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“Can you keep a secret?”

“Of course.”

“I mean a real secret. Don’t tell anybody. Because this… this could kill me politically if it ever got out.”

“I promise,” said Carrie, her imagination already trying to picture the scandalous misdeeds Brooke was about to confess to.

Brooke took a deep breath.

“I hate the voters.”

Carrie paused for a moment.

“I… can see why that would be a problem politically.”

“Think about it, Carrie,” she said. “This is a democracy, right?”

“Technically it’s a republic.”

“Conceded. The point is, the voters are the boss. We’re just the office girls. We’re the executive assistants. They hire us, they can fire us… Doesn’t an office girl have the right to hate her boss?”

Carrie nodded. She personally thought “branch manager” would be a better metaphor than “executive assistant” — a certain amount of authority, not too much day-to-day oversight, but ultimately answerable to the home office — but this wasn’t the time to quibble. Brooke sounded sincere in a way that Carrie hadn’t heard before.

“And I don’t hate them just because they’re the boss,” Brooke continued. “See, there are good bosses out there. I’ve had them, you’ve had them… They’re the ones who pay attention. The ones who step up and accept responsibility. The ones who try to understand everything they’re in charge of, ‘cause that’s their job. They notice right away if you’re slacking off, but they also notice if you’ve got problems. And when you tell them the truth, they listen and they thank you, even if it’s something they don’t want to hear.”

Carrie nodded. That was the sort of boss she tried to be.

“And then there’s the other kind of boss — I’m sure you’ve had some of them too. The big spoiled children. The ones who never pay any attention to what’s going on until something blows up in their faces, and then they lash out at whoever happens to be in the office at the time instead of trying to figure out what the hell just happened. They don’t want to think about the consequences of their actions, so they don’t. If you lie to them and flatter them, they reward you, and if you try to tell them the truth they punish you. And they never, ever accept the blame.

“Now here’s my question, Carrie. If the American people were a boss, what kind of boss would they be?”
A scene from the forthcoming "Altered Seasons." Carolyn Camberg and Holbrooke Morgan have a conversation. The novel is science fiction/climate fiction, but this scene doesn't have any science or climate in it, so I'm filing it under "general."
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June 14, 2015
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