Political Animals
The Woman Problem

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

Anne: "I told my boss I was driving up to Santa Barbara, picking up some tile for a client. I can't tell if you are happy, or...?"

He was still young enough that it was cute; still charming enough before the disappointments that when he pulled out the E, Dougie actually thought about it. And then thought about the Woman Problem and Bud Hammond on Rachel Silverton in about eight hours and how Bud needed a babysitter, because...

Doug: "No! No, I'm not doing ecstasy with you, T.J. and neither is Anne. Okay?"

She blushed, and grinned. "Too late," she shrugged, with T.J. wiggling around behind her. Anne loved T.J., once. Doug sighed and nearly laughed.

Doug: "How long's it last?"

Four? Maybe five hours? Plenty of time. They began to blur. The future stopped coming. T.J. kissed a boy and then a girl: Made them kiss each other. Pictures in a magazine. Anne and Doug made love, made everything into love and he nearly wept with the beauty of it. You could feel like this all the time; you could feel like T.J. any time you wanted. The sheer joy -- that unrelenting gratitude -- at seeing things work properly. Everything moving, like an engine working perfectly; loneliness replaced with something infinitely better. When everything was intimate and safe, wrapped in her skin -- it was like water; she wasn't just soft, she was liquid -- Doug asked Anne to marry him and she said yes.

DOUGLAS FEELS IT

Before he notices: The line jerking, out in Jubal's river. Taking even this away from T.J. by sheer chance. T.J. bungles his move, trying to help and Doug's phone goes into the river. He screams, like a child; the sky presses in on him and he screams at them.

Bud: "Son, let me show you how to tie a blood knot..."

Those, he knows. "I got it, okay? Just back off! You know what? Just forget it. The whole thing. I gotta get a new phone." He stalks away.

"Oh, Dougie," says T.J.. "Sorry, man," he says. But all he can think about is how much Doug looks like their mother sometimes.

DIANE HAS PREPARED

For what happens now, for Elaine to storm the castle, hoping to tell her what she doesn't already know. Praying to God that one time -- I don't need a goddamn babysitter -- she'll have the jump on her old mentor.

It's not that we want our parents to die, exactly. We just want to move into the house where we keep them.

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Political Animals

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