I do solemnly swear
(or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
"Okay, class, I'm sure that all of you have seen the ads on television or heard your parents talking about what is happening tomorrow." Mrs Roquette stood at the front of the classroom, her eyes surveying the young faces. Seeing several kids glance around at friends, she elaborated. "Tomorrow is election day. Your parents your grandparents their friends all adults will be going to the polls to elect someone to run the country for the next four years. "
Jerry Collins raised his hand and asked, "Who are you voting for, Mrs Roquette? My daddy says that " The boy's mouth snapped closed as the woman held up both hands.
"We're not going to discuss who is voting for who." The woman moved her attention from one child to the next, assuring that everyone was listening. "The right to elect our own leaders is what makes America a democracy. It is very important but very personal. Everyone has an opinion about who would best serve the country, but what we will be studying is the way an election works. So, what we will be doing this week is having our own election. In order to understand how an election works, you will pick two people to run for class president."
A buzz of conversation rose in the open classroom. The teacher allowed the excitement to run its course for a few minutes and then called the class back to order. "Okay, it sounds like everyone is excited about this week's project." Seeing the nodding heads, she continued.
"First thing that we have to do is nominate people to run for the office. Anyone that would like to run for office, please raise your hand."
She waited patiently but no one volunteered. Tapping her finger against her lip, she 'hmmed', considering her options. "Okay, everyone get out a piece of paper."
Paper rustled as they followed her instructions.
"Now, everyone look around and think about who you would like to see as your class president. Write their name on a slip of paper, fold it and then pass the papers to the front."
Thirty pairs of eyes looked around, examining their neighbors. It took a few minutes but the kids finally finished and the papers were passed to the front of the room. Carolyn gathered the papers and instructed the kids to move to the various work areas and start their morning lessons under the watchful eyes of the teaching assistants. She then took the sheets and, sitting at her desk, she began to sort the names and do a count. Making note of the tally, she set it aside and moved to the art center to begin class.
When it was time for morning recess, she called the class together to announce the candidates before releasing the children to go outside. "All right, everyone," she said, clapping her hands together lightly to quiet the chatter. "We had a lot of people nominated for office, but three people tied with the same amount of votes." She glanced around at the expectant faces. Smiling, she cleared her throat. "After I call your name, if the three candidates would remain behind, the rest of you can go outside. Now, our first nomination goes to Vin Tanner."
JD bounced up and down, cheering as a red faced Vin stood frozen. The five year old hung off the arm of the older boy as he declared, "YEAH, VIN. You winned."
"JD" Carolyn said quietly.
The five year old clasped his hands in front of his chest and ducked his head slightly. "Sorry, Miz R." Though he had stopped bouncing, the small body was partially vibrating with excitement.
The woman had to smile at the dark haired boy's enthusiasm and love for his brother. She turned her attention back to the list. "Our next candidate is Eli Joe Chavez."
The only response was from the candidate and his friend, Freddy, who slapped the slender boy on the back.
"Our final candidate is JD Dunne."
Surprisingly, JD stood stock-still, his eyes wide at the announcement. His brother, however, smiled and ruffled the boy's black hair, breaking the boy's stupor. Grinning like a loon, the little boy turned to his brother, his eyes still wide. "We both winned, Vin." The boy's voice was breathy with wonder.
Mrs. Roquette directed the three boys to a desk and told the other children to begin their recess period. After the room was cleared, she joined the boys.
"Okay, guys, first let me say congratulations on your nominations. I think it's wonderful. But now, the work begins."
She stopped as Vin raised his hand.
"Ma'am, you said earlier that we would only have two can'dites."
The woman knew what was coming. The seven year old had come a long way from the timid boy that first came to her class, but he was still an extremely shy and private soul. She smiled as he continued.
"I would rather not "
"But Vin, everybody vof'ed for you."
The blond blushed and looked at the teacher pleadingly.
"Ya afraid ya'll lose, Tanner?"
"Eli! We'll have none of that. Do you understand me, young man?"
The eight-year-old frowned, but nodded at the stern look he received from the teacher. He glared at the other boy as Carolyn turned her attention away and back to the young blond.
Vin blinked, unaffected by the class bully's glower.
"Vin, if you do not wish to do this, of course, you don't have to. But I think it would be a lot of fun for you." She watched as the boy thought about the offer, even as his little brother tugged on his arm.
Finally, the blond shook his head. "Please, ma'am. I'd like to not be a can'dit. I'd rather help JD."
Nodding, the woman agreed. "Why don't you go outside and play with the others?"
"Can I stay and help JD?"
"If JD wants you to stay, that's fine with me."
