Disclaimer: The West Wing belongs to Aaron Sorkin, NBC, et al. Duh. No copyright infringement is intended. But if their lawyers came after me, do you really think this little sentence would help?
The first Tuesday afte the first Monday in November, 199X
Despite the red, white, and blue spangled festivities going on just outside my door, I was sitting alone in a cramped room.
Actually, that's not true. Three televisions, a phone, a desk, a chair, a pen, and a piece of paper labeled ELECTORAL VOTES were sitting there with me. The paper had started off blank, but I decided that such an historic document deserved a label. I had even decorated it with two columns: US and THEM, and had made little tally marks under each word. At that particular moment, US and THEM were the same length, and I found myself remembering another time I had sat alone . . .
A random Friday night at random Notre Dame bar
I was alone at the bar getting quietly drunk, as usual. I hadn't started alone, but my best friend had abandoned me for two blondes in a booth. As usual.
"Hey Leo," someone said, and I glanced up. "Mind if I let you buy me a Coke?"
"Hey Kara," I said. "Sure." Kara was a political science major, a Republican, a non-drinker, and despite it all, a friend.
We sat in companionable silence for a few moments. Then she chuckled and shook her head.
"What?" I asked, mildly curious.
"Just Jed," she said. "That guy is something else. He should run for president."
I turned to examine my booth-seated friend. He was gesturing, and the blondes looked on, enthralled.
"President of what?" I snorted. "The chess club?"
Kara shot me a look. "No. The United States. Geez, Leo, are you OK?"
As a matter of fact, I wasn't. She had timed her comment with my sip of beer. Beer in the sinuses hurts.
"Jed Bartlett as leader of the free world?" I asked when I regained my composure. "Jed can't even lead a hike."
"Don't remind me," Kara groaned. "Mr. I-Have-a-Perfect-Sense-of- Direction . . ." "Hiking in southern Montana and we ended up in Canada," I interrupted. "Without Jed's fast talking, I think that rancher would have shot us for trespassing."
"See, that's what I'm talking about," Kara insisted.
"A history of invading Canada is not good qualification for President of the United States," I said.
"Ha ha. No, the fast-talking part. I mean, look at him now. He's over there talking economics with those blondes -- brilliantly, I might add -- and they don't have a clue what he's saying. Still,he's got them twisted around his little finger. They're HONORED that he's speaking to them, and I can tell you, it's not his looks that are doing it."
I put my beer on the bar. "Kara, Jed's too . . . idealistic to be president. He's also disorganized and nerdy."
Kara gave me a significant look. "That's what he's got a best friend for . . . "
Back to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, 199X
In my little room, I blinked and shook myself from my reverie. The phone was ringing.
"McGarry," I said. "Uh huh. Are you sure? Thanks." I hung up and engraved several marks on my paper. I recounted them, felt my heart clench inside me, and stood abruptly. I think I knocked my chair over, but I was out the door before it hit the ground.I entered a world of star spangled cacophony and shoved my way to the front of the room through various reporters, aides, and well wishers.
I felt the room go quiet.
"That's him," somebody said too loudly. "He said he wasn't going to come out until he knew one way or the other."
I approached Jed, who was seated at a table at the front, and murmured into his ear.
"Did we lose?" someone else whispered. "They both look gray."
"People," Jed said as he stood. "I have an announcement to make." He looked very grave, and I could see emotions rippling across his face. A smile triumphed.
"WE WON!" He shouted and pumped his fist in the air. The room erupted. I felt like I was going to pass out. Then Jenny was beside me. She hugged me.
"Congratulation, Love," she said. "You did it."
I gestured expansively at the crowd. "We all did it," I said in giddy madness.
Jenny looked at me. "Yes," she whispered. "But mostly you." The sadness in her eyes took me by surprise.
"What?" I asked, but before she could answer, the half-crazed election staff assaulted me. They nearly knocked me over with their back thumping and hand shaking. I looked around for Jenny, but instead saw Jed as he made his way to the podium. A sudden wave of panic hit me.
"Jed," I tried to send telepathically, "The acceptance speech is in the RIGHT drawer. The concession speech in the LEFT."CJ Cregg, our talented press liaison, calmed my fear. She was already at the podium. She took the paper out of the right drawer and patted it into place.
Then she took the paper in the left drawer and crumpled it in her hand. I caught her eye as she lobbed her makeshift ball into a nearby trash can.
"Two points," I whispered. She gave me a victory sign.
Somebody grabbed my shoulder. "Leo, we did it! We won. We didn't win the popular vote, but we've got enough electoral . . . WOW," Josh Lyman rambled.
"Yes, Josh, I know . . . " I started.
"We did it. I mean, WOW. Who would have imagined?" Josh interrupted. "Jed Bartlett," he said with all the feeling he could muster.
"No," I said thoughtfully. "Not Jed Bartlett . . . President Bartlett." I looked into Josh's eyes and he nodded solemnly.
"C'mon," he said. "We'd better get up there." We both grinned and stepped forward to join the president-elect.
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