Donna brushed back a piece of her hair and looked around her. It was quiet at last, which stood to reason, since it was a little after midnight. A lot of people had gone home. But Josh was still in his office, and from the activity level Donna was guessing the President hadn't yet gone to bed. Carole wandered by, indicating CJ's presence in the building, and she thought she'd heard Margaret's voice, as well.
"It started with a filibuster that kept a bill from being passed, which in the end was a good thing. The bill needed a minor change, and fifty-six hours ago Joshua Lyman decided to get serious about changing it. Which is a good thing as well, except when Josh gets serious about one thing, he loses the ability to be serious about anything else.
"This was bad news fifty-six hours ago, because an hour later we were going to be faced with a task that would require serious attention.
"Only Josh didn't seem to hear me when I told him that."
MONDAY, 4:01 p.m.
"He called me 'dude'!"
From her desk Donna couldn't see Josh, but she could imagine him: Leaning back in his chair, practicing the art of watching C-SPAN, writing letters to senators, and reading an in-depth study of autism all the while shouting a conversation with someone in another room.
"I'm saying he called me 'dude'!" he shouted again.
"So you've said," Donna shouted back. "Hey, when are you going to take my advice on federal funding?"
"When your advice comes at the end of your tenure as head of the Treasury department!"
"I'm serious, Donna! You don't want a piece of that!"
Donna rolled her eyes. C-SPAN was tuned to an education forum. She could faintly hear as a senator from Oklahoma led a bickering match over local control. She stopped watching, and stood up she realized Josh was about to speak again.
"You're not even going to pretend to be happy for me?" Josh shouted. "I mean -- he called me dude!"
Donna leaned into sight around the doorframe. "He called you 'Drew.'"
Josh stared her down. "No, he didn't."
"He called you 'Drew'."
"Why would he call me 'Drew'?"
"I don't understand."
"He wasn't talking to you."
Josh blinked. "Of course he was talking to me."
"Who was he talking to?"
"He was talking to Drew." Donna disappeared again.
"You're wrong!" Josh shouted after her.
"Drew Farrington was standing over your left shoulder, Josh!"
"He was talking to me!"
"Would you like me to show you the tape?"
Josh blinked. "There's tape?"
"There is tape, and on it you can clearly see that Drew Farrington is behind you!"
"Who's Drew Farrington?"
Donna leaned around the doorframe again. "He's an actor, Josh."
"Quite a handsome actor, actually." She tossed a stack of papers at him, and he caught them. "Medicare."
"Okay." Donna left then.
"You're wrong!" Josh shouted after her.
"Whatever!" Donna shouted back.
Josh ignored her and continued to write his letter; amazing how his mind didn't have to be on it. Donna flopped backward across her desk chair and tried to read the clock upside down. It was four-something in the afternoon, early enough to remind her that she had probably eight or nine hours left of work.
The phone rang, and without sitting up she spun the chair around slowly and picked up the receiver. "Josh Lyman's office."
"Donna, it's me. Leo would like to see Josh. Does he have a minute?"
"He's in the middle of a few things. Can it wait?"
Margaret's voice got a little bit quieter. "Leo's got The Look on his face, Donna."
"The one I told you about."
"The Dick Tracy Deciding Between Having Dinner and Solving a Mystery Look?"
"The other look."
"The I'm An Explorer and I Just Have to See What's Over the Next Mountain Before I Finish The Day look?"
"The other look, Donna."
Donna thought for a moment. Then she sat up straight. "The Look?"
"I'm sending him," she agreed quickly, and hung up the phone. "Josh!"
"I'm right here," Josh said from behind her, and Donna jumped. "Do you have any white-out?"
"Leo needs to see you."
"I need some white-out."
"It's in your top left drawer. Leo needs to see you."
"It can't wait?"
Margaret says he's got The Look on his face."
"The Dick Tracy --"
"The other look."
Josh stared at her. "Leo's got the other look on his face?"
"And he wants to see me?"
Josh considered. "Okay," he said. "This is what I'm going to do."
"No, I'm going to see Leo."
"I would hope!"
"You're going to white out line three and replace it."
"Anything that fits."
"Then," Josh said, "You are going to come to Leo's office."
