Poll dancing / by Vanessa Fiola

**The next 23 days I'll be posting 500 words a day here as part of a creative writing challenge. Join the FB group.  Often I phone it in.**

Today I left work a little early to get home in time to vote. In LA we are voting for mayor, taxing weed, a new councilperson, homes for the homeless and I don’t know, school board? Is that a thing? Unfortunately I got home too close to a conference call, and needed to pick Jonah up from school, so instead I waited until after both and made the whole thing a memorable activity for all. 

On the rare occassion I am the one to get Jonah, he has devised a consistent routine: As soon as I walk in the classroom, he hides under a table and tells me he wishes his daddy were picking him up, so that his teachers wonder if he’s being abused. It’s really charming. This is because his daddy shows up with honeysticks, or treats him to ice cream before dinner, or surprises him with a Star Wars TIE fighter that he knows I’ll object to, and otherwise showers him with the type of love common amongst everyday, normal grandparents. Except that he’s not a grandparent. This is a sore subject.

Anyway, one of the ways in which I am horrible is that I’ve taken to telling my son that if he comes with me, we will go on a special and unique mommy-Jonah date that only we can share. Our very first time, I took him for ice cream, so that now he remembers that lone event and holds hope of that memory.

As soon as he was safely fastened into his car seat, I told him we were going to exercise our civic duty and vote. To be fair, I generally avoid telling my child anything untrue. It was advice from our child therapist who said something about your word being imperative to your child’s self-confidence. In this case, I don’t consider voting not not a date, it’s just one that wouldn’t get you a callback.

“I don’t want to go vote!” He screamed, legs kicking.

“You don’t even know what it is,” I argued.

“Yes, I do!!”

He’s three. I knew I had him on the ropes.

“Oh yeah? Tell me what it is then.”

He paused for a second. I almost felt sorry for him because I could see his mental process unfold: scan brain for memory, locate nothing; identify options: 1) develop plausible story, nothing readily available; 2) scream. He started screaming again. 

By the time we got to our local Boys Republic, whatever that is, he had stopped crying. He had moved to fixating on the tiny speck of apple skin his nanny had accidentally left intact. He is also Virgo rising, so you might as well have caked that apple slice in sand for as much as he wanted to eat it in that condition. 

I tried to play up the exciting opportunity awaiting us: 

“Baby, do you realize we get to vote today?! You’re going to get a sticker!”

Whenever my toddler is in toddler-form, I always try to move through whatever social setting we’re in with speed. I’d prefer a stranger's lasting image of my son to be his sweet brown eyes, and not the rage he can indiscriminately impart.

But you’ve been to a polling place, right?

As the volunteer failed and failed again to match my drivers license to the registry, I could see him sitting beside me like a frog, contemplating a move. He had added a heavy scowl to his crouching. It’s the same face he makes when he tells you he’s actually Darth Vader*. While we know he’s joking, if you don’t know him you might be concerned for his future. 

I could feel the clock ticking, I scanned the list myself to lend aid. Finally she stumbled upon my row. I signed my name just as I caught my son out of the corner of my eye squat-jumping towards an elderly man, near-yelling, “I am so mad!” 

I scuttled him to the booth, hastily punched my card, and exited, avoiding eye contact with even the guy handing out stickers. Ever-in-character, this is the end result: 

Vader, Lord of the Siths. *I swear to Jesus he has never seen Star Wars or anything else remotely violent.

Vader, Lord of the Siths. *I swear to Jesus he has never seen Star Wars or anything else remotely violent.