Political Animals
The Woman Problem

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Jacob Clifton: A+ | Grade It Now!
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Future Starts Slow

"Ah, good boy!" Bud says. "Good boy," he says. What they call Doug, the good one, the good son -- the good twin, we'll learn -- the good boy and he's getting it right here in the river. While Doug is on his Blackberry, attending to the campaign, Bud praises him for this. For doing the opposite of working, for doing nothing. Less than nothing:

"Now take it slow," T.J.'s father tells him. "Don't rush it." He doesn't listen. Never. Not to that.

"You have to learn to unwind, Dougie," says Bud. He says, "Stress is a killer." We remember things differently.

Bud: "You know, even when I was President, I always took time to smell the roses. You remember those weekends in Camp David? The time that you boys caught that big ole rainbow trout?"
Doug: "I remember your press aide handing me a fish and snapping my picture, if that's what you mean."

Bud snarls at him, gently but with bite in it; he turns and puts his hand on T.J.'s shoulder. Not too hard and not too soft.

"That's it," he says. "Good boy."

They were never just pictures in a magazine. Not to Bud Hammond.

ANNE LOVED T.J. ONCE

It was a long time ago, before the suicide and the spiral down, before the disappointments. Back when he was still young enough that it was cute; when they were all still young enough. "Stress is a killer," he said, and beckoned her on. To surprise Dougie, a surprise party. Because we love him. Because he works so hard.

Doug was the only one his mother could trust and she'd asked him to wrangle Bud after what only the best journalists would have to have called his "Vagina Monologue," so he did his best. You could hear Bud tell him what he's about to do and why, if you listened carefully and if you knew what to listen for. Listen:

"I don't need no babysitter! Now I know you were sent down here by your Momma just because of my female anatomy incident... her numbers ain't soft, they're liquid. They're like diarrhea running down this campaign's leg. Tell you what. You give me a lift to the studio in the morning, we can talk lady-voters to your heart's delight. Good night, son."

Do you think he knew? I think he knew. T.J. wasn't the good twin even then, but he was useful. And God knows he loved his Daddy.

Doug came home to a raucous party, T.J. grinning his especially beautiful grin. The one he learned from Bud, the one that says, "You and I both know you're going to forgive me in a minute." He chuckled and leaned in, intimate, pulling off his brother's necktie -- "It's midnight!" -- and then produced, like a magician's final trick, Anne. They cavorted in front of him, giggly as children at midnight to see the shock and the pleasure in him.

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Political Animals

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