Title: Thinking of Cookies
Author: Mary M(firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: The staff tries to deal with Mrs. Landingham’s death
Note: Set during “Two Cathedrals”
Feedback: Always appreciated.
Tuesday morning. Sam walks into Josh’s office.
“Hey, Josh, what time---“ he stops in his tracks. “What are you eating?”
“Uh, a cookie?“ says Josh, confused by Sam’s accusatory tone.
Josh stammers, “You know.”
“Not from Mrs. Landingham’s desk. Tell me not from her desk!” Sam is clearly getting agitated now.
Josh shrugs, “Yeah. What’s the big deal?”
“What’s the big deal? You grab a cookie off Mrs. Landingham’s desk, something you’d never think of doing when she was alive, and you ask what the big deal is?” Sam leans forward on Josh’s desk. “I’ll tell you what the big deal is. She’s gone, Josh. The woman we saw every day for the past 4 years is gone. The only thing left, the only tangible evidence of her existence are those cookies. And you just snatch them up like nothing!”
Josh stands up. “Sam, relax. It’s just a cookie.”
“No, it’s not just a cookie, Josh, and if you can’t see that, maybe you’re more selfish than I thought.” Sam turns and storms out.
A few hours later. Josh hangs sheepishly outside his door. Seeing Donna typing at her desk, he blurts out:
“Sam’s still mad at me.”
“Yeah he’s mad. You took a cookie,” Donna defends.
“Why is that such a big deal? I’m standing next to the desk, I see the jar and I think ‘Gee, those look good, maybe I’ll have one.’ I wasn’t expecting an inquisition, here.”
Donna stops typing and looks up. “Josh, don’t you get it? They’re not JUST cookies. They’re…they’re HER,” she says, choking up. “That cookie jar has been on that desk for years. Every day. Mrs. Landingham was a constant in that office. The two things you could always count on were that Mrs. Landingham would always be there and that there would be cookies in that jar. Now she’s gone and all we have left are her cookies. And you just grab them up like…” Donna starts to choke up.
Josh offers Donna a handkerchief. “A bunch of cookies. That’s a pretty sorry legacy, don’t you think?”
“That’s not funny.”
“It’s not meant to be. Mrs. Landingham was a great lady. She was the best. “
Donna smiles, “She was amazing.”
“Yes, she was. But she’s gone now. It’s not fair, I know. But she’s gone and all we have left are memories. Memories of how she didn’t like swearing in the Oval Office. How she thought Sam’s smiley face tie was totally inappropriate for the White House.”
Josh bends down to face Donna, “You know the best way to mourn Mrs. Landingham, Donna? Remember her. Remember what she did and how she made you feel. Just don’t reduce her life to a jar full of cookies. She was more than that.”
Tuesday before noon. C.J. walks into Toby office to discuss the President’s upcoming speech.
“Toby, what are you doing?” she asks, shocked to see him with a few cookies on his desk.
“What?” Toby asks, while munching.
“Are you crazy? What if Sam walked in? You know how he feels about stealing cookies off the desk.”
Toby shrugs, his mouth still full, “Ginger gave them to me. I think Margaret’s passing them out so they don’t go stale. ”
CJ sits down. “Well, she better hope Sam doesn’t catch her.”
Toby leans forward, “C.J., what do you see here?”
“Uh, a cookie?”
“Know what I see? I see a woman who liked traditional things. I mean, hundreds of different kinds of cookies and she made chocolate chip. A conventional choice, some may even call it unimaginative. But this woman stuck to the basics. She could have experimented and come out with wild cookies. But she stayed with a classic. She stayed with what she knew everyone liked and what worked.”
“She was practical, “ C.J smiles, seeing what Toby is getting at.
“Yet fun. Otherwise the cookies wouldn’t exist in the first place. You know what else we can tell? Since these are homemade cookies we know that this woman was compassionate. She gave hours of her free time just so others could have some enjoyment. This woman was a giver.”
“But you had to earn it. Mrs. Landingham just didn’t give cookies to anyone, you know.”
Toby smiles at the irony. “Yes, I’m aware of that, thank you. Now I ask you, what would this practical, compassionate woman want you to do? Would she want you to pack these cookies away and let them crumble into nothing? Or would she want you to enjoy them in the spirit in which they were made?”
CJ smiles sweetly, “Toby, shut up and give me a cookie.”
Not long after. CJ walks into Sam’s office
“Hey, Spanky. How’ya doing?” CJ asked seeing Sam working at his desk.
“Fine. And don’t call me Spanky,” Sam says, barely looking up.
“Sorry. So how are you?”
Sam suddenly looks up, “How am I? I’m mad, OK? I’m mad that the people in this building are hovering over Mrs. Landingham’s desk like a bunch of vultures. But heaven forbid I say anything because that would make ME the bad guy.” He leans back on his chair and sulks, “This really stinks.”
C.J. gets quiet, “You’re right, it does. I was just down at the office talking to Charlie and I saw her desk. It was weird. It was like I half expected her to be there. I remember thinking ‘ She can’t be gone. It’s just impossible.’ She was one of those people you expected to always be around, you know? I mean, I know that’s not realistic, but you never think that something will ever happen. The thought of never seeing her again, ever; it’s just unbelievable.”
“I know.” Sam pauses. “You think I’m being stupid about the cookies, don’t you?”
“No. Nobody thinks you’re stupid.”
”It just hurts. I mean you’re right, you don’t think. You just go through your day expecting everything to be fine and than ‘bam!’ something like this happens. You don’t consider how much someone touches your life until they’re gone.”
“I know.” CJ stands up, “Well, I guess I better go because unfortunately life doesn’t stand still just because we want it to.” Turns to leave.