"Not a chance, Joshua!"
"You're going to rescue me!"
"Not in this lifetime."
"Donna!" he whined.
"Josh!" she mocked.
"He's got The Look on his face!"
"And I'm sure you deserve it, whatever you've done. Now get going."
Josh let out something close to a whimper, and Donna ignored him as she headed into his office to find the white-out.
In Leo's office, Josh stood somewhat nervously just inside the door, waiting for Leo to look up. It took almost five minutes, and even though Josh knew that it was only for effect, he still felt himself shifting anxiously from one foot to the other. Damn mental warfare.
"Joshua," Leo said at last.
Oh -- God. "What'd I do?"
"Have a seat, would you?"
"Actually, I was just working on the autism funding --"
"I wanted to talk to you about something you may have failed to consider adding to Family Welfare," Leo announced.
Fifty-five hours later ...
... and on the other side of a door, Charlie Young stood waiting for the President to speak.
"Mr. President?" Charlie prompted.
"What is it, Charlie?"
"You, uh -- You started to ask me something, sir."
Bartlet looked up. "I did?"
"What'd I say?"
"You said 'Have you ever --' and then you stopped."
Bartlet frowned and stared off into space for a moment. "I have no idea," he said at last.
"Charlie, will you go see if Donna and Josh are still in the building?"
"Yes, sir," Charlie repeated, and left the office.
Bartlet turned back to the paper in front of him.
"It's been a long, strange week in Washington. A lot of things have happened that have made me think of you, but I haven't had time to write before now.
"Because of your political addiction I'm going to assume you watched or read about Senator Stackhouse's filibuster. Magnificent thing, wasn't it? The way he stood up there on behalf of his grandson? It was enough to make me think maybe I cheated you by buying you nothing more than a book for your birthday this year.
"Fourteen. That's downright impossible. But at the same time I find it difficult to believe you're not older than that. The way you talk, and write ... You're just like your mother and your aunts at 14.
"You're also a little like a woman who works here. A woman I'm thinking about promoting to take my place when I at last storm out of this nutbar establishment for the sake of my sanity.
"But let me start this story earlier than that. Although, if the press has picked up a high school newspaper story by a 16-year-old named Natalie Burnham, you probably already know some of this. Natalie Burnham has been wandering around all week with a camera and a Steno. Won some sort of award they forgot to tell me about, but the kid's got more talent than half my press corp combined."
Bartlet stared off into space for a moment, then started writing again.
"The story has a happy ending. It ends with the kind of a day you called a Sparkle Day when you were very small. The kind of day where everything has the potential to be wonderful. But I'm going to tell you the entire story, so if the press has already blown it for you, just play along.
"It started with Stackhouse's filibuster, but it really started after that, when my staff returned from a weekend break. CJ Cregg, for reasons I can't fathom, presented me with the strangest-looking potpourri holder you've ever seen. I'm almost certain Natalie Burnham got art on that one.
"Sam Seaborn had developed an addiction to computer solitaire over the weekend. Leo McGarry, having met with a Nebraska lawyer otherwise known as his godson, had a distinctly determined expression on his face. Toby Ziegler was sniffing around something bigger than he knew, and Josh Lyman was raring to go on adding autism funding to the Family Wellness Act.
"What he didn't know was that Leo and CJ and Donna were about to gang up on him."
MONDAY, 7:26 p.m.
"I want it added, Josh!"
"I really can't --"
"I want it added!"
"It's a Christmas tree bill, CJ!"
"It is not going to tip over if you add one little star!"
"I already added a star! Didn't you see me adding a star? I've been adding a star since Senator Stackhouse sat down!"
"You've been adding something the Senate has practically endorsed at this point!"
"Twenty-eight Senators a 'yea' vote does not make!"
"I'm serious, CJ! The cost of this bill has swelled! And now you're asking me to add funding for, what is it --"
"Research into assistive technology for deafblind children."
"--for an extremely low-incidence condition, at the expense of the multitude of other childrens' health objectives this bill will get done!"
"Like glaucoma research."
"Fellas?" Leo interrupted, but CJ ignored him.
