He gripped the podium and stared into the sea of beaming, sweaty faces high on a mix of victory, tenacity and bottom-shelf sparkling wine that his Chief of Staff kept referring to as champagne. Bobbing heads grinned back at him like fish waiting for a feed, buoyed by a flurry of euphorically waving flags. His eyes moistened in a way they tended not to these days, then flitted down to the teleprompter. He’d sacrificed a lot to get here – busting balls, coddling egos and shaking so many hands it was a wonder he hadn’t caught scabies.
He scanned the room thinking back to all the proverbial casting couches he’d lain upon in days past. Big business? He’d acquiesced. The resource sector? He’d taken it. The unions? The unions could go fuck themselves, there was no way he was getting into bed with the unions with their fucking outrageous demands, and putting the goddamn southern cross on any adhesive-bearing surface.
He thought about the stuff he’d believed in – and said he’d believed in – to get the punters interested. The pokies stuff: he’d let that one go even if it was the platform that won him popularity last election when he was just an unknown candidate with dreams of the backbench. Sure it hurt his sister who said he was turning out just like their father, except at least their father kept his lies in the family. But she was an East Coast inner-city teacher so what do you expect? She’d have half the homeless living in her spare room if it wasn't cluttered up with Pilates equipment and other esoteric bullshit.
His wife: that one had hurt. The way he’d come home one day to find all the mirrors in the house covered up with sheets. She said he never bothered to look in them anyway and if he did he probably wouldn’t have recognised what he saw. This was about the refugees. Or the healthcare stuff. It could have been either because sometimes she was such a woman about these things. But to her credit she knew how to keep it in and had a press smile like a million of those photovoltaic cells the other mob kept talking about.
The drama with the deputy: that could have been avoided. It made them look divided and had cost him a couple of points. Thank god the punters appeared to only read the headlines and had seemingly basked in the comforting warmth of the ad hoc rhetoric he’d taken to spouting whenever someone shoved a recording device in his face. It was solid gold, even the bullshit. Especially the bullshit. But he’d refined it enough so that now even he believed himself capable of alchemy.
And now it was his time. It was his time, you fuckers. And everyone had better listen to him because he’d done his homework, put in the hard yards and taken the hits required to get here. He gripped the podium and cleared the viscous phlegm from his throat.