Saturday, June 11, 2005

Small Town Boys - Chapter 9

Chapter 1
Chapter 2, Part 1
Chapter 2, Part 2
Chapter 2, Part 3
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8

A Weekend at the Villa - 1992

The next afternoon Donny left work at five, skipped the gym, and drove over to Mike’s house. They had a beer on the patio, and after a perfunctory interval of idle chat, went to the bedroom. He was home by seven. Eric was in his room working on his computer and hardly acknowledged that he was there.

They got together three or four times a week. At first it was just recreational, but after the first week or so the preliminary chatting would go on longer. Afterwards they’d lie together and talk, or get dressed and sit in the kitchen snacking with Mike doing most of the talking. On Saturdays Donny stayed for dinner and they’d watch TV. Donny said nothing to anyone about it, mainly because no one asked. Eric was completely absorbed in writing software and Rob began getting ready for med school, which started in July, so even if his roommates had noticed his nocturnal habits, no one said anything.

One night in the middle of May Mike asked Donny if he’d like to go to Palm Springs for the weekend. Donny said sure. The next day he told Eric he’d be away for the weekend and got a distant “have fun.” He packed a small bag and drove over to Mike’s after work. He was waiting for him, and after parking the truck in the garage, Mike got behind the wheel of the BMW. He patted Donny on the knee and said, “Glad you could come.”

“Me too,” Donny replied.

Traffic was heavy in town, but soon they got on Interstate 10 and picked up speed. Mike was mostly silent on the drive out, except to say that they were going to The Villa

“’The Villa’?” Donny asked.

“The Villa Castelfranco di Sopra. It’s a country club. Marty belongs to it.”


“Marty Simmons, my agent. He set this weekend up.”

They arrived just before dark. The driveway was behind a large hedge on a secluded street, far away from the downtown area, protected by an iron gate. A uniformed guard stepped out of a small shack to greet them. Mike gave him their names and handed him an envelope. The guard read the letter, and asked for some photo identification. They each showed their licenses. He looked them over thoroughly, walked around the car, jotted down the license plate, and made a phone call. A few moments later the gate swung open. The guard handed back the ID’s and waved them through.

Donny was a little curious about all the security. “Welcome to Palm Springs,” was all Mike replied.

The driveway curved up in front of an Italianate two-story mansion with a red barrel tile roof and columns. The valet, a handsome young man in a vested uniform, greeted them by name, unloaded the car, and took it to the parking lot.

The front doors opened into a large marble-floored courtyard covered by a shaded glass canopy. The walls were lined with large paintings and tapestries and clusters of potted plants and palms. Ten-foot high double doors led out of the courtyard to other rooms, some lit by large chandeliers. An interior balcony ran around the second floor level. A large marble staircase climbed to the balcony. Soft music was playing from one of the rooms to the side, and Donny could hear voices and the clink of silverware.

A liveried bellboy greeted them and led them to one side of the courtyard. The registration desk was a huge and ornate desk with gold inlay on the top. Mike handed the clerk the envelope. The clerk read the note, nodded and smiled and had them sign in on the large leather-bound registry. He gave the bellboy the room key and said the dining room was serving until ten. The bellboy led them up the wide stairs, around the balcony, and down a hall past several doors and branching halls. He finally came to Room 5, opened the door, and turned on the lights.

The room was decorated in the style of the rest of the villa with ornate furniture, including a sitting area with a desk and chairs, a dining table, and French doors leading out to a balcony. The bedroom was almost as large with more antique style furniture, and the bed, with drapery swung from the high headpiece, was a king-size. The bellboy showed them where the light switches and air conditioning controls were, turned on the lights in the bathroom, and swung open the hidden doors that revealed a small but fully equipped kitchen. He asked if they needed anything. Mike said, “No, thanks,” and gave him a five. “Enjoy your stay,” said the bellboy and left.

“Whew,” said Donny, peering around the room. “It’s like a museum.”

“Yeah. Marty wasn’t kidding. It really is like a palace.”

“That was nice of him. He must really like you.”

