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    Wombat Bill
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May contain graphic sexual content

Catering With Benefits (3) - An Appetite for More - 28. You’re Angry With Him Aren’t You?

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Thomas tried not to take phone calls while he was driving, unless it was Jared or Jonathan, so by the time he got to his office, there were voicemail messages and emails banked up awaiting his attention. He dialled up his voicemail account and heard the following “You have fourteen new messages. First new message.....”

“Good morning Mr Steadman, this is Hilda from St. Martha’s nursing home, please call me regarding the planned presentation for next week.”

“Second new message....”

“I need to speak to you urgently regarding Mr Price’s visit to St. Vincent’s shelter, there may be a problem....”

“Third new message....”

“This is Rodney, scout leader for Eastern Wallaby scout group, I have heard some disturbing news that I need to discuss with you. Please call me as soon as you get this message.”

The messages went on, all with a similar tone and degree of urgency. Thomas was beginning to worry, but listened to all the messages before returning any calls. The last message was from Harmony Productions, advising that the promo videos were ready and would be dispatched today.

‘Ah finally some good news.’ Thomas thought.

He then set about making his calls. After speaking to one nursing home and the scout leader, it was becoming clear what the rest of the messages meant.

“Thanks for calling back Mr Steadman. I need to tell you that I am very concerned about the news on the front page of the paper a few days ago. Mr Price may be a generous man in wanting to gift my scout group a new TV, but when it comes to the group, I cannot countenance being associated with someone of such notoriety. Our parents will not take kindly to me accepting gifts, on behalf of the scouts from such a person. I’m sorry but we will have to cancel the presentation.”

“But Mr Price has not done anything illegal or improper Rodney.”

“Not illegal maybe, but most people would not consider his actions proper, even in these enlightened times. I have no problem with gay people, in fact we even teach inclusiveness here. However, when a married man’s extra marital affairs are public knowledge I have to consider the moral repercussions for young impressionable minds. I’m sure you understand my position. I thank you for the offer, but unfortunately we must now decline.”

Thomas considered it was no use trying to convince Rodney otherwise.

“Thank you for letting me know Rodney.”

Each call after that delivered the same outcome.

He did not call Price immediately; instead he went about salvaging what was left of the campaign. The gay function should be fine, they would still be on board, he thought, so he checked on the bookings for the senior citizens function which was free and had been opened for a week.

<>

While Thomas was returning all the calls, his voicemail took another message. It was from Jared.

As he was so busy with other matters, Thomas had put Jared in charge of monitoring their social media sites. He reasoned that as all he did most days was sit around the lunch room he had plenty of time to help out.

“Yeah what’s up, having a busy day, sipping tea and sharing jokes with the storemen?”

“Something like that, but I have also been checking on the sites as you asked me to do.”

“Please tell me you have some good news, I’ve had an absolutely shit morning.”

“I’m afraid there’s another shovel load of shit coming your way. There’s a lot of chatter about the news item and it seems Price is well and truly out of favour. There are a couple of supporters saying it’s nobody’s business, but most are against him.”

“Shit, that’s all I needed. Have you seen him since driving him in?”

“No.”

“Ok, let’s leave it that way but I’ll have to come in and face the music.”

“Why what else has happened?”

Thomas explained the problem to Jared then set off for the city.

***

When he parked he called Jared “Where are you?”

“Sunning myself on the rooftop, are you coming up?”

“I’d love to....”

“Oh good, I’ll find another sunlounge for you.”

“...but I have a fucking job to do, and so do you now. Get your gear on and meet me in Prism’s office.”

“No need to be so shirty, you only have to ask.”

Thomas hung up without another word and stepped into the lift.

<>

“How’s the boss today?” Thomas asked Prism.

“Same as usual.”

“Oh that bad is it? Well he’s going to be worse after I speak to him.”

“Why, what’s he done now?”

“For once it’s not him, but everyone else.” Prism looked quizzically at Thomas.
“It’s the repercussions from that newspaper article, things are not good.”

