SUMMARY: At a time of national turmoil, the lives of four boys become connected as each struggles to accept his sexuality and to address the challenges he faces in life. To the extent the boys succeed in coming to grips with those challenges, it may be in ways that prove surprising or troubling. This story is also being published on my blog and you can find a longer synopsis there. While some events, locations and features in the story have been moved forward or back in time for dramatic and other purposes, it takes place during an era when prejudice against homosexuals is rampant and the gay revolution in America is still in its infancy. Italics are typically used within the story to indicate what a character is thinking or saying to himself. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.
WARNING: Sex is not the primary focus of this story. If you're looking for erotic content, you'll do much better with other stories on Nifty. While sexual content is secondary and incidental, the story does include some scenes that depict sex and violence, sometimes graphically depending upon the characters and circumstances involved. For that reason, the story is intended for mature audiences only. If you do not wish to read such material or it is illegal for you to do so, please look elsewhere. The story remains the property of the author and may not be reproduced in any form without written permission. It is protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. You may download a single copy to read offline and to share with others as long as you credit me as the author, but you may not use this work for commercial purposes. You may not use any of the characters, bars or other fictional locations described in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Nor may you use, alter, transform, or build upon this story in any way.
AUTHOR NOTES: This is my first effort at writing a story. As a general rule, I only plan to publish one chapter a week, usually on Thursdays. The latest chapter will always be posted on my blog before being published here. You may want to bookmark the location of my blog in the event you cannot find the story here at some point in the future and you wish to continue reading it: https://cafepalermoannex.wordpress.com. The story shifts back to Nolan and Josh for one chapter. Then, as we begin moving toward the conclusion, the next three chapters will build off of this one. Hopefully you've refreshed your memory by taking another look at Chapter 43 or at least at the summary of Chapter 43 you can find here. As always, comments and constructive criticism are welcome. Flames will be ignored. If you would like to let me know what you think, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading the story. I hope you enjoy it.
THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER: In Chapter 46, Andy and Tommy spend a final day at the beach, then pack and begin the drive back to Washington. Responding to something Andy had mentioned the previous evening, Tommy asks whether there is anything he can do to help Andy deal with his problems. At first Andy tries to brush him off, but eventually he opens up by sharing some memories of his childhood in Steeple City. A reasonably happy childhood is followed by a more traumatic adolescence, one in which Andy becomes more withdrawn and isolated. Taught that sex is a sin by the Church and lacking the most basic knowledge about sex, Andy is also frustrated. One summer afternoon, while walking home through the woods from the lake where he has been swimming, he runs into a popular older boy named Russell who plays on his school's basketball team. Russell shows Andy the cover of a magazine featuring two good looking boys and promises to show him more if Andy will go for a walk with him. Andy follows him deeper into the woods. True to his word, Russell shows Andy the magazine which contains pictures of the two boys kissing and having sex. After that Andy and Russell end up stripping their clothes off and mimicking what they've seen in the magazine. Andy enjoys doing that, at least until the very last moments when Russell tells him that he wants Andy to be his new girlfriend. Confused, Andy resists and Russell suddenly turns nasty. Andy decides to leave, only to be taunted by Russell for being a girl. Andy regrets telling Tommy the story, thinking it may cause Tommy to break up with him. Tommy tries his best to reassure Andy he is masculine, using his own ideas and experience, some of what Andy has taught him, and a bit of humor to try to ease Andy's fears. Asked whether he would go to California with Tommy, Andy says yes. But Tommy indicates he plans on remaining in Washington. The two go back to Andy's place in Takoma Park for the evening where they end up just cuddling.
Part IV - Virtues and Vices, Public and Private
Time seemed to pass rapidly after that. By now June and July had come and gone and we were into August. After turning the files, photos, and videos over to Andy, I had debated whether to call Harlen. Part of me wanted to let him know what I had done. But another part thought maybe it would be better to just let him find out on his own. The whole thing was a mess, that’s for sure. In the end, the cowardly part of me won out. I decided against calling Harlen and turned my attention elsewhere.
