When Leslie comes down to the kitchen in the morning, Ben and Maggie are both already there. Ben is pouring what is probably his second, no, third cup of coffee, judging from the fact that the milk is already out on the counter. Maggie is eating toast at the kitchen island, a copy of Ramona Quimby, Age 8 propped open against the blender in front of her. Leslie presses a kiss to her head as she walks by, taking the mug Ben picks up and holds out to her.
“I thought we talked about reading at mealtimes,” Leslie says mildly, putting more bread in the toaster.
Maggie looks up. “It’s just breakfast, Mom.”
Leslie looks at Ben. “It’s just breakfast, Mom,” he repeats, but his tone is mild and he has a tiny smile on his face.
“I humbly ask for an exception this morning, Mom. Ramona just cracked a raw egg on her head and it’s a really good part.”
“Exception noted, Ms. Maggie Wyatt,” Leslie says, retrieving her bread from the toaster. She gets the real stick of butter out of the fridge from out behind the yogurt based substitute, but she doesn’t miss Ben’s slightly reproachful look. “It’s a morning of exceptions,” she says to Ben, smiling.
“Both exceptions pass,” Ben says, hiding his smile in his coffee.
“Yay!” both Leslie and Maggie cheer.
“It is a really good part,” Leslie tells Maggie, buttering her toast. She takes a bite. “Agendas for the day, Family Wyatt?”
“School until 2:30, then Dad picks me up for Pawnee Goddesses with Aunt Ann at 3:30. Then we come home, and it’s a snack and homework. Once homework is done I can have free time until dinner at 6:30.” Maggie finishes the rest of the toast on her plate.
“Anything special at school today?” Ben asks.
Maggie shakes her head, sending her two brown braids flying. “No. We are still doing our history reports, but since I went first on Monday I don’t have any stress today.”
“A fine Amelia Earhart you were, too,” Leslie says, and she and Maggie clink orange juice glass to coffee mug.
“It’s Tuesday, so I have Accounting 101 at 10 am; English as a Second Language at 11:30. Office hours from 12-2, then I pick Maggie up from school at 2:30. Pawnee Goddesses at 3:30, then home, homework, and dinner,” Ben says.
Leslie nods. “Finalizing next week’s city council meeting's agenda. I have a meeting at noon with someone, a woman, I don’t know who --” Leslie pauses as Ben gives her a look. She shrugs. “April didn’t write the name down.”
Ben shakes his head. “Yeah, okay.”
“It’s pregnancy brain,” Leslie says. “You remember what I was like. Half the time I didn’t remember my own name.”
“Untrue on both counts,” Ben replies. “You could remember the entire minutes from city council meetings. It’s not the pregnancy, it’s April.”
“It’s April,” Leslie says, and Ben nods, smiling. “She’s a better assistant than Andy.”
“True,” Ben says, clinking his mug with Leslie’s.
“Speaking of . . . are you going to see Andy today?” Leslie asks.
Ben shakes his head. “I think the guitar class he teaches this semester is at night. And I think Ron keeps him pretty busy during the day.” Both he and Leslie laugh at the last statement.
“Why?” Ben asks.
“Just some baby shower stuff I wanted to run by him,” Leslie says, waving her hand. “I’ll catch him soon.”
“Um, Mom, Dad?” Maggie interrupts, picking up her book and closing it. “Some of us have to leave for school in five minutes, and we aren’t done with the agenda portion of the morning yet.”
“Right. Sorry,” Leslie says. She clears her throat. “My only meeting is at noon. Other than that just the usual. Leaving work at 5:30, picking up dinner, home for dinner at 6:30.”
Maggie nods. “I hope your meeting isn’t with that lady who drank the pool water, Mom,” she says.
Leslie makes a face. “Me, too.”
“I mean, it was November,” Maggie says.
“I know,” Leslie says.
Ben shakes his head. “There’s something wrong with this town.”
Both Maggie and Leslie turn to look at him.
“But that doesn’t mean it’s not great,” Ben says, putting his hands up in surrender.
Leslie grins. “What do you want for dinner? Italian? Chinese?”
“Steamed dumplings!” Maggie says.
“Done,” Leslie says.
“Okay, gang, let’s pack it up and move it out,” Ben says.
“Just move the files in the car to make room,” Leslie calls after Maggie, who has already picked up her backpack and scurried out toward the front door.
Leslie sighs. “She’s wearing the uniform again.” Ben comes over and kisses her.
“Yeah, I couldn’t talk her out of it,” Ben says. “She says it’s easier.”
