Dave Russell was rubbing his hands in excitement. "You're gonna love this, Governor, I promise you."
"Well, I'm certainly open to loving it. I'd like to think myself a man capable of love."
"I'm sure you are, sir—"
"Especially where words are concerned. I love words, Dave. The sound of them, their texture, the way they hang in the air. And I'm not a snob about words, despite what some people say. Advertising is a highly underrated field, as I'm sure you know. What are jingles, after all, but couplets? What are slogans, but epigrams?—the quick, memorable condensations of thought, the very fabric of our oral culture? Pithiness is a great virtue; to be able to condense a complicated thought into a few, choice words is a skill that—"
Dave was looking at him funny, so Sam stopped talking. Dave coughed politely into his fist. "Sir, may I?" he asked.
Sam waved his hand. "Yeah, go ahead."
Dave yanked the drapery off the easel with a flourish. "Voila!"
Sam read the slogan, then read it again. "Well, I don't love those words."
Dave looked distressed. "But—"
"' California. It's for you. '" Sam looked over his glasses at Dave. "Not exactly epigrammatic, is it?"
"No, but..." Dave nervously cleared his throat and proclaimed : "' CaliFORnia! It's FOR ya! '"
"Yeah. I get it. I got it the first time."
"It's short enough for a bumpersticker—"
"I just don't want it."
"—pithy enough for a mug, a T-shirt—"
"We're California. We're the T-shirt capital of the United States. New York thinks they are," Sam mused, "but they're wrong. We've beaten them hands down."
"Sir, just, the merchandising possibilities are—"
"Plus we have better weather."
" 'For nia..." Dave said desperately. " For ya..."
"I really wish you'd stop saying that. Julie ?" Instantly the door opened and Julie was standing there in her slim black skirt and high heels, her chin jutting out. "Please show Mr. Russell out."
Dave grimly gathered up his drawings and tucked them under his arm. "Thank you, Governor," he said and left the room. Sam expected Julie to follow Dave out and close the door behind her, but instead she hesitated, her hand on the knob.
"Governor, Josh Lyman is here to see you. He doesn't have an app—" She backed up rapidly into the outer office, heels clicking against the hardwood.
Sam stood in the doorway and stared at the back of Josh Lyman's raincoat.
"Josh," Sam said.
Josh turned around, and he was still staggeringly Josh-like. Maybe Josh's hair had receded a bit further, but the blue shirt was the same, and the vaguely rumpled tan suit, and the way Josh jammed his hands into his pockets and rocked back on his heels.
"Hey," Josh said, like he still worked a few offices down. "You got a few minutes?"
Sam tucked his glasses into his breast pocket and smiled. "Sure. Yeah. Come on in." Sam glanced over at Julie, who looked as if she disapproved of this breach of appointment etiquette. "Hold my calls," he told her. "Hold everything for a couple of minutes, all right? Do you want some coffee?" he asked Josh.
"Nah, I'm good."
Sam waved him in and shut the door behind him. Josh walked straight to the center of the room and stared down at the Governor's Seal woven into the carpet. "What is that, a bear?"
"Yeah. They call it the Bear Flag. It was first raised during the Bear Flag Revolt of 1846 when a small band of California settlers declared independence from Mexico. Did you know that California was a republic for nearly a month?"
"No." Josh frowned. "I didn't know that."
"Yeah." Sam went to stand next to him. "June 14th to July 11th, 1846. Then the United States got involved, which of course messed everything up..."
"There's not much more to this story, is there?" Josh asked warily.
"Not really. Just that the United States signed a treaty with Mexico on February 2nd, 1848. The treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo."
"Use your Spanish much?" Josh asked, clearly trying to change the subject.
Sam raised an eyebrow. "As Governor of California? Yeah."
They stood there together and stared down at the stalking grizzly bear.
"So," Sam said finally. "What brings you to Sacramento?" He realized he was holding his breath for Josh's answer, because Josh was going to tell him what to do next. Josh always knew what to do next. And maybe it wouldn't be so simple this time as just grabbing his coat, waving goodbye to Julie, and running out of the office—but then again, maybe it would.
"Gold," Josh said, pulling a crumpled brochure out of his left raincoat pocket. Sam recognized it instantly—it was Dave's last masterpiece for the California Travel and Tourism Commission. The 20 Reasons campaign included not only 20 Reasons To Love California, but the same number of reasons for loving Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Sacramento. It had actually been pretty difficult to come up with twenty separate reasons for loving Sacramento. Still, they had managed it, and now Josh squinted down at the brochure in his hand, which, Sam knew, contained such stellar attractions as the California State Railroad Museum (number 8), and the Sacramento River Festival (number 14). "I hear you can still go panning for gold around here," Josh said. "Which, you know, considering how my 401k's doing..."
"Actually, I came for the golf."
"Is that the official story?" Sam asked, frowning.
Josh nodded. "Yeah." He shrugged off his raincoat and shoved it toward Sam's sofa. "I'm thinking about getting back into politics."
Sam felt a surge of adrenaline. "Great. That's great. I will get you California," he said, stabbing his finger at Josh's chest for emphasis. "I can deliver this state to your door."
Josh shook his head. "That's not what I mean."
