Title: Communique
Author: Marissa
Rating: PG
Genre: humor -- a lot of irony, a little bit of
satire, and just general funniness, I hope!
Summary: Toby is invited to be interviewed for a
magazine... but is it the type of magazine he
thinks it is? Very Toby-centric, although most of our
buddies get to say something sarcastic towards the
end.
Disclaimer: These are not my original characters. I do
not own them.
Archive: Sure, just email me first.
Feedback: Please?
Author's Note #1: Toby's parents are a conglomeration
of my maternal grandparents, my mother's sister, and
my mother's many cousins. I love them all!
Author's Note #2: My brief mention of CCNY is totally
plausible; I did some real research for this piece.

A dozen or so suits were gathered around a mahogany
conference table. At the head of the table was a
projector that shone images onto a screen a few feet
beyond the table. Everyone's eyes were on the line
graphs that changed every few seconds automatically.

Readership... down. Ad sales... down.
Circulation... down. Subscription renewal...
down.

Frowns appeared on the face of each corporate bigwig.
Their magazine, Street Beat, was failing miserably.
The reason? It was marketed to teens, and it featured
all teens, all the time. What was the problem with
that? Well, for some ineffable reason, teens preferred
to read advice columns targeted to them, but read
articles about older men and women, mostly in their
mid-twenties. All best-selling teen magazines
interviewed non-teens. Hypocrisy? Yes. But that never
stopped anyone in the corporate world.

"Surveys show that our 'Communique' column is the
least-liked in the magazine," one woman offered in a
somewhat strangled voice.

"Any indication why?" asked a man.

"Apparently," answered another, "the target audience
members don't enjoy being given communication advice
by members of their age group. It makes them feel . .
. stupid."

"The question is, who can we get to interview for the
column who will give intelligent advice but not scare
readers away?" mused the first woman.

~~~

"Yes, this is Toby Ziegler's office. This is Ginger
speaking, how may I help you? (pause) No. No, he's not
in his office. (pause) It really doesn't matter who
your boss is. (long pause) I don't recognize that
name. Is he a member of the House? (pause) The House
of Representatives. (pause) Why are you laughing?"

Donna could only hear half of the conversation that
Ginger was having, but since it was late in the day
and Josh was in Senior Staff, she had nothing to do
for the moment. She was finding Ginger's conversation
interesting, so she decided to hang around for a few
minutes and find out to whom Ginger was talking.

"An interview? Well... I'll have to speak to him
about it. (pause) How much? Say that number again.
(pause) You're kidding, right? (pause) Well, I'll
definitely talk to him as soon as he gets out of his
meeting. And the topic of this interview would be?
(pause) Communication? That's it? (pause) Well, all
right. I'll talk to him. What's your number? (pause)
All right. Good-bye."

Ginger shook her head as she wrote the message down.
Donna approached her. "What was that all about?"

"Some magazine wants to interview Toby for big bucks,"
Ginger summarized. "I doubt he'll be happy about it,
but he'll take any chance to make the administration
look good. That is, when he's not making it look dour
and evil."

"Do they know how hostile he can be?" Donna asked.
"What kind of magazine is this, anyway?"

"A political one, I assume," Ginger sighed. "She
didn't say. All I know is it's called Street Beat, and
it's a fairly new publication."

"You think he'll do it?"

~~~

He was reluctant at first (interviews with him never
went well), but when he heard the money being offered,
he accepted. After all, the money from his Internet
stocks had been spent on rent and clothes and
invested, and he was back to his normal salary, which
was somewhat jarring. He didn't need the money, but he
sure wanted it.

So Toby boarded a commuter train and happily rode the
three hours from D.C. to New York. He planned to visit
his mother and father in Brooklyn while he was in his
home town, and then do the interview the next day. He
even came close to smiling to himself a few times.

The visit with his parents went well, if predictably.
First they asked if he had yet reconciled with Andrea.
Then they asked if he was planning on marrying CJ.
Then they asked why the hell not. Finally, they
invited him into the apartment, took his coat, and
made him stay for a huge lunch.

Over lunch, they discussed politics, but the
discussion quickly degenerated into Toby's parents
loudly threatening to "give a potch in the tuches" to
any of the members of their synagogue who didn't plan
on voting Bartlet in 2002.

Toby attempted to explain why their beloved Bartlet
might be impeached (therefore rendering the reelection
question moot), but his excitable mother and father
would hear nothing of it.

"It's a shanda!" cried his mother. "They're giving
such a hard time to such a mensch!"

They spoke for a while after that about what a good
man the President was, then his mother eagerly asked
for more office gossip, preferably about Josh and
Donna.

"I don't care if she is a shikse, she's perfect for
him. I know! My great-grandmother Esther was a
matchmaker in the old country! I know these things!"

Toby eventually managed to extract himself from his
parents about three hours after he had come for "a
little visit" -- his all-time record. Normally, they
would make him stay for dinner.

