Dancing Around The Problem: Episode 2

Pollovic is relaxing in his favorite chair, with a cup of Orange Orgasm. He's feeling more cheerful than he has in some time; Senators Beems and Morhill finally gave in on the wheat tariffs yesterday.

Pollovic glances at his watch. Soon he'll have to go intercept the morning mail, so his mother doesn't get to it first. He takes another sip of trin.

Pollovic expects the first of the RSVP's for the ball will be coming in today, and there are certain things about the guest list that he'd rather his mother not find out just yet. He drains the last of his tea and sets aside the cup. It's time to get moving.

Eulalia's maid, alas for her son, was not allowed to finish her morning coffee before fetching the post. Eulalia saw the delivery being made from her window.

Eulalia is also moving a bit faster, thanks to Kat's ministrations.

Pollovic leaves the breakfast room, heading for the front door. He intends to collect the mail himself; his mother might be able to force any of the servants to hand it over.

Pollovic doesn't quite grasp the Sime concept of "sec", but he knows Eulalia has plenty of the Gen equivalent.

Eulalia's maid has already extracted the RSVPs from the stack to deliver them to her employer.

Eulalia has adjourned to the breakfast room herself to go over them and plot strategy.

Pollovic pauses by the mirror near the front door, repeatedly adjusting his tie. He doesn't want to look like he's hovering. He glances at his watch repeatedly. The mail should be here by now.

Eulalia's maid is briefly reflected in the mirror, carrying a stack of envelopes into the breakfast room.

Pollovic turns and stares. Is that the mail? He hurries down the hall, hoping to intercept the maid before it's too late.

Eulalia: Ah, good.

Eulalia is already reaching for the envelopes on the maid's tray.

Pollovic opens the breakfast room door and strides through, trying not to look as frantic as he feels.

Pollovic: Is that my mail?

Pollovic puts a slight emphasis on the word "my".

Eulalia: No, it's just the replies to my invitations. Oh, look. The Crimberlies have responded. Their daughter is considered quite a beauty, and accomplished as well.

Eulalia opens the envelope with more manual dexterity than she's had in three years.

Pollovic: That's Senator Cabrell's sister and her family, isn't it? They're a bit... conservative.

Pollovic isn't objecting to the family's presence at the ball, but just putting his mother on notice that he won't be courting their daughter.

Eulalia: Yes. Just the sort of balance that's required for you to get the most accomplished in your position.

Eulalia: She would restore some of the credibility that you've endangered with some of your less prudent actions, but she's young enough to be flexible about some issues on which I suppose you're not likely to compromise.

Pollovic has an entirely different notion of how much he would get accomplished if his wife were not in sympathy with his priorities.

Pollovic: There are some families on this side of the aisle that are every bit as credible. I took the liberty of inviting a few.

Eulalia: True. The Wimberlakes and the Cantrells are both perfectly respectable, although Claudia thinks the Cantrell girl isn't as sharp as a political wife ought to be. Let's see if they've responded...

Eulalia starts sorting through the envelopes.

Pollovic gestures dismissal to his mother's maid, who is still hovering. He knows an argument is brewing, and would prefer not to hold it in front of the servants.

Pollovic gnaws on his lip in a gesture he'd schooled himself out of thirty years ago, bracing himself for the inevitable explosion.

Eulalia sees a name she doesn't recognize, and frowns.

Eulalia: Yanorma Draihal? Who's that? One of your staff?

Pollovic shakes his head.

Pollovic: She's at the Nivet embassy.

Eulalia's nose wrinkles.

Pollovic: A lovely and accomplished young woman, I'm told, from an old family in the Konawa area.

Eulalia: Well, I suppose if you want to become an expert in foreign relations you have to do the diplomatic thing.

Eulalia is trying hard to accommodate her son, as long as he accommodates her in the things that count.

Pollovic: She's been here in New Washington since she was fifteen, learning our government and culture.

Pollovic doesn't add that she's working as a file clerk.

Eulalia: I suppose she knows how to behave properly, then. Young Trent Wimberlake has been talking about taking a tour in foreign lands. I'll see if I can get him to take care of her.

Eulalia means, keep her occupied and out of sight.

Pollovic: Oh, I'm sure she won't require babysitting.

Eulalia continues to sort envelopes.

Pollovic has so fallen into the habit of speaking so a Sime would understand, that he doesn't use the word "need" casually, even when talking to his own mother.

