Chapter

34

Speaking of giving it everything you got, here comes Jake McGee, about to pop his pistols off in front of a whole crowd of Karkat’s progressively prismatic proletarian partisans.

Okay, let’s strike that bit of alliteration from the record. I don’t know what came over me. I probably just made the mistake of getting too close to the gaping black hole that radiates pure asininity from the space between Jake’s ears. His event horizon of buffoonery has the dual effect of making everything around him slightly lamer while sucking unsuspecting victims into wanton sexual indiscretions, which, if you’re very lucky, you’ll be too drunk to even remember. But, well, look at him: how can you not fuck this guy? I mean, I’m never going to fuck him again, but I bet there’s a good chance that you want to. Don’t even try to say you don’t, cause no one’s buying it. After all, that’s what this entire election is about to boil down to—decisions made based on the primal fuckability of the dumbest asshole on Earth.

The crowd is all in a tizzy waiting for Jake to sashay his famous ass back up to the podium. It was quite melodramatic, that little assassination fakeout I staged. It might have even inadvertently jumped the Vantas campaign in the polls. Of course, I’d never do something so stupid as turn Karkat Vantas into a martyr. God, could you imagine? The last time some incompetent asshole with his blood color bumbled his way into a tragically symbolic death, the entire troll race spent half a millennium stroking themselves off to it until they were convinced hearing the word “fuck” could trigger spontaneous enlightenment. No thanks. Jake’s going to put an end to Karkat’s political career with the level of gravitas it deserves—all the pomp and circumstance of a wet fart.

Here comes the man of the hour. He stops at the base of the stage. Adjusts his bow tie. Rolls the hemline on his shorts up another notch to show off the top quarters of his finely tuned and greased vastus lateralis muscles. He slides the endorsement speech Dave has so considerately prepared for him out of his front pocket. I let him read it over one more time even though there’s nothing in the universe that could possibly matter less.

DAVE: yo

DAVE: sure you still want to do this

KARKAT: YEAH. IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO CALL IT OFF.

KARKAT: BY WHICH I MEAN THIS ENTIRE FUCKING COMEDY OF ERRORS THAT DAVE PREPOSTEROUSLY INSISTS ON CALLING A “CAMPAIGN.”

KARKAT: OR HOW ABOUT THE ELECTION ITSELF? WE CAN PUT THE KIBOSH ON THAT TOO IF YOU WANT.

KARKAT: IF YOU’RE FEELING UNCOMFORTABLE JAKE, JUST SAY THE WORD. WE’LL STICK A PRONGSHOVEL IN THE WHOLE DEAL AND GO HOME.

Dave elbows him.

KARKAT: OR. YOU KNOW. JUST YOUR SPEECH.

JAKE: Dont be daffy chaps. If i were the sort of man to balk at a bit of hot potato in the evening i wouldnt be where i am today!

Dave and Karkat exchange a look. They don’t stop him, though, because a plan is a plan. Jake spins on his heel and goes swaggering up toward the podium, grinning cheek to cheek at the familiar sound of a crowd chanting his name. He sets his speech down and smooths out the paper only to find his hands swamped with sweat.

What’s that, Jake? You didn’t notice your hands were sweating until now? Not surprising considering how overtaxed your precious few neurons are at any given time.

JAKE: I... I... er hallo folks dandy weather were having here isnt it.

Jake’s hands are so sweaty they’ve smeared the words in the speech beyond recognition. He begins to panic.

JAKE: Er... thank you... everyone for coming out on this benjo of a day to um...

JAKE: Do whatever it is that weve all congregated to do!

At the bottom of the stage, Karkat and Dave put their heads together in adorably platonic conspiratorial kinship. Karkat whispers directly into the shell of Dave’s ear. I don’t even have to direct him to do that, it’s just his natural inclination to practically stick his tongue straight to the center of Dave’s skull, while practicing a bit of perfectly harmless, nonsexual, intimate close-talking. Jesus, if I have to watch one more minute of this beta-bitch calamity I’m going to fucking dissipate on an atomic level.

KARKAT: (WHAT IS HE DOING? I SAW HIM REREAD THE SPEECH.)

DAVE: (yeah)

DAVE: (idk he does this public speaking shit every day maybe this is just how he warms a crowd up)

DAVE: (lets give him a... hm)

KARKAT: (DAVE?)

KARKAT: (ARE YOU OK.)

DAVE: (oh im fine)

DAVE: (for a moment something felt... off?)

KARKAT: (AGAIN???)

KARKAT: (WHAT, IS THE ASSASSIN GOING TO TAKE HIM OUT AFTER ALL???)

DAVE: (no its not that)

JAKE: Its wonderful to see such a jammy cornucopia of supporters!

JAKE: By golly the lot of you sure are enthusiastic about that karkat chap.

JAKE: Which means that we potentially have a few things in common since ive come here to...

JAKE: To... to...

JAKE: Ive come to...

Jake tugs at collar. It feels tight, suddenly. He’s dripping buckets down under his suspenders. Dark patches are starting to form on his dress shirt.

JAKE: Rather that is to say,

JAKE: In delicate times such as these,

JAKE: Even though usually its a toffer of a bad idea to talk politics in public,

JAKE: Today we have all most certainly gathered here,

JAKE: T-to have what is definitely a political conversation.

JAKE: Y-yes that d-does seem to... be the lay of the land.

JAKE: Th-that ive come here to... tell you all about my political opinions...

