"What did President Vinick say?"
They were sitting on a blanket on a grassy patch at the top of the blueberry hill, looking down at the lighthouse and the sea. They'd been eating sandwiches and drinking coffee from a thermos flask that Mrs. Pierce had packed in a big basket for them. Josh's arm was still in the sling, so Donna had driven the Civic. She'd pointed out to him several times that it had only taken her three tries to get it going, compared to the four he had been averaging.
"He wants to hire me."
"Really? Like . . ." Donna didn't finish the sentence. She didn't really want to think about Cliff Calley, especially here.
"Not quite like that. He said he'd like to have me as a sort of advisor-at-large, to give him a Democrat's point of view, and help him figure out how to keep the radical right wing of his own party at bay."
"Do you want to do it?"
"I don't know yet."
"You've had a lot of other offers."
"Yeah. Matt Santos called, did I tell you? He'd like to run again next time; wants me in charge of it."
"Do you want to?"
"I don't know yet. Leo thinks I should."
"I didn't know he'd called."
"Yesterday, while you were with your friends."
"Was it okay?" Donna looked at him anxiously. Of all the people who had turned their backs on Josh when he was in trouble, she knew Leo had hurt him the most.
"Yeah, it was okay. I've realized—he's an old man, Donna, and a sick one, and he doesn't always get things right."
"No, he doesn't."
"He didn't always get things right before, either. Jenny—he really made a mess of that."
"She left him."
"She waited an awfully long time to do it. He just never put her first. Even before the White House, there was always something else."
"He had an important job."
"He did, but the President's was more important, and he managed to keep things going with Abbey. I mean, I know they had some rough patches while we were in office, but they didn't let those destroy them."
"Abbey's a different woman than Jenny."
"And President Bartlet's a different man than Leo. He doesn't get everything right either, but I think he's got a better sense of what really matters, what the main things are. It let him do his job and keep his family too."
"You're very contemplative today."
"I am, aren't I?" Josh smiled at her and reached over with a long blade of grass he'd plucked, to try to tickle her under her chin. She squealed and pulled away. "It's this place, I guess."
"Here? This hill?"
"All of it—this hill, the lighthouse, the beach, the village. Sid and Mary and Betty and Joe. The Mary B. Maine. There's something real about it, something basic, that I'm glad I know about. I'm not sure I did before."
"I think you did, really. You were just always so busy; you never took time for anything except your job."
"I know. I don't want to get like that again."
"You still want to work in Washington, though, don't you?"
"Yes. God, yes—of course I do. I just don't want to be Leo any more."
"You want to be President Bartlet?"
"President Lyman, please." He was grinning.
"You could, you know."
"Ackh, I didn't mean that. I don't know what job I want next, but I don't have to figure it out today. What about you? You've had quite a few offers too."
"I want to stay where I am; I like my job. I work with good people, and we make a difference, no matter which party is in power. I like that."
"You do a lot of good for children. That's important."
"It is. They are."
They were both quiet for a minute, Donna watching the boats on the water, Josh playing with the blade of grass and looking down at the lighthouse below.
"Do you think—" his voice was suddenly husky. "Do you think you might want your own, someday? Children, I mean."
Donna looked over at him, startled. "Do you?" she asked, too surprised to answer the question.
"Yeah," he said, his voice huskier than ever. "Yeah, I would. I do. But only if-"
"If?" she prompted him.
"If you want them, too. With me," he added, looking up at her then, his face suddenly wrinkled with doubt.
For about the hundredth time that week, tears started up in Donna's eyes and began to run down her face.
"We'll bring them here," she said happily, an hour or so later. "In the summers."
"If we can afford it," Josh said, laughing. "It's gotten awfully expensive; I don't know how local people like Sid and Betty hang on."
"We'll be able to afford something. You're going to do well, whatever job you choose, and I've got a pretty good salary now. And I didn't tell you about what C.J. said."
"A couple of days ago? I talked to her, too."
"No, this morning, while you were talking to President Vinick. She called me on my cell. One of her old clients in L.A. called her, thinking she'd know how to get in touch with us; he wants to make a movie."