Josh had been right. There was a case to be made against the McPherson amendment, but no one was making it effectively. It seemed to me our little shop at the DNC could be doing more and I remember thinking maybe Harlen would be impressed if we did.
It had taken longer than expected, but we were finally up and running on all four cylinders. Our shop was churning out lots of paper opposing the McPherson amendment; not as much as the supporters of the amendment, but more than the Pentagon or even the White House for that matter. And our stuff was better.
While I understood the paper we were producing was probably not going to make that big a difference, I was proud of our shop. Using a list I had wrangled from my boss, Mr. Thomas, I had started visiting some of the Congressional offices where the members were undecided to make the case against the amendment in person. I passed along what I learned to Mr. Thomas because he knew Harlen liked me and I was sure he would let Harlen know what I had discovered from my meetings with staff on the Hill.
It didn’t help that things were going badly in Burkistan. A deceptive lull was followed by intensified fighting, but the fighting didn’t change very much on the ground. As with a lot of wars, it was the civilians who were bearing the blunt of the killing and somehow that bothered me more than it had in the past.
At times the whole thing seemed totally senseless, but I tried to remind myself I wasn’t the President. She knew a lot more about what was going on than I did and needed whatever help I could provide making her case. Whatever doubts I had, I managed to suppress them and continued doing my best to make the strongest case we could for the war and for giving the President the flexibility she needed.
I was hoping that would count for something with Harlen and by then I had convinced myself it would. I only began to worry again when my secretary informed me Harlen was going to be up on the Hill later in the week and was wondering whether the two of us could have lunch at The Monocle, on the Senate side. Since I didn’t really have much choice in the matter, I quickly agreed.
Lunch itself was pleasant enough. Harlen brought me up to speed on a lot of things going on down at the White House and then took it a step further.
“I have to tell you how impressed I’ve been with everything the DNC has been doing to help us defeat the McPherson amendment, Nolan,” he said. “I was just talking to the President this morning and she even mentioned how surprised she was the Committee was doing such an outstanding job. Fabulous is the word she used and then I told her how I had detailed you there to help them get organized and how disappointed I was with our House legislative shop by comparison.”
“She was impressed, Nolan; she was quite impressed when I told her that. And then I told her about those reports you’ve been sending us from your meetings on the Hill and how helpful they’ve been in identifying the members we should be focusing on. I told her I thought you were ready for bigger things, at least once we defeat that damn amendment. She agreed. She told me I should find someplace where we could make better use of your talents, skills and abilities.”
“Um, well, thank you Mr. Lane,” I replied. “We have some excellent volunteers down here, sir, people hoping that volunteering will help them land a job in the Administration or on Capitol Hill. They deserve most of the credit.”
“You’re too modest, Nolan,” he responded. “Like I’ve told you a million times, Washington never rewards modesty. You have to toot your own horn. But I’ll let it pass for now. I understand you’re still learning and modesty isn’t the worst vice in Washington. But it’s definitely a vice, Nolan, and you need to keep that in mind.”
“And as for those volunteers,” he added, “we can talk about them some more when you’re back at the White House. I’m sure we can find places for those you think could help us the most. But keep in mind it isn’t a matter of friendship. It has to be based on their talents and what they can do for the President.”
“I understand, Mr. Lane,” I replied.
By then I was beginning to relax. We had finished eating and were enjoying coffee and dessert. I remember thinking maybe I had been worrying about things too much; and then without warning it happened.
“By the way, I ran into Bill Brennon the other day, Nolan,” Harlen said after the waitress finally placed the check on our table. “He told me he had given you some memos, pictures and videos a while back. I didn’t think very much about that at the time, of course, but now that I have I’m curious. Was there anything interesting in that information he gave you?” he asked.
I had thought about what I would say if he asked, but sitting there across the table from him made the whole thing seem even more daunting. I had never recognized it before, but Harlen was one of the most intimidating people I had ever met. He made my parents seem like pussy cats by comparison.
“Not really,” I responded. “I mean, it was mostly just speculation and gossip and I suppose some people would find some of that interesting. But it was all very circumstantial. Nothing Mr. Brennon gave me would ever hold up in a court of law,” I continued, trying my best to come across as calm and relaxed.