Eulalia: Hajene Seruffin? Isn't that the Sime you kissed in public? With pictures of it in all the newspapers?

Pollovic: He's a very senior diplomat, a Special Assistant to the World Controller. Approximately equivalent to Eugene Wheyworthy's role on our side.

Eulalia: That's very nice for him, but I'm not sure that it's wise to bring that whole unfortunate incident to everyone's attention when you're trying to put your best foot forward.

Pollovic: "That incident", as you call it, is hardly one of the first twenty things that would come to mind about him for most people.

Eulalia: It will be if they see the two of you together.

Pollovic: They see us together all the time, around his offices or mine. We work in the same places.

Eulalia: There's a difference between treating the man as a colleague, and inviting him to a social event.

Pollovic shrugs.

Pollovic: I'm not going to debate it with you, mother. He's been invited.

Eulalia makes a mental note to enlist the Tsibolas to divert Seruffin and keep him far away from her son.

Eulalia: Just remember that your duty as host is to dance with the eligible young ladies.

Eulalia puts a slight emphasis on "eligible".

Pollovic: I shan't neglect my duty, Mother.

Eulalia: See that you don't. I've gone to a great deal of trouble to arrange this, and my reputation as a hostess is also at stake. I would be very upset if I were shamed in front of my friends.

Pollovic: If you are, Mother, you can always blame it on your no-good son.

Eulalia: What decent girl would marry a man who publicly shames his mother?

Pollovic thinks privately that that would quite neatly take him off the marriage market, so his mother's caught in a double bind. She doesn't dare insult her son's quirks to his potential in-laws.

Eulalia: No word from the Rittenbergs yet.

Pollovic shrugs. They're another very conservative family. Aside from necessary business, he hasn't exchanged a dozen words with Senator Rittenberg since last Year's Turning.

Eulalia: I hope Aramintha can convince her husband to come. A cordial relationship with him would give you a great deal of influence.

Pollovic nods. He doesn't intend to deliberately shame his mother; if the Rittenbergs are there, he'll speak cordially to them.

Eulalia alas wasn't born yesterday, or even the day before yesterday.

Eulalia: Brenn, I'm serious. If you want to be effective as a Senator, you can't limit your friends and allies to the members of your own party. If you try, some day you're going to discover that you have a grand chance to accomplish something if you can enlist broad support -- only you won't know who to talk to.

Pollovic: I'm quite aware of that. I have friends on both sides of the aisle.

Pollovic reflects privately upon his realization a few days ago that the nearest thing he has to a real friend, as opposed to acquaintance, has tentacles.

Eulalia: Really? Name ten who would accept your invitation to a house party as a matter of course?

Pollovic rattles off eight names from the other side of the aisle, all of them moderates. He thinks for a moment, then adds the names of two conservatives he's worked with on a lot of committees.

Eulalia: Over, say, an invitation to the annual Fireplace Cup?

Eulalia names a very popular, must-go sporting event.

Pollovic smiles.

Pollovic: Mother, I wouldn't attend my own birthday party if it clashed with the Fireplace Cup. Not that it's an issue; they're almost half a year apart.

Eulalia: That's as may be, but I notice that out of those ten "good friends", you only asked me to invite four of them. Nor have you attended, let's see, at least three social events given by their families since I arrived.

Pollovic: I haven't attended three social events in total since you got here. This is the busiest time of the year for committee work.

Eulalia: I see it hasn't occurred to you that your committee work would go a lot more smoothly, and take less time, if you maintained a reasonable social relationship with your colleagues? And not just during committee meetings?

Pollovic: I do what I can, mother. There are only so many hours in a week. And yes, I know you'll cite that as the reason I require a wife.

Eulalia: Not just any wife, but a wife with connections to people who disagree with you and the talent and ambition to use those connections to further your political career. And yes, also to help you establish your own political legacy.

Pollovic: I understand what you're saying. But I have to have a wife who'll be a partner, not an opponent.

Eulalia: Do you think for one moment that I'm suggesting anything of the sort? You know my father's views were not at all consistent with your father's. Are you saying that you believe that your parents weren't partners?

Pollovic: You seem to be focusing your attention on young women from the families that stand most bitterly opposed to everything I'm trying to accomplish, women who've been taught since childhood that everything I want is wrong.