"HEY. I want someone to help me, too" Eli Joe protested.
The woman turned to face the older boy. "I believe that you are old enough to handle taking instructions without assistance. JD is much younger than you. I see no reason why Vin can't assist him."
Crossing his arms over his chest, Chavez glared once again, but kept his mouth closed. Carolyn continued.
"Now that we have our candidates, it's time for you boys to pick your running mate. That's someone that will be what is called 'vice-president'. The vice president takes over if something happens to you."
"No," Vin said firmly as JD turned his way. The dark-haired boy sighed and nodded before turning back to the teacher. "Why don't you boys go outside and think about it? Talk to your running mate and then, after lunch, we'll announce them to the class. Later this afternoon, we'll see about developing a platform for each of you."
JD sat with his arms crossed, leaning on the table. He frowned as one arm rose and waved in the air. "What's a platform?" he asked as the teacher turned her attention his way.
"That's what the candidates promise to do for people."
The boy continued to frown.
The teacher smiled as she explained. "As the president, you take care of your constituents in this case, your classmates." She glanced at the three boys gathered around the table. "You talk to your running mate and together, you decide what your classmates need or what they would like to have. The men that your parents will be voting for tomorrow have promised things like no new taxes or to get out of the war things like that."
"We shouldn't be over there, fighting them people, according to my dad," Eli Joe stated.
"Well, we're not here to discuss the pros and cons of the war. Now, go and join the others outside and we'll discuss the election some more this afternoon."
The three boys rose and headed outside. Freddy was waiting at the door as they exited.
"So Tanner wants to be president?" he smirked.
Chavez took a position next to his heavy-set friend as he said, "Nah. He's chickened out, already."
"He did not," JD stated loudly, his fists planted on his hips as he faced the two bigger boys. "He just don't want to do it."
" 'fraid he'll lose is all" Freddy countered. His elbow poked the boy next to him as they both laughed.
"Vin's not afraid " JD's response was cut off as the young blond took hold of his shoulders and drew him away from the taunting boys. The five-year-old allowed himself to be lead away, but tossed a glare of defiance over his shoulder.
Once they were out of earshot, Vin released the smaller boy's shoulders and started toward the jungle gym. JD followed behind and as they started to climb, asked, "Why'd ya do that, Vin? You ain't afraid to be elected."
Tanner reached the top and hung between the bars as he said, "They just wanted to start trouble and I don't care what they say, so you don't have to stand up to them for me. Okay, JD?"
His arms were wrapped around a bar just below Vin and JD leaned back to see his friend's eyes. Seeing the open expression on his face, the younger boy nodded, a slight frown on his face. "Okay, Vin. I just don't like it when they talk bad about you."
Vin smiled. "Thanks for wanting me to be in the election with you."
JD's face lit up as he replied, "You'd be a good pres'dent, Vin. You already know how to take care of people."
The seven-year-old climbed down to the same level as the younger boy. "I don't want to have to stand up in front of all those people though. You probably have to make a speech or somethin' like those guys on the TV."
JD's eyes widened. "Really? You think so? I hadn't thought of that." His smiled turned downward as he thought of something else. "You think I'll have to wear a suit like those guys on TV? Yuck!" His small frame shuddered at the thought.
Vin shrugged. "Don't know. I seen 'em wearing other stuff besides suits. Maybe we should ask Miz R."
The two boys sat quietly for a minute and then Vin turned to JD. "Who you going to ask to be your vice president?"
JD climbed off the jungle gym and turned around to survey the playground. He glanced from one group of kids to the next. Finally he pointed. "Nicole. She's real smart." Looking over at his brother, he nodded as he said, "She's eight" like that explained her being smart.
Vin simply nodded. His blue eyes sought out and then scrutinized the little girl. "Yeah, she'll be good. She's smart and the other girls like her." Looking back at the younger boy, he prompted, "Best ask her."
JD scrunched his lips together tightly and glanced upward, into the sun, one eye squinted closed as he nodded. Pushing away from the jungle gym, he headed toward the group of kids, stopping to glance back over his shoulder at his brother. "You coming?"
Vin shrugged, "Sure" and he jumped down and joined the younger boy.
Moving closer, JD smiled and waved as Nicole looked his way. "Nicole? Can I talk to ya?" The dark haired boy's hands waved around in front of him as he called to her.
She slid off the swing and moved toward them, smiling. "Hi, JD. Vin. What's happening?"
"Well I was was wondering " JD stammered. He twisted his hands in front of his chest as he glanced from the ground to his brother and back.
Vin rolled his eyes and swatted at the dark hair.
