Achtung, Lyman! 5/?
Author's Notes: I don't know how coherently written this
chapter is but my
consolation is that people are often incoherent when in love. The poem can
be found in A.A. Milne's collection, "Now We Are Six", a personal favorite.
Achtung, Lyman! 5/?
I remember this poem from when I was about six years old. It was written by
A.A. Milne, the author of the Winnie the Pooh books. It's about a little kid
playing in his nursery.
and round about
and round about I go
all around the table, the table in the nursery..."
Yes, I know, quite the intellectual stimulation. The part I'm thinking of
"I think I am an elephant
Behind another elephant
Behind another elephant
Who isn't really there..."
That is exactly how I feel about what Josh did last night. He asked me these
strange questions and suddenly I felt like I was following some large
emotional caravan toward nowheresville.
And then he kissed me.
Considering his alcohol intake that night I suppose I shouldn't be so
I bet he doesn't even remember it.
And let me just say that he is damn lucky we've known each other long enough
and I know him well enough not to consider this any kind of intentional
sexual harrasment. I'm gripping my steering wheel so hard my knuckles turn
white as I'm thinking this and I hope I don't screw up and miss the airport.
I think Josh is stressed out. It must be work. God knows it can be
stressful enough on me and I'm only the assistant.
The best possible version of my life...
What was he getting at?
As I've mentioned before, I have tried to imagine Josh and I together. And I
would never admit this to ANYONE but... Well, I picture a family. I picture
myself as a mother, with a couple glowing kids, I picture a dog with a geeky
name, and a house that's nice but always has enough clutter to be a
comfortable place. And then there's the husband, the father, a faceless
sweatered figure in the family picture. And I stick different faces on the
guy. When I go on dates, when I go to Ben Affleck movies, when I see a
handsome man at the grocery store. And I idolly stick in the faces of guys I
And this is the bizarre part, because as much as I'm his supposed
suboridinate, and even though we bicker, and he's a little older, and I think
the concept of marriage probably scares the hell out of him, and he's never
shown this kind of interest in the least, and even though he just doesn't
SEEM like this kinda guy... When I put Josh's face in that picture... It
always ends up feeling like just the right fit.
Maybe it's because I work with him so closely and I know him so well and he's
just the first man I automatically think of.
Or maybe there's a deeper reason why when I go on dates he comes up
constantly in conversation. And why when they told me he was shot I felt
like I was about to widowed. Maybe there's a reason why when we're working
close together late at night and he leans in close to show me something,
everything gets warm and my cheeks go red like I'm sixteen again.
Any other boss would get my full attention, and all my efficiency and all my
competence and I would go the extra mile for anyone I worked for. But no
other boss would get me sticking around at two in the morning listening to
physics lectures because he can't sleep and he's recovering. No other boss
would have me flittering about doing his laundry, attending to every detail
of every need because if I do enough work and help him enough I won't have to
think about how I almost lost him. No other boss would get that silently
given present of Haagen Daz which meant more than just being ice cream.
And if any other boss kept asking me to bring him coffee, I probably would.
And that means that I start to feel sick inside when I think of the end of
And it means that that earth shattering, soul engulfing kiss left me standing
on that sidewalk in the rain for a full twenty minutes before I felt I was
collected enough to walk up the steps and into my building.
And right now I really don't want to think about what the totality of it
means because the whole thing is a big... Drag.
Because Josh does not see me this way.
Josh is just stressed out.
And I am his convenient distraction.
I'm a little lightheaded this morning. I went to sleep last night and had
vivid and somewhat lurid dreams about my assistant. I woke up with a giddy,
anxious feeling. The kiss was fresh in my mind. The kiss and what Adam
Clayton said. For once I can remember every detail of a nights reveling.
Honestly, I'm not even sure what I meant when I asked her about the best
possible version of life.
For years my work has been What Life Is All About. Everything else is just
that, Everything Else, and not requiring a whole of attention. Hence, Mandy
getting quite fed up.
Things are changing.
I feel like my world is literally being turned upside down. I've felt like
that since my recovery after Rosslyn.
Because suddenly Everything Else is turning into What Life Is All About.
It's been a rollercoaster. And at first I didn't notice this revearsal but
then Sam said we had a thing and the scales started to fall from my eyes.
Truthfully, I don't know how much of this is Donna and how much of this is
getting shot and how much of this is Bartlet's turbulent first term.