“Sorry to hear that, is there anything I can do?”

“Coffee would be good.” He replied as Jared arrived. “Better make it two and if you think the boss wants one as well.”

“I’ll let him know you’re here, then I’ll get that coffee.”

 

“This is a surprise, should I have been expecting you, oh and Jared too.”

“No, this is an impromptu visit as we have a matter to discuss.”

“I don’t like the sound of that and why are you here also Jared?”

Jared looked at Thomas for guidance. “Jared has some news to report also.”

“Have I?”

“Yes, the social media reports.”

“Got it.”

“Will you two get on with it and stop behaving like an old married couple.”

“Jonathan, brace yourself . This morning the charities cancelled your presentations.”

“All of them?”

“Except the migrant assistance centre, but they probably don’t read the local papers anyway.”

“Should I know why?”

“I think you do, they’ve all read the expose and don’t want to be associated with you. I know it sounds unfair, but as they say, it’s their reputations on the line as well.”

“Bloody hell, where does that leave us?”

“With no good news stories.”

“And plenty of bad ones.” Jared added.

“Yes, thank you Jared.” Thomas retorted.

“No, let him speak, what is it you have?”

“The social media posts are mostly negative and some very nasty comments.”

“Well, get them taken down immediately.”

“That can’t be done Jonathan.”

“Why not?”

“Because we don’t control what goes up on the site.”

“We could close the accounts completely.” offered Thomas.

“Even that can take up to a month.”

“Just do it.” demanded Jonathan.

“Right on to it.”

There was a knock at the door and Prism entered “Sorry to interrupt Mr Price but this parcel just arrived for you and I thought it might be important. It’s from Harmony Productions. Isn’t that the people who were here shooting your videos?”

“Yes, thank you Prism.” He replied as she handed the package to Jared.

“You can put that straight in the bin.” said Price disappointedly. “Now Steadman listen here....”

Jared interrupted “You’re angry with him aren’t you?”

“Of course I am, is that a surprise?”

“It’s just that you only call him Steadman when you’re angry.”

“How observant of you. Isn’t there something else you could be doing?”

“I could polish the Spirit of Ecstasy again.”

“Do you know the mascot is cast in a special stainless steel that does not need polishing? In fact with excessive polishing all the fine detail of the mascot will be worn away, so find something else to do.”

Thomas stood by dumbfounded by this exchange, the likes of which he had not heard from them before.

“What are you waiting for, onya bike.”

“Or the Roller.”

“Enough Jared” snapped Thomas.

“Gentlemen or should I say, bitches, stop your bickering.” Thomas’ eyes widened and Jared said, “I’m going, bye Jonathan.”

“Can you remind Prism about the coffee on your way out?” Thomas asked.

“Fuck coffee.” said Price, I’ve got something better in that cupboard behind you Thomas.”

“I’ll get it for you Jonathan.” offered Jared.

“Thomas can get it, as I recall you were leaving.”

“Yes, of course.”

After Thomas poured two Scotches, Price asked “Now, do we have a campaign or not Stead...er Thomas?”

“We still have the gay community behind us and there’s a seniors’ function coming up also. Pensioners always show up for a freebie.”

“But will they vote for me?”

“If we can get then in the room, we at least have a shot at getting their attention.”

“Ok, then proceed as planned.”

***

A few days later Edward called Thomas to update him on the bookings for the gay dinner and the seniors’ lunch.

“Hi Edward how’s things with you. You’re a busy man these days with all your projects.”

“Well, I’ve had a busy morning on the phone. It hasn’t stopped ringing.”

“That sounds good, lots of bookings coming in?”

“No, on the contrary. I’ve spent all morning taking cancellations.”

“What for?”

“Everything. It seems the oldies are pissed off with Price, which I suppose is understandable given the times they come from. But what surprises me is there is a backlash also from the gay community.”

“Why, surely they now see him as one of them.”

