The Kind of Nights You Write Stories About
It started off with a campaign; well, it actually started before the campaign, on the car ride back to Kentucky.
I was visiting my old stomping grounds and had two weeks to spend with the people who most inspire me in this world: my friends and family. My car ride home, in the wee hours of the morning, as I travelled along the curvy mountain roads of North Carolina, I made a decision. I decided that I wanted to make every moment of my trip count. I wanted to soak up all of the possibilities around me and use them as fuel for the flames of my imagination. I wanted to live each day to the fullest and make each night the kind of night you write stories about.
I probably listened to too much Bob Dylan on the drive back to Kentucky and became drunk on his influence, but somewhere on the kiss-your-own-ass curves of the Carolina roads, I consciously decided as a human being and as a writer to not waste more time idly waiting for life and its excitements to come my way. Every moment holds a potential story. You just have to look for it. As soon as I reached the Kentucky line, I found my story. I hadn’t been in Kentucky for more than 24 hours when we started the campaign.
You see, as soon as I reached my small, Kentucky town, I was overwhelmed by the mass compilation of yard signs for an upcoming election of Judge Executive. It wasn’t so much the signs that were overwhelming as much as the vast number of candidates.
Growing up in Kentucky, I’d always heard the term Judge Executive used, but without knowing the duties of the role. My logical brain assumed that the word “Judge” meant an actual judge (a.k.a. some person with a law degree). However, being a small town, you tend to know or at least know of most people in the area, especially if they’re high profile figures in the community. So, when I saw the names of the various candidates, an imaginary shotgun fired in my brain as I realized that none of those people had law degrees.
“What’s a Judge Executive do?” I wondered as I wearily chugged along to my childhood home after driving through the night.
I didn’t know the answer, but I knew who would, Google.
Of course, in this particular circumstance, Google couldn’t help. I was in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone service. I looked out the window and watched more Judge Executive campaign signs pass me by. I stored my question into my tired brain, hoping I’d remember to revisit it tomorrow. How could I forget my question when every yard in the county was littered with campaign signs?
The next day, on my way towards the “metropolitan area” of my county, I was again reminded of my question: what does a Judge Executive do?
As I was exiting “the city,” I passed a familiar silver car. A surge of excitement rushed through me like I’d just stuck my finger into a light socket. I looked down at my phone and was pleased to see that I now had roaming service. My fingers typed away. “I just saw you.”
Not thirty seconds later, I got a response. “Then you better turn around.”
It was Fe, my best friend and my oldest friend that I’ve remained in contact with. Our bond formed like most friendships, on the back of an after school tutoring bus at the ripe old age of 13, when we superficially declared to each other what superlatives we’d like to receive in high school. We’ve been best friends ever since.
I followed Fe’s orders and turned the car around, toward her house. When we pulled into her driveway, I smiled as I saw my friend had endorsed not just one, but all of the Judge Executive candidates, according to the rainbow of signs sprouting like flowers out of her yard.
After hugs were exchanged, we sat down on Fe’s couch and I turned on my investigative reporter side and got down to business.
“Do you know what a Judge Executive does?” I asked Fe.
She pursed her lips like she was ready to speak, but then paused and, finally, said, “No idea.”
Lucky for us, Fe had Wi-Fi. However, oddly enough, even Google was unsure of the duties of a Judge Executive; so was Siri. We each sat with our eyes glued to our cell phones. I eventually stumbled onto a page with a few basic facts to the duties of Judge Executive:
“The Judge/Executive serves a four-year term and may be re-elected indefinitely. Though wielding no judicial power, the Judge/Executive is often informally referred to as “The Judge”. is formally addressed as “Your Honor” and styled as “The Honorable”. The Judge/Executive is a voting member of the Fiscal Court and therefore exercises some legislative authority.”
That was listed under “Terms and Duties.” Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but there’s not a single duty listed in that paragraph. This appeared to be the one time a government role held less power and responsibility than England’s Royal Family.
We then discovered another website that listed the average income for a Judge Executive . . . and let’s just say that, for a role that appears to have no duties other than being called “Your Honor” or “The Honorable,” our eyes were widened.
The three of us continued researching the duties of a Judge Executive, but we came up with almost nothing, other than they try to obtain funding for the county.
I finally stated the obvious. “No wonder everyone wants this job.”
Fe and I both agreed. It was then, when my friend’s fiery red hair and cat-like eyes bobbed up and down in front of me, that I got a bright idea. If there are no duties for the position, then everyone’s qualified. If I still lived there, who would I want to be the Judge Executive? My brain offered only one answer: the pretty ginger sitting in front of me. (I’d re-read Hunter S. Thompson’s “The Battle of Aspen: Freak Power In The Rockies” only a few days before.)
I didn’t want to pick just any local friend to run for the position. Fe could actually do it. I’ve been saying for years, “One day, she’ll run that town.”
Fe’s a natural born leader. She always has been. She’s fun, friendly, smart, talented (especially athletically), educated, honest, hardworking, stubborn, and occasionally sweet. She fights for what she believes in. Fe is the type of person that everyone wants to know. I can tell you from experience that she’s the type of person that everyone wants as a best friend. She’ll do anything for those she cares about. She spent our teenage years protecting and standing up for me when I lacked the courage to do it myself.
“Fe would be the perfect government official, any constituents would be lucky to have her.”
That’s what was going through my head when I suggested Fe run. She was naturally hesitant, but I argued my case and I argued it hard. It didn’t take much persuasion..
“Why not? The worst that can happen is you lose.”
And she did lose. The decision to run happened on Friday, the election was that coming Tuesday. However, I stand by the fact that if we’d had more time, Fe could’ve won. I hope that one day she’ll decide to pursue public office. The people of the county deserve a leader like her. Hell, all of America would be lucky to have someone like Fe in office. America would again be the most feared country. (Hell hath no fury like redhead scorned.)
This story wasn’t about winning or losing, though. It was about making a memory. This random occurrence of events led to an unforgettable night when a group of friends sat around “Campaign Headquarters” filled with hope. The night was jam-packed with laughter, and not just normal laughter, but the kind of laughter that can only be spawned by the company of old friends, the kind of laughter that makes you feel like you’ve done a thousand crunches, the kind of laughter that makes you wiggle around uncomfortably after uncontrollably releasing a dabble of urine.
It’s moments like these that are the kind worth writing stories about. It’s these moments that make the hard times in life worth enduring. These moments fill you with certainty as they’re happening that they’ll never be forgotten. It’s moments like these that give writers a story to tell. I’m sure you’ll understand why I’m so thankful for these moments and why I choose to write stories about nights like these.
Of course, you mustn’t forget that the campaign was just our first night back in Kentucky.
To be continued.