The Podenco family elections were coming on Saturday, and all four members were running. Audrey, the daughter, had a class on democracy, and her homework was to do an at-home election lasting a whole week. She had it all planned on Friday night at supper when her mom, Frida, had joked, “What about Sally?”
Of course, Audrey was still worried about Joe Katz, who lived with his half-brother who was 30 and worked nights so they were more like roommates than parent and child. How the heck was he gonna have an election?
“I forgot Sally,” Audrey said. Sally was their Labrador-ish dog with an extra-long tail so they called her Salamander—Sally for short, which had made Audrey laugh when Roger, her step-dad, explained because—She had made up tables with a ruler and everything, wanting to document the whole election to earn an A on the assignment. There wasn’t room for Sally.
“I didn’t think she was eligible,” Audrey said. “If you really want to vote for her, you can as a write-in. See?” She showed off the ballots she had made, with all their names except for Sally and then a blank line where they could write-in anyone.
That night, as Roger let Sally lick the plates clean before he turned on the dishwasher (he wasn’t supposed to!), he told her that she had his vote. “You’re obviously the leader of the family, Sal. Without you, we’d be lost.”
The election began at lunch on Sunday, with everyone having Saturday to come up with their platforms. Everyone said what they would change if elected, and everyone acted magnanimous toward each other and to each other’s ideas.
Audrey said she would make it so every month you had a birthday, instead of once per year, but that your real birthday would still be the big one, but that you’d be celebrated once a month with a mini-birthday (but no, you wouldn’t get a birthday wish except on the real one; birthday wishes don’t grow on tress).
Frida said she would repeal the law of gravity and replace it with the law of gravy, so that everything would have to be held down by a dollop of gravy (this was a covert influence campaign—it was Roger’s turn to make dinner, and she was lobbying for biscuits and gravy).
Roger said he would adopt the Hague Television Convention, requiring the family to use a point system to determine what to watch on TV. He had a whole chart about it, but the gist was that he could let them pick most of the time, saving up his points so he could watch major sporting events without argument.
“You know, we can adopt these ideas regardless of who wins,” Frida said. “The law of gravity has kept us down for too long!”
Sally barked at a squirrel out the window. “She seconds!” Roger said.
Later that afternoon, Audrey was out walking Sally when they came across a discarded pizza box. As they stepped past it, Audrey gave it an idle kick, sending it a few feet onward. At this, Sally romped about and pounced atop the box, sledding briefly before the road’s friction stopped her.
“Right on, Sal,” Audrey said, and then she ran and jumped on the box, surfing it a little ways. “You always have good ideas. You get my vote,” she told her dog.
After they got home, Audrey said to Frida, “How can Sally vote? She can’t write or talk.”
“Some people can’t vote,” Frida said. “Like you, you’re too young. Those who can’t rely on the rest of us to get it right.”
Audrey nodded. “It’s a big responsibility, when you think about it.”
The next morning while Frida mowed the lawn, Sally was running ahead, picking up sticks and moving them to the heap off to the side. After she finished, Frida gave Sally a dog cookie for being a good lass. “You earned my vote for sure, Old Sally,” Frida told her.
Finally Saturday rolled around, and the Podencos assembled in the living room. “I set up the bathroom as the voting booth, because it’s private,” Audrey explained. “You just go on in, and I left a few different pens and markers so you can express your vote in whatever way you like. Put your ballot in the empty tissue box, and after everyone’s voted, we’ll count them.”
“Who goes first?” Roger asked.
“Oh! I didn’t think about—”
“I’ll go first,” Frida said. “I have to go, anyway.”
After Frida had gone and voted, Roger said Audrey could go next. After she left, Frida said how glad she was that they were teaching civics so young. “Democracy is important, and it makes me proud of our community,” she said to Roger.
“It’s a waste of paper, I say. That was a fresh box of tissues. What did she do with them?”
“Oh, Roger! She put them in bags so we can take them with us to school and work, so if we get the sniffles we’ll be able to blow our noses.”
“Smart!” Roger said, as Audrey finally came back from the voting bathroom.
Roger went last, and he brought the ballot tissue box back when he came out.
“Okay, now we’ll count the votes,” Audrey said, reaching into the box. “One for Sally!” She made a tally mark on the recording sheet. She pulled out the next ballot. “Two for Sally!” she cried, making another line. She pulled out the final ballot, which she didn’t technically need to, obviously, because the result was already determined at that point, but everyone’s vote counts, even the ones that technically don’t. “It’s a landslide! Sally got all the votes.”
Sally barked in triumph, while Frida said, “I can’t believe we all voted for Sally.”
“You’ll get ’em next time, dear,” Roger said in consolation.
But Sally kept barking. Her bark became a grunt, and her grunt became intelligible. She was ordering the Podencos around! She made Roger bring his shoes to be chewed on, and she made Frida put all the sticks back in the yard, and she made Audrey order her a pizza with bacon and bones, yuck!
And the Podencos were never heard from again.
The moral of the story is: democracy is great, but you still have to be fucking careful whom you elect.