“Not quite, married closeted queens are not in favour these days. The people I’ve spoken to tell me he is seen as a traitor to the side; pretending to be one thing but really something else. Some see his actions as a betrayal of the acceptance they’ve fought for over the years.”

“Everyone has an agenda.”

“That’s modern life, I’m afraid. So what do you want me to do about the function? Are you going to cancel?”

“Do you have any bookings at all?”

“Just a few, certainly not enough to make it worthwhile.”

“Ok, just hold it for a few days and I’ll get back to you. By the way, what’s your cancellation policy?”

“Normally one hundred percent, but since we’re mates and I don’t want to get a reputation as an ogre, I’ll make it fifty percent.”

“Fine, I can work with that.”

“Sorry about all this, wish I was the bearer of better news.”

“Not your fault, but thanks for all your work so far.”

***

Jessica called her son Justin with some disturbing news.

“Hi Mum, I was thinking of ringing you today, I want to invite you over to the restaurant to try our new menu, now that it’s fully changed over. My idea, you know.”

“That will be great, but first I have something to discuss. I received a letter today from the State Coroners Court.”

“What’s that?”

“They have hearings to determine how a death occurred.”

“If you mean your ex husband, then we know how that happened.”

“As may be, but apparently they must look at all sudden deaths and especially those that occur in prison.”

“So do we need to do anything?”

“No, the letter explained that at this stage we will not be required to give evidence as he was in prison and we had no recent contact with him. But, they say we can attend the hearing as observers if we want to, or if there is anything we consider relevant we can tell them about it.”

“I don’t want to go, he’s gone and forgotten as far as I’m concerned.”

“I know how you feel and I don’t expect you to attend, but I should advise your aunt Julia and you need to tell Jared. It’s the right thing to do and they may have an interest in attending.”

“I doubt it, but I’ll let him know.”

“Thanks Justin.”

“Now when do you want to come to dinner, or lunch, whatever takes your fancy?”

***

“You won’t fuckin believe what’s happened Jared.”

“Ok, so tell me.”

“There’s going to be a hearing about his death, I think they call it an inquest.”

“Yeah, I was sort of expecting that with a suicide or any sudden death.”

“Doesn’t it concern you?”

“Why?”

“You know why. What if they find out how it happened?”

“If the prison or police had any suspicions or interest in pursuing an investigation they would have done so before this. Mostly these things are just a formality. They hear what the police and medical expert have to say and then issue a cause of death opinion. That’s usually about it.”

“If you say so. Then I shouldn’t be worried?”

“No, and we shouldn’t discuss this any further, just in case....you know what I mean.”

“Sure.... Hey how’s the new job going?”

“Nothing much to do really. I just drive the old man to and from the office and an occasional meeting or lunch and the rest of the day I’ve nothing else to do, except work on my tan. We really should have a gym here so I can work out during the day.”

“But it must be fun driving that car.”

“Once you’re on the road it’s not much different to driving any other car, except for the stares.”

“Do you wear a chauffer’s uniform and hat?”

“No, nothing like that. Just shirt and trousers and I put on a tie and jacket if the boss is going to a posh public event, but that’s not often.”

“Sounds too easy.”

“That’s the problem, there’s no challenge, nothing interesting ever happens.”

“Maybe not in your job, but your boss sure is getting a lot of attention lately.”

“It’ll blow over.”

“So will you be a Canberra Commonwealth driver when he gets elected? You’ll have to wear a uniform then.”

“Between you and me, I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

“Really?”

 ***

Once again Thomas found himself on the road heading into the city and a certain dressing down from Price.

Good morning Thomas, here to see Mr Price?” asked Prism. “Coffee or....?”

“It’s probably a bit early for that, let’s wait and see what the boss has to say, as I doubt he’ll consider me a drinking mate after this.”

“Oh, bad news again?”

“Very bad.”

“Ok, go straight in, he doesn’t seem very busy this morning.”

 

“Should I be expecting you, and is this a Thomas or a Steadman visit?”