“Well, there is a reason”


“Well, yeah,” said Mike, breaking into a big grin.


“CBS picked up the pilot.”

Donny looked puzzled. “The pilot?”

Capitol Hill. I shot it last winter. It’s an hour-long series about a bunch of people who work for a senator in Washington. Lots of drama and inside politics and sex – you know, typical TV fare. I play the assistant chief of staff. Well, we got picked up for the fall. We start production next week. And, in honor of that, Marty made a call and got me a weekend here…with the guest of my choice. Only thing is, tomorrow I have to do an interview with People magazine. You know, background and stuff for the show. But other than that, we have the whole weekend to ourselves. So, what say we go get some dinner, and then see what happens?”

The ornate dining room, steeped in golden colors and softly lit by wall sconces and candlelit tables, was about half full. The maitre d’ escorted them to a small table overlooking the large patio and swimming pool. The waiter brought their drinks and a plate of appetizers. As they munched Donny looked around. The other diners were dressed nicely and were chatting quietly. They were all ages and shapes and sizes, but they all had one thing in common. Donny nudged Mike.

“Did you notice that this place seems to be men only?”

Mike glanced around. “Well, yeah. What did you expect?”

“I don’t know…what was I supposed to expect?”

Mike chuckled. “Didn’t I tell you?”


“I thought the Val Kilmer lookalike valet and Dean Cain clone bellboy would clue you in. Castelfranco di Sopra is one of the most exclusive gay resorts in the country.”

“Gay resorts? Never heard of that.”

“Hell, they’re all over the place. You just don’t see them advertised in the mainstream press, but if you know where to look, they’re everywhere rich people go. And this place is the best.” Mike scanned the menu. “Well, since Marty is picking this up, I’m gonna have the lobster and the best wine in the place.” He picked up his scotch and soda and held it up to make a toast. “Here’s to Marty, here’s to Capitol Hill, and here’s to a great weekend with both of us in as little clothing on as possible.” They clinked their glasses and, on cue, the waiter came back and took their orders.

The next morning Donny was awakened by the smell of coffee. He sat up slowly, a little groggy from the wine with dinner. He heard china rattling in the other room and a moment later Mike came in carrying two steaming mugs of coffee. He handed Donny one and sat on the edge of the bed.

“Sleep well?”

“Yeah, how about you?”

“Like a champ. ‘Course, after what we did last night, anybody would have.”

Donny grinned. They had come back to the room after dinner and gone right to bed. They’d made passionate love, and after finding a carton of Ben and Jerry’s in the kitchen freezer, ate most of it. They went back to bed and made love again, finally falling asleep around midnight. Donny slowly drank his coffee, set the mug on the nightstand, and nudged Mike.


Donny flipped back the covers.

Afterwards they took a shower and made a breakfast of English muffins and juice. Mike went to get dressed for his People interview. “What are you going to do?” Mike said from the bathroom.

“Hang out, I guess. I’ve got that Tom Clancy book to read.”

“Why don’t you go to the pool?”

“Oh, shit,” replied Donny.


“I forgot my swim suit.”

“Who goes to Palm Springs without a swim suit?” asked Mike, brushing his teeth.

“Me,” said Donny. “I didn’t know I’d be swimming.”

“Anyway, you don’t need one. The pool and spa are ‘clothing optional.’”

“Forget that.”

Mike laughed, spit into the sink and went to his suitcase. “Yeah, I’m not wild about that myself. Still have that Midwestern moral streak, I guess.” He tossed Donny his blue Speedo. “Here. It should fit. If it’s too tight, well, what the hell. Around here nobody’d mind. They’d probably appreciate it.”

Donny pulled it on. “What about you?” he asked.

“I brought another. Hey, looks good on you.”

“Never wore one before.”

“Well, it’s a natural fit.”

Donny put on a shirt and sandals and took a beach towel and his book. Mike gave him a squeeze on the arm. “Should be back by two, three at the latest. Don’t get sunburned.”

“Okay, see you later.”