"HEY," JD protested. Frowning, he fisted his hands at his sides and looked the girl in eyes for the first time since she stepped in front of him. "I wanted to ask if you would be my run in mate in the 'lection."
The girl looked from one boy to the other and then smiled, "I'd love to, JD. Thanks."
JD's eyes widened. "Really? Cool." He grinned at his brother and then swung back to face the girl. "Miz R says that we have to have a plat firm "
"Yeah, one of those." JD's hair bobbed as he spoke, his hands flying around, punctuating his words. "Miz R is going to have a meeting with us this afternoon so's we can talk about it."
"Okay, so we need to decide what we're going to do to improve the class as their representatives, right?"
JD blinked owlishly, his head pulled back. "Huh?"
"I love politics. I plan to be the first woman President."
JD smiled and nodded. "I'd vote for ya."
Vin laughed, drawing the others' attention. Seeing their confusion, he laughed again. "You two will make a good team. At least one of you will know what's going on." The bell signaled the end of recess. He shook his head as he headed back to the building.
JD watched him walk away and shrugged before looking at Nicole. He smiled shyly. "I don't really know how to be an 'lection. Or a Pres'dent?" They trailed behind the other kids as he said, "I think it'll be fun don't you?"
Nicole nodded as they entered the classroom. "We can talk during lunch. Okay?"
"Yeah," the boy called as he headed to his work station.
That afternoon, the class celebrated a late Halloween after the scheduled party had to be postponed due to the food poisoning incident of the previous week. The teacher and her assistants had set up tables with goodies provided by the parents while the children were outside for the afternoon play period. The decorations had been put up early that morning before the students arrived. After the preparations were completed, the kids were brought indoors and helped into their costumes. The remainder of school was filled with games and food, accompanied by the sounds of children's squeals and laughter and the flash and whir of cameras documenting the festivities.
As the end of the day grew close, Mrs. Roquette called the candidates away to learn their running mates and discuss the events that would take place the next day. Eli Joe grabbed Jerry Collins and, along with Vin, JD and Nicole, joined Carolyn Roquette at the reading station.
"Welcome, Nicole, Jerry," the woman greeted. Clasped her hands together, she leaned forward and began. "Okay, guys, the plan is for you to begin your campaigning tomorrow. You can make posters, talk to people, pass out flyers, anything to make your position known to the rest of the class."
Her eyes moved from one child to the next, judging their reactions. Seeing little response, she continued. "For the rest of today, talk to each other and decide what you want to do. Since JD is the youngest, Vin is acting as his 'advisor'."
The woman saw Eli Joe jab his elbow into Jerry's ribs and snicker at the younger boy. "Eli Joe, Nicole, Jerry and you are all eight years old. JD is five. Now Vin 'will' help guide him and that's the last I want to hear about it. "
Eli Joe sighed and nodded. "Yes, ma'am."
She smiled, looking at the young faces. "Now, you have some work to do. If anyone needs anything or any help, I'll be right here. Just ask."
Nodding heads acknowledged her statement.
Clapping her hands together, she waved her hand toward JD. "Okay, guys, JD, let's move your group to the another area and give Eli Joe and Jerry some privacy." She stood and led the three kids across the room where they could discuss their plans. She smiled as Nicole grabbed a pen and some paper to make notes on. The teacher took some cookies and punch to each group and then joined the party, but kept an eye on the two conferences.
JD's eyes widened at the two faces studying him. He swallowed hard as he realized that he was expected to say something. When nothing came to mind, he tossed his short arms up and grinned, "Anybody got any ideas?"
The two older kids looked at each other and sighed.
Across the room, Eli Joe and Jerry were huddled together, whispering. Their eyes glanced across the room at the competition every few minutes and then back down as they plotted their campaign.
By the time class was dismissed, the two groups had worked out their plans and would be ready to begin their bids for the presidency the next day.
Mrs Potter arrived that afternoon to find two very excited little boys. JD was rattling on about their day. Even the normally shy Vin was talking excitedly, filling in any blanks that the younger boy left out. The woman had to laugh, not only at the animated chatter, but also at the sight of the little soldier and the fluffy dog that were buckled into the back seat of her car.
They arrived home and after homework and a snack, the two boys disappeared into their room. By the time Chris and Buck arrived home, the boys had been sequestered away for a couple of hours. Gloria had checked on them a couple of times, each time the two boys were huddled down, working on something on the floor. When asked if they needed anything, the only response had been that they were fine.
Entering the house, Buck and Chris searched the front room. looking for their usual evening greeting from the two orphans. They looked up as the housekeeper entered the room. She smiled and pointed down the hallway to the boys' room.
