Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Small Town Boys - Chapter 13

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
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12

Life Goes On – 1992

Mike was at the house before Donny arrived and he came out to the driveway as he parked his truck. “Pull it into the garage,” he said, pointing to the space next to his BMW. He did, and Mike closed the door behind him. Once they were in the house, Mike gave him a hug. “Sorry about last night. I tried to call you, but...”

“I forwarded the phone to here,” Donny said.

“Yeah, I was leaving a message for myself. So,” he grinned broadly, “here we are.” He looked at Donny’s duffel. “Is that it?”

“Well, enough for now.”

“Okay. C’mon, let’s get you settled in.”

He took him around the house as if it was the first time, showing him the alarm code, where the key to the backdoor was located, and handed him a set of house keys and a garage door remote. “Don’t park in the driveway. The neighborhood association is funny about that.”

“And you really don’t want people to know I’m here,” Donny said flatly.

Mike looked away then nodded. “Well...”

“C’mon,” said Donny. “I’m not that dumb.”

“Yeah, I haven’t told anyone. It’s not like I’m ashamed of having you here; it’s just that...”

Donny waved his words away. “Forget it. It’s cool.”

They went to the bedroom last. “So, which side of the bed do you want?”

For the first few days Donny felt like he was a guest. Mike got up early to get to the studio for make-up, so Donny had the house to himself for an hour before leaving for the office at 7:30 or so. He made sure he made the bed, cleaned up the bathroom, and put the dishes away even though the housekeeper came by every day to do exactly that. At work Eric dropped off his mail, such as it was, and on Wednesday asked him as they met at the coffee maker how it was going. “Good,” Donny replied.

“So what do you think?” Eric asked.


“The options idea.”

“I don’t know shit about business finances.”

“Me neither. This is Greg’s idea. But what do you think?”

Donny dumped some creamer in his coffee. “So how this works is that you guys give us stock options and if we stay with the company for five years we can cash them in for stock in McKay-Gemini.”

“Yeah. Each option is worth five shares. We’ll start off issuing everybody that’s full-time five options and then more every quarter or so. After five years we’re hoping they’ll be worth something.”

“What if in five years this place is a dance studio, Greg’s back wrangling carts at Wal-Mart, and you’re shacked up with some beach boy in Malibu?”

Eric smirked. “I might do the shack-up no matter what. Anyway, if the company takes off, well, we’ll all be in good shape. If it doesn’t,” he shrugged, “then you’ll have a lot of cool wallpaper. It’s not like it’s going to cost you anything – you’ll still get paid.”

Donny sipped his coffee. “Yeah, okay. What if you sell the company?”

“Greg says part of the deal would be to exchange our stock for theirs or buy up the options. Either way, nothing’s really lost.”

Donny shrugged. “Okay, count me in.”

By the end of the third week a pattern was emerging in his life with Mike. He usually got to the house around six if he went to the gym. Mike got home between seven and seven-thirty. He’d have a drink and unload about the day’s shooting while they made dinner together. Mike never asked Donny how things were going at his job, but Donny didn’t mind; there really wasn’t much to tell. Afterwards they would watch some TV, then go to bed around eleven. Sometimes Mike would be so tired that all he would do was mumble good night and roll over. On the weekend they would sleep late – perhaps until eight or so – then drink coffee on the patio, read the paper, and do nothing much for the rest of the day, which was fine with both of them. If this was the glamour of life in Hollywood, Donny thought, it wasn’t much different than anything he’d seen back home.

On the third Sunday morning, Mike got out of bed and said, “Let’s go for a drive.”

It was still early and traffic was light. They stopped for coffee and doughnuts then headed east into the sun. Mike was a silent driver. Once in a while he’d point out something of interest, but he spent most of the time with both hands on the wheel, his sunglasses shielding his eyes, his face expressionless. Donny leaned back and watched the scenery. It was his first real look at the southern California landscape. They drove towards Riverside, then on side roads to Hemet and up into the San Jacinto mountains. The terrain went from coastal to desert to alpine in a hundred miles, the air changing from humid to dry to cool, the trees going from palms to scrubs to ponderosas. They kept the windows open.

There was an outdoor café under a large tree in Idyllwild. They sat under the tree and ordered sandwiches.

“In a weird way, this reminds me of home,” Mike said.

“How’s that?”

“Pine trees, cool air, tourists.”

“You miss it?” Donny asked.

“Sometimes. Not in winter, though.”

“When was the last time you were back there?”

“Christmas. Went for a week. Froze my ass off.”

Donny remembered Christmas and thought of Scott. “Yeah,” he agreed, “I don’t miss it much either.”

Mike looked around. “This would be a nice place to live, y’know.”

“A hundred miles from L.A?”

“On weekends, maybe.”

“Bet it’s not cheap.”

“Probably not. A lot of people in the business have places up here. Drives prices up. But still. ‘Course, you have to have more than just a bunch of guest shots. You need a series that runs a couple of years and maybe gets syndicated. Plus, you gotta have a name.”

“This is where Ben and Julian live.”


