It ain't easy being an exclamation point.
It may be only six weeks since Jeb Bush quit the presidential race, but it's been an eternity for "!" - the exclamation point who was hired to energize the Bush campaign and the Republican base.
"I did what I could," said ! as he took a swig of cheap scotch at this local dive bar in Tallahassee. "But after New Hampshire, I knew in my gut we were in trouble. There had been a lot of pressure on me to generate some excitement but it just wasn’t happening.”
The little exclamation point leaned in. “I used to work for “Mamma Mia!” when I was living in New York and man that was some great gig. You might also know me from the Batman series in the ‘60’s – Pow! Bif! Soc! – that was all me. I was the shit back then. Now it’s all turned to shit.”
He put his little head down on the bar and turned away from me for a minute. I could hear the faint sounds of sobbing from this down-on-his luck punctuation mark.
“It’s a tough business, buddy. I almost quit for good in 1988 after those assholes at Nike promised me the ‘Just Do It!’ campaign…then at the last minute they hired a stupid period. ‘Just Do It.’ It doesn’t make any sense. But the Bush thing was almost as bad.”
A questionable-looking question mark walked by and patted the exclamation point on the back. “You hang in there, pal. Things always turn around for you. You just let me know if you need any help.” The question mark smiled weakly then took his place at the end of the bar.
“He says that to me every day. Like a question mark has any clout. Eh, he means well, but this is the guy who lost out on the ‘Got Milk?’ campaign. Totally screwed the pooch. I’m the one who should be helping him.”
So, what did you do right after the Bush campaign let you go?
“You’re not gonna believe it but after getting fired, the next morning I get a call from the Rubio campaign. Marco hadn’t done so well on Super Tuesday and they thought I could bring some oomph to the campaign... or whatever ‘oomph’ is in Spanish. So I took the gig. Big mistake."
I don’t remember that at all.
“Why would you? I lasted about three hours and one campaign stop, and then decided to quit. I was puking my guts out. I was so sick I couldn’t continue.”
He downed his drink in one gulp as if trying to purge the taste of that experience.
“Never gonna work for the Hispanics again.” He reached into his pocket and took out a small piece of paper folded in quarters. “Here, take a look,” he said as he carefully unfolded it. “I’m the first exclamation mark in the picture.”
He handed me the scrap of paper. It read:
To be honest, this reporter felt nauseous too.