"Everything okay?" Chris asked.
"Yes. They're fine. They've been working on a project since they got home."
The two men nodded.
Gloria gathered her things together and bid the men good evening, informing them that supper was mostly ready and waiting to be served. The men nodded and started down the hall as the woman left. They paused at the door to the boys' room, peering inside. Both boys were lying in middle of the room, asleep, and curled up with their two pups. The foursome were surrounded by paper and crayons, and still wearing their costumes from Halloween. Not even the dogs stirred at the men's appearance in the doorway.
Dropping a hand on Larabee's shoulder, Buck moved quietly to his room, only to return moments later with a camera. He snapped a quick couple of pictures before the flash disturbed the slumbering seven year old. Vin sat up slowly, yawning. As he rubbed the sleep from his eyes, movement drew his attention to the door. Wilmington had thumbed off his camera and slipped the compact device into his pocket before the boy noticed.
"Dad, you're home."
He stood and met Chris as the man entered the room. Gripping the groggy blond and hugging him close, Larabee responded with a quiet, "We just got home. How was your day?"
The man squatted down in front of the boy, wiping at the smear of camouflage paint on the boy's smiling face.
Vin blushed and explained. "We wanted to wear our costumes a little longer."
"You did?" Chris chuckled and nodded as he stood and moved to sit on the side of JD's bed. "Was the party good? Everyone back at school?"
"Yeah, it was fun. Freddy was still a little sick looking, but he was there. Everyone else seemed fine."
Buck had moved past them, ruffling the boy's soft blond hair as he passed. He knelt down and gathered the sleeping five year old into his arms. Only after he had laid the boy on his shoulder, did the man get a reaction from the child. Feeling the boy stir, Buck pulled back to look into the hazel eyes.
"Well, hello Scooby. You sure ain't much of a watch dog."
As usual, JD went from zero to sixty in a millisecond.
"BUCK! You're home." Short, fur-clad arms wrapped themselves around the man's neck. After the quick squeeze, the boy pulled back and wiggled to be set down. "Buck. Look." JD squatted down to grab a piece of paper from the ground and held it up for inspection.
'VOTE FOR JD AND NICOLE'
The words were written in bright red and blue. As Buck nodded his approval, the boy stooped and gathered more papers and held them up. "I's running for pres'dent, me and Nicole."
"Yeah, we voted today and JD and Eli Joe got nom-nated. Eli Joe picked Jerry Collins to run with him" Vin added.
"Miz Roquette said that we get to vote just like you gets to tomorrow." The shaggy ears bobbed up and down as JD nodded vigorously as he spoke.
"Well, that's a fine thing. So, you picked Nicole to run with you?" Wilmington asked as he flipped through the papers.
JD reached up and pushed the hood of his costume down before clambering onto his bed to give Chris a hug around the neck. As the boy hugged the man, he continued telling about his day.
"Yeah, I picked Nicole to be my " He looked at Vin, who finished with
"run in mate."
"Yeah, my run in mate. She's eight and really smart."
"Yeah, and all the girls like her, so they'll vote for her and JD."
"Really?" Buck said. "Is that why you picked her. Little Bit?"
Giggling, JD shook his head. "No. I picked her because she's smart and really good at school and she's big. Bigger than Eli Joe and I know that she's not afraid of him. So I figured she wouldn't mind being on my side."
"Yeah, she's real tall." Vin laughed as he said. "She's the tallest person in class 'cept for the teachers. And JD, he's the smallest. They look funny together."
"All right, boys," Chris said softly. Both heads turned his direction.
Standing, Chris ruffled the hair on both boys' heads. "Why don't you boys get changed so we can get the chores done? Then we can have supper and our .Presidential candidate can tell about his plans."
"YEAH" both boys cheered. JD leapt off the bed, pulling on the costume zipper as he moved across the room at just under warp speed. Vin was a little more subdued, but he was half undressed by the time he was at the closet. Laughing, the two men headed to their own rooms.
Tuesday morning, the two sets of adversaries arrived early to place their posters around the classroom. JD and Nicole finished and moved to the drawing area to talk. Vin joined them but wasn't really listening. The other kids had arrived and class began with morning lessons. The morning passed quickly and soon it was time for recess. The children filed outside to enjoy the crisp, clean fall air.
JD and Nicole moved around the groups of kids, talking and asking questions as Vin watched from the jungle gym until something drew his attention. Jumping down, he moved to the side of the playground where he saw Freddy and Jerry crowding around two of the younger kids.
"What 'a ya'll doing?" he asked.
