One Vote

by on August 23, 2023 :: 0 comments

photo "Don't Rush to Rust" by Tyler Malone

I rapped on my son’s bedroom door for the third time. “Jamie, get up now!” I heard him mumble something and listened for telltale creaks of the mattress. There were none. I’d had enough. I knocked once and opened the door. The smell of socks and sweat assaulted my senses.

“This room’s a dump,” I said. “It’s almost 6 pm and the polling station will close soon. You need to cast your vote before it does.”

“Mam,” twenty-year-old Jamie groaned, “what’s the point? I worked the early shift and I’ve only been in bed for a couple of hours. What difference will one vote make?”

With those words, I was thrown back to a Summer when I was Jamie’s age. We gathered in the park to drink beer and play music. A car had been roaming the city streets since dawn, a voice booming through a loudspeaker calling everyone out to vote.

“Give Senator Tony Walker your number one. Keeping his seat means keeping us safe.”

I knew Tony. I’d known him all my life. He was a family friend who visited often.

When his wife and son died during an emergency cesarian section, Tony was left devastated. He decided romance would not be part of his life and put his heart and soul into local politics. He campaigned against drug abuse and sexual exploitation. He advocated for the homeless and saved many families from life on the streets.

Tony served two terms on the city council and was going for a third. If he succeeded, he could run for Lord Mayor of Dublin and maybe President of Ireland.  Everybody thought he had it in the bag.

“Did you vote, Sandy?” my friend asked.

“Not yet. Did you?”

She nodded. “It’s getting late. Vince and Tommy are heading over now.”

“I’ll go,” I said lying back on the grass letting the sun warm my body. “In a minute.”

That minute never came. When I got home Tony was drinking beer with my dad on the patio. “Sandy,” he said, giving a high five, “I hope I got your number one?”

“Of course you did,” I said, cringing. Nobody needed to know I hadn’t made it to the station on time… what difference would my little vote make?

Several candidates were vying for the position, and so the counting began. Four were eliminated quickly leaving Tony, a man called Matthew Jarvis who owned a car showroom, and Mrs. Lillian White a teacher at the local school.

“Tony has this,” my dad said as we watched the count from our observation point.

Mrs. White was next to go. Tony turned toward his supporters pumping the air with his fist. They responded shouting encouragement and cheering him on.

Night fell and the count continued.

“I’m wrecked, Dad,” I yawned. “I’m going home. Tell Tony congratulations.”


When I awoke the house was silent. It was 9:30am, so breakfast should have been on the go. My brothers were on school holidays and usually tearing around the house causing chaos. This morning all was quiet.

I grabbed my clothes and padded down the hall. Mam was at the kitchen table drinking coffee.

“Jeez,” I said making her jump. “Who died? Where is everybody?”

“Your brothers are swimming with their friends. Dad is still at the community center.”


“They’re recounting the ballots for the third time.”


“Tony was the winner of the first count by a small margin. So Jarvis asked for a recount and he came out the winner, again by a small margin. This is the decider. Whoever scores the highest will be elected.”

“Wow.” I plopped down onto a chair. “I’d say Tony is like the cat on a hot tin roof.”

“I’d say they all are,” Mum said. “I’m going over now. Do you want to come?”

As we approached a triumphant cheer went up. “Looks like there’s a winner,” Mum said. The doors opened slowly as Dad and Tony exit the building in silence. “Oh oh. This doesn’t look good.”

The disappointment on their faces and those of the many people who’d stayed up all night to support him haunted me for years.

“Jamie, I’m serious. Get up now and I’ll drive you to the polling station.”

“Why are you so anxious that I should vote?” he asked.

“You can sleep when we get back,” I said throwing him a shirt. “Now move!”

“Do you want to tell me who to vote for?” Jamie asked when we were in the car.

“Vote for whoever you think is the best person for the job, that’s all. Someone who will add to our community. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a nice home or a job or a car.”

I glanced at Jamie out of the corner of my eye and saw he was deep in thought.

When he returned to the car he had a smile on his face and I thought a look of pride in his eyes.

“Well, if one vote counts, then I’ve done my bit,” he said.

I remembered Tony’s voice. “One vote. Can you believe it? One fucking vote. If I had one more supporter or Jarvis one fewer things would’ve been different. I’ve given my life to The Party. That’s it for me. I’m done now.”

“No, you’re not,” Mam stuttered. “There’s always….”

Tony shook Dad’s hand and walked away by himself. That day changed him.  Although he was only fifty, he became old overnight. We didn’t see as much of him. He refused invitations to go anywhere or do anything.

I thought about telling him, it was my fault, but I never had the nerve. One thing for sure, I never missed voting again and neither did any of my friends or family if I had anything to do with it.

“You’ll never know how important one vote is,” I told Jamie. “Now, do you fancy a burger before bed?”

editors note:

What matters most in this world? The one, the smallest minority. So much depends on just one that too often we don’t even count it. ~ Tyler Malone

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