Al Gore ran beside a slow moving car. Rolling Tennessee hills gave him all he needed.
A gray haired man in the back window watched him sweat.
“Why didn’t we do more of this in D.C.?” Gore asked.
“We’ve talked about this, Al. Two guys, one shot. Never gonna happen. That’s why we have Air Force One and Air Force Two,” Bill Clinton said.
“Oh, I know, but it would have been a good bonding time.”
A roadblock over the next hill diverted traffic away from Al Gore’s running path; a rolling blockade a quarter mile behind them held cars at bay.
Gore saw the roadblock from the top of the hill and turned left with Clinton’s car.
“I don’t look back as much as you,” Bill said.
“If you looked back right now you’d see enough Secret Service agents to carry FDR in a relay race. I don’t have that,” Al said, leaving the paved road for gravel.
“Well, you should, you know. You’re a very important American. You’ve become more than anyone expected.”
“I do thank you for that,” Gore wheezed.
“You didn’t run off and hide after the 2000 election, but no one would have blamed you if you did.”
“I had so much more to give.”
“You still do.” Their path turned from pavement, to gravel, to dirt. Bill Clinton tried to keep Al Gore’s mind off the run. “It’s a new life for you.”
“I feel the same way. Sure, I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve learned from them,” Gore said.
“That is most important. We all need to keep learning. An Inconvenient Truth and Earth In The Balance should be required reading for everyone in the world. How did you like My Life and My Life Volume II?”
“Those were complicated times, like Fleetwood Mac experienced in the 70′s.”
A small stand of timber grew larger on the left side of the road as they approached.
“I’d like it better if you just said you didn’t read either one,” Bill said.
“Fine, then. I didn’t read either one.”
“I didn’t read yours either.”
“Oscar and Nobel liked them, so I’m not as hurt as I would be.”
Gore slowed to a walk. Dust came up behind Clinton’s car.
“I’ll look for them on audio books.”
“No need, I’ve got a set with a player right here.”
Rows of parked cars came into view as they passed the stand of trees.
“Say,” Al said, “this is certainly curious. We haven’t had this many visitors since they shutdown the moonshine still.”
“You might call this a bootleg operation.”
Al Gore squinted into the glare bouncing off cars where a group stood around a man and woman emerging from the back of a limousine.
“It couldn’t be, could it? What is the President doing out here? And what is his wife wearing?”
Clinton got out of his car and directed his former Vice President toward the make shift parking lot.
“Al, we need to talk,” he said.
Tipper Gore glanced their way while running to catch the First Couple.
“Wait a minute. Wait just one minute. I don’t want any part of anything involving Tipper. We agreed on that,” Al said.
“I feel your pain,” Bill Clinton said, “and your pain is important. There’s going to be a lot more of it.”
As they flanked the parking lot, an unusual scene came into view. Temporary bleachers surrounded an MMA octagon.
Al Gore stopped to take it in.
“What kind of circus is this?” he said.
“It’s more of a proving ground, Al. See the ring? Getting into it proves you’ve got the nad to be a real difference maker.”
“Technically, it’s not a ring, Bill. It’s an octagon.”
“Good one, Al, and the boxing ring is square and no one cares. Think bigger picture.”
They walked toward the octagon and the full house. Three ringside seats with extra space between them sat empty.
The quiet crowd sprang to life when John Irving, wearing his referee’s shirt, jumped through the cage door and started his third equipment inspection, throwing himself against the octagon walls and bouncing back.
Their pitch rose when Michelle Obama danced toward the steps to the door, stretching and bouncing, loosening her neck. A violet cape surrounded her lavender top and shorts. She punched her purple gloves together, starting slow with the crowd chanting each blow, then faster and faster until one full-throated note joined the thousands there to watch.
Bill Clinton held up a pair of MMA fight shorts in front of Al Gore with “Don’t Stop” printed across the front, and “Thinking About Tomorrow” on the back.
“I brought these for you, Tennessee Stud. Get changed over there and I’ll meet you in the ring,” he said.
Al Gore held the shorts in his hands, reading the front and back, then directed his steely visage at the spectacle unfolding before him.
“I will say this is all completely new to me. And Bill, it is an octagon.”
The crowd hushed when President Obama, Oprah, and Tipper Gore found their ringside seats.
“These things don’t always play out the way you think,” Bill said.
Al Gore took the fight shorts and fight gloves and walked toward the dressing room.
“There’s only one way to find out,” he said, raising his hands.
“When you do that, you look twenty years younger,” Clinton said.
“It’ll work for you, too.”
“I hope so. I’ve got Dick ‘Cheney In Charge’ on my fight schedule.”
“Is that a fair fight, with his heart and all?”
“Fair fight? Go get changed, you don’t want to keep Michelle waiting.”