"Josh, I'm serious! This is an addition that is going to help parents who cannot communicate with their children! Do you understand what that means? Can you imagine having a child who could not see or hear you?"
"No, I can't, and there's no doubt I would want some help, but if my other children were deaf or epileptic or had athsma or cerebral palsy I would want to ensure some help for those children too instead of throwing it all out the window!"
"You don't have to throw it all out the window! You can cut something trivial if it's the cost that bothers you!"
"I can't allocate funds for everything under the sun! Not today!"
CJ slapped her hands together. "We're discussing kids who've never seen the sun, so don't --"
"Guys," Leo interrupted, louder. "I'd like to introduce you to Jed Bartlet ..."
CJ and Josh turned, embarrassed, to face the President.
"Excuse me, sir."
"I'm sorry, sir."
Bartlet attempted to hide his amusement. "Hello, Josh. CJ. How's it going?"
"Just ... peachy, sir," Josh offered, and Bartlet raised his eyebrows.
"Josh came back from the Oval Office with a folder in his hands. It was a new assigment. Which is to say it was technically a part of the old assignment, but it was most definitely something new. He had to find one thing to cut out of the Family Wellness Act, one thing that could be replaced with deafblind technology without destroying the delicate balance of the entire compromise. Or else he had to leave everything as it was, and convince the Senate to vote yes even with the extra funding.
"That's no easy task in itself, but Josh certainly didn't try to make it easier."
"You're not taking this seriously!"
Donna peered over Josh's shoulder and studied the screen. "You're not," she concluded.
"No, I'm not," Josh agreed. "And do you want to know why?"
"Because you're a selfish arrogant dummkopf who doesn't care about the communication problems of parents and their deafblind children?"
"Well ... no."
"What the hell --"
"It's German for 'stupidhead.'"
"You just called me a 'stupidhead.'"
Josh sighed. "Okay."
"You're not taking this seriously."
"Because I'm supposed to be finished with this bill."
"You're mad about the autism --"
"Of course not. But I'm sick of looking at this thing."
"Then let me do it!"
"Then let me finish federal funding."
Donna gave him her all-encompassing disappointed-in-you look and turned back to the screen. "What are you doing now?" she asked.
"I'm making a spreadsheet of data."
"To show us the truth."
"I've entered all the separate allocations of money in this bill."
"And I've entered the projected cost of the assistive technology addition."
"All I have to do is hit enter."
"And you'll rule all of metropolis?"
"And we'll know what can be cut to make room. Or, more accurately, we'll know that nothing can be cut to make room."
"And that will make everyone's lives easier, won't it."
Josh ignored her tone of voice as he proudly studied the screen. "Are you ready for the truth?"
"Bring it on," Donna yawned.
"So be it," Josh said, and hit enter. Then he and Donna surveyed the monitor for a long moment.
"The truth is ERR 4STRING," Josh said.
"How can the truth be ERR 4STRING?"
"Well," Donna told him. "It can't."
Josh emitted something between a groan and a growl, and brought up the previous screen. It, too, was devoid of answers.
"What do I do?" he implored at last.
Donna sighed long-sufferingly. "Move over," she said.
"You understand this stuff?"
"Yes, Joshua, because I graduated high school business class."
"Do you really graduate from business class?"
Donna shoved him, and Josh stood up quickly.
"I should have thought," Donna wrote, "but it didn't occur to me that sudden movements could be dangerous. It didn't occurr to me, because sometimes I don't realize how clumsy the nation's geniusses really are. Or how slick are Josh's new shoes."
"Yaag!" Josh flailed futilely as he tumbled backward, catching the computer with one elbow and Donna's cheekbone with the other. At the same moment there was a flash of light, and he had the misplaced hunch Natalie Burnham hadn't yet left the building. Then he tumbled onto the floor in a somewhat humiliated heap.
After a long moment, Donna asked in horror, "Did Natalie get that on film?"
"I am almost certain," Josh replied.
"Okay," Donna said, remaining motionless.
After a long moment, Josh dragged himself to his feet. He looked at the computer, holding his breath he hadn't broken anything. The screen still glowed his lack of data back to him, and he sighed in dubious relief.
