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Orange Crush

Chapter OneWhat a difference a year makes.It was the fall of 2001, exactly twelve months before the
debate at East Tallahassee High. Marlon Conrad not only wasn't
governor, he wasn't even planning on running for governor. At least
not yet. Marlon was going to throw his hat in the ring in 2006, but
that was a whole term away. In the meantime, he was perfectly
content frittering away his days in a do-nothing political
sinecure, tending to his hobbies.
It was a calm October afternoon, and a magnificent tarpon
broke the surface of the water. It twisted in midair, trying to
throw the hook, and landed back in the ocean with a grand crash.
Then up again, tail-walking for its life.
Marlon worked fast with the joystick. He clicked the
trigger, easing drag, finessing the tarpon on his computer screen
in Silver King Xtreme Fishing.
There was a knock at the door, distracting Marlon, and the
fish broke the line. It poked its head from the water and stuck out
its tongue before disintegrating off the screen.
"Damn!" He swiveled in his chair. "Come in!"The door to the office opened. There was gold lettering on
the outside: MARLON CONRAD, LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR. In walked a buxom
southern belle with poofy blond hair, Babs Belvedere, Marlon's
fiancée in an arranged marriage between two of the state's
most powerful families.
She wore a transparent pout and held out an index finger.
"I have a splinter."
"Another one!" said Marlon, turning back to the computer
and hitting the "cast" button on the joystick.
"You don't love me anymore.""Foolishness!"It wasn't exactly a lie. He never had loved
The fish took the bait and jumped on the screen. Marlon
zigged and zagged with the joystick.
Babs set a large box on the corner of his desk. She held
her injured finger in Marlon's face. He pushed her hand out of the
way and tried to recover with the joystick, but the damage was
done. The fish stuck its tongue out again.
"Damn!"He turned to Babs, her finger still
"Kiss it and make it better," she demanded. Now the pout
was real.
"Oh, all right." He gave it a quick peck, and her mood
boomeranged to glee. "Guess what?" she said, pulling up a chair,
plopping down and slapping both her knees in excitement. "I bought
a new puppet!"
She took the case off his desk and placed it in her lap
and opened it. Inside was a big frog, the newest in a long line of
wooden marionettes that filled the shelves in Babs's bedroom. The
source of all the splinters.
"Just what you need -- another puppet.""You don't respect my art," said Babs, expertly
manipulating the frog's strings with both hands. Barely moving her
lips: "Ribbit, ribbit, ribbit."
"You possess genius," said Marlon, hitting the "cast"
button again.
She actually did have some ability, and could now throw
her voice short distances at will. The daughter of Periwinkle
Belvedere, she was Miss Tallahassee 2001 and runner-up for Miss
Florida. Babs easily could have been Miss Florida, too. She had
become a finalist based on the strength of her ventriloquist act in
the talent portion of the pageant, but she blew her final question,
becoming flustered and saying she wanted to end world peace and
promote illiteracy in the Third World.
The scheduled marriage was considered a deal-maker by the
capital's movers and shakers. It would consolidate power and grease
the skids for all kinds of ecopolitical alliances. Marlon thought
she was an airhead.
He still hadn't found the proper way of telling anybody he
didn't want to marry her. In the meantime, of course, he had taken
the sex. Who wouldn't? What a cheesecake! But now, even that had
stopped. Both knew why, and they didn't want to talk about it.
Marlon had become sexually traumatized. On a recent evening, he had
been going down on Babs when her vagina greeted him with the voice
of Howdy Doody.
Babs made the frog hop across Marlon's desk. "Ribbit,
There was another knock at the door."Interruptions!" said Marlon, flinging the joystick
Standing in the doorway with a leather organizer was
Marlon's chief of staff, Gottfried Escrow. "Sorry, but your
appointments are waiting. We really have to get the schedule
Escrow pointed out the door into the lobby. In a row of
chairs against the wall, under a giant oil painting of "Two-Fisted"
Thaddeus Conrad, sat a conga line of older men in tailored suits.
At the head of the line was a local construction magnate facing
multiple investigations for shoddy workmanship and fraud. He arose,
handed the chief of staff an unmarked envelope, and went
The man took a seat across the desk from the lieutenant
governor and placed his hands humbly in his lap. "I told my wife:
For justice we must go see Marlon Conrad!"
"Two of your new roofs collapsed after light rain. A girl
was hospitalized."
"I am but a simple businessman..."Behind him, the chief of staff was giving Marlon the high
sign to speed things up.
"I'll see what I can do," said Marlon,
The man clasped Marlon's right hand in both of his and
shook it earnestly. "Thank you! Thank you!" -- bowing repeatedly as
he backed out of the room.
Three appointments later, Escrow came in the office
holding a large laminated map mounted on foam board.
"What's that?""It's the new voting district we've been working on. I
need you to okay it. You're chairman of the party's redistricting
"Work, work, work," said Marlon, squinting at the prop.
"We cut a deal with the Black Caucus and cobbled together
a gerrymandered district that would be ninety-six percent
African-American. Surprisingly, the five surrounding

Excerpted from ORANGE CRUSH © Copyright 2005 by Tim
Dorsey. Reprinted with permission by HarperTorch. All rights

Orange Crush
by by Tim Dorsey

  • Genres: Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTorch
  • ISBN-10: 0061031542
  • ISBN-13: 9780061031540