Disclaimer: This is a work of satire intended for entertainment purposes. It was originally published in February, 2015.
It’s 7am and I’ve arranged to meet with the Rt. Hon. Winston Peters at a coffee shop in Hamilton. He’s here to visit the local branch of Grey Power and read an excerpt from his new children’s book: ‘Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen’ (in his own words, a cute parable about the failed immigration experiment).
At 7:10 he glides through the doors like a concrete block on wheels and we exchange pleasantries. He seems frazzled already, and I begin to worry that – like many reporters before me – I will be met with hostility from the veteran parliamentarian. To break the ice, I suggest we order something to drink. He opts for a short black while I wimp out and order a caffe latte. Safe. Palatable.
“I had you pegged as a mocha drinker,” he sneers menacingly.
As we take our seats and I consult my notes, I notice from the corner of my eye that he has produced a flask. He pours a handsome helping of dark liquid into his espresso shot before downing the whole lot. Looking pleased with himself, he stretches upwards and omits a low masculine growl, at which point I realise – horrifically – that his nipples are showing through the cotton of his undershirt. It is an image that remains etched in my mind throughout the day.
“First of all, congratulations on your election result,” I power ahead, flustered. “What factors do you attribute to your party’s success?”
“Look, New Zealanders appreciate stable leadership, something they haven’t seen much from the Labour Party, and, uh, let’s cut to the chase: they’re sick of John Key’s metrosexuality. Did you see him flouncing about at that Big Day Out for gays, for God’s sake? In my day, Jan, there was no such thing as a, er, you know, [mercifully inaudible].”
I remind him that my name is actually Logan, not Jan.
“Look, let’s not start arguing about semantics, Jan.”
I change tact and ask him who thinks has been the most effective Prime Minister of the last hundred years. He says, with confidence, ‘Winston Peters’.
When I point out that he was only ever Deputy Prime Minister, he slowly leans back in his chair and stares down the foggy barrel of Victoria Street. Time passes, the two of us in awkward stasis. A moment later, his lips purse and a high-pitched squeal emanates from within, followed by what can only be described as a death rattle.
“Mr Peters?” I ask, with concern. Blood trickles out of his ears, the vitality in his eyes is gone. As hard as it is to believe, I am almost certain the leader of New Zealand First has just died in front of me. Then, miraculously, he sits up and wipes away the blood with a tartan handkerchief.
“Reincarnation,” he says, answering my alarmed look. “How else do you think I’ve managed to live to 180? Every so often the old heart gives out and I begin to cross-over, but evidently my number is not up. Time and time again, I am reborn – in God’s image, as it were.”
Time is escaping us, so I offer to walk him a few blocks to the rowing club where his speaking engagement is. He seems hesitant and worries about how it might be interpreted by onlookers. I agree to maintain a platonic distance with him as we stroll.
“In Andrew Little’s State of the Nation speech, he focused on ‘the future of work’. What is New Zealand First’s strategy for job creation?” I shout down the street.
“Stop wasting my time and ask a sensible question,” Winston snaps.
I venture into education, health, social welfare and the environment, but none of these topics seem to interest him. Finally, feeling fatigued by the prickly exchange, I cave in. I ask the question that I sense he has been waiting for.
“Okay, what are your thoughts on overseas investors prospecting in the housing market?”
“Disgraceful. Mongrels,” he grumbles, then drawls a series of ugly slurs: “…will simply not recognise this country… Communist uprising… more chins than a Chinese phonebook…”
Meekly, I suggest that his discourse on the subject isn’t as sophisticated as it perhaps ought to be. He jabs at my chest, snapping his wizened index finger in three places. Unperturbed, he lectures on: “This is serious business, young man. This globalisation malarkey is far from benign – it’s an invasion, it’s PC gone absolutely mad. Do you want us to all end up speaking Farsi?”
We reach the rowing club and I thank him for the interview. As we lean in to shake hands, I sense a suppressed vulnerability within Winston, a secret yearning to be held. I debate slipping an arm around him and reassuring him that everything is okay. That he doesn’t need to be hateful to be heard. But it’s too late. Winston is gone, marching briskly towards his audience of attentive pensioners.
I notice, for the first time, a translucent discharge being left in his wake – the amniotic fluid from his rebirth, it seems – and as it burns through the pavement like sulphuric acid, I am struck by the symbolism. His contributions to New Zealand’s political landscape are similarly corrosive.
I turn away to leave and I hear Winston entering the rowing club. A frenzy of cheering and applause erupts, the sort that wouldn’t be out of place at a Justin Bieber concert.
The people’s hero has arrived. God help us.