“Really,” Harlen replied. “That’s interesting, very interesting. But as you well know, Nolan, Washington operates in another court mostly, the court of public opinion. What was the name of that tennis player fellow? Oh, Lord, I can’t recall right now. My memory just gets worse and worse every day. I’ve completely forgotten his name. But whatever it was, I recall him saying that perception is everything. Don’t you agree?”
“No, not really,” I replied, staring down at my feet. “I’m not sure I agree with that at all. And the truth is the whole thing wouldn’t have been very clean in any event. Sure, the chances of anyone tracing it to the White House or the DNC were slim. But everyone would have known who was behind it and that would have tarnished the President’s reputation around town; at least that’s what I thought.”
“Understood, son,” Harlen responded. “And it’s a good point, a very good point. It reinforces my assessment of your talents, Nolan; it really does. But losing on the McPherson amendment when it finally comes to a vote would tarnish her reputation a whole lot more.”
“Like I’ve told you before, Washington is about winning and losing; and right now, if I was betting, I would bet we’re going to lose on that damn amendment in spite of everything we’ve done so far. So, yes, I understand it isn’t politically clean. But we don’t really have very much choice, do we, son?”
There was no way I was going to spend the next twenty minutes playing the kind of cat and mouse games Harlen loved playing. I had taken my best shot at convincing him it wouldn’t have been smart politically to release the information. Now it was decision time. I didn’t have many cards left to play so I played the only one I could think of.
“Well, you’re right about that, Mr. Lane,” I responded. “We really don’t have very much choice at all because I burned it, sir, all of it; the memos, the pictures, and the videos,” I added, lying.
“To me, none of it was relevant to the McPherson amendment and none of it really indicated anyone supporting the amendment was doing something wrong. Like I said, it was mostly just speculation and I thought it was best to get rid of it. ”
His face blank, Harlen just stared at me without revealing any emotion. It was impossible to tell what the man was thinking, but I was pretty certain it wasn’t going to be anything good for me.
“I’m not really sure that was your decision to make, Nolan,” he finally replied, “destroying those documents like that.”
“I thought it was, sir,” I interjected quickly.
I had never, ever, interrupted Harlen before.
“You told me to use my best judgment when you detailed me up here to the DNC; that it was my decision to make. So I did.”
Harlen took another long look at me, the kind that would have intimidated me in the past. But I was tired of all his games by then and determined to stand my ground.
“If you were uncomfortable with this, son, you should have told me,” he finally replied. “I could have assigned someone else to the task. But now it’s pretty late in the game, Nolan, pretty late indeed. The Democratic leadership is going to bring up the defense appropriations bill sometime after the Labor Day recess and we still don’t have the votes to defeat the McPherson amendment. But now it’s August and no one is paying any attention to the news in this town.”
“It’s the time of year when people just don’t give a damn about anything at all. Everyone is trying to get away and relax, and a story in the Post isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. I’m not sure anything would make much of a difference right now. Why you could probably rob a bank and tell everyone the President made you to do it and no one would give a damn. Do that in June or July and your ass would be in jail as quick as could be and there would be a dozen congressional investigations under way to boot.”
“I really don’t know about that, sir,” I replied. “But there’s still plenty of time and personally I think we can win this fight the old fashioned way, on the merits. I don’t kid myself. I know our efforts over here at the DNC are probably not going to make very much difference, but I also know you’ve turned around three votes so far. I’m sure you and the President can turn around even more.”
“We already have, Nolan,” he replied, “Congressman Peters and Jenkins. You can add them to your list, son. But that’s not the point. The point is this would be a hell of a lot easier if the other side was less well organized and tenacious, and they would be a hell of a lot less organized if McPherson’s aide was on the sidelines right about now.”
“I’m disappointed, Nolan, terribly disappointed. There’s still time to turn this around, I suppose; rumors spread quickly in Washington, especially after Labor Day when the press is back from vacation and looking to be fed. But it’ll be harder now, much harder, no doubt about it.”