Donny found his way to the pool and spread his towel out on one of the sun loungers. Several other couples, a few going clothing optional, were already setting up camp. They looked at him, nodded, and went back to their reading or conversation. Donny pulled off his shirt, spread on some Coppertone, pulled down his cap, and started to read. He was several pages into it when someone said, “Excuse me, is that lounger taken?”

Donny glanced up. A couple was standing next to him. One was tall, thin, with bristle-cut hair and an aquamarine Speedo. His companion was heavier but in good shape, in surfer jams. They both looked to be in their early forties. They were carrying towels and the thin one had a daypack.

“No, go ahead,” replied Donny.

“Thanks.” They spread out their towels and situated themselves on the loungers. Donny went back to reading. But after a few moments the thin one said something about enjoying the book that Donny was reading, and pretty soon they were making conversation. They introduced themselves as Ben and Julian – Ben being the thin one. They lived up the mountain in Idyllwild and came down once a month or so for a long weekend. Ben was an architect and Julian was a lawyer. They had been together for ten years. Donny didn’t tell them much about himself except that he was from Los Angeles.

“Where’s your friend?” asked Ben. “We saw you together at dinner last night.”

“Oh…he’s… taking care of some business this morning.”

“Ah, a working weekend. Lucky you. He has to work, you get to lounge around.”

“Something like that,” replied Donny, not really wanting to explain where Mike was.

A well-muscled pool waiter in a tank top and green neon shorts came by to offer drinks. Mike got a Coke and Ben and Julian had Long Island Iced Tea. They chatted more, went into the water, and when it was time for lunch they went to the poolside restaurant and had taco salads. Donny listened as Ben and Julian talked about friends, trips they’d taken, places they’d like to see, and the ordinary things that made up their lives like getting the plumbing fixed and what color to paint the bathroom. It dawned on him that their lives were as blessedly ordinary as any married couple he knew – not unlike his friends and family back in Ohio. Until now, the idea of two men sharing a married life seemed like an abstract idea of distant proportions, like a trip to Mars or something like that. But here it was, right in front of him, and the way they talked, it sounded as if it was a natural and immediate a thing as breathing. Donny wondered if it could happen for him.

They moved into the shade after lunch to avoid the heat, and Donny dozed off. Someone on the other side of the pool laughing loudly woke him up, and he sat up. Julian and Ben were sitting at an umbrella table playing gin rummy. The waiter came by, asked him if he was Mr. Hollenbeck, and handed him a note. It was a message from the front desk. Mike had called and said the session was running long, and he would be back by six. Donny swam a couple of laps in the pool.

At five Ben and Julian packed up. “Maybe you and your friend would like to join us for dinner?” Julian asked. “They have a pasta bar over by the gardens here. Nice and casual.”

“I’ll ask him,” Donny replied.

“Great. Give us a call. We’re in nine.”


They left, and when he got to the end of the chapter, Donny did too. Most of the other pool couples were gone.

He took a shower, changed into khakis and watched TV until 6:45. He decided that if Mike wasn’t back by seven he’d call Ben and Julian and see if it wasn’t too late to eat with them. He was reaching for the phone when Mike came in.

“Sorry I’m late,” he said. He dropped three spiral-bound books on the living room table and flopped in a chair. “Jesus Fucking Christ.”

“Long day?”

“You ever try being witty and charming and smiley for eight solid hours? That’s hard work.”

“Can’t say that I have.”

“Well, I’m here to tell you it ain’t easy. First there was People. Then there was background stuff for TV Guide and their Fall Preview issue, then a group of entertainment writers from all over the country. Then lunch with the producers. Then meet the ad agency people. On and on. Smile. Be charming. Keep saying, ‘this is going to be the biggest hit of the fall season.’ Blah-blah-blah.” He heaved himself up from the chair and went to the refrigerator. “So that was my day. What’d you do?”

“Hung out at the pool.”

Mike twisted the cap off a Heineken’s. “Literally? Did you go natural?”

“No. There were some that did, though.”

“Yeah? Keepers?”

“Well, I didn’t whip out the old Lufkin and measure, but I’d say no. Just your average dicks.”

