It’s a steady soaking rain the next day. Bettina comes down the stairs to find everyone loafing around, bored. Lana put her eyedrops in and went right back to bed, she announces. Bettina sits down in Lana’s seat, and Levi sets the oatmeal he’s prepared in front of her. It’s got wild blueberries in it. Thank you, Levi. Bettina tells him.
You and I are going dress shopping today, Fabio. Sam tells him. You are buying Lana a new dress. I’ll help, Bettina volunteers. I’ll be the photographer, Simon says. Levi pulls out his Black American Express card and hands it to Sam, and walks away. Jax, you’re drafted, Bettina tells him.
Where does Lana get her dresses? Bettina bites her lips and finally breaks out laughing. We’re going to Goodwill, Sam. We are not, Sam says emphatically. That’s where Lana and I get most of our clothes. Her yellow summer midi, the one she tore, cost $10.
They come back several hours later with two shopping bags full of clothes.
The house is empty. Gone for a walk, reads a note on the fridge in Lana’s handwriting. Lana and Levi come in an hour later. We brought you some skirts and dresses, Bettina announces. I’m going to change quick, Lana tells him, then I’ll be right down.
What did you talk about? Sam asks, as Levi prepares two cans of Campbells condensed soup. She talks? Levi asks incredulously, and everyone laughs. Sam puts her hands on her hips and gives him a look. Can I help? Bettina asks. I’ve got it, Levi replies, as he adds water and puts the soup on simmer on the stovetop. He goes to the fridge and slices up some radishes, and then throws them in with his knife off the cutting board in an efficient motion. Sam puts his credit card on the cutting board and picks up the knife. Start talking, she tells him. Stepping back, Levi says, and pockets the card.
Say on, Simon says, taking up a seat at the kitchen table.
Alright, Samantha. Levi says. Her thought experiment is that you only have six months to live. Health isn’t a concern. Money isn’t an issue, but you cannot trade it for more time. And it’s just you that has an expiration date. The sun also rises after you’re gone. How would you choose to spend your last days?
I DON’T KNOW. Sam protests.
This is a variation of your lottery question, Jax tells Bettina.
What did Lana say? Bettina asks. She says the most common answers are 1. Quit my job. 2. Travel/adventure 3. Reconnect with family and friends.
Then she told me that she likes what she does and is good at it. That she is part of something bigger than herself, and gets paid to travel the country with her best friend. And that she gets to spend her days off back home with the people that she loves.
Lana comes downstairs in a dress and sits down in a chair next to Simon. Thank you all so much. I picked that one, Simon announces. You have such good taste, she tells him. Simon beams at the praise. Levi puts down a hot pad and sets a steaming bowl of clam chowder in front of her. And then gets one for himself.
You are devious, Lana. Sam tells her. I know what you’re trying to do. You are not to take a wrecking ball to the family business. Lana smiles her Mona Lisa smile as she blows on her soup to cool it.
Senator Johns called. Bettina tells her. I told him you were under doctor’s orders for active rest. He wants to know if you’d show up if he had a town hall style meeting here. Of course, Lana replies. Good, I’ll set it up then, Bettina replies. Sam, would you be willing to cover for Lana as security? She nods. The cast wants to meet Lana. Maybe I can rope a couple of them into helping me.
What did Raul say to your six month question? Sam asks Lana. I didn’t ask him. Why not? Simon questions. It’s just an alignment check. Is that a psychologist term? Jax asks. No, it’s a buzzword that I picked up from Riley. The clinical term would be congruent. So is Levi aligned? Sam asks. He’s part of something bigger than himself, Lana replies. That’s not an answer, Sam says with her eyebrows raised. I’m not going to let you wiggle your way out of this one, Lana. How about this, Sam – he will be when I’m done working on him. Everyone laughs, including Levi.
Lana grins at Simon. What? He finally says. A girl isn’t allowed to grin? She asks, and keeps smiling at him. He grins back at her. Bettina smiles at each of them. Lana sighs and finishes her soup. Thank you, Levi. Delicious. He nods. I’m feeling ignored, Jax says. Sam – I think that’s your cue to work on his neck, Lana tells her. You have such amazing hands. Sam beams at this praise and goes over and starts massaging Jax’s scalp. Levi looks between Lana and Sam.