I didn’t like the sound of that so I decided to play the only card I had left. I don’t know why. It just seemed like the right thing to do.
“I suppose you’re right about that, sir,” I responded, trying to keep my voice level and calm. “That it’ll be harder, I mean. But think how hard things would be if word ever got out that some of the President’s closest friends and supporters were trying to dig up dirt on proponents of the amendment. There might be a terrible backlash if the whole truth were ever to come out.”
I’m not sure why, but I remember feeling relieved the moment I said it. I was playing hardball with the man who invented the game; and while I didn’t expect to win, I was going to do my best to make Harlen play the game fairly with me.
Harlen looked at me again, staring deeply into my eyes. He didn’t say anything for the longest time. When he finally did, what he said didn’t really surprise me.
“I think we best bring you back over to the White House, son,” Harlen said. “With all the time and energy we’re devoting to the McPherson amendment, there are a lot of other things on the House side that are going untended. We could use you back at the White House to look after those things. I could speak to Curtis today and arrange that. Would that be okay with you, son?”
“Sure,” I replied. “I wouldn’t mind being off the McPherson amendment. I guess I need to start working on my application for law school in any event.”
“That would be a good idea, son,” Harlen responded. “You should be thinking about that. January would be a good time to start law school, I reckon, and you can be sure the President and I will give you a strong recommendation as well.”
That was pretty much the end of lunch that day and I was back at the White House the very next morning. What I wasn’t entirely sure of is whether Harlen had gotten my message about exposing the whole operation if push came to shove. He never spoke to me again after that lunch. But as each day passed and no rumors appeared in the press, my anxiety about what would happen next began to diminish, if only slowly.
The White House is a surprisingly small, self-contained, and insular community. Within its close knit environment, word travels quickly. So even though I was no longer working on the McPherson amendment, I was able to keep up with what was happening, at least from a distance.
I had always been good at chatting folks up and people felt comfortable around me because no one ever knew Harlen had lost confidence in me. He didn’t like advertising his mistakes so the whole thing had been seamless. Everyone was friendly enough and welcomed me back to the community.
Josh and I talked a lot about our future after that; and even though he said he would follow me to Harvard Law if that’s where I wanted to go, I knew he loved his teaching job a lot and both of us liked living in Washington as well. After thinking about it a couple of weeks, I decided to apply locally. The three schools I chose were American, Georgetown, and George Washington.
In terms of law school, I knew the biggest problem I faced was my father. The first thing he wanted to know was why I was planning to leave the Clay administration after only serving a year. I couldn’t tell him the truth, of course, but what I told him was true enough. I said I had been thinking about the war a lot and no longer supported the President’s position.
“Look, Nolan,” he said, and I could tell from his voice he was exasperated with me. “If you refuse to serve in any administration because you disagree with its position on one thing or another, you’ll never get very far in politics. There’s never a perfect administration. You’re going to disagree with any administration you serve in on some issue or another.”
“I know Dad,” I replied. “But you know perfectly well not all issues are created equal either. The war is a defining issue for a lot of people these days, including me. I don’t question the President’s motives, but I disagree with her position.”
“My job is to lobby members of Congress for her positions,” I continued. “I just can’t do that when it comes to the war. It’s a matter of conscience and I can’t lobby effectively for her if I disagree. This McPherson amendment is absorbing all the time in our office. They’ve pulled me off working the amendment because of how I feel, and that’s fine with me. But I just don’t feel comfortable in the job anymore.”
It was a big disappointment to him, of course, but I think my father was willing to concede that part of it. He fought a lot harder about my decision to forego Harvard Law.
“None of those schools you mentioned are anywhere near as good as Harvard, Nolan,” he argued. “Both of us know that.”
“Maybe not, Dad,” I responded, “but they’re in Washington and both Josh and I like it here. And Josh really likes his job too.”
“He teaches in a public school for crying out loud,” my Dad replied, exasperated again. “There are public schools everywhere in America and ones that are a lot better than that one in the ghetto he teaches at. Everyone knows Washington has terrible public schools. I can’t imagine why anyone with half a brain would want to teach there.”