“That’s the way it is…the guys who go natural shouldn’t, and the ones you want to never do.”

“I met a couple of guys…talked with them for a while. Nice guys…one’s an architect, the other’s a lawyer, I think. Invited us to dinner.”


“The pasta bar in the garden. I looked it up on the guide. Five kinds of pasta and sauces and salad. All you can eat. You interested?”

Mike shrugged. “I guess.”

“Or I can have the bellboy bring us a twenty dollar room service pizza.”

“No, let’s eat with your friends. But first I’m gonna shit, shower, and shave.”

“I’ll tell ‘em we’ll be there in half an hour.”

Mike headed to the bathroom, but came back after a minute. “You didn’t tell them who I was, did you?”

“No,” replied Donny, picking up the phone. “Should I have?”

“No…I just don’t want to spend another minute today talking about the business, that’s all.”

“Hey, if they recognize you, you’re on your own.”

Mike snorted and pulled off his shirt.

The path to the pasta bar led through the formal garden. It was huge – the size of a football field, running from the pool back to the far fence line, fading into the twilight, softly lit by hidden lights. Mazes of hedges, bedded plants of all shapes and colors, and trees ranging from tall palms, overhanging willows, and squat aloe and cactus were arranged in rows and intricate curves between the gravel paths and sandstone walkways. They followed the signs to a circular area at the end of the garden. A red and white striped canopy stood amidst a group of small tables. Underneath the canopy white-jacketed servers stood behind the steam table and served the food. Soft mandolin music played through hidden speakers in the hedges.

Ben and Julian were already seated. They shook hands, introductions were made, and if they recognized Mike they gave no sign. A waiter brought wine, salad, and a basket of bread rolls, and then they stood in line to load up on pasta. Donny took linguini and pesto.

They had a quiet dinner. Ben did most of the talking, telling the story of the villa. Right after World War II Walter Lockhart, the gay son of a Chicago banker, moved to Palm Springs intent on building a house modeled after some of the villas he’d seen when he’d been stationed in Italy during the war. He bought the land, commissioned an architect, and by 1950 had the house and grounds completed. He named it Villa Castelfranco di Sopra after a tiny village near Florence that he’d visited. He lived in the villa for twenty-five years and died in 1976 of lung cancer, leaving his entire estate to his partner, Paul Jeffries.

Mike interrupted. “Paul Jeffries? The producer?”

Ben nodded. “The same.”


Ben continued. “Mr. Jeffries didn’t want to pay the upkeep on the villa. It was costing millions just in taxes, so in 1980 he thought about selling or subdividing the property. But Walter’s friends and family convinced him that it would be a terrible loss to sell out, so he decided to open it up as a private club – membership by invitation only. It soon became the best-kept secret in the gay community, and even today the only way to get in is by invitation or through a reference by a member. And the privacy surrounding the place is legendary. See those hedges?” He pointed at the thick evergreens towering in a straight line marching in either direction, fading into the darkness. “Those are just the cover. Behind them are heavy thorn bushes, and behind that is a twelve-foot high smooth cinderblock wall with razor wire and trip wires across the top that runs around the perimeter of the estate. There are security cameras that cover every inch of the grounds – Smile, you’re on Candid Camera – and discrete guards everywhere.”

“Why so much?” Donny asked.

“Well,” replied Ben, “how much do you think some rag like the Enquirer would pay to have pictures of some of America’s richest and best-known names hanging out at a gay resort? They’d kill for stuff like that. And believe me, they’ve tried every way known to man to get in here: bribery, sneaking in with the food vendors or suppliers, even hiring a helicopter to circle the place. But they’ve never succeeded.”

Mike looked up from his dinner. “So are you guys members?”

Ben nodded.

“How’d you get invited?”

Julian spoke for the first time. “My father was the original architect.”

“And I was one of his assistants,” added Ben.

“So that’s how you met,” said Donny.

