One Lonely Shoe 3/?
Disclaimers n' stuff: see parts 1 & 2
I had less than twenty four hours to get ready. Not that a slick guy like me needs more than twenty four hours to prepare for a date, but this was a white tie thing and I was a man without a white tie. Well, I had a white tie, but it wasn't looking particularly white. That whiskey stain was making it a rather darkish, brownish short of color that was not at all white nor inconspicuous.
And my white shirt to accompany the white tie had a nasty brown stain on its cuff and quite frankly, though I have complete faith in the ability of cleaners to magically make my suits clean again, over-a-month old bloodstains do not appear to be fixable by their bag of tricks.
There was this dude I saw on an infomercial once that probably could have done it- but I think he's moved on to promoting an Ab-Thingy of some sort, so I pretty much chucked it up to a lost cause.
So I had a date but nothing to wear. And I mean that in the purely practical, non-effeminate sort of way there.
I managed to dig out the rumpled aforementioned stained suit from this very efficient clothes pile that I have in my bedroom- an explanation of this system is irrelevant, but let me say this: it rivals my office desk. I know where every article of clothing I own is in respect to the cardinal directions and I defy any woman to assert the same with all their boxes and dressers and et cetera. Donna was rendered speechless by it. Pure envy, I'm sure. Which was why she was nominated as the candidate to take the suit to be cleaned, pressed, and given license to kill.
I know people think that I'm typically rude to my assistant and make presumptuous demands upon her, but really, I swear, that was the first time I ever made her pick up my laundry. Okay, so that's not really true- she has on other occasions been forced to pick up my laundry after I'd done other very stupid things to my clothes in the course of a work day. And she did when I was recovering.
But other than those times, I never impose on Donna to do things like take my suit to the dry cleaners. It's unprofessional, probably unethical and it blurs the lines between employer and employee.
Yeah. But I do it anyway. Lately, I've been real uncomfortable with dropping off/ picking up my clothes myself. Why, do you ask?
My dry cleaner thinks Donna is my wife.
Yeah. Seriously. It can't get any worse than that, can it? She's picked up my shirts and suits so many times that poor old Mr. Mamoto, who's mostly blind and half senile, thinks that I am married....
If that isn't a disturbing thought. And people wonder why I freak out when they say we have a thing.
And it won't stop. If I keep getting her to take my stuff, it promulgates the fiction. If I take it myself, I am subject to the most humiliating of questions and if I negate everything, then I'm a dishonest husband or a liar or just a bad boss.
Why I should care what this man thinks of me, I have no idea. I am Josh Lyman, political giant among men! With intellectual prowess knowing no bounds!
And a really strange fear of Mr. Mamoto. Damn, is married life making me soft?
Donna, for what it's worth, gets a kick out of it. Like she did today when she returned with my evening wear after lunch...
"Mr. Mamoto says hello," she said casually, walking into my office and hanging up the suit in my closet.
"He also asks when he will have the pleasure of cleaning Little Lyman's shirts."
"A... what? You did not just say what I thought you said that he said...."
She laughed. "Apparently, Mr. Mamoto thinks it's high time that you had some kiddies."
"I don't believe this..."
"You better believe it. I told him you were much too busy running the country."
"And that I am." Men cower! Women swoon! Lyman rules!
"He thinks you shouldn't neglect your wife."
"My what?" Erg. Can't. Feel. Lips.
"And to tell the truth, I am feeling rather neglected and unloved. Though, it's nothing a DVD player can't fix."
"Or a second honeymoon to Hawaii..."
"What? Wouldn't you like a second honeymoon in Hawaii? I can't seem to remember the first one..."
"Honeymoon. It must have been very short."
"Practically non-existent, one could say," I remarked drily.
"Hmph! No wonder we don't have any children."
"Excuse me?" Almost fell off my chair. Luckily, at least one piece of office equipment still likes me...
"A non-existent honeymoon," she chided.
"I can't believe I'm having this conversation..." I mutter to my ink blotter. It doesn't seem to have any pity for me. Damn stupid thing. Probably in league with the Filing Cabinet of Doom...
"Not to mention that you're a workaholic, persist in getting drunk when you go out with the boys- even though I've told you time and time again that you have a delicate system..."
