TITLE: Out Here in the Fields
AUTHOR: Sabine
ARCHIVE: Anywhere, drop a line: sabine101@j...
RATING: R, language mostly.
SPOILERS: General for ITSOTG, also "Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc," "Six
Meetings Before Lunch," and "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet."
SUMMARY: Let Lyman be Lyman.

DISCLAIMER: Property of Sorkin, Whitford, Kelly, and the rest of the
campaign trail.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thanks to The Who, "Baba O'Riley," for the title. More
thanks to all the great stump stories that came before, including Jae
Gecko's "For Everything You Have Missed," ITSOTG, and, particularly, the
movie "Primary Colors." The beta team stretched wide and deep: Jae,
Penelepody, Dawn, and enormous thanks to Shana, for economics, women, and
the Great Josh Exchange. West Wing fic is impossible to fake, and Punk
spent hours researching with me for this, for everything. Our browser
bookmarks are fat, now, with Democratic position papers, articles on
congressional districts, Florida, Kentucky, and South Korea. Plus she
beta'd the whole way through, so there. Spring comes, empires fall, and
in between, there's always Punk.

NOTE: This Josh will grow up into the Josh in the triptych that is
"Women," "Men," and "Statesmen" (yet to be written). But here, he's not
that smart yet, and this story stands alone.


Out Here in the Fields

"Jesus fucking Christ, I can't believe this shit!"

Mandy blows through the screen door of the motel room and out into the
parking lot, waving her hands over her head. Josh is leaning against the
bumper of the white van, sweating like a maniac.

It's six thousand degrees on the Main Line in Pennsylvania and it's only
nine in the morning. No one's slept. It's the first long trip Josh has
taken since the funeral, since the two weeks he'd spent in Westport
taking care of his mother. She'd begged him to leave earlier, to go back
to Bartlet and the campaign, but at night he could hear her pacing in the
kitchen and until she could sleep, he wouldn't leave. Though he'd wanted
to. Mandy had called almost every day.

"Don't look at me," Josh shrugs, taking a breath and tasting Pennsylvania
May humidity. He reaches up to shield his eyes, even though he's wearing
sunglasses. Mandy tips her chin so she can stare at him.

"This is fucking amateur hour, Josh. We've got three days here, okay?
Three goddamned days, and CJ Cregg doesn't have the first clue --" Mandy
grunts, struggling with her lighter. She lights a cigarette and takes a
draw off it. "We're fucked. That's it. We're so officially fucked."

He tries not to laugh. "Cool it, Mandy," he says. "It was a bunch of
college kids. We've got them anyhow."

She seethes. "It was not just a bunch of college kids, Josh. It was Bryn
Mawr, Haverford, Swarthmore, and the University of Pennsylvania. It was
four of this country's top schools, and we're talking professors, and
graduate students, and parents, and deans."

"Haverford and Bryn Mawr are two of the most liberal colleges in the
United States," Josh says. "Swarthmore and UPenn are smart. We've got
them anyhow, Mandy. These guys have been looking for an alternative to
Hank Douglas for four years."

"And Temple, and Villanova, and the Wharton School of Business -- "
Mandy's ticking them off on her fingers, waving the cigarette around.
"Two thousand seats, Josh, and we blew it." She takes a breath, leans
back against the van beside him, and wipes a sweaty curl from her
forehead.

"If we lose by two thousand votes in Pennsylvania I give you full
permission to holler at me," Josh says. "Until then, we've got three days
here and, frankly, I'm more concerned about the African-American vote and
the steel workers than I ever was about a bunch of twentysomethings
majoring in philosophy."

"It's the way it looks," she sighs. "We cancel enough engagements and we
look like idiots. We look like we don't have our shit together."

He turns to face her. She's right, and he just said the same thing to CJ
four hours ago, but now he doesn't want to talk about it, he doesn't have
it in him to fight about it. "We don't have our shit together," he says,
finally. "This thing's held together with spit and prayers and you know
it."

She places a palm flat on his chest and looks at the ground, arching her
back a little as if she wants to push him over. "It's May," she says.
"We're a year late out of the gate, but we can fix this. Let's not fuck
up anymore."