Ben grinned. “I was working in Otis’s office and this incredibly good-looking guy comes in, wearing jeans and a flannel shirt, like some lost lumberjack, and here we are in a high-rise office in downtown Chicago. Everyone else was out at lunch or something, so I just stood there and gaped at him for about ten seconds. Finally I get the nerve to say something brilliant like, ‘Can I help you?’ and then Otis comes out of his office, gives him a hug, and says, ‘Ben, this is my son Julian.’ Well, I wanted the floor to open up right there and swallow me, but…”

“He was cute, standing there looking all important like he was some big shot architect himself,” chuckled Julian. “He looked like he wanted to either call Security and throw me out, or take me into Dad’s office and do me right there on the couch.”

“Well, how was I to know? Otis never kept any pictures of the family in the office, and when I heard he had a son named Julian, I pictured some nerdy little CPA, not this muscle stud from the University of Wisconsin Law School.”

“So that was it, huh?” said Donny.

“Pretty much,” said Ben. “We had lunch one day and the next thing we know we’re building a cabin in the mountains of southern California.”

“That’s great,” said Donny. He glanced at Mike, who gave him a small grin and shrugged.

After dinner the four of them walked back to the villa along the softly lit path. Ben rattled off a list of well-known people, past and present, who had spent time there, including some eyebrow-raising names of senators, congressman, and even clergy.

“They’re all gay?” Donny asked incredulously.

“Well, maybe not actively, but if you’re invited here as a guest, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that you’re familiar with the scene, so to speak.”

Julian said, “Paul keeps a very tight rein on the list of who gets invited. He personally approves every guest.”

“He lives here, I take it.”

“Yes. And he knows who you are.”

Donny looked at Mike. Mike nodded. “I gave him what he wanted to know about you.”

“Like what?”

“Name, address, phone number, place of employment. Don’t worry, it’s not like they run an FBI check on you.”

Donny thought about it for a moment. He had no clue – if anyone had called work asking about him, he was sure Eric or Greg would have said something. “Well, yeah…got nothing to hide.”

Ben and Julian invited them to go with them to the piano room for a nightcap, but Mike declined with thanks, explaining it had been a long day. They parted in the courtyard, exchanging pleasantries, and said goodnight.

In the room Mike kicked off his shoes. Donny got a glass of water from the kitchen. “Did you know about all the security shit?” he said.

“Uh huh. That’s why Marty chose it. I can’t just trot off to the Best Western Palm Springs.”

“No, guess not,” Donny said. “Nice guys,” he added.


“Ben and Julian. Nice guys.”

“Mmmm,” Mike agreed.

“Ten years. That’s a long time.”


Donny opened the French doors and went out onto the balcony. The air was still warm and the sky glowed from the lights of the city capped by the dark line of the mountains to the southwest. The outline of the walls framed the gardens. He could hear the faint music of the piano room below. Someone down there was laughing. It sounded like Ben. Mike came out and stood next to him. He said, “It’s really beautiful here, isn’t it. Kinda makes you wish you could stay forever.” Donny agreed. “You know what,” said Mike softly.


“I’m really horny.”

They closed the doors.

Donny woke in the faint light of early morning. His watch read 5:30. He could feel the warmth and presence of Mike, still asleep, next to him. Donny remembered their lovemaking, and his cock stirred. Resisting the temptation to roll over, he slowly got out of bed, pulled on his jockeys, and went to the bathroom. Mike didn’t move.

He started the coffeemaker, then went out to the balcony. It faced west, so he could see the first rays of the sun starting to color the San Jacinto Mountains to the south and west. Other than some birds chirping in the hedges and trees, the morning was still and warm. Down on the pool patio a gardener in a white uniform was quietly sweeping the path down to the gardens. One of the pool attendants with a long pole and net dipped leaves out of the pool. He leaned on the railing, vaguely aware of the fact that he was standing there in his underwear. But no one looked up, and soon they finished their work and were gone. The coffeemaker sputtered to a stop. He got a cup and came back outside. Now the light was filling the sky and a slight breeze stirred. Los Angeles and McKay-Gemini seemed very far away.

