He stood, shabby-suited, shoes almost down-at-heel, in the far corner of the room under the watchful oil-painted eye of Sir Richard Chester OBE; “Elected Councilor of this Borough – 1893 to 1902; Mayor 1897 and 1899”, ignored by the other guests, a plate of canapés in his left hand, a fluted glass containing a bubbly liquid in his right, and wondered how the all others managed to eat and drink without dropping one or the other. He needed a third hand and he didn’t have one. He knew, however, how to manage the glass and he knew he was managing it only too well. And every ten minutes or so, a fresh-faced young man or woman in black shirt and trousers and apron would approach and, with a look of sympathy, offer him a fresh glass from a tray. It would, he thought, be churlish to refuse. And he knew he should have something to eat, but how? His canapés were starting to curl at the edges.
In the middle of the room stood the newly elected mayor, laughing, glad-handing, and obviously dispensing words of considerable wisdom as well as witticisms and wisecracks. Her audience loved it. And showed it. She was the core of it all. She was the power, and around her in consecutive rings stood the others of power, the movers and the shakers, the wheelers and the dealers, the aristocracy of the city, bankers, consultants, property developers, lawyers, accountants. And the more powerful they were, the nearer they stood to the centre. And the nearer to the centre they stood, the more powerful they would be.
And so they shoved and elbowed and muscled to get closer because if ever a mayor had won a landslide victory, it was this one. Her scorched earth campaigning, her ruthless exploitation/sympathetic understanding of local grievances and aspirations had guaranteed her acres and hours of coverage in both local and national media, attracted also by her stunning good looks and an ability rare in local government to answer difficult questions intelligently. And the electorate had responded with a massive “Yes” in a record turnout. She was, these thrusting, ambitious (and greedy, as some unkind souls would have it) dukes and duchesses and princes and princesses of the stock exchange kingdoms and hedge fund empires knew, the key to their greater wealth and success, and each one of them was determined that when this goddess woke up the next morning, theirs would be the name on her lips, they would be the one person she would be contacting to arrange lunch, and they would be chosen to sit at her right hand and to reflect her glory.
Slightly tipsy, rather hungry, and with only Sir Richard as company, Simon Tethers wondered why he was even there, why he had bothered to come to the celebration party. After all, the only power he had ever known was that of being able to extend the length of loan of a library book. And that power, according to a confidential report that he had seen only two weeks prior, was soon to be usurped by a machine. The rubber date stamp was soon to be dead-ended.
Later that evening, much later, lying post-coital in bed, cuddled up to her not very sober husband, the ceremonial chain of office draped lackadaisically over a chair, the mayor whispered in his drowsy ear, “God, they are all going to get a terrible shock when they discover we’re going to do it our way. And tell me dearest, how do you fancy your new title, Deputy Mayor Tethers?”