Then he turned to face Donna, who was sitting somewhat reclined in his chair, her hands covering her left eye.
"You okay?" he asked.
"If you were obese," she said, "that elbow to the face might have been more comfortable."
"On the other hand, I might have been crushed."
"Let me see." He tugged at her hand.
"To be fair, I ought to tell you Josh was very sweet about the whole thing. He found me some ice to put on my eye, which blackened in the space of five minutes. And he apologized eight or nine times while he was at it. On the other hand, he laughed at me when I threatened to sue him. And I still had to enter all that data.
"We worked well into the night, but Josh just couldn't get the motivation he needed. We were nowhere close to finished when we decided to call it a night.
But that's okay. Because who needs tomorrow anyway?"
TUESDAY, 6:17 a.m.
"You're late!" Josh admonished.
"Shut up," Donna cheerfully agreed.
"How's your eye?"
"You mean the one that still works?"
"No, the other one."
"Well. It doesn't work."
"What are you doing?"
Josh leaned out of his office to look at her. "Not a whole lot. What do you need?"
"I'm saying there are many things you should be doing, Josh."
"Like finishing up the autism segment?"
"I finished that."
"You've got the votes?"
"And the deafblind thing?"
Josh groaned aloud, and Donna stood and walked to his door to look at him. "You don't have the deafblind thing?"
"Which part?" Josh evaded.
"The entire thing. What have you finished?"
Donna gave him her best do-I-have-to-do-everything look and walked to his desk to hand him the folder he had left there. "Take this," she said. "Work." She closed the door behind her.
"But I couldn't keep my mind off it. Sometime during the night I had started to think about deafblind kids. And their parents. And Joshua Lyman. I wanted him to convince the Senate why we were right. Just tell them. They're not always reasonable people, but there are days when they almost seem human, so why not simply pitch it to them? I wanted Josh to do that.
"Only not really, Grandpa, because what I wanted was for him to hand the job to me. I wanted to explain to the Senate why they had to support the act with a new provision. I wanted to figure out what we could cut to keep the costs in the same ballpark.
"I love my job. And I get to do a lot. But sometimes keeping Josh's schedule and tying his shoes aren't the first things on my list of ways to feel good.
"And neither was the second press picture, as humiliating as the first."
Donna opened the door. "Are you finished?"
Josh looked slowly up at her. "Well. Maybe it would go faster if you would, you know, stop interrupting me to *ask* if I --"
"You're not finished?!"
"You've been in here for like seven hours with the door closed!"
"There are other matters to attend to, Joshua!"
"Yeah, well, there's -- this one, too."
Donna circled the desk and looked at the papers in front of Josh. "Let me do it," she suggested.
"Donna, I've been working on it for three hours."
"And I could have had it done in one and a half. Let me finish it."
"'Cause -- it's my job!"
"So was the Oklahoma ryder, but I didn't see you keeping me away from that one."
"This is different."
"You hate this assignment."
"I do not hate it. I'm baffled by it."
Donna picked up the top page and began to read. After a moment she looked up at him. "That's very good."
"I mean, that's a very good point, Josh."
"Okay. Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to go out there. I'm going to close the door. And I am going to give you exactly 23 minutes to finish this."
"You can't put a deadline on something that doesn't already have --"
"If after 23 minutes you haven't finished this, I'm taking over."
"No, you're not."
"Because I can."
Josh stared her down. "I'll be finished."
"In 22 minutes and 30 seconds, Josh."
"Okay." Donna left him alone.
A few minutes later, she pounded on the door. "Are you finished yet?"
Josh opened the door. "Did you say something?"
"No," Donna said as she closed the door again. "Just that you're slow as a frozen river and I don't know why I ever --"
Josh opened the door. "What was that?"
"Close the door. Get some work done." Donna closed the door again.
Josh opened it. Or, more accurately, tried to. He pushed against one side of the door, and Donna pushed hard against the other, as he said, "Donna, is there, maybe, something you want to --"
*FLASH!* And Natalie Burnham flashed a smile, too, at both of them before she disappeared.
Donna took advantage of the distraction to slam closed the door. She shouted through it, "Get to work!"
"All right!" Josh's voice was muffled by the door that he at last didn't open. Neither of them mentioned the photo. Seeing it would be bad enough.
