What most pissed Aphra off about the “gatekeepers” and guardians you had to go through to talk to powerful people was that they always thought they were the ones who had the power. They are always more arrogant and self-important than the people they were supposedly guarding from whoever they thought was trying to crash the party.
She’d worked her way up to this jerk, Mr. IvyLeaguer DonWannabe trying to talk down to her and pretending not to be eye-fucking her in the process. And he was playing everything close to his tailored chest, trying to string her out. Carefully avoiding saying anything of substance, much less definite. Not even, Get lost. Only thing he’d made clear was that she wasn’t talking to The Senator unless she told him exactly what she had to sell. And she’d been just as definite that she wasn’t laying out the goods for anybody except The Man.
“A bit of a misconception, I’m afraid,” he was droning on. “The whole idea that any Senator from the South, especially one who made the wise move to our party from the Democrats…”
“Do people still say ‘Dixiecrats’?” Aphra asked innocently.
“I suppose. Not around here, anyway.” First smile out this stiff. About as sincere as his artlessly displayed PhiBate key.
“Oh, that’s right, it’s the Republicans who’re the Jim Crow bloc these days, isn’t it?” Aphra wrinkled her brow in thought, “I guess ‘Dixlicans” doesn’t have that ring.”
“Well, huh, huh…” Okay now, was that the phoniest chuckle she’d heard even around Washington? Tough competition, but it had the legs. “That’s the sort of misconception I was talking about. Actually the Senator’s record on issues relating to African Americans is…”
“I beg your pardon?” Aphra’s first use of her Drop Dead Voice froze the aide in mid-sentence. “Do I seem deficient in English?”
“Your English? No, not at all.”
“Perhaps I still haven’t entirely shaken that nagging Ebonics accent?”
“Uh… why do you ask?”
“Well you seem to think I’m from Africa. I hope that isn’t about the whole ‘descended from apes thing’. And what makes you think I’m American? Rather than Canadian or Bahaman or something?”
“No, of course not. I meant, you know… your…”
“Oh my ‘heritage’? Is that what you meant?”
“Well, look I just meant, black people…”
Aphra stuck her arm close to his so aggressively he flinched. She said, “Your sleeve there is black. Am I that color?”
He got more flustered, then suddenly drew a breath and leaned back in his chair. “How about you tell me?” he said. “Make sure I got the right password for this week.”
“I prefer to be referred to as a ‘nigger’, if you don’t mind.” That restored his level of fluster in a hot minute. She shrugged. “Call a spade a spade, don’t you think? Cut out the bullshit. And wipe out the cheapest insult in history.”
He stared, giving her a chance for a chuckle and rimshot, but she was serious as a process server. He steepled his fingers and looked over them at her. “Taking the ‘queer folk’ model on, are you?”
“They copped our licks, we’re copping theirs.”
“Well it sounds like a lot of fun, actually, I wish you luck on it. I’m dying to hear Diane Sawyer or Hillary Clinton drop that one on television.”
She gave him a sly smile. She’d like to see that herself.
“Meanwhile,” he said. “I assume you’re just as prickly about your sex as your color. Have chicks retro-ed to wanting to be called ‘bitches’ as well?”
“If the shoe fits,” she drawled, crossing her legs and dangling an Italian minimalist piece of footwear in his view. Mostly just luscious leather sole and the blatant hint of two straps. “I’ll wear it.”
Fifteen minutes later she was sitting across from The Man, pitching Her Plan. It’s all in how you talk to honkies, she thought. Just enunciate clearly and speak slowly.