It's this, her unflagging commitment, her strength, that initially
attracted him to her. That and the fact that she'd tied a cherry stem
into a knot with her tongue even though she didn't know anyone was
watching. The night he met her, he and Sam had gone wandering off from
the Democratic Leadership Conference because Sam had wanted something
like seared ahi and Josh had been talking about a cheeseburger for four
hours. She was at the bar on a high stool, her legs dangling because they
were too short to reach the floor. She had been arguing with a
grey-haired guy in a suit, knocking back whiskey sours, raising her voice
on words like "irresponsible" and "partisan" and "bullshit," and then the
man had gotten up, and Mandy'd finished her drink and eaten the cherry
last, and pulled the knotted stem off her tongue with two fingers to
deposit it in her empty glass. Josh had stopped to watch her do it before
stepping up to the bar to introduce himself. Within two minutes, she'd
tried to pick a fight.

Now it exhausts him sometimes, but mostly he loves that she's always on,
she's always working, thinking, doing. It's part of what brought him back
from Connecticut. She's stubborn, proud, and even more arrogant than he
is, and now when he's unmoored he likes that he can shut off and let her
do the fighting for a while. And he knows she likes to do it for him. He
thinks it's cute that she yells.

He puts a hand over hers, feels like he's pledging allegiance, realizes
with a snort that he kind of is. He folds her into his arms and kisses
her on the top of the head. Her hair is dirty. "Fat chance," he says. She
flicks her cigarette on the ground.

"Get in the van," Toby's voice comes from somewhere off behind Josh.
"We're back on. Get in the van. We have to be there ten minutes ago."

"We taking the blue van or the white van?" Josh asks.

Mandy goes around and gets into the driver's seat of the white van before
Josh can get there and he's left standing by the bumper like an idiot.
Toby slides into the middle bench seat and leans against the far window,
and Josh turns around and climbs in next to Mandy.

"And holy crap, it's hot," Toby grumbles. "I'm telling you right now,
this place better have air conditioning or you can just drop me off at a
bar."

"Well, it's an outdoor amphitheatre," CJ says, walking up to the van with
Sam. "So I'm gonna guess no on the air conditioning."

"Where's the Governor?" Josh asks.

"The Governor and Mrs. Bartlet are traveling under separate cover," CJ
says, nudging Toby's legs aside so she can sit down next to him. Sam
crawls past her into the back and slams the sliding van door.

"Leo took them," Sam explains. "The Governor wanted to do the walking
tour of the Scott Arboretum before the speech."

Mandy smacks her hands on the steering wheel. "Why does no one tell me
these things?" she huffs. "This would have been a perfect opportunity for
some press. Governor Josiah Bartlet smells tulips on Swarthmore College
campus." She swipes her hands in the air, miming a banner headline.

"I smell tulips now," Toby mutters. "No, wait, that's the smell of my
flesh roasting in this godforsaken van."

"You weren't awake," CJ says to Mandy. "He left an hour ago. And we
weren't sure we could get the amphitheatre back for the speech until ten
minutes ago."

"I was awake," Mandy says. "I'm always awake. Josh, tell them I was
awake."

Josh looks over the back of his seat at CJ, and raises his eyebrows. "Oh,
she was awake," he says. "Was she ever awake, boy."

"Shut up," Mandy says, and starts the engine.

"Alice Paul went here," Governor Bartlet bellows, even before they're
parked. He's not smiling. He's standing in front of the rose garden next
to the library, and Mandy stops the van on the circle and lets everybody
out. "Do you know who Alice Paul is?"

Nobody answers.

Abbey Bartlet comes over, walking alongside Leo and another man. Before
she can introduce him, the Governor interrupts. "Abbey, tell these people
on my staff who Alice Paul is."

"She wrote the Equal Rights Amendment," Abbey says. "Jed, this is the
president of the college."

Handshakes all around.

"Why did no one tell me Alice Paul went here?" Bartlet says once they
start walking, shooting a look at Mandy and Josh, at Sam and Toby. "Why
is this something we didn't feel was important enough to cover in my
speech?"

"Well, sir, we didn't --" Sam starts, and Bartlet scoffs.

