

“His political party did not influence my decision. But his buying into the Reps' attacks on social liberties sure did.”

Owen added his own comment. “We don’t judge candidates we support based on their political party affiliation, James. CJ’s always said those who vote a party’s slate in its entirety are fools. I agree. We try to evaluate individuals on what they stand for. So far this year, we’ve sent money to Liz Cheney. She’s a Wyoming representative we disagree with most of the time, but we feel she is principled. We’re also supporting Katie Mulcahey, who’s running for the House of Representatives in Idaho. Both women are Republicans.”

“Are you also backing any Democrats?”

CJ nodded. “We are. Several. We’ve already sent the maximum allowed to the candidate running against Rubio this year. We’re also supporting Reverend Warnock in Georgia, and Captain Kelly in Arizona. And although he hasn’t announced his intent to run for reelection in 2024 yet, we’ll back Virginia’s Senator Kaine if and when he does, and I’ll probably volunteer for him. ”

“Any of them going to win?”

“Unfortunately, it’s likely some of the ones we prefer will lose. Florida’s gone from being a swing state to solid red.” CJ glanced at Geoff and Pam. “That’s the color associated with Republicans. Anyway, James, Florida’s governor’s a calculating bastard, playing to the worst instincts in people. He’s pushed legislation against providing medical care to transgendered kids, limiting how controversial issues can be taught in schools, and outright banning the discussion of topics like gay relationships.

“Hell, he’s even complained about reading time hosted by drag queens and suggested parents taking their kids to such events should be prosecuted.”

“I’m assuming Senator Rubio buys into all that. How do you know he plans to air the ads you mentioned?”

Owen cracked up. “Serendipity.”

“He’s right.” CJ grinned while nodding. “My grandparents live in Miami, and they’re all registered Republicans. This spring, someone contacted my grandfather about taking part in a political focus group.”

“Was that because of you?”

“Fuck, no.” CJ raised a hand to cover his mouth and glanced at Liebe. Fortunately, the girl was not paying attention, too busy stuffing her mouth with bread sticks. “If the company running the show had realized there was a tenuous connection with the candidate, I don’t think they would have reached out to Abuelo. I assume they picked registered Republicans at random.”

“So your grandfather saw the proposed ads and told you?”

“You got it, mate. CJ’s grandparents are very protective of us. You should have seen my husband’s reaction when his grandfather called. CJ looked ready to kick the crap out of Rubio. The senator might have fared better today if we hadn’t heard about the ads.”

CJ shrugged while nodding.

“I’m curious, Owen. Why did you request a table in the main room?”

“Oh, a couple of reasons. One’s that since we’ve been away for a year, it’s a chance for people to realize we’re back in town. The two CJ waved at? They’re with Ernst & Young, our accountants. They’re part of the team that services our account.”

Geoff smirked. “A whole team, eh? How hard can your taxes be?”

“You have no idea, Dad. Salary and investment income are easy to deal with, but we have interests in multiple entities. We own a piece of homes in New York, Colorado, and California. We own parts of a restaurant, a sports franchise, a real estate development company, and who knows what else. Plus, we have residual income from CJ’s book and the documentary we produced. Although everything’s filed electronically, they give us a hard copy of the return. This year it was over an inch thick.”

“Okay, you need a team.” Geoff chuckled.

James prodded Owen to finish answering his previous question. “You said a couple of reasons for choosing the main dining room.”

“Yeah… Not sure if you saw Rubio’s face while CJ talked to Mum, but he was shocked. And when Nelson asked him to step away, I thought the man was gonna have a heart attack. These damn people all think their poop doesn’t stink, but they’re most definitely wrong. He was on his phone when we left the vestibule, and I suspect he was changing his lunch plans. But in case I’m wrong, I want to make sure he sees us and realizes we’re not about to go hide in a private room. I want him to be reminded of what we think of him.”


“Yep. CJ and I are in full agreement. If you mention this in the article, make sure you note CJ never used his name when talking to my mother. He can’t claim he was insulted unless he admits he’s done the things CJ told Mum about. My husband’s smart. And devious when necessary.”

Pam, looking exasperated, spoke at last. “I dislike politics, and I don’t know why you two are so involved in that stuff. We could have just walked away without saying anything to him.”

“You’re barking up the wrong tree, honey. Didn’t the guest list at their wedding tip you off our son-in-law’s a political beast?”

CJ smirked and nodded. “I planned to ignore him, Pam. It’s why I turned away after acknowledging him.” CJ stared at his mother-in-law until she averted her eyes. “However, you precluded me from doing so by claiming I was being rude, which encouraged me to explain the reasons for my contempt.”

Fortuitously for all involved, particularly Pam, there was no opportunity for further comments; their food was delivered at that moment. They had ordered the day's catch with vegetables for Liebe, and Owen cut everything into bite-sized pieces for her.

After tying a bib around her neck, he placed the plate in front of the girl. “Enjoy it, Munchkin. Try not to drop too much on the floor.” Her fingers had already shoved a piece of fish in her mouth by the time he was done speaking.

