For disclaimer and notes, please see part one.
Previously, on the West Wing: Sam and Josh are on an early flight to
Dublin, Ireland for peace talks. Sam starts thinking of his
childhood with his cousin Crystal except breakfast and a secret
message interrupt him.
On the Fourth of July, Crys and I were swabbing the deck of
Aunt Julia and Uncle John's boat. It wasn't too bad of a detail but
Crys kept complaining. "What are we doing tonight?" I asked. "Are
we going to a cookout or anything?"
"Probably not. I hate this. You know how much I hate this?"
"I have a pretty good idea, Crys."
"I mean, I really *hate* this."
"I get the picture, Crys." She stopped cleaning and leaned
against the port railing.
"I have an idea." Those words coming from Crys's mouth could
only mean one thing-trouble.
"What might that be, Crys?"
"Let's get out of here."
"Let's get out of here." Before I realized what she was
doing, she had untied the boat from the dock.
"Crys, I don't think this is a good idea."
"Oh, sure it is."
"No, I really don't think this is wise."
"Come on, Sam. It'll be fun."
"What'll be fun?"
"A dusk cruise up the Potomac."
"Up the Potomac?" What are you talking about?
"It'll be fun, Sam, I promise!"
"Crys, I don't like this."
"Come on. What's gonna go wrong, huh? We're both
experienced sailors," she said as she started the boat and aimed her
out of the harbor.
"Crys, let's put her back."
"What do you think's gonna happen? That my folks are going
to get mad at us? Please! They hardly know I exist let alone care."
"You know that's not true, Crys."
"Why else do you think I was shuttled to California every
summer? I was out of school and they didn't want me hanging around."
"Come on, Crys. That's so far from the truth."
"Is it? Is it really?"
"I can guarantee you that this is what'll happen. They'll
find their precious boat, the Jurisprudence, missing. They'll report
it to the authorities but they won't give a damn about us."
"Watch your language."
"Sam, come on. You know I'm right."
"No I don't. And just what the hell are we doing going up
"It's Independence Day, knucklehead, and watch *your*
language. What goes on in D.C. on Independence Day?"
"Crys, I don't like this. Turn the boat around."
"Think of it as an early birthday present."
"It'll be fun to watch the fireworks show from the boat,
don't you think?"
"Crystal Ann Seaborn, turn this boat around right now!" I'm
starting to sound like my mother. Ew...
"Are you going to open it?" asked Josh. You do know
something about it, don't you, Josh?
"What is it?" He shrugged.
"I'm curious. Open it." Breakfast could wait. Opening the
envelope, I pulled out a card. On the front it read, "Smooth
Sailing..." over a cartoon drawing of a sailboat with a fuzzy bear
standing at the helm, complete with a sailor uniform, waving a hairy
paw. On the inside, it said, "for a very happy birthday!"
"Crys," I said upon seeing the signature at the
bottom. "Shoulda known."
"It's from Crystal? Oh, how nice. And, by the way, happy
birthday, Sam." A folded up letter was inside the card as well. I
was tempted to hold off reading it until we were in Ireland, resting
in the hotel, when I realized my curiosity was getting the better of
me. I took a bite of the doughnut while opening it.
"Hey, Sam. Happy Birthday! And, yeah, I did have some
help. The guy sitting beside you was in on it but I don't think I
have to tell you that. He is kind of transparent when it comes to
covert operations. How's the flight? Going well, I trust. I just
wanted to wish you the best of luck with the peace conference. Also,
I wanted to tell you not to let work be the only thing you do on your
trip. Josh will be dragging you to a quaint little Irish pub for
Guinness pints one of these nights and, no, you cannot talk him out
of it. I'm sorry that I'm not there to help you celebrate. It's
been too long since we've summered together. Take care, Sam. See
you soon. Love, Crys"
"What did it say?" Josh asked with a grin plastered on his
"Just that you're untrustworthy and she doesn't want to see
"That's not what it says," he said, ripping the letter from
my hands. I couldn't help but laugh as he skimmed the
note. "Transparent," he scoffed. "You know, I kept that guy going
for almost a week."
"Sure, sure," I said, taking my letter back.
"I mean, is it my fault that he recognized me? I'm a public
figure." I tuned him out. He could relive his war stories all he
wanted. I'd rather not listen to it.
Watching the fireworks from the bow of the boat was amazing.
