Thirty Seconds Part 7
"So what do you think of the new guy. Check." I look across the chessboard at Toby, who is studying the board in consternation. He meets my eyes and sighs, his index finger coming to rub at some imaginary pain on his forehead.
"So was Sam." I watch as Toby's hand lingers over a piece. Come on, do it, Ziegler. Let me put you out of your misery. His hand draws away.
"He needs seasoning." Toby sighs again, moving the board to get a different view. "He's not Sam." Toby looks at the board again.
"Are you going to move?" I ask.
"Thinking isn't going to make loosing any easier."
"Are you taunting me, Mr. President?"
"Just making an observation, Toby." Usually Toby and I are even in the game of Chess, but tonight he's distracted by my pointed questions. This huge intelligence of mine is a gift at times. "So has anyone talked to Sam?"
Toby snatches his hand back from the rook he was thinking of moving. His eyes glare at my hands where they are clutched between my knees. "No. We can't get through. He's staying with his sister at the hotel."
I got through; it's amazing the power Mrs. Landingham yields. Sam is good, if a little perturbed with his sister. I got the impression she's here to put his life back on track, like he's some little boy that can't do it himself. I want to gloat, but I'm doing good just asking stupid questions and winning at Chess.
Toby finally makes his move and I move my Queen to take his King. "Checkmate." I lean back and look hopefully at the glass of scotch in Toby' s hand. He takes a huge swallow of it.
Do you miss Sam? I want to ask the question, but it hangs in the air between us, not needing to be said.
"I should tell you, Mr. President, at the risk of inflating your opinion of yourself, that you were right."
I pick up my cigar and take a puff. Thank god Abby is on a trip somewhere. "I'm usually right."
"That could be debated, sir. I was talking about the situation with Sam."
"You were right, I should have told him. It undermined his authority to leave him out of the loop."
"Yep." I wish I had a recorder right now, so that I can make Sam hear this.
"I should have apologized right away, instead of justifying my actions."
"You never apologized, Toby?"
Toby takes another swallow of his drink and starts to reset the chessboard. "It just didn't seem like it needed to be said."
"You're the White House Communication Director. You should have known it needed to be said."
"Yeah." He meets my eyes again, and there is sadness there. "I would like the chance to apologize."
"So go track him down and apologize."
"Mrs. Landingham is the only one who can get through." He gives me this look. I think I've been found out. This one though isn't going to be as easy as Leo.
"What would you like me to do?"
"Invite Sam and his sister to the benefit, as your guests."
"I think we've seen enough fireworks over the Radcliff's-"
"I'll talk to CJ. We can sell it as the spirit of bipartisan cooperation; invite a few other Republicans." Toby waves a hand vaguely with a quirked up mouth.
"And why should we do this?"
"Because as good as Aaron is, he isn't ready for Deputy Communications Director. Because he's terrified of meeting with Congressmen. Because all he does at Senior Staff is laugh at CJ and Josh."
"And you." I point out.
Toby sighs. "Yeah." Toby picks up his unlit cigar and fingers it. "We need Sam back. I need Sam back. My writing's been flat. Everyone at the State of the Union noticed." He snips the tip off the cigar and lights it suddenly. The familiar actions fail to comfort Toby, I can tell from the way he stares at the cigar. "Invite Sam and whatever her name is."
"Yeah whatever. So her husband is a rich ignorant idiot. I don't see the point of getting all worked up over it."
"Jeffery Radcliff bought most of the republicans their seats, Toby. She's a big deal here and in New York."
"So I invite them to the party?"
"Yeah, and a couple of others, Matt Skinner, Mike Brace."
"Okay, send it through the social director."
"Yeah." Toby stands up and pulls on his coat, his cigar clinched between his teeth.
Toby looks at me without saying a word.
"Seven day's Toby. Seven days for an I'm sorry."
"Let me hear you say it."
"I want to hear you say it. Say, 'Sam I'm sorry for leaving you out of the decision for the drop-in. Sam, I'm sorry that I didn't talk to you for a week.' That's what it's going to take, Toby."
Toby sighs and looks at me. "Mr. President-"
"Say it, Ziegler. Remember I just beat you at Chess."
"Something I'm sure you'll remind me of for years to come."
"Sam I'm sorry that I didn't talk to you for a week. I'm sorry for leaving you out of the decision for the drop-in." Toby says in a rush like a little boy hurrying to finish his chores so he can play.
"Work on that. It definitely needs work."
~~End Part 7