Vengeance Is Not Jewish

Jane Harper

DISCLAIMER: All these folks except Sarah belong to the Evil Genius A. Ron Sorkin and his corporate partners. Although Sarah bribed me to put her in this story, no other money changed hands here, and I only do this 'cuz I love TWW, so don't sue me, OK?

PT. 3

Two mornings later, Sarah returned to work and sat with her coffee checking the daily hospital census listing admissions, discharges, and transfers. A name caught her eye: Joshua Lyman, SICU3 to Sp5. Even so, she began her day routinely, by a visit to each ICU. Mickey was on duty on the surgical side.

"How's our custody patient?" Sarah asked her.

"Not doing too badly, although it looks as if he may be getting a little wiggy."

"Right on time - two days in this zoo with not much sleep. There is still that rule about not letting patients sleep in the ICU, right?"

"Unfortunately," Mickey answered. "I'll be really happy when we find a way to let them sleep through all the care we have to give them."

Sarah looked up to see an older man - the one who had been in the corridor two nights ago -- at the shooter's bedside, and wheeled over to join him. "I wanted to apologize to you for the unpleasant encounter the other night," she began.

"That's all right, Rabbi. You were trying your best." The older man's haggard face was beginning to show the strain of long hours with little sleep. "I'm just glad the young fellow he shot was moved out last night, I was afraid something even worse would happen with both of them in here together."

"Something worse?" Sarah responded.

"I heard a couple of officers talking," he answered. "I guess there have been people threatening my grandson. I don't condone what he did, mind you--" he said softly, blinking back tears, "but how much pain is enough?"

"I can only imagine what your family is going through," she answered.

The grandfather stroked his grandson's arm tenderly. "His grandmother and I didn't know anything about this. We had no idea what he had gotten into . . . you may not believe this, Rabbi, but his grandmother -- my wife, his mother's mother -- is Jewish."

**That means he is, too,** Sarah thought. **At least by tradition, if not by upbringing or identification.**

"Her parents died during the war," he continued. "She actually fainted when she saw his arm; neither one of us knew about... THAT." He pointed to the tattoo on the boy's right arm. "She wasn't raised Jewish-she had been sent to Canada when the war broke out and grew up in a Gentile family. I didn't know when I married her, but it wouldn't have made any difference . . ." He sighed deeply. "Maybe if she had been more religious, if we had raised his mother more religious, this wouldn't have happened."

"Don't blame yourself," Sarah said. "Kids are under such peer pressure these days; it's so much harder to be a teenager now than it was for either one of us."

A young technician came over to reposition the young man and adjust his many monitor lines and all the tubing running in and out of his body. Sarah knew it was hard to navigate around her chair, and took this as a cue to slide away. Before going, she handed her card to the grieving grandfather.

"Please, call me if you need me, if anyone in your family does."

He shook his head and she squeezed his hand and left. Mickey waved to Sarah as the electric doors closed behind.

When she arrived at Josh's private room, he was fast asleep. Sam was sitting in the overstuffed chair typing away at a laptop computer, having pulled one of the small end tables over in front of his chair. He looked up and waved as she entered the room.

She wheeled over to him as the door closed soundlessly behind her. "I see our patient is out cold," she said quietly. "I hope he's been getting lots of sleep. We don't issue many permits for that in the ICU, y'know."

"Sounds like the White House," Sam responded, tapping away. "We take turns getting sleep; I'm on the list for Thursday nights."

"Thank God for small favors," Sarah responded.

"Am I alive?" a raspy voice came from the bed.

"I think so," Sam retorted. "You're moving."

"As little as possible. Everything hurts when I move."

Sarah turned around and rolled up next to Josh's hospital bed. "Do you need more pain medication?" she asked.

Lyman shook his head. "Not right now. I'm having too much fun talking to real people." He hesitated, then reached an arm out toward Sarah. "You are real, right? I think I've been hallucinating, because my Grandfather was just here, and he's dead."

"Your Grandfather?" Sam repeated. "He was here?"

Josh picked at his ears. "There's an echo in here."

"That's not uncommon, Josh," Sarah reassured him. "People don't get a lot of sleep in Intensive Care, so when they come _out_ of ICU they tend to have crazy dreams, and lots of them. You're what we call 'REM-deprived' .. under-dreamed."

"Gotta introduce this woman to the President," Sam remarked; "they'd get along great."

"Thanks, Sam, we've already met. Trust me, I wasn't verbose, or even erudite; in fact, I was barely coherent."

"He has that effect on people," Josh croaked. "Until his, oh, tenth or twelfth lecture on incredible minutiae. Then you learn to tune him out."

"Tune him out?" she asked, astonished.

"Well," Sam scrambled to explain, "not when he's saying anything important."

"And you can tell the difference by .. ??"

"The syllable count. Average syllables per word exceeds, oh, maybe 2, 2.5, I'm in the ozone, because I know he's in trivia-land."

Josh laughed, but that dissolved into a cough. "Ow!" he complained.

"I know it hurts," Sarah responded, "but it's good for you. Here." She pulled a pillow from the foot of the bed and pressed it against his chest. "Hug this when you cough. It'll help."

"Thanks, Mom," he responded.

"Well, Josh, I can see you're in good hands," she added. "I'll leave you two alone-"

"No .." he coughed again. "I wanted .."

Sam, heedless, pushed the table away from where he was sitting and rose. "I need more coffee. Either of you two need anything?"

"A new set of lungs?" Josh volunteered.

"They just fixed the ones you have," Seaborn responded. "You haven't even taken them for a decent test drive yet."

After the door closed, Josh turned back to Sarah. "First of all, I wanted to thank you for taking such good care of Sam and Donna. I'm really grateful."