"Tell me, did you do any research at all, when you heard we were coming
here?" Bartlet asks.

"We dropped the ball on that one, sir," CJ steps in.

"I should say you did," Bartlet nods, and the Dean leads the staff down a
flagstone path between ivy covered buildings, through a sculpture garden,
and down a couple of grassy steps into the Scott Amphitheatre.

"What happened today?" Leo asks, later, when they're sitting around a
table at John Harvard's brewhouse and sharing two pitchers of beer.

"I think it went well," Toby says.

Leo shakes his head. "It was a bunch of egghead liberals," Leo says. "Of
course it went well. He's preaching to the confirmed, here. I'm asking
what about this Alice Paul thing? And what the hell was that about
canceling this thing at the last minute, first of all?"

"That was me," CJ raises a hand. "I thought we were going to have the
steelworkers thing in Pittsburgh this afternoon so I decided to blow off
Swarthmore."

"CJ, you can't just stand up two thousand college students --" Mandy
starts in, and Josh puts a hand on her knee under the table. She shakes
him free. "From now on, you've got to talk to me before you do something
like that."

CJ looks bitter. "Well, for one thing, Madeline, I didn't blow off two
thousand college students -- he spoke to them today, and he spoke well.
And for another thing, last time I checked, I don't answer to you."

"CJ --" Josh says, and Leo waves him to shut up.

"CJ, you gotta keep us all in the loop when you make decisions like
that," he says. "And Mandy, cool it, okay? You've been pissy ever since
we got to Pennsylvania."

"It's hot as hell here, Leo," Mandy says. "Our schedule sucks. We've got
twenty minutes on a Friday night on Market Street to try and scrape
together the African-American vote, and we'll be lucky if ten people show
up. We're doing the steelworkers -- what is it now, CJ, noon on Sunday?
That's bullshit. This is so half-assed."

"Mandy!" Leo says. "That's enough!"

Josh decides to cut in, to take some of the heat off Mandy. "Leo,
listen," he says. "This is found time. We got the party's nomination two
months --"

"This is not found time, Josh!" Leo shakes his head. "We've got six
months. Six months, do you get that? As it stands, we're ahead of the
Republicans in four states. Josh. I want you and Mandy setting us up for
Florida, I want it in place before we're outta Pittsburgh. Three good
stops, make 'em count, and make sure everything's set up for the WNXR
interview on Thursday, since I'm not gonna be around to babysit. CJ, work
with Toby -- I wanna have real conversations in Miami, not this Fireside
Chat crap. Sam's got the thing --"

"I'm almost done," Sam says. Leo nods.

"Somebody call Donna," Leo says. "Get us some money."

"I got it," Josh says.

"I'm almost done with the Pittsburgh thing," Sam says again. "But I need
some facts checked."

"Call one of the kids back in New Hampshire," Leo says. "Not Donna, don't
distract her, but how about that other guy? The one with the hat? He
seems smart."

Sam nods and makes a note.

"And listen, guys," Leo says, more quietly, leaning across the table.
"The Governor's really pissed at you for that Alice Paul thing. Now, I
know this was a bogus stop, but we can't have him obsessing over these
ridiculous mistakes and fucking us up down the line. I'm gonna talk to
him, but we need to really buckle down now. This isn't a goddamned joke
anymore. We've got six months."

"Yeah," Josh says. "I'm sorry about that, Leo."

"Don't apologize, just make it better," Leo says. "I've got enough to do
keeping Abbey and the Governor from killing you guys. You gotta cut me
some slack, now. I need you."

"Yeah," Josh says again. He wants Leo to stop talking, he wants to go
home.

"It was my fault," Sam says. "I thought we were going to cancel the stop.
I was working on Pittsburgh."

"I blew the call," CJ says. "We shouldn't have even gone back there
today. Friday afternoon for the steelworkers would have been a better
deal. I was just afraid we'd lose Philly if we left town."

"Okay," Leo nods. "Okay, okay. Stop falling on your goddamned swords.
Today's the first day of the rest of this campaign. We got Philly
tonight, and you did good on the thing, Sam, it's good. The one thing
we've got going for us is that the Governor's a smart guy with a good
stance on the issues. And that's more than enough, if the rest of us
don't fuck up. Josh, I'm counting on you."