"You want me to write for you?" Sam asked. "Because obviously I'll write for you."
"Yeah, just I don't mean me. I'm not thinking about me, here." Josh's eyes were flashing mischief, and his lips were pursed in a grin. "I've had this idea, and now I have these words in my head. I keep writing them down—"
Sam felt his heart stop. "What words?"
"—on everything, everywhere." Josh was fumbling in his pants pocket now. "Post-it notes, scraps of paper—"
" Josh— "
"—bathroom walls. For a good time, call..." Josh pulled a crumpled cocktail napkin out of his pocket, then grabbed Sam's hand, yanked it upward, and slapped the napkin into his palm.
Sam wondered how long a person could go without his heart beating. Josh was still holding Sam's hand between both of his, the napkin mashed in between. Sam's throat tightened, and he held Josh's eyes. "What does it say?"
Josh raised an eyebrow at him. "It says 'Sam Seaborn's a goober'—what do you think it says?"
"Goober?" Sam felt the air rush out of his lungs with a whoosh. All right, it was happening, it was really, actually happening—but it was still Josh who was asking him, and Josh was, rather comfortingly, still an asshole. "You're saying I'm a chocolate-covered peanut?"
"It's a derogatory term!"
"It's a snack food," Sam corrected. "A concession-stand item. Actually, I think goober comes from the West African n-guba, meaning peanut. Most Afro-English words are food words, did you know that? Like gumbo and okra and yam—"
"You're ready to be President," Josh interrupted, and pulled his hands away.
Sam looked down at the napkin in his palm. It said, Seaborn For America.
"Good book, isn't it?" Sam said finally, still staring down at the napkin; his voice was strangely hoarse to his own ears. "The President's autobiography?"
"Didn't read it yet," Josh admitted. "Too much Latin. I read Leo's, though. He tells the napkin story somewhere in the fourth chapter. Which was just as well, because I really needed help with the slogan."
Sam nodded slowly, then looked up. Josh's voice was casual, but his eyes were searching Sam's face intently, and Sam realized that Josh was giving him time to collect himself.
"Seaborn for America," Josh mused. "It's a classic, plus it'll remind people of your connection to the President."
"Yeah," Sam managed.
"Left to my own devices, I'd probably have called the campaign something like Seaborn To Run or Seaborn in the U.S.A.—"
"Well, thank God for Leo, then."
"Or maybe..." Josh played a couple of licks of air guitar. "'Seaborn To Be Wiiiiiiiiiiild."
"Please stop now."
"Okay." Josh let his arms drop back to his sides. "We'll hire Toby for that stuff."
"Yeah. I think we'd better," Sam said.
"And we should call C.J. Or she'll—you know, kill us dead."
Josh was grinning at him crookedly now. "You okay in there?"
"Yeah." And really, he was okay, just—overwhelmed with the significance of the moment, the utter banality of Josh. He realized that the whole bit about "Born To Be Wild" would probably have to appear in his autobiography.
Josh was suddenly very close to him, hands on his shoulders, strong fingers digging into the muscles of his arms. "We're gonna win, you know. And you're gonna be good. You're gonna be fuckin' brilliant," and then Sam had a warm armful of Josh. He smelled spicy, like expensive aftershave, or maybe expensive whiskey.
"We're gonna be brilliant," Sam murmured.
"Yeah," Josh replied, hugging him hard. "We're gonna rock the house, you and me. Eight more years—the big ones, the best ones yet, Sam. You're gonna be the President of the United States." Josh's lips were mashed against Sam's ear, and his voice went suddenly low and dangerous. "It's better than sex, isn't it?"
Sam jerked his head back so he could glare at him.
"Aw, come on!" Josh yelled, flinging his arms up into the air. "I'm gonna make you the friggin' President of the United States!"
"Shh!" Sam hissed.
"Yeah, cause the bear'll get me," Josh said irritably.
"Not. In. The Governor's office," Sam chided, still glaring.
Josh was now muttering to himself. "It's only another eight years. What's another eight years?"
Sam sighed. "Let's just table that question, all right?"
"Yeah. Okay. Table the question. Look, let's get lunch." Josh swiped his raincoat off the sofa. "You guys got hot dogs out here?"
"We have hot dogs."
"I'll buy you a hot dog," Josh said.
"Okay." Sam went over to his desk and depressed the intercom button. "Julie? Cancel my afternoon schedule, will you?"
Josh was waiting for him by the door. "You know, Leo says that by time you can, you don't want to anymore."
"Great." Sam rolled his eyes. "That's very reassuring."
"Yeah—or not," Josh said; but he was smirking again as he pulled the door open.
Sam paused beside him before walking through the door. "You know, Leo doesn't know everything," Sam said, ignoring Josh's theatrically-mimed heart attack. "He doesn't, Josh. Besides," Sam added, dropping his voice low. "It's a different world now."
Josh stared at him. "You think?"
"Huh," Josh mused, as Sam walked out past him. "Yeah. I think I heard something about that on CNN."
Sam grabbed his coat off the hook. "We don't follow CNN. They follow us."
"Ha!" Josh gleefully jammed his hands into his pockets. "You are so ready to be President..." and Sam put on his coat, waved goodbye to Julia, and walked out with Josh into the bright Sacramento sunlight.