My father had never entirely warmed up to Josh after the two of us came out. He was convinced Josh had seduced me somehow even though I had told him a gazillion times the truth was the exact opposite. But it was a lot easier for him to dislike Josh than his own son.
Even after six years together, my father couldn’t quite bring himself to admit I was gay. Everything bad that happened was because of Josh and by now I was getting annoyed with his attitude.
“Look, Dad,” I said, trying to remain calm. “The reason Josh likes the job is precisely because of the challenges involved in teaching poorer kids trapped in a bad educational environment. That’s what makes it interesting for him. And by the way, Dad, I resent that last remark. Josh has a lot more than half a brain. We make these decisions jointly and this is what both of us want to do.”
He didn’t like it and I can’t imagine my mother did either. But the two of them weren’t running my life any more. Josh and I were finally the ones making the decisions that affected the two of us. Even knowing that, it wasn’t an easy decision.
We knew we would have to move into a cheaper apartment and money would be tight while I was attending school. I was banking as much of my salary as I could while it lasted and Josh became even more frugal as well, which was kind of hard to believe given how frugal the guy already was.
Like I said, back at work I was still in the loop so I was able to see just how hard the White House was twisting arms on the McPherson amendment. The amount of misinformation and outright lies being put out every day by our press operation was astounding. I wondered how the guys who worked in that shop could look in the mirror every morning.
Intellectually, I had given up opposing the McPherson amendment weeks ago. But what I was seeing now turned my stomach. It was a side of Washington I hadn’t seen before, a desperation to win no matter what, a willingness to do anything to advance the agenda of the President. It was wrong and it had been growing more and more frenetic the closer Labor Day approached.
I wanted to do something about it, but it took me a while to come up with the idea and then to get comfortable with it.
It was the Wednesday before Labor Day and Washington was dead. Even Harlen had skipped off to Nantucket with the President for a long weekend to escape the heat and humidity. The only person still in town working the issue as hard as ever was Andy Blanchard.
At first I just kind of laughed. The guy never seemed to sleep. But the more I followed his efforts, the more I came to admire him for what he was doing. Unlike most people I had met in Washington, he actually seemed to believe in something more than just advancing his own career or tooting his own horn.
I left the office a little earlier that day and picked up Josh at his school. On the way back, I stopped on the Hill and explained to him what I was about to do. Josh just smiled initially. Then he told me he agreed completely and I decided to release him from the promise he had made months earlier. I suggested he come along with me and the two of us were soon headed up to the third floor of the Rayburn building.
It was after 6:45 p.m. when the two of us got to Congressman McPherson’s office. The door was still open, but there was only an intern manning the front desk. August is one of the few months of the year when Washington fully appreciates its interns. I handed the kid my card and asked him to give it to Andy. There was no way I could have known for sure, but somehow I just knew he was there.
“Could I tell him what it’s about?” the intern intoned gravely and I remember smiling at him.
“He’ll know,” I replied.
Then the kid scurried off to deliver it and within moments Andy was standing in front of me.
He didn’t look friendly and I couldn’t blame him for that. I had been wondering whether he would come out at all or just send the kid back to tell me some lie.
“Could we talk?” I asked.
“Sure,” he responded, shrugging his shoulders, “although I’m not really sure about what.”
“Not here,” I said. “Perhaps we could go for a walk outside?”
“Okay,” he replied, “but what’s the big mystery? If you’re planning to make another pitch about the amendment, you pretty much know what I’m going to tell you.”
“I’m not going to be making that pitch again,” I responded. “But I would like to talk and privately too.”
“Would that just be the two of us?” he asked, glancing over at Josh, someone he had never met before.
“No,” I responded. “This is a friend of mine. His name is Josh. I want him to come along as well because he has something you need to hear about too.”
The three of us scurried down the stairs of the Rayburn building, went outside and started walking east up Independence toward Pennsylvania Avenue. Even at that hour, it was still much too hot. But the humidity was finally beginning to ease so the heat wasn’t as bothersome.