I sit in my orthapedic gobby gobby cushy Air Force One seat by the window.
The President is flying down with us for a Harvard appearance later this
We probably have a meeting in a few minutes but right now I just want to
stare out of this window.
I'm trying to figure out what to say to Donna when I see her.
I'm staring out the window watching D.C. get smaller and smaller. When I was
really young I thought of most people's lives as horrifically ordinairy. The
house and the kids and the car and the same job for thirty years. Making no
difference in the world... It sounded horrible to me. I wanted to make my
mark on the world. I wanted to somehow make the entire world a better place.
Messianic complex, I know, I know...
And now I'm doing just that. I'm one of the The Guys, making important
nation changing desicions or at least negotiating with those who do and
convincing them of my position.
But from this plane the White House looks a lot smaller, not a whole lot
bigger than those houses where the ordinairy people live. Taking their kids
to school and dealing with an annoying aunt and paying taxes...
I love my job. I live for my job most days.
But since Rosslyn there's been this nagging voice in my head telling me how
precious life is and how there's more out there for me.
The best possible version of life.
And maybe it's not all that ordinairy.
So if life is this simple I should know what I want.
Last night I seemed to know, at least while I was singing...
If you asked me right now, what would I say?
Josh Lyman, what do you want?
I want us to win the house next term.
I want a library named after me.
I want a Jaguar, silver.
I want my sister and my father to be alive.
Donna sits next to me. And now I've wasted all my time inwardly rambling and
I still haven't thought of something intelligent to say this morning.
"Josh?" She says again.
"I only had two beers."
I'm not sure if that's the very last thing I wanted to say but it's pretty
low on the list.
"What?" Donna looks confused.
You and me both.
"Ah... Nevermind. Do I have a meeting coming up?" Somehow I manage to get
out a relevant question.
Donna glances at her watch, "In nine minutes with senior staff. Look, Josh-"
"I need the Jubilee staff profiles too if you could find em'."
She says Joshua in kind of a breathless voice. It's kind of sexy, it makes
my ears perk up involuntarily. Like last night when she was ranting at me
breathlessly, raindrops were on her lips. How can you not kiss a woman who
has raindrops resting on her lips and isn't even bothering to lick them off?
I rifle through the meaningless papers on my lap. I am all business, "And
the guest list tally thing Sam and I were working on... Where the hell did I
Donna sounds upset.
"What?!" I yip back.
She sits down next to me and takes a deep breath, "You aren't going to say
anything are you?"
I'm all innocence, "Actually I've said several things in the last two
minutes. Would you like a playback?"
Donna scowls, "You know what I'm talking about."
"I assume you're talking about last night." I concede.
"Donna, my behavior was wholly unprofessional and the result of my having
been under the influence. I apologize for my actions and any undue distress
it may have caused you. I promise it will never happen again."
The truth is that I do not know what I should be saying. It shouldn't be
this and I'm aware of that but I also can't declare any kind of affection on
Air Force One when I really don't know what all these feelings entail.
Donna sits back and stares out the airplane window, "Well... That's
very...Professional of you, Josh. Is that all there is?"
I stare at my file folder, "Are you going to sue?"
"Are you going to call Newsweek?"
"Good. Then I guess that's all there is."
Donna stands up again, "That's what I thought." I hear her say under her
This bothers me.
I stop her exit with a hand on her arm, "Donna, wait."
She regards me and sits back down, I don't let go but hold her hand instead.
"I'm sorry." I say, this time a bit more sincerely, "And I'm sorry I left
you standing there."
She's staring down at our hands, "For the record, all the distress you cause
me is undue."
I don't know where I stand with this woman.
I'm caught somewhere in between wanting to bicker about her chances for a
raise and telling her her hair smells nice.
"I've been confused lately." I say.
She looks at me, she's trying to read my eyes but I'm putting up all my
defences, "Stressed out?"
Stressed? Of course. Ever since I thought she was getting married.
Stressed because there seems to be large part of the human experience that I
may be missing out on.
Donna nods, "Yeah. Well... I have to... Go to the little assistant's room so
Her sentence trails off and she leaves.
I'm studying comparative government.
I'm thinking very hard about the parliamentary system.
I need to think more about important things like this and less about what's
obviously not between my boss and I.
I tap my fingers. I should really find out what I'm going to miss in class.
I should call Bradley.
