My Life with Criminals (MLWC)

1.2 The Picture of Perfection (MLWC)

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Winter in Twinbrook is not so forgiving. Harsh winds blowing across frozen muddy slush, rattling the walls, and knocking out the unreliable power for days. You throw logs in the stove or you go to a neighbor’s and hope you don’t have to share a room with a sneezing, infectious child. If I had hoped for warmer weather up north, then I was foolishly mistaken. Snow-covered bogs may not sound normal where you come from, but here in Bayou, this is what we know.

A primary school teacher once told me that our people who came from Old Eorthe thousands of years ago have warmer weather in their southern hemisphere. It is not the case here. That teacher was reported and fired. I guess they didn’t want us longing for a world that we had no hope of ever returning to, not that most of us in the second grade had any concept of life on other planets, let alone in another star system.

So we accept snow in the swamps. We have to. We are Southern folk of the Bayuck. If we weren’t resilient, we couldn’t survive here. Sometimes starting at the bottom means you wear the only peacoat you have for days because it’s the nicest thing you own and you do laundry in a rusty washer and creaky dryer on the high porch in winter because you need to look good for your interview.

Everyone knew the mayor of Twinbrook. Silver Argento Racket had a reputation that preceded her. The Racket family had connections of a certain sort, the kind that could kick you up the ladder and help you move places. Nothing happened in this town without a Racket knowing or scheming. The Rackets built this town – this community on peat and bog land that no one said they could do. They started the school and brought educators from all over the world to give their children the best and brightest futures. They forged alliances banking industry and convinced them to invest in this backwater place. They raised City Hall, built parks, and brought commerce, breathing life into this stagnant godforsaken territory. They made people want to live here again, or they forced them out. All funded through shady backroom dealings and illicit black market trade. It was the Wild West renaissance of the south. If I was going to succeed in this strange, new world, I had to pay my dues.

“Don’t be nervous. This is just a formality. You come with high recommendations,” Silver said, with a smooth silkiness to her voice like a rattler luring its prey, priming for an attack.

“Thank you,” I smiled modestly, trying to ignore the sense of unease and awe in her presence. “I appreciate your high vote of confidence.” 

“Speaking of votes, that’s what you’re here for… to help me get votes for next fall’s reelection campaign,” Silver explained. “That’s the bulk of this internship… to make me look good.”

If anything, Silver Racket was known for her looks. The former Miss Bayou, Silver participated (and won) nearly every pageant under the sun. She redefined beauty standards when she dyed her hair a shimmering silver-white at the age of sixteen. Born and educated in the Sim Union, she was given every advantage and indulged in the high life. Her father, Antony Argento was paramount in the rebuilding of the industry on the eastern seaboard after both Xeno Wars. After an unfortunate incident to which no one referred, a “minor scandal” as Silver would say, because no one would believe your legitimacy otherwise, she was forced to relocate to the Nation. She had to give up her privilege in Nueva Barcelona to manage her father’s company dealings in Bayou. Quick to adapt, she set her sights on her ticket out of ‘bureaucracy hell’ and married into the infamous Racket family.

“Image control. Do you think you’re up for the challenge?” 

Some may say I was foolish to align myself with the likes of someone like Silver Racket… or anyone in the Racket family for that matter. I could smell the danger almost as real as the unfortunate scent wafting from my coat that desperately needed another wash. The appliances were on the fritz again. I needed the money. I wanted the power. I knew if I worked for Silver, I could go anywhere. Maybe even as far up as governor of the state someday. I hoped Silver would overlook the slightly foul odor wafting from my wool and could focus on my credentials instead. Now was my opportunity to ‘sell’ it to her.

“Yes, absolutely, I have experience from my hometown volunteering in city superintendent’s office,” I answered. “I was responsible for the look of the website and campaign materials. The administrator needed a clear and honest message and to demonstrate his approachability in a single photo. I managed to demonstrate everything he wanted and more. He won that election and every one after it until his sad death from cancer last year. It’s all in the recommendation letter he wrote before his passing.”

It was a fib. But a mostly honest one. I was part of a team, and I didn’t lead the team. But Silver didn’t need to know that. She was smart, smarter than most people gave her credit for, but she was incredibly vain and spent an exorbitant amount of time on her figure and appearance. She paid other people to think for her so she could wow people with a single glance. If I was going to literally get in on her ‘good side,’ I had to really sell my abilities and my soul… just for a little while. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t the whole truth.

“It doesn’t matter what the other side says, who your opponents are, or what the judges determine. What matters is how you get there. And Mrs. Racket, I am your ‘how.’ I will help you succeed in a way you have never before and I have the skills, attitude, and willpower to go far, when you give me this opportunity.”

“Hmm… when… not if?” Silver arched a brow. “You have guts saying something like that, especially to me.”

