Book Excerpt: 'Sammy's House'

I wondered if RG was bothered by the pace of his aging, whether it even crossed his mind. He blinked his tired eyes, said something I couldn't hear to Harry, and made his way to the center of the main deck. Someone clinked a spoon against a glass. Everyone quieted immediately, though I heard some scattered snickers, perhaps because RG was standing in the same spot where the stripper had begun her routine. It was almost impossible not to imagine what it would be like if he followed suit. It was a ridiculous visual, and to my horror, I suddenly found myself having to stifle my own inadvertent laughter. Against my will, I was picturing RG helicoptering his jacket around in the air and swiveling his hips as he loosened that trusty red tie. Don't start laughing, I ordered myself sternly. Even as I commanded, I knew it was a lost cause. Trying not to laugh was the one sure way to send me into hysterics, however unwilling or inappropriate. I had yet to recover from a recent incident at my great-aunt's funeral triggered by the prim preacher's involuntary burp during the homily.

I winced at the memory even as I felt insubordinate giggles rising up once again and stuffed an olive in my mouth to keep it occupied. Looking serious, RG began speaking. "For anyone visualizing me stripping, it ain't gonna happen," he deadpanned. Everyone laughed, which was a welcome release for my pent-up hilarity.

"I understand there's been some excitement this evening and I'm sure our friends on the other side are very proud of their latest stunt, but our celebration tonight is about a whole lot more than silly games," RG continued. "We were elected, and we're now here in D.C. because of a simple, real truth. The American people want more out of their public servants, and we're going to give it to them. With the extraordinary hearts and minds gathered here today, we can do anything. We're going to help this great country be even better. So on behalf of the president and myself, and the bright future we are all shaping together, I want to thank you. And I want to salute you. For your passion, your commitment, and your fantastic, important work."

I felt a swell of pride and joined the heartfelt clapping, relishing the communal thrill that raced through the crowd. We had all worked incredibly hard to put RG and Wye, and by extension ourselves, into the White House. Though it was easy to forget the greater cause in the midst of the daily grind, luckily it only seemed to take a little well-placed rhetoric to energize us anew. Particularly when it involved flattery.

I suspected that we were so easily rejuvenated because at our cores, we believed we really could change the world. I knew that this didn't make us all that fashionable or cool. Cynicism was definitely much more in vogue. But this crowd had somehow opted out of ironic detachment. For better or for worse, we cared. And so, though it occurred to me that we all might be suckers, the reality was that a year and a half after commandeering the White House, most of us still felt the blood-tingling, breath-skipping happiness of what we'd pulled off. No amount of criticism, opposition, or sabotage could take that away. At least we hoped not. "We've accomplished a lot so far, but it's only the beginning," RG continued. "We have an exciting few years ahead of us, so fill up on this shrimp dip. You're gonna need the energy."

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