"I'm on it, Leo," Josh says. Mandy looks like she wants to interrupt, but
Josh lays a hand on her thigh again and this time she closes her mouth.

Toby corners him in the parking lot.

"Josh --"

Josh knows what Toby's going to say. CJ said it to him this morning;
Leo's been on his ass about it all week.

"I'm gonna fucking kill her," Toby says.

"I know," Josh sighs. "There's not, there's not so much I can do.
Everyone's just a little high-strung."

"High-strung?" Toby's eyes go wide, sarcastic. "Yesterday she threw a
coke can at me! A, a, a full coke can! At my head! And you know why?"

"Look," Josh says. "I can't, like, bitchslap Mandy around. This is what
she's like. She's good at her job, Toby."

"She threw a goddamned coke can at me because I said the governor might
not want to wear white if he's gonna sweat. A coke can, Josh."

"Okay," Josh says. "I'll talk to her."

It's the same thing he said to CJ, the same thing he said to Leo. He
hasn't done it yet. He's not sure why. Maybe because he doesn't ask her
to change. Maybe that's not up to him.

"She's not a team player, Josh," Toby says, walking ahead of him toward
the van.

"Neither are you," Josh reminds him. "Neither am I."

A hundred white guys show up outside the train station on Market Street.
A hundred white guys and nine black guys. A handful of women. The cops
have cordoned off the area, set up a couple risers and a PA mic velcroed
to a stack of felt speakers, and the Mayor gives the Governor a good
introduction, grabbing Bartlet's hand and holding it high, calling for
cheers. Looking out at the crowd of white faces, CJ whispers to Josh that
perhaps they'd teleported to Kansas, but the Governor speaks well, again,
and the crowd gets bigger as he talks. Sam has written a really kick-ass
speech about liberty, justice, South Street speakeasies and the 76ers,
the Governor ad-libs a little, and the crowd grows. They wave 'Bartlet
for America' placards; they chant anthems. When it's over, the staff
comes back to the motel, happy and tired.

Mandy's standing over the table, mousing at her laptop. She punches keys,
ashes her cigarette in the potted plant, and he wonders why she doesn't
sit down.

Josh is sitting on the edge of the bed, looking at some pages Donna had
faxed to the motel, early polling in Florida mostly. Gun control is
faring poorly, bilingual education is doing unsurprisingly well, but the
big-ticket item is health care, and Josh digs around in his backpack for
his notes.

"We need to tell Sam to bump up Medicare," he says to Mandy. "I think we
should leave guns out of the Miami thing. It's not polling well."

She looks up from her computer. "Maybe," she says. "Toby's working on
Medicare and prescription drugs for Fort Lauderdale and the radio thing,
we'll do Israel --"

"We'll do Cuba -- " Josh says.

"Josh!" Mandy turns around, stubbing out her cigarette against the trunk
of the fichus. "We do Cuba in the 2nd and we're just asking for --"

"I didn't say the 2nd," Josh says. "We'll do it in Palm Beach, in the
11th and the 20th. We'll follow up Medicare and Israel."

"Cuba didn't poll well in the 11th," Mandy says. "And it's risky to bring
it up in Miami -- Douglas is running attack ads this week in the 20th,
the 16th, the 19th, and you just know it's gonna be Cuba and Israel."
She's on a roll, lisping a little, talking with her hands. She's
adorable, and Josh wants to stop fighting.

"We're getting some early tape on the ads," Josh says. "Donna's Fedexing
them to us. She says...yeah. It's Cuba and Israel. It's 'weak borders'
and 'weak military.' But I think, I think this can be an opportunity for
us. I think instead of avoiding those subjects we come in guns blazing
--"

Mandy raises her eyebrows. "Guns blazing?"

"Poor, uh, word choice," Josh says. "But I think we've got some real
wiggle room in Miami if we play it right. I'm gonna talk to Sam. I'm
gonna talk to Toby and then I'm gonna talk to Sam and see if we can get
Cuba in for Miami and for Tampa, dump guns."

