Some seemed to hang motionless as their compound eyes searched the murky
Though it was late Spring, the cherry trees along the mall hadn’t bothered to
blossom this year, and between the two monuments, the reflection pool was empty.
Farther up Pennsylvania Avenue stood the Capitol Building. The bright symbol of
Democracy looked dingy in the ochre light. Inside the Senate chamber, a pall of
gloom hung over the proceedings.
“Missouri votes, Yes!”
A meandering beam of sunlight caught the polished surface of a brass plate. the
name John Shipley was engraved upon it.
The old man sat erect at his desk, his handsome head topped with an amazing
shock of white hair. One of the television cameras moved in for a tight close-up. The
unrelenting eye of the camera examined the face. It was marked by creases and lines
that told of the happiness and the heartaches of a great man. On his magnificent face
one could almost read the last fifty years of the nation’s history.
His eyes were closed.
Suddenly, they opened! Bright blue and alive! The camera remained focused on
The clerk droned on. “Wyoming. How do you vote?”
“Mr. Vice President, the State of Wyoming votes NO on the initiative!”
The merciless camera held tight to the beloved old face. Another defeat. It could
be one too many. The camera registered no change in expression except, maybe,
deep in his eyes it could see a great man who’s last dream was dying.
There was a visible release of breath as the Senator slowly reached into his vest
pocked and withdrew a small silver box. He extracted a tiny white pill and washed it
down with a glass of water. During the roar of assent and dissent following the
negative and deciding vote, the old man looked up toward the ceiling.
High above the proud old head, beyond the curve of the Capitol dome, the foul
atmosphere that imprisoned the city began to stir. Through most of the day, the
Capitol was choked by smoke from Appalachia where forest fires burned out of
control. Then, by some miracle, in late afternoon, a fresh sea breeze from
Chesapeake Bay blew the smoke back toward the west, and the city breathed a sigh
of relief. In the warm glow of twilight, Washington began to resemble the historic
Capitol of happier days Scattered solar-charged street lights came on, and the
scene took on a festive glitter.
Night poured across the city. Suddenly, beyond the lit Capitol area, in a dark,
almost deserted businessdistrict, a brilliant pool shimmered like a jewel in the
blackness. Fingers of light shot into the air and moved about as if searching for
something in the sky. On closer observation, one could see the display lit a gigantic
old movie house. A theater who baroque architecture reflected the late nineteen-