Councilman Cappuccino shifted uneasily in his venerable Lazy-Boy, the flickering images of an infomercial about amazingly inexpensive industrial-strength cleaning products bouncing off his tall, fat tea glass, the ice long since having melted during his period of contemplation.
He reached for a book … then remembered he didn’t read.
It was getting late in the game, and if Cappuccino didn’t do something soon, his city’s vital issue of the day might slip forward into reality, but there was a big problem with the project, and he simply must find the answer – and soon.
A trained expert in many fields of human endeavor, his cherished Bazooka Joe diplomas in civil engineering, mink ranching, cold fusion and underwater Peruvian basket weaving placed carefully alongside mortgage and insurance papers in the lockbox buried out back by the grill, Cappuccino jammed his eyeballs shut and flipped through the ancient yellowed file cards gathering dust in the nether regions of his buzz-cut cranium.
What was the nagging concern about the forthcoming project that kept him awake at night?
Fondling the public toilet keys that a grateful constituent had fashioned into a commemorative “thank you” bracelet, Cappuccino furiously inventoried.
Was it drainage this time? No, that didn’t sound right, and neither did sewer seepage, although both might be used to trump various other development proposals somewhere down the line.
Cappuccino’s gearbox hummed and moaned. Was the hillside too steep? Traffic too heavy? Reclamation costs too high? Bonding options offensive? Would the planned development result in the wrong type of snobby people crossing the boundaries of his district to inflict undesired modernity on his simple but utterly devoted tribe?
Yes and no; all these objections seemed relevant in one way or another, and to be sure, the very notion of progress symbolized by the development project violated his sworn oath to the creed of the Luddite civic forefathers, the Cappuccinos of old who watched, whittled and wailed as the city was built around their non-compliant selves, but none of these matters caused him indigestion.
What was nagging him?
Glancing out at the photos of his life arranged in meticulous chronological order on the dust-free mantel shelf, Cappuccino saw himself as a rosy-cheeked young man, fresh out of junior high, with a hall pass in his pocket and his whole life ahead of him.
The brittle image now stared back at the aging public servant, who felt his eyes moisten as a surge of conviction gathered force and struck him across the forehead with all the finality of a turbo-charged vintage Mustang tearing down I-64 toward Holiday World.
Why hadn’t it occurred to him before this?
The development proposal that so plagued Cappuccino surely was missing its single most important ingredient, the key fundamental element, the one crucial aspect without which there could be no hope for his approval, no chance for the project’s ultimate success, and no progress at any price.
Why, Cappuccino himself.
The councilman’s indelible stamp was nowhere to be found. Neither had he giddily appeared on television, nor had the public seen his stern and statesmanlike visage displayed in the local newspapers.
Kept infernally busy interfering daily with affairs in council districts other than his own, Cappuccino had thus far played a negligible role as the development project was debated and inched forward, and now, with the clock ticking, how could he yet manage to claim credit for moving the project forward – or, as the case may be, for tossing the decisive spanner into the works to have the project stopped or altered, thus discrediting his major political enemy?
Not that politics should enter into it, mind you, Cappuccino giggled to himself.
The councilman needed a plan, and he needed it fast. He knew that mundane considerations like environment concerns, even if conjured from thin air with the assistance of embittered and opportunistic local office seekers, would put the voters to sleep faster than pointy-headed classical music or those boring, word-filled screeds on economic development in the 20th century, so he needed to go straight for the jugular, just the way he’d been taught so long ago while taking the correspondence course from the fine folks at the George C. Wallace Academy of Populist Demagoguery.
As a last resort, hit ‘em in their wallets, blind ‘em with finances – and don’t stop until they squeal.
Cappuccino would interject himself into the debate by creating a tragic financial logjam where none existed before, then rush like the 7th cavalry to the rescue, with a grand compromise to save the city from ruin, and restore the Cappuccino luster in the run-up to maintaining his place on the public payroll during elections two years hence.
Finally, it all made sense.
Heart pounding and head spinning, Cappuccino quickly jogged into the kitchen, reached into the crock pot, and transferred a considerable glob of slowly simmered barbecued bologna into his waiting mouth.
Rewards like this made public service worthwhile.
But there was more to come. The councilman's last-minute compromise had to have a name.
Why not the Cappuccino Plan!
Abruptly pausing in mid-chew, Cappuccino’s face suddenly turned crimson. There was one small problem with the solution to the problem he’d created. He needed numbers – any numbers would do, so long as they looked imposing on paper, and added together, were ambiguous and capable of being molded like waiting clay – not unlike his loyal acolyte in the 3rd district – into whatever form was needed at the time of presentation.
Numbers weren't Cappuccino's strong point, but fortunately, he knew where to reach out for help, fondling his rotary dial phone and inserting a stubby, sauce-smeared finger.
“Anna? Hi, how are you? They’re fine, thanks. Listen, Anna, I need some numbers … ”