"Don't mention it," Sarah responded. "All part of the room charge."

Lyman smiled. "Even so, thanks. Toby even said you'd been helpful; you must have made a hell of an impression, because usually he only mentions people to complain about them."

"Baloney, Josh. He's a pushover and you know it."

"Shhhh..." he replied. "That's a big secret."

"Right."

"Seriously .. I wanted to talk to you, Chaplain."

"Um-hm, talk away."

"I did have this weird dream about my Grandfather... He was a survivor -- Birkenau -- and he died awhile back. But I could see him, clear as day. The rest of the dream was crazy, all noises and bright lights, but he was clear as a bell. And he said something to me, but I can't remember what, and I get the feeling it's really important for me to remember." His brow grew deep furrows, and he gazed off into the distance, as if looking at something far away.

"Relax. It'll come back to you when you need it."

"That's what my therapist used to say, years ago."

"Then your therapist was very wise." Sarah paused. "Anything I can do for you before I leave?"

"No, I think I'm going to try to go back to sleep. But thanks."

"Don't hesitate to ask your nurse for something for pain the second you need it, OK? Promise me?"

He smiled. "I promise. Come back and see me later? We've not really gotten a chance to talk, and maybe you can help me remember that dream."

She nodded and slipped from the room.

Later on that afternoon her office phone rang.

"Sarah Cooper."

"Hi Sarah, it's Toby Ziegler."

"Hi. Listen, I want to thank you again for dinner the other night--"

"Don't mention it. I need your help again, though."

"OK." Her mind was flipping through possible problems: **Josh is doing well, Bartlet is fine, I wonder what he wants me for.**

"Josh found out."

Puzzled, Sarah asked, "Found out what?"

"About the fellow who shot him."

"Toby, he knows _somebody_ shot him; 9mm automatic handguns don't go off by themselves."

"I know that! I mean, he knows that they've caught the guy and that he's in your hospital too. If Josh weren't so weak, still, I think the DCPD would be earning their pay protecting that young man."

"That's natural," Sarah responded. "If it were you, wouldn't you want to skin the kid with a spoon? A DULL spoon?"

"It's not me, and I STILL want to skin the kid with a dull spoon."

"I rest my case." She hesitated a beat. "What would you like me to do?"

"Go talk to him?"

"I'm a chaplain, Toby, not a therapist."

"I know that. Problem is, when you're the White House Deputy Chief of Staff, you can't HAVE a therapist. If you do, and the press finds out..."

"I hear you." She stopped short, laughed, and went on. "Uh, let me rephrase that. I hear what you're saying. I mean, I-- oh the hell with it, Toby. YOU know what I'm trying to say."

Sarah heard him laugh for the first time, a real belly laugh, short but explosive. "So will you go talk to him?" he asked.

"Of course I will. Right now."

"Thanks," Toby responded. "I owe you one."

"All part of the--"

"Yeah, yeah, all part of the room charge. 'Bye."

When she arrived at the nurse's station outside Josh's room, the room buzzer was sounding. Two men were arguing inside.

"Dammit, Josh, you've got to eat something!"

"Not this garbage, I don't!"

Sarah rolled into the room in time to see a Dietary Department tray land on the floor. Sam was standing over Josh's bed, hands on his hips, eyes rolling skyward. "Sarah, how much trouble would I be in if I just smack him?"

"You're the lawyer, Sam. _I_ sure couldn't wrestle you to the ground."

"Thanks," Lyman responded. "That's real comforting, Rabbi."

"Listen, Josh," Sarah said softly, coming as close as she could to his bedside. "First, I'm not a Rabbi, just a chaplain. Second, I know you're angry -- I SUPPORT your being angry -- but neither Sam here nor the Dietary Department were part of the ambush at the Newseum. It's a whole lot healthier for you if you put your anger where it BELONGS, at the people who did this to you, instead of the people who are trying to support you."

Josh heaved a long, slow sigh. "I know you're right, Chaplain. It's just that--"

"That the kid who shot you is three floors away, and Sam's right here. It would make me crazy too, to have the shooter so close, yet so far away."

"I want to see him," Josh said, clamping his mouth into a horizontal line. "I want to tell him--"

"Tell him what?" Sam asked. "That he's a dirty Nazi bastard? I'm sure THAT will do both of you a WHOLE lot of good. Personally, I think it would be much more appropriate for you just to go spit in his eye. You should revel in it. Go dance a hora in front of him and sing Hava Negila. Tell him that he's a lousy shot, and that you're one Jew he's not going to get to take out."

Josh reached over to his bedrail and pushed the button to raise his shoulders to a sitting position. "Wow." He stared at Seaborn and slowly cracked a smile. "That's quite a speech coming from a shaygetz!"

Sarah fought to keep from laughing, to paste an appropriate frown on her face. "Josh, that's an awful thing to call your best friend."

"It's OK, Sarah," Sam responded, chuckling. "You should hear what I call HIM."

"That's it," Josh murmured.

"What's it? That's what?" Seaborn asked.

"Sarah, that's what my grandfather said in the dream. It makes sense now."

"Sorry Josh, I'm not following," she responded. "I got that you had a dream about your Grandfather. What does that have to do with calling Sam a shaygetz?"

Josh laughed, and it made him cough, so he winced but went on. "Nothing. But what Sam said made me remember what my Grandfather told me in the dream."

"OK," Sarah replied. "What was it?"

"He said that survival is the best revenge." Josh's shoulders squared as his gaze fixed off in the distance. "I hear you, Zayde."

"What's that?" Sam whispered to Sarah.

"Yiddish for Grampa," she replied.

Lyman flushed briefly, then looked sheepishly up and asked, "Uh, can somebody maybe get me another lunch?"

END

 

 

 

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