“It is easier,” Leslie says automatically. Ben shoots her a look. “It is,” Leslie repeats.
“You do realize she’s the only kid in public school in Pawnee who wears one,” Ben says.
“Yeah,” Leslie says.
Ben shrugs. “I don’t think we have to worry about it now. It’s second grade; she’s fine.”
“I just don’t want her to get bullied,” Leslie says.
Ben shakes his head. “She’s too sweet and friendly for that. Has plenty of friends. I’m not worried,” he repeats. “Too much like her mom.” He nudges Leslie with his elbow. Leslie nudges back and grins.
“Mom,” Maggie shouts. “You’re doing drop-off this morning and we only have one minute
“Coming”, Leslie calls. “I’ve got to go,” she says to Ben, who kisses her again.
“Love you, have a good day,” Ben says.
“Love you, too,” Leslie says, smiling, and follows her daughter out to the car.
April appears in Leslie’s office door exactly at noon. For a woman who is eight months pregnant, she’s still surprisingly stealthy.
“Your appointment is here,” she says.
“Did you catch her name?” Leslie asks.
April shakes her head. “Donna something-or-other.”
“Okay. She’s not the woman who drank the pool water, is she?”
April shakes her head again. “Kind of looks like she might be the woman who broke into the library after Tammy tried to ‘experiment’, though.”
“Oh, God,” Leslie says. She stands up and buttons her suit jacket, clears her throat. “Send her in.”
April disappears again, to be replaced in the doorway by a tall, slim blond woman about Leslie’s own age. The woman smiles. “Good morning, Ms. Knope-Wyatt,” she says, extending her hand for Leslie to shake. “Donna Moss.”
The name starts to ring slight bells in Leslie’s head, but she can’t quite place it. “Good morning, Ms. Moss. Come in.” Leslie gestures to the armchairs across from her desk.
“Thank you,” Donna sits down. “Please call me Donna. May I call you Leslie?”
“Of course,” Leslie says, sitting down. They look at each other for a moment. “What can I help you with, Donna?” she says.
“You have no idea why I’m here, do you?” Donna says, but she’s smiling.
“No, sorry,” Leslie admits. “My assistant sometimes has trouble taking . . . notes.”
“It might not actually be your assistant’s fault,” Donna says. “I wasn’t specific when I made the appointment.”
“Well, that would be a first for April,” she says.
Donna laughs. “Do you mind if we get down to business?”
“Not at all.”
“Great. Well. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with my name, but I’ve been working in D.C. politics for a while now. Usually behind the scenes . . .”
Leslie finally places the name; she can’t help it when her mouth drops open just a little bit. “You were Mrs. Santos’ Chief of Staff; you worked for President Bartlet, and now you’re working for C.J. Cregg’s non-profit.”
Leslie notices the slight blush that hits Donna’s cheeks. “That’s right. I started as Josh Lyman’s assistant.”
“Oh, and then you married him!” Leslie says. She hadn’t meant to be that enthusiastic, but she can’t help it.
“Yes,” Donna says wryly. “I fell in love with my boss. Wee bit of a conflict.”
“I know the feeling,” Leslie says, grinning.
Donna smiles back.
Leslie clears her throat. “Well. I. I’m honored, Donna.”
“Forgive me, I think you’re wonderful, but I still don’t know why you’re here,” Leslie says.
“Well, I happen to think you’re wonderful, too.”
“Thank you?” Leslie says.
“And the point is, Leslie, that the time has come where I think I am ready to run a major campaign myself. I want you to be the candidate.”
Leslie pauses. “I’m . . . flattered. But, and I say this with the utmost respect, you don’t want to start with a state campaign.”
Donna smiles. “I wouldn’t be starting with a state campaign.”
“Then I’m confused,” Leslie says.
“Leslie. I know you think you’re a minor political player. Maybe right now you are. But I think that can change. The congressional seat that encompasses Pawnee needs a Democratic contender next year, and I think you should be that contender. The Party does, too.”
“The Democratic Party wants me to run for Congress?” Leslie doesn’t know how she even gets the words out she’s so shocked.
“Well. I do, and I have an inside track with the Party leadership.”
Leslie thinks quickly and realizes Josh Lyman is now the Chairman. “But I just sit on a city council in Indiana.”
“You’ve done more for Pawnee and Indiana as a city councilperson than anyone currently even in state politics, and you know that’s true. Your track record is impeccable, and America loves new faces in politics.”
