Dark Arts 

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So, you know Stamerling.”

“Stamerling? Sure, I know Stamerling. What about him?”

“Rumour has it the Senator is a friend of yours.”

“We’re acquainted, yeah.”

“Care to elaborate on that?”

“Ah, c’mon, quit with the questions. You know what I’ve got on him. Just tell me what you want.”

“Here, take a look at this. The guy in the photo. That Stamerling?”

“Shit, you guys don’t mess around do you?… So the Senator likes to party, big deal.”

“And this one. That you?”

“Whoa! … You really are mean sons of bitches, eh?”

“Just wanted to be sure you understood what it is we’ve got on you.”

“Yeah, well, message received.”

“Anyone looking at these photos would have to ask themselves if a man like Stamerling is fit for Congress, don’t you think?”

“I’d say that depends.”


“Yeah. On how well you know the other members of Congress.”

“Funny. We’ll bear it in mind.”

“Tell me something. What’s in it for you guys? I mean, why you after him?”

“That’s not something you need to know. All you need to know is that we want you to keep enjoying the party with the fine upstanding Senator.”

“Is that so?”

“It is so. Understand that one thing if nothing else. If we say it’s so, it’s so. Okay?”

“Yeah, yeah… You get off on this or something? All this Machiavellian subterfuge?”

“I prefer to call it persuasion. It’s a delicate art. I just happen to be good at it. Very good at it.”

“Geez …You’re one crazy shit, eh?”

“Believe it.”

“You think he’s going to vote against the pipeline don’t you?”

“He spoke to you about that?”

“The Senator’s got loose lips.”

“So we’ve heard.”

“You know, you’ve got me thinking. I’m thinking – ‘just what is it he’s after?’ And I’m wondering, why does he think I can help him get it?”

“There’s more photos if you care to take a look?”

“Nah, I know what you’ve got. But that’s not what’s puzzling me. No, what’s puzzling me is that I look at you and I can see you thinking. You’re thinking ‘I’ve got him’. You’re thinking I’ll be motivated to act, out of fear maybe, or anger, or jealousy. Some little trick you can use to get me to persuade the Senator. Am I right?”

“Go on …”

“Sure … Here’s the thing you missed. I like the guy okay? I like him. And I’ve got nothing to lose. You think I got some reputation to defend? Get real!”

“The Senator does though. Your friend, the one you like so much.”

“That so? …When I left him this morning I’d say he was past caring.”


“Yeah. You push a guy too far, he can no longer be persuaded. Like you say, it’s a delicate art, difficult to master … so, can I go?”

“For now. But we’ll be watching you.”

“Yeah, yeah. If you’re ever looking for a party, call me eh?…”

“Just go!”


Story inspired by: A Story without a Narrator | S.E. Sever

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Jennifer is one of our judges at MASH. Her fiction has appeared in Carve Magazine and Stories For Homes anthology. Her radio drama won the 2001 European Regional Prize in the BBC World Service International Playwriting competition and a commendation in 2009. Her poetry has appeared in The Guardian as part of their poetry workshops series. Contact Jen via Twitter.

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