Shelby Loredo could smell a con from a mile away.
1 millionth resident, my derriere, Loredo thought as she was getting her boys dressed for the big ceremony honoring her. They chose me because I’m Hispanic and have cute kids.
A Chicago native who made her way to The Big Fort, as she called it, through grit and determination, she never had the chance to get a cyber diploma. But she was street smart and had a knack for math, hydraulics and engineering. She knew a thing or two about government as well, and there was no way anyone could identify the millionth resident. She knew it was all about demographics and politics.
Still, she kind of liked the attention, and her boys were thrilled. She knew there would be gifts, including her choice of products from Wayne Robotics. When she confided her suspicions to the big boss at Kekionga Optics after the mayor and his entourage left the office the day before, Sadie Palmer laughed.
Of course it’s politics, Palmer said. But why not you? This isn’t a battle to fight.
Take the take.
And fake the shake! Loredo said, laughing, finishing the cliché from years before.
Palmer had given her advice on how to handle the crowds and the media, but still someone from the mayor’s office insisted Loredo come to the Winfield Moses Jr. Government Building where she was to be given instructions.
So Loredo finished getting her kids and herself ready. For the first time in their lives, Loredo and her boys stepped in a real limousine for the ride from their South Waynedale apartment to the very heart of the city that was still new to her.
Loredo looked out the windows and scrutinized the sites on the way. The limousine followed a train along Bluffton Road, and she gazed at the numerous businesses and apartments along the road. When they crossed the St. Marys River, Loredo was astonished by the fullness of the riverbed, clear water sweeping under the bridge. Her boys – ages 10, 5 and 3 – were much more interested in the car and its various amenities.
The limo delivered them to city hall, where they were greeted by Angelica Lewis, the deputy mayor.
So nice to see you, Shelby! Lewis said earnestly. Welcome to Mayor Gonzalez’s building! Are these your sons?
Yes, Loredo answered. This is Preston, he is the oldest. Clinton is the middle son, he’s 5, and Milo is 3.
They rode the elevator to the 25th floor and entered The Summit, Lewis’ complex that city hall insiders called The Propaganda floor.
Lewis explained to Loredo that the day was very important to the mayor. Lewis handed Loredo a script to follow after the mayor introduced her. We are so happy that you were the millionth resident, Lewis told Loredo. We hope you don’t mind reading this script when the mayor asks if you have any words.
She said it in a way, Loredo thought, that sounded sweet on the surface but was more of an order underneath, an offer you best not refuse.
But Shelby Loredo had already come to terms with the fact that she was merely a pawn in a political chess match, and she remembered Sadie Palmer’s advice. Plus she thought it was all pretty cool.