"Oh, Annie. Promise me you'll stay 14 forever. Or that you'll never take a job as a White House assistant. Be President if you'd like, although I don't always recommend it. Be a speechwriter. Be a lawyer in the council's office. Be a lawyer in a private practice in a high rise in Chicago. Be a trash collector. Be a movie star. Be a circus clown. Or a rodeo clown. Just don't take the job Donna Moss took when she agreed to be Josh Lyman's right-hand man."
"Nothing," Josh assured Sam over lunch with the President.
"Nothing at all. Except --" Josh glanced, a little embarrassed, at the President, who spoke in turn.
"Should I excuse myself?"
"Are you going to put together some ideas on federal funding, or are we just wasting sandwiches?"
"Take it where we need it," Sam said.
"Use it however you and Congress see fit," Josh added.
"Thank you," Bartlet sighed, the sarcasm only barely apparent in his voice.
"You're sure there's not a problem?" Sam asked. "'Cause you seem kind of --"
"I don't know."
"Glum?" the President supplied.
"Yes, sir, thank you, 'glum' was exactly the word I was looking for," Sam said. "You're looking rather glum, Josh."
Josh shrugged. "Donna's mad at me."
"What'd you do?"
Josh looked up. "What makes you think I did anything?"
"Well, you gave her a black eye," the President supplied.
"Well -- yes, sir, but that -- was my mother's fault."
The President sighed.
"I remember a time when I was respected in this position. As late as Monday, in fact. But this week nobody's got their heads in the game,not one of us.
"Maybe it was the weekend. We're out of practice. That's it -- no more weekend holidays. For you, either, Annie. You can just come on up here for the weekends and work for us. We could use the extra mind sometimes.
"Now don't go thinking you've got a bitter old grandfather. I'm not bitter. I'm just being realistic. After all, here I was at lunch with two of my subordinates, who were happily chatting about the borderline quarrel between one of them and his assistant. Lunch with the President of the United States, and all the man can think about is whether or not Donna Moss is still mad at him. Which I suppose stands to reason. She left us all in the dust this week. And she had every right to be mad at us all, not just Josh."
Josh stopped in his tracks, conditioned to be frightened at the sound of CJ's voice.
"Well, hello, Josh."
Josh started walking again, holding his breath.
"Oh, Joshua," CJ said. "Come into my office for a moment, would you?"
Josh stopped in his tracks, held his breath, and hoped CJ's face was aloof and not encompassed by her own patented version of The Look.
His luck didn't hold.
"What do you need?" Josh asked in his most responsible grown-up voice.
"I need you to -- What the hell happened to your feet?"
Josh looked slowly down at his bare toes and back up at CJ.
"I fell," Josh said.
"And Donna made me --"
"Why don't you just, you know, not wear the shoes?"
"Well -- I'm not."
"I'm saying --"
"They were a gift."
CJ stared at Josh in confusion, then shook her head. "Listen. It isn't my place to be saying this. I'm not one to meddle."
"You're the press secretary."
"Yes, I noticed that. But this is none of my business."
"I don't care if you talk about my shoes."
"We've moved on to another topic, Josh."
"When did that happen?"
"It happened -- Nevermind. I want you to do me a favor."
"I want you to congratulate your assistant on a job well done."
Josh blinked, confused. "CJ, what are you --"
"Donna has completed many of the major tasks that have come out of your office in the last few days. Have you mentioned to her you appreciate that?"
"She raised her hand in the Oval Office, Josh."
Josh frowned. "What do you mean?"
"She raised her hand in the Oval Office!"
"She's a brilliant person."
"When did she --"
"Two days ago."
"And why --"
"A slew of us on senior staff and it was your assistant who noticed the sum of Senator Stackhouse's grandchildren!"
"How does that translate to me being a jackass?"
"A bundle of us in whom the country places its faith, and she's the one who thought to ask the man a simple question!"
"Hey, I would --"
"She raised her hand."
Josh cleared his throat. "Yeah."
Josh nodded, somewhat ashamed, and CJ waved him out of the office.
"Somebody must have said something to Josh.