Eulalia: Of course I am. Those are the young ladies who can best give you connections in the particular areas where you have the least influence. But do give me credit for having evaluated their flexibility before proposing them as likely candidates.

Pollovic: It's not the same, now, as it was when you and Father first married. Unity has widened the gap between the two parties. The moderates across the aisle recognize the necessity of working with the current reality, but some of the conservatives would still like to, literally, walk into the Sime Centers with a shotgun and rid us of our "corruption".

Pollovic buries his face in his hands.

Eulalia: Nonsense. Although I admit some of their more extreme followers might have such views. No one can function as a Senator for long without learning some practical common sense about such matters.

Pollovic: Mother, I'll give serious consideration to every candidate you've invited. I won't rule out any of them until they give me cause to. But I don't promise to pick one of your choices, either. And no, I'm not saying any of my colleagues actually would walk into a Sime Center and start shooting. I'm just saying some of them wish they could.

Eulalia: Brenn, every time you attend a sporting event, you express a wish to walk into the referee's box and murder them all.

Pollovic: You know that's different.

Eulalia: How so? Men often use violent metaphors to express frustration at parts of the world that distress them. I haven't noticed that any conservative Senators have actually followed through on any wishes they might have about guns and Sime Centers, and that is what is important.

Pollovic: I'm not talking about metaphors. I'm talking about deeply held beliefs. I've been forced to re-examine some of mine over the past year, so I know what I'm talking about. Even just a year ago, I saw Unity in the abstract. In my gut, I saw Simes as not quite people. Powerful, intelligent animals, but the only difference between me and, say, the Rittenbergs, was that I saw the Sime animal as tame, they saw it as wild. Now I see Simes as people. And the conservatives... the conservatives don't. And they refuse to get close enough to any Simes to learn otherwise.

Eulalia: It seems to me that you're having a bit of trouble yourself seeing conservatives as people. Or at least as people whose interests might be worth understanding. People who might even be worth building an alliance with, on some issues where your interests coincide.

Pollovic: Oh, we work together, on other issues. I teamed up with some of the most conservative men in the Senate, to get a couple of farm bills onto the floor, because what we had in common was the rural backbone of our respective constituencies.

Eulalia: But you apparently continue to view them with contempt, and that deprives your own constituents of having an effective Senator.

Pollovic: I respect any man who's worthy of respect, Mother, no matter what side of the aisle he's on. Take Ruthven Tsibola, for example. Yes, we bicker, and yes, we're on opposite sides of most issues. But he's a man of his word. And in some ways...

Pollovic shrugs.

Eulalia: Yes?

Pollovic: In some ways, I think he began seeing Simes as real people before I did.

Eulalia: Why does this surprise you?

Pollovic: Because most of the ones who share his agenda don't.

Eulalia: I think if you were honest, you'd have to admit that a great many liberal Senators haven't given a lot of thought to Simes, either. For that, I expect plenty of Simes never give a thought to people on this side of the border.

Pollovic: That's true. It takes time. And personal experience. That's the big task for this generation, Mother. To create that first-hand experience, for all of us.

Pollovic manages a smile.

Pollovic: Let your conservatives come to the ball, Mother. Maybe one or two of them will get into a real conversation with one of my Simes, and bridge that gap just a tiny bit more. And as for wife-hunting... find me a girl who's the daughter Ruthven would have raised, if he'd had one, and I'll marry her.

Eulalia: Humpf. Just remember, you'll never find her if you don't get acquainted -- seriously acquainted -- with the most likely candidates.

Pollovic: I told you I won't rule any of them out until they give me cause. But you know as well as I do that the kind of in-depth conversations we'll have to have won't happen on the night of the ball. Don't expect me to name a bride three days after the party.

Eulalia: I won't. But I will expect you to pick two or three eligible girls with whom you wish to become further acquainted. And to pursue those acquaintances, actively. Don't tell me that you're too busy with committee meetings. In the long run, this is potentially more important to your ability to serve your constituents than discussing road repairs.

Pollovic: I'll do what I can. But if you want me to hurry the process, don't interfere with my screening methods.

Eulalia: So long as your "screening methods" involve meeting, talking, and dancing with the eligible young ladies, and so long as you can present me with up to three whom you wish to pursue, without offending the rest, I will let you choose how to proceed.

Pollovic: Very well, then.

Pollovic pauses long enough to make it seem like a change of topic.

Pollovic: What's in the rest of that pile? Who else has replied?

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