Somewhere along the way I lost track of her rantings. It was really scary- she actually sounded like a wife.
This was why I needed a drink in the middle of the afternoon. I am only human. And this was too much. I mean, she did it all in fun. Kinda like my Butter rantings of yesterday. Shoe's on the other foot and all that crap.
I like it when I get to mock and tease people. It should not happen the other way around. There should be a law: Lyman's Law... and oh, how nice it sounds. With alliteration and everything (and people think that I'm not a Fulbright scholar! Hah!) Lyman's Law of Singular Direction Mocking. Or something equally pompous.
See, it's fine to mock a man with a girly name who conjures up images of an idiot with a stupid accent and a penchant for margarine. It is not fine to mock people on the subject of being imaginarily married to them especially when numerous coworkers believe that the said couple have a "thing." And it is most definitely not fine when one of those in the said couple is me.
I believe even at one point in her tirade she remarked that sex with me was always a disappointment- only another reason she should file for divorce.
I heartily agreed that she should- if only to end the pleadings for a second honeymoon.
She suggested counseling.
I hate her. Only she could take this stupid coincidence and humiliate me with it all day long. Only Donnatella Moss...
And where does she get off in saying that sex with me was a disappointment? I would have her know that many women have been unable to walk for days straight after an evening with me. So there.
Okay- so maybe I was stretching the truth a little there. But their knees were definitely wobbly. Weak, one might be forced to remark. Positively weak.
And as I was developing other names for my proposed law at the bar, who should casually stroll into the lobby but Joey, with Kenny on her heels. I was shocked at first, until I realized that she was probably staying at that hotel. It was probably effeminate of me to have drinks at a mere hotel bar- what I needed was a manly, back room bar- but they're kinda hard to come by in the close proximity of the White House.
She saw me and they came over to where I sat. We exchanged pleasantries. She looked nice. She always looks nice. I couldn't have done any better for a date. Or on-again, off-again girlfriend, for that matter....
A porter came up to Kenny with a carousel of baggage.
Then she dropped the bomb.
The project she had been working on was finished- but she had been inclined to stay in town for a while longer to witness its results first hand. Not to mention attend a certain social function with yours truly. What she hadn't expected was that her pet project back in California apparently hit a snag of some sort, and her candidate was knee deep in some kind of energy scandal.
She was leaving. She had a flight in an hour. She couldn't come to the embassy ball. She had left a message with Donna and she was sorry to ruin my plans.
"You should take her," Kenny translated.
"Donna. You should take Donna to the embassy instead," said Kenny.
"She's got a date with some local gomer named Sergio..."
"You should ask her anyway."
"She wouldn't be if you asked her."
Then Butch and the Kid left, leaving me with yet another non subtle hint from Ms. Lucas on Donna and my love life. I cannot imagine what possesses this woman to do this. Never have I done anything to show any kind of attraction to Donna. I gave her the coffee mug, didn't I? I asked her out on a date... I would have matching monogrammed towels with her... I was gathering rosebuds with her...
But I was sitting in a hotel bar in the middle of the day drinking whiskey because Donna wasn't my wife and I wasn't a bad husband, I was a bad boss who makes the assistant he is unworthy of run out and pick up his dry cleaning for him, and I wasn't going to be with her at the ball but she would be somewhere else with an effeminate gomer who will probably never call her again and she'll be miserable and I'll be miserable and we'll both be alone.
Yeah. I needed another drink.
Payback, Donnatella-style. I was very proud of myself that I was enabled to retaliate on Josh's Fabio routine so quickly and with such wonderful results. Yeah, he was pissed and frustrated and all those things that I was yesterday when he refused to stop speaking like he was a congested Arnold Schwartzenager.
I have to admit that I do like it. "Mrs. Lyman" does have a certain ring to it, does it not?
It at least keeps my mind preoccupied from killing him. I mean, does Margaret have to pick up Leo's suits?
Then again, there is no assistant of the West Wing who rivals me in inane tasks and boss stupidity. There are days when Sam comes close- probably through association- but really.
It's a good thing that I love him so much or I would have been out of a job a looooong time ago.