"Josh," Mandy says. "Aren't we talking about this? You're, what, you're
just gonna go tell Sam and that's it? Because I gotta say --"

"Mandy!" Josh squeaks, laughing. "Governor Bartlet's a liberal Democrat!
We're not gonna get anywhere pretending he's not, so we might as well
take advantage of the places where he's strong, where he's got ideology
that's --"

"First of all," Mandy says, approaching the bed. "We use words like
'ideology' and it's a quick way to put the entire state to sleep. Second
of all --" she lights another cigarette. "I don't know if the country's
ready for a liberal Democrat. Douglas is very popular in Florida, and if
we start pushing these very inflammatory issues we're gonna find
ourselves alienating voters we really need."

"Uh-kay," Josh says, sighing. "Whatever."

He stands up, and Mandy gets in his face, exhaling smoke. "This is what
you hired me for, Josh. This is my job. And I'm telling you, you're gonna
fuck this up. You're gonna lose us the goddamned state."

"Uh huh," he says. She's run out of ways she can insult him, since he's
stopped taking her insults seriously. He spent two weeks taking care of
his mother, and she'd cried twenty times a day, until Josh was numb to
the sounds of her snorting and sputtering. None of it means anything to
him anymore, he just wants to do his job and get in to bed and fall
asleep in Mandy's arms while she mutters about polling inaccuracies and
local stump speeches. Now her hollering is just background music to a
normal day. But it's making him tired.

Josh rocks his head on his shoulders, listening to his back crack. He
can't remember the last time he's slept, not well, anyway. "Mandy,
listen," he sighs. "You've got to tone it down a little. You're pissing
everybody off. I know we're not running at full capacity, here, but you
can't keep chewing everybody out for this stupid little shit. They're
yelling at me, Mandy."

She goes a little white. "Who's yelling at you? CJ? Is it CJ? Jesus
Christ, Josh, it's like it's the goddamned playground at recess for these
people. I hope you told them to grow the fuck up."

"It's not just CJ," Josh says, putting a hand on Mandy's arm. "It's Toby,
it's Leo, it's everybody."

"The Governor?" Mandy looks bruised. Josh shakes his head.

"I don't know about the Governor," Josh says. "But I do know he's tired,
he needs a victory soon or else he's gonna start losing steam. And we
can't be at each other's throats when we're going into Florida with
everything else that's stacked against us. So just -- try and be nice?
Try and cooperate?"

"Fuck this shit," Mandy says, turning and crossing back to her computer.
"Whatever. Fuck this shit."

Josh stuffs his notes back in his backpack and shoulders it, kicking on
his shoes. "I'm gonna go talk to Toby about these numbers," he says.
"I'll be back."

"Whatever," Mandy says again. She pulls out the chair and sits down,
pursing her lips and staring at her laptop. Josh takes off his backpack
and sets it on the bed. He walks over to Mandy.

"Hey," he says, laying his hands on her shoulders. "Look. It's just --
we're all, like -- we gotta get through Florida," he says. "We just gotta
get through Florida. Then we'll go back to New Hampshire and we'll get a
chance to regroup, a little. We'll, like, sleep." He smiles.

She tips her head back and looks up at him. "Everybody hates me?" she
asks in a small voice.

"Nah," he says. "They're just not used to your -- inimitable brand of
self-expression." He comes around to the front of the chair and kisses
her, and when he pulls away, she smiles.

"I'm good at my job, Josh," she says.

"I know that," he says. "But so am I. And so's Leo, and Toby, and CJ and
Sam. You just gotta allow that maybe they know what they're doing."

"CJ Cregg is a Hollywood --" Mandy starts in, and Josh cuts her off.

"She tried to get us to Pittsburgh today," Josh says. "She was up all
night making calls, rearranging the schedule. And in the meantime, she's
the one who got Donna the new Douglas ads, and she's already working with
our people on a response. Cut her a little slack."

"Pittsburgh would have been good today," Mandy allows. "Sunday afternoon,
lord almighty."

"But we kept Philly tonight," Josh reminds her. "We would have lost
Philly."

"Yeah," Mandy says.

Josh breaks away and goes to get his bag again. He looks at his watch.
It's ten thirty. "I'll be back," he says.


(continued in part 2/4)

Out Here In the Fields - 2

 

 

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