"I can't imagine who, because that person would have been reading my mind. But from the middle of Tuesday till the early hours of Wednesday, Josh went out of his way to be nice to me.
"Which for Josh means he griped instead of yelling when I gave him too much, too little, too skewed, or too illegible information. Also he went out of his way to avoid tripping over his feet and blacking my other eye, so that's something. He went barefoot for most of the day. Hence, press photo number three. Hillbilly politics, that little kid captioned it.
"But by three a.m. Josh still hadn't finished the report, and he still refused to relinquish it to me. I could feel the fates of deafblind children slipping out of Josh's grasp, so I forcibly stepped in."
"I'm finishing this, Josh," Donna announced.
"Uh uh," Josh grunted.
"Josh. I'm finishing this report for you. You're writing blind."
"I know perfectly well what I'm talking about, Donna."
"And while that may be true, your eyes are closed."
Josh opened his eyes with some effort. "I'm minutes away."
"From crashing out asleep on the keyboard and erasing everything you've done so far."
Josh groaned aloud at the thought, and Donna elbowed him out of the way. "Let me try."
Josh started to stand, but Donna grabbed his arm. "Watch it," she warned, and he rolled his eyes.
She typed one sentence. Josh scooted back onto the chair and typed another. They looked at each other, in silent agreement that something good had just happened, and Donna began to type furiously.
The shadows moved and the clock stood still and Josh and Donna dictated, debated, and discussed. They didn't notice the work of the custodial staff. Didn't hear the vaccuum cleaners; neither saw the sun come up.
By seven they were exhausted, somewhat ravenous ... and finished. They sat back in silent reverence of what had just happened.
"Today, Annie, was one of those days. The ones you named when you were little. The ones that might as well keep going.
"The bill will pass, and we know it for sure, because Josh and Donna stayed up all night long writing an open letter to the Senate. They used facts. They used insight. Moreover they used simple stark logic, the kind you can't argue with no matter how cranky and Republican you decide to be that day.
"I don't recommend Donna's job for you, Annie, but there are days I think you would feel right at home in mine."
"Good work, Josh!" President Bartlet exclaimed as soon as Josh and Donna came into view.
"It was her," Josh said, waving a hand at his assistant.
"Donna, excellent job," the President amended.
"It was Josh," Donna answered, and Leo rolled his eyes in mock frustration.
"No kidding, guys," The President told them. "It's what my granndaughter would have called a Sparkle Day."
Josh, Donna, and Leo were unable to conceal their collective laughter.
"Ah, shut it," Bartlet said good-naturedly. "She was seven. Didn't any of you make up new words when you were seven?"
"Technically, 'sparkle' isn't a new word so much as it is an old word used in a new and original way." Donna spoke as if by reflex.
"Whatever," Leo said. "This is our country, so we can't stop now." He cleared his throat. "Federal funds. We need a report within a couple of hours. You awake, Josh?"
"Yes, sir," Josh, said, and then something occurred to him. "Mr. President."
"Can Donna take it?"
Leo looked up in approval. Donna looked up in surprise. And Bartlet nodded.
"Yeah," he said, as if he'd been waiting all along, and Leo handed the folder to Donna instead of Josh.
"Thank you, sir," Donna said, and the President nodded.
"Thank you, Mr. President," Josh echoed, and he and Donna headed for the door.
"Oh, Donna," Bartlet called her momentarily back.
"Yes, sir?" She sounded almost nervous.
Bartlet studied her with a long and measured look. Then he smiled. "You're welcome to make a point," he told her. "But you don't have to raise your hand."
Donna broke into a wide grin. "Thank you, Mr. President," she said.
"Grandpa, when I write home telling you how great my job is and how much I love being a part of something big ... Well, keep that letter, okay? I want it sent back to me every time I complain. Because today ... Today was one of those days you told me about, when the corn you've planted grows clear up to the stars.
"Not to get too sentimental. But I mean it, Grandpa. Sparkle Days.
"And now I've got to go and track this thing through the Senate. And after that I've got to work on federal funding. And after that, if there's time, I have to make sure Josh was able to tie his shoes without me.
This is our country, and I can't stop now, but I'll call you later, and I love you.
16 March 2001