The Death of Yesterday
Manchester, NH - Election Day
What happens when you bite off more than you can chew?
Jed honestly didn't know. It had never happened to him before.
Most people would say that you have to chew it up and spit it out... Wasn't there a song lyric like that? Yeah, "My Way",
by old blue eyes himself, Frank Sinatra.
Well, he wasn't Frank, he couldn't sing, and today he couldn't even sign his own name.
The President of the United States couldn't write his own damn name. Would there come a day when he couldn't even remember
his own name? Maybe he should have voted for Ritchie.
Jed threw the folder down on the seat beside him. He would take care of it later. This would pass, just as it always had
before. Thank God that Abbey had stayed for photo ops in Manchester. She would have had him in the escort ambulance by now.
He almost smiled at the image and the thought of what it would do to Toby if he collapsed on election day. Ginger would
have to call an ambulance for him as well. He could just see the staff picking him up off the floor after...what? A stroke?
Heart attack? Apoplexy?
His head hurt terribly. He wouldn't think about it right now.
The Oval Office - Election Day
The senior staff meeting was taking too long. They were all too excited, talking too much, making his head pound. The only
thing that could have made it worse was Josh's presence and his boisterous adolescent humor. For some unknown reason, which
he did not question, Jed was being spared that.
The office finally emptied and he was alone. He felt uneasy. Had anyone noticed the trembling in his right hand? He had
tried to cover it up, picking up papers and reaching for folders with his left hand. He had refused coffee, knowing he couldn't
lift the cup without sloshing the liquid onto his hand. But they were all smart people. Maybe they had noticed...
The afternoon progressed slowly. Too slowly. This was unusual for him. He was always pumped on election day, the minutes
speeding by as he tried to watch news coverage of the returns while yelling for Leo or Josh. But today the idiotic political
commentators on TV didn't even bother him. He was just glad that they didn't know what he knew.
He would gladly trade today's victory...and he was sure it would be a victory...for another shot at yesterday. Yesterday
had been good. Yesterday he could pick up his glasses without his hand shaking. Yesterday he could sign his name. Today...today
it was all different.
Jed walked into his office to find his secretary supervising a telephone repair man. Now what?
As Debbie explained that he could now use line one to summon her to place all his calls, he began to wonder what had inspired
this change in procedure. Even if she had noticed the trembling, she surely couldn't have gotten someone to work on the telephones
this quickly. Or could she?
He tried to ask, couching his concerns in oblique terms. She said it was to have a more complete record of outgoing calls.
She would write everything down; he wouldn't have to remember whom he had called or when he had called them.
It sounded plausible. He wanted to believe her.
Yesterday he would have believed her.
Jed watched in dismay as CJ poured a drink and walked toward him. Why were she and Leo here, looking so serious? They were
still winning, weren't they? But maybe this had nothing to do with the election. Maybe they had noticed that something was
wrong and had guessed...
So they had come to him, wanting to talk. Leo would be kind because he loved him, but he would also be firm, as only befitted
his position as Chief of Staff. CJ would need to know what to tell the press. He looked at their solemn faces and knew that
they would want him to concede, to stop now before it got any worse.
"You're winning New Hampshire."
The unexpected announcement stunned him. His secret was still safe.
Taking the crystal glass from CJ, he held it steadily in his right hand. Relief washed over him as he realized the shaking
had vanished. Perhaps he didn't even have a secret.
The Victory Speech - Election Night
The headache was finally gone, sent away by innumerable Tylenol. Abbey would be livid if she knew how many he had taken.
But she would never know. Jed looked at his hand. The trembling had not returned, and, for the first time that day, he felt
good. It had just been a fleeting episode. Everything was going to be all right.
And he had won. This second victory wasn't quite as sweet as the first, marred by the doubts of the day, but it was good
all the same. And it wasn't more than he could handle.
The mood on the stage was electrifying. Abbey stood beside him and, with clasped hands raised in victory, they accepted
the cheers of the crowd. Why had he wanted to trade this for the simplicity of yesterday? This was good. It was better than
good; it was great, and he felt great as stepped up to the microphone.
Jed started to speak, his voice powerful as Toby's excellently crafted words rang out. The applause...the cheers...it was
all more than he had ever hoped for. Tonight was the pinnacle of his success.
The words began to blur on the TelePrompTer. No problem. He could remember them, or most of them. His right hand shook
a bit as he braced himself against the podium, but his memory didn't fail him. The words rolled easily off his tongue, not
betraying the sudden stab of fear he felt.
"God bless America..." He was almost done. The audience was on its feet, clapping and cheering. Victory was his. He stepped
back from the podium and raised his hands in a gesture of triumph. Then he was off the stage.
Abbey was saying something, but he wasn't really listening. He looked around and blinked quickly. His eyes were better
now, the blurring of his vision gone. Okay. Sometimes the TelePrompTers were difficult to use under the bright lights. That
was all it was...strong light, vague print and the weariness of a long day.
Why did Abbey keep asking him if wanted something to drink?
Then it became clear. A drink...to hold in his hand.
Abbey stood there telling him how she had watched him at the podium, getting ahead of the speech on the prompter. Why didn't
she just say he was losing it and get it over with? He had been uneasy all day, but he was sure this would pass. Sudden anger
flooded him. Why couldn't she just have ignored it or at least kept her comments to herself? Tomorrow would have done just
as well, and she wasn't being kind or solicitous. She had badgered him into admitting that something wasn't quite right.
Jed didn't want to admit it. He wanted the victory of today and the ignorant security of yesterday.
But yesterday had vanished beyond his reach.
The anger evaporated. Abbey was telling him that it would be harder this time, but that everyone around him would help.
It would be all right. They would be together through all the days and nights ahead, and everything would be all right.
As they followed CJ back toward the stage, he wanted to believe it.
Abbey took his right hand and held it tightly as they stood before the crowd. Her touch was calming and his hand was suddenly
rock steady in hers. He looked into her eyes and his vision was clear.
Yesterday was a memory, and, even though the future held uncertainty, there would be good times and new memories to come.
He wasn't finished yet, not by a long shot.
Abbey smiled too, but her vision wasn't clear. Her eyes shimmered, but this was no place for personal regrets. She blinked
back the tears and gripped her husband's hand as he rejoiced in his victory.
She knew that they wouldn't talk about this episode again, but it would be in their thoughts, each of them dealing with
it in their own way. Tomorrow, when she was alone, she would think and she would weep, mourning the death of yesterday.