JAKE: Which I will get to um shortly and with er minimal... verbal bricabrac...

JAKE: B-because I—

JAKE: I...

He’s trembling so hard he begins to worry that the crowd can hear it, like the sound of somebody shaking a soda can filled with coins. He goes pale as the depravity of what he’s about to do hits him like an eighteen-wheeler.

JAKE: Ive... made a terrible mistake.

Hey, Jake. Don’t undersell yourself here. You’ve made several terrible mistakes, especially as of late. One might even say that you’ve made a shit ton of them, and that’s just this fucking week. Or, if you’d prefer, a rusted jalopy stuffed to the whirlygigs with gum feculence, or whatever inept combination of archaic word garbage will help underline the sheer level of personal failure you’ve managed to achieve.

Why don’t you have a good, long think about that, Jake.

Is this really the time for a good, long think? Jake muses to himself, actually putting a finger to his chin like some public domain clip art picture of a befuddled guy. If the crowd is confused by his rapid-cycle mood changes, they don’t show it. Jake’s got a bit of a day-drinking problem, which has been slavishly documented in the global tabloids. That’s how you avoid responsibility, isn’t it, Jake? You can fool your fans, but not yourself. The truth is that there’s a canniness to the act. It’s partially cultivated. You’re stupid, but you’re not nearly as stupid as you pretend to be.

JAKE: What in the devil was i thinking coming here?

JAKE: Why did I...?

JAKE: I came here to...

... slide the biggest knife any motherfucker ever wielded directly into your friend Jane Crocker’s back?

She loves you, Jake, more than anything, and you toyed with her heart. And you would have guiltlessly toyed with her “kettle drums” too had it not been for a bit of divine intervention, let’s decide to call it.

But wait, you’re thinking. Wasn’t Jane merely executing a cold-blooded maneuver to rein you into the stable of her campaign using her body? How are you the bad guy here?

That’s true, she was trying to do that. But come on—she is ever so much less experienced than you in these matters, Jake, and without certain invisible guardrails in place to prevent it, she would have thrown herself at you again and again with wide-eyed, girlish wonder.

Or at least, that’s what you like to believe. That people can’t resist you. That you have no responsibility for their feelings. That everyone uses you. That you’re the victim. Yes, it’s so unfair that anyone in this universe or the last has ever had a single expectation of Jake English. Why should anyone respect your personal autonomy when you’re practically begging to be taken advantage of?

So tell me, Jake: which one of us is really the bad guy here?

Jake begins to tear up. He wipes his eyes with what he thinks is a subtle and manful feint, but everyone in the crowd sees what’s up. He’s trembling, feeling small and naked and raw, like new flesh after a scab’s been pulled away.

He’s scared. He’s been scared. He’s been running from this feeling his entire life, all because he was so pants-shittingly terrified of being in love with Dirk Strider. And why wouldn’t he be afraid? He knows what will happen when he finally admits it. Knows deep down that to truly love Dirk would be to submit to him. That’s a scary thought. It takes a certain degree of mental fortitude to admit that you love someone so intensely it could subsume your entire personality.

But Jake can see now that it’s simply how things were meant to be. There are leaders in this world, and there are followers, which is a fact that has absolutely nothing to do with the position one prefers in the bedroom. Jake can’t believe he’s wasted years denying something so elemental to his nature that it might as well be on the periodic fucking table.

He braces his shaking hands on the podium and tries to catch his breath. His mouth is filling with saliva, much like it does when he’s about to throw up. Or when he’s desperately, devastatingly aroused. Jake, are you aroused in public, thinking about your ex? And in such tight shorts.

Sorry, I’m overdoing it. That should be enough. Dude’s about to pop off. The words erupt from his mouth like a tragic, Dirkthirsty Vesuvius:

JAKE: I love dirk!

JAKE: IM IN *LOVE* WITH DIRK!!!

And to love Dirk is to obey him.

What would Dirk want him to do in this situation? Definitely not sell out his good and dear friend Jane for a loudmouthed pipsqueak who noisily transcends failure even as he redefines it. Do good by her, Jake. Do good by me.

DAVE: (oh jesus fucking christ)

JAKE: Boy howdy...

JAKE: Umm.

JAKE: Sorry about the hiccup there folks.

KARKAT: (HICCUP???)

DAVE: (smfh)

JAKE: Ive been dealing with some personal issues as of late and was momentarily distracted.

JAKE: But nevermind that. I know what youve all come here today to hear.

JAKE: There has been quite a ruckus in the press these last few weeks concerning the subject of the election and more importantly where i stand on the candidates.

JAKE: So today id like to set the record straight,

JAKE: On that matter,

JAKE: As well as all other matters.

JAKE: You see

JAKE: *takes a deep breath*

DAVE: (oh no)

DAVE: (is he about to do what i think he is)

KARKAT: (WHAT??)

KARKAT: (WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING???)

Karkat whips his head around and sees Dave bolt toward the stage, his palm outstretched to stop Jake from doing what he thinks he’s doing. He’s fast, but not fast enough.

Jake opens his big, dumb mouth to make the only important contribution to the plot he ever has or ever will make in his whole sad, pointless joke of a life.

JAKE: I—

Having said that, it’s not like we’re going to sit around and listen to any more words come out of his mouth than we strictly need to. Christ Almighty, what are we, masochists? Nah, that’s enough of that. Let’s see what John’s up to.

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