This sucks.

I may use eloquent words in my speeches, but this isn't one of those times. And saying "this sucks" is as eloquent as I can describe the situation. I can stare and stare at this damn screen, at the words bouncing and blurring before my eyes, even with my glasses on, and know that I'm one hundred percent totally STUCK and there isn't a damn thing I can do about it. Nothing gels. Nothing runs together in that cohesive whole that I'm used to. It's been so long since a paper wrote itself before my eyes, and now the blank whiteness is mocking, daring me to blot it with something that makes sense.

This sucks.

I shove the laptop forward and lay my head on the desk. The cool wood does nothing for me, it doesn't wake my brain. Just to make sure it's somewhere in there I beat my head against the surface a few times.

Nope. Nothing. Well, not nothing. Now my head hurts.

I roll my forehead on the desk and growl, then pull the computer back to me. The cursor blinks obstinately. I wince at it and wish I had Josh's job.


"Sam? Sam!" Toby walked into the office and smacked the edge of Sam's desk with a rolled up paper. "Sam!"

"YES!" Sam's head jerked up, the violent motion tossing his glasses askew. He sat back and replaced them, stifling the yawn, opening his eyes wide, and trying to look like he hadn't just slept away precious time.

"The paper?" Toby asked.

"What paper?"

"What paper?"


"What paper do you think?"

"What paper would you like me to think. . ."

Toby pinched the bridge of his nose. "Sam, I'm going to walk out and walk in again, and during that time I would like for you to remember that you are in the White House and not a Laurel and Hardy skit," Toby said, his voice a near monotone as he turned on his heel, walked into the hall, took a deep breath that expanded the breadth of his shoulders, and walked back in. "Sam?"

"Toby, hi! I guess you want this paper that I've been slaving over. Well, here it is, just ready and waiting for your. . ."

"You don't have it, do you?"


Toby was a model of forced patience as he ran his hand over his head, fingering for hair that was long since gone. "What's the problem?"

Sam laced his fingers together and considered every possible answer as they coursed through his head on a one way track, tossing away bits of one and replacing them with bits of others, and finding the fabricated reasons didn't work out any better than the paper he was trying to force out. "It's. . .boring. The subject. I can't make myself write about this."

Toby blinked. "Well, that's a new one." He took a seat and leaned back, crossing one leg over the other. After a moment or two he blinked again. "I can't even think of a proper retort for that. I think you stunned them out of me."


"Yes, don't do that, I find it disconcerting."

"Toby, how am I supposed to write about something I couldn't care less about?"

"You do it all the time. Make a game of it. Just see in how many phrases you can say the same exact thing, and make it sound like eleven relevant points have been made to further your cause."

"This cause has no relevant points! It's ludicrous! I can't– I can't believe I have to write this!"

"Consider it a challenge."

"It's a pain in the ass! It's a waste of time! I have a speech to write, two new propositions of a non-sexual kind, two old proposals that have nothing to do with marriage, and three meetings to prepare for. And instead I'm writing a paper on," he glanced at the screen, "Boll weevils? As a state monument?"

"It's very important to their agricultural history," Toby responded lightly.

"Yeah, yeah, I read that, I just don't understand why I have to write a paper on it!"

"Because it has to go through the proper channels, Sam, a state can't just change a monument off the cuff. Believe it or not, there is a level of national influence involved."

"Then why don't they just send someone here to make the proposal and meet with the president and have him wield the sword of knighthood and dub the boll weevil a state monument.?"

"Because we left the United Kingdom like, ages ago?"

"Toby, please. What am I supposed to write? If they want the boll weevil, then dammit just give it to them! Why. . .this is such a waste. . .you know what, I'm going to just shut up and write this and get it over with so I can sweat and fret over the presentation I have to have ready in, oh, a little over two hours."

"I think that's exactly what you should do." Toby stood, then hesitated. "By the way, did you ever sort out that problem with the eighth paragraph in that presentation?"

"Huh?" Sam was typing furiously, and hardly glanced up. "Oh, yeah, yeah I did. 'Bout an hour ago. Wish I could get back to it, can't believe I was so stupid. I mean I totally overlooked. . ." his head snapped up as Toby nearly closed his fingers in the laptop, ". . .what are you doing?"

"Get back to work on the presentation. Get that idea out that you've been fighting for two days."

"But what about. . ."

"There's already a statue up. It isn't a state monument, but there is a tribute. Cotton-pickers everywhere are happy." Toby hid a thin smile.

Sam just stared, his fingers still curled from typing. "But. . .you said. . .you- you ass! You set me up!"

"Got rid of your writer's block, didn't it?" Toby tucked his hands in his pockets and gave a small nod, and tilted in the direction of the door.



"You're still an ass." He opened his laptop. "Thank you."