"Valet of the shadow"

With this being the last Dog Playing Poker column to see print before the big election, the onus is on your humble canine to rally the troops in some stirring, hopefully unique way. Early-voting initiatives notwithstanding, the experts all say that this race will be won by the team that produces the biggest turnout on the day. And I guess Dog should be advancing that agenda by encouraging you, the committed progressive, to spend a few hours on Nov. 2 driving elderly registered Democrats and other like-minded folks without cars to the polls to put Kerry over the top.

But screw that noise. Ferrying a few well-meaning incontinents to the nearest elementary-school gym is the sort of namby-pamby volunteer project you can afford to blow your wad on when your side is 5 to 10 points up in the Zogby – not "statistically tied," and with the incumbent's brother ready to spill a Red Bull on every touchscreen system south of St. Cloud. Instead, upstanding Floridians should be asking themselves this achingly pertinent question: How can I use my valid driver's license and keen organizational skills to keep my Republican neighbors as far the hell away from the polls as possible?

"But that's cheating!" the Pollyannas among you will cry. "The enemy sinks to disenfranchisement as an election tactic – not us!" Exactly. That's why they always win. With liberty itself hanging in the balance, it wouldn't exactly kill you to keep your GOP buddies pleasantly distracted for the measly 12 hours the polls are open. Here are some safe places you can take the Republicans in your precinct on Election Day – places where they'll be able to immerse themselves so completely in their typical interests and hobbies that they'll forget all about casting their vote for the Great Satan.

First of all, remember that Republicans love pornography. OK, so we all do, but they obviously love it a few shades more than the rest of us. Maybe it's because smut affords them the fun of secretly rebelling against their fundamentalist upbringing, while we're just following behavioral models our mommies and daddies set for us on the commune where we grew up. Whatever the motivation, you can always count on a good peep show or adult-bookstore run to make a Republican drop everything else on his social calendar. Instead of taking one to vote, how about tempting his libido with the promise of lunchtime cocktails at a Casselberry nudie bar? Given the choice of one Bush or many, it's pretty obvious how a more-is-more ideologue like your friend is going to respond. And thanks to Bill O'Reilly, you don't even have to float a two-drink minimum if money's tight. All you need is a working telephone, a contact list purloined from a local temp agency and a little imagination, and the sleaze will flow like well brands for hours on end. (Major talking points: "loofah"; "falafel"; "all-time favorite working vacations.")

Know what else Republicans poop themselves for? Golf. We know, we don't get it either; all things being equal, we're not exactly looking for excuses to put on bad pants and chase a tiny, pimpled ball across a big lawn. But the right-wingers can't get enough of it. Your election-day mark probably belongs to an area country club, which would seem like the ideal location for a day of leisurely negligence. Still, forget about accompanying him there if you exhibit one or more common Dem traits, like a high melanin count or the ability to use the verb "schvitz" in a sentence. In a pinch, you can always tempt your Dunlop-loving target with an outing to a miniature-golf course, which can easily be made into a convincing substitute for the real thing. Just recruit other minorities to stand outside the ticket booth and look excluded. For a few dollars more, the staff will be happy to make your companion feel at home by jerry-rigging the talking tiki god at the 14th hole to spew the greatest hits of Toby Keith. Come to think of it, they may not have to make any alterations whatsoever.

Also remember that nothing gets a GOP-er's heart racing like stock returns. There's something about watching those numbers come up on the big board that sates any self-respecting conservative's jones for unearned, undeserved income. Here as well, a certain amount of creative substitution may be required. Since Orlando's idea of Wall Street has more to do with Polynesian date rape than bulls and bears, you'll have to make do with the next best thing. Throw your election-day charge in the car, cart his ass to OIA and position it in front of the "arrivals/departures" board. Whoop like a Navajo in triumph every time the readout changes in any way. Act as if the flight numbers have actual monetary significance, punctuating the suspense with key phrases like, "701! Son of a bitch! And they said Hewlett-Packard was finished!" If your guest proves unable to suspend his disbelief, point out that our nation's airport security is every bit as random as the stock market, so each safe landing carries the dramatic weight of a NASDAQ Cinderella story.

Should all else fail, exploit your unsuspecting kidnap victim's sense of patriotic tradition. If you're lucky, there'll be a nice flag-raising or cross-burning going on that day you can get him in on. Or you can take advantage of his underlying panic that the social order is collapsing. Ask yourself: Is there a gay-rights group protesting outside a courthouse seeking the right to marry – and, if so, how many rotten eggs do I have to stow in my trunk to keep him lobbing happily away until the polls close?

Being in the vicinity of the courts on Election Day has a certain poetic justice anyway, since you don't have to be a genius to see that this thing is going to be tied up in litigation until 2006 at the very least. If you're going anywhere near a seat of government, you'd better bring along a couple of deck chairs and a fat Stephen King/Peter Straub collaboration or three. Like it or not, you and that cute little fascist shotgun-rider you've adopted are going to be seeing a lot of each other from now on. So load up on Funyuns and get ready to do some heavy reaching across the aisle