With half an English muffin clamped between his teeth the way a Labrador might protect his favorite chew toy, President Bartlet wrestled with the front section of the Washington Post like it was stuck to his hands with cement. ‘Dammit!’ he sputtered.
‘What’s wrong, Dear?’ asked Rizzo as she rolled her eyes behind a Wedgwood coffee cup and drained its tobacco-flavored remains. The First Lady wondered how hard it would be to get Starbucks delivered each morning and made a mental note to ask the drunk guy from L.A. Law, whom her husband had apparently hired as his Chief of Staff.
‘They’re busting my chops over this environmental bill again,’ the President said. ‘Is my message so hard to understand? Why can’t a man support jobs for the lumberjacks and also be in favor of habitats for the owls? Hell, there are plenty of trees. In ‘Nam they grew so big that Brando could sew on a strap and wear the trunks around like cocktail dresses.’
‘It’s unfair,’ Rizzo agreed.
‘We need to do a better job of explaining my position,’ the President said. ‘I’ll need to talk with that one woman about this right away.’
‘Who’s that, dear?’
Bartlet grimaced. He was hoping Rizzo would know her name. ‘You know. She’s been in a bunch of stuff—like that movie with Chris Rock and the fat girl who played Bridget Jones. And I think she was in Primary Colors.’
Rizzo stared at him blankly.
‘She’s my spokesperson. The press secretary.’
‘Oh right,’ Rizzo said. ‘Was she really in Primary Colors? I thought I saw that.’
The President nodded and plucked a linen napkin off his lap to wipe some buttery nooks and crannies from the outside of his mouth. ‘I have to get to work. What’s on your schedule today?’
‘Nothing much,’ Rizzo said. ‘In fact, I was planning to disappear for a few weeks so long as I’m not needed to advance the plot or reflect a positive aspect of your character.’
‘Sounds great,’ he kissed her again.
‘Have a good day, Judd,’ she said.
Bartlet rushed out the door where he was met stride for stride by a pair of Secret Service agents, one of whom he remembered from an old Snickers commercial. The other had been a lesbian on ER.
‘Have either of you guys seen Rob Lowe?’ Bartlet asked.
‘Right here, Chief.’ As was his habit, the star of Oxford Blues had been waiting outside the Bartlets’ private residence so he could have first crack at the POTUS. ‘I have a memo here from Justice about our anti-terrorism initiative.’
‘That will have to wait, Rob,’ the President said. ‘Have you seen what’s-her-name this morning?’
‘You know, kind of tall. She was in American Beauty…’
‘Oh yeah. Her. Press secretary, right?’ Rob stopped briefly to reorient the papers in his hands so they all faced the same direction. ‘Not yet.’
The President liked the Deputy Director of Communications, although the young man had embarrassed the campaign during the Democratic Convention when he made a video of himself in a hotel room having three-way sex (the boy-boy-girl variety, no less). Still, Bartlet found it entirely plausible that Rob thought the girl was older than 16. Bartlet’s own son had done worse, in fact, though if any of his boys had to have his perversions made public in the sensational trial of a mule-faced whore, he wished it could have been the one who’d kept their mother’s name.
‘I need to find what’s-her-name right away,’ Bartlet said.
The President was in luck. As soon as he waded through the moat of personal assistants and pushed open the door to the Oval Office, he saw his press secretary waiting for him.
‘Good morning, Mr. President,’ she said. Bartlet was certain she’d been in a soap opera at some point. Days of Our Lives, maybe? Damn, this was irritating.
He gave her a fatherly pat on the shoulder. ‘Good morning…you.’
‘Hey,’ Rob Lowe said with a curt wave. She smiled back.
Suddenly, Gordy the Weatherman rushed through the door. He was wearing a decorated Navy uniform and held his hat by his side. ‘Mr. President! We have reason to believe there’s a bomb on Air Force 2!’
The timely arrival of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff gave Bartlet an idea. ‘Gordo, have you met Rob Lowe and…’ He covered his mouth with his hand. ‘…Ms. Mffrhfrlffrson?’
Puzzled, the Admiral stuck out his massive paw. ‘I’m Admiral John Amos,’ he said.
‘Nice to see you again,’ the press secretary said. ‘I’m C.J.’
The President slapped his palm against his forehead. ‘You’re C.J? Then what’s the name of the good-looking deaf chick? William Hurt was a teacher at her school? They had sex in the swimming pool? Remember?’ The others shrugged. ‘Anyway Gordo. How’s your wife Florida and that cute little Jackson sister?’
‘They’re fine, Mr. President. But there’s still the matter of a bomb on Air Force 2…’
‘Are you sure it’s a bomb?’ Bartlet asked. ‘Is there a chance it could be—Dyn-o-mite!?’
‘Very funny, Mr. President.’
Rob Lowe stepped forward. ‘Sir, do you want me to alert the Vice President?’
Bartlet slowly eased himself into his chair. He was always at his best during a crisis. ‘No, Rob,’ he said. ‘For the time being, I think we should leave Otter out of the loop.’
Next: The White Shadow threatens a filibuster.