Wait! Back up- I am not in love with him! Denial is a good thing, a great thing. As is misdirection, misinformation, and miscommunication. Because if I were in love with him, I would have most likely been heartbroken that he was going to the Phillippines/Czech Ambassador Embassy Ball with Joey Lucas. And I was soooo okay with that.
I even told Margaret, when I went to lunch with her, exactly how okay I was with the whole Josh-Joey circumstance.
"This is all my doing. I have gotten them together. I feel like Emma."
"No, from Austen."
"I always thought she was from Mississippi." Only Margaret could take an innocent literary reference and turn it into an absolutely befuddling paradox involving a Texan paralegal with bad taste in shoes and an inhaler fetish.
"No- Jane Austen. Emma. The matchmaker."
"Oh. Right. And you're still watching Sergio tonight?"
"Yeah, of course, I am! I've been meaning to ask you, I mean, I've never dog-sitted before and I was wondering if you had any tips."
"You know, like 'he likes to play with bones' or 'don't feed him chocolate' or..."
"Wear grungy clothes."
"He licks and he jumps and he gets physical. Wear grungy clothes."
"O-kaaaaay. How about you?" Blank Margaret face. "What will you be wearing tonight?"
"Oh," she giggled, and proceeded to fill me in on every sequin of her dress (Donna Karan- last year, but what can you do on an assistant's salary?), her shoes (matching and Italian, almost as much as the dress), her bag(matching and way too small, but very cute so the high beam flashlight she normally carries will just have to stay at home), her earrings(demure, small, and I hardly need add, matching), her necklace(to compliment the earrings) and last but not least, the finer points of makeup.
After I had persuaded her to switch fingernail shades, I figured my work was done. Margaret was going to have a wonderful time at the ball.
And I was going to get mauled by a two ton Greyhound.
Whoopee. TGIF? Not bloody likely.
And after I brought back Josh's clothes, she replayed a message that the Czech ambassador had left her asking about the starting time for the ball. Very sexy sounding voice. Damn damn damn. She gave me the keys to her sister's house and directions on how to get there. I just hope I don't end up in Baltimore.
Josh had another education meeting in the afternoon, so once again I was exiled to the bullpen and forced to beat my old solitaire record.
"Red six on the black seven," Sam's voice said out of nowhere.
"I'm not an idiot, Samuel."
"I'm just saying... maybe you didn't see it."
"I saw it- I can only move so many cards at once."
"You're gonna want to move that king over..."
"Could you like, stop that? It's very annoying. I'm trying to play a game here."
"He still in with Greggs' aide?" Sam motioned at Josh's closed office door.
"Yep," I replied, eyes fixated on my computer screen.
"You should..." Sam began gesturing at my screen with his coffee cup.
"Why is it that whenever someone sees someone else engaged in this stupid game, that they feel behooved to make completely obvious suggestions?"
"I have no idea, but if you don't move that black four onto the red three I think I might actually make a lunge for your mouse there."
"Okaaaay then." I continued with my game as Sam watched in silence. I don't know whether this was because of my rebuke or that I was finally doing it right or that he decided to drink some of his coffee before interrupting me again.
"So, you've got a date tonight." Yee-ha. Back to my favorite subject. Grrrr....
"As a matter of speaking."
"His name is Sergio," Sam declared, as if he was asserting some philosophical truth. Donna's date has a name, if he has a name, he exists.... Q.E.D.
"Okay, I'm picking up a weird vibe here."
"There is no weird vibe, Sam."
"I'm a writer. I know subtext. There is a weird vibe here." He paused for a moment, taking a thoughtful sip of coffee. "You're not like, marrying him so he can get a green card or something, are you?"
"Good. Does he have a third nipple?"
"Honest to God, Sam, I don't know." Do dogs even have nipples?
"Something is weird about him."
"And you know this...how?"
"You're picking up a weird vibe. Uh-huh."
"Come on, you can tell me. I promise I won't tell Josh."
"That's what you said about his birthday present last year."
"That wasn't my fault!"
"Twelve of your peers say no, Sam."
"Contrary to popular belief, I am very capable of handling a secret. It is mere unfortunate chance that a few mistakes..."