I nodded. “You need guts and grit if you’re going to get glory. I’m your woman. I can take you there,” I said eagerly. “I’m willing to work long days, nights, and weekends and for little pay. Hell I will pay you to be part of this campaign because I believe in you and what you are doing and I want the people to believe in you too, and I can get you there. My daddy always used to say – if you believe you are a winner, you will be a winner.”

She was a Daddy’s girl, even after he banished her. I could see it in her frosty blue eyes, thawing and lighting like firecrackers. It didn’t matter that it was actually my mother’s partner who said such a thing. The point was those were the words Silver needed to hear, and I handed her myself on a silver platter, with a bow to boot. The carefully constructed lies would all come crumbling down around me someday, but at this point, it didn’t matter. I was hooked, addicted to the idea that ambition meant everything. And more importantly, Silver was hooked.

“I like how you think,” Silver said. “Okay you’re hired.”

“Mrs. Racket…”

“Please call me Silver…” she said as a cliched response, one in which I anticipated. “You work for me now and Mrs. Racket makes me sound like that overanxious hag who lives up in the Big House.”

Well if that’s how you really feel about the matriarch of the Racket family… no time to waste, I blinked and continued. “Silver, I would like to start as soon as possible. Today even. There’s still daylight left and we’re burning it. I’d like to be useful, so is there anything I can help you with now?”

“Hmm… well…” she wiggled her fingers in the air as she pondered her options. “Since you are paying me for this experience… how about putting some of your money where your mouth is?”

Never mind that I just went two weeks acting dirt broke and putting off paying the water bill just to get here. Never mind that I had to eat with my neighbors because I couldn’t afford groceries and needed to mooch off their WiFi. Never mind that I left behind everything I had ever known to move into my great grandmother’s stick-in-the-mud home. I needed this connection like I needed oxygen to breathe. I saved and used every last simoleon from my worthless daddy to build a fund that would pay into Silver’s campaign . The irony was I wouldn’t have landed here if I didn’t have the deed to great granny’s land. Oh the foolish dreams of youth! The limits I pushed to provide myself a future.

“I am hosting a neighborhood grill-a-thon tonight… a little competition to bring some goodwill to the people,” Silver said. “It would be a good opportunity for you to mingle and show the good people of Twinbrook just how fortunate it is to have the Racket family in their backyard.”

I smiled and nodded. Fortunate was code for line their pockets… and I wasn’t above bribery. If I was going to be Silver Racket someday, I would have to look like and sound like and be Silver Racket. A woman has to do desperate things to survive and succeed. Sometimes you have to lie down with dogs to rise with the wolves. My grandmother and mother did it. Silver did it. Now I would too.

“I understand.”


Author Notes: Thank you for reading. It took me a long time to post another chapter of My Life with Criminals, formerly Colt Family Traitacy. My writing inspiration is all over the page these days. I’m planning to try and wrap up a few other older stories here and there as well. In case you missed the reboot post, it’s here. I enjoyed giving more depth and breadth to both Silver Argento Racket and Rachel Colt in this chapter. It’s interesting writing from an omniscient (though slightly unreliable) narrator’s perspective as she reflects on her checkered past.

1.1 On My Own (MLC)

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When I was in my early twenties, if you had told me that I would become a successful politician, a wife, and a mother, I would’ve been thrilled. However, life is rarely as easy as one expects. There are always sacrifices. When I was younger, there were sacrifices I was willing to make to achieve my dreams, things I was willing to do to attain power, compromises I was willing to make to secure stability. Now these sacrifices and things and compromises seem incomprehensible. If only I could warn my younger self… but then I wouldn’t have the life I had. It’s not all bad… but it’s not all good either. This is the story of how I became associated with the most notorious family in the South.

Here I am… fresh out of college. Questioning my fashion choices. Not my favorite grey peacoat, but my high-heeled boots in snow. It rarely snowed here, but the day I moved 1200+ miles from my university campus, the ground was covered in five inches of snow. As I stared at the beat-up rusted trash can outside my new home, I wondered if I would ever be able to find a replica of the famous Bridgeport cheesesteaks. At least the Crescent City jazz scene was only a short forty minute drive away. I was itching to hear the Bayuck steel drums live and in person.

It was January of 2404. I had just inherited my great-grandmother’s tiny cabin on stilts in the backwater swamps of the great state of Bayou. I was young, eager, ambitious, excited to make friends and connections, with a strong passion for politics. I wanted to make a difference and change the world. Doesn’t everyone in their own way?

It wasn’t until my senior year, final semester that I realized I made a critical error. I had neglected the important rite-of-passage – a political internship. Finding work post graduation had been tricky. I spent the last seven months answering phones at a temp agency and bussing tables at a bar on the wharf at night.

Ma said I could come home to the sunny beaches of Sultona. She promised me that she would find me a job through her connections to the State Assembly. But I needed to make my own way. I had vowed never to go back. I wouldn’t face my father ever again. Not without making something of myself first.


Author Notes: Welcome to the first official chapter of the re-write of Colt Family Traitacy… now known as My Life with Criminals. If you missed the context for this decision, read my ramblings here. 🙂