The Weekend Odyssey of Wisconsin's Wandering Democrats

Tell me, Muse, of the men and women of many ways, who were driven
far journeys, after they had fled Madison’s shining Capitol.
Hard was their exile amid the labyrinth toll roads of northern Illinois,
many their adventures, narrow their escape from the wild monster Rahm,
new king of Chi-town, who is said to rip the fucking heads off men
and devour them. Speak of the bloating effects of Endless Pasta bowls,
the huddled iPhone calls with constituents at wind-swept gas stations,
and these brave heroes’ diligence in keeping up with the email
streaming ever daily through their state accounts. Then caught up,
here, goddess, begin our story on the Friday just past.

Then did Dawn visit the LaQuinta off I-80 in Tinley Park and stir
one of these dear ones where he lay sleeping in Southwestern ambience.
Rick Homer, son of Wausaukee, awoke to find gray-eyed Athene,
grave and beautiful, at the foot of his rumpled, dream-heavy bed.
“Cripes,” said Rick. Then, “Oh geez.” So he spoke.
The daughter of Zeus raised an immortal hand and shushed him.
“The Governor grows ever more wrathful. He sends his henchmen
to retrieve you. You and your companions must flee to the south.”
“To Bloomington?” asked Rick. “Further,” she answered.
“Champaign?” said Rick. “Further south still,” said Athene,
and in his boxers Rick shivered at the strangeness of it all.
“Decatur?” he asked, and at last the goddess nodded.

“Uff da,” said Rick. So he spoke. Then the goddess disappearing,
he rose from his bed and grabbed the khakis laid over the desk chair.
Minutes later the son of Wausaukee emerged from his dark chamber
to stand blinking in the gray morning light of the La Quinta parking lot,
like a god in presence. Or a middle manager. In his hand he held a phone.
He pressed a number and spoke into it. “Morning,” he said. “You seen Athene?”
One by one he checked in with his companions, the other Democratic 14,
each to the winds spread, distant from him but dear. One, brave and defiant,
rode on her motorcycle in the western woods. Another courted danger
(and the press) from a Chicago-area Hyatt. “To the south!” one and all agreed.

Helios inched above the horizon, to shine upon the nearby mall.
A sharp wind blew from the north, a reminder of the Governor’s vengeful plan.
Rick got in his Camry and pointed it south. He listened to the morning news,
then remembered he had a wife. He raised his phone: “How are the boys?”
Jacob had a cold, Nicholas was losing a tooth.
He and his wife agreed the going rate for that was a silver dollar.
“I used to only get a quarter,” he started, but she had to go, work was nuts,
and that gave the thoughtful man a pang, but then she added, “You’re doing real good,”
and he drove through the corn-giving farmland with a glad heart,
made even fuller when the morning DJ announced a classic rock jam half-hour.

Not two-and-a-quarter hours later at a Perkins in Decatur sat our hero.
“I might take up your table a while,” he told the fair-haired waitress,
who shrugged. “I have some time to kill,” he added humbly.
“I can’t check into my room till one.” “Coffee?” she answered.
She brought him a cup and poured fragrant joe into it from a glass pot.
She laid a bowl of creamers on the table, then brought out a plate
with a banana nut muffin on it and served it to him,
and he was filled with admiration. “Yum,” he said. So he spoke
without thinking, and the server gave him a look that was scornful
and he was chastened and reminded that he was a stranger to this area.

One booth down were old men in John Deere caps,
one booth up two sisters, both fat and permed and in middle age.
All of these people are from central Illinois, Rick marveled.
He considered addressing them: “Men and women of Decatur.
I am an exile among you. Fled my native land to escape a ruler run amuck.
I’m an ordinary man, but what’s right is right. But now I miss my family,
and 1,500 workers might be laid off if I’m not home by Monday.”
So he might have lamented, but didn’t, for he was a son of Wausaukee,
terse and chipper if thoughtful all beneath. Instead he ordered an omelette
and ate it slowly, looking out the window at the road that traveled south.

With apologies to Richmond Lattimore. And Homer.

Image via NASA.