The two older boys stepped away quickly, glancing around to see if anyone else was near. With a smirk, Freddy lumbered towards Vin.
"What's it to you, Tanner?"
Seeing the two kids huddled together, the seven year old bristled. "I don't think they " pointing to the two kids, "want to hear what you have to say."
Jerry stepped up next to Freddy. "Sure they do. We were just answering a question." He crossed his arms over his chest, daring Vin to dispute the statement.
The blond's blue eyes flicked past the two bullies and then he smiled, holding his hands out as he shrugged. "Oh, well, if that's all, I guess I best get back over to JD."
The two boys sneered and turned around only to see that their quarries had escaped.
"HEY!" Freddy called out.
Vin laughed softly as he turned away, stating, "Guess they got their answer." He moved back to the jungle gym and saw the two kids merging with a larger group. He decided that he would have to keep an eye on the other boys who seemed intent on pressuring the kids for votes.
Tuesday night had Buck and Chris arriving home late. The boys greeted them loudly and physically as JD wrapped his arms around Wilmington's legs. Vin was more reserved in his greeting as he stopped and waited for the man to reach out. Both boys received hugs before the men headed to their rooms to change.
Dinner was consumed as the boys' told of their day.
"Did you go vote, Da?" JD asked around a mouthful of bread.
"Yeah, I sure did, me and Chris both, right after work," the man informed him. Leaning closer, he added, "And don't talk with your mouth full."
"Yes, sir," JD said, dropping his gaze. The boy looked abashed for a time span of about two seconds. Making a production of swallowing, he turned to the man again. "Miz R says that votin's a priv 'edge and is what makes us a de mockery."
"That's democracy, JD," Chris corrected. The boy nodded as he flipped his fork up and down next to his plate. Without looking, the man knew that the boy's feet were swinging back and forth under the table.
In contrast, Vin sat perfectly still, concentrating on his meal, seemingly paying no attention to the conversation. Then he looked at his father and said, "Freddy and Jerry tried to force some of the kids to vote for Eli Joe today."
Frowning, Chris looked at the boy. "You overhear them?"
Vin sat up straight, shaking his head as he answered, "Nah. I saw 'em huddled in a corner and when I went over, they had two little kids cornered. Afterwards, I asked 'em about it and that's what the two kids told me."
Chris nodded as he listened. "So what do you think you should do about it, Vin?"
The boy seemed to consider the question for a moment and then said, "I think I should tell Miz Roquette or Mr. Beidler about it. Just so they can keep an eye on them." Vin looked down, his finger tracing lines on the frosted glass of milk. "I don't want to be a tattletale or nothin', but I can't just let them scare the kids just cause they're bigger."
"I think that's a good idea, son."
The boy beamed at his father's praise.
The rest of the evening was spent playing games with the boys and watching a muted TV as the election returns played. It was a quiet and restive evening for the foursome.
Wednesday morning found the students talking about the election. Not the one for the United States President, but the one for classroom president. Earlier that morning, Vin discovered that he had been spared the task of squealing on the two boys behavior the previous day. They had approached one of the girls in the class that was good friends with Nicole and she had told Mr. Beidler. The seven year old relaxed as the weight was removed from his slender shoulders.
The day passed quietly. The afternoon, just before class was released, Mrs. Roquette talked to the candidates, informing them that the election would be held Friday. Thursday, the two nominees were to deliver a speech to the class, explaining what they had to offer the class as the president. After talking to the three boys and girl, the teacher told everyone that parents were welcome to attend the next day's speeches.
That evening, the two men were once again greeted joyfully, the two boys running to meet them at the door and gain their attention. JD's voice was the loudest as he tugged on his father's large hand.
"BUCK! BUCK, I need help. Come on." The little boy tugged repeatedly on the man's hand as, trying to drag him toward the back of the house and the bedrooms. "Hurry, Da. I need help."
Seeing that there was no obvious trouble, the man bit the inside of his cheek to suppress the grin that tugged at his mouth at the boy's urgency. Bending over, he scooped up the boy, saying, "Okay. Okay. Let's go back and you can tell me about it while I change."
Smiling, the boy hugged the man's neck as they disappeared down the hall.
Chris glanced down at the young blond and saw him shaking his head. Ruffling the boy's hair, Chris asked if the boy knew what the problem was as he slipped his jacket off his shoulders.
Vin followed the man down the hall and climbed onto the bed as Chris opened the closet door to hang up his jacket.
"Miz R told him today that they have to make a speech tomorrow in front of the class."
"Who?" Chris questioned, confused as to who 'they' was.
"JD and Eli Joe, 'a course," the boy said, incredulously.