He heard sheets rustle, and he glanced into the bedroom. Mike was still asleep; he was just rolling over. Donny wondered idly if they were in love. If the passion they shared in bed was any indication, there was more going on than just two guys having sex. But beyond that, what? How much did they really know about each other? Mike never asked Donny about his work. He’d never been to the house, met Eric, or shown an interest in doing so. Donny asked Mike how things were going in his career and usually got a noncommittal “okay” in reply. In fact, the news about Capitol Hill was the first time Mike had ever shared a specific piece of work-related news with him. Maybe these things come in time, Donny thought. After all, he’d only known him a couple of months. And as long as they could still have the fun and pleasure of making love, it didn’t really matter that much anyway. He finished his coffee and went back to bed. Mike sleepily reached out and pulled him towards him, his warmth rising from the depths of the covers.

They stayed in bed until after ten, then showered and dressed for the pool. The staff had set up a brunch buffet service by the pool, so they ate there and settled into loungers. Mike had brought the spiral-bound books, which were scripts for the first three episodes of Capitol Hill. He read through them, repeating his lines to himself and marking them with a yellow highlighter, oblivious to the other people that started to settle into the pool area, most of them going the clothing-optional route.

After an hour or so, Donny got up and waded into the pool, then swam several laps. When he got out, an older man was sitting on his lounger talking to Mike. He was handsome, with a trim build, a full head of steel gray hair, smooth skin, and a deep bronze tan. He was dressed casually, but his clothes were of high quality: Ralph Lauren Polo shirt, Armani slacks and spotless Nikes. He stood up when Donny approached and gave him an appreciative smile. “Oops, this is your chair,” he said.

“No problem,” replied Donny, picking up his towel and drying off.

“I’m Paul Jeffries,” he said, offering his hand.

“Donny Hollenbeck. Nice to meet you.”

“Glad you could join us. I hope you’re having a good time.”

“Great, thanks. This is a beautiful place you have here.”

“Thank you. I was just telling Mike that it’s nice to see some of the younger set joining us out here. We’re always looking for new faces to mingle with the old wrinkled crowd. Not to mention some nice bodies to go with them.”

They all laughed at that. One of the waiters stopped by and offered drinks. Donny and Mike asked for beers. Paul asked for a club soda, then pulled a chair from one of the umbrella tables and sat down. Donny sat on his lounger and found the Coppertone.

“Well, Mike, congratulations on the series. Your first, isn’t it?” Paul said when the waiter was gone.

“Yes, it is.”


Mike nodded. “Yeah, a little.”

“That’s par for the course. But once you get going, you’ll do fine. How many episodes have they asked for?”

“Thirteen…but that’s normal, I guess. If we do okay they’ll probably pick us up for the whole year.”

Paul nodded, and the conversation went on into the ins and outs of network TV production. Donny listened politely but said nothing – it was mostly gibberish to him, and except for the occasional familiar name of an actor or director, he understood very little. The waiter brought their drinks, and after a pause to take a few sips, Paul and Mike went back to their chat. Donny picked up his book and put on his sunglasses.

After about fifteen minutes, Paul stood up. “I need to get back to the office.” Mike stood up, too, and Donny got up as well. They all shook hands again. “Come back soon,” Paul said, smiling at both of them.

“Sure,” said Donny, “thanks again.”

“My pleasure.”

They watched him stroll around the pool, stopping and chatting with some of the other guests. He waved to them again as he went inside.

“Wow,” said Mike. “That was really cool.”

“He’s a nice guy.”

“No kidding. And he knows everyone in the business. I mean everyone. And he’s not an asshole.”

“You thought he would be?” said Donny.

“Well, you know how it is… all these big-shot producers are supposed to be pricks. I mean, that’s how everybody thinks they should be: ‘Yeah, baby, let’s do lunch; my people will talk to your people and we’ll do the deal,’ while they’re snorting cocaine and fucking everything in sight, male and/or female.”

“Guess he’s not like that.”

“Nope. And…I think he wants me to join here.”

“He invited you?”

“Well, not in so many words. But he kept saying that this place needs to attract younger members.”