“Very much the latter, I’m afraid.”

“Shit, what’s gone wrong now?”

Thomas explained about the further cancellations and concluded there was no point proceeding with the gay or seniors functions considering the poor number of bookings.

“I’m beyond being angry, so Thomas will be today’s form of address.”

“Thank you Jonathan and I do apologise for everything that’s gone wrong these past few weeks.”

“There’s really no need to apologise, I’ve been doing some serious reflection this past few days and I think I’m finished before I’ve barely started in this campaign.”

“Does that mean what I think it means?”

“Yes, Thomas and on top of that I have a problem at home as well.”

“Anything I can help with?”

“My initial reaction is to say no, it’s between husband and wife.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, didn’t mean to intrude, it seems like it’s none of my business.”

“I said, initially. But considering how close you are to my wife, maybe you could help.”

“Glad to if I can.”

“I think I know what’s bothering Virginia, but the problem is she won’t talk about it, at least not to me. So, maybe she might talk to you.”

“May I know what this is about?”

“You know how she often refers to you as the son she didn’t have?”

“Yes but...”

“For some reason this has all flared up again. We haven’t spoken about it for years, but it was mentioned last week.”

“What is it that’s bothering her?”

“I’ll let her tell you, that is, if she wants to.”

“Ok, I’ll see if she wants to have lunch and maybe we can treat it as a catch up, as she used to call our lunches.”

“Good man.”

“Now, have you made a final decision about the campaign?”

“I think I have, but let’s discuss it over lunch at my club.”

“Love to.”

“Prism, can you please tell Jared I need him to drive Thomas and I to the club.”

“Right away Mr Price.”

“And also tell him to dress suitably for dining at the club. I want him to join us at lunch.”

“That’s very generous of you Jonathan.” said Thomas.

“Not at all, he’s been a big help to you and me lately, and I think I promised you two a lunch months ago when you both came on board to start this campaign.”

“He did mention that some time back.”

Next Chapter - Meet the real Jonathan, maybe. - So that’s why she calls Thomas, the son she never had.

Copyright © 2021 Wombat Bill; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

Oh, indeed proverbial "stuff" has been hitting the fan.  It looks like Jonathan is revising his idea of running for office, and that is probably for the best at this time.

There is a possibility that the inquest will reveal more than Jared wants to know.  It's too early to be sure; we will have to see what weavings @Wombat Bill has braided and built for broadcast on the web.  Whatever it is, the trappings tied together we can be sure will intertwine, interlace, interweave, and as the intermingling of story plots and subplots are wedded and woven together, our inspired author will continue to create choice content.

I look forward to seeing what my fellow CWB groupies have to say, especially @Summerabbacat and @NimirRaj, and anyone else who is up to commenting and expounding, elucidating and expressing the possibilities. 

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The reaction of all the groups bar one to which Jonathan was scheduled to make a donation and deliver a presentation, to the revelations regarding his AND to a lesser extent Virginia's sex lives, is unfortunately all too believable. There was a time not long gone when the average Australian voter was not overly interested in the sex lives of their politicians; as long as the sex was legal and consensual most voters would have considered it none of their business and not relevant to the candidate's suitability to do the job they were seeking election to do. With the changing demographics in Australian society and the obsession with celebrities and social media, this laissez faire attitude has, I fear, changed.

Those offended by Jonathan’s extra-marital arrangements are just so fucking predictable. If Virginia were an “injured party” i.e. unaware of his extra-marital activities, there may be some cause to be troubled by his private life, but that is what it is, his private life. This is not the case however, both Jonathan and Virginia have maintained their own relationships outside of their lavender marriage and neither have deliberately, to the best of this reader’s knowledge, engaged in any illegal or hurtful relationships. In my view the only thing Jonathan did wrong was to try and deny it; he should have either confirmed the allegations made or alternately made the point his private life was just that, and totally irrelevant to his performance as a politician. 