My inhibitions left me slowly as we cruised up the river and into the
city. We dodged the Coast Guard and the DCPD boats as we sailed in;
Crys had put a red, white, and blue blanket off the back, covering
the name so we wouldn't get caught. It was probably one of the nicer
birthday presents I had ever gotten, watching the sky above us
explode into brilliant colors, a fiery rainbow falling over the
city. My parents had always taken Crys and me to watch the Los
Angeles fireworks display. I'll never forget the first year Crys
spent the summer with us. We had bought a couple fireworks for a
private showing after a barbecue dinner. I had tried, hard as I
could, to get my parents to buy sparklers. They said they were too
dangerous, though I never understood why. Crys had surreptitiously
picked up two packs of the fire sticks when no one was looking and
had tied them with one of her hair ribbons for me. Independence Day
was always my early birthday, at least from her. She always managed
to give me something in July and something again in August. No one
ever knew about the little treasures she'd give me on the most
amazing day in U.S. history-the Fourth of July. It was better that
way. Sort of our little secret.
She dropped anchor by the side of the river, giving us one of
the best seats in the city to watch the display, then disappeared
into the cabin. I was tempted to follow, but was too distracted by
the bright explosions filling the heavenly canvas overhead. When she
reappeared, she had a handful of sparklers and a lighter. "Want
one?" That was a dumb question. I'm a sucker for fireworks. I
guess I'll always be a child at heart when it comes to the rocket's
red glare. We stretched out on the deck, spelling our names in the
darkness while watching the show above us. "What are you going to
study?" That came out of the blue. Crys rarely thought of her
future, let alone anybody else's. Consequences of actions were
things she'd rather not dwell on.
"Law probably. Why?"
"You going to practice with Uncle Norman?" I shrugged. I
hadn't thought that far ahead myself. I mean, eight years of
school. That was thinking plenty far head.
"I don't know. Why?"
"Just curious." Yeah right.
"Seriously, Crys. Why?" She sighed as she lit another
sparkler off the one that was almost finished.
"I'm lookin' down the barrel of my senior year of high
school, Sam. I don't know what I want to do. Dad's pushin' law
school and I really don't see me in business suits walkin' into
courtrooms, you know? And I sure don't see me wielding a scalpel,
which is my second choice according to dear old Dad."
"What do you see yourself doing?"
"That's just it. I really don't know."
"Well," I said, grabbing another sparkler for myself, "what
would you like to do?"
"I guess law isn't *really* horrible, but-"
"Being a lawyer isn't for everybody."
"Fell hat tomato leather."
"What was that?"
"Tell that to my father," she said clearer. "I mean, Bryan's
in med school, Jake's studying biology to do research in South
America. You're going into law, keeping the Seaborn tradition. Me?
His only child, me. I don't want it. I really don't. I don't want
to do anything grand to be the belle of society, you know? I want to
do my own thing but I don't know what that is yet."
"You'll think of something."
"You sound so certain."
"Of course I am." The sad look in her eyes made me
physically hurt for her. I couldn't tell exactly why she was so
upset, but I hoped she'd tell me.
"I'm tired, Sam," she said finally.
"Tired? Of what?"
"Of feeling like this."
"Like what?" She stood up and started angrily slinging her
"Like I'm no good to anybody. Like I'm not smart enough to
make my own decisions. Right now, you're the only person in this
crazy family I can talk to. Dad won't listen to anything but law.
Mom is too concerned with the society life right now that... That I
"Crys." I had no idea what to say. I opened my mouth in
hopes that something intelligent would roll out when I heard a voice
call out to us.
"Ahoy!" We both turned to see a DCPD boat pull up along side
"Aw, hell," Crys muttered. I glanced at her then back at the
police officers. I was paralyzed, staring at the officers.
"How are you doing this evening?" asked one of the officers.
"Fine," Crys blurted. I looked at her and realized we no
longer had our sparklers.
"I thought I saw some illegal fireworks on this boat."
"Oh, no," Crys said, shaking her head. I just knew that we
were going to get arrested and that I would not have the luxury of
having my juvenile record expunged as Crys would. I knew this was a
"Are you sure?" Crys nodded. "What are your names?"
"Elizabeth Reagan." What's she talking about? "And this is
my brother, James Reagan." Brother? Reagan? What?
"Reagan, huh?" asked the officer. Great minds, I suppose.
"Yeah," Crys said. "You know, as in Ronald Reagan."
"Ronald Reagan." His voice positively dripped with
"You know, the President of the United States."
"I know who the President is, honey. Question is, what the
two of you are doing with illegal fireworks?"
"Uncle Ronny said we could."
"Uncle Ronny?" asked the officer. Crys elbowed me
"Yeah," I said before I realized my lips were even
moving. "Uncle Ronny."
"Where are your parents?"
"With Uncle Ronny," Crys said. "They said we could watch
from the boat."
"Where are you two from?"
"California," I said.
"That's right. Los Angeles, California." I hadn't realized
until that point that Crystal was faking her accent. It was no
longer the Southern twang I knew.