CJ ordered a second round of cocktails before attacking his salade niçoise. A couple of bites into it, James asked another question.

“You both dislike the senator, but is there anything about him or his record you support? Could you ever see yourselves working with him?”

Owen nodded, but it was CJ who replied. “Definitely! We don’t have to like someone or agree with everything they stand for to cooperate with them on specific projects. Rubio has shown a willingness to work on immigration reform and is a strong supporter of the military. He also rails against Russia and China on a regular basis. I happen to agree with him on those issues and would be willing to support efforts in those areas. But as I mentioned to Pam, this town’s full of hypocrites who sweep disagreements under the rug way too often. I’d rather speak my mind.

“When I turned down Rubio’s offer to work on his campaign, I told him exactly why and that I did not particularly like him. I think today he was reminded of my opinion, that I’ve not changed my tune, and that I’m unimpressed by him or his office.”

“I assume your comments about insurrection were due to your previous president’s actions. Why are we still talking about that nearly two years after the 2020 election? Didn’t multiple courts rebuff his claims?”

“They did, but that hasn’t stopped him or his acolytes from spewing lies to this day. I’m harping on it because the traitor continues to claim he won. Because the majority of candidates he supports in this year’s elections parrot his fraud claims. And because everyone knows he plans to run again in 2024. Unfortunately, I fear unless Republicans stop sticking their heads in the sand, they’ll be faced with a dying party. As long as he’s alive and talking crap, I’ll continue to trash him and his supporters every chance I get.”

The two cocktails helped CJ calm down and allowed the heat from his encounter to dissipate. By the time they were finished with lunch, he was much more relaxed than when they sat down.

“I’ll take care of that.” Geoff reached for the check presenter the server placed in front of CJ.

CJ leaned back in his chair, grinning, while Owen chuckled. “I think you’re gonna have to let CJ handle the bill, Dad.”

“Nah, I got it. I assume they take credit cards.” When he reached for his wallet, CJ snatched the bill back.

“Nope. And they don’t take cash either.” CJ opened the folder and signed the check with the provided pen. “Sorry, Geoff. It is a private club, after all. They’ll charge the card they have on file and send me a summary at the end of the month.”

On the sidewalk outside, Owen put Liebe on the ground and squatted in front of her. “We’re going to the place CJ and I got married at, Munchkin. Do you want to walk a little?” The girl nodded and took her father’s hand when he stood. When she eventually asked to be carried, Geoff picked her up.


President Franklin D. Roosevelt inaugurated the Thomas Jefferson Memorial on April 13, 1943, on the 200th anniversary of Jefferson’s birth. The monument celebrates the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and the nation’s third president. Built at the edge of the Tidal Basina man-made reservoir between the Potomac River and the Washington Channelit sits at the southern corner of a diamond, with the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and The Capitol occupying the other points. The Washington Monument rose at the center of the configuration.

The architect of the domed, classical colonnade drew inspiration from Jefferson’s design of the Virginia State Capitol, the University of Virginia, and Monticello, his home.

Owen sat on the ground and drew Liebe next to him. “You know that picture you like so much of Ceej, me, and all your uncles?” When the girl nodded, he first looked at James. “Our wedding party.” He removed his backpack and sat Liebe on his lap. “This is where it was taken, Munchkin. This is where Ceej and I got married.”

Whether it registered with her or not, they could not figure out since her attention was diverted to the soap bubbles jar Owen pulled out of his bag. The moment he blew the first ones, she ran off chasing after them. While Pam followed the girl around, the other men joined Owen on the grass.

“This is definitely a gorgeous view. I can see it being a great spot for an outdoor wedding.” James spoke while flipping through his notebook, apparently in search of something.

“You should see it when the cherry trees are in bloom. I’m not sure I’ve seen a prettier view in all our travels.” CJ’s comment drew nods of agreement from Owen.

“Why didn’t you have the ceremony while the blossoms were at their height?”

“Because it’s not an exact date when they pop up,” CJ explained. “Because early spring can be chilly at times, and we wanted to wear shorts. And because we didn’t want to deal with the thousands of visitors they attract.”

The idea of Japanese cherry trees along the Potomac River and the Tidal Basin was proposed nearly three decades before the first ones were planted. In January 1910, then President William Taft ordered the destruction of the first trees delivered from Japan; they were infested with insects and parasitic worms.

In early 1912, some three thousand new ones arrived as a gift from the people of Japan to the people of the United States. A few days after their arrival, First Lady Helen Taft and the wife of the Japanese ambassador planted the first two of what would, in time, become thousands of them throughout the city.

“Was the view the reason you chose the site?”

“That and the fact Jefferson’s one of my heroes.” CJ grinned when Owen rolled his eyes between blowing bubbles. “Owen’s heard this countless times. That’s why he’s making faces.”

“What is it you admire about President Jefferson?”

“He was a Renaissance man. Philosopher, politician, architect, farmer, vintner…” CJ glanced at Geoff and winked. “Our Declaration of Independence is one of the most beautiful documents I’ve ever read, and he was its principal author. He championed the separation of church and state, which to a non-religious person like me, is a big deal. And he was a champion of state rights, which dovetails with my belief government should be as local as possible.