“Those guys we had dinner with at the Villa.”

“Oh, yeah.”

The food arrived and for a while they were silent. Then Mike looked at Donny. “Where do you want to be five years from now?”

“I don’t know. Never really thought about it.”

“Still working for the computer company?”

“Could be.”

“How’s that working out so far?”

“Fine. They’re putting me in with the purchasing people for a while. I seem to have a head for that.”

“That’s great.” Mike munched his pickle.

“What about you?” Donny asked.

“Hopefully still in this show. Doing movies when I can.”

“Think the show will last that long?”

Mike shrugged. “Who knows? So far it’s tested well, so they tell us, and they’ve been able to pick up some good sponsors. We’ve got a decent time slot.”

“What if it doesn’t?”

Mike looked at him. “Doesn’t what?”

“Doesn’t go?”

“It’s going. We’ve got a thirteen-episode commitment.”

“Then what?”

“Then we do a full season. Then we get renewed and go from there.” Mike leaned back and smiled. “This thing’s got legs. It’s gonna run for years. Everyone says so. The network’s gonna promote the hell out of it. Doesn’t hurt that Rory Donovan just had a movie of his come in at number two over the Memorial Day weekend. He’s gonna make this show a hit just by showing up.”

“Oh, okay.”

“It’ll go.”

The road continued on through the mountains then descended steeply through switchbacks and curves down to Banning. Mike drove expertly, taking the curves with very little effort. At one point he grinned and said, “Man, this would be great in a car like a Ferrari or a ‘Vette that could really handle stuff like this. Next time, eh?”

Back on the interstate heading west the air was hot and the roaring truck traffic prompted them to close the windows and turn on the air. By the time they got back to the house it was almost four. Donny felt like taking a nap. Mike changed into his swim suit and went out to the pool, sat on the chaise, smoked and studied his script for Monday’s shooting. Donny was asleep in minutes.

The phone woke him up. It rang twice and he heard Mike pick up the cordless out on the patio. The conversation was short, then Mike padded into the bedroom. “Marty’s coming over.”

“What’s up?”

“Don’t know. Said he needed to talk to me.”

“Want me to split?”

“Nah, just park your truck on the street. Make it look like you’re just here for a visit.”

Donny moved the truck and changed into clean jeans and a polo shirt. A half-hour later Marty showed up. Donny stayed out on the patio when the doorbell rang and Mike let him in, bringing him into the living room. He was youngish-looking, more like a bank teller than a stereotypical Hollywood agent with a thin frame, short hair, and a serious expression. He was wearing wool slacks and a blazer even though it was a warm afternoon.

Donny couldn’t hear what they were saying, but a few minutes into it Marty looked out through the French doors and saw Donny sitting under the umbrella table doing the crossword. Donny knew this because he was watching them out of the corner of his eye, and he saw the agent turn, do a small double-take, then pick up the conversation where it had left off. A few minutes later the door opened and Mike and Marty stepped out onto the patio, still talking.

They stood by the edge of the pool for a moment, then Mike led Marty over to the table. Donny stood up as they were introduced. Marty seemed to be very pleasant.

“So you’re the one I’ve heard so much about,” he said.

“Uh, well, I guess so,” said Donny, glancing at Mike, who looked a little mystified by that remark, but he nodded privately to Donny as if to say “follow his lead and I’ll explain it later.”

“Well, it’s nice to meet you...Don is it?”

“Yes. Nice to meet you too.”

Marty turned to Mike. “I need to get back. Walk out to the car with me.” He glanced at Donny again and smiled tightly. “See you later.”


They went back into the house through the French door and Mike closed it behind them. Marty stopped in the living room and turned to Mike, nodding back out to the patio and started talking rather quickly but softly. Donny could tell by his body language that he was not relaxed, and he could see Mike tensing up too. Mike shook his head once, listened to Marty, then shook his head again. Marty looked back out to the patio, then started for the front door, Mike following him. They were still talking when they got to the front door, and then when they were outside, their voices carried over the low roof of the house. Donny couldn’t make out everything, but the tone was argumentative and at one point Marty said something that ended with “showing up on Hard Copy.” The front door closed. Off in the distance he heard a car start up and drive off quickly. Mike went through the house, into the kitchen, then a moment later came out onto the patio with a beer. He plunked down in the chaise and took a long drink. Donny decided not to ask him what that was all about. He went back to the puzzle.

A moment later Mike said, “Hey, remember that western I was lined up for before I got Capitol Hill?”

“No,” Donny replied.

“Maybe it was before we met. Anyway, Marty says that they’re pushing it back to January and that I’ll be able to do it once we go into hiatus.”

Donny put down the paper. “He came all the way out here to tell you that?”


Donny didn’t quite believe him, but he wasn’t about to dig any deeper. Mike settled into the chaise and drank his beer. The sun was setting and the lights around the pool came on. A few minutes later Mike suggested they call The Great Wall for take-out, and they ate it in the living room while watching TV. Mike said nothing more about Marty’s visit, and Donny decided that if there was anything more to it, he would find out eventually.



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