It was my intention to be married within a fortnight, Jax admits, his head lolling as Sam works him over. We were going to live at Rolf’s house. And I’d work from a home office so I could take care of you. Lana looks at him and doesn’t say anything. What were your intentions, Lana? Jax asks her.
Kostamo made me promise not to eat my gun, Lana admits, so that was off the table. I’m so grateful to Jenny for her gift; it’s so wonderful to be able to see again.
What would you have done? Jax asks again. I don’t know, Jax. So much has happened since then. My next action item was to see if Deluca would pick me up to take me to night school. Bettina nods. That’s right - you did ask me to get ahold of him.
Have you talked to Rolf? Simon asks. Yes, Lana replies, and doesn’t say anything else. What did he say about me? Jax asks. We didn’t talk about you, Jax. I can call him back though, Lana says grinning at him, and everyone laughs. I want to do something together, Jax tells her. Lana gives Bettina a look. How about we all read a story together, Bettina announces. Levi will choose the book, Sam declares.
Saul comes back to find everyone gathered around the living room, listening to Simon read Kafka’s short story, Metamorphosis. Jax vacates his seat and goes over and sits on the floor in front of Sam, who starts massaging his scalp. Saul takes the vacated seat and listens in as Simon finishes the novella.
Dinner: Tomato soup.
So when and where is the big campaign event? Tomorrow evening at 7pm, at the town hall. I take it that you’ll be leaving after? Saul asks Lana. She nods. Bettina and I will fly back to New Orleans with the Senator. I’ll miss you, Lana. Thank you, sir.
There’s something I want you to do for me, Saul tells her. Yes, Lana says without any hesitation, now looking up at him. I want Levi to be part of your protection detail. Levi glances quickly at Saul, while Lana nods her approval. Why not me? Sam protests. You’ll draw the crazies, Saul tells her. Everyone bursts out laughing at Sam’s shocked expression. There’s a Buck Neezy that’s been leaving messages for you at the office. Something about a music video. Booty call! Bettina yells, as she holds her hands up and wiggles her bottom. Everyone laughs.
Am I allowed to go back to New Orleans with Lana and Bettina? As long as your work gets done, Saul tells her. Bond covenants don’t write themselves. I’ll need a legal team, Sam replies. I’d rather you coordinate with local counsel. New Orleans is outside of our bailiwick.
Riley and Jillian watch the livestream of the town hall event in the Hamptons as they take a break from tearing down a wall in their house. They see everyone stand up and recite the Pledge of Alliance to the Flag, led by Arnold. There’s Lana! Jillian says, and they see the camera zoom in for a close up. She’s standing near Bettina in the front row, between Jax and Simon, all with their hands over their hearts. The camera does a closeup of her face. Wow. She really looks different, Jillian says.
Everyone sits down. I’m Senator John Johns, from the great state of Louisiana. I’m running for President. Here’s how I’d like this forum to work. I’m going to make a brief opening statement, then I’ll take public policy questions...
First question. Bettina hands her microphone to an acned teenager with braces in the back row. Global warning – how would you deal with it as President?
I’d seek to increase our natural gas exports to China. Right now, they are the world’s number one polluter, burning coal from Australia to fire their power grid. I’d like to see them run on clean American natural gas instead. Simon claps with his hands over his head, and there is a smattering of applause, as the audience processes this unexpected answer.
Terry Crews hands a microphone to an older woman. Where do you stand on free healthcare for all? She asks. A couple thoughts, Senator Johns responds. First, an obvious qualifier, for all CITIZENS. Second, I’d advocate incrementalism here. I think Medicare for All would lead to queing and rationed care, not acceptable outcomes to Americans. But in principal, I do support expanding to the safety net to include catastrophic health care coverage. In practice, as President, well just like I said in my opening statement about domestic policy, I’d lead from behind on this issue, and let Congress do the heavy lifting.
Bettina hands a microphone to a college student. How would you as President seek to reduce our carbon footprint? I think we can all agree that the climate is changing. But I reject your premise of demonizing carbon. Causation is primarily due to the sun, specifically sunspot inactivity, not human endeavors. The cameras show the questioner frowning and shaking her head vehemently. Next question.
Bumperstickers start popping up everywhere: It’s the Sun, Stupid.