“Of course, Richard Nixon twisted that into code for states being able to discriminate based on race.” CJ took a deep breath and waited a moment before concluding. “Did you know the first black person elected to Congress was a black Republican from Mississippi? It was Lincoln’s party that had fought a war to liberate slaves after all.

“Jefferson’s acknowledged as the founder of the Democratic party. Interestingly, each party has deviated from their roots, and they hold different opinions these days.”

James chuckled. “Thanks for the history lesson, but I think my editor would excise anything over a one-line mention. What plans do the two of you have for the near future?”

“Owen’s still with the Nature Conservancy, although as a consultant instead of an employee. He’ll pick what projects he gets involved with. Me? I’m going back to school. I’m meeting with a couple of people at Georgetown University tomorrow and hopefully registering for the upcoming semester. I’m gambling they’ll take me even though I missed the application deadline. Between being an alumn and the recent notoriety, Owen’s sure they’ll jump at having me back on campus.”

The interview stretched into the late afternoon. When done, James thanked them and mentioned he might be in touch if he needed clarification on anything. He planned to meet with CJ’s fathers the next day, visit the universities they had both attended, and stop by CJ’s high school. He wanted to get a feel for the institutions that had helped shape them.



Owen cracked up while Geoff and Pam looked amused. It had been about a year since they had last been at Annie’s Paramount Steak House, and CJ was still recognized. Located in the Dupont Plaza area, it was a fixture of the gayborhood, having opened in 1948. A favorite of theirs, it was named a James Beard America's Classics Award Winner in 2019.

They asked to be seated in the section worked by the server who recognized them. Geoff put on his reading glasses to look at the wine list Owen passed him. “How often do you guys come here?”

“First time since we returned.” CJ had remembered to toss a fresh bib into their ever-present backpack and retrieved it at that point. “But prior to moving, we were regulars. Even after Liebe was born, we’d come here for dinner or brunch at least a couple of times a month.”

“Yeah… Someone that loyal would be remembered.” Geoff removed his glasses and passed the wine list to Owen. “How about the 2015 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from Iris Vineyards? The region’s producing some incredible wines, and I’ve been trying them whenever possible. Might be a little light for a heavy steak.”

Owen nodded. “But it’d be good with a filet or with their pork chops. What do you think, Ceej?”

“That I’m not about to offer an opinion on wine when I have the two of you and Pam at the table. I’ll have the petit filet, and so will Liebe. I’ll eat whatever she doesn’t.”

“When it comes to wines, Jack’s the only one whose opinion I’d trust over these two.” Pam referred to Jack Liston, Owen’s paternal grandfather. “CJ, I was paying more attention to Liebe than the conversation when we were at the Jefferson Memorial, but did I hear you say you’re not officially in at school?”

“Yep. Returning to school this fall wasn’t part of the plan; we thought we’d be in Mexico for a few years. Then poop hit the fan, and we decided to accelerate our timetable. I always planned to go back, but I didn’t do any of the required paperwork to get admitted.”

“And you think you can get in anyway? How?”

CJ felt his cheeks get warmer. “It’s not something I’m really proud of, but I already met with them earlier this month and made sure they knew my parents have contributed lots of money to the school, that Owen and I have too, that I won’t be asking for financial aid, and that I’m friendly with some important people.”

Needlessly, Owen came to his defense. “It wasn’t like he listed those things and demanded admission, Mum. I know CJ better than that. He can be subtle when it suits him.” The wink he gave his husband was rewarded with a grin. “I’m sure all those things, particularly the fact he already has an undergraduate degree from the school, and that he tends to generate positive publicity wherever he goes


—they’d be stupid not to snatch him before another school does. Those Jesuits are smart. And it’s not like he’d be keeping another student out; they’ll just add one more person to the class.”

When the server delivered the wine, Geoff did the tasting and approved of it. “Let me change the subject. Are we done with the reporter?”

CJ and Owen nodded. “We are. Now it’s up to Cap and Mr. A to make us look good when they talk to him tomorrow.”


“When are you going to slap Mum down?”

CJ chuckled and slid in beside his husband, resting his head next to his on the same pillow. “And what makes you think I’ll be doing anything like that?”

“Because I know you too well. And because if you don’t say anything, I will. She talked to you today like she used to talk to Spencer and me when we were kids.”

“Yeah, it took some self-control to smile and not call her something nasty or bitch-slap her. I’ll wait until they’re ready to leave; I don’t want to ruin her and Geoff’s time with Liebe. Haven’t figured exactly how, but that’s two visits in a row she disses me, and she needs to stop.”

“I know. Whatever you decide, I’m good with it.”

Copyright © 2023 Carlos Hazday; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Story Discussion Topic

Welcome to the discussion thread for CJ’s series. All things CJ are fair game, I simply ask you be respectful of others. I will actively participate in the discussion. Ask questions, speculate about what’s coming, or bitch about what happened. We’re now open for business!    
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