I should call Bradley right now.
Handsome, dapperdly rugged Dr. Bradley Shale with wire rims and the hint of
stubble and the sparkling eyes.
There's an airphone right here. I could call him right now.
I could call him and then maybe even flirt a little and when I get back to
D.C. we could go out, get married, and have two kids. A cute little overalls
wearing girl named Molly. I like the name Molly.
We would be Dr. and Mrs. Bradley Shale. Dr. and Mrs. I don't like that
actually. There was a too long period of my life when the phrase "Dr. and
Mrs." rambled around in my head. Dr. Bradley Shale and his wife
"And his wife"... Bleh, no not too twenty-first century is it?
Dr. Bradley Shale and Ms. Donnatella Moss.
Donna Shale. That sounds kinda like Donna Shalala.
Ms. Donnatella Moss and Dr. Bradley Shale.
Nice but formal.
Josh and Donna.
Joshua and Donnatella...
It's so poetic...
Suddenly the phone is in my hand and I'm dialing the numbers before I can
He actually answers. What kind of a college professor answers their phone on
the first ring??
Now I sound like Josh.
"Bradley, this is Donna Moss-"
"Donna!" Good God, his voice goes up an entired octave, "Good to hear from
"Thanks. I was just calling to check on what I'm going to miss the next
Bradley laughs, "Oh nothing terribly important other than my usual ego
"Hey there, I like your rambles." I point out laughing.
I sound flirty.
Bradley parries with an equally flirty laugh, "I'll remember that."
I'm about to tell him just what I'm going to be doing in Boston when he says,
"Hey listen, Donna..."
He's going to ask me out and not in a "is this really a date" way, he's
really going to ask me out.
"Donna, do you like the symphony?"
"Yeah, listen I know this isn't exactly kosher but-"
"Are you asking me out, Professor?"
Where on earth did this woman come from? Surely I've become possessed.
"Well... Yes. I am."
I clear my throat, "Okay then."
"Do you like Italian?"
"Italian? As in the food? Sure. Do you know how spagetti was invented?"
Suddenly my love life is a speeding train.
The staff meeting ends.
I'm supposed to read five hundred pages on labor studies from last year but
right now I'm pacing my through Air Force One.
This should be a good couple of days in Boston. Any time your work involves
attending a U2 concert as a VIP it should be considered good. Sam is hoping
Sting will show up because he said he'd come to the summit. I told him I
doubted it but that I heard something about Michael Stipe stopping in. Of
course, all these people will be coming to the introductory dinner late
I have a hundred things to do and I'm about to go do them so that I don't
have to think about anything else.
I'm moseying back to my Air Force One campsite when I happen to hear Donna on
I stop and listen.
Don't look at me like that. I am her boss and as such I can listen in on-
Oh, screw you.
"I was just calling to check on what I'm going to miss the next couple days."
Bradley. She's talking to that Bradley guy. So far she's just asking for
Good. Stay in the school zone because-
She's laughing, "Hey there, I like your rambles!"
Good God. She's using Flirt Voice. This isn't up for debate either. This
is unquestionably Girl Flirt Voice, that sort of lilting giggly voice girls
use, particurly girls with perky ponytails who perpetually carry small
containers of lip gloss on their person. Frankly, I never would have thought
Donna was the type of woman to use Girl Flirt Voice. She's always been more
of a bantering woman. But there it is.
Particularly since she's not using it on me.
Probably because she knows better.
There's the added annoyance of her actually liking his rambles. Well listen,
buddy, she liked my Rants long before she ever liked your little mutterings.
She likes my Rants, right?
The symphony... My brain is in some sort of turbo drive. Why are they
talking about the symphony? What's that got to do with comparative
"Are you asking me out, professor?"
Holy Mother of Bartlet, why didn't that bullet finish the job?
She's actually going on a date with him. With that Girl Flirt Voice of hers,
I can tell she's saying yes. There it is.
They're practically married.
I may be going overboard.
No, you know what? I'm not! First she goes out with Adam, then I kiss her
and the VERY NEXT DAY she takes a date with her prof! The very next day!
Obviously she feels nothing for me. Adam was wrong.
"Okay then." She sounds a little nervous. Probably because she likes him.
What's the deal with a student going out with her professor anyway?? That is
totally unethical! I could report the guy to his superiors!
"Italian? As in the food? Sure. Do you know how spagetti was invented?"