"A movie. About you. Us. The whole thing—the White House, Rosslyn, Gaza, the convention, Cliff—all of it."
"You've got to be kidding."
"What an awful idea."
"I don't know—they want to pay us an awful lot of money for the story."
"What a truly horrible idea."
"It would make a pretty good movie. And it's not like we have any secrets left; after that webcam broadcast, and all the raking around they've done about us, everybody knows everything anyway."
"It would make a terrible movie. They'd make it terrible—all slushy and romantic."
"You think romance is terrible?"
"I think Hollywood romance is terrible. They'd get it all wrong; they wouldn't get the important parts at all. And it would be weird, watching some actor playing you—or me. Just totally weird."
"C.J. said they were thinking about Janel Moloney for me. You thought she was hot in that Amber Frey movie. And we do look a little bit alike."
"She's not even close to being as beautiful as you are. And who would they get for me?"
"C.J. didn't say."
"Russell Crowe. I wouldn't do it unless I could be Russell Crowe."
"You wouldn't be Russell Crowe; he'd be you. And he doesn't look anything like you. I think they should get Bradley Whitford; he's a marvellous actor, and there's really quite a resemblance."
"He has funny hair."
"So do you."
"You've always had a crush on him, haven't you?"
"I've always had a crush on you."
"Mmmmm. . . . No, don't think you're going to distract me like that. There is no way, absolutely no way, we are letting them make a movie about us. Over my dead body, when pigs fly, when hell freezes over . . . . Oh God, don't stop, please . . . ."
"I thought you didn't want me to distract you?"
"Distract me, distract me."
"You're fairly distracted already."
"It's my natural state, but distract me some more."
"You've ruined another pair of pants, Josh. And that shirt."
"It's grass stains. And blueberries—I thought something was awfully prickly underneath."
"You should have stayed on the blanket."
"I wasn't really thinking about that."
"I wasn't, either, but my clothes stayed clean."
"We got them off faster. And you were on top."
"Well, with your arm in a sling, it was the only place I could be."
"Was it all right?"
"Just wait till you see what I can do when my arm isn't in a sling."
Josh carried the picnic basket, and Donna folded the blanket over her arm. They stood together at the top of the hill, looking back over the blueberry field and the lighthouse, the sparkling sand, and the sea. The sun was getting low in the sky, turning the light deep gold and making all the colors glow. The water was the brightest, most burning blue Donna had seen it yet, and the red and white stripes on the lighthouse almost pulsed against it and the sky. The yacht club must have organized a race; there were more boats than usual clustered together on the harbor, all with big spinnakers up in every different color she could think of. It was like a child's drawing, she thought, with all those bright Crayola colors, and she thought about Josh and his sister playing here, and what she and Josh had just done and what might come of it, and she smiled, feeling as if she were one of those boats racing along, flags flying at the masthead, sails billowing joyfully out over the bow.
Josh stood beside her, looking back too. He was thinking about all the happy times he'd had here with his family, about the Jacksons and the simple way they'd lived in the lighthouse, and about the day it had stormed and he and his sister had been thrown into the old-fashioned bathtub in the bare-bones bathroom to get clean and warm, and how they had dried out afterwards under blankets by the fire while the wind and the rain had hurled themselves unavailingly at the sturdy walls around them.
And he remembered too all those long months in the prison, when everything had seemed finished for him, and there had been only Donna's letters to hold onto, and how he'd read them over and over, and when he'd finished reading them he'd held them and touched them, just because she'd held them and touched them, and how he'd thought she deserved so much better and he'd never be able to be with her now.
He thought about the way he'd felt when he first came here, filthy and stained through and through with everything people had said and believed about him, with what he'd believed about himself after Gaza, and with the shame of where he'd been. And then he thought about making love to Donna at the top of the hill in the wind and the sun, the way her skin had looked, so clean and smooth and white, and her hair shining, and the way the sunlight had caught in the glass shell that dangled from the chain around her neck and made it glow. It reminded him about what he'd said to her on the beach that first day they'd come here, and he thought now that things could be beaten down and broken up the way the water broke up the rocks and the shells and beat them into sand, but the sand could be made into something clear and beautiful again. He thought about what he and Donna had just done together, what they might have made, what they could still make, and his eyes filled up, and he had to rub them and pull his sunglasses down.
