“The president is not available at this time,” Sue is saying into the phone. “Even if she wanted to appear on your show, which she does not, the president is not available at this time.” Sue hangs up, and the phone starts to ring again almost instantly.
Dan sits on the file cabinet in front of her desk and pretends to read a report on agriculture. He learned the hard way that interrupting Sue at work is not a way to get into her good graces.
She ends her call and—what a coincidence!—Dan is done reading his report. “Sue,” he says, getting up to lean on her desk, “you are looking just radiant today.”
Dan almost looks sheepish. He should know by now that his usual tactics for getting what he wants won’t work on Sue. But he really, really needs this favor. He has to at least try. “Join me tonight for dinner?”
“There’s no staff dinner on the calendar. If it’s not on my calendar, it’s not happening.”
“Not a staff dinner. Just you and me.” Dan winks.
Sue actually looks up from her computer to glare at him. “I am a married woman, Daniel.”
“It’s just Dan. My parents were— Married?”
“So you’re technically not a bastard. You had me fooled.”
“The fuck, Sue? You got married without inviting any of us?”
Sue frowns at him. Or, she deepens her existing frown at him. The clicking of her keyboard stops and she holds up her left hand. Sure enough, there’s a ring. “Not technically. Kent and Ben were in attendance.”
Well, that hurts. Sue invited Kent, her ex, and not Dan.
“Who did you even marry?”
“It’s whom .”
“Fine, whom did you—”
Oh. That explains a lot.
This is a huge fucking disaster. Granted, Amy thinks these exact words about once a week, but this is actually a huge fucking disaster. Some intern has leaked audio of a staff meeting, and in the 5 minutes that are published in the Washington Post, there are about a hundred expletives. The core team is assembled in Selina’s office, trying to figure out what to do.
“This is not polling well,” Kent says.
Amy glares at him. “No shit.”
“This could be my White House tapes,” Selina says. “They are not gonna be my White House tapes. Nobody remembers Dick Nixon for the fucking EPA.”
“We’ll find the person responsible,” Amy says.
“You had better.”
Selina yells at them for a few more minutes, and then the meeting is adjourned.
“Drinks tonight?” Dan raises an eyebrow at her in a way Amy finds infuriatingly and incredibly attractive.
“I thought your compass was pointing due Sue,” she answers, finishing up an email on her Blackberry.
“I was, but get this: She got married!”
Amy allows herself a moment to be hurt that Sue didn’t even tell her before snapping at Dan, “I knew that.”
“Sue and I are friends. I know you were born with a heart 3 sizes too small, but friendship is when people actually like each other enough to talk.”
“Alright, then who was the groom?”
“Her boyfriend,” Amy answers, looking at Dan like he’s just asked her what pattern was on George W. Bush’s Oval Office rug. (Sunburst, obviously.)
“Bullshit, you didn’t even know she and Kent were back together.”
Amy absolutely does not gasp. She also does not open and close her mouth several times in not-surprise.
“I can’t believe she didn’t invite any of us.”
Dan looks entirely too pleased about this. “Ben was there! I bet he called it DEFCON formal.”
“Sure, sure. Drinks tonight?”
Gary power-walks through the room, bobbling lipstick and hand cream and and those little inserts Selina sometimes puts in her heels to protect her feet. A tube of coral red escapes his grasp and rolls under the desk in the corner. So that’s what kind of day this is gonna be.
Gary looks down at his watch. Selina’s preparing to address the nation about the leaked profane audio, and he’s already late. But showing up without coral red is worse than not showing up at all. He’s learned. He sighs deeply and crawls under the desk.
The lipstick has rolled all the way in there to get a little wedged underneath the wood of the desk; Gary is still trying to work it out without damaging the label when he hears soft footsteps on the carpet floor. He freezes.
“Sue—” someone says. It sounds a bit like a werewolf, so Gary infers it to be Kent.
The footsteps stop. “Not at work,” Sue says in a soft voice Gary has never heard before.
“There’s no one around,” Kent says. “We could lock the door.”
Gary wants more than anything to reveal his presence, but it’s way too late. Sue already thinks he’s an “ineffectual waste of space,” and hiding under a desk to look for a beauty product? Definitely an ineffectual move. Not immediately announcing his presence when people came into the room? Even ineffectual-er. But he also really, really does not want to eavesdrop on his coworkers having sex.
The door closes. The lock clicks ominously in the quiet of the room.
There’s another sound, and then— Sue is leaning against the desk. That Gary is under. He once spilled a bowl of hot soup on the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, and this might be the worst day at work, ever.
“My sister will be in town for the first time in six years,” Sue says. “She lives in Saskatchewan.”
He’s not really on the dirty talk high ground, but this seems a little unorthodox.