“Here,” I said, handing Andy the card I had prepared for him as we walked past the Longworth building toward the Library of Congress. “These are the five congressmen I know for sure the White House has secretly persuaded to oppose your amendment.”
Andy looked at me kind of strangely, then at the card, as we walked past the Cannon building.
“I’m not really surprised with four of these guys,” he responded. “I hadn’t been counting on them, to be honest. Peters does surprise me. I thought he was solid. I wonder what he’s getting in exchange.”
“This is very helpful, Nolan,” he continued. “We still have time to put some pressure on each of these guys, especially Peters. Thanks very much.”
“And here are the latest talking points the White House is using with members,” I added, handing him the papers I was carrying. “Plus an op-ed piece by former Secretary of State Kendall that will be coming out in the New York Times early next week.”
“I thought it might be helpful if you had all of this in advance. But that’s all I have for you right now. They no longer have me working the amendment so getting this kind of stuff is definitely harder these days.”
“I’m not surprised by that,” Andy said. “The White House seems to be getting more and more paranoid about leaks every day. But I have to admit I’m surprised you’re giving me all of this. The last time we talked you seemed very committed to the President. But don’t get me wrong. This is helpful, Nolan, and I do appreciate it a lot.”
“I guess you can give the credit to my friend here,” I responded, nodding at Josh. “He’s been against the war from the beginning and I guess he’s worn me down. That and just watching how desperate the White House is over this and how that’s made them willing to do just about anything to win. If you didn’t know already, you have them scared, Andy, really scared. That’s what makes them so dangerous.”
“Speaking of dangerous, I don’t suppose you know whether that information you gave me is going to be appearing in the Post one of these days, do you?” Andy inquired. “It’s not so much me I’m worried about. I’m worried about, um, well, you know, someone else,” he added, glancing over at Josh.
If only you knew, Andy, I remember thinking to myself; if only you knew. I hope you're ready because you’re going to know really soon now.
“I don’t know, Andy,” I replied, “at least I don’t know for sure. My sense from talking with Harlen Lane about all of this a couple of weeks ago is that he would do it if he thought he could get away with it untouched, but doesn’t think he can. But frankly I don’t really trust Harlen, to be honest. He would sell his dead mother to the devil if he thought that would help defeat the amendment. He hates losing. I guess that’s why he never does.”
“The only thing I can tell you for sure is Harlen knows they won’t be able to keep it away from the White House if it does ever come out; that I’ll tell everything I know about it if any of it ever surfaces. I’m not an expert when it comes to hardball, but I don’t think Harlen wants the White House linked to all of this.”
“Thanks,” Andy replied, and I could see a certain tenseness draining from his face. “I appreciate that. It means a lot to me; um, and, well, to my friend too.”
“There’s something else you should know, Andy,” I said, taking a deep breath. “Josh is more than just a friend of mine. He’s my boyfriend and you and he share an acquaintance in common.”
“Oh, yeah, who would that be?” Andy replied, trying not to act surprised at what I had just told him about Josh and me. But I think he was.
“Why don’t you tell him, Josh?” I replied.
“It’s kind of a long story, Andy,” Josh said. “Perhaps it would be better if I told you over dinner. Is there some place we can go?”
“Some place we can talk discreetly,” I added, “very discreetly.”
“Sure,” Andy replied. “I know just the place.”
After we got to the restaurant and ordered, Josh talked to Andy for more than 60 minutes, going back to the very beginning and filling him in on the whole story. When he was done, Andy just sat there, totally confused and stunned. It was as if he couldn’t believe what he had heard and yet somehow knew it was true.
“He’s never mentioned any of this to me,” Andy said, “or to any of his other friends as far as I know. I mean, yeah, he did let it slip recently he had run away from Vermont; and now that I think about it, he did mention someone named Josh. That’s all he’s ever said to me though. He’s been keeping all of it bottled up inside himself for years. It’s just hard to believe.”
“I know how much all of this must come as a shock,” Josh replied. “And I also know it’ll be a shock for Tommy when you tell him. But I really would like to talk to Tommy some time,” he added; “if he wants to talk to me, of course. I really hope he does. But, if he doesn’t, I’ll understand that too. But I really feel such a strong need to talk to him, to find out everything that happened to him while Nolan and I were at Williams.”