Chris glanced over his shoulder to see the boy roll his eyes and flop back on the bed. Grinning, he continued changing as he spoke. "Oh, yeah, I forgot about the election. So, JD is excited about the speech?"
"That's all he's talked about since we got outta school. What he's going to say, what he's going to wear." Vin sat up and watched as the man slipped a t-shirt over his head, then grabbed a flannel shirt to slide on over it. "Oh, yeah, and the teacher said that ya'll could come and watch if you want."
"When is it scheduled for?"
"Right after lunch at one. Can ya'll come?"
Nodding, Chris moved to the bed. "Well, I can't say for sure, but I don't see any problem with us being there." Sitting down next to the boy, he slapped a hand down lightly on the boy's slender leg. "So " he drawled softly, "you wouldn't want to give a speech?"
Vin's eyes widen as a blush crept up his cheeks. "NO," he squeaked as his head swung back and forth.
Chris had to laugh to the boy's expression even though he had known what it would be. He wrapped his arms around the narrow shoulders as he grinned. Vin leaned into the grip and sighed.
The boy's voice was small as he commented, "Just don't understand why JD would want to get up and have everyone staring at him. Why don't that scare him, Dad?"
"Well. JD is different from you, son. He likes to be the center of attention, he enjoys entertaining people."
Vin's head was shaking as the man spoke. "Yeah, he does like to make noise, don't he?"
"Yep" Larabee agreed. He then fell back, taking the boy with him. His free hand came up the scrub at the boy's head, setting off a peal of laughter from the young blond.
They lay there for a few moments before Chris sat up and pushed off the bed. "Well, we best get the chores done before it gets too dark to see."
They stepped out into the hall and heard voices from Wilmington's room. Chris knocked on the frame as he poked his head inside.
"Hey, stud. Vin and I'll take care of the chores tonight. You and JD can set the table and get dinner, okay?"
Buck and JD were sitting on the bed and the man winked at his partner, knowing the man was giving him time to deal with the excited boy.
A "Hi, Chris" was thrown in a high pitched voice as if JD had failed to notice that the man had entered the house right behind Wilmington.
"Evening, JD. See ya in a little bit Little Bit."
JD's eyes rolled at the play on words and he dropped his dark haired head into his hands as he whined, "CHRIS!!"
The two men laughed at the boy's antics. Then Larabee headed down the hallway to take care of the evening chores. By the time the two blonds had finished in the barn, the other two household members had the meal ready and on the table. Both pups were chowing down on their meal as Chris and Vin came in and washed up.
The mealtime conversation consisted of school and current events. The two dogs had finished their meals and after several minutes of begging at the table, had settled down at the feet of the two boys, though their eyes watched every move of the people seated at the table ever ready to pounce on any morsel that dropped from the table.
The table was cleared and the family moved into the front room. the boys asked to watch a video and after a five minute discussion, one was agreed on and slipped into the machine. At eight o'clock, the boys were herded to the bathroom for evening baths, heading to bed once they were done.
The next morning, Buck woke the kids and started getting them dressed while Chris prepared breakfast. It wasn't too long before the kids came running in and climbed into their chairs, ready to eat. While Vin was wearing jeans and flannel shirt, JD was dressed in his best slacks with a white shirt and a blue vest. He was wearing the little red tie that Ezra had bought the boy to wear to the Christmas play the previous year.
"Well, Mr. Candidate? Don't you look nice?"
The boy grinned as Buck wrapped a dishtowel around his neck to protect his clothes.
"I have to look like a pres'dent. Buck said." Dark hair swayed as he nodded.
"You look great, Little Bit," Buck assured as he forked eggs onto both boys' plates.
"You have to be careful at recess, okay, JD? Those are your good clothes," Chris cautioned.
"Yes, sir. I will," JD agreed as he wiped his mouth on the dishtowel.
Breakfast as a quick affair with little conversation. The table was cleared and the dishes put in the dishwasher before the housekeeper arrived. The men headed to work as soon as Mrs. Potter arrived. They wanted to get to work early in order to take a long lunch and visit the school.
The boys arrived at school and JD searched out Nicole and they discussed their plans before the school day began. The five year old exercised considerable restraint to remain clean and neat for the speeches. Vin watched as the younger boy sat and swung quietly at recess, Nicole at his side, talking.
The only problem the boy had all day was a moment when Eli Joe, along with Jerry and Freddy, approached and made fun of the boy's clothes. JD handled the teasing well by ignoring the boys and continuing to swing quietly. It wasn't long until one teaching assistants came over and directed the bigger boys to another part of the playground.
