King of Vermont

by Stephen Morris
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:    21 April 2019   :    a PUBLIC SERVICE of The Public Press   :
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A chance comment on Vermont's most popular talk show, Straddlin' the Fence, lands Darwin Hunter in a three-way race to be elected State Senator. Set against a political landscape as rocky and muddy as the garden during Mud Season, Darwin combats his wily, experienced opponents with his only long suit–the truth.

The King of Vermont is part two of "Stories and Tunes," Stephen Morris's "four-part" trilogy of life in the rural North.

King of Vermont

by Stephen Morris

from Chapter 7 : Total Disclosure

Darwin Hunter rose as his name was called and walked to the podium. He nodded to Billy Mann, Captain GooRoo, who awaited him at the microphone. Billy had just completed the first public performance of "Total Disclosure," a hard-rocking ballad with a central theme of disillusionment built around a rousing chorus fraught with social significance. The song described politicians, parents, and community leaders who had in common only the fact that they were not what they seemed. The crowd joined in enthusiastically each time the chorus came, a testament to the dullness of what had preceded Billy Mann, more than anything else.

The applause now died to a smatter. Darwin cleared his voice, mostly to hear what it sounded like through the microphone. He began:

"My name is Darwin Hunter."

In the back he could see Sammi seated at the small table she shared with Natalie Weinstein. There was a sea of faces, perhaps a total of two hundred fifty. Sunny stood at the back of the tent with Emil and the Blanchard clan. Bennett and Teresa had aroused the only real excitement of the day, by picketing the entrance to the tent with placards saying Leave Us Alone! Now, however, their point made, their curiosity had gotten the better of them, so they were taking in the show along with everyone else.

"And I would like to lead the residents of the Fifth District of the state of Vermont."

The day had gone well enough from Walt's and Townshend's perspective. The weather cooperated, giving them a brilliant if breezy day. The turnout for the morning events was very light, too many of the journalists having opted to sleep in after spending the evening in the logistics tent. By lunchtime, however, the crowd showed signs of life. Overall there had been enough note taking, camera clicking, and on-camera interviews to convince them that the event was a success. Walt and Townshend had expected the climactic event to be their press conference right after lunch. They were surprised when no one left when they turned the stage over to Darwin and his kooky musician friend.

"In considering the worthiness of my candidacy I have done a great deal of thinking. I have thought about our society, the human species, and the written and unwritten laws that govern us all. What I have concluded is that there is something that counts more than education, more than experience, and more than patriotism. I'm talking about honesty."

The mood of the crowd was mixed. Many of the people who had met Darwin over the roasting pig the night before were expecting something comical. Their curiosity was piqued, but they anticipated nothing of consequence from the political candidacy of a nobody from nowhere. Darwin's friends and neighbors were a little more on edge. They had known Darwin long enough to know that he made rules rather than followed them.

"I have no experience. I'm a doctor, an eye doctor, not a great one, but good enough. But I am honest. At least I will be by the end of today. So many of our leaders have disappointed us in recent years. They get us to believe in them, then we find out they are completely false. Richard Nixon, Jim Jones, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Bill Clinton -- the list of deceivers is as long as the list of leaders."

The crowd was politely quiet. Curiosity has that effect on a crowd.

"I am not going to tell you that I am a moral paragon, because I am not a moral paragon. But I won't disillusion you. My policy is one of Total Disclosure. If I am to lead, my constituents have a right to know who is leading them. When I was eight years old I stole. I stole the milk money that my mother gave me and used it to buy baseball cards and candy. When she caught me, I promised never to steal again. I lied. When I was thirteen I stole a forty-five record from a Woolworth's. The record was "Walking with My Angel" by Bobby Vee. I never liked the record after that. Later that year I stole a copy of Playboy that I kept in the arm of my fishing jacket until my mother found it."

Thus began a forty-minute journey into the seamy underside of Darwin Hunter's life. He told of masturbating in a movie theater, lying about his age to buy liquor, killing a sparrow with a BB gun, and sending a teacher an anonymous note turning in a fellow classmate known to be cheating on tests.

The saga continued through high school into college, where Darwin admitted to a multitude of peccadillos, including smoking dope and lurid, though infrequent sex. On and on he went, meeting Sammi, revealing the most intimate details of their relationship up through and including bouts of impotency and the precarious state of their current relationship.

The portrait did not dwell exclusively on the negative. He brought forth in a straightforward manner that he was a bright, diligent guy who had succeeded in many of life's endeavors due to a willingness to put forth more effort than the next guy. Darwin thought he had conducted himself with an overall sense of decency and consistency that showed the type of man he was.

But, oh the wounds. They were not pretty. There were four traffic tickets; the time he was grounded by his college dean for keeping a girl in his room overnight; the night at the ophthalmologists' convention when he passed out in the room of a female doctor; the time his own wife tried to have him arrested for drunk driving; the time he chipped his son's tooth by playing too roughly; Sammi's critique of him as a chauvinist, weakling, and a coward, not to mention the fact that she was working for his opponent.

Darwin paused and tried to read the crowd before entering into his close. They were rapt. Either bewildered or awed. He could not tell.

"That, in a giant nutshell, is it. I cannot disappoint you, because you know exactly what I am. You have complete access to my tax records and bank statements, because I have told you all there is to tell. My policy is, and will continue to be, one of Total Disclosure. I urge my opponents to adopt it as well. I urge people in public service everywhere to adopt Total Disclosure. In fact, anyone can benefit from Total Disclosure. We are what we are, no more, no less, and the sooner we can admit this by being honest with ourselves and others, then the sooner we will be able to put false issues of personality behind us and achieve true progress. Personally, I am now totally disclosed, and I feel great."


What is a "Four-Part Trilogy?"

Next up from The Public Press: the first three books, revised and improved, in Stephen Morris's Vermont epic, the four part trilogy.

books in the Four-part Trilogy

Life has a way of interfering with art. Beyond Yonder, The King of Vermont, and Darwin and the Tunnel of Love were always intended by the author to be a single work, telling the epic story of the daily lives and times of the inhabitants of the tiny hamlet of Upper Granville, Vermont.

But life intervenes. It happens! Day jobs take priority. Parents grow old. Little publishers sell to big publishers. Editors move on to different jobs. Opportunities knock. Kids leave home. It happens! It happens! And it happens!

As a result, the epic novel came out in fits and spurts. First, Beyond Yonder. That's when the publisher got sold. Then, King of Vermont, that's when the editor quit. Meanwhile, a real life equivalent to Upper Granville began appearing on the pages of the Vermont Sunday Magazine. Now, the region had a name, Beyonder, to describe that part of Vermont that is next to nothing, but not far away from anywhere. Tales and More Tails is a collection of Beyonder's "Stories and Tunes."

The Public Press is pleased to present Beyonder in its original glory – ficticious and non-ficticious. This is the Director's cut, digitally remastered, and in full Dolby sound. This is Beyonder at the peak of foliage, at the depth of Mud Season despair, in the procreational frenzy of the vernal kaboom, and in the enveloping eternity of an August night watching the meteors shower in a part of the world where you can actually still see them.

The four books in Stephen Morris
In Beyonder, 4 books make 1 trilogy
Stephen Morris
interview with publisher and author Stephen Morris
cover: Beyond Yonder by Stephen Morris
Beyond Yonder
by Stephen Morris
cover: King of Vermont by Stephen Morris
King of Vermont
by Stephen Morris
cover: Tales and More Tails by Stephen Morris
Tales & More Tales
by Stephen Morris
cover: Tunnel of Love by Stephen Morris
Tunnel of Love
by Stephen Morris

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