“Wait a second,” Andy suddenly asked, “the two of you guys went to Williams?”
“Yes,” Josh replied. “Why do you ask? Did you go there too?”
“Oh, no reason, really,” Andy replied. “I didn’t go to school there. But I was born and raised in North Adams and I have a friend who teaches at Williams. His name is Sam Jeffords. Did you ever bump into him when you were there? He’s a really smart guy. We went to Harvard together.”
“Oh, I don’t know, maybe I ran into him once or twice,” Josh replied, laughing. “I mean, I think I took just about every course the guy offered during our four years at Williams.”
“Do you happen to know if he’s, um, well, I mean” Josh stammered, flustered.
“Gay?” Andy replied, finishing the question.
“Not that I know of; but our thinking was so totally in sync back at Harvard I don’t think either one of us ever thought about anything other than trying to rape each other’s minds.”
“Speaking of North Adams,” I interjected, smirking, “I’ve got a sudden craving for, um, well, never mind about that. But do you know Jack’s, Andy?”
“Sure, Nolan,” Andy responded. “Everyone knows Jack’s. I never did like their hot dogs and hamburgs that much; too greasy for me. But we can talk about that some other time I suppose.”
“As far as wanting to see Tommy,” he continued, “I can understand that. But, like you said, this is going to be a big shock for him, Josh, to find out I know all about this and to find out you’re living in Washington and know all about him. I need to think about the best way of raising this with him. I don’t want to just go see him tonight and dump this on him out of the blue.”
“Of course,” Josh replied. “I understand. You know him better than either Nolan or I do. I want you to think about it. Take your time.”
“Do you have a telephone number he could call if he’s open to seeing you again?” Andy asked. “Not that I know he will be. I don’t know what I would do under the circumstances; let alone what Tommy will do. But who knows? Maybe he’ll want to talk to you.”
Josh gave him our number. Then the three of us left and walked back to the Rayburn building.
When we got there, Andy turned and looked at us.
“Even if Tommy decides not to call, I’ll get back to you one way or the other as soon as I can,” he said. “It probably won’t be as soon as you would like. But one of us will get back to you for sure. I promise.”
“Thanks,” Josh said.
“I have one other question for you, Nolan,” Andy continued. “Why did you decide not to release those documents to the press? Like I told you at the time, I don’t think they would have made as much difference as people at the White House seem to think. The amendment is a lot bigger than any one person like Congressman McPherson or me. That information might have made some difference, I suppose, but I doubt it would have changed a single vote.”
“Is there some reason you decided to back off?”
“It would have been wrong,” I replied, quickly. “My conscience was bothering me. Josh made sure of that. I guess I’m just not cut out to play hardball in Washington.”
“Well, I never did thank you for not releasing that stuff,” he said. “And I still wake up every morning wondering whether I’ll be seeing something about it in the Post and the effect that’ll have. Not so much for me,” he continued. “I’ll be okay. I’m a survivor. But I worry about the effect it would have on Tommy. In any event, thanks. I appreciate what you did, no matter what happens.”
“It may still turn up, I suppose,” I replied. “If it does, like I said, I’ll tell the press what I know. I think Harlen knows I’m not kidding about that. But I really don’t have a clue how it will all play out. I don’t understand this town. Sometimes I wonder whether I ever will.”
“You will,” Andy reassured me; “eventually. It takes time, but everyone who wants to understand it eventually does. The problem isn’t understanding how Washington works. It’s how you behave once you do. To me and some others around here, it’s simple really. Just do what you believe is right. Everything else will take care of itself. But not everyone believes that, of course. I’m glad you’re one of the people who does, Nolan.”
We shook hands and parted. I watched while Andy headed back up the stairs and disappeared into the building. I knew his commitment to ending the war would make him go back to his office that evening and that he would probably stay late as well.
Josh and I drove back to our place in Friendship Heights and made passionate love that night.
I remember hoping Tommy and Andy were doing the same thing.