Leslie blows out a breath. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Leslie, the bottom line is that you are intelligent, dedicated, honest, and genuine. I think you would be a terrific candidate for Congress, that you’re ready for the national stage. I think Indiana would be lucky to have you represent them. I want you to let me run your campaign.”
Leslie blinks. “I have a family,” she says.
“So do I,” Donna says, and Leslie remembers that she and Josh have three kids, two boys and a girl. “I respect that, and so would the campaign. I want more women in politics, and I recognize that means being family-friendly. Believe me, I do. We could work things out, make it as easy on your family life as possible.”
“Can I think about it?” Leslie asks.
Donna smiles. “Of course.” She reaches in her briefcase and pulls out a business card, handing it to Leslie. “Take a few days, then give me a call. Or call whenever you have any questions. I’ll be in Indiana until Friday if you want to meet up in person.” She pauses. “Really think about it, Leslie. I think we’d make a great team.”
Leslie stands up as Donna does. “I. I want you to know I am deeply flattered,” Leslie says. “No matter what happens . . . thank you.”
Donna shakes Leslie’s hand. “No, Leslie, thank you.”
After Donna exits, Leslie picks up the phone and dials. “Hey. How do you feel about ditching your office hours and meeting me at J.J.’s for lunch?”
“And then we’d have to move to D.C., and that would be a huge change for Maggie, even if we kept a residence here in Pawnee, which I guess we’d have to, and then I suppose you all could live here and I would be in D.C. or commute from D.C. but that’s a lot of time away, and I don’t want to be away that much . . .”
Ben looks at Leslie’s plate, where her whipped cream has melted into her totally untouched waffles.
“Leslie, take a breath,” Ben says.
“I don’t have a lot of time to think about it, I mean, yes, Donna says I can think about it, but I know she really wants an answer --”
“Leslie,” Ben says. It’s the voice Ben used when Maggie was doing something as a toddler that Ben thought was dangerous -- soft, but firm, no-nonsense. Leslie looks at him, and blinks.
“Wait, am I pregnant?” Leslie asks.
“No,” Ben says. “Unless you know something I don’t,” he adds.
“No,” Leslie says.
Ben puts his fork down. “Leslie, what would you have said ten years ago?”
“I would have said yes,” Leslie says without hesitation.
Ben just looks at her.
Leslie’s head hits the table. “It’s not ten years ago, Ben.”
“Really? Because I could have sworn I saw Tom advertising Snakejuice at the community college this morning.”
Leslie groans. “Ha, ha.”
“Okay, no, really, I saw him passing out flyers this morning, so that was probably not the best example. But my point stands.”
“No point. Point does not stand. Point is sitting. In fact, point is lying down it’s so much not a point.”
“Leslie. The point is that this is a huge step, and one you’ve wanted your whole life. You’re amazing, and you’ve worked hard, and if Donna and Josh want you to run, you deserve to run.”
“But we have a life here. We have our friends, and Maggie, and you . . . you’ve already sacrificed so much for me.”
Ben raises his eyebrows. “Sacrificed what?”
“Well, for starters you resigned in disgrace.”
“Uh. Which led to being able to be with you, which led to us getting married, which led to the best kid on the planet.”
“We all know Maggie’s awesome,” Leslie says.
“Yeah,” Ben says. “She is.”
“Yeah,” Ben says. It’s his “duh, dummy” voice. It makes Leslie smile in spite of herself.
“What about your career?” Leslie asks.
“Leslie, I love teaching. You know that. But the great thing is that I can teach pretty much anywhere.”
“Don’t you want to go back into government?”
Ben shrugs. “Maybe someday. But maybe I also thought for a long time that government was the only thing I could love or be good at. I learned that’s not true, not anymore. I wanted to make a difference, and I do that with my students. Also, in case you were not aware, I am married to a pretty awesome woman, whom I love, a lot. And we have the greatest kid on the planet, whom I also love a lot, and I like to think I’m pretty good at being a husband and dad.”
Leslie smiles. “You are a wonderful husband and dad.”
“I like to think so.”
“It would change our whole lives, even just running, even if I didn’t win,” Leslie sighs.
“Yes,” Ben answers.
“You would . . . the amount of home stuff you’d have to take on . . .”
Leslie finally takes her fork, digs in and takes a bite of waffles.
“Leslie, I will support you no matter what you want to do, you know that.”
Leslie nods, then makes a face. “These waffles are awful.”
“Yeah,” Ben says, signaling for the waitress. “You let them sit a long time. Let’s get you some new ones.”
Leslie goes downstairs to the Parks Department the next day to take Andy the invitations to April’s baby shower.