He caught an independent film at seven, then turned
in. He was a little nervous, to tell the truth, and he
needed the sleep. As always.

~~~

He awoke an hour after dawn feeling
uncharacteristically rested and surprisingly
refreshed. "I am ready for this INTERVIEW!" he said
aloud, scaring three pigeons off his hotel balcony. He
dressed in a smart suit and took an inordinately long
amount of time trimming his facial hair. Toby wanted
to look his absolute best.

Outside the hotel, Toby hailed a cab and instructed
the cabby to take him to the address Ginger had gotten
while she was making arrangements for him. The cab
pulled up in front of a huge, bland, but somehow
magnificent building that just had to be the
powerhouse of a publication company. The butterflies
in Toby's stomach began to flutter weakly, but he
stared them down (no mean feat, considering they were
inside his stomach).

At the front desk, he gave his name, and shortly
thereafter a young woman came down to see him safely
to his interview. In the elevator, she asked, "Are you
an actor?"

When Toby answered in the negative, she responded,
"Oh, it just seems odd that they'd be interviewing
you."

That was when Toby began to wonder if this whole thing
had been a terrible, horrible mistake.

~~~

"Thanks for coming all the way up here," said the
young man who was apparently Toby's interviewer. He
was handsome, almost disturbingly so. "This
conversation will be audio taped so we can transcribe
it later, if you don't mind."

"Of course not," Toby answered.

"Well, would you mind telling us at Street Beat just
what you do?"

"I am Communications Director and Senior Domestic
Policy Advisor to the President."

"The president of what?"

Toby stared for a minute, then answered. "The United
States."

"Wow! Sounds like a tough job! What are, like, your
obligations?" the interviewer said blithely.

"I am the voice of President Bartlet's administration.
Every time he gives a speech, I usually write it and
always approve the final draft. Most major press
releases are given shape by me or my deputy, Sam
Seaborn. I also play a part in advising the President
in domestic policy situations."

"So you, uh, know a lot about communications."

Again he stared. "Yes. I earned my master's degree in
media and communication arts from the City College of
New York."

"Very cool. What can you tell our readers about the,
you know, vitals of communication?"

"Well... you always have to know what message
you're trying to send. Any ambivalence or ambiguity on
your part will always manifest itself in your writing
or speech."

"Can you give us, like, an example?"

"Sure. Okay, let's say the President is planning an
airstrike on a foreign power. If you don't know the
specifics --"

"Hey, hey, hold on a second!" the interviewer cried.
"How about something relevant to the lives of our
readers?"

Toby grimaced witheringly. "I think you'll need to
help me out with that."

"No problem, dude! Let's say a girl is going on her
first date with a guy, and she needs to send the
message, 'I'm cute, but I'm not easy.' How would she
go about doing that?"

Toby was at a loss for words for one of the only times
in his life.

"Well?" prodded the interviewer.

"What the hell are you talking about?" Toby exploded.
"What magazine is this? Isn't this a young political
activists' publication?"

The interviewer looked both perplexed and amused. "Who
told you that? This is a fashion and lives 'zine for
teenage girls."

"The -- " Toby stopped. No one had told him that. He
had assumed it. "This is ridiculous. I'm catching the
next train to Washington." He got up and headed for
the door.

"Wait," said the interviewer. "I'm not, like, in
charge or anything, but I'm pretty sure that if you
don't do this you don't get paid, right?"

Toby stopped dead in his tracks.

~~~

The next month, the West Wing was littered with scores
of copies of Street Beat. When Toby walked into work
the morning the magazine was released, he went
straight to his office. But that didn't stop all the
Senior Staff from popping their heads in to taunt him.

First came Leo. "Hey, Toby, I was having trouble
telling the President that the ambassador from Andorra
really doesn't like him like that. Can you help me?"

"You think you're hilarious, don't you? Get out."

Then Josh peeked in. "Toby, I can't find a date to the
prom. Can you help me?"

"Try asking Donna!" At that, Josh scurried away, not
wanting the conversation to advance any further.

CJ was more persistent. "Lately my Press Corps has
been giving me mixed signals. I don't know what they
think about me. Help me, Toby!"

"Don't worry, CJ, the country is just fine running
itself while you nincompoops think up witty remarks
with which to bait me!"

"It seems to be working quite well, doesn't it? But
about my questionable rash --"

"You want a questionable rash? I'll GIVE you a
questionable rash!"

"Is that a promise?" asked CJ coquettishly.

"OUT!" bellowed Toby.

Only Sam, loyal Sam, did not tease his boss. In fact,
he didn't mention the article all day, although Toby
did catch Sam reading it at lunch.

The next week, Toby had a message on his desk.

Mr. ZIEGLER,

We are very pleased with the circulation of our latest
issue
of Street Beat, our magazine aimed towards the teenage
segment
of our readership. We would love to have you back for
a
post-election retrospective in a year. If you are
interested,
feel free to contact me. You have my number.

Sincerely,
Thomas Wickersham
Vice-President of Marketing
Firefly Publications, Inc.

Toby looked at the message. He read it four times. He
tried to consider the offer, but it was difficult to
think when all he could hear was CJ saying, "But about
my questionable rash... ."

"Are you going to do it?" came a voice from behind
him.

Toby jumped, but it was just Sam. "I don't know yet."

"Toby?"

"Yeah?"

"Can I ask you something?"

"Yeah."

"It's about Ainsley."

~~~

The end. I hope you enjoyed my foray into the humorous
situations that are possible to craft with the
"rumpled and sleepless" Toby.

 

 

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