"The two of you could be the children of the President
himself or runaways and it doesn't matter. I'm going to have to have
the two of you come with us until we get this whole thing
"Oh, come on," Crys whined. "It's the Fourth of July for
crying out loud. It's the day we commemorate our independence from
the tyrannical oppression of the British. This day brings every
American citizen, young, old, famous, not so famous together for one
lonesome night. It's a huge rockin' party celebrated simultaneously
in fifty states. That doesn't happen just any day, you know? It's
got to be special. There's nothing more special than standing next
to your fellow Americans and joining in a rendition of the National
Anthem as you remember the fight our forefathers led to get us out of
the shadow of the British king. Where's your pride in America, man?
Where's your hamburger loaded with catsup and relish? Your beer and
your baseball? Your American apple pie! Where's Old Glory, huh?
And Lady Liberty? Dude, think of your priorities. What's more
important? Busting two kids who have done absolutely nothing wrong
or adding your voice to the massive celebration that stretches from
sea to shining sea." I didn't believe it. The officer bought it.
He looked at his partner like Crys had a point.
"Have a good night, miss."
"You, too, officer. God bless America!"
"Happy Independence Day."
"Same to you!" As the boat started to pull away, Crys
doubled over in laughter.
"I don't believe what I just saw."
"What?" she asked, giggling still.
"How on Earth did you do that?"
"I don't know," she said. "It's a gift, I guess."
"You talked us out of getting arrested."
"Nah. I talked us out of a trip to the nearest police
station and them calling my folks to come pick us up. That's all."
"How can you take this so lightly? That was a cop, Crys. A
law enforcement agent. This whole thing could have had serious
"Aw, c'mon, Sam. It was nothing."
"Nothing!" She thinks this is a game!
"I don't see why you're getting all bent out of shape over
this." She's not laughing anymore and it's about time she quit.
This is no laughing matter.
"Besides the fact that I'm going to be putting people like
you away in a couple years? My God, Crystal!"
"What?" she asked.
"Why'd you do that?"
"You'd rather miss the rest of the show?" she asked, looking
up at the grand finale of the fireworks display.
"What's in that head of yours that doing that was okay?"
"What's it gonna hurt?" she asked.
"I'm going to be suffering from guilt for a while."
"Oh, please," Crys said, sitting back down on the deck and
pulling the lighter from her pocket and a sparkler from her sock,
where she had hidden the rest of the stash.
"Where'd you put the lit sparklers we had?"
"I tossed `em overboard," she said. "Sit. Watch the rest,"
she said, lighting another sparkler. I grabbed it from her and threw
it overboard as well.
"You want to bring them back here? We are *not* related to
Ronald Reagan. We're not even *republicans*!"
"Like they care? They're off to spread their American
"Crys, this..." I paced, flabbergasted and speechless.
"Let's not forget that you were, technically, participating
in an illegal activity. Actually two if you think about it." Dear
God, what now? I sat down.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you were using fireworks, which are illegal in this
city, plus you were in possession of stolen property."
"You stole these, Crys?"
"You think I've broken out of my habit yet? I've perfected
"Thank you *so* much, Crys. I can kiss my legal future
goodbye." I stood up again and started pacing. The explosions going
off over my head seemed to mirror my temper.
"Doesn't it seem like a really stupid law to you?"
"Possession is nine-tenths of the law."
"No," she said, looking at me as if I was crazy. "That
fireworks are illegal. What are they going to hurt?" I had been
asking that very same question for years, so I sat down beside her.
"Can I have another sparkler?"
"I'm bored." Josh. Again. Am I ever going to finish a
"Read your paper."
"I have. Twice. I'm still bored." I tried to stop the
heavy sigh, truly I did. "What have you been thinking about? You've
been silent throughout the flight. You weren't working on the
"How do you know?"
"Because you haven't written anything on that paper you
have," he said, pointing at the legal pad. I hadn't written
anything. I had actually doodled in the margin, drawing a sailboat
and fireworks exploding over it. "There a story behind this?"
"Yeah," I said.
"Care to share?"
"You ever been to Ireland?" he asked after a minute.
"Can't say that I have, no."
"So you don't know of any good pubs?"
"Crystal said she knew of this little place just outside of
"What was she like when she was younger?" Surely you're not
reading my thoughts, Josh.
"What do you mean?"
"She said she spent a lot of time with you. What was she
"Like she is now, only smaller and more reckless."
"Reckless?" I didn't mean to pique his interest.
"Not reckless, really. Kind of... Carefree?"
"Carefree?" That's not exactly right either.
"A free spirit. She did what she wanted when she wanted."
"So she's exactly how she is now."
"I don't like talking in circles, Sam."
"You do it to people on the Hill all the time."
"That's beside the point," Josh said. "She's kind of
tightlipped about her past with the exception of spending her summers
with you." I nodded. "Why is that?"
"Josh, not everybody's past is a pleasant one."
"What could be so wrong?" A lot, Josh. A lot could be wrong.
Upside Down And Inside Out - 3