“Now. You have to mail these no later than tomorrow,” Leslie says, handing Andy the stack of envelopes.
“Right, Friday,” Andy says.
“Andy, tomorrow is Thursday. Today is Wednesday.”
Leslie hesitates, looking like she’s going to take the envelopes back.
“I’m the dad, Leslie. I should get to do something for the shower,” Andy says.
Leslie looks appropriately ashamed. “You’re right.” She pauses. “But you know, just --”
“Leslie Knope,” Ron bellows from his office.
“Come in here, Leslie Knope.”
“Right, Ron. Right.” Leslie clasps her hands behind her back so she won’t snatch the invitations back and walks backwards into Ron’s office. Ron uses the switch to automatically shut the doors behind her.
“Leslie,” Ron says.
“I know. Andy can do it.”
“Actually . . .”
“Okay, I gave Ann a backup set of invitations in case he forgets to send those out. But she’s only supposed to send them if she doesn’t get her invitation by Monday, which will indicate that he hasn’t mailed those by Friday, at the latest.”
“Leslie, I don’t care about the invitations.”
“Right.” Leslie sits down in front of Ron’s desk.
“I heard about your meeting yesterday,” Ron says.
“Ben talked to Tom.”
“Man, Tom cannot keep his mouth shut.”
“Of course he can’t,” Ron says, “That’s not news.”
“No, it’s not,” Leslie says. “Did you know he’s starting Snakejuice again?”
“Leslie, don’t try to change the subject.”
“I don’t often give my opinion, Leslie.”
“Well, I don’t know if that’s true --”
Ron glares. “It’s true.”
“I mean, we all know how you feel about the government. And Morton’s salt. And hunting.”
“And far be it from me to insert myself into anyone’s life.”
“Really? Because you encouraged Andy to go back to college, and then you hired him as your assistant, you promoted Tom when I got elected to the city council, and you helped April move into her position with me, and that time Maggie was sick with pneumonia and in the hospital you cooked for me and Ben for like a week, and --”
Leslie sighs. “I’m just not sure. I don’t know if I want to change our lives that much.”
“You have a good life here.”
“Yes! The hours I’d have to work, the slack that Ben would have to pick up, and it would be less time with Maggie . . . it’s a myth, Ron, it’s a myth.”
“Most of life is a myth, Leslie.”
“It’s a myth, Ron, that women can have it all, because, really, you can’t. There’s work and family and friends and waffles, and yourself and frankly, it’s a lot of juggling, Ron, and as much as I love juggling -- I mean, did you see that guy at this year’s Harvest Festival, with the bowling pins on fire, it was awesome -- it’s a lot of juggling and what if I drop a flaming bowling pin, Ron?”
“Okay. First of all, there are a lot of people in your life who . . . care about . . . you, and they might be willing to, in your vernacular, pick up a flaming bowling pin now and then.”
“Before something goes down in flames? Because there’s a lot of fire on those pins and I bet it could spread quickly to the drapes.”
“Leslie, I am going to stop using your metaphor now.”
“It’s a good metaphor.”
“It’s a good metaphor.”
“Anyway. My point is: You can do this.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I’m Ron Swanson, and you’re Leslie Fucking Knope.”
Leslie sits back in her chair. “Thanks, Ron.”
“I’m going to go get some s’more rations out of my car.”
“Sure,” Ron says easily, opening the doors to his office.
The lights are out in the living room when Leslie gets home on Thursday, and there’s a white sheet hanging in front of the fireplace. Ben’s computer and an LED projector are balanced on some books on the coffee table.
“What’s this?” Leslie asks, smiling.
Ben nudges Maggie where they are both sitting on the couch and Maggie stands up. She clears her throat. Leslie glances at Ben, but he just smiles at her.
“Mom,” Maggie says. “If you’ll just sit down.” Maggie gestures to the couch.
Leslie cocks her head but does as she is told and sits down next to Ben. Ben still doesn’t say anything, but he’s grinning.
“Mom, I had some time the past couple of days after homework was done, and I’ve been working on a project. I’d like to show it to you.”
“Okay. I’d love to see it!” Leslie exclaims, looking at Ben in excitement.
Maggie toggles the computer awake with the hand that is not holding her index cards, and a Powerpoint presentation springs to life. The title slide springs up, and Maggie reads it out loud:
Why My Mom Should Run For Congress
by Margaret Knope Wyatt, Age 7
Leslie feels tears spring to her eyes, and she looks at Ben. He smiles at her, and covers her hand with his where it’s resting on her knee.
Leslie calls Donna Moss the next day and says yes.