I snorted in derision. Not ladylike, I know, but I got my point across.
"Okay, a few well publicized mistakes and I'm branded for life."
I decided to take pity on him. "He's a dog."
"I always thought that only applied as ugly for a girl." **Large inward sigh.**
"No, he's a dog dog."
"A dog dog?"
"I'm dogsitting for Margaret's sister."
"Why are you dogsitting for Margaret's sister?"
"Cuz Margaret asked me to."
"Oh. A dog named Sergio?"
"Yep. He's a greyhound."
"Really? And why does Josh think he's your date?"
"Because he's pathological." Oh, and I might have stretched the truth a bit to annoy him and incite him to act on the bottled up passions he has for me because I am a very sick and very delusional person.
"Oh. You see, I was right."
"You sure can pick your vibes, Sam. Don't you have a reprimand to write?"
"Toby's picking through draft three."
"I thought you said draft two was, and I quote, 'da bomb.'"
"That was before Toby shredded it and then proceeded to throw several rubber balls in my general direction."
"Tell Josh to come see me when he's done. I need to go over some things about the Czech guy for tonight."
Then my phone rang. It was Kenny. Joey Lucas regretfully cannot attend the ball tonight...
I should not be this happy about my boss getting dumped at the eleventh hour. But God help me, I am.
So when he came out of his meeting, after waiting a respectable interval (10-20 seconds, give or take a few), I went into his office with his accumulated messages.
"Before you even start," he said, "I will not take you to Fiji for the second honeymoon."
"Me? Start? Sam came by- he wants to see you about the thing?"
"What did you do?"
He looked at the member in question, then looked at me, and without responding, he went back to making a mess.
"Don't tell me... what was it this time? The filing cabinet? The stapler? The Mets paperweight?"
He mumbled something to his shirt, but I have very good hearing.
"That sounded suspiciously like... a pencil?"
No response, but since he's beginning to turn red I think that my acute ears were not mistaken.
"How could you injure yourself with a pencil?"
"The office supplies conspire against me."
"I was, you know, turning it around and around..." he proceeded to demonstrate his pencil twirling skills with his good hand, "and the stupid thing slipped and..."
"You jabbed yourself in the finger."
"Yes," he says with all the pride he can muster.
I laughed so hard that I was in serious danger of collapsing onto the floor.
"While you have fun over my lead poisoning, I'll be in with Sam," he said, making for the door. "Oh, and, the file cabinet's sticking again..."
Before I could reply amidst my giggling, he left. And I didn't get to give him his message from Joey Lucas.
When he didn't come back after a while, I decided to go in search of him. I went to Sam's office, but surprisingly, neither Sam nor Josh was there.
I decided to swing round to see Margaret- she would know if they were called off to duty by Leo. But she wasn't even there to consult, until I remembered that she went home early to prepare for the big night.
Mrs. Landingham very nicely however, pointed out that the boys had not been around this afternoon.
"And I can't say that I'm the worse for it," she cracked. "Are you going to the ball tonight?"
"Dogsitting, huh?" I swear that woman has beyond mortal powers sometimes. It's very intimidating. And it must have shown on my face. "Margaret asked just about everyone in the secretarial pool before she hooked you. That's a nice thing to do, dear."
"Yeah." And wasn't I enthusiastic. Hurrah for self-denial.
"But you should ditch the dog."
"It's going to be a lot of fun and you can't really want to miss it watching Sergio. He's a probably harmless. Margaret tends to get a bit carried away, you know." Did I ever.
"Are you going?"
"I'm too old for that sort of thing. But Charlie's promised to bring me back some canapes."
"That's nice of him."
"Yes, it is. They always have good food at those things. You should go, if only to keep that Josh of yours in line."
Josh of mine? Josh of mine???
"Tell you what," she said, "how 'bout I leave your name for them in case you change your mind."
"You're a tough lady to say no to, Mrs. Landingham."
"Compared to the President, you're a walk in the park, dearie."
Because I am very stupid, i.e. in denial, and because I had a deep sense of obligation to Margaret to allow her this one night out- a gesture of the sisterhood, let us say- I left a note for Josh, saying I had departed for the night and went home to change before facing Sergio.