“No problem, Spanky.”
Wednesday morning. Josh walks into Leo’s office.
“Margaret, is Leo in?”
“He’s in a meeting with the Democratic...”
“Oh, yeah. I’ll talk to him later then,” Josh turns to leave.
"Uh, I hate to bother you, but have you heard anything from Ms. Hampton?"
"Mandy? No, last I heard she was working for Senator, uh,
What-his-name, the Republican on the Hill. I think. Why?"
"Well, it's just that the President has received condolences from
practically every political operative, Democrat and Republican
"And, Ms. Hampton has yet to send a card. I mean I realize she may be busy, but
she worked in this building for over a year. She helped on the
President's campaign. Common decency would dictate that she send
a card, flowers, a telegram, something to acknowledge Mrs. Landingham's
Josh rubs his temple as if he has a headache coming on. "Margaret, I'm sorry. I really can't deal with this right now. You're right, what Mandy did was definitely rude and next time I see her I'll call her on it, but right now there's too much going on. What with the
Tobacco thing, the President’s speech, Sam's being mad at me..."
"You're right. You're right. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have bothered you
about this. It just really hurts that the former Media Director of this administration can't be bothered to even send a sympathy card. Like none of us matter to her."
"I know. But that's Mandy Hampton. I promise you the next time I see
her, I'll read her the riot act. Just not right now. Okay?"
Margaret smiles, “All right. Thank you."
Josh turns to go, "Oh, Margaret. I know how close you and Mrs.
Landingham were. I'm really sorry."
" I know."
Hours later. Leo walks up the steps to the White House. He sees Josh at the head of the steps.
“Josh? Is something wrong?” Leo asks with concern.
Josh, caught daydreaming, snaps out of it, “What? Oh, no. I just needed to get some air, that’s all.”
“Oh, okay,” Leo starts to walk toward the door.
“It’s a beautiful day for a funeral,” Josh says.
Leo stops, “What?”
Josh turns to face him, “My grandfather used to say that. He used to say that days like this made him feel like God was smiling down and telling him that everything was all right; the dead were at peace.” Josh shakes his head, “I know-- it sounds nuts.”
”No. It’s a nice sentiment.”
“Leo, do think I was a jerk for taking the cookie?”
“Oh, God. Josh…” Leo rolls his eyes.
“You know, because I didn’t mean any disrespect. I just…I don’t know…there was a lot going on that morning what with meetings and the President’s thing and I was hungry and I really wasn’t thinking…”
Leo puts a hand on Josh’s shoulder, “Josh, relax, no one blames you.”
“No, Sam’s upset about the President and Mrs. Landingham. You just gave him an excuse to blow off steam.”
“Listen, did Mrs. Landingham ever deny you a cookie?” Then quickly adds when Josh opens his mouth, “When you were worthy of one?”
“And did you do anything that morning that would warrant you not being offered a cookie?”
Josh laughs quietly, “No, the day had just started.”
“Alright then. Now, we have a lot of work to do today, so lets get to it.”
A few hours later. Leo exits his office.
“Okay, Margaret, I’ll be in with the President. Come get us when the motorcade is ready.”
“Leo, about that… I think I should stay here today.”
“What? Margaret, don’t be ridiculous, you’re coming with us.”
“Leo, I really think I should stay. I mean, somebody has to be here and hold down the fort.”
“We have people doing that. Trust me, you can come to the church with us.”
“No, Leo, I can’t. I have to stay here. She’d want us to carry on. She wouldn’t approve of us deserting the building, not when there’s all this work to be done…” her voice cracks.
“Margaret, listen to me. I know you cared about Mrs. Landingham…”
“This office meant everything to her.”
“No, the people in this office meant everything to her; there’s a difference. Mrs. Landingham cared about everyone in this office. She wanted us to live up to our highest potential. She’d want our lives to go on; she’d want us to carry on in the grand tradition of this administration.”
“That’s what I’m trying to do, Leo.”
“No, you’re hiding. Mrs. Landingham was a part of this administration since day one. She was a constant, an anchor. Well, she’s gone now, and in order for this administration to function without her, we have to say goodbye. All of us.”
“I just want to do right by her.”
“I know. Margaret, Mrs. Landingham thought highly of you. I think she’d want you to say goodbye to her. Don’t worry about the office. It doesn’t matter. All that matters today is saying goodbye to a dear friend. Everything else can wait.”
Late Wednesday afternoon, after the funeral. Josh enters Sam’s office and sees Sam staring out the window.
“Hey”, says Sam without looking up.
A long pause, “They’re gone. The cookies. They’re all gone.”
“ I just don’t know…I kept thinking that if the cookies were left alone, then she wouldn’t be gone. I know it’s stupid, but as...as long as there were cookies in that jar everything was OK. Now there’s nothing left of her.”
Josh steps towards the desk, “Except our memories. That’s what we need to hold on to. The cookies are nothing, Sam. It’s how she lived that counts. It’s the idea behind the cookies, not the cookies themselves. Mrs. Landingham touched the life of everyone in this building, That’s her legacy. Not a bunch of cookies that would have been stale by the end of the month.”
Sam faces Josh and chuckles weakly, “Wanna hear something silly? I never got a cookie. The last batch of cookies that she ever made and I just turned my nose up at them. Practically every morning it was ‘Have a cookie, Sam’ and now I’ll never hear it again.” Sam looks down at his desk.
“Well, they aren’t all gone,” Josh lays something on Sam’s desk, “Have a cookie, Sam.”
In loving memory of Mrs. Delores Landingham, as well as the real men and women who have touched our lives.
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