I don’t for one moment believe the scout leader would have been so concerned about the reactions of the parents of his group if Jonathan had been accused of
extra -marital relationships with women; some may have been “offended” if said women were much younger or were paid for their services, but overall, I don’t think it would have been an issue.

I can understand the reaction of the GLBTI group, although I would not consider Jonathan a traitor. I don’t agree with outing anyone unless the said someone is in a position of power and supports anti-gay laws. I am sure @ReaderPaul is familiar with this given the number of politicians, lawmakers and those with influence (mostly Republicans and their supporters) who have been caught in compromising same-sex situations after having been vociferous in their condemnation of the GLBTI community. I don’t believe Jonathan has made any negative public statements about the GLBTI community; he may be completely out of touch with them, but he should not be condemned for this. 

Enough of my grandstanding for now. I shall attempt to curtail my passionate political proselytising, and address the other perturbing pronouncements proliferating our author's latest prose. 

The inquest will likely be a mere formality. If anything comes of it, I am certain Jared will be able to slither his way out of it. One only has to look at how freely Justin discussed the issue on the telephone with Jared to realise how naïve he still is. I, like @NimirRaj, am disappointed Justin was not disturbed by Jared’s involvement in Brendan’s death, but I have tried to give him the benefit of the doubt because we don’t really know the full extent of what Justin suffered at the hands of his father, or what his mother suffered, and Justin may have witnessed.

I am very intrigued by whatever is troubling Virginia regarding the "son she did not have". There may be a perfectly simple explanation, or it may be far more complex than what I can possibly imagine. It seems we CWB groupies will have to wait with bated breath before Bill bursts this bubble of burdensome bewilderment.

Edited by Summerabbacat
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NimirRaj

Posted (edited)

Like @Summerabbacat I find the reaction by these groups/organizations to be based primarily on homophobia especially the predictable reaction of the scouts who of course are “concerned” about their “image”. Going off on a weird branching topic I will say I found the whole donation to the scouts strange. I mean who donates a tv to the scouts? Sounds like a weird thing to donate to that particular organization and to me it again is an example of how out of touch Jonathan can be. Getting back to something more serious- Outside of the homophobia I think the public opinion is justified somewhat because Jonathan was essentially campaigning on a complex lie. Admittedly that would be fine if he was in the U.S. and running as a Republican yet clearly he’s not in the right zip code for that. 🙄 The reaction I find the most ridiculous is the LGBT+ voters who label him a traitor as while I can sadly understand the homophobic outrage or rather it’s depressingly expected I can’t comprehend how this group of bit...never mind, keep it clean. I just find their reasoning insane especially as you’d think many if not all would sympathize with Jonathan’s situation. The dialogue between Jonathan & Jared is intriguing as well as implies Jonathan is shedding his shell to some extent. He also seems to be gaining some common sense based on his comment to Thomas about having lost the campaign before it got started as I think he’s realizing he never stood much of a chance. I suspect Thomas is going to be let in on a very sad chapter of Virginia’s life yet I suppose we will learn soon enough. Justin is somewhat logically concerned about Jared and by extension his own self getting caught with this enquiry going on yet I’d bet money they’ll be fine. I doubt a military trained killer would easily get caught and I suspect if he somehow is Jared has a plan to save himself while throwing the “Fixer” under the bus. It would be lovely karma if he was caught yet I suspect if he were to be caught it’d be because Jared and/or Justin let something slip. The next few chapters are going to be interesting.

Edited by NimirRaj
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@ReaderPaul, @Summerabbacat & @NimirRaj, I am constantly amazed at the incites you draw from this story and your in depth analysis is superb. I also thank you for your efforts to report your analysis. Some times you write almost as much as I do. You all manage to get into the minds of these characters, often in ways I couldn't manage. It is a constant delight to read your comments. 

I try not to be influenced by your comments when plotting and planning but your ideas are sometimes just so damn good it's hard to ignore them. I'm sure they find their way into the story sometimes. 

Thanks guys. :heart:

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