“So, would you?”

“Well, yeah…but it’s a little steep. The initiation fee alone is a hundred grand.”

Donny let out a low whistle.

“The application fee – non-refundable – is five thousand. Annual dues are twenty thousand.”

“Guess that keeps out the trailer trash, huh” said Donny.

“Yeah. And the background check is extensive. You have to provide five character references as well as a complete credit report. And there’s the medical examination.”

“Uh huh. A complete physical plus regular testing for sexually transmitted diseases and drugs. Paul’s real careful about shit like that. Smoke a joint here and he’ll boot your ass out.”

“Jeez, it’s like joining the CIA.”

“Except the CIA doesn’t accept gays. That’s the exception here.”

“One hundred thousand dollars,” repeated Donny.

“It’ll be a while before I join,” said Mike. “So, enjoy it now.”

“I am.”

They spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool, Donny moving into the shade when it got hot. Mike put away the scripts and swam ten laps.

“We’d better think about hauling ass,” he said as he dried off. “Traffic on the interstate’s gonna be hell with everyone coming back to town from the weekend.”

They went back to the room. Housekeeping had swept through and cleaned the room. Two small envelopes, one addressed to each of them, were on the dresser. Mike glanced at his and put it with his books without opening it. Donny read his. It was a hand-written note on creamy embossed paper from Paul Jeffries. I hope you enjoyed your visit to Castelfranco di Sopra, it read, and that I can look forward to welcoming you back in the near future.

“Wow,” said Donny after reading it. “Never heard of a host sending a thank-you note.”

“Classy guy,” replied Mike as he stuffed his clothes into his overnight bag.

“Yeah,” said Donny, putting the note back in its envelope and pocketing it. What he didn’t mention was that under Paul’s flourished signature he had written a phone number.

They stopped in the entrance hall to turn in the room key at the desk and saw Ben and Julian come through the main entrance. They had been playing golf. They shook hands and gave Donny and Mike their cards and said they hoped they’d see them back again. “And come up to Idyllwild sometime. It’s gorgeous there. You won’t even think you’re in California.”

The valet brought the car around and the guard waved them through the gate. Donny settled back in the seat. “Thanks again for bringing me,” he said.

Mike reached over and patted his thigh. “Thanks for coming. And I mean that in every sense of the word.”

Donny grinned a little. “Yeah, I know. It was fun.”

“Well, the next couple of months are going to be hell. We start production tomorrow, and I’ll be shooting all this week and next. Then we go to Washington for some exterior shots, then keep on going until September at least. Then, if we get picked up, we’ll be going until who knows when.” He looked at Donny. “You know it’s gonna be tough to get together for a while, don’t you?”

“I kinda figured that.”

“That’s why I wanted to spend this weekend with you. It gonna be hit or miss.”

“That’s okay.”

Once they got in the interstate Donny dozed off and on. As they got closer to the city the traffic thickened until it was nearly bumper to bumper going through the interchanges downtown, driving into the reddening glare of the setting sun.

It wasn’t they got off the freeway and were sitting at a red light that Mike finally spoke. “I’ll let you know what my schedule is as soon as I find out. Should be in the next couple of days.” The light changed and in a few minutes they pulled into the driveway, the headlights shining off the reflectorized Ohio license plate on the back of Donny’s truck.

“Home again,” sighed Mike. He leaned over and they kissed for a moment. “Umm…better stop now or you’ll never get home.”

“Who says I have to?”

“Early morning for me. C’mon, stud. The coach has turned back into a pumpkin and all the mice have run away.”

Donny tossed his bag into the passenger seat of the truck and dug out his keys. “Call me tomorrow,” he said to Mike.

“I’ll try.” He went to the back door and punched in the alarm code. “See you.”

Donny waved and drove home. Rob was in the living room watching TV and Jethro Tull’s Aqualung poured out of Eric’s room. He dropped his bag on his bed and turned on the overhead light. Only then did he see the Post-It note on his door, scrawled by Eric and dated last night: Your brother called.



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