DisclaimerRecognizable characters belong to Aaron Sorkin. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's NotesTo Dani, Dis, and the Admiral especially. Also to Kacey... Dedicated to writers everywhere. Also, something a little different from me. Normally my stories have a lot of, y'know, dialogue...
SpoilersUm... In The Shadow of Two Gunmen... The Midterms, The Portland Trip, The Drop-In, The Stackhouse Filibuster
FeedbackAlways greatly appreciated.
ArchiveSure. Just tell me where.
Mr. SeabornThe journey of a wordsmith... With apologies to Harry Chapin.
He had spent hours on it. Days. A week and a half. He wanted it to be perfect. He needed it to be. Reading it over for the eighteenth time, he smiled and set about making a final, final copy of it on clean lined paper. He took his time to make sure each letter was perfect, clear, and readable. He proudly wrote his name at the top and dated it before putting it in his folder to take to school the next morning.
He had gone to bed that night with visions of high accolades from Mrs. Perkins, who just so happened to be the meanest seventh grade English teacher in the entire world. His paper would knock her socks off. She would stand at the front of the class and announce to his fellow classmates that it was the best English paper she had ever had the honor of reading, and then she would read sections of it to the class, commenting on his use of description and prose. She would submit it to the seventh grade writing contest where it would win first prize, hands down.
He was almost too excited to sleep. He wanted to see Mrs. Perkins' face when she saw his masterpiece of a paper.
The next morning came and his mother could barely get him to slow down for even a second. Breakfast was out of the question. Remember his lunch? Forget it. He was too happy, too excited to even dream of being hungry in ten years. He raced to school and waited in the corridor just outside the room until right before the tardy bell rang. He wanted it that way, so that his paper would be on top of the stack on the corner of Mrs. Perkins' desk.
After lunch, gym, and music class, some of the papers were returned to the student authors. He was so excited, so ready to see his paper, knowing the only red ink mark would be the proud, bold "A" at the top. He turned his paper over as eagerly as most children would rip into a Christmas present. He could barely see his pencil marks. The entire thing was practically awash in red ink. In blue, across the top, were the words: See me after class.
He didn't want to see Mrs. Perkins. He didn't want to face his classmates for the rest of the day long enough to survive until "after class". He had been so sure that it was a stellar piece of seventh grade literature. He had been so terribly wrong.
In eighth grade, he had to write a short story. Something with a sci-fi twist, he decided, but also with political intrigue and a game of basket-tennis in the middlea game the inhabitants of Perkania loved that was a cross between basketball and tennis. Perkanians were cruel people. Borseaneans were the peaceable, fun-loving people from the next planet over. There was an epic battle waged between the two groups, something that would have made Homer proud.
He loved the story. He made sure he crossed every "t" and dotted every "i" he could find. He made sure his periods were clear and his semicolons couldn't be mistaken for commas. He went to bed the night before it was due with a smile on his face: move over Ray Bradbury and Gene Roddenberry.
Two weeks later, the stories were returned. The first page, Mr. Tabor caught three errors. On the second page, six. On the third page was a note in the margin that said he was lost, the story made no sense, and that, if he wanted up to three-quarters credit for the assignment, he had better write another story, one that made sense.
In Senior English in high school, he studied the bard's "Hamlet." He loved the tale of the tragic Dane prince. As a final assignment, he had to write an essay about it. He had enjoyed the story so much, he believed his essay would be good. Not great, because he had given up that hope, but it would be good. He had the required number of sources, as well as the required page length. He thought he made several educated, scholarly points and had adequately backed them up. For a moment, he allowed himself to believe it was a grade A paper. But only for a moment. He was holding his breath for a C. With a C, he could pass the class with a B overall and still graduate in the top ten percent of his class. He received a C plus by the skin of his teeth.
In college came more papers. Law school required them, too. He struggled with the technical writing a little, having more than one all-nighter in hopes to make it sound at least somewhat presentable. He knew he was going to fail one legal brief he had prepared. There was no way in hell it would ever be any good. It would be filled with loopholes that might be good for some, but it would be highly damaging to the company he was trying to protect, not to mention his grade.
He dreaded going into class the next day. He didn't want to see another paper of his covered with red ink in his professor's hand. It would be a fate worse than death, or so he believed. His friend, Tom, practically had to drag him to class, where he was awarded with a flawless paper.
He looked at the simple, crisp A on the top margin, smiled a little to himself, then shoved it down in his backpack, turning his attention to preparing his notebook and tape recorder for the day's lecture.
Tom asked, he begged, he pleaded for him to share the score of his paper. He shook his head and said it was the same writing he had been doing for years, the same writing most teachers seemed to despise.
After graduation, he worked for the law firm of Dewey Ballantine, but only for a few months. Adventure called. Or rather a friend called in a favor, and he was headed to Washington D.C.
He started working as a Congressional aide in the U.S. House of Representatives where he began as a gopher, making Xerox copies and delivering food from the cafeteria. At night, he would go to his apartment and write.
He filled page after page with beautiful description and narrative, prose that leapt off the page, or witty dialogue of conversations held between various believable characters just as he had done for years, since he was in elementary school.
Before bed, he would put away the notebooks on the shelf or in a drawer or in a box.
He soon became a valuable member of the Congressional staff, but still found something about the job lacking. After several years on Capitol Hill, he hung up his political hat and traded it for his old law one, moving to New York City.
He was writing letter-perfect legal briefs, doing what he thought would make him happy. It did make him rich and betrothed, but it did little for his spiritual side. Or, he guessed it was his spiritual side. Physically, he was in fine health. Financially, he was set. Emotionally, he was a levelheaded, no-nonsense guy. His life seemed as letter-perfect as his legal briefs.
But looks were deceiving, and a chain reaction started--dominoes in their eternal fall--and his life was changed again. Gone were the letter-perfect days of Gage Whitney. A return to the wild, to the unexpected... to politics.
He sat in his Manchester, New Hampshire hotel room and worked on a speech well into the wee hours of the morning. It was a good speech, a great piece of oratory. He threw out gorgeous phrases and meaningful anecdotes about life and politics with enough humor to keep potential voters enraptured with a former governor, former U.S. Congressman.
He gave a copy to his boss, Toby, and had breakfast with the media specialists--C.J. and Mandy. By the time he returned to his corner of desk space in the hectic campaign headquarters, his speech, the one he had spent hours on, was completely different. Toby asked him where he had learned to write.
He had learned to write from Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare, from Mark Twain and Harper Lee. He had learned from Truman Capote and the Brontes. From Keats, Rousseau, Locke and Mao Zedong. From John and Abigail Adams... And from his heart.
None of those answers ever graced his lips to give his boss, however, because he had learned the art of compromise, too and worked with Toby to make the speech something they both would sign off on.
That night, though, he climbed onto the uncomfortable couch in his hotel room, pulled a notepad from his briefcase, and wrote for two hours.
He just wrote.
It wasn't for the governor, for Toby, or for the media. It was for him.
A few years and some several dozen speeches later, he entered his Virginia apartment after a long day at work. Toby's words rang unmercifully in his ears, griping about punctuation and verbs, about no 'permanent revolutions' and no talent.
Crossing to an unassuming filing cabinet by his desk, he opened a drawer and let his fingers dance over the label tabs until he found the file he was looking for. Pulling it out, he set it on his desk, eased into his chair, and opened it. Inside was his eighth grade short story. He laughed at his jokes, both inside and obvious ones. Putting it away when he was finished though, he knew Toby's opinion ultimately didn't matter. He wrote because he liked to. He wrote because he needed to. He wrote because it was his life.