“Good afternoon. I have just a brief announcement,” said the President of the United States.

“I guess you do,” Phil Nolting said to the television set. “When did you ever give a Saturday afternoon press conference? Sports fans won’t love you.”

Barry Hines said to Fletch, “You’re to call someone named Alston Chambers. He says you have his number. Also Rondoll James has called you twice. Here’s his number.”

“You can forget James,” Walsh muttered.

The campaign bus had pulled into a rest area and stopped. Even the bus driver was watching the President’s press conference.

The press bus had stopped a mile down the road at a tavern to watch the press conference.

“He wants to inspire a million Sunday sermons, I bet,” Paul Dobson said. “Up with God and country.”

His head resting against a pillow, a cut on his cheek, The Man Who sat on the bench at the side of the bus, watching the television, saying nothing.

The rally at the shopping plaza had not been a success.

The governor climbed to the roof of a volunteer’s Ford, microphone in hand. Every time he said something the sound system screeched horribly. Again and again the governor tried to speak while Barry Hines and the bus driver scurried around trying to discover what was causing the screeching. Then he tried speaking without the microphone. The wind, the sound of traffic in the parking lot, the noise of jet airplanes passing overhead made the governor look like a frantic, laryngytic opera singer.

Doris Wheeler completely ignored the crowd. She went directly to the campaign bus, spluttering about her wet shoes and splattered skirt. Sully followed her as if she were on a short leash.

Fletch said to Walsh, “Don’t ask me to drive in the car with your mother again. Please.”

“Yeah,” Walsh said. “That Sully.” Through his open shirt collar his Adam’s apple rose and fell. “Tough broad.”

“The driver went off and left them here. In the middle of a puddle.”

Walsh looked around the parking lot. “That’s okay. A volunteer will drive her to the senior citizens’ home. That always looks better anyway. No problem.”

The governor climbed down from the wet car roof. He handed the microphone to Lee Allen Parke, who handed it to a volunteer, who handed it back to Barry Hines.

Then The Man Who walked into the crowd, both hands out to the people, allowing himself to be grabbed, pulled, pushed, jostled nearly off his feet. A little girl sitting on her father’s shoulders vomited on his head. Somehow an older woman, trying to kiss the governor, gashed his cheek with her fingernail. The Man Who kept reaching over people’s heads to shake hands with people behind them so the crowd kept pressing closer and closer to him. Shortly a fistfight broke out near the back of the crowd. From where Fletch was standing, he could see that three men had gotten a man in a black leather jacket down on the ground and were beating him pretty well. Two short, older men were trying to get them to stop. Walsh went into the crowd, turned his father around, and literally pushed him back onto the campaign bus.

Doris Wheeler and Sully got into the backseat of the volunteer’s Ford and were driven away.

The campaign bus left ahead of schedule.

As the bus was leaving, the man in the black leather jacket was staggering through the thinning crowd, yelling at them incomprehensibly through broken teeth and blood.

Aboard the bus, Flash cleaned the scratch on the governor’s face. He put antiseptic on it. The governor grinned at his staff. “Winning the hearts and minds of the people … There must be an easier job than this.”

“Sorry,” Barry Hines said.

Walsh said, “It’s this damned weather.”

So the caravan went on until nearly two o’clock and then parked at the tavern and in the rest area to watch the President’s news conference.

Aboard the campaign bus everyone was silent while the President read his statement: “The technology we have available today, especially the technology of communications, is not being used for the betterment of the people of the world. Clearly, the people of all nations would benefit from a fuller, more responsible use of this technology, to bring basic education to all people, to exchange scientific data, programs of cultural merit, health information, and the facts that can provide for a more equitable and waste-free worldwide allocation of food. Proper use of this technology should be encouraged by responsible governments. Therefore, today I am naming a special White House panel of distinguished citizens, and charging them with reporting to me how the technology of communications can be better used, worldwide, to encourage the peace and increase the prosperity of all nations.” The President blinked through the television lights at the White House press corps. “Now I’ll take questions.”

“The son of a bitch stole your issue,” Walsh said quietly.

The Man Who sat with his head back against the pillow. He continued to watch the press conference silently.

Most of the questions were about Central America, the economy, the Middle East, the Russian economic situation, and whether the President would agree to debate any or all of the other people running for the presidency and, if so, when. “It’s much too early to discuss that.”

At the end of the press conference, Barry Hines clicked off the television set.

Loudly, more firmly, directly at his father, Walsh said again, “The son of a bitch stole your issue.”

“That’s all right.” The governor looked around at his staff and chuckled. “At least the son of a bitch got me out of trouble with my wife.”