“My nephew is flying in from Antarctica. I cannot stand my nephew.”
“Fine,” Sue concedes. “I have to see Eileen again some time. We can have Thanksgiving with my family.”
Gary is so relieved he actually says a quick prayer of thanks to the underside of the desk. If he had to listen to Sue and Kent have sex… He can barely look either of them in the eye as is.
Gary stays under the desk, waiting to hear the door unlock and the two of them walk out of the room. Instead, Kent says, “I can think of one or two ways to make it up to you.”
“Oh?” Sue says. He hears her hop up onto the desk.
Oh . Oh, God. Gary does not deserve this.
Everyone is in Selina’s office, listening to another audio clip that has been posted online.
“Now I have the redneck evangelical Christians up my ass? Aren’t they all too busy eating McDonald’s and fucking their cousins to care about what I say in my staff meetings?”
Dan shuts off the recording on his phone. “That’s just the half of it, Ma’am. They leaked all of what you said about corn cobs.”
Selina clenches her face muscles so tightly she can barely speak. “I thought we were dealing with the leak. I thought we were protecting my fucking legacy.”
“We’re still looking into it, Ma’am,” Dan says.
“Well, look harder. We need a fucking… good Christian to show that I don’t think the evangelicals are a bunch of backwater bastards, even though I do. Who on my staff has been in a church in the last month?”
“I have, Ma’am,” Sue says, walking into the office to place a stack of files on Selina’s desk. “These came over from the Department of Homeland Security for your signature.”
“Are you a churchgoing woman, Sue?” That’s something Selina never would have guessed at.
“God, no. I got married.”
“Good for you. Religion,” Selina says, “is the opiate of the masses. Groucho Marx got that right.”
“Will you be needing anything else, Ma’am?”
Wait a second. “Married, Sue? You didn’t tell me. I would have had my secretary— I would have sent you something.”
“I took the liberty of sending myself flowers under your name.”
“It’s what I would have done for any bride in your address book.”
“Um, the leaks?” Mike says. “What should I tell the press?”
“It’ll blow over,” Ben says, putting his feet up on the table. “Everyone hates the evangelicals. Even the evangelicals.”
Kent shuffles some papers. “I think we have to get out ahead of this. Put out a statement.”
“Is that what the numbers are telling you?” Ben says.
“Yes, it is.”
Selina nods at Kent. “Mike, put something together. Say that I’m a Christian, I have Christians on my staff, we should all follow the golden rule, I don’t curse or take the Lord’s name in vain, whatever those Christ fuckers need to hear.”
“Alright, I’ll get the template.”
Kent raises a finger before Mike can get up. “Ma’am, I think we can use my recent marriage to our advantage, to distract from the leaks.”
“You got married too?”
“In a manner of speaking. I did get married, also, but it was on the same day, at the same time, and at the same ceremony.”
“You know, a normal person would just say you got married to Sue,” Ben says.
“Whoever said Kent was normal?” Amy says.
“Oh, that explains that,” Gary says, sighing and shaking his head.
“What?” Sue asks.
“Nothing!” Gary looks like he wants to dissolve into the couch. “Your, uh, marital glow.”
“Regardless,” Kent says, looking down at his numbers again and looking maybe, almost imperceptibly, a little red, “this good Christian marriage is exactly what the press needs.”
They all turn to Selina.
“Mike, do it,” Selina says. Anything for the American people.
The next morning, Jonah makes his way to Selina’s office. Oh, he has some juicy gossip today. Dan is gonna be so pissed he didn’t hear it first. Jonah can’t help that he’s plugged in to all of Washington’s hottest networks. Well, he can, but why would he?
Jonah finds Dan in the anteroom, making a cup of coffee.
“Crazy news, Dan. Like, Neil Armstrong on the fucking sound stage crazy.”
“Really,” Dan says, stirring milk into his coffee.
Dan can pretend to be uninterested, but Jonah knows he’s dying to hear what it is.
“I have some Washing-tastic, juicy office romance news.”
“Interesting!” Dan says uninterestedly. He starts to turn around, and Jonah gives up on drawing it out.
“Sue and Kent got busy in the nuptial bed,” he says.
“Hey, Lurch’s older sister learned how to work the TV,” Amy says, handing Dan a file on her way out.
“Thank you!” Jonah calls after her. “I love Ted Cassidy. That was a compliment.”
“Sure it was.”
“Why didn’t that news, like, change your life?”
“I don’t know, maybe because Mike announced it in a White House press conference last night?”
“I can’t believe Sue didn’t tell me.”
“Oh, because you two are so close,” Dan says, accepting a call on one of his phones.
“God dammit. I traded 10 minutes of audio for that!” Jonah says.
Dan removes the phone from his ear. “You traded what now?”