Before the boys' realized, the time for speeches had arrived. As Mr. Beidler gathered the kids, Mrs. Roquette took the four candidates outside into the hall to go over the rules for the speeches. There weren't many. JD and Eli Joe would speak with their running mate standing at their sides. They had five minutes each and then the class would have five minutes to ask questions.
The woman asked the boys to select a number between one and ten. Eli Joe won the draw and he would speak first. Mrs. Roquette peeked into the room to see if they were ready. Seeing Mr. Beidler nod, she turned and gestured the four children forward. As a group, they entered the classroom and took seats set up in the front of the room.
Surveying the room, JD quickly located Vin sitting near the back of the room. He also spied Chris and Buck sitting next to him, surrounded by several other adults. The sight of the two men had the dark haired boy waving wildly as he moved across the front of the room. Vin dropped his head into his hands. Chris smiled as his head shook. Buck waved back and then gestured for the boy to calm down and take his seat.
JD followed the gesture and took his seat next to Nicole as Mrs. Roquette called for the attention of the class.
"Okay, everyone. Today we will be hearing from our candidates. Eli Joe Chavez will be our first speaker. JD Dunne will go second. After the candidates speak, you will have a chance to ask questions. Now, let's give a nice hand to Eli Joe, our first speaker."
A polite round of applause accompanied the boy's approach to the small podium. The boy stood quietly for a moment, looking out over the sea of faces. Pinching his mouth in a tight line, he cleared his throat, swiped his hands on his pants and began.
"My name is Eli Joe and I want to be your president. I think that I would be a good president because I older and bigger than JD " he gestured toward the seated five year old. " the other candidate. I've been in the school longer and know things about what it needs."
The slender boy gestured toward Jerry. "Jerry is my running mate and he's been in this school just as long. We'll fight to get things changed that need to be changed."
Giggles from some of the kids caused the boy to stop and glare out over the crowd. As the giggling subsided, he concluded, "Jerry and me should be elected because we know we can get things done."
The boy stood at the podium for a moment before Mrs. Roquette stood and approached, clapping her hands to prompt the audience. She placed a hand on Eli Joe's shoulder as she said, "Thank you, Eli Joe. That was very good."
Grinning confidently, the boy waved to the class and then returned to his seat.
"Our next speaker is JD Dunne." The woman held out her hand and saw JD bound out of his chair and run up to her. "JD" she said as she relinquished the podium. The boy turned and stood still there a moment. It was apparent to everyone in the class that the little boy couldn't see over the wooden podium and the sound of giggling could be heard in the large, open room.
Vin groaned when he saw JD's predicament but Chris patted his leg and whispered. "It's okay. The teacher will help him."
On the other side of the boy, Wilmington sat, holding a video camera, a frown on his face. The last thing he wanted to record was his son's humiliation in front of his entire class.
JD saw that standing on his tiptoes wouldn't raise him up far enough. He glanced around to see Nicole pushing his chair up behind him. Grinning, he stepped back and, grabbing the chair, pulled it up close and then stepped up to stand tall behind the podium as the girl held onto the wooden chair back.
"HI!" he called out.
A small cheer went up and the boy waved to the crowd. Vin sighed at his brother's antics as Chris chuckled. Buck glanced at his partner and groaned, "I think we've created a monster."
"I'm JD. And that's " He indicated to the girl. " Nicole. She' s my run in mate. She's real smart cause she's eight. And that's Vin," JD pointed to the back where the boy sat. "He's my visor, cause I'm only five. Only visors don't get to come up and talk. But that's okay cause Vin don't like talking in front of people. He's better at doing. Ain't ya, Vin?"
Chris felt the seven year old shrink further into his seat as heads turned to look in his direction. The man patted the boy's arm in support.
JD's high pitched voice carried easily through the room as he continued. "Me and Nic " JD's eyes cut over to his teacher as he corrected. "Nicole and I want to be your Pres'dent. So we can help; like Nicole helped me with the chair. Sometimes grownups don't see things like we do. You have to tell them cause they might not notice that something needs fixin'. But if you have a Pres'dent, you can tell them and they can tell the grownups."
The boy looked at his audience and, seeing nodding heads, he continued. "As class presidents, we can tell the teachers if something is broke or torn. We can tell the teachers if you have a problem on the playground." JD's eyes met Freddy's and the older boy squirmed.
Turning back to the class, the boy leaned forward and said, "The Pres'dent's job is to protect his peoples. That's what my Da told me. And that's what me and Nicole wants to do."
Glancing around at the young girl, JD saw her nod.
"That's why you should vote for us." He looked around at the faces peering up at him, saw Vin grinning as he leaned into Chris' side. Larabee was smiling and Wilmington, though partially hidden behind the camera, was smiling, also.