I proceed to stand there and listen to Donnatella explain to Bradley Schmale
how spagetti was invented.
I'm a little pent, as in up.
She's giving him all the ridiculous minutae on linguini and I feel much more
upset now. The minutae thing... That's only for us. Sure, Bartlet does it
too but there's a special way that Donna does it and a special way I react.
Usually with irritation. And once in awhile, every since The Incident, I'll
go off on physics and Donna will act annoyed. We both love it though. I
know we do. That's OUR thing. Now she's sharing it with HIM??
If she tells him about the Maasai tribe, I'm jumping out of the airplane.
I need to go talk to Sam.
I find him hunched over his lap top near the back of the main seating area
and I plop down next to him.
"Sam." I say firmly.
"Josh." He says just as firmly.
"I need to talk to you."
"You are talking to me."
I sigh heavily, "It's about... Oh brother. It's uh..."
He glances up at me over his glasses, "Is this about Donna?"
I grimace, "Say it a little louder, I don't think she or the press heard you."
"IS THIS ABOUT-"
He grins, "Just kidding."
I roll my eyes, "Okay. Here's the thing..."
I immediatly stop talking.
He leans back from his laptop and crosses his arms, "What happened last
night? When you guys got in the cab?"
I make a face, "Yeah. Um..."
Sam looks excited, "Josh Lyman is speechless. Must've been good. You kissed
her, didn't you?"
"Technically yes but I would like to point out that I was, in fact,
inebriated at the time and-"
"What was it like?"
I clear my throat, "It was... Good."
Define good? Remember when you were fourteen and you watched movies and
thought that's how all kisses really are and then you had your first kiss and
it was completly awkward and stupid? Good would be defined as how all kisses
should feel. What you dreampt they would be like. A kiss so... Mindblowing
that you actually forget the rest of the world is standing around you.
But I brush that off, "It... It doesn't matter how good it was."
"That good, huh? Are you guys together now?"
"No! I don't even know if I... Her professor just asked her out!"
Sam raises his eyebrows, "That Bradley guy? She say yes?"
I sigh, "Yeah. But... It doesn't matter to me because this is just a phase.
It's some kind of almost mid-life crisis."
Sam smirks, "You really don't know what you want, do you?"
I stare at him blankly.
"Josh, I told you. Donna won't wait forever. You'll be pacing the bullpen
fighting over the D7 bill as your life passes before you and someone will
sweep her off her feet. Probably right under your nose."
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my best friend.
"Thank you, Sam. As always you have lifted me up to the heavans on your
wings of comfort."
Sam the Innocent smiles wryly, "What are friends for?"
I'm tapping my pen incessantly when Margaret speaks up from behind me.
"You have a call..." She says sounding a little awed.
I glance up in surprise, "Me?? On Air Force One?? Who is it?"
Margaret's lip twitches in amusement, "It's Bono."
My eyebrows hit the cieling, "Bono called ME? Are you sure he wasn't calling
Margaret nods, "He asked for you."
I frown, "He can call Air Force One?"
I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, this is a guy who called Bush in front
90,000 people to make a point back in the Zoo TV days.
I get up and follow Margaret to the line Bono called and pick up.
"This is Donna Moss..." I say somewhat questioningly.
"Donna, hello! This is Bono."
"I just wanted to make sure Josh was bringing you to our late dinner tonight."
"Oh!" I yip, "I didn't know I was invited, you know I'm just his
Bono laughs, "I'm pretty certain you're more than that." Now what does that
mean?, "Ten o'clock at The Zigguarat." He continues.
"There's actually a restaurant called The Ziggaurat?" I ask.
"It's kind of part club part restaurant. We rented it out. Sam knows where
it is. We're encouraging everyone to dress rock starish while Edge and I go
I laugh, "I see. Well, I'll be there then."
"Perfect. Can't wait to see you."
He says goodbye and I hang up feeling a little dazed.
Once the stardust settles to the floor my suspicions rise. Bono sounded the
slightest bit sneaky. Why on earth would the man himself call me personally,
a lowly little assistant, to make sure I go to their dinner? It's supposed
to be a introductory get together for our staff, the Jubilee people and their
Why is my presence so necessary?
Somethings up, I'm almost positive.
"Donna, I need you!"
The familiar call of my Mr. Elephant rings through Air Force One and round
about I go.