"Come on," he said. "Let's see how many tries it takes you to get the Civic started this time."
She put her free hand over his, on the handle of the picnic basket, and they turned around and headed for the car.
"What's he doing?"
"Putting up a sign."
"What does it say?"
"I don't know."
"Hurry up, I want to see."
"It looks like it says—"
"Do you think it says—"
"I think it says—"
"I don't believe it."
"For Sale. Lighthouse, with attached buildings. 25 Acres. Waterfront. Beach. Docking rights. Historic structure; some building restrictions apply. See listing agent, Maine Coast Realty, Crabapple Cove."
"I don't believe it."
"It'll cost a fortune."
"Do you have your cell phone, Donna?"
"We can't afford it, Josh; there's no point in even asking."
"I'm not calling the agent yet."
"Who are you calling, then?"
More notes, for those who were wondering:
My apologies to anyone who really likes Cliff Calley. I liked what he did for Leo too, but it didn't offset the creepiness for me when he didn't recuse himself from Donna's examination, and then went ahead and read her diary anyway. He seemed almost stalker-ish in that episode where he's trying to track her down to talk about Leo. And when he asked her out again in Season 6—after having read her diary—I wasn't happy at all.
Of course, I don't think the character on the show was a crazy stalker. But he seemed like someone oddly split, sometimes acting in a highly principled, even noble way, and other times not very principled at all. The second most likely time for schizophrenia to develop is in someone's mid-thirties. It can come on very suddenly, with few or no signs of it beforehand. That's what I imagine happened to turn Cliff-on-the-show into this Cliff—that, plus an unhealthy obsession with Donna's diary, and with living up to Josh's reputation when he's thrust into his office and his job.
"Nolo contendere" is a Latin phrase meaning "I do not wish to contest [it]." It means that the defendant neither denies the charge nor admits it. It almost always results in the court sentencing the defendant as if he were guilty, but can't be considered an admission of guilt and used against him if another case (such as a civil suit) is brought against him.
TWoP scoffed at the idea of Mrs. Baker's depression being a serious reason for Baker to have withdrawn from the race, but my memory of the run-up to the (real-life) 2000 election is that Colin Powell was widely regarded as an attractive possibility for the Republican nomination until his wife's history of depression was made known and he declined to run, presumably in order to spare her a grueling exposure in the press.
The line Aaron Sorkin gave Michael J. Fox's Lewis in "The American President" about its "always being the guy in my position who ends up doing 18 months in Danbury Minimum Security," together with N.Y. Smith's "A Season in Hell," and S.G.E.'s "Yizkor" were all sources of inspiration here, as were the Nantucket scenes in Jo and Ryo's "Between the Lines" (chapter 4 in their "A Winning Strategy") and several parts of Jen Wilson's "What Matters Most." I was also aware that I was playing with the restaurant scenes in Shan's "Best-Laid Plans" and Liza Cameron's "The Trouble with Hero Worship." I've probably echoed many other writers unconsciously—my apologies to you if you're one of them.
The lyrics quoted above are from Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A.," "Hungry Heart," and "Dancing in the Dark." Although I didn't quote it, the part of "Blueberry Hill" that Josh is whistling is the opening: "I found my thrill, on Blueberry Hill,/ on Blueberry Hill, when I found you." The words are by Larry Stock, and the tune by Vincent Rose and Al Lewis.
And no, I didn't invent Josh or Donna, Cliff Calley, President Bartlet, Arnold Vinick, Gov. or Mrs. Baker, Will, Bob Russell, Leo, C.J., Hawkeye Pierce, or the name of Hawkeye's hometown in Maine, Crabapple Cove. I don't know who they belong to, but it isn't me. No infringement is intended here, of course.