Finally, JD threw up his hands. "That's all. Thanks." Then he waved briefly before leaping down from the chair.
The teacher once again stood, but this time did not have to prompt applause. The children were clapping and laughing as she approached the podium. She allowed JD and Nicole time to get settled again before asking if there were any questions. Seeing the blank faces staring back, she clasped her hands together.
"All right then. Parents, we have snacks set up at the back of the room. Please help your selves. Children, we'll have a thirty minute break and then afternoon classes will begin. The voting will take place just before we dismiss for the day. Parents, we'd like to thank you for coming and hope that you found it interesting."
Everyone rose and started moving around the room with most of the kids making a quick dash to the refreshments with parents joining them after locating their child. Buck and Chris remained in place after standing, waiting for the little candidate to join them. They didn't have to wait long as JD appeared quickly with Nicole in tow.
"DA!" JD called out. Wilmington stooped and gave the little boy a hug.
"You did great, Little Bit."
"Did you like it? I wasn't nervous at all like I thought I'd be."
Chris reached over and ruffled the boy's dark hair. "Yeah, we could tell, JD. How are you, Nicole?"
In a firm voice, the girl responded. "I'm fine, Mr. Larabee. It's nice to see you again." Casting her gaze to the side, she said, "Oh, there's my mom and dad. I'll see you later, JD, Vin. Nice to see you again, also, Mr. Wilmington." Not waiting for an answer, she moved away. The men watched as the girl was hugged by her beaming parents.
"Folks sure seem happy with her 'nomination'," Buck commented.
"Oh, that's cause it's her 'first step into politics'. Least that's what she said. She wants to be the first woman pres'dent." JD's head was bobbing up and down as he spoke. The action stopped as he grabbed Buck's hand. "Let's go eat, Da. Speeching makes me hungry."
The mustached man laughed as he allowed himself to be dragged away. "Everything makes you hungry, JD. Sleeping, playing, riding "
"I'm a growing boy, that's why. That's what Unca Nathan says."
"Yeah, I bet he does, " Buck agreed.
The men spent the next thirty minutes at the school before returning to work. They knew that evening there would either be a celebration or a lot of comforting, depending on the voting to be done later.
They had refrained from calling the house. Mrs. Potter would have the boys home and doing homework by four and when that time came and went, both men figured that no call meant JD had lost the election and was not feeling very happy. It was two heavy hearted men that exited the black Dodge that evening wondering how they would handle the little boy disappointment. Their fears were confirmed as the tight lipped Gloria Potter met them at the back door, purse in hand.
"The boys are in their room and supper is warming in the oven. Good evening, gentlemen." She nodded and left without another word.
Sighing, Buck started in the door with Chris right behind him. The two men paused at the kitchen door. Finally, Chris reached out and pushed Wilmington into the kitchen and toward the front room.
Both men blinked at the sight before them. The room was decorated with red, white and blue streams and balloons. The boys were wearing hats with tri-colored bands.
"I WINNED!" JD announced as he bounced up and down in the middle of the room. Vin was standing next to the younger boy, a party whistle in his hand. He brought it up and blew into it as JD bounced and the pups ran around, hyped up by the excitement.
The new 'President' grabbed two more hats and ran over to present them to the two men.
"Miz Potter bought us the stuff to cel'brate. She says you have to cel'brate a hard won victory."
Taking the hat, Buck grinned to the little boy. He reached down and took the boy into his arms after placing the too small hat on his head. Hugging the boy, he whispered in his ear, "I'm so proud of you. I knew you could do it. And even if you hadn't a won, you're still a winner in my eyes."
Vin moved to stand next to Chris as he watched Buck hug JD. Feeling a hand on his shoulder, the young blond looked up.
"Sorry you didn't run, too?"
Fine. Blond hair flew as the boy shook his head. "Nope. I like being the visor guy. JD likes to be in front of people, but not me. I'll just vise him, nice and quiet like."
Chris laughed. He knew the boy was shy and didn't like to be the center of attention, but the man also knew that Vin was a very resourceful and bright child. He would have made a great class president, but he would be an excellent advisor to his young friend also.
"Well, I think before we get this party started, we better get those chores done."
"Then can we call Unca Josiah and Nathan and Unca Ezra and tell 'em bout the lection?" JD asked.
Nodding, Chris stated, "They'd like that a lot. Maybe we can invite them out for another, big celebration on Saturday."
"YEAH" the two boys yelled.
Next up - The Fab Seven by Estee
Want to put this week's
puzzle together? Click